Yesterday, I heard that actor Steve Forrest had passed away on May 18 at the age of 87. Even though he appeared in many TV series, to me he’s best remembered for the mid-seventies show S.W.A.T., which I used to watch Thursday nights on CBS at 9 p.m. Forrest was a commanding presence, leading young cute guys like Robert Urich and Mark Shera into battle every week.
One of the show’s biggest attractions for me, though, was that theme music and action-packed title sequence, with the S.W.A.T. truck barreling down the street and dudes diving through windows and rappelling from buildings. I wanted to jump out of a S.W.A.T truck (on TV, anyway) when I grew up.
This made me think of other TV theme songs that bring back indelible memories for me, of time spent gasping and laughing in front of the tube, either with my family gathered round, or later with my college friends. Shows just don’t open with catchy tunes anymore.
Below, in no particular order, are my favorite TV theme songs of all time.
- S.W.A.T. (see above for reasons)
- Mission Impossible. I used to watch this show in Vietnam, and couldn’t understand anything, but the music would get me excited, because I’d get to spend time with Dad, who’d watch it with me sometimes.
- Hawaii Five-0. This one makes me think of Mom, who was a Jack Lord fan. Mama always has good taste.
- Batman. I just liked singing along to this one, because the lyrics were simply “BATMAN!” over and over, and then 13 “nah”s in a row at the end. Any six-year-old could do it, and it was fun to do it at the top of my lungs.
- Gilligan’s Island. I used to sing along to this one, too, but messed up the lyrics a little, e.g. the tiny ship was “toast” instead of “tossed.” But it was one of the first American theme songs I learned to sing all the way through, because I’d watch the reruns every day after school.
- M*A*S*H. I have never seen an episode of this, but learned to play the theme on my violin for a school concert. I thought it was a lovely tune…until I learned the lyrics and found them depressing. Can’t deny the music’s memorable melancholy vibe, though.
- Laverne & Shirley. How could I not like a theme song about two plucky women making their dreams come true and doing it their way? Years ago, while I sat backstage waiting to go on a game show as a contestant, this theme song crept into my head and it wouldn’t quit. I was slightly antsy because I was surrounded by a bunch of competitors, so maybe the song was my brain’s way of psyching me up, saying I was “gonna do it.” And I did. Win, that is.
- Three’s Company. They invited you to knock on their door; they’ve been waiting for you! Dad and I used to watch this show, too. Most of the double entendres flew right over my head, but I remember Dad being slightly scandalized and then laughing anyway.
- The Love Boat. Yes, it’s cheesy, but there’s something wonderful about watching people board the Pacific Princess, knowing they’ll find love by the end of their vacation.
- Cheers. I remember hanging out in my college dorm’s common room on Thursday nights at 9 p.m., and the other residents and I would sing along to the now classic opening song, hoping we’d find a place where everybody knew our name, someday somewhere, out in the big bad world.
What are some of your favorite TV theme songs?
Have a safe weekend, and don’t forget to nominate your favorite crime fiction books and authors for the Stalker Awards!