The Top 10 TV Theme Tunes

Yes, it’s a drunken pub talk staple but it’s also a good excuse for a few minutes of harmless nostalgia. Dip in.
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Yes, it’s a drunken pub talk staple but it’s also a good excuse for a few minutes of harmless nostalgia. Dip in.

'Don't talk to us about The Crystal Maze...'

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There’s a lot of crap TV out there; reality TV, focus groups and a lack of risk-taking means that we’re currently very definitely NOT enjoying a golden TV age. But even if the programmes are rubbish there should be good theme tunes, there’s always been good theme tunes. The paucity of decent title music was brought home recently when I caught the end of The Sweeney on one channel and switched over to hear the QI theme tune – from the sublime to the chintzy co-reggae ridiculous. There was a time when even bad (or boring) TV shows had cool music, so here’s a list of 10 of the very best.

(I have applied a few rules, by the way. These are theme tunes, not title songs – so no lyrics – and every one of them was written specifically for the show, not appropriated from other sources - thereby ruling out stuff like the BBC test match theme, the Odd Couple, M*A*S*H and many others.)

The Sweeney

An obvious choice but, let’s face it, magnificent. This foot-stomping cross between Slade and Jimi Hendrix was actually written by jazz maestro Harry South, which explains the laid-back, melancholy, equally-superb end title version.

Opening titles:

End titles:

Sorry

Crap programme, ace music. Fortunately the theme to this poo Ronnie Corbet-starring sitcom was by Ronnie ‘theme tune wizard’ Hazlehurst – writer of Last of the Summer Wine, Are You Being Served?, Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em and many others – otherwise history would have erased it from the memory banks.

Robinson Crusoe

Alright, you’ve got to be over 40 to remember it but if you are then hearing it again will bring on a Proustian rush of 70’s summer holidays memories. A stately, sumptuous theme which deserves to be rediscovered.

The Office: An American Workplace

A really neat little modern theme featuring the marvellous and much-underused melodica (that plastic piano thing you blow through). Goes from zero to sixty in 30 seconds. Interesting fact: the shots of Scranton in the titles were shot by Jim Krasinski, who plays Jim in the show.

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The Money Programme

No-one, not even boring bastards who care about money, watched this programme beyond the opening titles. Menacing horns and a big fat bass preface the arrival of a massive King Curtis covering Led Zep-esque mega-blast. Fuck knows what it had to do with money.

King of the Hill

Similar to The Office but madder. A full on US bar band instrumental, a headbanging thrash performed by a band called the Refreshments.

Ski Sunday

Pure class. The sound of early Sunday evening was written by Sam Fonteyn and is called ‘Pop looks Bach’ (see what he’s done there?). It always accompanied thrilling shots of loonies dressed in rubber johnnies flinging themselves off mountains at high speed, you’d watch it praying that this would be the week where one of them went spinning off into a pine.

Taxi

Probably my favourite theme tune of all, this starts with that lovely whistle, the drums kick in deliciously and the inclusion of the Fender Rhodes piano was a masterstroke. It’s actually called ‘Angela’ by jazzman Bob James and was originally intended for use as incidental music. Interesting fact: Tony Danza drives the cab in the opening title and that’s Queensboro Bridge, not Brooklyn Bridge.

Roobarb

Wobbly green dog, sneering pink cat, Richard Briers, mental fuzz guitar and the best harmonica playing outside of the New Orleans delta. All at teatime.

Hill Street Blues

Could easily have been written by Springsteen. If you told me it was a rejected instrumental from Darkness on the Edge of Town I’d find that perfectly believable. Actually it was written by US TV legend Mike Post, the bloke who also gave the world the themes for the A Team, Magnum, LA Law, the Rockford Files…….oh shit……I’ve forgotten to include the Rockford Files. Which one can I scrub?

OK, there’s enough there to get you talking; let’s have your suggestions for other top TV themes. And, yes, I know I’m a tit for forgetting the Rockford Files.

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