It’s Thursday, must be time for a list. Let’s see, today let’s do… TV-show theme songs! I tried to stay away from some of the more obvious choices such as MASH, The Brady Bunch, or Hill Street Blues (though I was only slightly successful). And with apologies to The Rembrandts, I also decided against including Friends on the list. And despite my best efforts I couldn’t find a way to slide in Ally McBeal, Wild Wild West, or Twilight Zone. The hardest cut of all however was Joss Whedon’s Firefly which just missed the cut. But enough rambling on what didn’t make the list, here’s what did…
Forever coloring my visions of Cincinnati as a place filled with well-intentioned imbeciles (the Bengals didn’t help either) WKRP was one wacky work place comedy. The opening theme, called “WKRP In Cincinnati Main Theme”, was composed by Tom Wells, with lyrics by series creator Hugh Wilson, and performed by Steve Carlisle, and can still get my toe a tappin.’
9. Peter Gunn
This one’s an oddity as every other theme on the list belongs to a show I know well. Though I know, and immediately recognize, the theme to Peter Gunn (thanks Spy Hunter) it is not from the show itself. It’s simply too good not to include here.
8. “The Lonely Man” – The Incredible Hulk
There may well be bigger hits which I bump off the list to include this one, but there’s something haunting about this simple but emotional piano theme for a show, that when you get right down to it, is pretty damn silly. And damn if just hearing it doesn’t conjure up Banner (Bill Bixby) on the side of the road, alone, on his way to nowhere. Joe Harnell composed the song as well as the rest of the music for the show.
A former co-worker of mine would dance to this theme at the drop of a hat, but that’s not the only reason it’s on the list. Really! The theme was composed by Morton Steven and has been covered by many performers over the years including The Ventures, The Remipeds, and even Sammy Davis Jr.
There’s no need to fear, the first of only two cartoons which made the list you’ll find here. No matter how bad a mood I’m in (or even if I think idly on the live-action crapfest which stole its name) the theme song from Underdog is almost always guaranteed to earn a smile. Written by Chester Stover, Watts Biggers, Treadwell Covington and Joseph Harris back in 1964 the theme has hung around, including being honored more than 60 years later on Scrubs.
5. “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” – Cheers
Talk about a no-brainer to make the list. Written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, every week the song brought you into a comfortable world where you didn’t mind being surrounding by drunks, degenerates, and Clifford Clavin. Now that’s a theme song!
He truly can do anything a spider can. The theme song of the 60’s cartoon was written by Academy Award winner Paul Francis Webster and composed by Robert Harris. The song has been covered by many bands over the years including Aerosmith, Michael BublÃ©, and The Ramones.
3. “I Know You Know” – Psych
Psych earns a place not only for it’s catchy original tune but for the adaptability of it, such as this Bollywood version, en EspaÃ±ol, a capella (by Boys II Men no less!), and a Christmas version. You know you’ve got a quality theme song when given the opportunity to fast-forward on a DVD or DVR you sit back and enjoy anyway, no matter what language it’s in.
2. “Believe It or Not” – The Greatest American Hero
Aside from being the theme to a kick ass show about a teacher (William Katt) given a super-hero suit by aliens, promptly looses the instruction book, and then with the help of his girlfriend (Connie Sellecca) and an FBI Agent (Robert Culp) saves the day, the “Believe It or Not” theme (composed by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer) hit #2 on Billboard’s Top 40 way back in 1981. The song has been used and spoofed on several TV-shows over the years including the version on George Costanza’s answering machine.
Like the show itself, which broke the fourth wall whenever it felt like it, the theme was way ahead of its time when it hit the airwaves in 1986. It’s a theme song that does nothing but talk about itself in a humorous self-referential tone, and, to a more limited extent, the show. Brilliant! And it’s release on DVD on Tuesday was the event which led to the creation of this list. And that’s why it earns the coveted #1 spot.