I'm a super TV theme song junkie and have always appreciated a good tune to set the mood of the show.  Too often, TV Themes have been maligned or looked down upon by many, but as you'll see, some of the songs have the greatest composers of the modern era behind them, and are as cool and fantastic as any "real" song ever made.  But by no means are we going to ignore the fun, silly, and infectious songs that aren't very serious, either.  We've used over 2 years of reader feedback, and expert research to come up with a list that you're sure to love with many of your favorites guaranteed to be included.  The initial list had more than 200 to choose from, so there was a lot of painful heartbreak in weeding out many worthy contenders.  I hope you'll have more than a few favorites here, and that you learn a thing or two about it while you're browsing.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

#100 PETTICOAT JUNCTION
WRITTEN BY PAUL HENNING & CURT MASSEY
and PERFORMED BY CURT MASSEY (1963)

As a part of the holy trinity of Hillbilly shows (along with The Beverley Hillbillies and Green Acres) Petticoat Junction was blessed with an equally catchy theme song.  Written and performed by Curt Massey, the theme is a great storytelling theme song that sets the show up for newcomers nicely.  It was one of the better show openings to watch, as well, cause you could see Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, Betty Jo, and that sexy little Benji getting caught bathing in the Hooterville water tower.  If there ever was a more aptly named town, I've never heard of it (well, except maybe for that time I went to Colostomy Bagopolis, a town made entirely of colostomy bags!).  I always like the end of the theme song that said, "And that's Uncle Joe, he's a movin' kinda slow at the Junction...Petticooooooaaat Junction!"  CLICK HERE to see a swell page where you read the original lyrics (and see the revised ones they had to use after "Kate" died), as well as a bunch more Petticoat Junction stuff!

#99 CBS SPECIAL THEME
UNKNOWN COMPOSER (1973)
I can't remember an actual CBS Special that followed this kickass theme song, but I'll always have a fond glow for those crazy drums and horns with the swirling "SPECIAL" logo with 70s rainbow after effects.  You can
CLICK HERE to see a killer website that archives every single CBS Special Theme song from 50s through the 90s, and even see the video clips that accompany them.  And just when I thought I was crazy for loving such an obscure theme, I'm gratified that the fine folks at HOMESTARRUNNER.COM know the goodness of this theme.

#98 WELCOME BACK KOTTER
THEME COMPOSED AND PERFORMED BY JOHN SEBASTIAN (1975)
Though a member of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the lead singer for The Lovin' Spoonful with hits like "Summer In The City" and "Do You Believe In Magic", John Sebastian may be best known for his theme to Welcome Back Kotter, "Welcome Back".  Written specifically for TV, the show's popularity spurred the release of a single that ended up reaching #1 in May of 1976.  It's really sweet song about a guy who had dreams to leave his the city, but his dreams led him back to be a teacher, where he could lead a classroom of 40 year old kids pretending to be high school students, with all the brown corduroy jackets you could wear.  You can listen to the them at
Tim's TV Showcase.

#97 THE ODD COUPLE
BY NEAL HEFTI (1968 for the film, 1970 for Series)
Though the music was originally used in the 1968 film it was based on, the brassy TV show's arrangement of The Odd Couple is what most people will remember.  The song was composed by Neal Hefti, who worked with Count Basie and Frank Sinatra, and also wrote the legendary theme song from the 1966 Batman TV series.  retroCRUSH reader Patricia Willard also points out, "And long before his association with Basie and Sinatra, he led and played trumpet in his own popular jazz orchestra, was a major soloist with the Woody Herman Orchestra and arranged and conducted for the great singer Frances Wayne, whom he married." This is another one of those unusual theme songs that is known as an instrumental, but actually had
lyrics written for it.  They were rather horrible, and thankfully were never used in the film or TV show.

