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Television theme songs are carefully crafted to bring the essence of the show forward. After all, it's the viewer's first impression of the show.
In the Seventies, producers were afraid to tinker too much with their hit series, even if the audience was starting to defect - just slap a new coat of paint on the set, jazz up the theme song, and see if that helps.
Room 222 (centering around Walt Whitman High School's students and faculty) debuted in 1969, and was television's first reality-based 'relevant' situation comedy. By 1973, Room 222 had been on the air for four years, and was starting to get a little long in the tooth, now the same bunch of high school kids was back again for a fifth year! How to keep the show fresh? Jazz up the theme song with one of those new (in the 70's) synthesizers and a horn section. Here's the second theme for comparison. Both themes are meant to remind you of high school band practice.
Make Room for Grandaddy brought Danny Thomas and his Make Room for Daddy family back to television in 1970, they had been gone since 1964. All of the regulars were back, including Rusty and Linda (Angela Cartwright just returned from being 'Lost in Space' for three years). Rosie Grier joined the cast for a little color balance. Listen to how overblown this theme for Make Room for Grandaddy is, they threw everything in there, sounds like George Washington crossing the Delaware at one point!
Meanwhile, Danny's daughter Marlo Thomas (aka - That Girl) was losing her audience in 1970, so ABC gave her a new Friday night timeslot, and some lyrics for her theme song. Maybe it was adding lyrics to the theme that killed the show - everyone had made up they're own minds who Anne Marie was, they didn't need the theme song in year five to tell them! "She's everything that every girl should be" indeed, I don't think so! Father and daughter were both off the air by next fall.
Did you know that there were 4 Brady Bunch Theme songs? It started out being sung by The Peppermint Trolley Company for the first season, the second season found the cast recording the theme.
Quinn Martin produced shows always had great theme songs. And they always had announcers that read off a list of unknown guest-stars that each show was packed with. Twenty five years later, the majority of the actors who guested on these shows ('Barnaby Jones', The FBI', 'The Invaders') are STILL unknowns! Cannon, the adventures of a massively overweight detective (William Conrad), had a great pop-art opening and a jazzy theme song, probably the only theme that features a tuba as the primary instrument (for obvious reasons). In 1976, Cannon got a new theme song, disco-ed up and now featuring a tuba explosion. The new theme might remind you of a marching band parading through your living room to a disco beat.
more for you sometime. Any ideas?
"I enjoyed your piece on TV theme updates. I, too, have always been fascinated by this 60s/70s phenomenon. May I add two small bits of information: The first-season "Brady Bunch" theme was performed by a group of singers known as "The Peppermint Trolley Company". And in the case of the lyrics-version of "That Girl", can you identify the male singers? They are none other than John and Tom Bahler, two of the real-life backup singers for the Partridge Family studio musicians. The Bahler brothers, who actually had a bonafide recording group named The Love Generation, also sang the "Love, American Style" theme."
"Speaking of "Love,American Style", how about when Paramount used The Cowsills for the theme song originally, but then fired them, switched to basically a bunch of hired singers they called The Charles Fox Singers or some such rot...
"Or when "Barney Miller" added the SCREAMING lead guitar in that theme for the last couple of seasons? Or when "Cheers" cut out the lyrics to "Everybody Knows Your Name",and started using just the chorus? Or when "Star Trek" STARTED with a straight orchestral version of the theme [and early on there a couple of versions of THAT too!], then for season Two,added the 'vocal' version, then when SAG or somebody decided that was an ACTING role and subject to residuals, they went back to an orchestral verson for Season Three?"
- L Sherwood
"Speaking of theme songs, I noticed that you dont have a theme song for "The Saint".
I remember that the series was in black in white, and later in color, but interesting enough the show had THREE DISTINCT THEME SONGS. The first was the black and white version (heard on 'Televisions Greatest Hits' Volume Two) the second was the more familiar theme (the rock group ORBITAL adapted Edwin Astley's Theme song the best), and the third was a more lightly styled theme, with a more echoed effect to it with a smattering of trumpets and vocal ecohes in the background. The latter is the unheard theme and is hard to find anywhere. If you can find it that would be appreciated. The opening credits and the closing credits were eyecatching and would have been appropriate for the theatrical version of THE SAINT with Val Kilmer, ( the 90s wouldnt allow it).
As a suggestion (without infringing on copyrights) is to show through Real Video the original opening credits and closing credits for some of the most eyecatching title sequences ever made on television. I SPY is a good one, The SAINT, Mission Impossible, It Takes a Thief, The Avengers, Cabe's County (starring Glenn Ford), The Invaders, or....hey the list is too long.......you got a better grasp on the tv scene."
