So, okay, what's the best TV theme song ever?
My answer to that question is boringly conventional, but really, no matter how many times I try to think about it, it always comes down to one show and one only: "Hawaii Five-0." That Mort Stevens theme just grabs you like no other TV theme song; it has so much action and suspense built into the music, and such a satisfying ending, that the episode always seemed like a letdown by comparison. It helps that the title sequence, by Reza Badiyi, basically revolutionized TV title sequences. (Badiyi was also the one who came up with the idea for Mary Tyler Moore to throw her hat in the air.)
My other choices are equally conventional: "The Addams Family" (Vic Mizzy), "The Rockford Files" (Mike Post and Pete Carpenter), "Mission Impossible" (Lalo Schifrin).
In the "catchy song with lyrics that explain the premise" category," my top two are "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Paul Henning) and "The Nanny" (Ann Hampton Callaway). Both of them do an amazing job of summing up rather convoluted premises, and making them sound perfectly comprehensible, in as few words as possible.
I also have a great fondness for the theme song of "Phyllis", with lyrics by series co-creator Stan Daniels: an absolutely dead-on parody of Jerry Herman with a great punchline ("It sure isn't yoooouuuu").
Your nominations in the "best" category?
Addendum: I don't know what to make of this, but I saw someone nominate "Angie" as one of the best theme songs ever -- and I was considering including the song (which was a top 40 hit at the time) on my "worst" list. Maybe I'm just not hip to the magic of Norman Gimbel, but anyway, You be the judge. ("Angie," by the way, was one of the better shows to come out of the Miller-Milkis-Boyett fiefdom in the late '70s and early '80s, but it fell victim to constant re-tooling and schedule changes and was off the air within two years.)
Update: A few more "best" nominations from the comments:
- "Gidget" (Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller)
- "Maude" (David Shire and Alan & Marilyn Bergman)
- "The Green Hornet" (Billy May)
- "The Patty Duke Show" (music by Sid Ramin, better-known as a great Broadway orchestrator for shows like West Side Story and Gypsy)
Update 2: Tor Harbin notes that John Williams's theme for "Amazing Stories" (and the accompanying title sequence with Ray Walston as the storyteller) is another example of the theme song being better than the show.