The mark of a good TV show isn’t just about good writing and good acting (good directing also comes into play somewhere), but having a good theme is just as important. When was the last time there was a popular TV show on with a horrible opening song? Of course opinions can declare anything bad, but those hit shows, no matter when they aired on TV, have or had theme songs that people still recognize today, even if they had never seen the show.
I grew up with shows like Night Court, Sanford & Son, Married… With Children and Roseanne, to name a few. Of course Sanford & Son was just before my time, but to this day I can hum the theme song as if I had just watched an episode.
Roseanne had many versions of their theme song, which all rocked, in my opinion. A groovy blues jam that was never long enough and always finished up with Roseanne laughing her fat mouth off. This all culminated in Blues Traveler recording a version with lyrics for the final season.
Married… With Children had a long opening with an extra verse (Try, try, try to separate them, it’s an illusion…). It was shortened to what just about everyone remembers, and then for the DVD releases they lost the license and couldn’t even use that, so now they have some horrible shitty generic opening that totally kills the show. That’s how much a theme song matters. Of course the song was based off of a real song, so they just used an extra verse for the long version.
Hey, do you know the theme song to Bonanza? I’m sure you do. Would it surprise you to know that it actually had lyrics? Just like Hawaii Five-0 and MASH, they had lyrics to their theme songs too. Seriously, click those links and try not to kill yourself after listening to the MASH tune. No wonder they went with the instrumental version for the show.
The thing about TV show theme songs is, most of them are typically songs that are exactly as long as they are during the shows opening. What you hear is all you get. They’re also made by some theme show making band with no name, in house, specifically for that show. However, other times, they’re full length songs by real bands that just so happen to get picked up for a show, and then they’re cut down to fit the opening of the show and recorded specifically for the opening, so that when you actually hear the full version of the song you’re like, “That just barely sounds like the opening to the show…” and then you’re pissed off because the song doesn’t live up to the TV shows opening version. The thing is, sometimes the real bands or artists recording those songs can be big name acts, such as Blues Traveler, Sammy Davis Jr. (Hawaii Five-0), Frank Sinatra (Married… With Children) and Quincy Jones (Sanford & Son). But other times they’re done by bands who are one hit wonders, those one hits are the theme songs, and the full version of those songs are terrible, making one wonder just what in the hell did some TV exec see in the song to begin with to make them consider it for their show.
Since I’m a fan of TV, there are a ton of TV show theme songs that I love, but there are just a couple I want to touch base on. Otherwise this piece would be novel length and you’d quit reading somewhere after this sentence. You probably will anyway. I did.
Love or hate it, the show Friends was on for a long time, had many fans and was a huge success, despite the fact that they lived in a New York City where only white people lived. Personally, I was a fan of the show only because it made me laugh. I wasn’t a huge fan, or even a follower of the show. I watched it in syndication and can only recall actually watching brand new episodes as they first aired maybe three or four times. I only seemed to catch it by accident, but I never turned it off. There are worse things to watch, after all.
The band who did their opening, The Rembrandts, had a hit with the song. Unfortunately for them it was their only hit (The Rembrandts six fans will argue this). The reason for this is, they weren’t really a good band. I saw them on Leno one night performing the song and it was terrible. Seriously, it sounded very monotone, and as if they were performing it for the first time ever without having rehearsed it first. Way to break free from those TV theme shackles guys.
Another show I really like is the USA Network hit, Psych, and naturally I really like the opening. As it turns out it is done by The Friendly Indians, the band show creator Steve Franks belongs to. Way to promote your shit, you’re doing it right.
The fun thing about this band is, this is their only hit and I doubt it’s getting radio play. While looking for a performance video for this song I found a live acoustic version where the guys fuck up the lyrics to the song, immediately. Amazing, the only hit they have and they can’t even remember the fucking lyrics.
I’m probably the biggest fan of That 70s Show alive, and it’s almost impossible to hate their opening song. Both versions. Well, I’ll just say I love the show theme, but the full song can suck one.
Cheap Trick redid the song made famous by Big Star, and there were name changes and key changes and lyric changes, but overall, I can’t stand the song, no matter what version it is. The theme version is the only one I can get behind. Possibly the worst video for it that I found is the one where Cheap Trick is in the Formans living room playing it with the cast of the show hanging out behind them. Not that I’m a hater of Cheap Trick, there’s just some creepy vibe they’re throwing off in the video. Maybe it’s just the drummer with his pedophile smile.
Lastly, there’s the show Rules Of Engagement, that for the record I’d like to say is one of my favorite shows of all time. I was depressed to learn it was canceled finally after seven seasons and 100 episodes.
Oh, and I’d like to point out that Will Harris for the AV Club said of it:
“Seven seasons is a damned fine run, no matter how you look at it, but it’s a particularly remarkable achievement for Rules Of Engagement, a series about which no one has ever exclaimed, ‘Oh, my God, that is my absolute favorite!’” Apparently he knows what he’s talking about. Idiot.
Their theme song is catchy and I typically sing along to it when I don’t plan to, just because it’s catchy. It’s not a favorite song of mine, it’s not something I would jam out to in my car, but it’s catchy enough. One day I decided to see if there was a full length song and sure enough, there is. And it’s not just bad, but horribly performed in the video.
Senor Happy really looks out of place performing, and by “Senor Happy” I mean “the singer.” He has this look on his face the entire time like he’s afraid to show any form of emotion past “I just had a stroke, my mouth can’t do anything.” He looks as if he realizes his band is only good for the opening 30 seconds to a TV show and that they’ll never be more than that. And then he gets to jumping around and overplaying the song to make up for that shitty look on his face and he oversells it. It would be like having a mosh pit to Barney’s “I Love You.” His presence in this video is a clusterfuck of emotion and none of it makes sense with the song.
The good news is, we’ll probably never see Senor Happy, The Rembrandts or The Friendly Indians on any tour with any real acts, unless they get together with each other and play to sold out bars and restaurants all over the state of Kansas. Despite that, they made some really cool TV theme songs, so I guess they can be proud of that. They better be, they have nothing else going for them.