Ask the reader: your favourite TV show theme tunes

Here at Film and TV, I always want to know more about our readers and their watching habits. So every month, I am posing our TV and Film Contributors with a new question. For this week, I asked the question: what is your favourite TV series theme tune and why? Scroll down to find out more!

– Succession 

A show that reaches Shakespearean heights of drama, tension and tragedy demands a title theme as formidable as its principle characters, and Nicholas Britell; Emmy award winning composer of scores for Moonlight (2016) and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018); delivers exactly that with his composition for Succession. For these unfamiliar with the series, Succession, created by Jesse Armstrong, follows the family of aging patriarch and ruthless media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) as his children contend for the ultimate sign of acceptance from Dad; to become his successor as CEO of Waystar Royco.

The theme pushes and pulls with unsettling effect between minor to major key changes, perfectly reflecting the show’s command over a delicate balance of constant unease with only momentary, often comic, relief. Combining a classical sounding piano with an arresting hip hop beat, Britell’s composition evokes both the guarded, elite spaces of the traditional mega rich and the modern energy that imposes itself upon such monoliths as Logan Roy. With the previous season including a horrifically uncomfortable but surprisingly quite catchy rap titled ‘L to the OG’, performed by Kendall Roy as a gift to his father Logan, its anyone’s guess what musical additions Britell will be making to the upcoming season three and I, for one, am very much looking forward to them.

Tannyth Morley Twin Peaks

Thirty years after it first aired in 1990, David Lynch’s cult classic Twin Peaks still captivates and enthralls with its surreal and quirky charm. 

Not only has it had a profound influence on television, but the show’s alluring soundtrack, scored by Angelo Badalamenti, has inspired countless musicians across all genres. The iconic theme song, an instrumental version of ‘Falling’, sung by Julee Cruise with lyrics written by Lynch himself, endures as one of the show’s most enchanting aspects, and has cemented itself among the most memorable TV theme tunes. The song is haunting and ethereal; with its sweeping synthesised strings and repeating arpeggios that are reminiscent of the gentle cascading of a harp, the music seems to drift along serenely with the waterfall and the river shown in the title sequence. In a show notorious for its baffling plot lines and enigmatic characters, its calm and dreamlike atmosphere is, paradoxically, what brings it back into the realm of the real, affording it charisma and relatability which may otherwise be obscured by Lynch’s uncanny surrealism. The mesmerising theme song perfectly complements Twin Peaks’ dualism; it is simultaneously earthly and eerie, establishing it as one of the most fondly remembered theme songs of all time.

  – American Horror Story 

What makes this theme tune so special, is the fact that it is somehow distorted in each season. This distortion acts to ‘match’ the topic of the season, whether it has a circus bells for the series ‘Freak Show’, or a synth beat for ‘1984’ – the iconic chords stay the same. 

The way the theme tune transcends, yet reshapes as each season goes by is incredible. As an anthology TV series – the same (or nearly the same) cast performs, but their story-lines, their characters and the setting are completely different. With the theme tune shifting with each season, yet still retaining its inherent sinister nature, helps to ground the audience and remind them that yes, this is a show that explores all kinds of horror. 

Having no lyrics, the audience is confronted with a magnitude of sounds and screeches, harmonised together in a haunting melody. As malevolent as it may be, the twisted tune is still able to be an earworm and get trapped in your brain, as if it were a catchy pop song. 

It is not just the theme tune that makes the show so memorable, but the rest of the score. It is no wonder that James S. Levine, the composer for the show, has won an Emmy for his work on American Horror Story

Yes, the theme tune is not exactly cheerful, but it truly does set the tone for the nail biting, hands-over-eyes horror show. 

Community

“I can’t count the reasons I should stay / one by one they all just fade away.” 

Oddly sombre lyrics accompany the upbeat tune of At Least It Was Here, the Community theme tune. Community started off as an easy-going, quip-heavy sitcom set in an eccentric community college. By the final season, it was a show about a group of people refusing to let go of the past.

What started as a study group became a collection of friends who couldn’t bear to see each other leave and were too scared to take the next step in life. The finale is a masterclass in this, in which the characters pitch a hypothetical “seventh season” of their lives together, each playing upon tired stereotypes and references from the show’s tenure – ultimately making them realise there were no longer reasons to hang on to their old lives.

This is mirrored in the trajectory the show itself took. Starting out as the perfect cocktail of writers and actors, a failed experiment to shake things up by removing Dan Harmon as showrunner was the first in several high-profile departures – Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), Chevy Chase and Yvette Nicole Brown among them. Slowly, Community lost what made it unique, and the final season (although entertaining) was patently not the same sitcom as the first. At some point, it was time to give up.The theme tune perfectly encapsulates this, at first stating “somebody said it could be here / we could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year,” embodying the idea that sometimes you have to take life’s unexpected challenges and run with them before it’s too late. The characters did this, forming a group of highly unlikely friends at each of their lowest points in life. But in the same breath, the theme tune makes it clear that this won’t always last – eventually it’s time to move on, and that’s okay. Also, the song’s a banger.

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