Television is more than just a visual medium. Some of the best music we remember comes from the opening songs and themes to our favourite TV shows. Some are cheesy. Some are very catchy. Some are both!
So, which TV theme songs do the Deeper Cuts Trio love to this day? Since all three are Doctor Who fans, we’ve discounted that one and all of its versions and variations. Saying that, what were their answers to this week’s edition of Deeper Questions?
With Doctor Who off the table, I had to give this to another formative PBS show from my childhood. This theme tune is just as weird, unique, and moody as Doctor Who, but it comes with its own cartoon plot: Masterpiece Mystery. I never had cable so I was the definition of a PBS kid. And since my parents would never allow me to stay up for Mystery, watching the intro cartoon made me feel like I was getting away with something. It’s all so creaky and full of character!
The visuals, from the fainting woman to the murder of crows, are on point. And the orchestrations are the perfect mix of dark and cozy, unsettling and comforting, all at once. It’s iconic PBS and no matter how many times they update or adjust the theme, it always garners the same sentimental reaction. Plus, now I can stay up for the show!
I feel like my childhood was littered with great TV theme songs, so many of which I could mention here. It was like a golden age! Or maybe I just perceive it that way. The one I’ll pick is Mike Post and Pete Carpenter’s Theme From The Rockford Files. Post and Carpenter were the kings of the instrumental TV theme song in the 1970s and 1980s. This was their best. It was even a top 10 single in the spring of 1975!
I love the weird, sort of dated synthesizer part, the prison harmonica that perhaps reflects central character Jim Rockford’s ex-con past, and the slick West Coast Sessioner ’70s guitar. And it does what a TV theme song should do; sets the tone for the show. In this case, it’s one about a guy who’s a bit of a scoundrel, but uses his scoundreling for good. That’s baked right into the music somehow. I never really watched the show when it was on, since it was past my bedtime. But I remember it winding its way up the stairs as I drifted off to sleep. It’s kind of comforting in a way, and reminds me of innocent times. These days of course, I have a boxset of the whole series!
I’m going to go with John Williams’ revamping of the Lost In Space theme music for season 3 of that program. As a 12 year old watching on WUTV Channel 29 in Buffalo in 1982, I was never a gigantic fan of Lost In Space but I watched because a) I had a massive crush on Angela Cartwright as Penny and b) I loved the opening title sequence for season 3. When I was 12, I remember thinking that this was the period Lost In Space had “the good theme music”. The opening to the first two seasons, also by Williams, was a meandering piece of music accompanying cartoon icons of the space family Robinson in spacesuits. This was bolder, more dramatic. The teaser would end in a freeze frame and we’d have a countdown from 7 to 1 with stabs of dramatic music.
Watching it 35 or so years later after I first watched it on UHF, I still find the theme music holds up really well. In fact I would argue that probably more than other TV theme John Williams did in the 1960s, the Lost In Space season 3 theme music showed us the true dawning of the genius we’d later see Williams demonstrate in film music from the 1970s through to today. First there’s the brilliant tease during the countdown and then there’s the main theme where Williams gives us rousing horns (with a lovely bit of counterpoint of percussion and strings).
It’s still a ditty, a jingle, a sketch of a song… but you really can see glimmerings of the man who wrote Jaws, Star Wars and Superman from this. A couple of Christmases ago my wife gave me the Lost In Space blu-ray box set. I struggled through watching the first three episodes and then just decided to skip ahead to the third season which has buckets of camp, the countdown opening and the better theme song. And yes, it still had the good theme music.
What about you, gentle reader and Deeper Cuts fan?
What TV theme songs still light up your life?
Let us know in the comments!