Playlist of the Month: Best TV Theme Songs

It’s been a trend as of late for shows to skip theme songs in favor of the extra 30 seconds to 1:30 minutes of extra episode time. Remember when Grey’s Anatomy had an actual theme song? They gave up on that and now it’s just the white title screen. Elsewhere in Shondaland, Scandal just goes on a 3 second shutter speed sound so we can watch more of Fitz & Olivia argue why they can’t be together then immediately make up (and make out).

Back in the day, theme songs were more of a prominent fixture in TV culture, and as much a part of the show as the scenes in the program itself. TV theme songs were the equivalent of old movies putting all the credits in the beginning of the film so you saw all the cast & crew prior to the start, rather than the end. And while this practice of creating catchy, memorable and good tunes isn’t as much of a priority as it used to be, we still can’t forget the classics, and that’s why we’re throwing it back to our fave TV theme songs over the years.

Traci’s Picks

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights Theme by W.G. Snuffy Walden

In general, Friday Night Lights is an emotional show. It will make you laugh, cry, feel frustrated with Julie Taylor and elated when the Panthers win a game. Like with all Jason Katims-run shows, he incorporates music into the fabric of the storyline, and it never takes you out of the scene when one of composer W.G. Snuffy Walden’s instrumentals start swell during one of these forementioned emotional moments. As any FNL fan can tell you, hearing the first few notes of this theme song will make you feel all the feels, despite it not even having lyrics. But that’s how powerful it is – it doesn’t even need them. Also, it’s worth noting that this is my current ringtone, so it makes me feel the feels of not wanting to pick up phone calls.

Growing Pains

As Long as We’ve Got Each Other by B.J. Thomas & Jennifer Warnes

I watched Growing Pains off and on when I was a kid, and I can kind of tell you the basics of the show. However, one thing I can recite to you from memory is the theme song. It’s a classic 1980s jam that was sung by Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head singer B.J. Thomas and (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life star Jennifer Warnes. It has the sappy 90s family feel perfect for the show, and perfect for me to play on loop in 2015.

All That

All That by TLC

We talked about this during SNICK Week, but this song still holds up. As soon as you hear, “Fresh out the box…”, it brings you back to sitting on your couch and watching Nickelodeon, ready to laugh at some jokes from the best sketch comedy show for kids to grace the TV. Yeah, it was a great theme song, but in general, it was a track that could’ve been a radio hit, too.

The Nanny

The Nanny Named Fran by Ann Hampton Callaway

Besides the extreme catchiness of this song, the best part about it is the fact that it tells you the premise of the show before every episode. Like just in case you tuned in for the first time and were wondering what a brash lady from Queens was doing in a Manhattan mansion, no need to worry because Ann Hampton Callaway (and fans of The Nanny everywhere) can sing her origin story to you in a flash.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Love Is All Around by Sonny Curtis

This song sounds so dated and I just love it that much more. I was one of those kids who watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show at Nick at Nite, and this song is as embedded in my brain as All That and Pretty Little Liars. It’s a song of joy, positivity, and a sets up a strong female character – much like another Unbreakable female on this list.

Honorable Mentions:

Perfect StrangersNothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now by David Pomeranz. This song was written by the same guys who wrote the Full House, Step By Step and Family Matters theme song, so no wonder it was so good.

Girl Meets WorldTake on the World by Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter. Genius move to have the two main girls of the show sing the theme, and a super catchy one at that. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you were a Boy Meets World fan and you’re not watching this show, you are wasting your life.

Molly’s Picks

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Theme Song by Tina Fey/ Robert Carlock / Jeff Richmond / The Gregory Brothers / Mike Britt

UNBREAKABLE. They alive, dammit! It’s a miracle. This is one of the most creative, innovative theme songs you’ll ever hear, spoofing those wacky neighbors who always give interviews when shocking news breaks — paired with an auto-tuned news segment a la Antoine Dodson. So how’d they do it? (1) Tina Fey and Robert Carlock wrote the neighbor’s monologue. (2) They picked out the lines they want repeated in the song, and Jeff Richmond created the melody. (3) Mike Britt recorded the role of the emphatic neighbor Walter Bankston. (4) They hand it off to the Gregory Brothers, the guys behind Songify The News. (5) Kimmy Schmidt begins streaming on Netflix. (6) It has been over 6 months and you still have the song in your head, don’t you?

