Monday, June 30, 2008

Top 5 Television Theme Songs - Lyrics Edition

And now for the logical follow-up to the last post.

Dan's Top 5:

1. The Greatest American Hero - "Believe It or Not" by Joey Scarbury - This is the pinnacle example of a television show's theme song being WAY too good for the show it represents. I'm not sure how successful the show was, but this song was a hit, reaching #2 on the charts. Can you even grasp this? It was one away from the top song in the entire country according to The Billboard Hot 100. And let's not forget "The Suzie," the episode of Seinfeld containing one of the best moments of the series, when we hear the #1 answering machine message of all time, "Believe it or not, George isn't at home."

2. Perfect Strangers - "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" by David Pomeranz - This is another instance of the song being much better than the show, but in this case, the show was really enjoyable. (To be fair, I can't judge Greatest American Hero having never seen an episode.) It takes a lot of talent for me to overlook the fact that one is a Scientologist (You shook your Etch-a-Sketch with War of the Worlds, Tom.) but Pomeranz apparently has the talent. He also did the theme to Zoobilee Zoo, and both infected my head when I was four years old. "Standin' Taaaaaaaaaaaaaall!"

3. Cheers - "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" by Gary Portnoy - This was the third attempt at writing a theme by Portnoy and Judy Angelo. The repeated rejection led them to start writing a sad tune over just two notes - B flat and F - and what followed was the beginning of one of the greatest themes ever. Who wants a beer?

4. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" by Will Smith - I'll confess that I didn't watch this show religiously when it was on while we were growing up. But I still know a significant percentage of the theme's lyrics and recognized it was ridiculously catchy. Yo, home smell you later!

5. Gilligan's Island - "The Ballad Of Gilligan's Isle" - written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle, performed by The Wellingtons - Probably the song that makes me wary of any sort of short nautical expedition that is scheduled to last for three hours, lest I get marooned. And for the record, I prefer the version that name-checks The Professor and Mary-Ann. It really isn't that hard to sing them in, is it?

Honorable mention: The Jeffersons - "Movin' On Up," Green Acres - "Green Acres"

Ryan's Top 5:

Again, if you want the names of the composers/writers, I highly recommend

1. "Cheers" - "Cheers is filmed before a live studio audience" is firmly etched into my brain, as is every word to this song.

2. "Pete & Pete" - This is an excellent mid-90s alternative pop song that happens to be the tune for one of the greatest shows Nickelodeon's ever had a hand in. Man, whatever happened to Polaris? At least you can get this show on DVD, though, which is more than I can say for...

3. "Doug" - I mean, the only real lyrics are "doo doo doo doo," etc. But still, this song is from a time when cartoons were still good, funny, relevant to kids' lives, well-written, etc. And not about, for example, talking nautical sponges.

4. "Arthur and Friends" - I'd include this show on a guilty pleasure list--if I in any way felt guilty for liking it. I don't. And the theme song is performed by Ziggy Marley; reggae for kids is really, really underrated.

5. "David the Gnome" - We're doing top 5 kids' show theme songs including Cheers, right? Anyway, I really miss the French-Canadian animation of the 1980's, and all the musical genius it inspired.

Honorable mention: Frasier, Extras, Salute Your Shorts, Family Guy, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Reading Rainbow.

Tim's Top 5:
Again, my distaste for this category was fleeting.

1. The Monkees Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees! Ok, they’re not good as a band, since they can’t play instruments. But they are remarkably good at times as a pop band, and the theme song is a typically inane but enjoyable theme.

2. CheersThis is the prototype for a TV theme, because it actually makes you wish you were watching the show. Just two notes in and I wanted to pull out season 2 and start watching it, since I bought it too late into my summer associate year and no longer had a need to spend all my time in my apartment watching DVDs, because NCAA Football had come out.

3. The Wonder YearsOdd, this link goes to Joe Cocker performing “With a Little Help From My Friends”, not the Wonder Years theme! Yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a cop out, but it’s really Joe Cocker’s only good work that I’m aware of. The video has some huge dubbing issues, but it’s really better not to see him anyway.

4. BatmanOk, admittedly, the only words to the song are “Batman”, but it has lyrics. It’s a song that is inseparable from the campy show from whence it came, but is still really appealing to me for some bizarre reason.

5. Underdog - While there are any number of cartoon songs that could make the claim to this (as evidenced by my unembarrassed ownership of the compilation album Saturday Morning – from which this version is taken, I’m partial to the theme of Underdog. Speed of lightning, roar of thunder, fighting all who rob or plunder, Underdog... Underdog!

Honorable mention: Darkwing Duck - Give me a break, I loved this show., Happy Days - I'm in disbelief this didn't make my top 5, The Greatest American Hero – quintessential Christopher Cross-y ‘80s theme that still makes me long for the days of not doing a damn thing; Reading Rainbow; Zoobilee Zoo (just watching three seconds of Ben Vereen made me nearly swallow my tongue, I shan't share).

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