The replacement of theme songs with five-second title cards is a sad-making thing — it’s summed up by Accidentally On Purpose, which in its first few episodes had enough time for a long recap of the premise, but not for an actual theme song. The death of Vic Mizzy, composer of the themes for “The Addams Family” and “Green Acres,” reminds us of why shows need theme songs: his songs not only explained the premise, but created a sound that told us what the mood of the show was going to be.
In fact, the Green Acres song eventually was out of step with the actual premise of the show. It made sense in the early episodes, but then the show mostly dropped the idea that Lisa (Eva Gabor) wanted to go back to New York, and it became the story of one man living in a hellish small town where everyone is insane, including his wife. But if the song no longer really summed up the premise, it didn’t matter, because the sound of it — melodically, orchestrally, and the decision to have the stars sing it in their contrasting voices (Eddie Albert could sing extremely well; Eva Gabor could not) — told us what show felt like, just as the harpsichord-drenched Addams Family theme told us what to expect from this series.
Here’s one of Mizzy’s less successful songs for a less-successful show: Captain Nice, where Buck Henry tried to do to the Batman craze what he had done to the spy craze (in GET SMART). Note that the opening was only 20 seconds, just like a modern opening. A lot of shows in the ’60s had short openings and long closing credits (i.e. “The Dick Van Dyke Show”). So you can do a real theme song even with only 15-20 seconds; most shows now just don’t bother.