The 100 Greatest TV Themes: 94-89

94. The Patty Duke Show
"Theme from The Patty Duke Show"
Composed by Sid Ramin and Harry Geller

I've never seen an episode of The Patty Duke Show in my life. I know nothing about the show except what I've read on Wikipedia. Given the opportunity, I probably wouldn't even voluntarily watch the show. So why do I even bother to rank its theme? Because I've heard this earworm of a song alluded to, referenced, and parodied at least a dozen times in my life, but was never able to find out the original source. Its inclusion is a public service for anyone else in a similar situation.

93. Get Smart
"Theme from Get Smart"
by Irving Szathmary

Get Smart was a masterful exercise in deadpan comedy. The characters, settings and situations were outlandish, but nobody so much as cracks a smile. The theme reflects this style of humor with a theme reminiscent of James Bond and Dragnet. The imagery is the counterpoint of the theme, showing Maxwell Smart going through a ridiculously complex and unnecessary series of security doors. It's, well, smart.

92. Quantum Leap
"Quantum Leap Main Title"
by Mike Post

What is up with the 1980's and synthesizers? It's like the entire music world stood up simultaneously and said "More keyboards! Every song will have keyboards!" I don't hate synthesizers, but come on, the 1980's were ridiculous. Also, did the guy responsible for editing the theme misinterpret the show as the adventures of a time-traveling transvestite?

Executive Producer
Donald P. Bellisario

91. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
"Fat Albert Theme"
by Ricky Sheldon and Edward Fournier

Despite Fat Albert being years before my time, I genuinely enjoy this funk-inspired groove. Even though Fat Albert is clearly being voiced by a professional singer and not The Cos, and even though Bill Cosby talks over a large portion of the song, it's still a great song that emanates vibes of good times and childhood fun. Also of note, check out this awesome cover version by Dig.

90. MASH
"Suicide is Painless"
by Johnny Mandel

Suicide is Painless was originally written for the 1970 feature film MASH. As you can tell from the title, the lyrics were dark and bleak, satirically endorsing suicide as an alternative for depression. No surprise, the lyrics were dropped in favor of several instrumental versions in varying pitch and tempo. Collect them all!

89. The Walking Dead
"The Walking Dead"
by The Walking Dead

What crazy levels of meta lead to the development of this theme? The Walking Dead by The Walking Dead for The Walking Dead? In all seriousness, The Walking Dead is an extremely faithful adaptation of the comic series, from the characters to the themes to the opening's imagery, which looks as if it were pulled straight from the pages of the comic book. Although, somebody should contact both the executive producers and AMC, because if this fanmade opening were authentic, The Walking Dead would easily place in my top twenty.


The 100 Greatest TV Themes: 100-95

Television. Cinema's little brother. The small screen. The idiot box. The boob tube. An American mainstay and entertainment keystone. And what greater signifier of television's many accomplishments (and many many failures) than the theme song? The musical symbols of fictional friends, their worlds and struggles, their trials and adventures, their sagas and lives.

While the kitschy mainstay is slowly being faded out, many shows still realize how much of an impact a 30-second song snippet has on the collective psyche. In their honor, I've compiled my 100 favorite in a comprehensive list.

But first, the criteria:
1) The theme music must regularly precede or succeed the program it represents.
2) The theme music must be a minimum of twenty seconds in length.
3) The theme song does not necessarily have to be created for its associated series, but must be significantly better recognized as a theme song. (Let's call this the CSI exclusion rule).

Now on with the countdown
100. Walker, Texas Ranger
"The Eyes of the Cowboy"
Composed by Tirk Wilder and Jerrold Immel
Performed by Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris is so powerful, he turned a poorly-written cop drama into the stuff of legends.
Chuck Norris is so awesome, he sings his own theme song about how awesome he is.
Chuck Norris appeared in an episode of Yes, Dear. Yes, Dear ran for six seasons despite being terrible.
Chuck Norris was once a punchline for Conan O'Brien. Something something Jay Leno.
Chuck Norris is so powerful, I'm making Chuck Norris jokes despite it clearly not being 2005.

99. Batman
"Batman Theme"
by Neal Hefti

After seeing how people like Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan have interpreted Batman, it's hilarious seeing his origins. I would pay money to hear Adam West say "Are you dense? Are you retarded or something? I'm the God Damn Batman!" Likewise, I'd love to see Christian Bale busting heads to this surf-rock inspired piece of Americana.

98. Mad Men
"A Beautiful Mine"
by RJD2

Any individual scene or still from any episode of Mad Men drips with rich imagery intensely evocative of the 1960's. And not just anywhere in the 1960's, Madison Avenue in New York City. Classy suits, hats, cigarettes and single-malt scotch. The theme is psychedelic and the imagery is intense. How odd that the theme is anachronistic and has little to do with the actual content of the series, and yet is still a perfect companion? I'd offer a deconstruction and analysis, but I'm trying to keep this brief.

97. SportsCenter
"SportsCenter Theme"
by Annie Roboff and Vangelis

The SportsCenter theme introduced six of the most recognizable notes in all of broadcasting. The trademark stinger was so powerful, it was adopted to represent ESPN as a whole. How impactful is this theme song? I don't even like sports, and it still makes my top 100.

