Theme Songs

TV title fight: short vs. long

Why Girls, Bates Motel and New Girl are going with minimal title sequences


Theme Songs That Secretly Have Lyrics

It’s good news that there will be an “official” season 1 release (split in two, as is Paramount’s wont) of Bonanza, because a lot of the Public Domain DVDs don’t include the theme song. (When a TV episode falls into the public domain, the people releasing it would still have to pay to use the theme song.)


Underrated Theme Songs

Does anybody have an example of a TV theme song that is underrated — one that is not usually named among the all-time great themes, but that you think is better than a lot of more acclaimed TV songs? (What brought this to mind was the argument about the Parks and Recreation theme song, which some commenters didn’t like and others did.)


Theme Songs That Are Musically Up-To-Date

Here’s an obscure TV theme song that I just found on YouTube (a pretty good one) that brings up a question: how often do TV shows have theme songs that actually reflect current trends in pop music? This show was called “Karen,” a one-season flop from 1964 starring Debbie Watson as a spunky, flighty teenager. It was one of several shows from the mid-’60s that were about teenaged girls, but this one had something resembling a rock n’ roll theme song, sung by the Beach Boys. It wasn’t exactly up-to-date for the fall of 1964, but it was closer than most teen shows of its era; The Patty Duke Show and Gidget were about teenagers, but had (terrific) theme songs in an old-fashioned big-band style that no teenaged girl of the time would have been listening to.


When Bad Things Happen To Good Theme Songs

One other thing about theme songs (and they still exist, sort of!) is that if the show runs long enough, the theme song will probably be re-recorded and re-arranged, and when that happens, it will often change in a really disappointing way. I understand the reasons behind the final-season remix of “We Used To Be Friends” on Veronica Mars. I do not have to like it.


Good Shows With Bad Theme Songs

I agree with most of what Noel Murray writes in his review of season 1 of The Paper Chase. (The season also has some episodes with out-of-synch sound — including one where the words aren’t within a mile of the actors’ lips — but there’s an exchange program for that.) I wouldn’t really claim TPS and Lou Grant as innovators or trailblazers; the “issue-oriented” filmed drama was all over TV in the ’60s, and merely returned in the late ’70s after taking some time off. The late ’70s shows are important because, in a halting, fumbling way, they made some attempt to combine issues with the kind of character-based stories usually seen on half-hour shows like M*A*S*H or All in the Family. Which eventually led to the more complex and satisfying TV dramas of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s. But though The Paper Chase had some fine episodes, many of them written by the author of the original novel, it’s still basically a ’70s formula drama with strictly self-contained episodes and stories that tend to revolve around guest characters; compare it to M*A*S*H, another movie adaptation from the same studio, and you see why most of what we now think of as “drama” was actually being done in half-hours at the time.


Most Title Sequences In One Year?

One thing I regret most about the disappearance of full-length title sequences is that we can’t use them to track the changes in a show. Every time a show is re-tooled, it needs to change its title sequence to reflect the changes, and even when it hasn’t been changed much, a show that’s in trouble might change the main title to make the premise clearer or create a different atmosphere. We saw a good example of this in the final season of Veronica Mars, where they created a new main title that emphasized the noir detective-show feel and re-mixed the theme song to be less chipper.


Different Categories Of TV Intros (Part 1)

Last week I was advocating a return to the full-length TV intro, as opposed to just the title or a 20-second blink-and-you-miss-it sequence. I thought I would follow up by mentioning a few of the different types of intros that a show can do, and what they do for the show. Since doing them all at once would lead to a post about seventy kajillion words long, I’ll do four at a time. I’ll do part 2 later this week, but in the meantime, feel free to mention the ones I haven’t got to yet and which types of intros you like best. And also check out Lee Goldberg’s Main Title Heaven, collecting YouTube videos of main titles both famous and obscure.


Most Exposition In a Theme Song?

You know my love of theme songs that explain the premise — a lost art, at least for the moment. (Networks don’t have time to do them, and HBO and Showtime, which do have room for longer title sequences, don’t want to do that kind of theme song, even for comedies.) But I was wondering which of these theme songs contains the greatest amount of exposition. That is, who gets the most information into the lyrics of a one-minute song?


The Guy Who Dubbed This Probably Doesn’t Have Much of a Movie Career

With this post I’ve pretty much exhausted my “random stuff I found on YouTube” quota for the next century, but: you know, the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” rap actually sounds pretty good in Italian.