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I guess I just like liking things

When I was a kid I would occasionally record TV theme songs by holding a tape recorder up to the TV right before the show started. We didn’t have your fancy Internets and DVRs back then, so that’s how we did it. I guess that kind of makes me a pirate?  I never sold copies, so maybe that’s my loophole.

Since you got ripped off a few weeks ago and only got five recap raps, here are my 20 favorite  TV theme songs. This is not a “20 favorite TV shows” list – please don’t confuse them!

20. Gilligan’s Island – This one is fun for a couple of reasons. First, right after the line “if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost” is immediately followed by “the ship struck ground…” Not so courageous, eh, crew? Second, it tells you exactly what sort of show you’re getting yourself into. Third, it has great literary merit: many Emily Dickinson poems can be sung to this tune. If you need to memorize any of her poems for a test or something, here’s a lifehack. You’re welcome.

19. The Andy Griffith Show – If you don’t like whistling along with this one, you’re probably not human.

18. The Monkees – A loopy, fun song for a loopy, fun show.

17. M*A*S*H – Back when people used push-button phones and each button made a particular note, I was able to play this one on a telephone pad. Don’t let the fact that the name of the song is “Suicide Is Painless” bother you too much, just enjoy the pretty music, okay?

16. Cheers – This one is usually at the top of most people’s lists because it’s pretty much great. I just happen to like some other songs more.

15. The Tick – You just can’t beat lyrics like “dut dwee dut dut dut dwee dow.”

14. Futurama – Those bells! But my favorite part is right before the ship crashes into the TV, that descending little whatever-you-call-that.

13. The Sopranos – One of those “perfectly fits with the style of the credits” kind of songs. It sets the tone for the show in unexpected ways.

12. Malcolm in the Middle – I liked this song before I ever even knew who They Might Be Giants were (was?). In fact, it was this theme song that made me seek out TMBG music.

11. Bones – Reminds me of The X-Files theme a little. Fun fact: this song was in the running to be the song my wife and I exited to at our wedding. It narrowly lost out to The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine.”

10. Batman – I actually don’t like the show very much, but there’s no denying that’s a great theme song. Click that link there and say goodbye to the rest of your day.

9. The X-Files – Perfectly spooky.

8. The Simpsons – I love Danny Elfman’s music in general, so it’s no surprise I would like this one.

7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Heroes in a half shell! Turtle power! Tells you most everything you need to know about the Turtles, and it’s supremely singable.

6. Star Trek – Beautifully haunting, and a huge part of my geek awakening.

5. Buffy/Angel – I know they aren’t similar at all, but these two are indelibly linked in my brain. Truth be told, I actually prefer the Angel track a bit more.

4. The Drew Carey Show – I love both versions, too:  Moon Over Parma and Cleveland Rocks! which is another of the most fun opening sequences ever.

3. Doctor Who – The newer version is not bad, but I don’t actually like the newest version as well.  This original one is the one I think of when Doctor Who is mentioned. The baseline beat coupled with the “woo-OO-ooo” makes this one awesome.

2. The Muppet Show – Well of course this song.  And I love all the different things the Gonzo does at the end, from exploding to mooing to everything else.

1. The Norm Show – Chances are good that you haven’t even heard of this show and chances are even better that you’ve never seen it. While I do enjoy the show, I love the theme song. It’s so catchy and sorta-insulting and I love the later-season credit sequence that goes along with it.

Bonus Tracks:

These don’t make the list for one reason or another, but they deserve to be mentioned:

  • Sanford & Son – I love the version that Turk & JD do of this.
  • Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – I’ve seen fewer than five episodes of this show (I know that’s a travesty!), but I still love the theme. What I love even more is that link there, where Will Smith performs it along with an audience earlier this year, without cue cards or prompts – he still knows it, and I love that.
  • The Greatest American Hero – I mention this one strictly so I can link to George Costanza’s outgoing message.
  • Happy Days – This is one of the first theme songs I remember taping back in the day.

I know I’ve left off some great ones, and it’s either because I don’t watch the show or because it just didn’t make the cut. Let me know in the comments what I’ve missed!


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