Monday, August 24, 2009

Top Theme Songs Part II

You might recall my list of top TV show theme songs from my childhood. By popular demand, it's time to list the best from that point forward. Basically, shows from the mid-90s through the present.

I considered the quality of song and the quality of the visuals. I know I have a strange fascination with this topic. Please forgive me.

10. Six Feet Under: A tad long but perfect for the show -- the most important thing for any theme. The black crow, the white light, the levitating letters, the sorrowful yet hopeful music and the lonely tree all stick with the viewer and all tell you distinctly this show is about death (if you didn't know by the title.)

9. Dexter: It's another show staring Michael C. Hall. The song is brilliant -- creepy, unnerving but enjoyable nonetheless, just like the main character. The song isn't the key player, though. It's the spots of blood from shaving. It's the simple act of cutting a fruit and making it as violent as a killer hacking someone's leg off or tying a shoeless like he'd strangle a gangster.

8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Ignore the fact I was a big, big Sarah Michelle Gellar fan back in my formative years. Really big. Huge. Anyway, the song rocks. It tells you the characters on this show are ready to kick some Bill Compton-ass. I even have it on my iPod.

7. Law & Order: Recognized instantly by anyone who has ever owned a television set, this opener is iconic. The guitar part alone I can hum from beginning to end. (Yeah, I'm proud of that.) The images are decent, but this one goes down in history simply for the song, often introduced by a Lennie Briscoe wisecrack.

6. Damages: I continue to push for this show to reach a larger audience because it deserves it. A small, yet not insignificant reason is this A+ theme song. The tune is "When I Am Through with You" by the VLA. And trust me, the title could not be more appropriate. The sequence shows a gloomy New York City haunted by aged statues, institutional buildings and hovering clouds. Includes only a flash of the two main characters of the show right at the end, the good, bad and in between of the city's system of justice.

5. The West Wing: Admittedly, this slathers on the patriotism with the waving flag and the soaring instrumental, but gosh darn, if it doesn't make me want to work for the Office of Management and Budget. And check out this version, only with a real administration.

4. The Simpsons: This show has been on since the Hoover Administration, but I only started watching in junior high. Do I even need to explain it? Everyone knows it by now. I linked to the new version and it's a testament to how ingrained this opener is because I was jarred watching it. Like changing Mount Rushmore.

3. Mad Men: I'm not as crazy about this show as many people, but this thing is perfection. The black silhouette is a stroke of genius. His constructed office disintegrates and he falls past a dizzying array of 60's-era advertisements until ending on one of the coolest images in TV, the picture at the top of the blog. The definition of cool, just like this show.
Check out this great parody from the Simpsons.

2. True Blood: This could have easily been numero uno because it's that good. The song is great but I love the images. The rotting fox. The dead possum. The "God Hates Fangs" sign. The little boy in the Klan outfit followed by the cut to the old guy rocking in his chair. It's a chronicle of the South - churches, baptisms, dingy bars, trucker hats and some Civil Rights protests. My favorite part is the backward shot of the smoke going into a woman's mouth with the reddest lips you'll ever see. As long as I watch this show, I will never skip the theme song. Ever.

1. The Sopranos: I remember eagerly awaiting a new episode on Sunday nights and the HBO swoosh would sound, followed by the low bass rumble and I'd be pretty content that a great show was about to begin yet again. We follow Tony Soprano as he drives from the Lincoln Tunnel onto the Turnpike and to his home in northern New Jersey. The scenery provides the ambiance along with Alabama 3's theme "Woke Up This Morning." Watch as the scenery gets better as he drives along through factory towns to his white-collar home.

A violent, sociopathic mob boss is on his commute just like every other working stiff. At its core, that's what this show was about. It did not glorify the mob. It was just another job and these were just average men residing in the underbelly. That's what comes across. Despite how good the sequences in this list are, I could imagine the creators going a different route. I could see something different for True Blood or Law & Order or Mad Men. I can not possibly fathom a different opening to The Sopranos.

That is why it's at the top.

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