Thursday, 23 April 2009

(Some of) My Favourite TV Themes.

What's a blog for if not shameless self-indulgence? It's sun-up on an orange juicy Sunday morning, I'm not in any plays, following any elections (well, except maybe the Indian one, a bit) or looking to rant about charlatans & frauds...just felt like a trip down memory lane.

Right so...apropos of nuffin', TV themes. Here are a few of my favourites, some classics, some more or two unrecognisable to younger audiences. Of course, the shows don't all hold a special place in the pop culture crevice of my heart, but that ain't the point. It's not a 'definitive list' and it's not a 'best of', it's merely a personal indulgence and a bit of hopefully those who remember these shows & tunes will get a bit of a sentimental twinge and those who've never heard of 'em can hear what a TV theme with a bassline sounds like.

The Rockford Files (Mike Post & Peter Carpenter)

It seems like Mike Post wrote just about everything on American TV in the 70s and early 80s, but this is my favourite of his. I liked the show too. James Garner was cool even when he was being beaten up, which was quite often. Another memorable factoid about watching Rockford Files was around seeing an answering machine for the first time.

Rockford Files Season 1 intro

Curb Your Enthusiasm ('Frolic' by Luciano Michelini)
I love Curb, I love Larry David and I love the theme, which Larry remembered from a bank ad he'd seen years earlier. The link music for Curb, like just about everything else on the show, is perfect. The thinking behind the theme is as simple as it is brilliant. No matter how dark or bleak a situation might be, when the audience hears 'Frolic', everything's gonna be ok.

The Champions (Tony Hatch)

Here's a slightly more obscure one. My brother and I loved this show, mainly because we liked poking fun at William Gaunt's 'on the verge of tears' facial expression. I can't remember much about the show other than the premise: three young and attractive people are in an accident and when they wake up they've been given super powers by some old beardy guy. They work for a covert group called Nemesis, fighting baddies who are uncommonly keen on germ warfare.

The Persuaders (John Barry)

I can't remember too much about the show, other than it starred Roger Moore & Tony Curtis as two playboy types who...did stuff. And Tony Curtis wore driving gloves. And there were lots of windy Euro-roads. Oh, and John Barry wrote possibly the most famous theme ever, James Bond. I like the Persuaders theme because it's curiously melancholic and reflective for this kind of show.

Dave Allen at Large (Robert Sharples)

One of my favourite shows ever, one of my favourite comedians ever and possibly my favourite theme ever. Dave Allen was a man of great style, charm, grace and infinite ability. The most urbane comedian ever, and a TV groundbreaker. He's the first I know of to seamlessly blend sketch comedy with live stand-up (or sit down, in his case). I can't help but smile when I see him, and can't stop a little nerdy boogie when I hear his theme.

Rush (George Dreyfus)

Ah, an Aussie one. I have fond memories of our first colour TV set being bought in anticipation of seeing Jon Waters' dark blue uniform and...well...lots of brown dirt. I also remember the TV crapping itself the day the before show was on. A stirring theme from an Australian classic. As with many Australian bits and pieces, I couldn't find the actual opening titles, but here's the tune:

Peanuts (Vince Guaraldi)

More a fan of the books & strips than the shows, I still love the theme. Years ago I saw Joe Satriani live and the bass player Stu Hamm played a wonderful cameo solo version of this beautiful theme, which has since been maimed by commercial overuse.

Doctor Who (Ron Grainer)

This one's widely regarded as the best TV theme ever, with good reason. If the themes are meant not only to identify the show but give some indication as to the content, then the Doctor them is an archetype. Of course, the theme was probably the most expensive bit of the old show. On a mildly interesting side note, the composer Ron Grainer was born in Atherton, Queensland, my home state.

Van der Valk (Jack Trombey)

I can hardly remember this show, other than the confusion of seeing an obviously English (Barry Foster) man in charge of Dutch police. And his tan coat. Plus, Barry seemed far too avuncular to be a high-ranking cop. Beautiful theme tho', and a lovely tan coat.