Cheers

Where Everybody Knows Your Name by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Yes, this is mainly a song about people knowing what your name is. Yet it is so iconic that I had never seen an episode of Cheers, but I think I’ve known all of the lyrics since I can remember. It doesn’t sound as synth-ed up or jubilant as the classic 80s theme song. In fact I think something about it is sort of melancholy. It sets the tone for an unpretentious show about a Boston bar where there are no name tags.

Party Of Five

Closer To Free by The BoDeans

If the 60s and 70s were the era of the theme song that told the entire backstory and lasted 8 minutes, and the 80s were the era of the synthesized, schmaltzy pop song that’s just sort of vaguely about love or family, the 90s were the age of the crossover alternative music/ TV theme song radio hit. Think I’ll Be There For You (Friends) or I Don’t Want To Wait (Dawson’s Creek). I started watching Party Of Five when I was probably too young, and it was HUGE for me. The theme song still makes me feel like I’m about to kick back with the Salinger clan (and Jennifer Love Hewitt) (but not Claudia when she’s at boarding school) (and usually not Owen, when you think about it).

Parenthood

Forever Young by Bob Dylan

I’m not crying, you’re crying. Fine, we’re all crying. But if it were the Rod Stewart version, I would not be.

Friends

I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts

Is this song even good? I can’t be sure anymore. But it was such a hit that it launched the (largely defunct) TV soundtrack trend of the 90s and early 2000s. Plus just listening to that opening riff reminds me of one of my favorite Comfort TV shows – have a cruddy day? Turn on Friends and you’ll feel a bit better. You could almost say they’ll be there for you (but don’t).

Honorable Mentions

The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father – Best Friend by Harry Nilsson. Yes, that’s Harry Nilsson, of the Lime In The Coconut Nilssons. As Traci mentioned, our cultural touchpoint are colored by how much time both of us spent watching repeats of old shows as children.

Sesame StreetCan You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street? by Joe Raposo. It’s good and you know it’s good. And as an adult, sort of brings you back to being 4 years old in a kind of bittersweet way, right?

Fresh Prince of Bel AirFresh Prince Of Bel Air by Will Smith and Quincy Jones III. One of the proudest moments of my life was realizing that we were on a train of 100% American college kids in Spain going to a Jack Johnson concert, and leading a singalong to this theme song. It is SO good. Okay, I’ll stop here before I get into The Muppet Show and All In The Family.

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Pop Culture Inspo for Yo’ Mo(vember)

We’re more than a week into the month so for you fellas participating in Movember, perhaps you’re at the point where you’re thinking what exactly to do with that cool ‘stache of yours (BTW, if you aren’t familiar with Movember, it’s an annual event in which men grow their mustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues. It might explain why your weird co-worker is even weirder this month). There are so many directions to go with the newly acquired batch of facial hair that you want to make it perfect for the rest of the month.

And since there have been plenty of iconic mustache designs in television, film, theater, etc. it’s worth looking for some inspiration from some of the manliest of men on stage and screen. While I obviously can’t list all of them here, I have compiled a list of some of my personal faves who rocked the ‘stache loud and proud.

Gordon from Sesame Street

Aw, Gordon and Elmo! He’s first in honor of Sesame Street’s anniversary this week. Also, I have this vision of me meeting Gordon as a tot at some kind of book signing, but I actually think I stole a friend’s childhood memory. If this is your anecdote, reveal yourself. Also I am sorry.

Chandler Bing as Dr. Richard Burke on Friends

It goes without saying that if you do a word association with Tom Selleck, most of the time you’ll think ‘mustache’. I figured that putting him on this list might be a cop out, so here’s the next best thing – Chandler attempting to grow a Richard mustache. Obvs this was pre-Mondler, and Joey and Chan thought Richard was the coolest, hence trying to look and act like him. Not quite the same effect.

 

Ron Burgundy from Anchorman

You stay classy, San Diego/whatever city you live in/Movember dudes everywhere.

Paul Rudd during the Admission press tour

Speaking of Anchorman, Paul Rudd was in the middle of filming the sequel when he has to go off and do press for his movie with Tina Fey, Admission. And of course, Brian Fontana sports a sweet ‘stache in the film, and since hair doesn’t grow into a beautiful handlebar like Rudd’s overnight, he opted to wear it loud and proud. Paul Rudd: American treasure.

