We’ve made it to the top 30 of my 100 favorite TV themes countdown. We’ve seen a lot of classic show intros that you may have forgotten about, but hopefully they’ve brought back some great memories.
Let’s get to it and see what the next set of 10 in our countdown will be…
#30 THE A-TEAM
Airdates: 1983-1987 (NBC)
This may be one of my favorite TV shows of all time!
A group of crack commandos are hunted by the US government for a war crime that they didn’t commit. They reside in the Los Angeles underground and survive as soldiers of fortune. You’ve got a problem and no one else can help… maybe you can hire The A-Team!
Once they dropped the annoying female reporter from the show (she really didn’t fit into the plot lines), this series hit its stride. The A-Team was much more than just guys shooting guns and blowing things up (although that part was AWESOME and yet somehow nobody ever really got seriously hurt!) The series also interspersed comedy and some outrageous situations while their lives are on the line and somehow they always got the job done.
I loved how Mr. T’s character of B.A. Baracus, was afraid of flying and each time they had to board a plane, the team would have to find a different way to knock him out.
I started wearing Chuck Taylor shoes as a kid thanks to Dwight Schultz’ character of Murdoch — the insane pilot who the team always busted out of a mental institution.
Another of composer Mike Post’s brilliant TV themes, these opening credits spell out the adventure you’re about to go on with perfect detail. They really put some thought into these credits. Did you ever notice the shot of the Cylon with Dirk Benedict? The Cylons were part of his previous big name series Battlestar Galactica.
After the ratings started to dip at the end of season 4, the series was unfortunately retooled for season 5. The team was captured and mock executed by the Feds. They then went to work for a millionaire (played by Robert Vaughn), who was head of a worldwide foundation. Their new mission involved helping countries in trouble around the globe. They now had to fight everything from drug cartels to out of control dictators. They also added a new member of the team, Frankie, a special effects specialist. Sadly, they also made Murdoch sane.
A new synthesized version of the theme song was also introduced, but all of these changes tainted the core of the show and it was gone by the end of the season.
A few years ago, a big blockbuster Hollywood movie hit theatres based on the series and was an absolute disaster. The plot was dumb, everything was shot on bad green screen, and the characters were simply trying too hard. That film should have NEVER been made.
#29 THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Airdates: 1959-1964 (CBS), 1985-1987 (CBS), 1988-1989 (Syndicated), 1994 (CBS), 2002-2003 (UPN), 2008 (MyNetwork TV)
It’s the TV show that takes ordinary people and places them into extraordinary situations. What would you do if you were the last person left on the planet, or saw a monster ripping apart an airplane wing at 33,000 feet, or being able to alter reality and bring back a loved one from the dead? Then perhaps, you’ve entered The Twilight Zone.
For over 50 years, The Twilight Zone has captured the imagination of audiences with several stories over 30 or 60 minutes that places you into the world of the supernatural. Some of the tales are down right scary, while others are meant to leave the viewer pondering their life decisions.
The power of this show has brought it back to TV multiple times and another new series or movie is currently in the very early stages of production.
I think the 1985 version of the opening theme is by far the coolest. As soon as that simple piano intro starts up, you know you’re about to enter the Zone. There’s also a slot machine based on this show that plays the theme over and over, that I’ve actually hit on a few times. There’s also an amusement park ride based on the show as well!
Here’s the intro from the latest revival that aired on UPN and was rerun for a summer on MyNetwork TV. This theme was composed by Korn’s Jonathan Davis.
#28 THE OFFICE
Airdates: 2005-2013 (NBC)
A hilarious faux-documentary about a group of people who sell paper in Scranton, Pennsylvania, it’s a simple as that. Cameras follow the staff on their everyday misadventures led by their inept boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carell). The office pranks, the absolute political incorrectness, and team building misadventures with hilarious cutaways and staff interviews made this show a hit! Would your boss take you out on a booze cruise, sign everyone up for a marathon, or pack everyone into a bus and travel around searching for pies?
This series is absolutely hilarious, but I never got into it until the reruns in syndication.
Honestly, I don’t know if I could ever buy paper from salesman as messed up as these, but I wouldn’t mind giving them a call! I love how the city of Scranton has embraced the show, even hanging up a banner downtown with the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Co. logo.
Sadly, this show lost its mojo, after Carell left at the end of season 7. NBC kept it alive for 2 more seasons, but it wasn’t until the very end that the show started to get funny again. Without Michael Scott – it wasn’t really The Office.
Here’s a look at the Carell-less opening credits:
A plan to create a Dwight Schrute spin-off known as The Farm failed and that pilot episode was screened as part of the regular series.
