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August 26, 2011

Top Five: Best TV Opening Themes

Posted by on Aug 26, 2011
With a bullet...

Just like first round interviewees and blind daters, TV Shows are generally very nervous about making a good first impression.  If the first impression is a bad one, well… you better start thinking of ideas for the next show.

Shows take different routes in order to ensure that viewers are hooked.  However, most involve a recurring opening sequence with a title theme that is played at the beginning of each new episode.  These songs are what get stuck in our heads, and keep us thinking about the show and wanting more.  Some series do it wrong, and some do it really right.  Here is our Top Five break down of the latter.

  1. Game of Thrones – HBO has made quite the stir with the completion of their first season of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones.  Not only are the opening credits visually stunning and creative, with the cog-and-wheel depictions of different Westeros locations, but the music is phenomenal.  The melody itself, especially when started by the lone cello, and then gradually built upon until the whole symphony sends it soaring, screams ‘epic.’  I have constantly found myself humming it to myself, even if it has been days since the most recent episode.  I would place this theme on par with movie soundtrack greats like Gladiator, Last of the Mohicans, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars.  Also, check out the Rock Version and this Violin Version – both very cool.
  2. Battlestar Galactica – This theme has two distinct parts, both of which embody two different – yet vastly important – elements of BSG as a show.  The opening begins with the ethereal music and interesting female duet of an ancient Gayatri Mantra (click here for more information on the lyrics and meaning – it’s actually really cool).  This ancient prayer-song gives a feeling for both the spiritual and largely dramatic nature of show – while BSG takes place in a ‘futuristic-like’ space setting, it is a show of people; their loves, their beliefs, their struggles, and their pain.  At the end of the theme come the intense war-like drum beats (while showing scenes from the upcoming episode – I won’t even touch the controversy on that topic), which give the feeling that this is a show about war – war between Man and Cylon. Like so many other parts of this series, the opening music is perfect – setting the stage for what is without a doubt the best TV show I have ever seen.
  3. Fresh Prince of Bel Air - The Fresh Prince theme is probably one of the first songs I ever knew all of the lyrics to, and the show itself is nothing but awesome.  Hearing it now brings back all sorts of memories of the early 90s. The fashion, the hairstyles, and the Carlton Dance are just a few of the things that made this show great, and nothing is higher on that list than the theme song itself.  Fresh Prince is one of those shows that I will watch whenever it is on, and will tune in to no matter how far into an episode it is (especially since I can usually be promised several episodes in a row on most stations that air it).  If there are any of you out there who haven’t seen this show for some reason, fix your pop culture illiteracy and go watch some.
  4. Firefly – Of all of the genres to combine, Joss Whedon did not take the easy route by creating a Space-Western.  So likewise, his opening theme had to match the feel of the show.  This theme is a country song, with a low range male voice, a fiddle, guitars, and a banjo.  The lyrics, with lines such as ‘You can’t take the sky from me,’ and ‘Since I found Serenity,’ work well both as just a typical country song, and in the context of the show.  The chilled-out nature of the song reflects the laid-back attitude of the crew of Serenity, led by the sarcastic front-man, Mal Reynolds.  Unfortunately, this show was prematurely canceled by some ass-hats over at Fox – but definitely catch the first season and the follow up film, Serenity if you haven’t.
  5. Batman: The Animated Series – Everyone has their Batman: the depiction that defined the character for you, at least initially. And if this Batman was on-screen, then there was often a music score that played in your head as you thought about the Caped Crusader fighting crime. Those of the younger generation will probably think first of Christian Bale with Hans Zimmer’s ever-rising orchestra creating the taut mood, while older fans might reminisce about Michael Keaton driving an enormous Batmobile as Danny Elfman’s distinctive score set the tone. But for those of the middle generation, too young to yet watch Tim Burton’s movies, the one true Batman will always be Kevin Conroy’s Batman of The Animated Series. And memories of Saturday morning crime-fighting in a Dark Deco Gotham will always be triggered by that theme music, written by Elfman as an adaptation of his original Batman theme. Shirley Walker would go on to compose a great deal of the score for the episodes, and would even write the new theme when the show took on the title The Adventures of Batman and Robin. She fleshed out that world musically, and beautifully, and may she rest in peace. Since Gotham and Batman currently aren’t the closest of friends, that’s probably why no one will let us embed the opening theme of TAS. But feel free to check out the intro here, and don’t blame me when you want to go back and watch the whole series all over again.

Other honorable mentions – The Wire Season One, Mad Men, and Lost (oh wait, just kidding). Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.