How do today's shorter, simpler TV theme songs stack up to the classics of the genre?

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Oct. 12 2010 7:10 AM

Those Were the Days

How do today's shorter, simpler TV theme songs stack up to the classics of the genre?

Slide Show: Those Were the Days.

These days, pretty much everyone has a favorite television theme tune. Some people like a credit sequence that sets up a show's back story (Gilligan's Island), some go for a catchy melody (late-'70s Doctor Who), while still others prefer a perfect evocation of the show's atmospherics (the classic Edward Gorey-illustrated Mystery curtain-raiser). But if current trends continue, the youth of 2025 probably won't even recognize the term theme tune.

Over the years, runtimes have shrunk as ad breaks have grown longer. And with more and more viewers equipped with DVRs, producers are loath to devote precious seconds to opening themes. Nowadays, the only place to find a credit sequence that lasts longer than the time it takes to reach for the fast-forward button is on TV Land and premium cable.

What do the new, downsized theme tunes sound like, and how do the opening credits of the 2010 TV season fit in the genre's glorious tradition? Click here for a video slide show. After you've seen what this season has to offer, visit the comments section, below, and tell us your favorite theme tune. (And try—just try—to keep the WKRP in Cincinnati jingle out of your head while you're typing.)

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June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. Follow her on Twitter.