The Office was originally created in the UK and aired for 12 episodes (and 3 Christmas specials). Here’s a look at the brief run of the UK version that aired on the BBC:
#27 SAVED BY THE BELL
Airdates: 1988-1989 (Disney, under the title Good Morning Miss Bliss), 1989-1993 (NBC), 1993-2000 (as Saved By the Bell: The New Class)
Sadly, it seems that most versions of these opening credits have been removed from Youtube, but this should still bring back memories.
If you grew up in the 90’s – you were watching this show! At, least I don’t know anyone who didn’t. And remember when there were actual kids’ shows on Saturday morning?
Saved By the Bell was the adventures of Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and his friends’ daily lives of growing up and surviving the world of high school. This show scored blockbuster ratings for NBC, but was actually started off as a completely different show.
In 1987, NBC aired a pilot under the title Good Morning, Miss Bliss that starred Haley Mills as middle school teacher Miss Bliss. This series focused more on the teachers than it did on the kids.
Here’s a brief look at the original pilot:
There were some up and coming stars also made an appearance in that original pilot. Did you see Brian Austin Green, Jaleel White, or Jonathan Brandis?
NBC passed on the series, but The Disney Channel picked up the rights and reformatted the show to focus more on the students than Miss Bliss. It aired for 13 episodes. Only Miss Bliss herself made it to the new series and Dennis Haskens was cast as Principal Mr. Belding, a job he would have for over a decade.
NBC took a second look at the show and ordered a full season for Saturday morning kids TV where it became an instant hit. After the first season aired, NBC executives wanted to keep the ratings high during the summer, so they took the Good Morning, Miss Bliss episodes and quickly shot an intro with Zack, explaining these were their adventures in junior high. They modified the new Saved By the Bell intro to add on the additional cast that didn’t make it through to the NBC version, including Miss Bliss.
Here’s a look at the original Disney Channel credits, then stay tuned for the modified Saved By the Bell intro and credits.
The following summer, NBC executives ordered more new episodes by having the gang take summer jobs at the Malibu Sands resort. Their boss is future King of Queens star Leah Remini.
Saved By the Bell continued on for 5 seasons and for the final year, NBC doubled their order of episodes, but Tiffani Thiessen as Kelly and Elizabeth Berkley as Jesse did not want to sign on for the additional episodes, so Tori (Leanna Creel) is introduced for a block of episodes near the end of the series run.
After the cast graduated high school, NBC kept most of the gang together and spun them off onto Saved By the Bell: The College Years. It aired for one season and downright stunk.
Here’s an actual episode of the series. Fast forward to 1:16 for the credits and new opening theme song.
NBC still kept the original series alive, by casting a whole new set of kids and retitling the show Saved By the Bell: The New Class. Although it was never as popular as the original show, the series added and subtracted main cast members each season. Dustin Diamond, who played Screech during the original series (and was free after The College Years was cancelled), was brought on as a school assistant starting with season 2.
By the time the show left the air, the kids were a completely different cast. Here’s an entire episode of The New Class from season 7. Even through all the changes, I’m glad they still kept the theme song and look of the intro.
#26 PERFECT STRANGERS
Airdates: 1986-1993 (ABC)
It’s the misadventures of Balki from Mepos, who moves to Chicago to live with this American cousin Larry. Their clash of cultures was the setting for this great sit-com!
Their opening credits theme is one of the better from the 80s and 90s and you knew exactly what to expect of the show. But, their more famous intro was not the original one. Check out the opening credits from the first season:
While the first season does give us more of the theme and some cool b-roll shots of both Larry and Balki moving, those shots over the pink background make them look like a gay couple. The later version of the credits was much better.
I also read that Louie Anderson was originally cast in the role of Larry in the original pilot. I would love to see that, but I don’t think that’s ever seen the light of day.
#25 CHARLES IN CHARGE
Airdates: 1984-1985 (CBS), 1987-1990 (Syndicated)
I flat out hated this show when it was on the air, but I did think the theme song was kind of cool. It set the tone and clearly explained that Charles (Scott Baio) lived in the basement and was the family’s housekeeper.
It debuted on CBS in 1984, but only lasted a season due to low ratings. When it entered syndication for local stations to air, the show did much better and went on three more years.
I want to know, who was the sloppy editor for those first season CBS’ credits? Did you catch how the names are slapped on the screen almost a second before the shot of many of the actors?
When the show came back in syndication, it underwent some major changes. First, the original family the Pembrokes, moved to Seattle and a new family the Powells moved in, allowing Charles to stay in the same role. The theme song was jazzed up and the new cast members were introduced. Here’s a look at the revamped and much better credits:
#24 FAMILY GUY
Airdates: 1999-2003 (FOX), 2005-present (FOX)
What was originally ordered as a set of comedy sketches for MadTV, turned out to be a Sunday night animation staple! FOX has had ratings success with the adventures of The Griffins with their TV parodies and political incorrectness.
