Non-Western Division, by Rich Paschall

You have clearly been waiting patiently for the coming of my next top 10 list. Well, wait no more. I have diligently gone through the memory banks to produce some lists for you.  After compiling a hefty amount of TV theme songs, I found that I had to limit the category. Westerns and comedies earned their own Top Ten. Novelty songs (Addams Family and Gilligan’s Island, for example) and game show themes could not find a home on these lists.

We could not include your cartoon favorites or even the great pieces written for news broadcasts or special events. The Olympics theme that NBC gets to overuse with each Olympics is a stand-out piece introduced in 1984 and easily recognizable now. I could make a case for a hundred songs if I had not found a “theme” for this list of themes, so drama shows are the category. Comedy and Western top tens will come in the following weeks. Alas, the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour, one of my personal favorites, was left out.

Now I admit I do not watch a lot of television shows anymore, aside from sports, so most of these will not be of recent vintage. But it is uniquely my list and may include a few of your favorites. Please add to the list in the comments below.

Getting an honorable mention is the theme from MASH. You may say that it is a comedy, but many consider it a serious show with some dark humor tossed in. Also, the theme song, Suicide Is Painless, was actually written for the movie and wisely used without words for the television show. Along with the series, the theme has reached iconic status.

Another honorable mention goes to the Star Trek themes.  Many will tell you that the second series, The Next Generation, improved upon the original song, scripts, and special effects. I still like the original series with William Shatner chewing up the scenery at every chance.

10. The West Wing theme. The show gave us a White House that was not chaotic and actually rather “presidential.” President Bartlet was the strong and compassionate leader we could love. The theme shouts Americana and represents the grandeur of the office. Composer W.G. “Snuffy” Walden won an Emmy for the work.

9. Twilight Zone theme. The one you all know was not the original theme. The first season had a different, more ethereal style theme. The famous one was a couple of short cues CBS had commissioned of Marius Constant as “work made for hire” and spliced together. Have you ever gone “do do do do, do do do do” to something strange?

8.  Believe It Or Not, The Greatest American Hero. The unlikely hero of this show (William Katt) gets a superhero suit, but no instructions. The recording by singer Joey Scarbury stayed for 18 weeks on the Top 40 and made it to number 2 in August of 1981.

7. Hill Street Blues theme, by Mike Post who also co-authored Believe It Or Not. The 1980s cops drama was a critical success and ran 7 seasons. Released in 1981, the song spent months on the pop charts.

6. Rockford Files theme, Mike Post teamed up with yet another person to pen this tune. The 1970s detective drama starred James Garner and ran 6 seasons. The theme was Post’s first theme to reach the top ten.

5. Hawaii Five-0. The tune was written by Morton Stevens who also added some episode scores for the original series.  A hit version by the Ventures climbed the pop charts in 1969. The iconic tune was reused for the series reboot that ran from 2010-2020.

4. A few notes in and you will immediately know the music for the spy thriller Mission Impossible. The show is pretty dated now, but still fun to watch. Here Lalo Schifrin plays his famous composition:

3. Law and Order. The various spin-offs all have variations of the original theme. Written by the prolific Mike Post, the theme is well known by now. The original show began in 1990 and ran for twenty years. It was brought back in 2022. The other entries in the franchise mean one or more Law and Order series have been running for decades. The SVU variation can be heard here.

2. Perry Mason theme. For some unknown reason, this did not even make some lists I reviewed. I think it fits the show perfectly. It was reused in a series of Perry Mason movies long after the television series. The TV movies also starred Raymond Burr as the lawyer who never loses.

1. The best television theme was the classic tune by Henry Mancini for Peter Gunn. The private detective series featured jazz music like any good film noir detective movie of the 1950s. The music was also recycled in the Blues Brothers movie. Mancini won an Emmy Award for the music and a Grammy for the album. The original piano player for the 1958 recording was composer and conductor John Williams. Recently at 91 years old, he played piano again for a new recording of the song.

Believe It or Not, Wikipedia
Peter Gunn, Wikipedia 

Next week: Top Television Theme Songs, Comedy Division

Categories: Entertainment, Music, Rich Paschall, Television

Tags: , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. I loved Peter Gunn as a kid and looked forward each week to that music coming on!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello

    He instantly slammed on the brakes and the car stopped in a cloud of dirt

    Any assistance you could give me in this matter would be greatly appreciated



  3. Mike Post was originally a member of (ta da) The Kingston Trio! Pointless trivia is the last remaining pure entertainment on social media 😀

    Liked by 1 person


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