RIP Vic Mizzy and Theme Songs - Macleans.ca
 

RIP Vic Mizzy and Theme Songs


 

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.


 
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RIP Vic Mizzy and Theme Songs

  1. I actually love that the Green Acres theme expresses viewpoints opposite from the ones the characters actually have. I always thought it was just another part of the show's subversive appeal.

  2. That is a formidable contribution to pop culture. I have so many memories of the Addams Family theme song. And you can't hear the words Green Acres without wanting to follow along with "is the place to be".

  3. I once got the opportunity to see Vic Mizzy when he appeared at a college where I was working. He commented that one thing he loved to do at those events was to play a piece (without identifying it beforehand) called "The Haunted Organ" that he wrote for a Don Knotts picture titled THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN. He said he did it because it never failed to amuse him that so many baby boomers 'of a certain age' recognized the tune immediately

  4. Mizzy's best themes also had incredibly strong opening hooks that stood alone in people's minds. All you have to do is hear the first five seconds of the "Green Acres" or "Addams Family" themes and the entire theme just comes flooding back (and those openings became standards for stadium and arena organists across North America over the past 40 years).

    As for the lack of themes, it amazes me that the suits running both the networks and the cable channels think this actually boosts viewership. They already learned that showing a 30-second promo while the credits flash by at the bottom of the screen doesn't work, because people don't give a damn about the promo and just change the channel, so now they've gone to the "credits-over-the-final-scene" gambit, where the next program immediately begins after the final scene ends. That may be tolerable for shows that never have had opening or closing themes, but for a channel like TV Land to do that to their 1960s and 70s shows is to completely misunderstand that in many cases, the themes are part of the overall attractiveness of the shows, and viewers don't want to see credits rolling over the final half-minute of the story.