The Best TV Show Theme Songs of All Time
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The Best TV Show Theme Songs of All Time

The Best TV Show Theme Songs of All Time

It’s Frasier Week at IndieWire. Grab some tossed salad and scrambled eggs, settle into your coziest easy chair, and join us. We’re listening.

Finish these sentences. (1) “Now, this is a story all about how…” (2) “They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re all together…” (3) “Mom and Dad and Vicky always giving him…” (4) “Who’s that girl? It’s…“ (5) “Hey baby, I heard the blues a callin’…” 

The best TV theme songs simultaneously stick in our brains and serve as chapter markers for the shows we love, both compelling us to keep knocking back more episodes and subtly organizing our thoughts about the many stories in the series they anchor. Some themes hang with us for the worse; what ’90s parent didn’t have “Elmo’s World” burned into their brain? Some others are memorable for their intensely enjoyable earworm qualities; see “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Green Acres” for details. Others still are permanent fixtures in the pop culture soundscape because they land somewhere in the middle; “My Mother the Car” is a fascinating oddity, for good and bad, and the “Jeopardy!” theme can never and will never be killed.

By hooking audience attention with a catchy tune, small screen creatives are able to set the stage for the journeys they want to take us on over and over again. Selecting a popular pre-existing song with lyrics relevant to your work can be especially effective, as with Alabama 3’s “Woke Up This Morning” as heard on the “The Sopranos.” But it can also backfire, as with “Orange Is the New Black” and Regina Spektor’s no longer pitch-perfect “You’ve Got Time,” which mutated from a quirky theme enjoyed by early Netflix advocates to reason enough for the platform to develop the “skip credits” button.

It’s a gargantuan task trying to pick the best TV theme songs of all time. So this list breaks the challenge down into categories, highlighting some of the most memorable choices for various genres and stand-out songs in specific circumstances. Only one category will take songs that already existed outside of television development before becoming theme songs into consideration and plenty of honorable mentions (including shows with theme songs that are more iconic than “good”) have been added.

In honor of IndieWire’s Frasier Week — and all those tossed salads and scrambled eggs — here are some of the best TV themes ever written.

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