#96 DANGER MAN/SECRET AGENT/TEEN TITANS
PERFORMED BY THE RED PRICE COMBO (1960)
SEASON 2 THEME PERFORMED BY EDWIN ASTLEY (1965)
US THEME PERFORMED BY JOHNNY RIVERS (1965)
TEEN TITANS THEME BY PUFFY AMI YUMI (2004)

I can't think of any other show that's had 3 different theme songs, let alone 3 that are so equally cool as the British spy show "Danger Man" and it's American repackaging called "Secret Agent".  It's a complicated history, so sit tight!  In 1960, Patrick McGoohan starred in a UK show called "Danger Man", that lasted 1 season.  After the success of the first two James Bond films Dr. No, and From Russia With Love, the show was brought back in 1964 and given a brand new theme song, that wasn't so brassy and adventuresome as the first, but had a swell element of intrigue and suspense to it as performed by Edwin Astley.  As the show was repackaged as "Secret Agent" for the United States in 1965, Johnny Rivers recorded a brand new theme which had some rockin' guitar and lyrics so influential that they were ripped off for use in the new Teen Titans cartoon.  You can
CLICK HERE To see the original vinyl releases and actually listen to each version.  And CLICK HERE To hear the Secret Agent influenced Teen Titans theme by Puffy Ami Yumi.

#95 NIGHT COURT
COMPOSED BY JACK ELLIOTT (1984)
Jack Elliot may well be the Godfather of cool TV theme songs.  Responsible for such great themes as "Charlie's Angels", "The Rookies", and "Barney Miller", among numerous others, it's his work on "Night Court" is one of my favorites.  That great slap bass and saxophone set the mood for the late cool late night hilarity that was always bound to follow.  I still can't get tired of listening to it. 
CLICK HERE to listen to the theme song (including a rare 3 minute version of it), and then while you're all nice and relaxed, check out our swell MARKIE POST GALLERY, too!

#94 THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN
THEME COMPOSED AND PERFORMED BY OLIVER NELSON (1973)
"Gentlemen...we can rebuild him, we have the technology!"  Who'd have thought a show about a man who ran in slow motion would be so cool?  The awesome theme song by Oliver Nelson played a large part in the show's cool factor.  A beautiful mixture of sirens, computer beeps, heartbeat sounds, and military drums accompany the radio sounds of a crashing rocket jet, while a throaty narrator tells you how they can build Steve Austin as the familiar theme kicks in.  I used to hum the song to myself all the time while I'd run down the street in my red jogging suit pretending I was Steve Austin.  Lee Majors, the show's star, was my ultimate idol in the 70s, because not only was he The Bionic Man, but he got to go home to Farrah Fawcett after a hard day of throwing giant Styrofoam rocks and beating up Bionic Bigfoot.  The theme's composer, Oliver Nelson, was a famous Jazz musician who worked with Quincy Jones and created other memorable TV themes from Columbo and Ironsides, and dies just 2 years after the show's premiere. 
CLICK HERE to learn more about this amazing artist, and hear the original theme song as well.  By the way, it's a mystery to me as to why this show isn't on DVD yet.  I imagine it'll probably come out when they release the Jim Carrey remake in theaters.

#93 SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO/STAR BLAZERS
ORIGINAL THEME PERFORMED BY ISAO SASAKI (1976)
Such a wonderfully grim and inspirational TV theme.  Originally a Japanese cartoon called Space Battleship Yamato, it was later refaced as an American cartoon in 1979 called "Star Blazers".  You can just imagine a ship full of spacemen singing "We're off, to outer space, we're leaving Mother Earth, to save the Human Race, OUR STAR BLAZERS!"  You have to love a song that starts with a mission statement.  "Our home, we've got to save! If we don't in just one year, Mother Earth will disappear!" 
CLICK HERE to see some great images from the show and listen to the theme song.  There's actually a different version of the song in a later series that substitutes the destination of Iscandar in the original with The Comet Empire (which you can hear if you CLICK HERE).  Of course, the original Japanese version is the best of them all, with a superior arrangement and eerie female vocals at the end that makes it sound even more magnificent.  CLICK HERE to listen to it after you've heard the English versions, so you can appreciate it even more.

