There is nothing, literally nothing, like a good TV theme. There was a time when TV shows prided themselves on the production of a catchy “lyric” or “jingle” to announce with pride that this was another installment of your favorite weekly programme.
Of course, that was before corporate greed set in you’re now lucky if you get the credits of the production team involved before the first ad break has arrived. This was a golden age, when families gathered around the television on a weekly basis, long before iPlayers and Netflix made it virtually impossible to miss your favorite television.
You had one chance, maybe two if you were very lucky, to catch the stories and the events of the week before they were simply over and done with until the same time, same channel, next week.
In this list we pay tribute to a series of TV themes which, quite literally, rocked our world and are now just distant memories. They stood for the announcement that it was time to see another episode of your favorite show and, years later, still play in our head upon command. They’re the kind of tune you can bring up on YouTube, play at full volume and just feel all magical about, remembering a simple time when everyone sat around and watched that favorite programme on an evening and nobody just put their headphones in and used a laptop instead. Let’s see what’s on…
Going For Gold (1987)
Yet to be recognized by the IOC as an official participatory event, many of us old enough to remember classic daytime television will no doubt be delighted by the addition of this, a true programme of Olympic magnitude to the list.
With a theme composed by Hans Zimmer (bet you didn’t know that) ‘Going for Gold’ was originally aired by the BBC between 1987 and 1996. It’s premise of 7 English speaking contestants, each representing their respective regions, allowed for a battle of both nationalistic pride and fierce loyalty. Since you could only have someone totally neutral present such a programme, the host was none other than Irishman Henry Kelly, who (for my money) was the finest Irishman to present on BBC programming since the late Terry Wogan. But that’s just my nationalistic pride showing.
The theme itself is a very simple and completely dated retro ‘pop’ song which doesn’t do much except describe the situation. But it’s catchy, it’s 80’s and it’s got a quality about it that makes you want to define nostalgia. I defy you to take a listen and not find it the catchiest thing you’ve listed too all day – before you’ve heard what else we have coming up, of course!
Are you surprised? Seriously? If you’re looking at this and DON’T know the Blockbuster’s theme tune then I’m sorry to say it’s been a deprived life you’ve led. However, I am extremely pleased to be the person with the honor of introducing you to one of the finest theme tunes you’re ever likely to hear.
I’m really not sure whether the UK video chain Blockbusters named their franchise after this show (the first Blockbuster LLC stores opened in Texas in 1985 so that’s probably not very likely) but regardless this was an insanely popular show that quite literally brought families together. Hosted by veteran actor the late Bob Holness (the first man to play James Bond, don’t you know) this show usually pitted two individuals against a single opponent in a quiz show not unlike tic tac toe where the objective was for players to cross the board with right answers.
But you don’t really care about the rules, not with such classic moments as “I’d like a P please Bob” and the fact that the BBC Proms once played this theme tune live on television at the Royal Albert Hall! Blockbusters was relaunched by Challenge after somewhat of a hiatus, with Simon Mayo as presenter, although it failed (at time of writing) to have more than a single season. I’m only mentioning it because you might like to know I auditioned personally to be on the programme, thus attempting to fulfill a lifetime ambition, but was sorely unsuccessful in gaining a spot. I’m not saying that’s why the programme didn’t catch on, but let’s face it, can’t have helped them.
OK guys, and curious girls, this is obviously a big deal. Who couldn’t have been swayed by the sight of Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, Donna D’ Errico, Traci Bingham, Nancy Valen and Gena Lee Nolin running across that beach to save the injured? You have to imagine that David Hasselhoff, quite literally, got the best job in the world the day he was cast in Baywatch. But all of that pales in comparison to the theme.
Baywatch only officially picked “I’ll Be Ready” as their official theme from the start of the third season, despite the popular belief it was the only theme tune the show ever had, sung by none other than Jimi “Eye of the Tiger” Jamison from the band Survivor.
The studio version of Jimi’s song features on the 1999 album Empires, though sadly that wasn’t as well received, I’ve always found the most magical part of the song is the keyboard solo and if you believe this is just a classic case of the Americans doing it bigger and better than anywhere else, you’d probably be right.
The lyrics are inspiring and evoke a sense of just wanting to go out and save someone to be honest I think US army recruitment officers should just play this track outside their offices and throughout their barracks and that would be the only inspiration you’d ever need. Then I guess David was upset that they never asked to use ‘Freedom’ either….
The Liverpudlian soap Brookside first appeared on our screens in 1982, bringing us the trials and tribulations of the long suffering residents of Brookside Close, a typical middle class cul-de-sac filled with rather foul mouthed and obnoxious people eager to kick off at the slightest agitation.
Launched before Eastenders (which itself first aired in 1985) to create a more “working class” answer to Coronation Street, it was an atypical 80s soap and it’s theme (obviously very synthesized and written by composers Steve Wright and Dave Roylance) reflected the nature of it’s beginnings. Even when it changed in 1991 to reflect a more ‘modern’ sound it still held that classic tone and hadn’t axed anything the fans knew or loved about it.