The best part of this show is all the cutaway gags in which no one is safe. Whether they’re making fun of Jews or the President, everybody takes an equal ribbing in this hilarious show.
This is one of the rare television series to come back from the dead to even bigger ratings. After airing the show on Wednesday nights, FOX cancelled it in 2003. The producers kept the franchise alive with a direct to DVD movie that did blockbuster sales. FOX decided to put the show back on the air and broadcast it with the rest of their Sunday night adult cartoons and the ratings have never looked back.
The show has been so successful; it’s spawned two spin-offs The Cleveland Show and American Dad. Executive producer Seth Macfarlane has gone on to write a few blockbuster movies and is even said to be working on a new version of The Flintstones. If that ever happens, I’m sure it will be comedy gold.
Where the writers of The Simpsons have seemed to run out of ideas for the past decade, Family Guy shows no sign of slowing down creatively.
#23 NIGHT COURT
Airdates: 1984-1992 (NBC)
No TV theme countdown is complete without Night Court! If I ever had to end up in a New York City courtroom, I would hope that it’s Judge Harold T. Stone’s (Harry Anderson.)
The premise of the show was simple. You get arrested or sued for a petty crime; you end up in Judge Stone’s late night court. The series dealt with the crazy people that would end up in front of his bench as well as the lives of the judge, his defendants, and bailiffs.
There were a few major cast changes over the years. First, it took three seasons to cast Markie Post as attorney Christine Sullivan. For the first two seasons, we had three different attorneys in the role.
Secondly, there were three female bailiffs. The first was chain smoking Selma Diamond as Selma, died from lung cancer after the second season. She was replaced by Florence Halop as Florence, but she died after season three. Finally, Marsha Warfield took on the role as Roz from season four onward.
There were also two court clerks during the run. Karen Austin as Lana during season one and Charles Robinson as Mac from season two onwards.
Here’s a look at the pilot’s credits. Check out the different cast and Richard Moll with hair! I also love how you get to see some awesome shots of the gritty 80’s New York City streets.
…and here’s the season 3 intro with Florence Halop.
#22 THE COSBY SHOW
Airdates: 1984-1992 (NBC)
It’s one of the most popular sit-coms in TV history and may have saved NBC from bankruptcy in the 1980s. The Huxtables were the family that everybody wanted to be a part of. No matter what the problem, Cliff (Bill Cosby) and Claire (Phylicia Rashad) would make sure to turn it into a teaching moment for their kids. Sometimes they would break into song, sometimes they would turn the house into a giant apartment building to teach their son a lesson, or they would welcome yet another long lost relative that’s a great jazz musician!
The series concept was almost perfect, two professional working parents, and five kids. Except that when the kids started to grow up, the show lost something. The first five seasons were hilarious, well written, and well produced. Once they brought in Olivia (Raven-Symone) this show down right sucked. At this point, both Rudy (Keisha Knight Pulliam) and Vanessa’s (Tempestt Bledsoe) characters were useless. The writers also tried to go for the “look at the little cute kid” tactics and would really derail the plot. The last three seasons each saw major ratings slides.
What I did love is how each season; they would shoot a new set of opening credits, and rework the theme song.
Somebody on Youtube edited every single version of the theme into one big movie. Take a look! The theme used for the last season, was actually supposed to be for the season before, but producers could not get the rights to the mural in the background, which is why seasons 6 & 7 intros are the same.
#21 READING RAINBOW
Airdates: 1983-2006 (PBS)
I had no idea this show was still on the air in 2006, but who is the knucklehead that pulled the plug? It’s an educational TV show that’s teaching kids to read! Fortunately, host LeVar Burton is working to bring this series back, and I predict it will be on the air within two years. It’s already back as an IPAD app and a Kickstarter campaign rose over 5 million in days!
I grew up watching this show. I don’t like to read, but this show sure made me want to. Plus, I learned all kinds of life lessons from the vignettes and on locations shoots that Burton would present. My favorite was the behind the scenes tour of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he played Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge.
Here’s a remastered version of the theme that was used from 1999 on…
What: TV Theme Songs
Use: themes used to open a TV series or cartoon
Purpose: introduce main cast and introduce audience to the theme of the series
Numbers reviewed: 21 – 30
JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS:
We’re in the top 30 and some really big name shows are now making the list. I wanted to add Saturday Night Live to number 29, but they are so tight with their clips, that none of their opening credits have been uploaded online. I at least wanted to give them an honorable mention! They are another series that have kept the general theme of their credits, but have changed along with the times.
Next week, we hit the top 20! We’ve got a number of crazy families on the list! Plus, we’re only two weeks away from the big countdown finale!
I don’t own any of the rights to these, nor did I upload them to YouTube. This blog is presented for educational and informational purposes.
Image credit – Daniel Horacio Agostini