Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A spurious documentary about TV theme tunes

This Saturday, BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a documentary called "The Lost Art of the TV Theme". Presented by Rich Morton - a comedian who makes his own pastiche TV themes - it posits that today's programmes are blighted by "generic music which would defy most people's attempts to hum it".

According to the blurb: "His suspicion is that programme-makers in the 1980s - perhaps as a result of squeezed budgets - stopped commissioning specially-written music and turned instead to cheaper alternatives, such as adapting instrumental extracts from pre-existing pop records."

Never mind that the entire programme is based on a "suspicion" (never a great start for a documentary), the premise is obviously ridiculous. Restricting myself to the 21st Century, here are just eight instantly memorable (and original) pieces of TV themery.

And let's not forget The Wire, Mad Men, Big Brother, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Firefly, Downton Abbey, Veronica Mars, 24, QI, Brooklyn Nine Nine... The list goes on.

The one thing I'll concede is that (BBC and Netflix shows aside) theme tunes have been drastically shortened since the heyday of Dallas and Dynasty - thanks to increased advertising minutes eating into the shows' running times. But there's something fantastic about the brevity of (for example) the 30 Rock theme, which telegraphs everything you need to know about the programme's quirky, quickfire wit in a brief 18 seconds.

The Lost Art of the TV Theme airs on Saturday at 10:30am.

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