Friday, January 27, 2012

The theme to Welcome Back, Kotter is my favorite TV theme, what's yours?

I’m not talking about the quality of a TV show, just the theme. What is your favorite TV theme song?


JPX said...

For a good chunk of my life whenever Brooklyn, NY came up in discussions my only image came from the opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter. It wasn't until I visited Octo there in the 80s that I was able to revise my vision of the place. I have never been to Chicago and therefore I remain under the impression that it looks like the opening credits to The Bob Newhart Show.

Octopunk said...

My runners up are the theme to Barney Miller (my old school choice) and the theme to the Tick cartoon. My winner is the Cowboy Bebop theme.

Jordan said...

Barney Miller, definitely! Also:

Hill Street Blues (Come on; it's great)

Mad Men

The Twilight Zone (NOT the famous one with the four note riff: the earlier Bernard Herrman one from the first season)

Sesame Street (the long version with the harmonica that they'd end with once a week was particularly good; maybe that's all I mean)

Saturday Night Live (Another instance where the closing theme music is possibly better than the opening. I would love it when they'd all stand around casually on stage waving at the end, and you just knew they were going to be in taxicabs on their way to some awesome rager about five minutes later while you were just starting the dishwasher and going to bed.)

Least favorite (besides obvious crap like Three's Company): The damn Star Trek The Next Generation music. God, I hate that stupid theme with the trumpets blaring. And they make you hear it every damn commercial break! It's such an awful melody. It makes the Voyager theme sound like fucking Mozart.

Octopunk said...

Isn't the Next Gen music a variation on music that was created for one of the movies? Not that that excuses anything.

I'd have to say that the theme from Enterprise lowered the bar to subterranean levels.

DCD said...

Man, Octo that really made me miss both Barney Miller and the Tick! I remember us sitting in our living room at 10 Plymouth grooving out to Barney Miller. I also remember having conversations about the Tick theme song and how awesome it was - especially that one loud "WAH!" in the middle.

I've also always been a sucker for Cheers' theme song.

Jordan said...

Here's Jordan's history of Star Trek theme music (No other franchise has had such a crazy patchwork of a musical legacy):

1) Alexander Courage wrote the theme for the original series. (It actually has lyrics, but that's another crazy story.)

2) For the first movie, produced in the frenzied period immediately following Star Wars, somebody obviously decided that what they really needed was a big orchestral theme with lots of brass, in the John Williams mode. Jerry Goldsmith (whose best work, in my opinion, is the sublimely creepy Alien score, even though Ridley Scott replaced his closing theme with Robert Rosen's Romantic Symphony) was brought in to do it, and the results are the bombastic brass-heavy theme that pummels you into submission throughout that movie. When the Enterprise launches, he even gives it to you in a triplet-laden near-waltz tempo.

3) For the second movie, writer/director Nicholas Meyer was given carte blanche to change whatever he wanted (since Paramount had fired Roddenberry and was appalled by what had happened the previous time). Meyer hired then-unknown newcomer James Horner (who, later, became James Cameron's "default" composer, as Williams is to Spielberg and Silvestri is to Zemekis). For The Wrath of Khan (Horner's first-ever film score), Meyer instructed him to go for a nautical, Debussey-type tone, which he did very well. Also, Horner brought Alexander Courage's Trek "fanfare" back (the four chimes and subsequent pre-theme intro melody) because Meyer realized it was crucial to Star Trek.

4) Horner was brought back for Star Trek III The Search For Spock, for which he repeated all his musical themes, including the percussive "scissor-click" music that played during the Motari Nebula sequences. This is pretty much my favorite Star Trek music of all, which is my tough luck, since it was never heard again.

JPX said...

Yeah, Three's Company is terrible. I also like the themes to the old Spider-Man cartoon, Taxi, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Hawaii Five 0.

Catfreeek said...

I really like The Cosby Show and Barney Miller as well. I also have to admit, Laverne & Shirley is really catchy.

Catfreeek said...

Ooh and WKRP in Cincinnati is catchy too but that might just be because I really like the show.

Jordan said...

5) For Star Trek IV The Voyage Home, second-time director Leonard Nimoy (or somebody) decided to scrap the excellent Horner music and start from scratch with a new composer, Leonard Rosenman (whose mediocre resume included Falcon Crest and Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings). The results are inoffensive and unremarkable. It's as close as Star Trek gets to "generic" theme music, but it's okay, given the essentially weightless comedic tone of that movie.

6) Around the same time, Star Trek The Next Generation premiered, and Paramount went back to the 1979 Jerry Goldsmith music (but somehow made it even worse, speeding it up and making it louder for television).

