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The 40 Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

November 17, 2008  |  4:25am
The 40 Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

It’s fashionable to lament the state of the TV theme song. Gone are the days when a show’s whole premise was summed up in musical verse before every episode. Now we have Lost and it’s single chord. And though I actually like Lost’s simple spooky chime and have recently highlighted the 12 Best TV Theme Songs From Current Shows, there’s no denying we’re past the golden age of the TV show theme song. Take a look at the following list, and let me know where I’m wrong. I’ve included music without words, but I skipped over shows that used already popularized tunes like “The William Tell Overture” from The Lone Ranger and “Stand” from Get a Life.

40. The Rockford Files – Mike Post and Peter Carpeneter
You might not know the names of Post and Carpenter, but between them they composed theme music for a mind-boggling number of shows including CHiPs, Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Hunter, Hill Street Blues, The Greatest American Hero, Doogie Howser M.D., Quantum Leap and Remington Steele. If you’re in your 30s, you can claim all you want that Prince provided the soundtrack to your childhood—but it was really Mike Post.

39. Sesame Street – Joe Raposo, Jon Stone and Bruce Hart
I’m still reeling a little from discovering just how bad this classic has been butchered in recent seasons (and I was just starting to heal from the fact that everyone can see Snuffleupagus now). But we’re going back to the beginning, when the air was actually clean. Here’s a 1986 version sung by Gladys Knight & The Pips:

38. WKRP in Cincinnati – Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson
For the most part, it’s a standard late-’70s theme song, but then it closes with the magical “WKRP in Cincinnaaaaaati.”

37. The Love Boat – Paul Williams and Charles Fox
It’s a cruise ship so the theme music is supposed to sound like it’s sung by a guy on the ledo deck who dreams of becoming the next Robert Goulet.

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