Much Better

TV show themes are designed to set a mood for what’s to follow, and to be memorable, i.e. to remind people of the show when they hear it in the elevator.

Leaving aside themes from moronic game shows and comedies (no links because brain damage), it’s more interesting to consider those of TV dramas.

In some poll that nobody’s interested in, Brits were asked which was their favorite TV theme tune, and their #1 was from Inspector Morse.  Nice, but not my choice.

I think that the theme from The Persuaders was far more exciting (plus John Barry composed it, ’nuff said).

Then there was Jonathan Creek, which is excellent (albeit a total ripoff of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre).

Actually, the Brits do better with their comedy shows — Fawlty Towers and Waiting For God come to mind.  Much better than Happy Days etc.

Over on this side of The Pond, I think we’ve had better dramatic themes.  In my opinion, the theme from Hill Street Blues was just about the best ever…

…until Twin Peaks came along, that is.

Feel free to add (with links) your own favorites.


  1. Kim,
    I’m surprised you didn’t mention The Vicker of Dibley.
    My better half cottoned me on to Doc Martin, with Martin Clunes.
    – SWMBO has “teh sadz” knowing the final season is coming next year.

    Others will come to mind, but I’ve only had 1 mug of coffee.

    1. Loved the Vicar of Dibley! Would add, Are You Being Served but they didn’t really have a theme.

  2. The Persuaders was good, not as good as Peter Gunn which still isn’t as good as The Avengers (Steed and Peel, not the toons).

  3. A few years ago, you did one of your long-ish Saturday essays on your love for HSB. As I was reading it I was listening to the local “oldies” station playing the classic “American Top 40” from the 80s. Just a few minutes after reading it, Casey played the theme as one of that week’s hits. Ah, the 80s, when TV themes were good enough to get radio airplay. And yes kids, this level of guitar and keyboard virtuosity was de regueur for the decade.

  4. Pretty much anything composed by Mike Post. Hill Street Blues and The Rockford Files are just two examples of his work. Others include Law & Order, Magnum P.I., The Greatest American Hero, L.A. Law, The A-Team, and Quantum Leap.

    Honorable mention to Stu Phillips, who composed the Knight Rider theme, as well as the glorious theme music for the 1978 Battlestar Galactica.

  5. Ah, yes……TV theme songs. Totally agree about The Persuaders and Hill Street Blues. Twin Peaks was sultry, sexual and very dark all at once.

    I would add The Avengers and The Protectors as well.

    Very nice.

    1. The instrumental theme is really good, but the non-instrumental version Falling is incredibly haunting and beautiful in its own right. Julee Cruise did not get the career she deserved (although looking at Wikipedia, she’s not done terribly by any stretch. Time to exercise Apple Music….).

      The Peter Gunn Theme cannot be played enough.

      I’m not interested in hearing it on its own merits, but the theme for Last of the Summer Wine is the most perfect song for the series, to set the mood. That was Milady and my favorite show to watch together. It’s a comedic soap opera: not much is going to change (unless an actor dies or leaves the show), and it’s going to be consistent.

    1. I just finished watching the first 5 seasons of Peaky Blinders. Best thing I’ve seen in a long time. And the theme song is haunting.

  6. I remember playing Hill Street Blues in high school jazz band. It was fun.

    Also played Magnificient 7 once in college marching band. That was an adventurous piece; I liked it a lot.

  7. Miami Vice – absolutely the best theme for a late-80s tv show.
    The Equalizer – Stewart Copeland’s theme over the opening of that show nails the mood (at least for the first few seasons)
    Honorable Mention (since no one ever saw the show and it died a quick death): Tangerine Dream’s “Streethawk”

    1. >Honorable Mention (since no one ever saw the show and it died a quick death): Tangerine Dream’s “Streethawk”

      I guess I’m “no one,” as I remember watching it…probably while in Germany, where it would’ve been on AFN. A silly concept in hindsight, but I suppose they were going after the same audience as Knight Rider or Airwolf, and when it’s on the only English-language TV available…

      (Hogan’s Heroes dubbed into German is a riot, even if you don’t grok the language. Miami Vice was funny, just for the voice of whoever they picked to dub Don Johnson’s lines, because he sounds absolutely nothing like Don Johnson.)

      1. I enjoyed Streethawk well enough as a show, but I honestly don’t remember the music for its theme, so I guess it didn’t “do it” for me.

  8. I think the Jetson’s theme song actually won an award for its score.

    Lots of good TV theme songs from television of yore. I liked how you could watch the show with anyone in the room and the programs were good. Now some of the comedies are pushing the limits of raunchy much too far into the vulgar.


  9. As a kid, I really enjoyed the “Silverhawks” opening song. I also loved The A-Team, Knight Rider and Airwolf’s themes too.

    In my early adulthood in the 90’s I really liked Babylon 5’s various opening themes. They actually changed it for each of the 5 seasons. I liked Season 4’s the most, then S2, S5, S3, and S1….. but I like them all, so ranking them is kinda like arranging deck chairs. Deep Space 9 had a great theme also.

    In all honesty, I preferred movie music to TV themes though. This compilation of movie themes from the Cincinatti Pops was one of my favorite albums that I’d listen to on repeat in the mid 90’s —

  10. British show Minder. Theme song sung by lead character, actor Dennis Waterman.

    Great show too.

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