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?) .