Theme tune

While suffering through the blaring emptiness of the Torchwood theme tune the other day (my wife watches it, while I find something more fun to do, like scrubbing the inside of the oven), and mentally comparing it to the haunting majesty of the Doctor Who theme tune, I started wondering – when did programme makers forget how to write decent music for their shows?

When I think back to shows I enjoyed from my childhood, the music comes immediately to mind, and was part of the experience, creating an ambiance and getting you in the mood. While there’s no denying that the music for, say ER, is atmospheric, dramatic, and so on, it’s not nearly as hummable as Casualty, now is it? Or am I just watching the wrong shows these days? Are there great theme tunes out there that I’m missing out on? Thoughts like these keep me awake at night, as you can no doubt imagine.

A good theme tune can get your pulse racing even when the content of the programme itself is of little or no interest to you. There are many theme tunes to 1970s British sports shows that I remember vividly, such as the stirring Ski Sunday music.

Some are frankly bizarre – would you associate a genteel game like snooker with this kind of music? Or the even more genteel sport of cricket with this (no picture on this one, for some reason…)? And yet those games are always associated with that music in my mind.

This isn’t just a British phenomenon either. Ask any Italian of a certain age about the cartoons they watched in their youth, and they’ll no doubt launch immediately into a stirring rendition of the opening songs from Heidi, Candy Candy, or L’Ape Maia (not actually an ape – “ape” in Italian means “bee”. I wonder if “Bee Movie” was called “Ape Movie” in Italy?) .


7 thoughts on “Theme tune

  1. rasman1978 March 5, 2008 / 1:24 pm

    I love Massive Attack’s Teardrop, which is the theme song to House in the US. For some strange reason, probably related to licensing legalese, the theme song is completely different when they broadcast it in Spain.

    I wonder how much weight the theme song chooser people put on ‘hummability’.

    The Simpsons is a good example of a show with a ‘hummable’ theme song.

    I have no doubt that when the children born in the 90’s get to your age, they’ll be complaining about the same thing.


  2. paola March 5, 2008 / 2:49 pm

    I think you are getting old and your taste in music has become oh-so-passé. I bet youngsters these days love the torchwood tune. Besides, what’s wrong with it? I like it… Paola


  3. Karen MEG (Pomtini) March 5, 2008 / 3:17 pm

    That theme song is a tad annoying, isn’t it? Not exactly hummable. I remember so many from sitcoms when I was a kid, they’re all swirling around my head right now. Shows like the Brady bunch, Happy Days, Get Smart, even. Nowadays I mostly hear (and hum) the Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer.
    Nowadays, it’s harder. Case in point … the Seinfeld them song. Hard to make that weird popping sound … what is it anyway? Unless of course it’s an actual song.
    You make a good point that the theme song somehow winds its way into your subconscious without you realizing it. It would be interesting to know how much time is spent on that portion fo the production value.


  4. rasman1978 March 5, 2008 / 3:54 pm

    I dunno, Karen, I think the slap bass part of the SeinfelId theme is hummable. Listen to it a half dozen times and see if you don’t come out humming.

    I agree with Paola, and I suspect that Grandpa Litton’s Simon’s “when I was your age” rants will only get more frequent.



  5. simonlitton March 5, 2008 / 4:38 pm

    Kids today – you just don’t get it, do you? Show some respect! It wasn’t like this in my day. Music’s too loud these days, too.
    I need a nap…


  6. tinafrench March 8, 2008 / 4:32 am

    The Doctor Who theme song: chills, as always.


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