#92 CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST
LYRICS BY MACK DAVID, MUSIC BY JERRY LIVINGSTON (1950)
Casper The Friendly Ghost made his debut, as did his famous theme song, in short cartoons that originally appeared in movie theaters, but it's his show in the 60s that knocked the theme song into the heads of America's youth.  I love how the lyrics reinforce that Casper is "the friendliest ghost you know", as if you already know several ghosts and need to figure it out.   I always wondered if the Casper cartoons were just trying to teach our kids tolerance of people that were different.  Back in the days when ghosts had to drink from separate water fountains, these sorts of cartoons were important.  You can
CLICK HERE to listen to it yourself.  The New Casper Cartoon Show packaged the old Casper cartoons together and had its own rockin theme to go with it.  Casper came back again in 1979, with Casper and The Angels which had a truly atrocious theme, a lame instrumental riff on the classic version that was polluted with annoying space sound effects.

#91 FAMILY FEUD
COMPOSED BY ROBERT ISRAEL (1976)
The original Family Feud with Richard Dawson featured an incredible hillbilly hoedown full of fiddlin', pickin', and grinnin' you ever did hear!  Robert Israel was the composer, who already had classic themes for "To Tell The Truth", "The Price is Right", "All My Children", and the classic "Match Game" shows under his belt.  Rumor has is that the original theme for this show was "Dueling Banjos" from Deliverance, but the constant outbreaks of hillbilly rape on the set made it too much of a financial liability.  You can listen to the Family Feud theme and a TON of other game show tunes, if you
CLICK HERE.

#90 UNDERDOG
COMPOSED BY ORTALA LE CLERC GERMAINE, NARRATED BY WALLY COX (1964)
"Speed of lighting, ROAR of thunder, fighting all who steal or plunder...UNDERDOG!" are among the powerful and inspiring lyrics in the kickass theme to the Underdog cartoon.  The song was composed by Ortala Le Clerc Germaine (how come nobody names their kid that anymore?) is also famous for arranging the famous "Three Blind Mice" theme used in 1940s Three Stooges features.  DJ Clawson has a very interesting
UNDERDOG WEB SITE that contains, get this, UNDERDOG FAN FICTION!  And I thought my DRAKE AND JOSH FAN FICTION site was obsessive.


#89 BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
COMPOSED BY GLEN LARSON AND STU PHILLIPS (1978)

Glen Larson was one of the most successful TV producers of the late 70s and 80s with such shows as Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, Quincy, The Fall Guy, BJ and The Bear, and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries under his belt, but when you realize that he also composed the theme songs to each one of those TV shows (with his partner, Stu Phillips), it's even more amazing.  His theme to Battlestar Galactica is an incredibly powerful piece of work that is as impressive as John Williams' theme from Star Wars.  An even weirder Battlestar Galactica related song that I still have in my head was the jingle for the bizarre toy, The Cylon Bubble Machine.  Sadly, I can find no mention of it on the internet (what kind of world do we live in where you can find 800 pages of Amputee Goat Porn, but not one mention of a childhood toy you used to own...not that I'm complaining), but the song was amazingly goofy with a chorus yelping, "Battlestar Galacticaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ...CYLON BUBBLE MACHINE!".  If you'd like to join the Battlestar Galactica Fan Club,
CLICK HERE.

#88 THE LONE RANGER
COMPOSED BY GIACCHINNO ROSSINI (1892)

Though I was largely against including pre-existing music that was co-opted for TV show themes in this list, one can't deny the impact that "The William Tell Overture" had as theme song for The Lone Ranger.  The show, lasted from 1949-1957 (and was rerun on all three major networks until 1961), is one of the great and early success stories of television.  The theme music, is so synonymous with the show that more people probably know it as "that Lone Ranger song" than it's real name.  You can read a lot of interesting details about the creation of the TV theme version at the ridiculously (and thankfully) thorough site
CLASSIC THEMES.

