As I continue my look at my favorite theme songs, I turn to the instrumental ones. Sure the silly songs with fun lyrics are more memorable, but that doesn’t mean the one’s without lyrics are not memorable at all. In fact it can be argued they make a bigger impact. When a theme has lyrics it’s easy to make a connection with a viewer. The best of these are the ones where you hear the music; you think of the show and canâ€™t imagine one without the other. When there are no lyrics it’s harder, the theme needs to be something memorable and interesting enough to get the viewer excited and make them want to see what is coming next.
For example, when I first heard the theme for Dinosaurs (a Jim Henson production from the 90’s which was very good) I was interested. The music was suspenseful, and made you feel like something very different was coming. Then we see the reveal of Earl Sinclair, and the music changed to something more light to inform me it was a fun show involving dinosaurs. I was really curious, and couldn’t wait to see what this show was going to be all about. This is an example of very, very well done theme music. Check it out:
Hereâ€™s another good example, from Coach. This show was about a college football coach. Of course there is more to it than that, but is the basic premise. So the show would need a theme which makes you think of collegiate sport, maybe sounding like a school band is playing in a half time show, to get the idea across. Thatâ€™s what we get, and itâ€™s done very well. The theme is one of the first things I loved about that show.
Final example before I get to my favorites. Say you have a show about a group of aliens landing on Earth. You need something with a unique sound, with kind of a sci fi angle to it. Thatâ€™s what 3rd Rock From the Sun did very well with this guitar riff.
Now for my top 11. This is only for sitcoms, I will get to the other amazing themes later on. The only rule for this list is it has to be a theme which had no lyrics when it was on TV. Many of these tunes do in fact have lyrics, but they were not presented when the series was broadcast.
Ok this is the top for several reasons. The first is that I argue if this is even a sitcom. The series is so depressing how does adding a laugh track make it a sitcom? No disrespect to the show. Second is that this is a very well know song. Suicide is Painless was played, with lyrics, in the movie. Third, I was never a MASH fan as you may know so while I love the theme there are others I like more. All that being said, this was an amazing show and the theme music fit the mood perfectly.
This is another one that actually has lyrics, but they were never used in the broadcast theme. Instead we got this cool orchestral version. The bouncy theme fits well, even include the trademark nose twitch sound used when Samantha used her magic. I loved this show, watching all the time in syndication (was sort of not born yet when the show was first on). It was this or I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched has always been my favorite of the two.
#9.Head of the Class
This may be the most personal choice on here, but there is something about the theme music for this show I love. Now when I say I love it, I mean the long version of the theme. For some reason many theme songs are cut for time when a show is syndicated into re-runs. It happened to Mr. Belvedere, Friends, and this show among others. The long version is a really snappy tune which goes so well with the opening. It starts kind of soft and then builds and builds. I love this show and I love the theme.
#8. Will & Grace
I love the piano, and this shows theme has one of the best piano melodies ever. The only problem is that it is not very long, lasting only a few seconds when the show airs. There is a longer version available but even that isn’t that long. Still, I love the fast paced piano tune and so I had to include it. I was going to put Everybody Loves Raymond on here but they have no standard opening theme, the soft piano tune is the closing theme for the show. It’s nice, but when you listen to it its kind of clunky and boring.
#7.The Dick Van Dyke Show
The golden age of television had some great themes. I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, and even were all memorable. However I decided to put this one on the list. This little tune is short and sweet. Of all the shows from this time this is the only one I really like, it has a timeless humor to it which people today can still find funny. Great show, great theme. And yes there are lyrics, hunt them down if youâ€™ve never heard them.
I love this smooth jazz tune! There is actually an extended version of this I found and itâ€™s really a nice piece of music. Of course for TV they had to make it 30 seconds, but the tune works. The best thing with this theme is that while the names of the cast may have changed, the music was the same from the first episode to the last one. Thatâ€™s pretty cool. This may not be the best sitcom ever, but itâ€™s one my favorite themes. Itâ€™s similar in style to Barney Miller, which is a great theme to but I never liked that show.
Kind of like what I said about Kotter last time, this was not my favorite show ever. It could be a tad dark at times (thought very funny). So for a show like this we need a catchy tune which is also kind of somber. And that’s what we get. This theme compliments the show perfectly, just one of the best marriages of TV show and theme. It is quiet and smooth, but isnâ€™t totally depressing either.
#4.ALF & Benson
I couldn’t decide! So I made it a tie. Both of these tunes have a similar melody and I love them both. I still remember when I first saw Alf’s opening and the theme music played. Of course that was also our first real look at Alf which may be part of it. But I love the music; there is just something about the way the soothing tune goes that gives the theme a sense of mystery. It’s hard to explain, and for the record I prefer the smoother season 1 theme to the jazzier later theme. As for Benson, we have another theme slashed for syndication. The full theme is pretty good. I love the music, it’s just a snappy little melody. This was one of the first sitcoms I adored, and the theme was a serious part of that. While these shows couldn’t be more different the themes are similar.
#3.The Cosby Show
Which season would you like? The cool season one theme? The exciting season 2 theme? How about the operatic season 5 theme? The jazzy season 7 theme? My favorite was the season 2 theme, which is again cut in syndication. The full theme is a nice piece of music. I like all of them really; well maybe I could do without that operatic version. What was that about? Cosby Show was one of the best sitcoms ever, and the theme song is part of the package. The music just screams Cosby, and I remember being a kid when the show was on. When you heard that melody you knew good things were coming.
#2.The Odd Couple
Want a memorable theme song? I have a great one for you! Much like MASH, the theme song for this show came from the movie where it was used (of course it was a play first). There is just something about this catchy tune. In fact I seem to hear it all the time in commercials for various things. It just does a great job of getting your attention.
I know big surprise. This may be one of the best instrumental themes ever. It just fits the show so perfectly! Some of these themes if you don’t know the show you may not really recognize the music. Seinfeld isn’t like that; you hear that bass synthesizer you know what show it is! I said about other shows that the theme mixed beautifully with the show. This may be the best of them all, the theme is just amazing and I could listen to it all day. There is just something so unique and fresh about the sound, and the way it works into the episodes so flawlessly!
Man was this hard! I don’t think a top 20 could have done justice to this. The list of honorable mentions include The Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, I Dream of Jeannie, Bob Newhart Show, Sanford and Son, Kate & Allie, Newhart, Home Improvement, Roseanne (which almost made it), NewsRadio, Just Shoot Me. There is one other show many people may scream foul for not being here, and that is The Simpsons. I like it just couldn’t get it on here. The worst part is this is only sitcoms!!