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Thursday, September 3, 2009

TV Theme Songs - My Opinion

A fan emailed me saying how much she loves the theme songs to Drake & Josh and iCarly, and how she's sad that most TV shows today have (basically) no theme songs.  I couldn't agree more.  It's very sad and dumb.

You've probably noticed over the past 15 years that theme songs have slowly disappeared from TV shows.  They're not completely gone yet, but they're fading into extinction.

Why has this happened, you ask?  The reason...

The big networks feel that TV theme songs are a waste of air-time.  They'd rather use the time for an extra commercial. 

What these network executives don't understand is how a theme song is often the soul of a TV show.  The magic. 

Here's a little story...

One night in the early summer of 1994, Matthew Perry showed up at my house in Laurel Canyon.  He had a VHS tape in his hand – the studio cut of a new pilot he'd just shot.  Matt popped the tape into my VCR and we watched the pilot.  It was called (at that time) Friends Like Us.  I thought it was good.  Not awesome, but good.  I told Matt I thought the show had a real chance of making it. 

CUT TO: September 1994.

I turned on NBC and watched the premiere of the pilot Matt had shown me.   The name of the show had been changed from Friends Like Us to just Friends.  But the huge difference was the newly added theme song (and the images that went along with it, which are called the "main titles").

When I'd watched the studio cut of the pilot, I thought it would probably be a hit.  But when I saw the finished version on TV with those main titles and that awesome theme song, "So no one told you life was gonna be this way... CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP..." I thought, "Okay, this show's gonna be HUGE."  It was just obvious.  That theme song added POWER – a huge splash of magic to the show.  It felt like a hit before the first scene started.

Think about eliminating the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  Can you imagine that show without its theme song and main titles?  I swear, I think that song is half the reason the show is so fondly remembered today.

I realize that some of you reading this are too young to remember some of the shows I'm about to mention, but...

Try to imagine Cheers without "Makin' your way in the world today takes everything you've got..."

Try to imagine Family Ties without "What would we do, baby, without us..."

Try to imagine The Mary Tyler Moore Show without "Who can turn the world on with her smile..."

Try to imagine All In The Family without "Boy the way Glenn Miller played..."

The Simpsons... Happy Days... M*A*S*H... The Rockford Files... Hill Street Blues... and even sillier shows like Gilligan's Island... The Brady Bunch... The Beverly Hillbillies...

All those shows were practically defined by their theme songs.

And can you imagine Drake & Josh without "Well I never knew it would be so simple but, I found a way, I found a way..."

Or iCarly without "I know, you see, somehow the world will change for me and be so wonderful..."

If you take away those shows' theme songs, you take away a lot of their magic.  Their soul.  They just wouldn't be the same or so fondly remembered.  I think almost every fan would agree. 

It sucks that most of today's network bigwigs don't get it. 

Luckily, a few showrunners today fight the big networks and win approval to have a theme song – not a 60-second song (like the good old days), but sometimes they'll get approval for a 20 or 30 second theme song.  An example is The Big Bang Theory – a great show with a perfect theme song that gives the show its soul.  Once you fall in love with it, those first few bars, "Our whole universe was in a hot dense state..." make you smile and want to sit down and watch.

I'm glad that Nickelodeon is on my side.  My shows will always begin with a great, 60-second kick-ass theme song. 

'Cuz that's how television should be.

--Dan