The 100 Greatest TV Themes: 17 - 11

17. Neon Genesis Evangelion
"A Cruel Angel's Thesis"
by Yoko Takahashi

The theme song for Neon Genesis Evangelion is a cliff's notes version of anime. With the exception of lolitas in uncomfortably short skirts, the Neon Genesis Evangelion theme features every stereotype of the anime theme song. A rocking electronic j-pop intro, giant gundam robots, flashing lights and colors onscreen for roughly eight picoseconds, completely vague symbolism, lots of shots of the sky, people dramatically turning, and absolutely no connections whatsoever to the show's actual content.

16. Malcolm in the Middle
"Boss of Me"
by They Might Be Giants

In sitcom land, the family dynamic is rigid; adults have authority over the kids. Malcolm In the Middle offered a change. The theme song is smart and satirical by reflecting this idea, reconstituting a familiar playground taunt as children jeering authority figures. Mix in the everpresent jocularity of They Might Be Giants and you have a great theme song. What makes it top 20 themes great is the plethora of non sequitur visual imagery. When you were a kid, TV was an escape; you watched it, even if there was nothing worth watching. That awkward period of time every Saturday after cartoons, but before mom kicked you outside to play. The canting, static, saturated imagery evokes feelings of idle channel surfing. You kids reared on cable and satellite TV don't know how lucky you were.

15. Melrose Place
"Melrose Place (Theme)"
by Tim Truman

Remember everything I said about Beverly Hills 90210? Just repeat it here. I'm convinced they were the exact same show; the only difference being Melrose Place features 40 and 30 year-olds pretending to be 30 and 20 year-olds instead of 90210's 20 year-olds playing teenagers.

The theme song is an expression of musical theme and representation; I know exactly what this show is about without even watching the accompanying imagery. I can tell it's a soap opera, I know it's about young, fashionable people in a posh urban setting, I can sense there is much drama and exploitation stemming from sexual pursuits, infidelity, and treachery. Also catfights, but that's just extrapolating. The only thing I can't deduce purely from the music is the swimming pool.

14. Hawaii Five-O
"Hawaii Five-O Theme"
by Morton Stevens

While the show may be an antiquated relic by entertainment standards, one element of Hawaii Five-O remains relevant. If you can't guess what that one thing is by now, you have incredibly lousy reading comprehension skills. I'm talking about the theme song. Easily one of the best driving songs ever recorded, the music is a surf rock masterpiece, on par with anything written by Jan & Dean or The Ventures. The Hawaiian slideshow instantly transports us to the Aloha State, but the understated intensity of Jack Lord and crew tells us just how serious things can get on a Hawaiian beach.

13. Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Star Trek: The Next Generation Intro"
by Alexander Courage and Jerry Goldsmith

Space. The Final Frontier. The words carry such a deep cadence... Oh, right. I already said that about the original Star Trek. No matter. While Star Trek was a pinnacle of early science fiction, the changes demonstrated by Star Trek: The Next Generation detail the genre swing in a post-Star Wars era (combining Star Wars and Star Trek in the same article; aren't I daring?) The original Star Trek evoked a feeling of discovery; everything is new, captivating, scary or unprecedented, like 15th century sailors navigating uncharted waters. The Next Generation made the crew seem arrogant; confident, but constantly taunted by challenges, like explorers traversing unexplored jungles. As such, the ST:TNG theme takes a brash, adventurous tone, complete with sci-fi whooshes. When things go whoosh, you know you're in the future.

12. Mystery Science Theater 3000
"Love Theme from MST3K"
Composed by Charlie Erickson and Joel Hodgson
Lyrics by Best Brains
Vocals by Joel Hodgson (Seasons 1-5) and Michael J Nelson (Seasons 5-10)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Or MST3K to people who hate typing all that out) was originally made for public access TV. The premise was simple: instead of just airing public domain sci-fi flicks, air public domain sci-fi flicks while improv comedians mock the low production values, plot holes and bad acting. The irony of a public access show mocking a movie's low budget was not lost on the cast and crew. The theme song is a tongue and cheek explanation of the show's absurd setup, characters and premise, featuring poorly constructed models and puppets, as well as the greatest handwave of inconsistencies in all of TV and science fiction: "Repeat to yourself: 'It's just a show, I should really just relax.'" The theme song evolved over the show's run, with lyrics swapped in and out to reflect casting changes, network changes, and other crucial plot elements. Nonetheless, the song remained endearing and alluring to b-movie fans everywhere.

11. The Adventures of Pete and Pete
"Hey Sandy"
by Polaris

The Adventures of Pete and Pete is one of my favorite TV themes, but fairly inconsequential on a grand scale. As such, I place it outside the top ten for objectivity's sake. But just barely. After all, I do love it so.

Pete & Pete was a mid-90's show on Nickelodeon, and describing it is no easy task. It was a slice-of-life show, but disconnected from reality. Everything seemed to exist in its own little universe, detached from all rules of logic and just shy of insanity. The theme features a garage band playing an indecipherable alternative tune on the lawn of Typical Suburbia, USA, surrounded with common accessories like lawnmowers, sprinklers and banana-seat bicycles. Intercut with the absurd imagery of the cast, and you know this show will be like nothing else you've seen before. All in all, that's a theme song's goal: Represent the show, and entice you want to watch the entire episode.

The Final Ten theme songs are up next. We'll be back after a word from our sponsors.

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