T is for TV opening themes

fugitiveWhen I saw that Chuck Miller listed ten iconic TV opening themes, I knew I had to do likewise. I LOVE opening TV themes; I have SEVEN CDs with 65 themes each, plus some soundtracks. And I’ve obsessed on the topic before.

This list features those themes without words, mostly because the roster became SO long, I had to split it up.

20. I Love Lucy- H. Adamson/E. Daniel. A staple of my childhood.
Listen here or here  Listen also to the song sung by Desi Arnaz

19. The Office (U.S.) – Jay Ferguson. A jaunty tune which ends up rocking out
Listen here or here, long version by The Scrantones
The show almost had a different theme.

18. The Dick Van Dyke Show – music by Earle Hagen. Possibly my favorite TV show of all time.
Listen here or here. Dick Van Dyke sings the theme with friends; lyrics by Morey Amsterdam (Buddy Sorrell on the show)

17. The Rockford Files – Pete Carpenter and Mike Post. Mike Post will show up again on this list.
Listen here or here

16. Bonanza – Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, featuring orchestration by David Rose
Back when we still had a black and white TV, we ‘d go over to my grandma’s next-door neighbor’s house to watch that burning Ponderosa map in color
Listen here or here or here (12 different versions)

15. Get Smart – Irving Szathmary
That clever spy spoof created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry.
Listen here or here

14. The Simpsons – Danny Elfman
It’s a flexible form. I have a Simpsons soundtrack and the theme is wonderfully manipulated.
Listen here or here

13. The Fugitive – Peter Rugolo
My mother’s favorite show, maybe because she had a crush on David Janssen.
Listen here or here, including musical themes and cues

12. Miami Vice – Jan Hammer
The extended version went to #1 on the pop charts in 1985.
Listen here or here, extended
11. Night Court – Jack Elliot
Listen here or here (intro and outro)

10. Peter Gunn – Henry Mancini
I barely remember the show, but the song must have gotten radio play.
Listen here or here (different iteration)

9. Sanford & Son – Quincy Jones
Called The Streetbeater
Listen here or here (long version)

8. The Andy Griffith Show – Earle Hagen, Herbert Spencer and Everett Sloane
Called The Fishin’ Hole. It’s hard to whistle in tune, especially in harmony.
Listen here or here (opening & closing)

7. Barney Miller – Jack Elliott & Allyn Ferguson
It was actually the theme that got me to watch the comedy cop show.
Listen here or here

6. MAS*H by Johnny Mandel
“Suicide Is Painless” was used in the movie
Listen here or here

5. Hawaii Five-O – Morton Stevens
The extended version by the Ventures got to #4 in 1969
Listen here or here (long)

4. Mission: Impossible – Lalo Schifrin
A show I watched religiously with my dad.
Listen here or here

3. Hill Street Blues – Mike Post
Possibly my favorite show of the 1980s.
Listen here or here (extended)

2. Law & Order – Mike Post
I have an LP of Mike Post-composed themes
Listen here or here (extended)

1. Perry Mason – Fred Steiner
I think it’s the closing theme, an extension of the opening, that makes me love this song.
Listen here or here or here (closing)

There are a couple of instrumentals that belong on the list, but I can’t divorce the voiceover from the music

* The Twilight Zone – Marius Constant
The Rod Serling narration I find intertwined.
Listen here or here or here (all instrumental). Also,
Bernard Hermann music, from season 1

* Star Trek – Alexander Courage
Theme from Star Trek” (originally scored under the title “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) I always hear with William Shatner’s voice
Listen here or here

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

13 thoughts on “T is for TV opening themes”

  1. There are quite a few on you list that would be on mine: Bonanza (my gran’s favourite show), The Fugitive (also my mum’s favourite), The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, Mission Impossible and Hill Street Blues.

    From this side of the Atlantic, I’d add Dr Who, Fawlty Towers, Dad’s Army, Robin Hood, Coronation Street, The Saint, One Foot in the Grave, Stingray, Top Gear, Red Dwarf, Crystal Maze, Thunderbirds, The Avengers and The Benny Hill Show.

    I’d also like to add Man in a Suitcase as my first reserve!

  2. I’ve never been a “Simpsons” or “Office” fan but I did recognize their tunes along with ALL of the others. Oh Roger! Our age is showing!!! lol

    abcw team

  3. You packed a wallop in your post this week- reviving memories of a lot of TV shows with terrific casts and super theme songs. Thanks so much!

  4. Some memorable intros, my number one favourite is Hawaii Five O, indeed I had it as a ring tone at one time, I almost felt like I was surfing the waves (not likely in real life, swimming ability zero).

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