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As Seen On TV: Theme Songs

Posted by purplemary54 on January 16, 2013

I’ve already gone on the record about my love of television theme songs.  I hate that the need for greater and new advertising revenues has basically killed one of the late 20th century’s greatest, and most concise, art forms.  The news today of the death of 70s and 80s sitcom star Conrad Bain got me thinking again about the great heyday of TV themes.

Diff’rent Strokes was not a great show, but it had one of the more catchy themes of the time.  Alan Thicke (best known these days as the father of R&B singer Robin Thicke) co-wrote and performed many themes for sitcoms in the late 70s-early 80s with his then wife Gloria Loring (best known these days as the mother of R&B singer Robin Thicke).

The TV theme song years were dominated by Mike Post, arguably the greatest TV theme writer ever.  His themes, in addition to being concise introductions to the basic mood or plot of their shows, were also Top Forty hits.  One of my favorites was “Believe It or Not,” which was the theme to The Greatest American Hero, a middling superhero show that featured William Katt (who rose to fame as Broadway’s Pippen) and Robert Culp (if you don’t know who he was, shame on you, but here’s a link, anyway).  Joey Scarbury had his one hit performing what was actually a pretty decent pop song.

But probably Mike Post’s best theme was for The Rockford Files.  You could make a case for the melancholy theme to Hill Street Blues, but I always preferred Rockford.  Maybe because I liked the show better; James Garner was absolutely iconic as the sarcastic and beleaguered private detective.  (A couple of years ago there were rumors of a new version, but luckily nothing happened.  I hope they never remake it.)  The show always opened with an answering message for Jim Rockford–yet another bit of bad luck coming his way–and then the music.

I still find myself humming this theme occasionally, a piece of my childhood I don’t ever want to let go of.  A local station is airing The Rockford Files weekdays, so I get to enjoy it still.


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