#87 HONG KONG PHOOEY
COMPOSED BY HOYT CURTAIN, PERFORMED BY SCATMAN CROTHERS (1974)
Hong Kong Phooey was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, and the theme song as sung by the wonderfully incomparable Scatman Crothers was the main reason why.  Super cartoon veteran (who brought us such amazing theme songs as Johnny Quest, The Superfriends, and The Flintstones, and a
whole lot more Hanna Barbera Classics) outdid himself with this catchy theme.  Hoyt passed away in 2000, and there's a nice tribute to his work you can read if you CLICK HERE. There's also an amazingly cool Hong Kong Phooey web site you can read if you CLICK HERE.

#86 SEINFELD
COMPOSED BY JONATHAN WOLFF (1990)

How fitting that the theme song from a show "about nothing" seems to be nothing more than a string of sound effects rattled off with seeming effortlessness with a tune that seems to be throwaway nonsense, that become impossible to forget.  With his work on over 70s shows to his credit, it's the theme to Seinfeld that Jonathan Wolff will forever be remembered.  I asked Jerry Seinfeld about the theme, and he said, "You know...it's a funny thing, our theme song doesn't have any words, and you can't sing it.  Who's the marketing genius who thought of that?  I don't know.  I mean what kind of words would you have in it anyway?  Nobody's stranded on an island, there's no hillbillies striking oil, I don't know.  And did you ever wonder what happens to that other sock you lose in the dryer?  Is there some magic place where those socks go to?  I don't know!"  You can read an interesting interview with Jonathan Wolff, that wasn't made up, if you
CLICK HERE.

#85 THE GREEN HORNET
COMPOSED BY AL HIRT (1966)
The success of the 1966 Batman TV series spawned The Green Hornet show from the same network.  Facing the seemingly impossible task of living up the immortal theme song from the Dynamic Duo's show, legendary trumpeteer Al Hirt rose to the challenge and created an insane fast and action-packed theme song that made you want to fight.  So influential, this song has been, that Quentin Tarantino lifted it for use in a major fight scene in KILL BILL VOLUME 1 (when The Bride fights The Crazy 88s).  It almost makes you want to slice up a room full of ninjas after just one listen.  Arnold Shaw, of the Radio Corporation of America, wrote of the theme in 1966, "Excitement and vigor—these are the man. And these are the infectious qualities of the Horn. No wonder that when Al recorded the racing, buzzing, breathless theme of "The Green Hornet" TV show, it became a fast seller. And, though another Hirt album was ready for release, there was no denying fans the opportunity of hearing Al's virtuoso treatments of some popular TV themes."  You can read the entire piece about Hirt, if you
CLICK HERE.

#84 LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY
WRITTEN BY NORMAN GIMBEL and CHARLES FOX, PERFORMED BY CINDY GRECCO (1976)

The theme was so popular that it was released as a single and it went as high as #25 during the Summer of '76.  I sure wish I could find more about Cindy Grecco, who performed the theme.  I used to imagine Shirley Feeney singing the song when I was a kid, but now when I listen to it, I imagine this hot chick from the 60s with a beehive hairdo, and go-go boots singing away (if you have any info about Cindy Grecco, I'd love to hear from you at rberry@retrocrush.com
).  I like this song so much when I was in the first grade, that I remember trying to write the lyrics down in class from memory, and making up all sorts of new verses to it.  Did I mention I didn't have any friends when I was growing up?  I also had quite the crush on Laverne, though when I see Penny Marshall sitting on the sidelines of a Lakers game now, it's just not the same.

