Thursday, June 14, 2007

TV Themes Shouldn't Sound Hip

Did you notice that in the '60s and '70s, there was a tendency for shows to change the arrangements of their theme songs to fit in with changing musical trends? And that this usually made the theme songs worse, not better?

Take The Patty Duke Show. The theme song is one of the most famous of the entire "song with lyrics that explain the whole premise" genre. The music is by Sid Ramin, who was a bandleader as well as the orchestrator for Broadway shows like West Side Story and Gypsy, and the first season's arrangement stuck to Ramin's big-band sound:



But then they rearranged the song to make it sound a little hipper and with a little bit more of a '60s beat -- and I don't think it fits as well; the music and the song are just too square (in a good way) for an orchestral backup that sounds like it was brought over from Batman.



And then there's The Bob Newhart Show. I like Lorenzo and Henrietta's original theme, from the first three seasons, much better than the disco-ish version they used for the last three seasons:



Are there any shows you can think of where they re-arranged the theme to make it sound more contemporary, and it actually worked better?

11 comments:

Anthony Strand said...

Oh, man. I forgot that later version of the Bob Newhart Show theme existed. Although, it is kind of appropriate that with Bob going to work instead of returning, the theme is no longer truly "Home to Emily".

Michael Jones said...

I could never get a handle on that "identical cousins" concept but I guess it's difficult to rhyme doppelganger in a theme song.
Grudge Match suggestion: Bob Newhart vs Frasier Crane...

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Grudge Match suggestion: Bob Newhart vs Frasier Crane...

That one has already been done on WWWF Grudge Match (tm).

Anonymous said...

For Quantum Leap Season 5, they tried to make the theme funkier and more exciting than the original slow-paced theme. I was against the change at first but I'm more ok with it now.

peralazic said...

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Robert said...

Not sure if it fits the parameters of "contemporary", but John Williams redoing the themes for the third season of LOST IN SPACE and the second season of LAND OF THE GIANTS probably counts...

The Eddie Albert/Robert Wagner show SWITCH had a theme by Stu Phillips/Glen Larson that was contemporized for the last couple seasons of the show (I think it lasted 3-4 years, if memory serves... the first season, the theme and title sequence were more whimisical, playing up the comedy aspects. When the theme was contemporized, the emphasis was on 'action').

Mark Snow's "hip" theme for STARSKY AND HUTCH, replacing Lalo Schifrin's original...

That whole concept was sort of parodied in the opening of HARD KNOCKS, where the 'original' opening, with soft music playing over the leads romping in the park is violently rejected by the Producer (Chris Thomas... it was the show he did after BOSOM BUDDIES) and replaced with fast surf music playing over shots of STAR TREK's Enterprise, babes in bikinis, and explosions.

Robert said...

Why tell, when you can show...

Lost In Space - Seasons 1 & 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hOJ4NI4dKo

Season 3:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVKtSlqJx94

Land of the Giants - Season 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaAJ7nqwMSU

Season 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9_9weSfasI

Couldn't find clips for either SWITCH or HARD KNOCKS... but STARSKY AND HUTCH was interesting.

Season 1, with the Schifrin theme:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtS6ZXe9vrs

Season 2, with the 'hip' theme by Mark Snow (probably the one that people remember):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnyUjnoICnI

Season 3 - another theme change, one which I didn't remember:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRkvPJndRB8

and Season 4 has a return to the Season 2 theme in a different arrangement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPcYmRAhfNk

Buzz said...

THE MUNSTERS went from standard quality TV theme music to a rockin' instrumental classic in their second season when they ditched the tubas and plugged in the electric guitars.

John said...

Columbia/Screen Gems for the 1965-67 period was interesting. Their themes in the years prior to that were either sedate with non-threatening lush instrumentals and/or John Seely Capitol Records stock music licensed and reworked. Nothing wrong with that, but in 1965 the studio contracted with Don Kirshner in the wake of the success of The Beatles to put together a musical sitcom that turned out to be The Monkees.

Kirshner also began receiving a credit as "Musical Consultant" on all other Screen Gems TV shows at the end of 1965, and it was also around that time there were some major changes in the themes. The sedate first-season theme for "Bewitched" was scuttled, the Seely score for "The Donna Reed Show" was jazzed up, and the themes for "The Farmer's Daughter", "Hazel" and "I Dream of Jeanie" (the later in 1966) were tossed out entirely in favor of new arrangements. I don't know how much of a role, if any, Kirshner had in those moves, but his hiring was an effort by Screen Gems to "stay hip" with its series' music.

I actually like the final season "Donna Reed" theme better than the original Season 1 music, which was sedate enough to cure insomnia, while I thought Season 2's "Bewitched" theme fit better with the increasingly fast pace of the show (though the further adjustments when the series went to color in Season 3 and onward were steps downhill).

Anonymous said...

The jazzed-up version of the Leave It to Beaver theme from its final season (1962-1963). The swinging (early) 60s theme seemed like it was maturing along with the Beav -- a far cry from the gentle kiddie arrangement of its earlier seasons.

I always liked the Wings end theme from season 3 onward.

Ivan G said...

I always liked the Wings end theme from season 3 onward.

I have to dissent on this one. I liked Wings' original arrangement, much as I also like the classical music themes of Fawlty Towers and Waiting for God.