Wednesday 14 December 2011

TV Theme Retrospective: A Change Is As Good As A Rest

It seemed, from watching US TV, that there was only one option for a TV cop when retirement or temporary ill health beckoned; become a PI. As we saw in last month’s post, the TV hero world was full of ‘em, with only one or two notable exceptions, all ex-cops.

But one show broke the mould, and that was ’Midnight Caller’, quite my favourite show of the late Eighties, for its format, its introspective closing soliloquy, its famous catchphrase (‘Goodnight, America, wherever you are…’) and its evocative theme tune by Rick Braun.

It ran for three seasons, and incurred the wrath of the US AIDS lobby for one episode in particular. Sadly, it’s still not available on DVD….

Come on, TV companies, start churning this stuff out! I can’t be the only one who’d buy it?


I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of monthly nostalgia. There were several series hovering just outside the top twelve - 'The West Wing', of course, and 'Babylon Five', and then there were the ones that I loved, but couldn't seem to fit into a genre, like 'American Gothic'.

And I wonder if modern TV shows will inspire much nostalgia in the future, because it seems to me that the age of the memorable theme tune is long dead. Very, very few of my current favourite shows (or even shows I can’t stand) seem to have one.

Oh, there are some, it’s true; ‘True Blood’ and ‘Justified’ spring immediately to mind (both using songs not actually written specifically as themes), but so many others seem to have junked the whole ‘theme’ idea and gone down the route of music-backed series exposition instead (‘Castle’ and ‘Burn Notice’ being cases in point).

But truly inspired opening titles do seem to be making a comeback, ‘Game of Thrones’ in particular – with its dynamic, episode-specific clockwork city locations - has been one of my favourites. ‘Fringe’ has also been innovative in its use of titles, changing them to reflect an episode set in the ‘other’ universe, or in the past.

So, what shall I do for next year, I wonder? I think maybe favourite books...


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Midnight Caller and American Gothic (both starring Gary Cole). But my all-time favourite American show was and still is Spenser For Hire based on the books by Robert B. Parker.

Avery Brooks was the coolest dude on telly.

Anonymous said...

I was about to say, do I notice a Gary Cole theme creeping in here Julia? Midnight Caller, American Gothic and of course, though he wasn't in B5, he was in the spin off Crusades.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed "Vengeance Unlimited" myself. Only one series and disappeared but quite interesting none the less.

Anonymous said...

Er, at the risk of showing my political/personal and OK my daydreaming - it was Firefly for me (a western set in space, good guys fighting a totalitarian regime, lots of special effects, and it had some 'shiny' quotes). Theme wasn't much though. Anyone know where I can get a old spaceship and a blaster from?

Lerxst said...

Of course, when it comes to a great TV show with a memorable theme tune, I'd have to say The Prisoner.

As for more recent TV, I suspect I'll retain a fair bit of nostalgia for the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, despite the clunky ending. Cue excuse for this old gem...

At the moment though, I think the last series I got into was Dollhouse. Haven't seen Game of Thrones though many friends do keep telling me I ought to.

JuliaM said...

"Avery Brooks was the coolest dude on telly."

He was indeed! He made 'Star Trek: DS9' watchable, quite a feat...

"I was about to say, do I notice a Gary Cole theme creeping in here Julia? "

Maybe... ;)

He was also in 'The West Wing', come to think of it.

"I enjoyed "Vengeance Unlimited" myself."

Anything with Michael Madsen is usually pretty watchable!

"Theme wasn't much though."

Oh, I quite liked it!

"Haven't seen Game of Thrones though many friends do keep telling me I ought to."

Your friends are bang on the money there!