It suddenly struck me, as my son was watching episodes of Top Gear that we have recorded from BBC3, that if Clarkson, Hammond and May go on to produce this spin-off car show, it won’t have the proper theme tune.
Now, I firmly believe that Top Gear can carry on perfectly happily without Jeremy. But the music? Forget it.
This realisation forced me to consider the importance of the theme tune to the success of a television programme. I wrote a blog recently about the ITV drama Home Fires. Whilst researching it, I was surprised by the amount of viewers who had commented on the choral score which accompanies the series. The music has been resoundingly popular and really makes the whole piece special.
The tune which book-ends the production shouldn’t make a significant difference to a programme, but somehow it really does. It’s one of the reasons why viewers get so annoyed with the ubiquitous trailers that interrupt the end credits.
So, here are some of my favourite theme tunes, without which, the programme just wouldn’t be the same:
I love this detective drama. The writing, acting and direction are superb and yet, without Barrington Pheloung’s score, which even included the piece of ‘Morse code’ at the start, it just wouldn’t have been the same.
Cagney and Lacey
I was too young to watch this gritty New York cop show when it first came out and had to go straight to bed after the theme tune, which is probably why it is so evocative for me! But I’ve watched all the re-runs since and although Tyne Daley and Sharon Gless absolutely owned the series with their terrific performances, it’s still that music which resonates with me.
The Onedin Line
Now, I really am too young for this, but I still know the theme tune and it sends a shiver down my spine whenever I hear it, which is exactly the effect I’m talking about.
Blackadder (Series 2-4)
The less said about series 1 the better, but the theme tune for the rest of the outings somehow fitted Curtis and Elton’s comedy perfectly. I loved the way the theme was modified to fit the historical period of each different series and the musical interpretation for the last series, ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, was inspired. But who could ever forget that haunting final sequence, when the soldiers go over the top? Showing that sometimes, silence can be the most powerful accompaniment of all…
Perhaps because it was the decade of my television watching youth, the eighties seemed to be jam packed full of memorable themes from the ‘A’ Team and ‘Chips’ through to ‘Dallas’, ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Howard’s Way’. I’m sure there are many more. in several of these cases, the music was far greater than the programme itself! But I stick by my theory, unscientific as it is, that if you take a great theme tune away from a good show, it will seriously struggle to survive.