A recent BBC Radio 4 documentary questions whether the British theme tune, ever popular in the 60s and 70s, is now dead. There are no longer the staple, decent themes, it says, such as (the so often cited) themes like Coronation Street, Mastermind, Match of the Day, Ski Sunday, University Challenge and Doctor Who.
Well, I disagree that theme tunes are dead. Let’s take a typical recent BBC One schedule from Friday 8th May 2015 which has a mix of older and more recent themes:
6pm – BBC News
7pm – The One Show
7:30pm – A Question of Sport
8pm – EastEnders
8:30pm – Question Time
9:30pm – Have I Got News For You
The BBC News theme. Well, this has been around since 1999. You could say it’s a modern theme if we’re comparing it to the likes of Doctor Who. Recognisable and great? Of course. It’s so recognisable that Bill Bailey uses it in one of my favourite routines of his (here).
The One Show was first broadcast in 2006. I rarely watch it but as soon as I hear the title of the show I think ‘ONNNNE’ in my head. Recognisable, yes – and pretty decent with all that brass in there too!
A Question of Sport – this theme has been around from the 70’s. Easily recallable and decent I’d say.
EastEnders – Yep, moving on…
Question Time – It’s been around since Question Time first aired in 1980. Golden age yes and classic theme of course.
Have I Got News For You – Whilst it has been around since 1990 and is a bit tricky to pin it down exactly and sing it back note for note, it’s a generally very recognisable energetic theme and sits well within the more modern era of TV music.
So are TV themes still going strong? To quote a politician, ‘Hell yeah’.
And what about the general musical picture since 2000? Well there are plenty of themes which are impossible to ignore when talking about decent themes. There’s Strictly, Downton, The Antiques Road Show, The X Factor (possibly) and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. And American themes of recent times: Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Six Feet Under – all really distinct themes.
Yes they’re big shows anyway, but so are the themes, recognisable worldwide. People continue to hum these show themes together on sofas across the nation, as they do with the older themes.
So, there are new melodies out there which will continue to corral the nation and help define TV for generations to come!