Kids growing up today have absolutely no idea what a true TV theme song is.
Now, they turn on any of the CSI shows and get a song from The Who. They turn on Law & Order and get a “bum-bummmmm”. They turn on Survivor and, depending on the intricacies of the episode plotline may either get the long-form, short-form, or some variation in-between of the show’s intro.
Web Watch was having lunch the other day with a group of people that included a woman who had recently moved to the United States after having grown up in a number of foreign countries.
The group was talking about TV shows that should be remade or converted into movies when the topic of Gilligan’s Island came up.
She had never heard of it, so we attempted to describe the basic plotline of the show: seven strangers who found themselves on a deserted island, unable to escape. Wacky hijinxs ensue.
Apparently, our explanation wasn’t making a dent in her understanding of what the show was about. Overhearing the conversation, a passer-by helped out by singing the Gilligan’s Island theme song.
Why? Because back then – TV show theme songs provided every piece of vital information a casual viewer needed to understand what the show was about. And that was for shows whose themes had lyrics, which of course not all show themes do.
But in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s – popular music was often pulled from TV, movies, and Broadway. It’s still so today, but more aggressively marketed specifically for that purpose. Back then, the popularity was a bit more… organic.
Which is why seeing a list such as BILLBOARD’S TOP TEN TV THEME SONGS from 1980-2011 can be educational, nostalgic, and hopefully inspirational to future TV show creators and song writers. You may not find THEY MIGHT BE GIANT’s theme to Malcolm in the Middle here, but they’re proud to play it in concert.
Let’s take a look at which TV-based songs topped the charts over the past thirty years or so:
- WKRP In Cincinnati. 1981, peak at #65
- Theme From Dynasty. 1982, peak at #52
- Theme From Magnum P.I. 1982, peak at #25
- Theme from Moonlighting. 1987, peak at #23
- Theme From The Dukes Of Hazzard. 1980, peak at #21
- I’ll Be There For You. 1995, peak at #17
- Theme From Hill Street Blues. 1981, peak at #10
- Theme From Greatest American Hero. 1981, peak at #2
- Miami Vice Theme. 1985, peak at #1
- How Do You Talk To An Angel. 1992, peak at #1
What? Where’s WELCOME BACK KOTTER? This list is a total joke! (wait, that was before 1980. Never mind…)