While Brookside gained a massive following throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s (with that infamous pre-lesbian watershed kiss in 1994, the incestuous relationship of 96 and the idea of a man selling drugs to children) it was thought the soap would be a main contender against the likes of it’s more big budgeted rivals. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and the show was axed in 2003. However it retains a cult following and several episodes of the show are still available (so I’m informed) on More 4 for your viewing pleasure. If you’d like to blame anyone, I’ve got just one word for you; Hollyoaks.
The Bill (1984)
When the Bill finished it’s final story in 2010, many felt disheartened, with the show having stood for everything and everyone. The antics of Sun Hill police had been legendary for almost three decades and it was as much a staple of UK television as that bowl of cereal you had for Breakfast in the morning.
And, as good as the show was, nothing could replace the classic (late 80s) version of the show’s theme tune accompanied onscreen by the closing titles and the shot of both a male and female police officer “walking the beat” upon the cobbles. And, yes, while this list is about the opening theme tunes of programmes the Bill’s closing tune was almost identical to it’s opener so I’m going to let it slide. The 88′ theme was composed by Andy Pask and Charlie Morgan, scrapped in 1998 for something that felt a bit more “jazzy” and current, though if you ask me – and many often do – the strengths of a long standing show remain in the familiar nature audiences share with it’s theme tune.
It seem’s there’s just no account for taste, although the fact I can remember playing this stupid game with my younger brother involving hiding from the television because we’d “forgotten to pay the Bill” (being Irish, we didn’t understand the meaning of the word in a Police sense) is clearly indicative of the effects the show had on both ourselves and our long suffering parents.
Based on the US TV show of the same name, the UK version of Funhouse aired for 10 years on CITV and was presented by Pat Sharpe. There was once a rumor, started on Wikipedia, that Jeremy Kyle presented a week of the programme in 1993 when Pat was on holiday. I’ve never been able to verify whether this is true or not but, if it is, could somebody PLEASE send me that tape?
The tune was actually co-created by Bob Heatlie (should you know him? You certainly should – be created the theme for Animaniacs!) and David Pringle and served as a reminder to children that the school day was over and it was time for some bloody good fun! If you’ve ever been curious as to who the announcer for Funhouse UK was, look no further than Garry King, who currently presents a lunchtime show on Smooth Radio every Sunday.
Gary also did the voice over for the last season of Dale’s Supermarket Sweep, although not (I’m told) any of the other seasons. Children’s television in this period frankly provided some of the best theme tunes going, other notable mentions at this point should include Knightmare and Finder’s Keepers – it’s just a real shame that the quality has dipped so much in recent years. Some of these programmes, although visually dated, still seem fresh and informative when you watch them today. I wonder if you can say the same for the Tweenies and In The Night Garden in 2025.
Armed with an American passport and Scottish heritage (his first name was Angus) there was nothing that Richard Dean Anderson couldn’t do in order to foil the latest terrorist plot.
Many jokes have been made in episodes of Family Guy and the Simpsons among them, about how how MacGyver could conjure out of nothing but asides from the important science he was teaching families – there was a more addictive reason for watching this show; that theme tune.
Yes, in seven glorious seasons the magnificent music that begun every show hardly altered, that instrumental being synonymous with the one man who could “do so much with so few tools” and, if you cared to dance, this was the music to make you get up and dance around too. It defined action, it defined adventure and it also defined Anderson’s mullet which, frankly, I’m a bit disappointed he shaved for Stargate truth be told.
MacGyver returned to US television for a special Mastercard commercial, although this is just implied as opposed to it being officially announced it’s him, and this sparked rumors that Anderson would be reprising the role for an 8th season. Unfortunately, unlike the title of the 5th season episode ‘I Will Always Return’, at time of writing this is most certainly not the case.
Quantum Leap (1989)
Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr Sam Beckett stepped forward into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished…he awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing a mirror image that was not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better.
And so began, in my own personal opinion, the best introduction to a show in the history of television. Following the adventures of a misguided scientist and his best friend Al (who appeared in the form of a hologram that only Sam could see and hear) Quantum Leap mixed the incredible combination of drama, intrigue and history into an hourly show. And no two shows, even about the same issue, were ever the same.
The introductory speech given invoked a feeling of sympathy for Sam, who was trapped in his impediment, but also made it clear that he was doing good work and (at the heart of things) he enjoyed it all. The saxophone bridge and orchestral instrumental was inclined to give us the feeling that Sam was our classic hero, always facing obstacles but enjoying things immensely and the fact that he himself never got home is an absolute tragedy. Despite running for 5 seasons (in the last of which the theme was “rocked up” with a guitar hook to insert a more “modern” vibe perhaps) the show was abruptly cancelled and rumors of a film adaptation have been floating around ever since.
There’s even a quite excellent, although unofficial, fan episode involving a story around Princess Diana that was created a few years ago to celebrate the shows 20th anniversary. I hope someone reading this realizes that Sam needs to get home!