Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Most Awesome TV Theme Songs

In the world of television a catchy and memorable opening song can be every bit as important as format, writing and characters. The purpose is to grab the viewer's attention while providing a background that is in harmony with the themes and elements of the show. Some theme songs have proved themselves so great that they've even gone on to attain a level of fame that goes beyond the show. Here are the best of the best, minions.

5. Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego?
In most realities, it would be a little strange that the theme song from a program that was, for all intents and purposes, a game show, makes this list. But here in our reality, we have Rockapella. Besides writing and performing the song's theme the band also served as the show's house band, providing music and wacky sound effects for 295 episodes from 1991-96. With their infectious, unique sound, they made even geography sound halfway interesting to kids. And, as it states on wikipedia, they were "catapulted into mid-level television celebrity status" - as mere mortals dare any of us aspire to rise any higher? By the way - Hollywood? Where in the world is the Carmen Sandiego movie starring Angelina Jolie? Come on!

4. WKRP In Cincinnati
Running from 1978 through 1982, this is a show that wrapped up before I was born and I never watched it in syndication. So I can't say exactly how I first heard the song. But I've been aware of it since I was quite young and, despite its soft-rock wussiness, have always really enjoyed it.

As a sitcom detailing the antics of the employees at a radio station, the show was nothing special. But it did have then blonde bombshell Loni Anderson. And it also had this song.

3. Perfect Strangers ("Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now")
Now here is a truly great sitcom that I did indeed watch. Thankfully, it had a truly great theme to accompany it. To me, its sound is the most iconic of its era (mid eighties) and you can hear echoes of it in themes of later shows such as Full House, Step By Step (even though it was in the nineties) and Family Matters. OK, now I've learned that they were all written by the same guys - aren't my ears amazing? But none of the later ones could get it quite right because it had already been perfected (wordplay not even intended!). Tell me your heart doesn't swell when you hear that little lick on the harmonica at the end.

2. The Littlest Hobo ("Maybe Tomorrow")
Speaking of hearts, this song definitely buries the needle on the heartwarming....monitor. Or something. It's the second version of this show, running from 1979 to 1985, that is best remembered. It's also this version that had "Maybe Tomorrow" as its theme. When I was a kid, I watched the hell out of this low-budget (shot on video), Canadian series chronicling the adventures of a nomadic wonderdog. Whether he was clearing the names of the wrongly accused, rescuing animals from a fire, returning a missing child to her parents, helping an emotionally withdrawn boy emerge from his shell, recovering stolen pearls for a betrayed sea captain, guiding people through a dangerous military training zone,  assisting an inept private eye on a case, [takes a breath] ooooorrrr bringing together a lonely widow and a bachelor, "The Hobo" was always up to the task. Having one of the best theme songs ever written backing him up couldn't have hurt.

1. The Greatest American Hero ("Believe It or Not")
While I do have a big soft spot for this show (even though it was off the air by the time I was born and I never watched it when I was young), I will admit it is still remembered to this day mostly by virtue of its magnificent and unforgettable theme song, "Believe It or Not", composed by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer and performed by Joey Scarbury. [how's that for a sentence?] But I will tell you the show was still cool besides that. It was lighthearted and optimistic while still dealing with very serious subjects. It was the sort of thing Americans (and to a certain extent, Canadians as well) really needed coming out of the depressing seventies.  The song and the costume have endured as icons and still pop up in pop culture with regularity. And that's how it should be.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

MINI-LIST: Memorable Modern Commercials

I have been neglecting the TV category, so here's a quick list of memorable/favourite commercials from the last decade or so. There were certainly many ridiculously crazy and awesome commercials from the 80's and early 90's, but I will leave that list in the capable hands of someone else with a better memory than me. Instead I will focus on commercials that stick in my brain from the age of the Internet.

5. Volkswagen: Singing in the Rain
What the hell? It's an "updated" version of "Singing in the Rain" where Gene Kelly is having what seems to be a musical seizure. You like this? Actually, yes. I think it's creative and well made. But isn't it awful that they pasted a dead guy's face on to a break-dancer to make a buck? Well, I will point out that the goal of advertising is to grab your attention. I think this does. Can anything good be taken away from this raping of a classic? Yeah, it introduced me to the group 'Mint Royale' and they are pretty cool. Was that actually a real person dancing or a suit filled with electric Jell-O? Uh... real.

4. Honda: The Cog
What the hell? It's a series of car parts playing out a most elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine. Okay, is this real? Despite some doubt, apparently in 2003 two cars were torn asunder and then constructed into this domino machine that finally worked properly after many takes. How many takes are we talking about here? Several months of work and 606 takes altogether. Where can I find more amazing Rube Goldberg thingies? Well, you could check out the Mythbusters Christmas Special, or Ok Go's amazing video for "This Too Shall Pass". Any others? What am I? Google?

3. X-Box: Guns
What the hell? It's hundreds of people engaging in a huge imaginary Mexican standoff and then blasting the hell out of each other in a giant imaginary war. Was this commercial banned? Everywhere I look online it says it was banned, yet I have no idea why. There is no blood or gore of any kind. There aren't even any guns! Do you think it's because the commercial is suggesting gun violence? Probably, but let's face facts, you'd see more violent imaginary wars in any playground. So why is this so cool? Because it shows that all you need to have fun is an imagination. Why do you look so sad? If society is so uptight that they won't show an imaginary fight on TV, there's no chance I'll ever be part of one in the real world. Sigh!

2. Embrace Life
What the hell? It's one of the best PSA's, NAY, best commercials I've ever witnessed. Why does it work? Because it's simple, and makes its point beautifully. More simple and beautiful than frying an egg that represents your brain on drugs? Yes. Are you going to tell me anything else about it? No, just shut up and watch it already. Shouldn't I ask you a fifth question? Well, you just did. Congratulations.

1. Nutri-grain: Feel Great
What the hell? Yes, what the hell indeed. Yet another commercial that I'd much rather you watch than having myself feebly try and describe it. Why is it so great? Well, besides being one of the craziest commercials ever, it's also one of the funniest, and most quotable. Every time I watch it I'm left with more and more questions. Is that a good thing? Absolutely. I just want to know more about these characters and what happens next. Kelloggs made this? Probably the weirdest thing they've ever made. Does that woman freak you out? Word.