The End of an Era: TV Theme Songs Disappear
Although I'm enjoying the new trend of high concept TV, the disappearance of the theme song and accompanying music-video like credits sequence is something that concerns me. In fact, I submit that these new TV series will have a harder time becoming iconic cultural touchstones without the theme song and accompanying montage that would cement a connection in the viewer's mind.
Think about some of the theme songs and montages we've seen in TV history. Everybody remembers the tune to Gilligan's Island, and the montage that sets up the premise. We know what to expect when we hear "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip..."
Ditto The Brady Bunch. The lyrics "Here's the story..." cue us in about the program, and have stayed in our minds for thirty years!
Inside the sci-fi genre, the bold opening notes of Alexander Courage's Star Trek theme, followed by Captain Kirk's voiceover ("these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise...) are a clarion call to adventure, and set up the very premise of the series.
Likewise, I cannot imagine Joss Whedon's Firefly without the folksy theme song, "The Ballad of Firefly," which explores the very themes of the series: independence, liberty, and defiance of authority . Similarly, I think of the rush of excitement I feel when I hear the first notes of The X-Files theme, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My enjoyment of these series' would be seriously hindered without these moments.
Why is it happening? Why is the theme song disappearing? Well, as Howard pointed out in a comment, in part because Lost aired without a theme song last season, and everybody this season is intent on capturing some of Lost's magic. Also, I think it comes down to time. Series' creators now have to tell a lot of story in basically 41 minutes. Almost twenty minutes of commecials occur per each so-called "hour" of drama. Therefore, some producers might feel it better to utilize the time with story, rather than a theme song and montage.
Frankly, I miss the theme songs. And I deplore the amount of commercials we're subjected to. Did you know that Star Trek episodes are 52 minutes long? That Space:1999 episodes are 48 minutes long? That early X-Files episodes are 45 minutes long? Why is it, that as time goes by, our drama is being cut short, and we're being exposed to more commercials? It really sucks.
Anyway, I miss the era of distinctive theme songs and their accompanying opening montages. To this day, I can't separate Space:1999 from that Year One opening: the drum roll, the blare of of the horns, and then the quick-cutting of the first amazing sequence, depicting an Eagler spinning and crashing on the lunar surface.
What's your favorite series theme song and montage? And why do you think they're disappearing today? Have we finally just gotten so busy, so pressed for time, that we don't want any extras in our TV? That we just want to cut to the chase and get immediately to the narrative? Is that it?