Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Your Top 20 All-Time Favorite TV Themes

With just over 18,000 votes cast, Forgotten Hits is proud to present the definitive list of Top Television Theme Favorites.  

Be sure to listen to The True Oldies Channel today as Scott Shannon counts 'em down.


The countdown kicks off with ...


Yabba-Dabba-Dooo!!!  The Flintstones have often been referred to as sort of a pre-historic version of The Honeymooners.  Whatever the inspiration, it worked ... it aired in prime time for six seasons ... and has been living on in syndication (as well as updated versions ... including a couple of live-action movies!) for the past four decades.  (kk)

#19 - FRIENDS   
I always loved the video for this one ... the cast of "Friends" joins The Rembrandts for their mega-famous theme song!  (Can you believe The Rembrandts fought having this released as a single?!?!?  After missing their greatest window of opportunity, they finally relented in 1995 after cheating themselves out of a sure-fire #1 Hit.  At the time, they said that they didn't want to only be known for this song ... tell me something ... what OTHER songs do you remember them for now, nearly twenty years later???)   kk

TV Guide's #2 TV Theme, this one's a classic.  (Honestly, I expected it to finish higher than it did, too ... but this is a REAL "feel good" song.)  That Mary had spunk ... and Lou Grant HATED spunk!  (lol)  Speaking of which, this show launched three spin-offs ... "Rhoda", "Phyllis" and "Lou Grant" ... pretty amazing!  (kk)

Golllllly!  How could this one NOT make the list???  That down-home, whistling walk to the ol' fishin' hole is permanently etched into our brains.  Lots of home-spun life lessons on this one (I know I wouldn't have DARED to aim my slingshot at a birds nest!!!), lead actor Andy Griffith had a real gift for sharing the spotlight with his crazy sidekicks Barney Fife, Gomer Pyle and others.  And while other stars have more than one TV hit in our final countdown, only "little Opie Cunninghams" has two in The Top 20!!! 

Yet another Mike Post theme ... he had SEVERAL that made our final countdown.  Feel free to give this one a listen ... but be careful out there!  (kk)

"Happy Days" began as an episode of "Love, American Style" ... and suddenly the '50's were hot again.  (The success of "American Graffiti" ... which also starred Ron Howard ... didn't hurt!)  "Rock Around The Clock" was used as the opening theme for the first two seasons ... until they came up with a song of their own.  And when they did, "Happy Days" raced up the pop charts for Pratt and McClain, eventually hitting The Top 5.
AAAAAYYYYY!!!   (kk)

This was a tough call for me as a kid ... "Gilligan's Island" went up against "The Monkees" in the days before VCR's and "On Demand" television viewing.  All these years later I've probably seen every episode of BOTH shows more times than I can even begin to imagine.
What's my favorite episode?  Probably the one where they tried to get off the island.  (And how weird was it to know that Mr. Magoo was trapped there with them?!?!?)
Every time I've ever asked the question:  "Ginger or Mary-Ann?", Mary-Ann has won hands down ... and she won ME over, too.  That's why I was more than pleased to see "The Professor and Mary-Ann" finally added to the opening credits of "Gilligan's Island" in Season Three!  (kk) 

#13 - CHEERS
TV Guide picked this as the Greatest Television Theme of All-TIme ... and I'll agree that it was a good one.  But in our poll, it only registered at #13.  This show seemed to have nine lives ... who thought it could continue after "Coach" died?  But they filled that spot with a new kid named Woody Harrelson, who became one of the best known and most versatile actors of the next generation.  And what about when Shelley Long left?  Why, bring in Kirstie Alley of course (who filled in admirably during the hours that Parker Stevenson wasn't "giving her the big one"!!!)  And then they came up with Frasier, a character I never thought strong enough to head up his own spin-off sitcom, only to prove me wrong for the next eleven years.  (I have often referred to it as "the most intelligent comedy on tv.")  kk  

I really tried to like this show ... being a Superman and Batman fan since I was about seven years old ... but while the "Batman" television series was "camp" funny, the attempts at humor with this one just fell short for me.  (Plus I didn't find the "hero" to be a likeable character.)  The song, however, was a smash, climbing all the way to #1 on the pop charts for Joey Scarbury.  (kk)

Another timeless classic that we all grew up with.  And I'll never forget the first time I heard that Barry Manilow had added words to this classic tune!  Who would have ever thought!  And, even more amazingly, it worked!  (kk)

I always thought Johnny Rivers missed his calling with this one.  After coming up with a GREAT theme for the Patrick McGoohan series, I figured Johnny could have recycled this tune for "The Green Hornet" and featured it as Kato's Theme as well ... reworking it as "Secret Asian Man" ... and hit the pot of gold twice!!!
The series aired first in the U.K. as "Danger Man" and then, when adapted for American television, they called upon songwriters Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan to come up with a catchy theme.  They did ... in fact, Johnny's guitar riff (and deviations thereof) has been heard in numerous other "spy-themed" programs and films for decades now, itself clearly inspired by The James Bond Theme.  Another MASSIVELY popular record on the charts, this song can truly be called "timeless" ... and it's your #10 Favorite!  (kk)

What did it sound like in Great Britain???  Not even close!!!

