Thursday, April 7, 2011
The top ten greatest car show TV tunes of all time
No, you didn’t. I’ll tell you right now, your cars were involved in high-speed chases. The fast cars ran away from the police cars. Everything could jump the coffee table. Nobody got hurt. And no car would suffer any damage, unless it played into your chase scenario.
None of this was anything like real life. But there was always one place that you could see real cars being treated the same way you treated your cars—television. From jumps to crashes; from chases to failed brakes, nothing influenced the way we played with our toy cars like TV.
When that theme song came up every week, you knew you were going to see something good. So today, we’re going to take a look at those old songs. These are what we’ll call the ten greatest car-related TV theme songs. How can you not watch these and not want to have a 30 Matchbox car pileup? Take a look at these, and tell us what you think below.
#10. The Fall Guy
What an excellent concept for a TV show. Colt Seavers, played by Lee Majors, was a Hollywood stuntman (awesome), who picked up extra cash as a bounty hunter (more awesome), while driving an indestructible four-wheel-drive GMC pickup (double awesome), while 1980s Heather Thomas rode shotgun (beyond awesome). Majors actually sang the theme song, and mentions his ex-wife Farrah Fawcett in the first line.
#9. Knight Rider
Yes, it was an underpowered ’82 Trans Am with a ridiculous dashboard, a terrible airplane yolk-like steering wheel, and a swishing red light at the end of the hood. But to kids in the ‘80s, it was the Knight Industries 2000, KITT for short, and it was amazing. It could jump buildings with the push of a button. It was indestructible. It could talk. And it could drive by itself. Such a high-tech car needed a high-tech theme song, and the ‘80s synthesized Stu Phillips-composed techno music fit the bill perfectly.
#8. Hardcastle and McCormick
If the Ferrari-like engine warble before the music even began wasn’t enough of a clue, the rockin’ “DRIVE!” theme song told you there were going to be some car chases in the ensuing hour. My dad always used to say, “I’d like this show if it weren’t for that damned noisy music.” Basically, Milton C. Hardcastle (Brian Keith), a retired judge, forced ex-racecar driver and accused car thief Mark McCormick (Daniel Hugh Kelly) to be his indentured servant, and they went after a bunch of unsolved cases that passed through the judges courtroom. But mainly, they just had a lot of car chases.
A couple of motorcycle cops, 50-car freeway pileups, and Larry freakin’ Wilcox make CHiPs one of the hottest police dramas around. Oh yeah, and Erik Estrada—you can’t forget Ponch. John Parker wrote the ‘70s disco/action instrumental that will live forever live in the theme song hall of fame.
#6. Route 66
Prolific musician Nelson Riddle wrote the jazzy instrumental theme song for Route 66, one of TV’s most iconic car-related TV series. As Todd and Buzz crossed early 1960s America in their new Corvette, they broke new ground for indulgent automotive abuse on film. Watch episodes of this show today, and it is hard to imagine someone being that hard on those beautiful old Vettes, but it sure makes for some great TV.
#5. The Dukes of Hazzard
Not only is Waylon Jennings’ Good Ol’ Boys one of the most recognizable theme songs in the history of television, but the General Lee is arguably the most famous car ever to cross the small screen. And by cross, I mean, jump 200-feet across. This whole show was designed around the car chases. Every episode culminated in a chase, or some reason the Dukes had to get somewhere before time ran out. And really, who needs a plot when you have a fantastic formula like that?!
#4. The Rockford Files
When I was a kid, my favorite shows of all time were split between The Dukes of Hazzard and The Fall Guy. As an adult, The Rockford Files moves to the top of the list. I love the understated aura surrounding the gold Firebird Esprit, and James Garner is really a good actor. The harmonica theme song was actually a top-40 hit for composer Mike Post, and it earned him a well-deserved Grammy award. The answering machine shtick before the opening credits was a nice touch too.
#3. Magnum, P.I.
Shortly after a couple of appearances on the aforementioned Rockford Files, Tom Selleck turned up in his most famous role, as Vietnam vet and Hawaiian island playboy Thomas Magnum in Magnum, P.I. Listen to that theme song—it just makes you want to put the pedal to the metal in your own Ferrari 308 GTS. During the first season, they actually played a different theme song over the opening credits, while the one we all know and love took a secondary role. Luckily, that soon changed, and the Magnum, P.I. theme song is one of the best car-related TV openers ever.
#2. Hill Street Blues
No other song conveys poignant, gritty police action like the Mike Post-composed Hill Street Blues theme song. You can just think of this music and see those cop cars heading out in the rain to a call. This song even made it to #10 on Billboard’s Top 100. The show looks like it takes place in Chicago or New York, although they never really say. But there is no doubt that this is one of the most solid pieces of television music in history.
#1. Hawaii Five-0
From 1968 to 1980, fans of the CBS action series watched Jack Lord’s Steve McGarrett take down Hawaii’s worst criminals, but for all the perps he had Danno book, the show will always most be remembered for its awesome theme music. McGarrett drove a classy black Mercury Park Lane for much of the show’s run. Morton Stevens wrote that original music, while the Ventures made it a hit. Hawaii Five-0 came back in 2010 with an all new cast, but one thing they didn’t mess with was that perfect music.