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The 50 Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

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30. The Beverly Hillbillies
(Paul Henning, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”)
That’s Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs on guitar and banjo, two of the most famous bluegrass musicians of all time. The first time through Jerry Scoggins sings the premise, and then Scruggs goes nuts on banjo. It’s only fitting that such a classic show features the music of such classic musicians. —Josh Jackson

29. The Dukes of Hazzard
(Waylon Jennings, “Good Ol’ Boys”)
The Dukes of Hazzard earned its Southern cred by filming the first few episodes in Georgia and recruiting Waylon Jennings to write and sing the theme song. It was a perfect match—the outlaw country singer telling the story of two good ol’ boys, never meaning’ no harm, who are constantly in trouble with the law. —Josh Jackson

28. Mad Men
(RJD2)
The spiraling “A Beautiful Mine” pulled viewers into the 1960s and the duplicitous world of Don Draper. The theme is at once melodic and discordant, repetitious and distinct, optimistic and pessimistic. The perfect representation for a show that forever changed television. —Amy Amatangelo

27. Barney Miller
(Jack Elliott)
Barney Miller is an example of a show whose theme music might have actually had a more lasting impact than the show itself. Those bass lines are right up there with the ones in the Night Court theme, which of course was also written by Jack Elliot. —Josh Jackson

26. Star Trek:The Next Generation
(Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith)
Combining pieces from Courage’s original Star Trek theme music with Goldsmith’s compositions from the first film, the intro to ST:TNG was, like most every other aspect, an improvement upon the original. (Let the flaming begin!) —Josh Jackson

25. Knight Rider
(Stu Phillips, Glen A. Larson)
The 1980s were all about lovable vigilantes on TV, from Magnum PI to MacGyver to the A-Team. But it was Knight Rider and its free-thinking car that stood apart with its robot synths and addictive tune. It was also the only one that became a Busta Rhymes song. —Matthew Oshinsky

24. The Sopranos
(Alabama 3, “Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One Mix)”
Sometimes there’s no need to write new theme music when you can just use a great existing piece of music that fits perfectly. For The Sopranos, that’s “Woke Up This Morning,” which is still the song we expect to hear every time the HBO title card fades out. —Josh Jackson

23. Golden Girls
(Andrew Gold)
The opening tune for The Golden Girls is as recognizable as the sitcom’s four leading ladies who shared ample amounts of love, heartbreak and laughter in their Miami home. “Thank You for Being a Friend” was originally a 1978 hit by Andrew Gold, but singer Cynthia Fee’s version of the song is a perfect ode to the unbreakable bond between absentminded Rose (Betty White), free-spirited Blanche (Rue McClanahan), quick-witted Dorothy (Bea Arthur) and sharp-tongued Sophia (Estelle Getty). Years later, The Golden Girls theme song still prompts an epic sing-a-long moment and has even inspired a soulful remix on YouTube. —Tai Gooden

22. Curb Your Enthusiasm
(Luciano Michelini, “Frolic”)
You’ve been caught in a trap of your own design. A lifetime of personal etiquette has folded back on itself and bitten you in the ass in a way you could never have expected. There’s only one song that can play now, before the credits roll, and you know it’s “Frolic,” the Luciano Michelini composition that is the calling card for HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and the million-and-a-half creative ways it’s been able to make Larry David lose. —Graham Techler

21. Laverne & Shirley
(Norman Gimbel, Charles Fox, “Making Our Dreams Come True”)
The show was a spin-off of Happy Days—a theme song that could have made this list in its own right—and the theme was composed by the same team of Gimbel and Fox. For the record, it’s “Schlemiel (“a habitual bungler”), schlemazel (“an extremely unlucky or inept person”), Hasenfeffer (“rabbit stew”) Incorporated,” and that’s one-hit wonder Cyndi Grecco singing. —Josh Jackson

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