TV THEME SONGS TO DROOL FOR

The se­cret to a great, long-last­ing mem­o­rable show is a catchy, sing-along in­tro

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This week Delia Der­byshire was hon­oured with a post­hu­mous PhD from Coven­try Univer­sity for her amaz­ing work at the BBC Ra­dio­phonic Work­shop. Der­byshire was the un­her­alded ge­nius who ar­ranged Ron Grainger’s Doc­tor Who score into the sort of ground­break­ing elec­tron­ica be­fit­ting a time-trav­el­ling space-grand­dad who fought in­ter­stel­lar pep­per-pots and the laws of physics. It got me think­ing of the im­por­tance of theme mu­sic and in­tro cred­its and how they trig­ger a Pavlo­vian drool re­sponse in telly fans. I have se­lected some in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ples for dis­cus­sion.

THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR

Once upon a time pro­grammes told you their ba­sic premise in song ev­ery week. Episodes would be­gin with the pro­gramme-mak­ers ba­si­cally pitch­ing the show again to that era’s am­ne­siac TV au­di­ence. Yes, ’twas far from binge-watch­ing or fol­low­ing a ba­sic plot we were rared, ap­par­ently. The Fresh Prince of Bel

Air was an ex­quis­ite ex­am­ple of the genre. Each week Will Smith would act out and rap the cir­cum­stances of his move from rough and ready West Philadel­phia to the riches of Bel Air, mak­ing an elo­quent case for wealth re­dis­tri­bu­tion that nei­ther the show nor Amer­ica ever quite de­liv­ered on.

BAT­MAN

Noth­ing says “Your favourite show is start­ing!” quite like hav­ing some­one singing the name of that pro­gramme re­peat­edly over speedy 12-bar-blues while car­toon ver­sions of the hero punch bad­dies. The ap­proach is un­der­used nowa­days. The other­wise ex­cel­lent Hand­maid’s Tale, for ex­am­ple, for­goes a credit se­quence when it would ac­tu­ally be a re­lief to have just 30 sec­onds of Of­fred beat­ing up the tools of the pa­tri­archy while some­one sang “na na na na na na na na na HAND­MAID’S TALE! Na na na na HAND­MAID’S TALE etc.”

SCOOBYDOO

It’s a shame that the Satur­day Evening Post never sent Joan Did­ion to re­port on and philosophi­se about glut­tonous ca­nine burn-out Scooby Doo and his hippy chums as the 1960s slith­ered into the ’70s and they trav­elled Amer­i­can in a van in­ves­ti­gat­ing “ghosts” (The only “ghost” here, as Did­ion might ob­serve, is that of “Amer­ica”).

Any­way, Hanna Bar­bera’s shame­less gen­er­a­tional cash-in needed a suit­ably hip slice of pop mu­sic and got it in the shape of “Scooby Dooby Doo, Where are You?” a mean­ing­less piece of beat­nik gib­ber­ish if ever there was one. If it turned up scrawled in blood on the walls of a pop pro­ducer’s house, I would not be sur­prised. Pesky kids.

CHEERS

The gen­tle easy-lis­ten­ing theme to Cheers echoes sim­i­larly bit­ter­sweet AOR tunes on other 1980s sit­coms (Golden Girls, Fam­ily Ties) and it quickly be­came the in­ter­nal back­ing track for prob­lem-drinkers ev­ery­where. It paints the singer’s favoured hostelry, not as a dank cave of sad­ness (apolo­gies to Des down at my lo­cal), but as a place of refuge “where ev­ery­one knows your name” notwith­stand­ing the fact that if ev­ery­one in a bar knows your name, ei­ther you are a lo­cal fig­ure of fun like “Bang Bang” (pos­si­bly), or you have a se­ri­ous drink prob­lem (prob­a­bly).

Still, thanks to Cheers I am deeply in­vested in the will-they-won’t-they Sam-and-Di­ane-style re­la­tion­ships of all bar staff and ex­pect my name to be roared en­thu­si­as­ti­cally on en­try to most rooms.

LOONEY TUNES

As an im­pres­sion­able in­fant I liked the fre­netic brass and pizzi­cato strings stylings of the Loony Tunes theme which al­ways ended with porcine peo­ple-pleaser Porky the Pig break­ing the fourth wall in order to de­claim “Th-th-that’s All Folks!” like I do at the end of ev­ery col­umn.

Sadly, in ret­ro­spect, the Loony Tunes char­ac­ters them­selves em­bod­ied ev­ery sort of tox­i­cally mas­cu­line in­ter­net troll – from eas­ily-slighted Elmer “cri­sis-of-mas­culin­ity” Fudd, sock-pup­pet­ing 4chan trick­ster Bugs Bunny (or Lady Bugs Bunny de­pend­ing on what han­dle he’s us­ing), apoplec­tic Bre­it­bart colum­nist Daffy Duck, and, most trou­blingly, Gal­lic sex pest Pepe le Pew. It was a dif­fer­ent time.

NODDY

This idyl­lic de­pic­tion of a mag­i­cal wooden boy driv­ing a con­vert­ible through a Bri­tish-ac­cented Toy­land filled with “his spe­cial friends” is best un­der­stood now as a fevered cheese dream Michael Gove once had about Brexit Bri­tain (Big Ears and Tubby and Mis­ter Plod are clearly fel­low mem­bers of the Tory cab­i­net). This video is what they show Jean Claude Juncker when he asks to see “the plan”.

MUR­DER SHE WROTE

Look at sleuthing ledge bag Jes­sica Fletcher typ­ing fran­ti­cally, bi­cy­cling ma­ni­a­cally, gar­den­ing, snoop­ing, smil­ing fondly (at a corpse prob­a­bly) and shin­ing a torch with a sus­pi­cious look on her face, all to a charm­ingly jaunty pi­ano, pic­colo and tuba theme. You’d never know she was darkly nav­i­gat­ing an end­less cy­cle of sense­less butch­ery. “I am now be­come death, de­stroyer of worlds,” says the pi­ano riff, but chirpily.

THE MUP­PET SHOW

The Mup­pet Show was both the best de­pic­tion of what life is like in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try and what life is like as an adult (re­la­tion­ships are dif­fi­cult; you are now cov­ered in fur; you pos­si­bly have a beak).

It also fea­tured one of the best over the top in­tros and theme tunes ever. This video is best played now as a form of cathar­sis be­fore panel dis­cus­sions and po­lit­i­cal de­bates (Hash­tag “Satire”).

POST­MAN PAT

This jaun­tily slightly melan­cholic theme song de­picts the epony­mous early-riser flaunt­ing health-and-safety reg­u­la­tions by bring­ing a cat in his van. This in­tro con­cept was ripped off by the more widely ac­claimed So­pra­nos credit-se­quence which also fea­tured a rule-de­fy­ing mav­er­ick driv­ing to work.

GAMEOFTHRO­NES

The mock heraldic strains of the Game of Thrones theme, bor­rowed straight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, ac­com­pany a nifty dragon’s eye view of a beau­ti­fully wrought clock­work Throne­si­verse. Though I got bored with the show it­self, I never got bored of this awe­some in­tro to which, in my house, we like to per­form a lit­tle pranc­ing dance as though rid­ing a pony. Still, I think a new credit se­quence might shake things up a bit for the fi­nal se­ries.

How about “sexy” kings and queens danc­ing in sil­hou­ette, as Shirley Bassey melod­i­cally bel­lows, “It’s the Game of Thrones. What a game it is. The Game of Thrones. Can you play… the Game of Thrones?” And then on the outro she could sing: “Did you en­joy the Game of Thrones? What a dif­fi­cult game it is. So many rules in… the Gaaaaame of Throoooone­s…” I’ve got a melody and ev­ery­thing. If some­one could pass this on to the cre­ators of Game of Thrones that would be great.

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