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MusiClack – Instrumental television theme songs

Tara and Michael each pick 5 of their favorite instrumental television themes. Are any of them yours?

Michael: I think this week’s MusiClack is a fun one. The rules of the game are simply this:Television theme songs sans words. Automatically that eliminated favorites of mine such as the campy but loveable 1960’s Batman and the classic Star Trek (TOS) because of the voice over from Shatner. And I even nixed one of my all time favorites The Tick (the animated version) as it has what one might consider scatting within, still a form of verbalization, so it doesn’t count by my rules. Other themes I left out were The Outer Limits, Johnny Bravo, Spider-Man (animated), The Incredible Hulk and The Sopranos. There are so many more …

Dexter

Tara: I picked this one because it’s so haunting and scarily freaky that I think it fits the whole premise of the show like a foot in a sock. (A dismembered foot in a bloody sock, I should say.)

Night Court

Tara: I’m so dorky about television, that I can just hear the beginnings of a theme song and get excited about the show I’m about to see. That’s how I felt about the Night Court theme back in the day.

Michael: I never watched Night Court. Still, I understand. I’m sure we all have those sorts of feeling about some of our favorite shows.

M*A*S*H

Tara: I know this one is an obvious pick, but I had to include it for a few personal reasons. One, because my love for Hawkeye Pierce knows no bounds. His wit and cuteness and snarky banter have been unmatched in any character on television since, I think.

Also? It’s a beautiful song. It does have lyrics, that were sung in a scene only once in an early episode. But for some reason they were never included. I think that was the right choice by the producers. The lyrics are super depressing, and don’t really fit the idea of the show.

Michael: It’s kind of difficult not to go with this tune as a classic, iconic theme. Instantly identifiable. It’s in lots of people’s top themes.

Roseanne

Tara: In my opinion, this theme song is perfect when you take Roseanne’s character into consideration. It’s blustery and messy and fun. Even now looking at her, I start to hum it in my head. Immediate association.

Michael: Never watched Roseanne, but I recognized the tune.

Quantum Leap

Michael: Of all the science fiction films and shows I’ve watched over the years, this is one I’ve never seen and never had any desire to see. It just wasn’t on my radar.

Tara: You missed out big time. Quantum Leap was a “never miss” for me. The opening music is awesome. If you listen closely, it has some elements that suggest adventure. And, as Sam was always leaping through time, the underscoring feeling of “discovering a new frontier” is brilliant, I think.

Bob’s Burgers

Michael: I proudly admit my fondness for the peppy ukelele sounds coming from the Bob’s Burgers theme. It’s a jaunty toe-tapper. (Side Note: If you pair this theme with Eddie Vedder’s “You Belong To Me” and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Over the Rainbow,” you’ve got a whole lot of fun going on.)

Tara: Wow, your mind is all over the place. Besides. Is there even one thing that you don’t like about Bob’s Burgers? You’re practically that show’s cheerleader.

Twin Peaks

Michael: Because of Twin Peaks, I boast a hefty collection of Angelo Badalamenti and Julie Cruise music I never tire of. (Yes, I used “never.”) I listen to it over and over again.

Tara: Weirdest. Theme. Ever. Gosh, I miss the Peaks. And now listening to it? Makes me want some pie as well.

Millennium

Michael: My love for this score reflects directly on Mark Snow’s work on The X-Files. It’s moody and ominous and dark, all elements I loved about Millennium.

Tara: Never saw one episode of either one. Neat arrangement though.

Six Feet Under

Michael: The thing that instantly attracted me to the theme for Six Feet Under was its peppy, quirky structure. What is a theme about a funeral home family supposed to sound like? I certainly didn’t think it would sound like this. But it’s become iconic nevertheless.

Tara: Excellent pick, Michael. The theme music was just one of the many elements that came together in this series to make it one of the most amazing things that HBO has ever done.

Starsky & Hutch

Michael: I remember when this theme lit up the room on our old console set. It is instantly identifiable with fond childhood memories of my beginning love affair with police drama. (Side Note: On a venture to Tijuana with my folks one year, I purchased a sweater akin to Starsky’s. I was the envy of my classmates.)

Little did I know until seeing credits for The X-Files that Mark Snow did some of the music for Starsky & Hutch, specifically the season 3 theme. (The guy contributed to practically every television show on the planet.)

Tara: This one I have absolutely no recognition of. But it cornily fits. I wasn’t a regular viewer of Starsky and Hutch. Maybe because I’m so much younger than you.

Hey! Nobody expected a MusiClack without “a dig,” did they?

Michael: You’re not that much younger than me.

