TV Theme Song QUESTIONS

Then there’s the special cases of themes that are best known for whistling or finger snapping.

Ken Levine was ranting about the loss of the television theme song, about which I tend to agree. It so happened that as I was reading his piece, I was in the midst of listening to one of seven or eight CDs I have of TV theme songs. I was at work, so I didn’t have time to look to see what songs were playing. A number of songs I liked but couldn’t place.

This brings me to these questions, in honor of the Emmys this week:

1. What are your favorite TV theme songs?

I’m partial to the work of Mike Post and the late Earle Hagen.

2. What do you think are the most recognizable? I’m thinking that you could be listening to a bunch of soundtrack songs and instantly recognize the tune out of context. Perhaps one has to separate the instrumentals from the songs with lyrics. I think there have been some great, distinctive themes for shows that were once popular but aren’t seen that often anymore, as far as I know, such as Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Taxi, and Barney Miller. Other shows seem to be in reruns forever. My guess, in more or less reverse order:

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson – perhaps beginning to fade from memory, but those infomercials for the best of Carson are around. And it was on for 30 years.
Sanford & Son – that great Quincy Jones tune
Peter Gunn – was a big pop hit, and was covered by the Blues Brothers
MAS*H – very popular show, still in reruns
Law & Order – a 20-year show, just off the air, its spinoffs still on the air using variations on the theme, and it’s constantly on reruns
Hawaii 5-0 – another pop hit that shows up at sporting events, and now is going to be remade for a new series in the 2010 TV season on CBS

The ones with words are tougher, but I imagine Friends, Cheers, Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Jeffersons and The Brady Bunch would be among them.

Then there are the special cases of themes that are best known for whistling (The Andy Griffith Show (here’s The Andy Griffith Show, really) or finger-snapping (The Addams Family).

What are your favorites, and which ones were most distinctive?
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Paste magazine’s 20 Best TV Theme Songs of All Time.