Last night, out of nowhere, my friend Grange95 said via Twitter, "Hawaii Five-O is still greatest TV theme song *ever*." I countered with a few other possibilities, which he politely acknowledged as good, but not as good. He then suggested that we each prepare a list of our top 25 TV show theme songs and publish them on our blogs simultaneously.
I initially thought that 25 was too many and 10 was more manageable. He agreed to the lower number. But as soon as I started actually compiling my list, I realized I had made a terrible mistake. I just couldn't narrow it down that far. Grange graciously agreed to bump it back to 25 so that I wouldn't go insane endlessly second-guessing my choices.
Still, it wasn't easy. I started with a list of 40, which I assembled after consulting various online lists of the best theme songs, such as these:
I tried to include clips of the original opening credits, but in many cases they are not available due to copyright issues, so some of the embedded clips below are of poor quality, or are some version other than what was with the show originally (e.g., a fan mashup).
1. "Hawaii Five-0." Yes, in the end, after a couple of re-listens, I had to concede that Grange was right all along, dammit.
2. "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The theme of the original show was pretty good, but they managed to make it ten times better and more beautiful for the show's second iteration.
5. "Twin Peaks."
6. "Merrie Melodies"/"Looney Tunes."
7. "Dr. Who."
8. "The Twilight Zone."
9. "The Andy Griffith Show."
10. "The Waltons."
12. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
13."M*A*S*H." Yes, I know that it didn't have lyrics as used in the show, but everybody knew what the lyrics were, and that's important here; if the music doesn't call to mind "suicide is painless," then it doesn't really work well.
14. "Greatest American Hero." Maybe the best "feel-good" TV theme song.
15. "Ally McBeal."
17. "The Beverly Hillbillies." Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys? A shoo-in. Of all the ones in my list, this is the one that is most likely to become an earworm for me on any given day. Often just the mention of any its key words (oil, millionaire, swimming pools, movie stars) is enough to set it off. That's not so much because I love the song, but just because of how deeply it has managed to get ingrained in my engrams.
18. "The Monkees."
19. "The Addams Family." Though it deserves inclusion for its general charm and catchiness, this one could almost make the list just for the cheekiness of rhyming "scree-um" with "museum."
21. "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." For being so iconically, inextricably linked with one man, one genre, one time slot.
22. "Jeopardy." For having become the musical embodiment of a social message in just about any context, "Time is running out."
23. "The Muppet Show." For maximal playfulness and inventiveness in always finding new twists on the theme.
24. "The Big Bang Theory." For the cleverest lyrics ever penned for a TV theme song. Seriously, incorporating Australopithicus, Pangaea, and "the autotrophs began to drool"? Genius!
25. "Gilligan's Island." For becoming the best-known TV theme show song of all time. Really—just stop anybody on the street and ask. EVERYBODY can sing along.
Sanford and Son: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WqazleR3FE
The Dukes of Hazzard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU6mPYFtF8E
All in the Family: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znrjbo9QRLk
Barney Miller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ox-DmJ9H3ng
Lost in Space: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YH6j63lhAAc
The X-Files: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDZBgHBHQT8