12

Theme Songs That Are Musically Up-To-Date


 

Here’s an obscure TV theme song that I just found on YouTube (a pretty good one) that brings up a question: how often do TV shows have theme songs that actually reflect current trends in pop music? This show was called “Karen,” a one-season flop from 1964 starring Debbie Watson as a spunky, flighty teenager. It was one of several shows from the mid-’60s that were about teenaged girls, but this one had something resembling a rock n’ roll theme song, sung by the Beach Boys. It wasn’t exactly up-to-date for the fall of 1964, but it was closer than most teen shows of its era; The Patty Duke Show and Gidget were about teenagers, but had (terrific) theme songs in an old-fashioned big-band style that no teenaged girl of the time would have been listening to.

TV themes usually tend to be lagging indicators, if only because it’s dangerous to pick a song that’s too closely tied to a particular musical trend. (If you hope your show will last five years, you don’t want to have a song that will sound out of date in a year. Better to go with a Who song instead, since that’s always out of date.) But what are some other shows that featured theme music that had a closer-than-usual relationship to pop-music trends of the period?


 

Theme Songs That Are Musically Up-To-Date

  1. Well, the two that come to mind are The O.C. by Phantom Planet and The Big Bang Theory by the Barenaked Ladies. Although, I’m no music expert, so I couldn’t really say how closely they relate to pop-music trends. Friends also comes to mind, although that may be more because the song actual became popular. Chuck has a theme song which was popular a few years ago. I wonder if you’re more likely to find recent music on a sitcom than a drama? There might be some need for comedy to be instantly relate-able (for example, making fun of the latest trends) whereas most dramas use what I would think of as ‘timeless’ stories.

    • The OC is a good example; Big Bang Theory, not so much – I think BNL’s prime was in the mid-90s.

      I think a lot of the WB/CW shows of recent years have used up-to-date music. I remember hearing the Smallville theme on the radio around the time it came out. Also, I seem to remember a story about the Dawson’s Creek theme – they had apparently started using the Paula Cole song in advance advertising for the show, then people came to associate the song so much with the show that they were like, “we have to use this as our theme.” Of course, that’s definitely one of those songs that dated pretty quickly and by the end of the show’s run was pretty annoying.

  2. The only surefire answer i can come up with is whatever Hannah Montana uses. Because whatever gets on the show immediately becomes the new big thing with its audience.

  3. “She can do a book report”? Really?

    • She can write it while watching television. Rebellion!

  4. “The Monkees” and “The Partridge Family” themes were fairly up-to-date, but that makes sense since they were about contemporary musical groups. “The Munsters” theme turned somewhat contemporary in the second season with that surf-rock approach. They tried to modernize the “Patty Duke Show” theme in the last season, too, but that didn’t come off so well.

    The “Gidget” theme is even better heard in its full version, in stereo.

  5. Batman, Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), Powerpuff Girls, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Sopranos, Kids in the Hall.

  6. I seem to remember the theme from a Canadian current affairs program called “Here Come The Seventies” becaming a regional hit at the time.

  7. The Rockford Files. I don’t know if it ever existed as a song by itself.

  8. The Waitresses did the theme to “Square Pegs” in 1982, at a time when alternative music was still fairly hot (actually, any band with a music video and a decent song in ’82 could get hot, because the formative MTV was desperate for anything to show, at a time when they were actually 24/7/365 music videos). And the theme to the original “Bill Cosby Show” was sort of a take on/parody of James Brown’s soul singing style (though as a the years went on the Cos became as much attached to the type of unintelligible talk in the song as the Godfather of Soul ever was).

  9. The theme from the Rockford Files, in a longer form, was released as a 45 single back in the mid 70’s.

Sign in to comment.