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Articles > Entertainment March, 03, 2020

The Sudden Disappearance of the TV Theme Tunes

Jonny Mullan
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Whatever happened to TV theme tunes? Seriously, where did they all go?  It seems like decades ago that every TV show came with a catchy song to accompany the opening or closing credits. Friends had “I’ll Be There for You”. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had its funky rap song. Even Fraiser had its tossed salad and scrambled eggs. But recently, there seems to be a significant deficiency in this department. Did Hollywood cull all of its theme song writers?

Even movies seem to have been ditching the theme tunes which once made them so iconic. What was the last movie you saw with a standout soundtrack? The only ones I can remember from the last five years are all instalments of series that have already been established for years. Mission: Impossible 5, Star Wars Episode 9, Jurassic World, (James Bond:) Spectre.

It’s really telling that the most memorable OST that won Best Soundtrack at the Academy Awards in the last ten years came from Up, an animated movie for children. Is this really where the soundtrack budget has ended up; being wasted on a children’s movie?

And I’m not excusing the dark and sinister melody line. That does not suffice. How To Get Away With Murder, Quantico and Riverdale all fall deep into this trap. At least whenever shows did this ten years ago, the melody line was actually good. ER had a topical, instantly recognisable tune to it; whenever I’d hear that one from my bedroom, I always knew I could count on going into the front room to see a man’s arm being lopped off by a helicopter blade (or something equally as dramatic).

Alias‘ theme tune wasn’t anything ground-breaking, but at least it was catchy. When everything sounds the same, how are we supposed to tell them apart? Someone, please inform me why producers don’t get this anymore. The thing that really gets me is that the minds behind the best shows sign off on these now-identical jingles. Which producer of Stranger Things decided that its soundtrack needed to sound just like every other Breaking Bad and Westworld out there?

I also don’t think I’m ever going to be able to remember the names of the actors from these shows either. I’ve watched Shameless nearly every day for the last three months and I don’t know a single name of any of the actors, but I can rhyme off every actor in every season of Gilmore Girls. Do you know why? Because of the theme song.

Some TV shows however, have been attempting to bring back this beloved genre I’ve noticed. How I Met Your Mother tried and failed. “Baa baa baa baa” does not equal quirky, no matter how hard you might try. Pretty Little Liars also tried but ended up with a whiny girl singing over a music box that gave me a headache. At least that one was recognisable, albeit for the wrong reasons.

The final nail in the coffin for me was when I was watching an old Friends episode on Netflix and it gave me the option to skip the into. SKIP the into?! Are you serious? I would like to sit here and remember one of TV’s best theme tunes, thank you very much. Goodness knows whenever a better one will finally appear.

I’m not saying that TV shows should go big-budget and employ people to write something original. Just do what Chuck did and borrow a song that already exists. Either way, please just give me something memorable and entertaining!

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