Kristen Wiig in the one sketch of The Californians

I’m 90% sure this was from the time Kristen went back to host SNL and she came back from the dead. Or at least in The Californians world. There have been some epic mustaches on SNL, but for some reason this one stuck out to me.

Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York

I’ve never actually seen Gangs of New York (ugh, I know, I’m a horrible Leo fan), but damn DDL can grow a mustache. In any film that requires some sort of lip blanket, he’s on point. Also, remember Daniel Day-Lewis? It’s like he goes into hibernation every 5 to 7 years and comes back to collect an Oscar.

Carl Winslow from Family Matters

Guys. This picture of a faux video game. I cannot.

Borat

**it’s creepy but niiiiiicee*

Captain Kangaroo

*it’s creepy but… nope still creepy. I DON’T REMEMBER CAPTAIN KANGAROO BEING THIS SCARY*

 Gene Shalit from Today

Anyone else a random watcher of the Today show and understand the magic that is Gene Shalit and his magnif bow ties and ‘stache?

Walter White from Breaking Bad

This sweet photo was taken from the actual Save Walter White website (caution, comic sans ahead).

Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation

“Leslie, you need to understand that we are headed to the most special place on earth. When I’m done eating a Mulligan’s meal, for weeks afterwards there are flecks of meat in my mustache and I refuse to clean it because every now and then a piece of meat will fall into my mouth.”  *Nick Offerman thanks you for your time.

Everybody Who’s Anybody Is On Sesame Street

I have been waiting YEARS for someone to tell me how to get to Sesame Street. They drop the question in the theme song, but the show debuted 45 years ago today and still nobody has answered it.

When I was 3, one of the kids who hung around Mr. Hooper’s store looked like my neighborhood best friend, and I stewed for days over how she got on the show.

In preschool, Sesame Street led to my first ever wave of nostalgia. On a class field trip, my teacher turned on Sesame Street for us in her conversion van, and I realized that the show was still airing every day without me – when I was stuck playing duck duck goose with a bunch of sticky-handed tots who couldn’t even read yet. Remember, this was 1990, when there were no 24-hour children’s networks or YouTube clips. The only way to get to Sesame Street was to stay home from school.

A few years after that, one of my friends was convinced she was going to be on Sesame Street because of a donation her mom made during the annual PBS drive. Nope, that’s not how you get to Sesame Street either!

And now, as a full adult, I’d like to get to Sesame Street more than ever. Sure, part of it is that it represents a time in life when you could watch t.v. in your pajamas during the day. But mostly, these days it’s all about the guest stars. These clips make me feel as mad as I did in 1990, realizing that Sesame Street dares to go on without me every day:

Comedians Are On Sesame Street!

Jon Stewart delivered the fake, fake news.

Amy Poehler exercised (sort of!) with Elmo.

Ricky Gervais says “stumble” so many times it no longer sounds like a word.

And Cedric The Entertainer makes me wonder whether canteens are more relevant to kids’ lives than I realized. I grew up in the era of juice boxes.

Tina Fey is some sort of a book pirate.

What’s more adorable than Jimmy Fallon? Jimmy Fallon with Elmo. It’s all a bit much  for me.


Maya Rudolph raps, sings and dances with Elmo. Also I think she has a real future in children’s television, if she wants it.

Conan O’Brien does startlingly good dog impressions.

Even Saturday Night Live itself is on Sesame Street.

Actors Are On Sesame Street!

John Kraskinski talks about the meaning of the word soggy, interacts with a non-Elmo Muppet, and is just generally as cute as a bug’s ear.

And he’s not the only cast member of The Office to make the trip from Scranton to… is it supposed to be New York? Steve Carrell teaches us about the importance of voting and snacks.

Melissa McCarthy learns choreography from a penguin with Elmo and it’s exactly as delightful as it sounds.

Jonah Hill is making sure today’s youth are aware of the inexplicable mustache trend that’s sweeping the nation.

Benedict Cumberbatch is just generally rakishly charming, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Tom Hiddleston. See comments re: Cumberbatch, Benedict.

Kristen Bell instructs us on the word “splatter” but does not instruct us on how she has managed not to age since Veronica Mars.

