Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Retro Weekend: Best One-Hour TV Show Theme Songs (Instrumental) July 18, 2009

Last weekend I listed the Best Instrumental TV Sitcom Theme Songs. This week, I’m sticking with the instrumentals, but moving on to one hour shows. I couldn’t just say “Best TV Drama Theme Songs” because some of these shows don’t fit into that genre. Remember that these aren’t all necessarily great shows – they just happen to have some of the most memorable, most show-appropriate, or catchiest theme songs. Once again, rather than try to list a top ten, I’ve just organized them in roughly chronological order. Thanks again to Television Tunes, for taking me on a trip down tv theme song memory lane.

  • Dallas – No, I didn’t just include this long-running primetime soap because I live in Dallas. This show was a bit too before my time for me to be a fan – plus I simply don’t care too much for soaps. But the theme song has that special 70s vibe, mixed with a bold, clean brass section reminiscent of old TV westerns. It’s a nice blend of city and country, and perfectly fits the show.


  • The Price is RightMaybe I’m weird for throwing in a game show theme song to this list, but hearing this song transports me right back to my babysitters’ house, or to summers at home, when I was growing up. It is the epitome of ’70s-’80s game shows with its happy go lucky tune and hip horn section.
  • Knight Rider – Please let me emphasize that I am talking about the original show, not the feeble attempt at a remake last year. Back when David Hasselhoff was still cool, he had a show with a really cool theme song. The guitar, the uber-80s synthesizer, the beat track… it’s all good. There’s a voiceover on the opening credits, but I think it still counts as an instrumental.


  • Twin Peaks – I have recently been rewatching this series on a cable network called Chiller. It is at times bizarre, at times disturbing, but almost always fascinating. The opening theme is beautiful and melancholy, and sets up the strange contrast of a small town with quirky inhabitants and the sinister forces at work in their midst. All the music on this show was excellent, from the distinctive musical score for each character (I liked Audrey’s jazzy song), to the songs performed by a musician at The Roadhouse.


  • Law & OrderI lost interest in this show long ago, and never even watched a couple of the spin-offs in the franchise. My favorite was always SVU, but the original had the best version of the theme song. The tone is melancholy, gritty, and hints at the seedy underbelly that the criminal justice system deals with. I like how the music changes when the opening credits shift from the police to the district attorneys.
  • The X-FilesThe whistling, the spooky chords. What’s not to love about this theme song? I used to whistle along to the opening credits. I guess it counts as an instrumental since there aren’t any actual words.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer This is a theme song that I didn’t like at first, but after years of listening to it, it’s one of my favorites. The funky rock sound is perfect for a show about an epic hero who is sometimes more interested in making the cheerleading squad than in slaying vampires. Plus, it’s just fun to listen to.
  • DexterI wish I could have found a video of the actual opening credits, because that really enhances the experience of the song. A healthy dose of Cuban guitar, mixed with some violent images of bacon frying, shoelaces being tied, someone shaving, etc. The song, combined with the opening credits, are perfect for a show that has a sociopath posing as a regular guy.
  • Friday Night Lights – I’ve fallen behind in watching this show, but I still love it and its theme song. The video below contains the song, but not the actual opening credits. The pictures that are included of the characters give you an idea of the heart of the show: a small town community, a coach who is dedicated to his family and his team, flawed high school kids doing the best they can with their circumstances, etc. The guitar-driven theme has a slow and steady pace that is fitting for the small town setting of this show, with just a hint of an edge to it, since there are bad boy characters like Riggins and Smash on the show.
  • Fringe – This was my favorite new show last season, and it has a brief but perfect theme song. Like the X-Files theme that came before it, this song, penned by J.J. Abrams himself (what can’t he do?), is mysterious and haunting. The string-heavy melody hints at the show’s main focus – scientific occurrences just on the fringe of possibility.

So, which iconic theme songs did I leave off of this list? Which ones do you agree/disagree with? Next weekend I’ll move on to Best TV Sitcom Theme Songs with Lyrics.

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