#83 THE PRICE IS RIGHT
COMPOSED BY SHEILA COLE (1972)
I absolutely love the to The Price Is Right, it makes me happy to listen to in ways that I haven't felt since I last ate a York Peppermint Patty.  I remember watching this show in the 70s when a black guy won a tanning bed as the grand prize, he smiled and said "Thanks!" but he seemed pretty disappointed.  Here's a
SALUTE TO THE PRICE IS RIGHT GAMES you might want to check out, and don't miss out on the bobbarker.com website, which doesn't seem to really be about the famous game show host.

#82 THE SOPRANOS
PERFORMED BY ALABAMA 3 (1999)
The opening of each Sopranos episode is incredibly powerful thanks to the song "Woke Up This Morning" by Alabama 3 that plays while Tony Soprano drives around various New Jersey landmarks puffing away on a cigar.  The fuzzy bass sounds that resonate at the theme's beginning can put the woofers of any home stereo system to the test, while the Tom Waitsesque gravely vocals take over until it ends in a frenzy of beeps and twangs and a final jarring old school vinyl record scratch.  According to the band, Sopranos creator David Chase was just driving down the highway listening to virtually unknown song, and thought it would be perfect for the show's theme song.  It's a good thing he left his Leo Sayer CD collection at home, or The Sopranos opening would have really sucked.  You can visit
Alabama 3's Official Website and listen to the song and read the lyrics, yourself.

#81 SQUARE PEGS
PERFORMED BY THE WAITRESSES (1982)
Talk about a show that's overdue for a DVD release, this Anne Beats show about high school teens that was funny enough for adults to watch was super cool.  And to get The Waitresses, who did the snotty classic "I Know What Boys Like" to perform the theme song only threw fuel to the cool fire.  The show only lasted 20 episodes before it was canceled, but it still stands out as one of the 80s best and funniest programs.  Sadly, The Waitresses broke up about the same time the show ended, and the lead singer Patty Donahue died of cancer in 1996 at the way too young age of 40.  There's a great Waitresses Tribute Site you can view if you
CLICK HERE.  You can also read the lyrics and listen to the original theme song HERE.

#80 MR. BELVEDERE
COMPOSED BY JUDY HART ANGELO and GARY PORTNOY
PERFORMED BY LEON REDBONE (1985)
If only every TV show theme song was sung by Leon Redbone, the world would be a perfect place.  A testament to how great this song ("According to Our New Arrivals") is that I absolutely hate watching Mr. Belvedere, but I'd stop and listen to the theme because Leon kicks so much else.  This may be the best theme song on the worst show ever made.  Of course, the theme's composer, Judy Hart-Angelo is a big reason for the theme's success, who also wrote the legendary "Cheers" theme, as well.  It was also during this mid-80s time, when Leon's golden voice was used in a Budweiser and All detergent commercial, too.   If you're a glutton for punishment, check out a pretty intensive
Unofficial Mr. Belvedere Site.

#79 DARK SHADOWS
COMPOSED BY BOB COBERT (1966)
One of the more eerie theme songs ever created, Bob Cobert's work on the Dark Shadows intro is a creepy masterpiece that utilizes a Theremin to create the spooky atmosphere.  Cobert even received a Grammy nomination for his work on the show's soundtrack.  The daily soap opera about vampire Barnabas Collins lasted from 1966-1971 and is considered one of the most successful and well-loved cult shows of all time, paving the way for other occult themed series like The Nightstalker, The X-Files, and Who's the Boss for years to come.  There's a nifty Jonathan Frid site where you can listen to him read some classic Edgar Alan Poe stories for free that you can see if you
CLICK HERE.  And you can CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to the original theme.

#78 DRAGNET
COMPOSED BY MIKLOS ROZSA (1951)
The first 4 notes of Dragnet are perhaps the most recognizable intro to any theme song ever written.  Miklos Rozsa, a classically trained violinist who became an incredibly prolific film composer who created work for classics like Double Indemnity, Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, and the Hemmingway tale, The Killers.  His 1946 score for The Killers featured the debut of the famous music that would later be used in the Dragnet theme.  Though Walter Schumann was credited with originally creating the Dragnet theme for the 1947 radio serial, a plagiarism lawsuit was brought about that ruled that Schumann swiped it from Rozsa, showing that he was working on the Universal Studios lot at the same time The Killers was being made.  Later, all goodness related to Dragnet was nearly erased forever in 1986, when a film version starring Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd was made, and they recorded a rap song to promote the film called
"City of Crime" (scroll the 1987 section, and prepare for the ear-bleeding goodness).