This one led the pack for the first two weeks of voting ... but then fell off pace, ultimately landing at #9.  Still a fan favorite to be sure. (We never did hear back from Mike Post on this ... I had hoped he might say a few words to our Forgotten Hits Readers since he placed so many television themes in the top 50.  Oh well!) kk

Holy Countdown, Batman ... look what came in at #8.  Season One just may have been the most inventive television idea ever ... but it petered out quickly once the novelty wore off.  Nevertheless, this theme is a classic ... and no Batman Movie since has ever measured up to the fun that this series generated.  (Prince did the music for the first big Batman movie revival starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.  First of all ... Prince?!?!?  And "Mr. Mom" starring as Batman?!?!?) Despite ALL sensible logic to the contrary, it actually worked ... to date this remains my favorite of all of the attempts to keep The Dark Knight relevant.  (kk)

One of the more popular surprises from the series ... I still say Rowan And Martin copped this idea for "Laugh In" a few years later!!!  (Give it a look ... I guarantee it to be the best 12 minutes of your day today!)

And was there ever anything cooler than John Travolta / Vincent Vega dancing "The Batusi" in "Pulp Fiction"???

CBS seemed to have the corner on home-spun humor in the '60's ... programs like "The Beverly Hillbillies", "The Andy Griffith Show", "Green Acres", "Petticoat Junction" and others could always be found near the top of the Nielsen ratings.  While they were clearly chasing the older demographic, we kids were watching, too ... and these programs obviously made an impact on us ... ALL of these themes made our Top 50 Countdown 50+ years later!!!  (kk)

The oldest of our Top 20 Television Themes, here is another timeless classic.  Sixty years later the distinctive "Dum-Da-Dum-Dum" is IMMEDIATELY recognizable when used for dramatic effect!  (kk)

One of my all-time favorites kicks off The Top Five. "Bonanza" was a Top 20 chart hit for Al Caiola in 1961 ... but the television series was an absolute juggernaut, topping The Nielsen Ratings for three straight seasons, 1964 - 1966.  And my guess is that "Bonanza" ... "In Color" helped to sell more color television sets than any other television series in history.  (We were one of those families that bought one of those ridiculous transparent color screens that you taped to the face of your TV ... showing a blue sky ... a red mid-section to simulate fleshtones on the faces ... and green at the bottom to show the grass ... great for about 30 seconds of actual TV viewing at the time ... meanwhile everything else looked absolutely ridiculous!  My Dad finally ripped the thing off the screen in complete and utter frustration ... and went out and bought a REAL color TV shortly thereafter.  It's one of my happiest childhood memories ... that and finding out that my favorite late '50's television series "The Adventures of Superman" were actually filmed in color ... there was just no way to view them that way back then.  What a complete and utter surprise to see these episodes again in living color!!!  (kk)

Scott Shannon seemed a little bit surprised to see this one finish so high on the list ... but to me it's a television classic.  Who didn't sit at home, snapping their fingers along ... arms crossed ... every time this one came on the air?  Again, totally camp ... but non-stop fun.  Check it out again and see if you don't agree.  (Infectious as can be ...
They're creepy and they're kooky ...
Mysterious and spooky ...
They're all together ooky ...
The Addams Family!)

On the other hand, Scott should be thrilled to death to find THIS one at #3.  (A little bit of "extra campaigning" probably didn't hurt ... but there's no denying what a great song this is.)  Another one that has stood the test of time, being used in countless other pieces over the past 50-60 years!  (I love the YouTube comments posted for this one):

This song makes me want to go out and cause trouble
-- Brian Feeney 

This music is tough guy MUSIC. This music is for ONLY dangerously, dangerous MEN.
-- Eleanor Bridges 

I'm sitting here, listening to this song ... cleaning my gun in a motel room. I'm chewing gum. I'm in all black, although my cigarette is white.
-- Ronan Greenwood

I had a MAJOR crush on a girl in high school named Marcy Lockwood ... who wouldn't have given me the time of day in a million years.  The one and only time I ever worked up the nerve to call her, it was a Sunday Night ... and I happened to call her right in the middle of "Mission Impossible", apparently her very favorite television show.  She humored me for a couple of minutes ... and then went back to her program.  I'm honestly not sure if I ever talked to her again after that night or not!!! (lol)  GREAT tune 'tho ... and my cell phone ringtone for the longest time!  (kk)

And your #1 All-Time Favorite Television Theme ...

#1 - HAWAII FIVE-O!!!  
By a landslide ... nearly 400 votes when all was said and done.  Funnily enough this program has gone through the seldom-successful TV Reboot Process ... but actually it's done pretty well.  (You can add "Dallas" to this list, too.)
Several others have seen life again as big screen movies ... these include "Mission: Impossible" (several times), "The Addams Family", "Dragnet", "The Beverly Hillbillies", "Batman" (a franchise in its own right), "The Flintstones", "The Brady Bunch", "Twilight Zone", "The Dukes Of Hazzard", "Miami Vice", "S.W.A.T.", "Bewitched" and "Star Trek" (more times that I can count!)  Perhaps another reason these tv themes mean so much to us. 

And there you have it ... the complete Top 50 Countdown.  (Book 'em, Danno!)

By the way, we'll be posting the Complete Top 50 on the other Forgotten Hits website, too ... later today, you'll find the complete list at  

Thanks again to everybody who took the time to vote ... we really appreciate it!

DIggin' the TV Themes and want to add some to your own collection?  Then be sure to check out this awesome collection, put together by TV Guide:

Order your copy here:  Click here: TV Guide: 50 All-Time Favorite TV Themes: Alan Ari Lazar, Chris Seefried, Richard Kosinski: Music