Sunday, January 27, 2013

Where Has All The Music Gone?

My wife and I had a fascinating conversation last night about theme music for television shows. People of a certain age who can’t remember what we had for dinner last night can nonetheless recall with phonographic certainty the theme song from every television show we ever watched as kids. Its quite remarkable, really. On the ride home from taking dinner to Dad’s I would say the name of a TV show from our youth and within 10 seconds one of us would belt out the theme. If the song happened to have words, we knew them all, this despite the fact that neither of us have actually seen those shows in 30 years.

Ok, here’s a test. I have listed below several shows that came up in our discussion. If you were born between the years 1950 and 1965, take this test. How many of these theme songs can you remember, words included within thirty seconds of reading the names without the aid of Google?

1. I Love Lucy

2. The Dick Van Dyke Show

3. Beverly Hillbillies

4. Gilligan’s Island

5. Bonanza

5. The Brady Bunch

6. Hawaii Five-0

7. Gomer Pyle

8. Hogan’s Heroes

9. Sanford and Son

10. Happy Days

11. Andy Griffith

12. The Wild Wild West


I was a perfect 12 for 12. When was the last time I saw an episode of the Dick Van Dyke show? Oh, I would say 35 years, and yet I remember like it was yesterday old Dick coming home from work, messing with his tie and tripping over that stupid ottoman during the opening music. Amazing.

What started this conversation was our shared love of the theme song from Parenthood. We always DVR that show, so we can fast forward through the commercials, the show flows so much better that way. The odd thing is, when the theme song comes on, we never fast forward, never once. We listen to Bob Dylan’s terrible voice bark out the incredibly appropriate lyrics to “Forever Young”. We watch the beautiful scene there in the Braverman back yard unfold for the 60th time, the soft string of lights hanging over the long picnic table in their back yard, the laughter coming from each member of the family. We see the grandchildren when they were younger, we watch them pass around the food, we envy them briefly for living in a State where this sort of occasion can happen 365 days out of the year. We see that clip and we hear that music and it reminds us of how marvelous it is to be a part of such a family, to share this life with brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces. To see that clip and hear that music is to be reminded of why it is that we settled down to start a family in the first place.

For the most part, television shows have dropped the theme song, replacing it with bumper music, or in the case of Two and a Half Men, these stirring lyrics…”Men men men men men men men men …..” Someone suggested that since shows don’t last very long nowadays, maybe they don’t want to go to the expense of a fancy song. Don’t these producers understand the power of music?? What three shows over the last fifteen to twenty years have been the most successful? Cheers, Friends, and Frazier. All three with forever remembered theme music that people will be humming in their heads fifty years from now.

Bring back the music, Hollywood.