Our hometown hero, Taye Diggs, makes a three-year-old puppet drive him around.

Musicians Are On Sesame Street!

Remember when you couldn’t get away from Call Me Maybe? Well, it even made it to Sesame Street (no Carly Rae Jepsen, though).

Bruno Mars doesn’t want you to give up if you’re the kind of child who is bad at catching balls.

Usher teaches the alphabet and it’s just really, really good.

Even Queen Bey herself made it to Sesame Street, during her Destiny’s Child days.

You may remember this Katy Perry performance because a bunch of parents got mad that their toddlers, who stopped breastfeeding probably under 2 years ago, were exposed to Perry’s boobs. I really don’t know.

Delightful tap-percussioned group Tilly And The Wall even swung by for kids parents who are a bit more into the indie scene.

Political Figures Are On Sesame Street!

Sandra Sotomayor is hanging out with Abby Cadabby,  melting my cold lawyerly heart, and letting kids know that princess isn’t a job.

Kofi Annan suggests that the muppets resolve their conflict “the United Nations Way”; thereby creating a “choose your own punchline” moment for the grownups watching.

Michelle Obama does a little light gardening.

And lest you think Sesame Street is partisan, Laura Bush reads a book.

Assorted famous people of 1991 are on Sesame Street!

We focused on currently famous folks, but Sesame Street has been hosting celebs since before the age of the remote control. This video features a number of early 90s superstars, but if you search through the Sesame Street archives you can find many more guest stars who were on the show while you were stuck in school, wishing for another field trip so you could hop in a conversion van and get to Sesame Street via the grainy tv set.

 

 

 

What Are These Muppets Even Trying To Be?

Muppets Most Wanted comes out today – and nobody is more excited about it than small children grown adults who had weirdly emotional reactions to The Muppets a few years ago and almost started crying when they saw it but couldn’t quite figure out why.

I’m sure a lot of us grew up with the Muppets, whether in the Muppets shows and movies, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, or their early SNL performances. And most of us could tell you that a Muppet is like a weird, cool puppet. But after that, things get dicey. Some of the Muppets are very clearly certain animals – Kermit is a frog, Miss Piggy is… I mean obviously she’s a pig, Fozzie is a bear. Some Muppets are vaguely humanoid. Others are probably monsters or something. But think of some of those lesser Muppets. What are they even trying to be? Other than, probably, their best selves?

Here are the most confusing Muppets. I’m writing what I think they are without checking on their official taxonomy, then going back to tell you what Jim Henson intended for these guys to be.

Abby Cadabby

I think it’s trying to be:

So, this is like the Muppet version of a Kardashian, right? Marketing savvy + an elaborate performance of femininity + my worst nightmare? But also sort of a fairy as well?

But it’s actually trying to be:

A “fairy in training.” But it was developed by a team of marketing experts to appeal to little girls after the Disney Princess thing started happening at us. So basically what I said.

Animal

I think it’s trying to be:

I understand that this is like a drummer/monster, but he’s also kind of got a Jerry Garcia, did too much of whatever the PG version of LSD is vibe. I assume the PG version of LSD is those giant plastic pixie sticks.

But it’s actually trying to be:

A “primitive man and crazed drummer” who debuted in the 1975 special The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, which, in my understanding of the mid-70s, was probably a children’s programme. Muppetteer Frank Oz says that Animal can be summed up in the five words “sex, sleep, food, drums and pain.” So, Animal is the Muppet version of Freud’s id, or of half of the guys in your freshman year dorm. I guess I was off-track with the rated PG thing.

Beaker

I think it’s trying to be:

A human who was stuffed into a scientific beaker during its formative years, like a more science-y and creepier bonsai tree.

But it’s actually trying to be:

A “hapless assistant” and “perpetual victim” who has been shrunk, cloned, and blown up. Nobody mentions the human bonsai thing, but I don’t think I’d be too off-track to hold onto that one as head canon.

Clifford

I think it’s trying to be:

A more neon, more muppety, more alive version of Bob Marley. I’m going off of the dreads. But he’s usually dressed in business casual, so maybe more like an accountant with Marley fantasies and a local festival-quality band. He also sometimes wears Hawaiian shirts, lending further credence to my white-collar professional who moonlights in trying to be cool theory.

