[Update: We've added an additional popular theme song to the list!]
Here at Screen Rant, we focus most of our energy on covering news from the film world. But we’re also big fans of the small screen, and with the resurgence in genuinely great television shows over the past decade or so, I figured it’s about time we celebrated an aspect that is too often overlooked: the theme song.
I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the catchiest TV theme songs in recent memory. Like any good list-maker, I had to operate under a set of parameters; without rules, this list would balloon to monstrous proportions. So what qualifications do these songs need to have in order to make this list?
- The theme song must be for a show that first aired in the year 2000 or after.
- The song can’t be one that was already entrenched in popular culture (Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” for Deadliest Catch, or any song by The Who for the various CSI shows).
- Webster’s dictionary defines “catchy” as “easily retained in the memory.” For the purposes of this post, my definition of “catchy” is the viewer can learn all of the words (or can hum the whole tune) within the first few listens of each song.
Now that the criteria are established, let’s get to it!
J.J. Abrams’ spy show gave Jennifer Garner some of the best work of her career. This techno-fused theme, jolting in and out of sync, perfectly captures the constantly shifting identity of Sydney Bristow.
9. Veronica Mars
The opening credits of the first two seasons of Veronica Mars (RIP) featured this great track by The Dandy Warhols, titled “We Used to be Friends.” Unfortunately, this upbeat version was replaced by a darker and more somber remix for the show’s third and final season.
8. The Big Bang Theory
“The History of Everything” was created by Canadian rockers The Barenaked Ladies for Chuck Lorre’s CBS sitcom about lovable nerds and their awkward social relationships. The lyrics here are without question the most educational of any on this list, mirroring the nature of the show’s main characters by teaching the audience something and entertaining us at the same time.
7. Parks and Recreation
Even though this show is only in its second season, this song has become one of my favorite TV themes thanks to its bouncy composition and mesmerizing melody. I don’t know about you, but this one gets stuck in my head for days at a time – especially after seeing this Star Wars-themed parody, “Jabba the Hutt.”
6. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
I could only find the full version of this song on YouTube, but the extended length is almost funnier to listen to than the shortened version that’s actually attached to the show. While The Big Bang Theory‘s theme mirrors that show’s characters, the sweeping strings and classical quality of this theme could not be more opposed to the actions and personalities of the five self-centered jerks who are only out for themselves. Lucky for us, the effects of their actions are typically hilarious.
5. Smallville (Fan-made credits for the 10th season)
I’ve stuck with this show through the very brief good times, through the bad times, and now to the “even worse” times. But one thing has remained consistent: Remy Zero’s soaring rock theme, “Save Me.” If nothing else, this song inspires my belief that “hey, maybe this episode will be good.” Whether or not the show still attains that goal, I’ll leave to you.
I was never a big fan of this show, but the theme has always struck me as particularly effective. It’s almost absurdly short, but it accomplishes everything it needs to in the time that its given and sets the for a show that alternates between high comedy and emotional toil.
3. How I Met Your Mother
Another song which doesn’t revel in length, this one instead relies on its exuberant nonsensical vocals to lure the audience into a recreated world of stories told from memory. It’s almost meta, when you think about it: perhaps Bob Saget’s version of Ted can’t remember the words to the song when he recounts it to his children. I look at this song as a microcosm of the entire show; the words aren’t nearly as important as the feeling of friendship and unity the music inspires. Sometimes the details take a back seat to the big picture.
2. The Office
When The Office was at its peak of popularity, you’d be hard pressed to find a TV-watching American who didn’t at least have a passing recognition of this theme song. The pulsing drums eventually giving way to a full band, highlighted by an accordion (!) and bookended with the light touches of the piano… what a great song. My love for this show has grown cold, but I’ve still got the hots for this theme.
1. Boston Legal
The funky guitar and soulful vocal bursts in the background earn this the top spot on my list. Even though Boston Legal went off the air back in 2008, I still occasionally find myself humming this song for no apparent reason. Webster’s needs a revision because this, my friends, is the definition of catchy. This song is so catchy in fact, that one of the show’s characters (albeit one who is borderline insane) proved my point by singing along with it late in the third season.
Many of you pointed this out and we completely agree: the theme for HBO’s True Blood has everybody singing like honky tonk country musicians these days…gotta have it on the list.
So, without further ado:
Well, there you have it. Did I leave anything off the list? Which themes do you get stuck in your head that aren’t featured here? Remember the criteria, and let me know what you think in the comments section.
Follow me on Twitter @benpears