The Professionals (Laurie Johnson)

BUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGH!!! Dununt nunt! Aw yeah, I got excited every time that car smashed through the window. The Professionals was so cool. Bodie & Doyle were hipper, tougher versions of Starsky and Hutch, and they didn't need a Gran Torino, just Escorts & Capris. Plus it had the gravitas of grouchy Gordon Jackson as their whisky-supping boss. If you hadn't picked up on it, I really like themes with lots of crunchy wukka-wukka wah.

S.W.A.T. (Barry de Vorzon)

Not just wukka-wukka, but ballsy basslines too. Basically all I can remember from S.W.A.T. is lots of people jumping off stuff. And everyone, especially Steve Forrest, being cool.

Robin's Nest (Richard O'Sullivan)

This Man About the House spin-off was really only notable for a few things, one of which was David Kelly's brilliance. The other was Richard O'Sullivan's theme, a mini-Moog masterpiece. Oh, and Tessa Wyatt was lovely too.

Bewitched (Jack Keller)

Back to 'classics' territory with this one, a show still repeated ad nauseam. As themes go it's okay, it's really here only because of Elizabeth Montgomery, who was one of the most beautiful women ever.

Barnaby Jones (Jerry Goldsmith)

Hated the show, loved the theme...and the titles. Whenever it came on I cringed. There was something about old Buddy Ebsen that really irritated me. However, I did love the spoken titles and the episode announcement, not to mention 'a Quinn Martin production!' They also used to title caption the chapters and had an epilogue.

The New Avengers (Laurie Johnson)

The only composer to make the list twice. Now, I know The Avengers was the classic and The New Avengers a pale facsimile, but 1) I was too young for the original and 2) the theme kicks ass. Plus, in good 1970s style, there are many more 'splosions.

The Banana Splits (Nelson B. Winkless Jr)

I was born in 1969, so have only the most vague memories of seeing the Banana Splits when it first ran, but I was once told by a relative that I used to say 'Uh oh! Chungo!' whenever I was given a mouthful of food. I can confirm this as being true, as I was 33 at the time. The theme gets a run here purely because it's one of those tunes (like 'Across the Universe') that I feel I've known since before I was born. Which may well be true.

Magic Roundabout

Circus music is freaky, but I loved the theme to MR. I also loved Dougal, probably because he moved while seemingly missing feet. He was a snake dog.

Sesame Street (Joe Raposo 'The original Cookie Monster')

Kids' show, three-in-a-row. Sesame Street brought us more than just a great theme tune, it was notable for a host of really cool, melodic & funky bits and pieces, most of which were written (and often sung) by Joe Raposo. In fact, I might dedicate a whole entry to Mr Raposo's work sometime.

Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids (Ricky Sheldon & Edward Fournier)

What the hell, let's make it four. Like a lot of kids my first exposure to Bill Cosby was through his stand-up records, so I knew that a lot of the people in Fat Albert were drawn from his childhood. There's something special about the way Mr Cosby spoke to kids through this show. You didn't feel like you were watching a kids' show and you didn't feel preached at. And once again, the theme is some coolass shit.

The Young Ones (Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett)

This show was everything my Dad hated, and I think it was meant to be. I couldn't see why though, it was just a bit of colourful and inspired silliness from a bunch of extremely talented, funny people. The Young Ones was probably my first experience of a 'cult' show, even though in Australia it didn't really kick off till 1986 when the ABC re-ran it at 9pm, after the D-Generation. It originally went out in '83 or '84 at 11-ish and I snuck a few episodes, but no-one at school knew what the hell I was on about. Channel 2 was so uncool.

The Goodies (Bill Oddie)

Yayyy! What more needs to be said?

There are others that were in a big list that didn't make, and I'm sure five minutes after I post this I'll remember some totally fuck off brilliant theme, but that's it. Enjoy...

Post-script - Yes, I wrote the bulk of this last Sunday morning but only posted it today. I've been unwell the last few days, thanks to the side-effects of a 'stop-smoking' drug I've been taking. More on that later...