96. Perfect Strangers
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now"
Composed by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay
Performed by David Pomeranz

The mid-80's were notorious for a slew of cookie-cutter sitcoms following ordinary people with ordinary problems, yet bolstered by epic theme songs. I can't think of a single show more representative of this trope than Perfect Strangers. The show is so boring and bland, but the theme song sounds like something from a Rocky montage.

95. The Weird Al Show
"The Weird Al Show Theme"
by 'Weird Al' Yankovic

One of the final shows produced for CBS' Saturday Morning lineup, The Weird Al Show was the victim of heavy censorship, executive meddling, and creativity-stifling educational requirements. The theme song, however, is unrestrained madness. Detailing the (fictionalized) life of Weird Al and the unlikely circumstances which lead to him having his own TV show, the theme song is pure Weird Al zaniness. Al was so proud of his results, he featured the song on one of his studio albums.


Super - A Review

A social outcast notices that crime is rampant and the police force is powerless to stop it. Wondering aloud why nobody has ever tried to become a real superhero, the outcast dons a spandex costume, grabs a weapon, and becomes an unlikely vigilante and folk hero. During his travels he finds a kindred spirit in a younger female. Together, they bring down the biggest crime lord in the city, and learn a lesson in confidence, determination, morality and sacrifice.

This movie was called Kick Ass.

A social outcast notices that crime is rampant and the police force is powerless to stop it. Wondering aloud why nobody has ever tried to become a real superhero, the outcast dons a spandex costume, grabs a weapon, and becomes an unlikely vigilante and folk hero. During his travels he finds a kindred spirit in a younger female. Together, they bring down the biggest crime lord in the city, and learn a lesson in confidence, determination, morality and sacrifice.

This movie was called Super.

I don't know the details concerning the development of Super, so I can't rightfully accuse it of plagiarism. It may just be a happy coincidence. Or it may just be the latest example of the Deep Impact/Armageddon phenomenon. But based on the gap between release dates, it's hard not to point fingers.

At any rate, the film wasn't totally without merit, so don't cast it aside quite yet. Super is the antithesis to Kick Ass. Where Kick Ass was the story of young man trying to make the world a better place, Super is the story of a full-fledged adult going off the deep end, head first into an empty pool. We are supposed to recognize with Kick Ass. We are supposed to fear and pity The Crimson Bolt.

Our hero, Frank D'Arbo, is not a likable person. He's barely sympathetic. He's mentally unstable, an emotional trainwreck, and if you cheer for him, you are clearly misinterpreting the film. Frank's wife abandons him for an unspecified evil drug-dealer/strip joint owner/mafia boss, causing Frank to hallucinate, believing himself to be tapped by Christ to clean up the world.

Handcrafting his own costume, wielding a pipe wrench, and dubbing himself "The Crimson Bolt," Frank brings his concussion-inducing brand of justice to drug dealers, child molesters, and line jumpers alike. Along the way, he meets 22-year old Libby, a comic book geek fresh from the Jonah Hill school of acting. Weaseling her way into Frank's affairs, she adopts the mantle of "Boltie," kid sidekick.

Super won't be appearing at your local multiplex. There are many questionably over-the-top scenes of depravity, gore and psychotic assault. This film starts out campy, but during the second act, it turns dark. It wasn't even submitted to the MPAA for rating. You'll have to seek out a locally owned and operated theater where the programming director has the cajones to show such a film.

What separates Super most from Kick Ass is how the superheroes are portrayed. Kick Ass was ineffective, but he had noble intentions. With proper training, equipment and planning, he turns into a formidable force. The Crimson Bolt, however, is just a psycho. Imagine if Travis Bickle was a fat guy who put on a mask and cape. He doesn't plan, ever. He just gets bigger and more weapons. He never exercises, and he wails upon anybody who upsets him. Boltie is even worse, being one step above a San Diego ComicCon attendant in terms of skill, attacking anybody who even looks at her funny, laughing like a maniac all the way. Why do the hot ones always have to be crazy?

I describe Super as being 1/8 Edgar Wright, 1/8 Sam Raimi, and 3/4 Ed Wood. It passes frequently into the 'So Bad Its Good' territory, but that's its saving grace. Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, and Nathan Fillion are spot-on perfect with their hamminess. They, along with the entire supporting cast, are so over-the-top, you get suckered in by the complete insanity of the film. And insanity is available in abundance. Throughout the course of the film, people have their skulls cracked open by wrenches, peoples faces get blown off, people are on the business end of pipe bombs, somebody gets scalped and has their brain poked at with a corn dog, somebody takes glass shrapnel to their face, and there is an onscreen rape.

And that's the beauty of it. That the filmmakers had the sheer audacity to show us this violent imagery. It's refreshing that no matter how far we've come, how far we go, and how much we see as film fans, we can till be shocked and titillated. There is no upper limit, and as long as we can stomach the gory imagery of an evisceration, it's actually quite fun.

If you're looking for a good movie, you'll be sorely upset. If you want a superhero-themed Grindhouse movie that makes Darkman look like Underdog, I recommend it.


Coming Soon and Gone - Comedian

Comedian was a 2002 documentary about stand up comedians; the industry, their techniques, and their lives on the lower rungs of show business. It featured several comedians at various stages of success, most notably among them Jerry Seinfeld. It wasn't a terrible film, but there wasn't much to remember.

Instead, it spawned quite possibly the greatest movie trailer of all time, featuring the king of voice-over artists: Don LaFontaine