TV Theme Songs

Greg picked his Top Ten TV Themes recently, and I thought I’d do the same. I figured it’d be an easy post, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that comparing themes with vocals and themes without just wouldn’t cut it for me. The vocals should give you a sense of the story, while the instrumental should set the mood.

So, two lists, both in alphabetical order:


The Andy Griffith Show – called “The Fishing Hole”, it features whistling. In harmony. Sets the rural tone of the show.
Captain Kangaroo – a very welcoming theme for kids.
The Dick van Dyke Show – that chime or xylophone just at the point that Rob Petrie either trips on the ottoman or doesn’t is so very clever.

The Fugitive – the sense of a man on the run is palpable.
Hawaii 5-0 – no wonder it was a hit.
Hill Street Blues – great Mike Post tune.
Law and Order – so good that Dick Wolf tries to use variations of it for his other L&O shows.

M*A*S*H – mournful start (though ends more upbeat) to the first dramedy.
The Odd Couple – feels like couple of divorced men trying not to kill each other.
Perry Mason – sets the serious tone. Actually, I prefer the end theme, which is an extended version of the opening is this wonderful orchestral piece that stands up as MUSIC, not just a TV theme.

Rockford Files – yet another great Mike Post tune.
Sanford and Son – rather sounds like a junk yard.
Seinfeld – that popping in the end reminded me that the show was supposed to be about nothing.
That’s 13, isn’t it? Well, I didn’t major in math in college.


Beverly Hillbillies- you certainly knew the story, even if you never watched the show.
Branded – a one-season show on NBC starring Chuck Connors and I STILL remember the theme from 40 years ago, and I bet my sisters do, too. Yeah, it’ll probably seem corny now, but at the time, it was really cool. I think it was the broken sword.

Car 54, Where Are You? – for some reason, reminds me of Fred Hembeck.
Cheers – about a perfect blend of song and show.
Gilligan’s Island – classic.
It’s About Time – also by Sherwood Schwartz, who did Gilligan and The Brady Bunch.
The Jeffersons- a dee-luxe apartment in the sky. Hallelujah!
Mad About You- a song better than the show that invokes the show’s title.
Maverick – the legend of the west -“luck is the lady that he loves the best”.
Moonlighting – whatever Greg said. Though it in fact, it violates my own rule of telling the story. I don’t care.
Mr. Ed – because I still remember verbatim the damn thing 40 years later.
Top Cat – maybe this stands in for all those great H-B cartoons, but I loved it.
WKRP in Cincinnati – what Greg said.
And 13 of these.

There are a couple variations on themes, both instruments, that bear mentioning. The JEOPARDY! theme in the beginning is OK, but the “thinking music” is iconic. ABC News’ intro is functional, but the variation they use for the In Memoriam section of This Week with George Stephanopoulis is haunting to me.

Tom the Dog commented on Greg’s post about shows that have different closing themes than the opening. Except for All in the Family (Those Were the Days and Remembering You) and Frasier, nothing’s coming to mind. Sure there are variations on the theme (Gilligan’s Island with different lyrics, the Jeffersons’ slower version with humming but no vocal), but absolutely different songs? Can you think of any others?


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