The 15 Greatest Television Theme Songs

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With some of the biggest shows like Game of Thrones and The Crown still relying on this musical launch, I decided it was time to revisit some of the greatest TV theme songs ever used.

Tv Theme Songs

At some point, TV theme songs became a rare art. Traditionally, before you could settle into an episode, there was a 30-second to a minute opening title sequence introducing the main actors, creator(s), director, writer(s), producers etc. on top of some specially crafted or selected tune. With the exception of Netflix originals, most programming providers have circumvented this intro, and settled for a small jingle before getting into the thick of the action.

Still, with some of the biggest shows like Game of Thrones and The Crown still relying on this musical launch, I decided it was time to revisit some of the greatest TV theme songs ever used. This list may be subjective (nothing really pre-dates the 90s), but to qualify for this list, in my opinion, the theme needed to be: (1) epic, (2) able to stand on its own, (3) remind you of the show, and (4) timeless.

So without further ado, in order, the 15 greatest television theme songs:

15. The Office (NBC)

Written by Jay Ferguson; Performed by The Scrantones

There is no way that you can hear the opening piano keys of this tune and not think about Michael Scott and ‘em. This light, quirky, yet rock n’ rollin’ theme readies you for the same type of hijinks filled episode you’re about to watch from the staple NBC show.

Streaming on: Netflix

14. Mad Men (AMC)

“A Beautiful Mine” — RJD2

This theme was the only thing I continuously loved about the series. Taken from an already produced song, the intro tune encompasses a mix between jazz and electric matching the sleek world of 1960s advertising men the series is set in.

Streaming on: Netflix

13. Sex & the City (HBO)

Written by Douglas Cuomo

Another “you can’t hear this jingle and not think of this show” entry. Through the main use of what sounds like a xylophone and other light percussions, this easy-hummable song could get stuck in your head for days. And if you’re ever looking for a more refreshed and upbeat take on the original theme, look no further than Fergie’s “Labels or Love,” from the film’s soundtrack.

Streaming on: Amazon PrimeHBO Go/Now

12. Will & Grace (NBC)

Composed by Jonathan Wolff

My favorite “straight-to-the-point” theme song. One time I was in the room with someone whose phone went off with this as their ringtone. After thinking, “Can we be friends?” I respected them for hearing the timeless piano arrangement and thinking, “I want to hear that when someone calls me.”

Will & Grace is back! The revival premieres Thursday, September 28 on NBC at 9pm ET.

11. House of Cards (Netflix)

Composed by Jeff Beal

Ever since Netflix introduced its “skip intro” button, I’m not shy in using it when it comes to certain original series from the streamer. Yet, I still find myself holding out over this minute-plus intro, trying to hear every instrument and chord change the song eerily covers. The song is smart, cold, and calculated — just like our favorite Underwood (I’m talking to you Claire).

Streaming on: Netflix

10. The Proud Family (Disney Channel)

Written by Solange; Performed by Solange feat. Destiny’s Child

You thought I was going to make this list and leave this off. That’s funny. One of the greatest artist-driven theme songs ever, this song (like the animated show) is peak Disney Channel at its finest. A song that you could jam to from your radio, and now even older, at the bar if the DJ is right: It’ll make you want to sing.

9. Friends (NBC)

“I’ll Be There for You” — The Rembrandts

I am not ashamed to say that I have seen maybe 10 episodes of this cult classic. It’s not really my cup of tea. But I would be lying to myself if I didn’t include it on this list — the song is just so dang catchy! Pop/rock music to the max, you can catch anyone raising their voice to join the nasally, yet very endearing chorus.

Streaming on: Netflix

8. Living Single (FOX)

Performed by Queen Latifah

Now, this is my type of tea, coffee, and jam! Set in a “90s kind of world,” this classic sitcom, starring a young Queen Latifah, utilized both her boss acting and notorious rap skills. In just one short verse, Latifah captures the essence of the show alongside a tight beat to introduce you to this hip group of friends (just a little shade).

Streaming on: Hallelujah-HULU

7. Grey’s Anatomy, Seasons 1–2 (ABC)

“Cosy in the Rocket” — Psapp

Lowkey, Grey’s Anatomy is king on selecting the best music for its episodes, and this song is just another right choice to introduce the show to its audience. This track from Psapp sounds clean and scientific, just like the surgical rooms the show mostly takes place in. However, with lyrics echoing, “Nobody knows where they might end up,” it introduces the fact that Grey’s isn’t just about some doctors doing surgery.

Streaming on: Netflix | Season 14 premieres Thursday, September 28 on ABC at 8pm ET.

6. A Different World, Seasons 2–5 (NBC)

Co-written by Stu Gardner, Bill Cosby & Dawnn Lewis; Performed by Aretha Franklin

If you get a theme song performed by Aretha Franklin, it better remain as one of the greatest TV theme songs of all time. Not only are the opening credits displayed in one of the most cleverly continuous choreographed scenes, but the song’s lyrics also stand on their own as some of the best words one can hear when going off to college. Listen closely and you already know what this show is all about without even watching an episode. Although, you really shouldn’t live another day without seeing one!

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

5. Game of Thrones (HBO)

Composed by Ramin Djawadi

We’re beginning to get into the most epic songs of the bunch. Theme songs that are so gigantically composed, it’s as if you need to ready up your viewing game to engage in this different kind of storytelling. I didn’t get into GoT until last year, but if someone was like, “Hey Stephanie, you should listen to the theme music,” I would have gotten into this hit show a bit sooner. Engaging with a multitude of string instruments, the song holds true to both the show’s northern European-inspired setting and medieval story by also blending in mechanical sounds of bridges and burning flames. Like GoT, there’s a lot going on.

Streaming on: HBO Go/Now

4. The Good Fight (CBS All-Access)

Composed by David Buckley

This opening sequence just shows how CBS went all in for its first series on its streaming app. A spin-off from (one of the greatest shows ever!!) The Good Wife, composer David Buckley took his same string-heavy, classical arrangements he trickled throughout the mother series and brought it to another tipping point for Fight’s theme. Just like the visuals, the song gets bigger and wilder, all the way to a screaming climactic chord. With a theme like this, each episode can only stay at that next level.

Streaming on: CBS All Access

3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (NBC)

Composed by Quincy Jones; Produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff; Written and performed by The Fresh Prince

All I gotta say is *note to DJs around the world* we never want to hear the full version of this classic in the club/bar. We only know three verses. Like the show, play this version and get on with the lit-ness.

Streaming on: shamefully nowhere!

2. The West Wing (NBC)

Composed by W.G. Snuffy Walden

Say what you want to say about the series (which I don’t understand if you say anything bad about it), but don’t you dare deny the powerful orchestration that captures the emotional essence of this political show. The song dips in and out of commanding measures into softer moments, juxtaposing the show’s high-powered setting with its main characters’ humane interactions. Emmy winner for “Outstanding Main Title Theme Music (2000),” this theme song is just… complete.

Streaming on: Netflix

1. Westworld (HBO)

Composed by Ramin Djawadi

“Ughhhhh sooo good:” that’s what I say to myself every time this song ends. Provoking the same kind of “other-level” high quality production the show uses, this theme nearly uses every instrument and synth tool imaginable. Composed by the same man behind Thrones, this theme is definitely the stronger and greatest one for me. Building from one crescendo to the next, adding echoing chords and substituting others while slowly deconstructing towards its end like the series’ robotic characters — it’s impossible to not get chills from this opening.

Streaming on: HBO Go/Now

Did I miss one? Is there a better order? What’s your Top 3? Comment below and let me know!

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