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The Lost Art of the Theme Song October 6, 2009

Posted by Patrick in Muzak, Televisual.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One of my favourite things about television shows has always been their theme songs. Some will argue that they just eat into time that could have been spent on more meaningful things like character development and plot, but I disagree. I’d gladly sacrifice 30 seconds of a scene to get my theme songs back.

Now, not everyone is doing away with these treasured hallmarks of television, most American cable networks are putting actual effort into their opening credits. Each is at least 30 seconds long (the accepted minimum), but they often pushing far above that.

The opening credits used to set the tone for the show while also giving us a quick run through of who’s who in the show. I needed this. I still need this.

Granted, some programmes don’t really need a theme song, such as Lost, which I think works fine without it. This does however exclude them from any future “Guess the Theme Tune” games. And that’s a shame.

What’s almost worse is those shows that once had opening credits, and then ditched them out of the blue. That’d be One Tree Hill (the credits of which were probably the best part of any episode), Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. All of which had half-decent and memorable theme songs once upon a time.

What would The X Files, Cheers or Friends have been without their theme songs? Actually I’m not sure, but I don’t think I would have liked any of them.

So out of the opening credits still around, I have picked a select few.

Firstly, True Blood. One of the best shows on HBO, and indeed on television right now is this vampire drama. Its theme song gives a quick sketch of what to expect from the show – death, sex, rednecks and, well, blood. It’s a wonder that Jace Everett’s “Bad Things” wasn’t written especially for the show because it fits insanely well. Yes, it’s a minute and a half long, but it’s interesting enough to justify the running time.

Next is another US cable hit, Mad Men. Simple, artsy and effective, the Mad Men opening credits feature a silhouetted black businessman falling alongside buildings bearing typical advertisements from the 1960s, the decade in which the show is set. The song – Beautiful Mine by Aceyalone and RJD2 – features some lovely violin with a heavy drum background. Perfect for the programme that it introduces.

And last but not least, yet another American cable opening credit sequence. This one is from United States of Tara, a half hour dramedy series starring Muriel’s Wedding‘s Toni Colette. Once again veering on the side of the artsy, it features pop up scenes of protagonist’s Tara’s multiple personalities set to an as-yet-unnamed track by The Polyphonic Spree’s Tim DeLaughter.

These are just three reasons that I want my theme songs back (and not just on cable). Television is just not as fun without them.


1. Madge - October 12, 2009

Dexter is also a fav of mine!

2. Patrick - October 12, 2009

No I’d agree with you there, and I almost put that in instead of United States of Tara, but I said I’d give the underdog a chance.

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