This week we’re looking at a lighter subject. I’d like to celebrate television theme songs. There have been so many shows created in the history of television, and the vast majority of them have had theme music. There have been some really incredible songs throughout history. So today I present to you my top 10 favorite television theme songs of all time.
First caveat to note is that I need to have personally seen at least 1 full episode of a show for it to be considered. That will automatically exclude many a remarkable piece of music (sorry, theme from Rawhide). Admittedly, this means there will be a fair amount of recency bias as most of the songs will be shows from my own life time.
Next I should explain what makes a good theme song in my mind. I believe there are 4 basic criteria to a good theme. Very few themes will meet all 4, but the best themes will meet multiple of them. Here are the criteria:
- The song must be memorable.
- The song must be catchy.
- The song must elicit some sort of emotional response in the listener (even if that emotion is simply nostalgia).
- The song must convey information about the show itself on some level, if only thematically.
With that in mind, let’s dive in to the 10 greatest theme songs ever written for television (to me, at least).
10-The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This song is a real earworm. My favorite thing about it though is that it is a play on “Songified” music. As someone who considers the Bed Intruder song to be one of humanity’s greatest musical achievements, Kimmy Schmidt’s theme really speaks to me. It is also very positive and affirming. It explains the fundamental theme of the entire show. All around excellent piece.
This song (much like the show itself) is like injecting 80s nostalgia straight into your veins. It is so evocative of 80s films. It’s memorable. It’s one of few themes on Netflix that I never skip over.
This song is very catchy. I find it hard to resist singing along. It also very effectively explains what is going on in the show (for the first season, anyways). Veronica is a girl from the wrong side of the tracks that once hung out with the popular/rich kids. Until her best friend was murdered, anyways. Now there is a massive tension between her and the people she once associated so closely with. Overall, this is a remarkable theme. It would be much higher on this list, however they re-made the song for the 3rd season, and then re-made it again for the movie, and re-made it yet again for the 4th (revival) season. And it got worse each time. The show loses points for this in my mind.
This reggae-inspired piece is delightful. It is made for singing-along. It perfectly encapsulates the message of the show itself. We can learn to co-exist with one another. We can learn and grow by spending time with people of different perspectives than we have. Great stuff.
Speaking of songs made to sing along with, is there a better example than the theme to The Flintstones (though I must give an honorable mention to The Addams Family)? This is one of those songs that everyone seems to know, even if they have never seen the show. It’s that memorable. And of course, it’s excellent at explaining the show’s premise.
This theme is otherworldly and haunting. It exudes mystery. Totally fitting for a show about looking for evidence of alien life. Although I’ve tried and failed multiple times to really get into this show, I’ll always appreciate this piece of music.
4-The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
You would be hard pressed to find a millennial in the United States that doesn’t know this song by heart. It is one of the catchiest and most memorable songs ever. If you say the opening line of the song in a group of people, multiple people will know exactly what you’re talking about and will be prepared to sing along for the rest of the piece. I have to admit that I was never the biggest fan of the show itself (it’s fine, just never grabbed me). But the theme song elevates the entire series to another level.
3-The Price is Right
This song is instantly transportive. When I hear it, I am immediately taken back to days as a child when I was laying sick on the couch because I had stayed home from school. Spending time with the beloved Bob Barker was a wonderful way to lift my spirits. Many, many other people feel exactly the same way as I do. It’s a remarkable theme for a remarkable show.
2-The Andy Griffith Show
This is instantly recognizable to millions of people. Anyone who can whistle will surely whistle along when they hear it. The piece conveys a sense of ease, of a simpler time. It has a wholesome quality. It embodies what the entire show represents.
If you know me personally, you probably know that I adore Doctor Who. It is one of the greatest pieces of science fiction in history. It is elevated further by having possibly the greatest theme song in television history. It has been remade and altered over the decades for each new iteration of the Doctor, but it’s soul is ultimately preserved and each version brings its own character. The song is brief, but impactful. It has a foreignness, an otherness, to it that is undeniably fascinating. It pulls the audience in like few other themes can. I expect I will spend the rest of my life watching Doctor Who and I am absolutely certain that I will never tire of this song.
So there you have it, folks! My top 10 television theme songs. What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Be sure to let us know in the comments down below, or on our Instagram page.