TV Bites With
by Neena Louise
I love TV shows' theme music. I actually find myself humming a theme song only
to have it get stuck in that can't-get-it-out-of-my-head realm that can make you
crazy. I don't understand, then, why so many returning shows this season have
changed their opening themes. It seems to me that it would make more sense to
stick with a known quantity: when you think of the theme, you think of the show
and vice-versa. Instead, some shows have changed their themes to such an extent
that they are either no longer recognizable or so obnoxious that they're painful
to listen to.
The worst offender is Third Rock from the Sun. The original nifty
guitar-based lick was SO appropriate to the show's premise - so why has it been
changed to this season's dreadful jarring racket? Sure, it's the same tune, but
it's been butchered! Leave it alone if it works!
And what about shows that change their opening themes entirely? The big question
is WHY? When the show Ellen used a different opening each week, it was
kind of a cute gimmick, and it worked (at least at first) because the opening
"theme" was actually the lack of a theme. But how do you explain
what's happened to shows like The Drew Carey Show? Its opening has been
the same for a few seasons now, but there was actually a backlash when it
changed from the amusing, singable ditty to the embarrasing rock-video nonsense
that has become its opening (and the Sweeps Gimmick of improvising a polka
rendition was spectacularly bad). Other (though not all) offenders are Sabrina
(what IS that noise???), The Pretender and Early Edition (though
the new theme's okay, I still prefer the original). For some shows (like Spin
City), I can't even put a tune to anymore, since their theme has changed so
often. Of course, some series' themes (like Vonda Shepherd's awful Ally
McBeal caterwauling) would benefit from a song change (or at least a better
singer), but the ones that really need it never change.
And has anyone else noticed that all the new shows this season seem to have a
similar feel - both in music and atmosphere? What's up with the gritty music?
The cute camera tricks? The similar lighting? The talk-to-the-camera narratives?
The, well, SAMENESS? Some original opening music would certainly help
distinguish these series from one another. With so many different shows on so
many different channels, theme music helps a series stand out. This season,
though, I can't easily call to mind a single tune from any new show. One can
conclude, then, that the opening themes are either so bad that I don't want to
remember them, or they're so similar that I CAN'T remember them.
Cheers never changed its theme. Nor did I Love Lucy. Or M*A*S*H.
Or Seinfeld. Or most other long-running shows. Perhaps the Powers That Be
don't understand the impact of distinctive theme music, though I can't see how
they could be so oblivious. Do they not understand that a show's loyal viewers
like the fact that the package (including the theme music) remains the same? The
producers seem to get musically bored, or think we're bored, or want us
to think we're bored, or want us to think something's actually become fresh and
new on the show (other than its theme music). Whatever the reasoning is behind
changing themes on established shows, I wish they'd stop it. If they can't pick
a tune that's good enough to last five or so years, then pick ANOTHER one! Don't
change it midstream. It annoys viewers and makes the show to lose some of its
In my collection of ancient LPs, there is a record of early TV theme music. I am
too young to remember many of them (Bat Masterson anyone?), but my mother
immediately recognized what show each and every piece of music was for. And I
knew a surprising number of them myself, even though most of them were way
before my time. Where are the tunes like that these days? We need more themes
like the ones for Cheers, X-Files, M*A*S*H, Friends,
Law and Order, and even fairly recent entries like Dawson's Creek,
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. They're all tunes that evoke
the series they introduce. They're all memorable and catchy enough that you find
yourself humming them, even when there's not a TV in sight. That's what good
theme music should do: make a series live on and on, partially through the power
of its theme music. Instead, what we are left with these days is the digital
equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard with the staying power of chalk
would love to know what you think, sound off on the
boards and let us know what you think!