Feb 3, 2009

Whatever Happened To Theme Songs

I found myself singing the "Charles In Charge" theme song today. Maybe it was because of a recent commercial that had a guy singing part of it in this answer service with a Soviet-sounding name. It just came to me out of the blue, and it kind of scared me. Then, I realized why it scared me.

They don't make theme songs like they used to. Nature of the industry, I guess. Everybody wants to just get to the show, and get it over with so they could promote the next show. Some channels *cough*TBS and TNT*cough* don't even wait for the show to be over to jump to the next show. Credits are already at a point that you need a magnifying glass to find out who does key animation or sound editing on a series.

Theme songs are supposed to be the familiar refrain that serves to invoke a show's memory just by hearing it. Whether it's a story theme (a song that tells you the general plot of a series if you've never seen the series - think "The Brady Bunch," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Gilligan's Island," "The Addams Family," "Green Acres," "Spongebob Squarepants," "Teen Titans," "Secret Agent Man" [yeah, I put them back to back, Google both of those shows and realize why] "The Nanny," "The Fairly Oddparents," and the aforementioned "Charles in Charge"), an instrumental theme (think "The X Files," "Miami Vice," "The Green Hornet," "Dragnet," "X-Men," "Hawaii 5-0," "The Mod Squad," "Futurama," or anything from Mike Post, Danny Elfman, or Shirley Walker [again, Google them if you must]), or just a theme that reflects the mood of the series (lthink "Cheers," "Superjail," "Welcome Back Kotter," "Monk," or the theme songs of shows from Miller/Boyett, MacFarlane and Lear).

Oh, by the way, I'm 31. If you've never heard of most of the shows I listed and you're under the age of 20, it's not your fault. Older shows don't get much play these days. My generation used to have networks dedicated to that, but they too have become homogenized and want to be everything to everybody except the audiences they alienated in the process. Seriously, how many channels does Extreme Makeover Home Edition need to be on? But don't get me started on that.

A lot of shows today have replaced theme songs with something else. Shows have a throwaway pop hit (see the "CSI" franchise), something they want to turn into a pop hit (see the Disney Channel shows), a small melody that just displays the show's name and creators, or some strange ambient sound they're trying to call a theme song. Here's something to try on somebody. Ask them to sing or even hum the theme song to Lost. There used to be an art to creating a theme song, but nowadays, it's not a top priority. Sometimes, shows don't need a theme song to be memorable. But a show with a great theme song will be remembered forever.

Or, at least, the great theme song will be remembered. Not many people remember the series Peter Gunn, but anyone who ever played Spy Hunter certainly knows that series' classy spy theme.

1 comment:

Odo said...

A lot of shows got rid of the theme songs so the networks can squeeze in an extra 15-30 seconds of advertising.