How about we offer our readers the following poll so they can take a vote on which of our videos they like best?

Tara: You’re not going to cry when Roseanne is the winner, are you?

Michael: . . . . .

 

 

 

Photo Credit: nathangann.com

26 Responses to “MusiClack – Instrumental television theme songs”

March 16, 2012 at 11:43 AM

I am highly disappointed that neither Futurama, The Simpsons nor The Office was considered, especially Futurama because it’s so lovely.

Actually, the 90s X-Men cartoon also has a bril-iant opening theme. I realize you couldn’t put them all on there, but come on!

March 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM

. . . . .

kschenke:

I wouldn’t know The Office theme if I tripped over it … I like the ones I picked much more than Futurama … and, per the rules, The Simpsons couldn’t be included …

March 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM

I was wondering if Simpsons would be disqualified for that reason, but I always thought of the title chorus as not being a part of the song.

And I’m not enraged per se with the selection, it was an “Aw, man!” moment when I scrolled and didn’t see the ones that came to my mind. How dare you not think of the same things I thought of! Harumph, harumph!

March 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM

. . . . .

That … and the “Doh!” when Bart skates by Homer …

March 16, 2012 at 12:04 PM

I love Quantum Leap, but if you’re going to disqualify Star Trek because of the Shatner voiceover, then QL needs to be DQ’ed as well. Otherwise for me, it would be harder to pick, and between those two.

March 16, 2012 at 12:31 PM

I’m saying no to DQ’ing The Leap. There’s a bit of talk at the beginning that in no way interferes with the theme. It’s an intro. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

March 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Okay, I was a slacker and obviously didn’t watch the linked video. I was thinking the VO was more over the theme. Consider one of the MASH votes to be a QL vote instead!

March 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Here’s a few of my favs:

Good Times
What’s Happenin’
The Bill Cosby Show

March 16, 2012 at 1:25 PM

I voted for MASH in the poll, just a beautiful instrumental, but you are right about the lyrics..so sad.
The Office has to be my favorite though. I DVR just about everything and speed along to the first scene, but I always always stop and listen to The Office theme.

March 16, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Law & Order (original recipe). That one’s going to stick with me in my head forever. So, too, is Dragnet, though I admit somewhat sacrilegeously that I preferred the remake’s updated version to the original.

And something about the second theme tune to Chicago Hope always gets my energy going. I don’t know why, but I used to just play that thing on loop a lot.

March 16, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Gotta agree with Michael…my favs have words. BUT always loved the opening theme song to Sanford and Son. And of course…Pete Gunn..will forever be the catchy tune for an ear worm.

March 16, 2012 at 6:22 PM

You forgot two of my all-time faves, Taxi and Get Smart. Pure awesomeness! And technically, couldn’t you disqualify Roseanne because of her laugh and because of the lyrics version they feature towards the end of the series? I do love Roseanne though.

March 16, 2012 at 6:28 PM

. . . . .

How rude of us, Kim … to have forgotten your favorites. Please forgive us. We’ll try harder next time.

We made the rules. The rules are no words. A laugh (as in the Roseanne theme) is not a word or words. It qualifies.

If we’re going to pick nits, the M*A*S*H theme has words, but was not used in the theme for the show. It qualifies.

And of course there are different versions of the themes … re-recordings, with words, different lyrics. But we weren’t going to drive ourselves crazy.

March 16, 2012 at 6:44 PM

lol…I was only adding my faves not meaning to make it sound like I should’ve been consulted :P

March 16, 2012 at 6:48 PM

. . . . .

Kim?

I take every comment offered here on MusiClack with the utmost of sincerity.

(Hokay … I almost couldn’t type that with a straight face …)

March 16, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Make me choose between Six Feet Under and Twin Peaks?!? I WILL NOT!

March 16, 2012 at 6:31 PM

. . . . .

Bob:

You’re in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

Luckily you don’t have Ivey to babysit, but you’re locked in a barn and it’s simply a matter of days before the relentless pounding of said undead tear the place down and get to you.

You have a comforting choice in your final few days: The theme from Six Feet Under or the theme from Twin Peaks. One or the other will be the last theme you ever hear and you choose one.

What is it?

March 16, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Michael, dude….no love for the Kolchak theme? I thought for sure that’d make your list…one of the best ever, in my opinion!

March 16, 2012 at 7:24 PM

Michael,
dude….no love for the Kolchak theme? I thought for sure that’d make your list…one of the best ever, in my opinion!

March 17, 2012 at 10:42 AM

. . . . .

Well, Mr. Arthur … where do I begin?

