Top Five Opening Television Themes

25 Nov

This week’s Top 5 List comes to us on Thanksgiving Day.  So what are Lara and the Reel Boy thankful for this year?  Good television.  Let’s be honest there really isn’t that much of it out there anymore.  But here’s the question we had to ask:  How do you tell if a television show is really good.  Well, it didn’t take us that long to come to a conclusion.  You listen to the theme song.  If a show is really good, then it has a good opening.  So, here are Lara and the Reel Boy’s Top 5 Opening Television Themes.

David’s List

5.  DuckTales – Mark Mueller

It is quite possible that this song should not be on this list.  I freely admit that there are dozens of television shows that have much better theme songs than DuckTales.  But do I find myself singing those songs when I’m in the shower?  Do I even catch myself humming them while I’m walking down the street?  No.  But the theme from DuckTales is almost always in the back of my mind somewhere.  And has been since I watched it on the Disney Afternoon about twenty years ago.

I suddenly feel very, very old.

4.  Red Dwarf – Howard Goodall

Red Dwarf is one of the strangest shows I have ever seen.  It’s a British sitcom that is set on a mining spaceship three million years in the future.  The premise is that everyone on board died except for the one crew member who was in suspended animation for punishment.  The story takes place when he is awakened from this sleep to find he is all alone except for a hologram of the one person on board he hated, the ship’s computer, and a strange creature that evolved from his pet cat.  It’s a hilarious show that has a very somber and depressing setting.  Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined 2001: A Space Odyssey with the 90’s sitcom Perfect Strangers?  Well, wonder no more.  We have it right here.

And that same strange combination of somber and goofy is what makes the theme song so great.  It starts out very dark and grim, like most Sci-Fi from the 80’s, then it turns into a very happy, go-lucky tune to show you what you’re really getting ready to experience.  Perfect.

3.   Doctor Who (1970s version) – Ron Grainer

I love Doctor Who.  I like the new series that they have going, and I absolutely love the old ones.  I find the cheesy special effects charming.  I think the costumes are perfect.  And I am constantly amazed by how the show’s producers refused to let the budget constraints stifle the imagination behind the show.  All of these elements come together to give the show the amazing, retro-futuristic, appealing quality that it has.  And nothing is a better picture of the feeling that quality gives you than the opening theme song.  It’s so mysterious and fascinating, but bordering on cheesy at the same time.  It’s hard to beat this music.

2.  Batman: The Animated Series – Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman composed the theme to the Batman cartoon, just like he did for the Tim Burton movies.  And just like those films, he outdid himself.  The music starts quietly and builds to an explosion, just like the action we see on screen.  The feeling we’re given is one of mystery and excitement.  And the way the visuals fit so perfectly with the music shows you what a treat you are in for.  And that’s really the beauty of this opening.  Not only does the music have the exact same feel as the animation, but it is timed so perfectly with the action that is taking place that you can’t help but be sucked in.  It’s almost impossible to watch this opening and not watch the episode that follows.

And in cases like this, where there is no episode following, it’s just painful.

1.  Cowboy Bebop – The Seatbelts

Is there a more perfect theme song?  Is there a more entertaining opening to a television show?  I doubt it.  I get excited every time I hear it.  Not only is it one of the coolest themes musically, but it also introduces the show so perfectly.  It captures the feel of the series in a way that very few theme songs do.  Now, I must follow that statement by admitting that I have said that about most of the shows on this list.  But the fact that Cowboy Bebop is number one on this list should tell you something about it.  You can instantly tell that this show is a western/film-noir that takes place in outer space, during the Jazz era.

I really don’t know what else to say about it.  Just watch it, you’ll see.

Lara’s List

5. Metalocalypse – Dethklok

This song probably doesn’t come to mind for most people when they think of the best television themes of all time, but I absolutely love it. It’s dark, violent, and hilarious—a perfect representation of the show at hand, as well as the rest of Adult Swim. Amusement can be found on a whole other level once one discovers that the seemingly unintelligible growls are actually lyrics that vary from subliminal messages to light-hearted fillers.

Or if you want to actually see the intro, go here.

4. The Twilight Zone – Marius Constant & Bernard Herrmann

Um… yeah. This is just one of the most epic theme songs of all time. With Rod Serling’s chilling introduction set against the eerie build of music, it’s no wonder that it has been mimicked and parodied for forty years. People of all ages and generations know this tune, whether or not they are aware of the show’s significance in the science-fiction genre.

3. The Adventures of Pete & Pete – Polaris

You probably think this is on here because of a melancholy for ‘90s Nickelodeon. Though I am fully conscious of the scientifically proven fact that television was at its best fifteen years ago, my placement of “Hey Sandy” on this list is not at all tied to my past. See, I wasn’t allowed to watch Pete & Pete as a kid because my mom, for some reason, had an aversion to children talking back to their parents (geez, grow up, Mom). So it wasn’t until I was in college that I was able to explore the backyard shenanigans of Pete, Pete, Ellen, Petunia, and Artie (the Strongest Man… in the world). Since then this song has been permanently glued to the back of my brain. If there’s an awkward silence and I don’t have any particular song in my head, my default is to “doo doo doo” Polaris out loud—in hopes that, I don’t know, this will ease the tension of the situation. I don’t know if it is the ridiculous peppiness, or perhaps due to the sweet taste of rebellion, but this song won’t leave my subconscious. And that’s a good thing.

2. M*A*S*H* – Johnny Mandel

One of the most haunting songs of all time.

(Or go here).

1. Pokémon – Jason Paige

I feel a little guilty about placing this song at the very top (especially above The Twilight Zone), but this is MY list, and I can do with it what I want. I was having an extremely difficult time cutting from this list, so David advised me not to choose songs based off of nostalgia, but to look at them as though I was just hearing them for the first time. Trying my darndest to separate myself from myself, I still think that this is one of the most epic songs of all time. Hearing it as a 23 year old for the fake-first time, it makes me want to go out and battle with cartoon monsters, while still remembering the importance of friendship. Watch it. You’ll get it.


4 Responses to “Top Five Opening Television Themes”

  1. breadtobeeaten November 26, 2010 at 5:56 am #

    Y’all. There is a LOT of good TV happening right now. I just needed to say that. An example: The Big Bang Theory which I mention just because it also a theme song that makes me excited to watch the episode EVERY SINGLE TIME. I don’t even live in America, and I can name at least 5 awesome shows off the top of my head. Youz crazy.

    • iamhrothgar November 30, 2010 at 9:09 am #

      I’m waiting for this list. You can’t just throw that out there and leave it man.

  2. Greg Bahl November 30, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    1) Welcome Back Kotter – Just can’t but sing along

    2) A-Team

    3) The Office (british) – have to listen to the credits for it to work

    4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Oh nostalgia

    5) Facts of Life – It takes a lot to get em right

    • iamhrothgar November 30, 2010 at 9:10 am #

      The A-Team. Very Nice.

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