The 100 Greatest TV Themes: 25 - 18

25. Bill Nye the Science Guy
"Bill Nye the Science Guy Theme"
by Mike Greene

The spiritual successor to Mister Wizard, Bill Nye was a professional scientist who demonstrated scientific concepts to elementary and middle-school aged kids through experiments, explanations, sketches, and a blatant abuse of After Effects. The series' goal, and the theme song by extension, was to make science seem cool. The intro sequence achieved this by barraging the senses with scientific imagery, fluctuating sound bytes and an apparently narcissistic host. Bill's name being repeatedly shouted has turned the theme into an internet meme, and an enjoyable one at that. And check out this cover by Mudhoney.

24. Underdog
by W. Watts Biggers, Chet Stover, Joe Harris, and Treadwell Covington

Superheroes rely on two things: Their abilities and their reputation. Aquaman can command an army of sharks to rip his enemies to shreds, but nobody will take him seriously because he's Aquaman. This is why the Underdog theme is a thing of beauty. It turns an anthropomorphic beagle whose name implies he is a weakling, whose costume resembles an ill-fitting pair of footie pajamas, and who speaks only in rhyming couplets into an intimidating force of nature. And check out this cover by Butthole Surfers.

23. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
"Funeral March of a Marionette"
by Charles Gounod

Alfred Hitchcock was more than just a legendary director, he was a celebrity, equally famous as any actor or actress of the era. So much so, he lent both his name and image to the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents despite only directing 18 of the 363 episodes. Hitchcock knew the value of branding. The opening theme has become the synonymous lietmotif for Hitchcock's whole career and filmography. His opening silhouette is perhaps even more recognizable than his face. His trademark welcoming,"good evening," delivered in a deep, sloshing baritone sends unsettling chills down my spine every time. All of this has ensured the legacy of the great director will never fade. And check out... no, I'm not making that a running gag.

22. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
"Journey of the Sorcerer"
Composed by Bernie Leadon
Performed by The Eagles

Understanding British television is complicated when reared on the American model. In America, a good TV show will last around six seasons, producing around 114 episodes. A great TV series will last even longer. In Britain, most TV shows air for a single season, producing six episodes. The industry is different across the pond; writers, producers and actors aren't bogged down by a single project for a lengthy stretch of their careers. Americans are just happy for job security.

To the Brits' advantage, English TV shows don't have the handicap of padding out an entire season with filler. When the adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy came to fruition, the entire novel and most of its sequel were adapted without any concern. But no one cares about that, I'm supposed to be talking about the theme song. Journey of the Sorcerer greatly evokes the feeling of wonder and trepidation which come from traveling through outer space. What wondrous experiences would a novice intergalactic traveler experience? What perils would they encounter? How will they manage to keep a straight face amidst the malfunctioning robot head and shoestring special effects budget?

21. True Blood
"Bad Things"
by Jace Everett

In a world saturated by vampires, love stories and vampiric love stories, True Blood found a way to stay relevant and interesting: By being scary. Vampires are parasitic creatures of the night. They hunt humans and feast on their blood. The concept should terrify you, not titillate you. True Blood's intro reinforces these morbid feelings with a dark and looming country tune that sounds as if its echoing from a Louisiana marshland. The imagery reinforces this, showing contrasting and contextual imagery that evokes a gut feeling of unease. Even though this is standard southeast America, something smells rotten in the state of Denmark.

20. Justice League/Justice League Unlimited
"Justice League Theme"
by Lolita Ritmanis
"Justice League Unlimited Theme"
by Michael McCuistion

Justice League began in 2001 with a cast of seven, and remained that way for two seasons. In 2004, the cast ballooned to over thirty superheroes, and every episode focused on a different combination of cast members. Technically, it was the same series, but under two different names. Likewise, each incarnation had a different theme song. As such, I couldn't rightfully choose between the two. The original Justice League theme is a slow, majestic orchestration. It evokes the heroic deeds of warriors, on par with mythological gods and titans. Justice League Unlimited takes an alternate approach. It feasts on modern sensibilities, playing hard, fast and electric. The two themes are opposite sides of the same coin, and I'm clearly way too emotionally invested in superheroes.

19. Pee-Wee's Playhouse
"Pee-Wee's Playhouse Theme Song"
Composed by George McGrath, Mark Mothersbaugh & Paul Reubens
Performed by Mark Mothersbaugh
Vocals by Cyndi Lauper

Pee-Wee's Playhouse was a live action series which aired on Saturday mornings, a time slot normally reserved for cartoons. But watching just the opening sequence, it's easy to forget Pee-Wee's Playhouse isn't a cartoon. The colors are bright and vivid, Pee-Wee Herman is maniacally energetic and practically bouncing off the walls, and the theme song announces itself with energy like a hummingbird on a sugar high. The absolute ecstasy of this song careens into the nuttiness of the show, almost making you forget the surprisingly lengthy intro makes up nearly 1/9th of the runtime. If your 22 minute show has a three minute intro, it had better be worth it, and the theme to Pee-Wee's Playhouse certainly was.

18. The Amazing Race
"The Amazing Race"
by John M. Keane

The Amazing Race is not a reality show. I just want to make this clear. It is a game show with reality elements. First and foremost is the competition and the challenges. The contestants and their affairs/interactions are only there to fill in the cracks. The show is barely about foreign culture; the visited countries are nothing more than backdrops for troublesome physical challenges and mentally taxing activities, both of which make great TV. The show is about a race, which is a motif quite easily scored. The Amazing Race theme gets the blood pumping, it gets the adrenaline flowing, it makes you want to circumnavigate the globe at the behest of an omnipresent host from New Zealand. All while carrying a poorly intertwined product-placement garden gnome.

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