Of course there’s love for Kolchak: The Night Stalker. However (and you might want to hold your jaw here): It’s not one of my favorites.

To me, it’s automatically indicative of the program … instantly identifiable. But is it one I would have included on my list? From what you see above of the five, no. It’s not even on my Top 25, truth be told.

Just as Bob mentioned above: “Make me choose? I WILL NOT!” (Of course, I had to lest there be no post.)

You haven’t a clue how difficult it was to pair down to the interesting choices I ended up listing. A very few others left off the list which were considered included American Idol, What’s Happening, Peter Gunn, Hawaii Five-O, Mission: Impossible, The Andy Griffith Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm. And one of my all time favorites – Sanford & Son was even left out of the mix. And that tune is one of my go-to tunes.

Yes … there may be a bit too much “moody” music in my choices up there, but that’s a direct reflection of what I was feeling at the time when this post was put together. “Starsky & Hutch? Really?” you might be thinking. But that ditty brings back fond childhood memories. And I confess I’m in the throes of joyfulness with the return of Bob’s Burgers right now, so that theme was (probably) unfairly included.

We knew there was going to be controversy in putting this list together. We even wondered if putting 10 videos in the post was too much. (It’s not.) But one of the things we definitely looked forward to was the feedback and passion from readers who stepped up to the plate to comment “What happened to … ???” or “How could you leave out … ???”

Stay tuned … more could come of this …

March 16, 2012 at 8:49 PM

There’s no way I could choose between “Six Feet Under” and “Dexter”. I couldn’t vote. But I do have to ask…does “The West Wing” have some voiceover I don’t know about? That’s certainly one I’d add. Also, the later seasons of “The Odd Couple”, which dropped the “Can two men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” speech from the first few seasons. Does “The Rockford Files” get disqualified for the answering machine message at the beginning? It’s completely over before the music starts. And either version of “Hawaii Five-O” qualifies. And I hate to bring up “Mission: Impossible” again, but seriously, it’s great enough to be making strong contributions to last year’s “MI: Ghost Protocol” movie.

I’d strongly vote against both “MASH” and “Twin Peaks”. Not because they’re particularly bad music–they both do a good job establishing the show. But because they feel unbearably long to me. I’ve never listened to either one where I haven’t wished I could just fast-forward right through them a few notes in.

March 17, 2012 at 10:50 AM

. . . . .

ScottH:

Oh … some you mentioned were considerations. (See my note to Douglas above.)

M*A*S*H is a go-to theme, obviously so for Tara. And I of course enjoy it. But I enjoy others more.

Rockford Files absolutely qualifies for the reason you mentioned.

And Twin Peaks could never, ever feel unbearably long to me. Ever.

Ever.

March 16, 2012 at 9:31 PM

A not-bad list, but how could you leave out Magnum PI and Simon and Simon? Two of the best instrumental theme songs ever … you know I’m for real: http://cliqueclack.com/tv/2010/04/21/magnum-p-i-s-theme-song-cliqueclack-flashback/

March 17, 2012 at 7:26 AM

What? No Mr. Rogers? Disqualified due to lyrics, right?

More seriously, without really being committed to seriousness, I had a ball cruising through your choices and some of the ones nominated in comments. Haven’t checked, but did Dukes of Hazzard have words? Where is the map-burning theme for Ponderosa? Andy Griffith Show? Dick Van Dyke Show? Obviously you needed someone even older than Michael on your panel.

Michael, I am appalled that you don’t know Quantum Leap! What’s not to love in this mix of humor, science fiction, “The Fugitive”, and “Don Quixote”? Sam charges forth with the highest of ideals to right the wrongs of the past while guided by his completely amoral, cigar chewing connection to the future. Without Sam, we would all be stuck with the wicked “Piggy Sue” earworm!! Sam saved “The Misfits”!! Uncle Gabby surely watched it, if for no other reason than appreciation of one of Dean Stockton’s finest roles.

BTW, when you get around to theme songs with words, I nominate the themes from “Enterprise” [long version], “Cheers”, and “Mary Tyler Moore Show”. All of them were the kind of spirit lifting encouragements needed to counteract today’s rush toward the dark side.

March 17, 2012 at 10:58 AM

. . . . .

Believe it or don’t, Nyela, I love the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood theme. But, as you noted: Lyrics.

Bonanza? Of course. Dukes never did anything for me.

One day, when I’m old (and I’m far, far, far away from that yet), I’ll have the opportunity to sit down and view Quantum Leap.

March 17, 2012 at 7:28 AM

Addendum to theme songs with words nomination list: “Three’s Company”.

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