Ten iconic TV opening theme songs

It’s almost a lost art, as many current TV shows either start with a stinger note (Lost, Once Upon a Time) or they’ll just start off cold – opening credits, here they are.

But there are plenty of shows – dramas, comedies, anime, action, reality – that act like an alarm system to viewers, notifying them that there’s a great TV show on the horizon and you better get seated in your recliner chair and enjoy the ride.

With that in mind, I grouped together ten iconic and memorable TV opening themes – in many cases, the themes are just as much a part of the TV show as the actors and plotline.

In other words, these are theme songs that, in themselves, have become more successful and recognizable than the TV shows upon which they were framed.

10. THE NBC MYSTERY MOVIE

The silhouetted man carrying the flashlight.  The haunting Henry Mancini theme.  The slideshow of the four different TV longform shows, until one is selected for ninety minutes (or two hours) of mystery enjoyment.

9. COWBOY BEBOP

Where else are you going to find a smoky-hot jazz track – full of horn stingers, super-powered drums and gallons of energy – but in a Japanese anime series?  The track, known as “Tank!,” was recorded by the Japanese jazz group known as the Seatbelts.  I think it’s time we blow this scene, get everybody and their stuff together, okay, 3, 2, 1, let’s jam.

8. GAME OF THRONES

From the pop-up Dungeons-and-Dragons maps to the swirling, symphonic strings, the TV theme to Game of Thrones is both instantly recognizable and stirring.  Plus, there’s a ton of YouTube clips featuring remakes of the theme, added lyrics, the like.

7. THE FUGITIVE (1960’s edition)

With the stirring, powerful narration by William Conrad, the opening theme to The Fugitive neatly summed up the show’s premise – Richard Kimble, falsely accused of the murder of his wife, spends his time on the run in pursuit of the man he believes is responsible for the heinous act.  The show was always filled with high drama and tension; but if the opening credits mentioned that Barry Morse as Lt. Philip Gerard would be in that night’s episode … well then there was an additional reason to watch the show.

6. GET SMART (1960’s edition)

I have to include this.  Come on, the funniest spy spoof ever, along with that jazzy intro music?

5. ABC’S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS

The Jim McKay introduction.  The thrill of victory.  That ski jumper that crashed off the edge of the ski jump.  The distinctive introduction of the show’s sponsors.  Man, I wish ABC still had a Wide World of Sports – at least one that wasn’t just an ESPN re-branding…

4. THE DUKES OF HAZZARD

This fun little action show had one cool intro song – it had cool narration by Waylon Jennings – and it also established the show’s recurring plotline.  Oh yes, and Daisy Duke.  The character AND the cutoffs.

3. MASTERPIECE THEATER

Although the theme music today has been chopped into a bite-sized stinger, the original intro for the show featured that sweeping orchestral fanfare, as well as images of books that inspired previous TV episodes – and ending with a photo of the show’s first beloved Edwardian drama, Upstairs Downstairs.

2. DARK SHADOWS (1960’s edition)

I can not stress how popular this TV show was, and its opening theme was like a siren’s song to millions of girls who ran home from school to watch this show.  That’s how popular this program was.  Amirite, people?

1. THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1960’s edition)

There are several different intros to this series; I prefer the mid-1960’s edition, complete with the pizzicato string intro and Rod Serling’s “You unlock this door with a key of imagination…”  Ooohh…

So what’s your favorite iconic TV theme?  Which one will catch your attention if you hear it while you’re flipping through channels?  Let me know in the comments section below.

 

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5 thoughts on “Ten iconic TV opening theme songs”

  1. MASH, All in the Family, Petticoat Junction, Mary Tyler Moore, That Girl, Howdy Doody, Freddie Freihofer, Rawhide, My Three Sons, Jeffersons, Jetsons, Mighty Mouse, Johnny Carson Tonight, Mickey Mouse Show, Lone Ranger, Paladin: Have Gun Will Travel….

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  2. Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith, , Rockford Files, Hill St Blues, NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Barney Miller, Captain Kangaroo, The Simpsons, to name just a few, And my all time favorite, Perry Mason.

    Also Mr Ed, Green Acres, Gilligan’s Island, Happy Days, Fame but those are in a different category.

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  3. Lost in Space written by ‘Johnny’ Williams (long before Jaws, E.T. and the shortening of his first name)

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