"Space: 1999", both by Barry Gray, who the Andersons, Gerry and Sylvia tapped for their shows. The first season featured a trebly, fuzz guitar, with orchestral bursts. The second season debuted the better theme, with the synthesizer lead and orchestral backing. Entirely different song, too!
"Alice" had Linda Lavin constantly re-recording the theme song, even changing lyrics by the time that Diane Ladd joined the show. At first, the song ended by having her say she was, "gonna stay awhile (fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh fuhmmmmm)". By the end of the run, "life's gonna be so swe-e-eeeet!".
"These Friends Of Mine" had a pleasant enough instrumental theme, but was eventually retooled into "Ellen" with Ellen DeGeneres talking over music and the lack of credits or catchy visuals.
"Twilight Zone" went through several themes, one by the great composer Bernard Herrmann, which was used for the first season. The second season theme (the more famous one) was by Marius Constant and was NOT composed specifically for the show for he had not seen it. According to John Vonde, writer of the liner notes for the TZ soundtracks, it was submitted as part of a contest.
"Gilligan's Island" was made over due to a complaint, because the other members of the cast didn't wish to be referred to as "...and the rest", so the second version distinctly says, "The Professor and Mary Ann...". I believe that the first version of the theme feature a pedal steel guitar and the second one didn't. The Wellingtons, the singers of the theme, actually showed up on the show as a parody of the Beatles, the Mosquitoes.
"The Avengers" first featured an entirely different theme by Johnny Dankworth, during the Ian Hendry and Cathy Gale years and then switched over to the more familiar theme by Laurie Johnson.
"The Virginian" changed it's name to "The Men From Shiloh" and the theme to that features nothing less than whipcracks!
- Brian Phillips
"How about the opening music for "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?"
"They kept the same original theme composed by Jerry Goldsmith but each year it had a new arrangement.
"First Season: the original bold, brassy version with kettle drums
"Second season: the attempt-to-be-hip flute and bongos version
"Third Season: another attempt to be hip w/organ and wailing sax
"Fourth Season: back-to-square-one bold and brassy but now up-tempo
"And of course, the show was canceled in midseason year four, part of the demise being that the producers and NBC couldn't stick with a personality and sound for the spy show from season to season. For my money, the best season was year one. Those episodes had the right dramatic personality and man, they looked GOOD in black and white, just like the Fugitive and Route 66 shows did. When they went to color, things just started looking cheesy."
"After marvelling over the page, a few others started to come to mind. Maybe a little less conspicuous than those you've cited, but I offer these anyway.
"The Beatles cartoon show In the '65-'66 season the old Saturday morning Beatles cartoon opened with "A Hard Day's Night," the title song from their successful movie of 1964. This also ended the show. In the '66-'67 season the opening was changed to use the song "Help" -- the title song from their successful movie of 1965! If they'd kept the show on the air and continued the use of the previous year's movie theme we'd have heard "Yellow Submarine" on Saturday mornings in '68, and "Let it Be" by '71. Not the sort of thing that's going to sell a lot of Trix!
"All in the Family- I'm pretty sure that Archie and Edith Bunker's rendition of "Those Were the Days" was re-recorded at one point to clarify some of the lyrics, namely the "boy, our old LaSalle ran great" line. (For some reason I'm under the impression that the song was taped even thought the show was live.) (EDITOR'S NOTE: it was re-recorded each new season - yes, they did conciously clarify those lyrics in later versions.)
Bewitched - They added a new ending to the final theme. This was right at the end of the credits, just before the Screen Gems slide went up. The first season's black and white shows had kind of a mellow, quick ending, but after the shows went to color they added some stuff, at least an extra 4 measures. It was this very upbeat, brassy passage with a lot of synchopated high-hat work that ended in a big "stinger" ending. Very stirring!
The Dick Van Dyke Show - This one's pretty well known. The first season's opening credits were rather economical, with no live action video or voiceover. The sparse visuals were accompanied by a subset of the theme song that joltingly switched between periods of brassy melody (heard behind still images from the show) and fierce percussion (heard while blank slides with the stars' names appeared on screen). The famous tripping-over-the-ottoman opening was added in the second year, along with the announcer's voiceover and the familiar theme, as also played during the closing credits.
The Bob Newhart Show ('70's version) The original opening, a clean, sophisticated toe-tapper, was drastically redone in later years. Vaguely based on the original, the new theme was a jazzy thing with far broader dynamic range, many breaks, and lots of brass. Altogether probably better suited to a comedy, but less hummable than the old one."
- Jack Allen
How about in "BONANZA" when they replaced the opening (the "burning map" opening) and theme in the first to last season with a completely different opening and theme. But viewers complained, so for the last season they went back to the original, classic theme and the classic "burning map" opening.
- Joe Kienlen
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