Although I found the premise (and tangled web) of Lost (the TV series) intriguing, I was always bemused by the show’s (seeming) theme song. I recently came across Neil Patrick Harris’s opening monologue from the 2009 Emmys where he commented on the brevity of many recent TV themes.
So… that got me thinking about some of my favourite TV themes from my childhood. In many respects my upbringing was rather conservative but, because my parents were occupied with operating our service station/snack bar on a “seven days a week” basis (our house was attached to the business) and I didn’t have siblings to mitigate my viewing preferences, the television was a frequent evening companion. Some of my favourite programs were favourites because of their evocative theme songs. Below is a sampler of some of these themes…
A. Burke’s Law
An early favourite. The show, starring Gene Barry [formerly of Bat Masterson fame] ran from 1963 to 1965 (continued one further less-than-stellar season as Amos Burke Secret Agent). Barry played police chief Amos Burke, a millionaire officer who went about solving crime in his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. The show’s theme had an urban and urbane flavour…
B. The Man From UNCLE
If playing a secret agent was a poor fit for Burke, others were ready to capitalize on the popularity which James Bond had achieved on the big screen. Debuting in 1964 and running until 1968, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum [currently of NCIS fame] brought their blend of the “sophisticated” and the “mysterious” to the frequently outlandish plots of the series. As the show evolved, so too did the theme, originally penned by Jerry Goldsmith. Here’s a montage of those themes (I personally preferred version one and two)…
If you know anything about television of the late 50’s/early 60’s you will know that it was home to innumerable westerns in the same way that so many of today’s shows are police procedurals. Laredo featured a trio of Texas Rangers played by William Smith, Peter Brown and Neville Brand. Running from 1965 to 1967, it was one of the later variations on a genre whose heyday had been reached in the preceding decade.
D. The Wild Wild West
If westerns were still on the radar for viewers (although on the wane) and spy shows were on the ascendency, then a spy show set in the Ol’ West should be a slam dunk. Such was probably the thinking of the creators of The Wild Wild West, featuring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. Running for four seasons, beginning in 1965, the show was set in post-Civil War America where our heroes flitted across the continent on their own train in order to protect their homeland.
E. The Rat Patrol
It is perhaps no surprise that, with the Second World War still a relatively recent memory, some shows would seek to relive the conflict. And, given Hollywood’s propensity for rewriting history to showcase American heroism [Argo, for example], it comes as no surprise that Americans play a significant role in The Rat Patrol, a series based on the North African campaign in which the U.S. had virtually no part. The show ran for two seasons, beginning in 1966 and starred Christopher George, Gary Raymond, Lawrence Casey and Justin Tarr.
(At the time I was taking a few [like about six] accordion lessons and I remember taking some pride in being able to play this theme by ear [very simplified version] on my accordion!)
F. The Littlest Hobo
By now you’re thinkin’… Didn’t this kid ever watch something Canadian and a little more genteel? To which I reply
1. Yes. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of my viewing habits… just some shows with neat themes…
2. Part of the problem in watching Canadian content was our location. We were close enough to the powerful signals (via aerial) from the networks in Detroit that American channels had the best reception. Our only Canadian station was a CBC affiliate (at the time) in London.
All that said, I do remember a certain fondness for a Canadian series called The Littlest Hobo. It centred on (in that peculiarly genteel Canadian way) the adventures of a wandering (homeless) dog. And… I especially remember its folkish theme song…
By the way, the grrrrrls reminded me to inform you that the star of the original show was a German Shepherd named London and that the show first aired in 1963.