Best TV themes of all time

Linda Gray and Larry HagmanRemember when hair was big and shoulderpads even bigger? Remember when the whole country, nay, the whole western world wondered who shot JR? Or if Sam and Diane would patch up their relationship (Cheers)? Or if Hannibal, Murdock, B.A. Baracus and Faceman would ever prove their innocence? As it so happens, today marks 32 years since the world pondered who shot JR. So, in honour of awesome ’80s television here are my top 10 TV themes of all time. Did I get it right? What would you put in the number one spot?

12. The Muppet Show: Reminded by Westie on Facebook. This show rocked my world. Even watching the opening theme again, I have to tell myself, those puppets are not actually playing those instruments.

11. Beverly Hills 90210: Technically this shouldn’t be on the list because it’s not an ’80s show, but it so narrowly missed the chronological cut-off (by a mere three months, beginning in March 1990) that I snuck it in anyway. The original theme, season 1, isn’t much chop, but when the show took off in the ratings, the theme got the gold star makeover and morphed into this piece of awesomeness.

10. Dukes of Hazzard: As a young child this was one of my favourite TV shows, and its opening theme was fun, catchy and pure indulgent entertainment. And what little girl didn’t aspire to her own pair of Daisy Dukes?

9. Knight Rider: Oh Michael, why did you never arrive in a blaze of glory and bundle me into your superstar car KITT so we could disappear into the sunset together? Why, Michael, why?? Play just five seconds of this opening theme and anyone over the age of 30 will recognise it straight away. It really unleashes the power and beauty of the synthesiser keyboard (please don’t miss the irony I’ve soaked that last sentence in).

8. Perfect Strangers: This may seem like a funny one to include. But if you take a moment and listen, the opening song is a ripper. Even though the accompanying footage is pretty run of the mill. And this show brings back fond memories. It used to screen during the day in the Christmas holidays and I loved it.

7. Dallas: What more can be said? Awesome ’80s TV at its very, very best. This theme, with its sweeping aerial shots and driving beat would bring me running from the kitchen (where I was doing my chores/washing dinner dishes) so I wouldn’t miss a second.

6. Hill Street Blues: Even decades later, this opening theme, the simple piano melody, elicits a response. It would have to be one of the most recognisable opening themes of all time, right? Don’t you just love it? When I was at boarding school, a classmate tapped it out on the piano, by ear, effortlessly, and said it was a very simple tune. Simple but effective.

5. The A Team: “I love it when a plan comes together”. You could say that to any Gen Xer today and they’d know instantly what you’re talking about. “If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.”

4. Magnum P.I.: With Hawaii as the exotic backdrop, Tom Selleck brought style and panache to the opening montage, with a healthy dose of humour. I love the bit where he’s teaching the girl to snorkel. So un-PC, I know. But funny!

3. Miami Vice: Oh my. Drums, music, synthesisers. It’s so typical ’80s, yet better than the rest. By a country mile. This opening theme never failed to get the heart pumping. And it didn’t even play the trump card – a super sexy Don Johnson at the peak of his powers!

2. Cheers: Who among us hasn’t wished they could find that sub-terranean bar and sit a spell while Sam, Diane, Norm, Cliff, Carla and Frasier entertained you with some of the funniest lines to ever reach the small screen? Such as: Sam: What are you up to, Norm?
Norm: My ideal weight… if I were 11 feet tall. For more funny quotes check out IMDB’s page. I guarantee you’ll laugh.

1. Baywatch: There’s no denying, the drums, the synthesisers, the jiggling plastic adornments and I’m not talking about the red plastic buoys they carried, all made for one of the most captivating opening TV themes of all time. This is my number one pick. Am I wrong? Tell me I’m wrong. I dare ya!

Honourable mentions:

M*A*S*H: the season finale of MASH, which drew a global audience of about 120 million, and a domestic US audience of 105 million, remained the highest-rating television event for 27 years. Until that record was broken in 2010 by the SuperBowl.

The Wonder Years: What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?

Diff’rent Strokes: Oh the tragic curse of Diff’rent Strokes! Dana Plato died of a drug overdose, as did her 25-year-old son many years later. Co-star Todd Bridges battled a crack cocaine addiction and was tried for murder. He was acquitted. Gary Coleman was declared bankrupt and died at age 42, possibly as a result of his condition, congenital autoimmune kidney disease. The Diff’rent Strokes theme song was co-written and performed by Alan Thicke, who played Kirk Cameron’s dad on Growing Pains.

Tour of Duty: The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black makes for a pretty rock solid opening TV theme.

2 thoughts on “Best TV themes of all time”

  1. Brought back some memories, including Edward Mulhare (Knight Rider) as the Ghost in The Ghost & Mrs Muir, and Dirk Benedict (The A Team) as Starbuck in Battlestar Gallactica (alluded to the in the A Team opening credits) – god how I loved Apollo in that show.
    But I would drop BayWatch altogether (I remember the show, but not from watching it – just from all the hype) – I didn’t even recognise the theme. I would put MASH pretty high on the list, very memorable (and being shown yet again).

I would love it if you would tap out a few words here!