7) For Shatner's movie, Star Trek V The Final Frontier, Goldsmith's bombastic score made its third appearance. (Maybe he was still in the building or something.) This time it's a little bit better, since he condescends to use the Alexander Courage fanfare, and because the secondary "Kirk climbs mountains in Colorado" music is remarkably good.

8) By the time of Nicholas Meyer's directorial return (for Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country) they'd obviously given up on any consistency and got Cliff Eidelman, another TV hack (although the results weren't bad). If you're counting, Eidelman's music is the fifth "theme" for Kirk-era Trek.)

9) Generations got its own theme music (by Dennis McCarthy, the stock composer for the TV show).

10) Jerry Goldsmith surprisingly redeemed himself by writing the lyrical, beautiful Voyager theme music. Probably the most melodic work he's ever done: a truly pretty melody.

11) Deep Space Nine and Enterprise also get their own musical themes, one good, one execrable.

12) Finally, for 2009's Star Trek, J. J. Abrams started from scratch again, bringing in LOST composer Michael Giaccino, who's (unlike nearly every other composer I've mentioned) is a serious talent, having since done the scores for Wall•E and Up. He's on board for the (agonizingly slow) 2013 sequel.

So there you have it: the history of Star Trek theme music. Probably more information than you really wanted or needed.

Also, Scotty is really fat.

Jordan said...

My favorite thing about the animated Spider-Man theme music is the part of the lyrics where the singer aggressively sets the record straight (when confronted by a skeptic). It goes like this:

SKEPTIC (rhetorically repeated by singer): "Is he [Spider-Man] strong?"

SINGER: "Listen, bud... He's got radioactive blood."

SKEPTIC [in Jordan's imagination]: "Well, say no more! I quite see your point."

JPX said...

Scotty is the only member from the original cast that I never saw speak at a Star Trek convention. One year he was in town for a convention and I decided to skip it because I had been up late working at Showcase Cinemas. To this day I regret blowing off that convention.

Jesus, Jordan, how in the world do you know this stuff, are you Rain Man?

JPX said...

I like the Barney Miller theme as well aklthough I have never seen the show. M.A.S.H. is another good one.

JPX said...

HAHA, Jordan!

I actually like all the music used in that Spider-Man cartoon. That cartoon remains one of my favorite superhero cartoons. It's simple animation but it totally captures the silly vibe of the 60s comic book.

Jordan said...

JPX, a majority of this information comes from DVD commentary tracks (supplementing my attention to opening credits over the years, and my love of movie music).

Jordan said...

Also IMBD.

Abduscias said...

My favorites are Miami Vice and Knight Rider. Though when I was 6, it was The Dukes of Hazzard.:)

Jordan said...

I forgot to mention ER. That great moment when it goes plangent major key.

And NYPD Blue. Drums, drums, drums.

Catfreeek said...

I liked the MASH theme until I heard it with lyrics then it was just depressing.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I've thought long and hard about this before diving in but here are my top 5:

1) Twin Peaks
2) Miami Vice
3) The Sopranos
4) Welcome Back Kotter
5) Good Times

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I always liked the King of the Hill theme too. Also I despise Billy Joel but I always had a soft spot for the Bosom Buddies theme. Oh, and who could forget The Muppet Show?

Top 5 Shittiest, most ass-filled TV themes:

1) Dawson's Creek (makes me want to blow my brains out)
2) Friends (impossibly catchy and toxic)
3) Malcolm in the Middle (just thinking about it gave me a headache)
4) The Simpsons (I got sick of it in 1992)
5) Pee Wee's Playhouse (so very obnoxious)

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Greatest American Hero.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Jordan your Spiderman observation cracked me the hell up!

Also I forgot to mention how much I hate The Wonder Years theme. Fuck Joe Cocker for throwing up on The Beatles. Or was it Bob Seegar? Doesn't matter, they're both just horrid.

JPX said...

Miami Vice most definitely and also The Odd Couple.

Jordan said...

I forgot The Odd Couple! That's great stuff. So's Bob Newhart (which is so much "that way" that I always assumed it was tongue-in-cheek, with all those horn fills while Newhart's just walking around Chicago).

Crystal Math said...

I'm taken with the top # list so I'm going to use it, too! I really dig an opening theme that both pumps me up and cracks me up:

1. Invader Zim
2. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
3. Kids in the Hall
4. Deathnote -- this was used in the 2nd half of the series. It doesn't crack me up but it takes me back to my days of living in a house of musicians who held metal shows almost weekly.
5. Futurama
6. *honorable mention* Daria -- about 75% of everything she said reflected my thoughts in high school, I just didn't have the ovaries to say it. What about the other 25%, you wonder? The other 25% of my thoughts were about mathematics or boys.

JPX said...

Funny post! I forgot about The Kids in the Hall theme, I love it!

The Mr. said...

I'm down with the Barney Miller theme song, and I'll add; Mash, Fat Albert, and Benny Hill