10 Greatest TV Themes of All Time

Categories: Lists

The Adventures of Pete & Pete

I'd hate to go on a "check your privilege" tangent reminiscent of a social justice Tumblrer, but it's important to realize that not everyone had cable in the '90s, so nostalgia for Nickelodeon programming from that decade is not some kind of universal thing.

However, since most people have access to those shows in the present day due to either Netflix, torrenting, or those cable channels that only broadcast this kind of stuff, '90s Nickelodeon is generally viewed as a treasured memory of a period long gone, or a cultural artifact that is surprisingly relevant to the interests of hip people in the 2010s.
While Nickelodeon collaborated with people like Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo and Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider of the B-52s for theme music to some of their cartoon programming, I think my favorite theme song from the network's supposed golden age is "Hey Sandy" by Polaris as seen on The Adventures of Pete & Pete.

The song captures the jam-bandish, slacker-rock vibe that I sort of remember from music from my '90s childhood and seek out extensively from music in my adult life. Also, the way I cannot tell you what the song is about compliments how I honestly can't tell you what the show was about without digging it up on the Internet. -- Mike Bogumill

Mad Men

I love when a show has a good opening theme, but it doesn't really determine how much I'll actually like the show itself. I've been putting up with The League's obnoxious arena anthem for three seasons and it still hasn't ruined anything. I routinely get the Family Matters theme stuck in my head (I think it's uplifting and harmonious, okay?), but I'm way past even ironic viewings of Urkle's antics.

Another example: I equally adore NBC's two biggest comedies, 30 Rock and Parks and Rec. I've always hated the over-orchestrated jazzy-mattazz trombone mess of 30 Rock's theme, and I've always liked the perky colonial march of Parks' theme. Regardless, I've watched every episode of each show at least twice. I think the best thing an opening theme can do is just avoid being annoying.

The opening theme for AMC's Mad Men is an edit of the contemporary yet vintage-sounding RJD2 instrumental "A Beautiful Mine," featuring the kind of exquisite drum fills you just won't find on network television. It kind of sounds like an orchestral Clinic remix by Timbaland. It invokes context-appropriate but still boring adjectives like "seductive" and "mysterious." Most importantly, I would not mind falling asleep to it. -- Chase Kamp


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23 comments
WeWhoEat
WeWhoEat

Am I the only one that's completely shocked that this list contains nothing (save taxi) from the golden era of TV themes; the 70s?  Hawaii 5-0, SWAT, Streets of San Francisco, Dallas just to name a few.  Although not from that era, but definitely along the same lines are Hill Street Blues and Cheers and Miami Vice.  Those themes hit you with impact and you enjoyed every moment of the opening credits; they were nearly as much an experience as the show was.

Robden Brethauer
Robden Brethauer

Dallas, Boston Legal, The Sopranos and The Dukes of Hazzard!

Leah Miller
Leah Miller

Nanny and the professor - look it up!

Brad West
Brad West

Sledge Hammer! or the original Lalo Schrifin Starsky & Hutchison.

Natalie Gossen
Natalie Gossen

Why the heck was Fresh Prince of Bel-Air not listed?

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

You missed Movin' On Up from the Jeffersons.

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