THE TOP TEN TV Theme Songs of All-Time
SWAT, Sesame Street, Twilight Zone, Dr. Who... Which is your favorite? We count them down.
by IGN Staff

May 4, 2006 - Popular music comes in all forms, but none of it is as far-reaching and as oft-heard as the themes that introduce our favorite TV shows. Whether it's the haunting, echoing opening passage of The X-Files or the iconic spy theme of Mission: Impossible, TV themes frame the viewing experience, setting us up for what we are about to watch.

So many TV theme songs have us singing along and recalling the good ol' days that we felt we needed to honor these musical tidbits with a selection of our very favorites. Plus, we're giving IGN readers a sneak peek at the Beta version of IGN's newest channel… IGN TV! What better way to celebrate everything that is TV than with a list of the best themes throughout the ages?

For this list, we decided not to include cartoons or Saturday morning themes… that will get its own due in the coming months. Everything else was fair game. Several factors were taken into account when ranking them: quality, relevance, historic significance and lasting appeal. It all starts here…

[reviews were penned by Spence Abbott, Chris Carle, Eric Goldberg, Dan Iverson, and Brian Zoromski]
SWAT, Sesame Street, Twilight Zone, Dr. Who... Which is your favorite? We count them down. by IGN Staff May 4, 2006 - Popular music comes in all forms, b...  more


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One of the best sitcoms ever was complemented by an iconic theme song that quickly became instantly identifiable with the employees and customers of that bar in Boston where everybody knows your name. We all wanted to hang out with Sam and the gang at Cheers, and this wonderful, rather poignant theme song instantly set the tone. -EG




The theme to this Korean war dramedy originally appeared as "Suicide is Painless" in the Robert Altman film that inspired it. Stripped of its lyrics for the television show, the melancholy song is the perfect lead-in to a show that dealt with humanity head-on with humor and grace. Immediately recognizable and iconic, the MASH theme only barely lost to #1… which is, of course… -CC



Hawaii Five-0

While it might be difficult for some to name a character in this series, you'd be hard pressed to find a person who watched TV in the Seventies or Eighties who wouldn't recognize the upbeat, surf-inspired classic. Simple but brilliant, this Morton Stevens theme song manages to do the impossible: remain timeless even though the style of the song is firmly lodged in its era of creation—the late Sixties. -CC



Star Trek (Original Series)

It's tough to follow the powerful and oft-quoted opening statements of Star Trek. After all, where do you go once you boldly go where no man has gone before? You go straight into an amazing space romp of an opening theme, complete with an ethereal female vocalist and a triumphant finale. Always a picker-upper, Star Trek easily earns the fourth spot on our list. -CC



Mission: Impossible

There have been a lot of cool spy show themes, but this is the one that beats them all. This is an exciting piece of music that instantly puts you in the frame of mind to see some serious espionage and action, and couldn't even be defeated by a horrible Limp Bizkit interpretation. -EG



Gilligan's Island

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful ship…" Just hearing these lyrics brings back memories of impossible coconut machines and guest star cameos. Gilligan's Island was never really a great show, the humor was predictable and the plot holes were big enough to drive a truck through. But oddly enough the opening theme song was good enough to make you forget anything that was going to come after it, and embrace the characters and the farfetched plots. In fact the theme song sets up the show well enough that it actually immortalizes the characters and the fate of The Minnow that was just supposed to be a three hour tour. -DI



Hill Street Blues

The venerable Mike Post, perhaps one of the Lord/Gods of television theme music, crafted the recognizable instrumental for Steven Bochco's critically acclaimed cop drama. Beginning with the chaotic rush of sirens the song quickly dips into somber, contemplative terrain thanks to happily melancholic piano. It provides the perfect sonic dichotomy to what the show was all about: the rigors of police work and the human drama that lurks underneath. -SA



The Muppet Show

From the opening of "It's time to play the music" to the many endings of Gonzo attempting to play an instrument, this catchy and upbeat theme song captures the fun spirit of The Muppet Show. The sequence succinctly introduces not only the cabaret style format of the program (albeit with Muppets), but also the green-skinned host, a multitude of singing and dancing monsters, the band, and the show's two persistent hecklers -- all while staying fast and fun. -BZ



The Twilight Zone

"A dimension of sight, a dimension of sound…" Rod Serling's voiceover had its variations throughout the years, but the eerie music beneath it always retained the same feeling that let you know something bizarre was about to occur. -EG



The Brady Bunch

"Here's the story" that we can all finish. The Brady Bunch theme is one of the most instantly identifiable songs ever, and a hard one to resist singing along to. This beloved sitcom about a way too good to be true family was perfectly set up in a theme song that told you everything you needed to know about the secret origin of those lovable Bradys. -EG


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