But it’s actually trying to be:

A catfish, maybe. It’s never been confirmed. Did not see that coming. Others say “humanoid.” Screw this. Nobody knows what the heck Clifford is trying to be, so maybe what he should try to be is better.

The analysis linked in the photo above says that he is the “sort of black sheep” of the Muppet world, but the line break occurred after the word black and I thought “well, at least he’s not supposed to be a white guy with dreads, because they are the actual worst.” But they weren’t saying he was sort of black, guys. They weren’t.

Janice

I think it’s trying to be:

An actress who you loved 20+ years ago, who is now in at least her late 40s and has messed with her face. [See: Meg Ryan, Janice Dickenson, Melanie Griffith, Suzanne Somers, Kim Novak, … so much of elder Hollywood is turning into Janice from the Muppets that I think they must be taking her picture to the surgeon’s office.]

But it’s actually trying to be:

She is a guitar player / Valley girl . Fun fact: Janice was originally intended to be a male character and was modeled after Mick Jagger – but I wasn’t so wrong, because most of your favorite actresses of 20+ years ago probably had a little Mick Jagger in them, too.

Dr. Bunsen

I think it’s trying to be:

That’s just a melon, right? They just used a melon.

But it’s actually trying to be:

An actual melon. His last name is “Honeydew.” I didn’t know that. So, good job, Muppets, this one looks exactly like what he’s even trying to be.

Dr. Teeth

I think it’s trying to be:

A stoned leprechaun. No question. Possibly also the Muppet version of a Chav.

But it’s actually trying to be:

A humanoid inspired by jazz keyboardist Dr. John. Have you guys seen Dr. John? He’s like a stoned New Orleans jazz man. Trade one cultural stereotype for another, and I pretty much got it. There’s also reportedly an Elton John influence that I can’t believe I missed.

Marvin Suggs

I think it’s trying to be:

He’s a pinhead! Excuse me. A person with microcephaly. Like Pepper in American Horror Story: Asylum.

But it’s actually trying to be:

a “whatnot” Muppet, which is a blank Muppet that you can basically turn into whatever. Not to be confused with an “anything” muppet, which is mostly the same thing (think: Prairie Dawn, Don Music, Guy Smiley, Roosevelt Franklin). Muppetteer Frank Oz called Suggs “demented” and said “I’ve always felt Marvin lived in a scuzzy trailer park with his put-upon wife, and he kept the Muppaphones in a cage and would beat them regularly.”

Mildred Huxtetter

I think it’s trying to be:

An old lady who is also a lizard or snake. Like Queen Elizabeth.

But it’s actually trying to be:

I can’t even deal with how right I am. She’s a beak-nosed Muppet who is a Dame of the Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire.

Nanny

I think it’s trying to be:

Just legs, connected to a voice box, who was dreamed up by the orphaned and abandoned Muppet children of Muppet Babies to cope with their unloved, parent-less existence.

But it’s actually trying to be:

Well, they call her a woman, but that looks like pure guesswork to me.

Scooter (And Skeeter)

I think it’s trying to be:

The bastard child(ren) of Dr. Bunsen and a mango. Obviously, a relative of Sid The Science Kid.

But it’s actually trying to be:

Vaguely humanoid, but “when pressed about his family, he explained that his mother was a parrot but he didn’t know about his father.” That’s funny at first, and becomes more and more bleak and disturbing the more you think about it.

I didn’t know this til I was looking for a link of Sid The Science Kid’s family, but it is a Jim Henson production, so maybe Scooter really did get a family after all.

Snuffleupagus

I think it’s trying to be:

A wooly mammoth who is always sad. Probably because all of the other Wooly Mammoths died and his name is impossible to spell.

But it’s actually trying to be:

a snuffleupagus. It is both his species and his name. Also, he is properly Mr. Snuffleupagus – his Christian name is Aloysius.  Snuffy has an entire family, so he’s not so sad because his species is extinct. He’s sad, I guess, because he looks like a cross between an elephant, shag carpeting, and dog poop.

Telly

I think it’s trying to be:

The monster version of Telly Savalas. Their facial structure is very similar.

But it’s actually trying to be:

“Television monster.” He was obsessed with TV, and then the Henson company changed it when they realized that they want kids to be obsessed with TV.