#77 THREE'S COMPANY
COMPOSED BY JOE RAPOSO (1977)
Three's Company is that odd mixture of retarded and catchy that few TV theme songs have ever achieved.  Created by Joe Raposo (a TV Theme song all-star who gave us the Sesame Street, Electric Company, and the classic Sesame Street songs "Sing" and "It's Not Easy Being Green".  What many people don't realize is that the original arrangement of the song featured a bizarre mixture of dogs and cats performing the tune, which you can hear for the very first time if you
CLICK HERE.  And while you're at it, check out our hot Suzanne Somers retroCRUSH Gallery.

#76 MISTER ED
COMPOSED BY JAY LIVINGSTON and RAY EVANS
VOCALS BY SHELDON ALLMAN (1961)

Not only did Sheldon Allman providehe singing voice of the title character and got to belt out the immortal closing line, "I am Mister Ed!", but he even got to sing other songs as Mr. Ed on the show, like "The Empty Feedbag Blues."  Allman is also well known for creating the incredible "George of the Jungle Theme Song", too.  Not satisfied with just writing songs, Allman joins Alan Thicke as a famous composer who also did some acting, appearing in a ton of TV shows like "Little House on the Prairie" and "Bonanza".  You can find out more by checking out
MISTER ED ONLINE (your ultimate online Mister Ed resource).  And see our entry for Bonanza, which is #22 o our list to read more about the composing duo of Livingston and Evans. 

#75 TAXI
COMPOSED BY
BOB JAMES (1978)
Every time I drive across a girder bridge, I can't help but whistle the theme from Taxi to myself.  That opening sequence of a Taxi driving across the famous 59th Street Bridge always gives me goosebumps.  It's certainly one of the more pleasant theme songs.  According to
Gribble's Taxi Pages, Bob James wrote the theme to Taxi, originally as a song called "Angela" that was intended for the second episode, but the producers of the show liked it so much they used it for the show's theme.

                 


TV THEME SONG WEBSITES

I'd like to thank the following websites for proving to be invaluable resources in putting this feature together.  Some of them have incredible multimedia libraries for your listening pleasure.  Each of them has a nice specialty, and they all have the retroCRUSH seal of approval.

MIKE'S CLASSIC CARTOON THEMES A ton of high quality MP3 files of many era's classic cartoon theme songs, with pictures of each show, to boot! 

While you're there, make sure you visit MIKE'S CLASSIC TV THEMES as well, for all the non-cartoon greatness.

CLASSIC TV THEMES Tons of information about TV shows up through the early 70s with many interesting behind the scenes story and drama about each of them.

80S TV THEME SUPER SITE Lots of obscure, weird, and alternate versions of things to listen to here.  Includes areas dedicated to network promos, commercials, and game shows.

MY THEMES.TV Another fun TV archive, with some neat interactive things to look at.

RETRO JUNK Cool 80s focused site with a lot of great actual video clips so you can SEE the TV Themes they way they were meant to be enjoyed.  And RETRO VANDEGRIFT looks to be a German site with a similar setup.

TRIPLETS ARE US not a dedicated theme site, but a nice directory of themes to listen to, nonetheless.

KIT JUNKIE a huge list of TV show themes to click and listen to, including many rare and unusual ones from the UK.

THE BIG CARTOON DATABASE Tons of information about nearly every single cartoon.
SITCOMS ONLINE has a lot of obscure multimedia and information for SITCOMS
TV TOME has just about everything for every TV show, ever!