12 TV Shows That Changed Their Theme Song

I love TV themes. The best ones become iconic, part of our cultural fabric… like Hawaii Five-O, Peter Gunn, Star Trek, The Addams Family and The Brady Bunch to name just a few. But several famous shows completed scrapped their opening themes… some early on as they were finding their way and some later in their runs to revitalize the series. Here are 12 examples (three of them shows that I worked on):

Kojak

Bonanza

Lost in Space

Season 1
Season 3

Magnum PI

Land of the Giants
Season 1
Season 2

Simon & Simon

The Avengers

SeaQuest

Space: 1999

Walker Texas Ranger

Monk

Martial Law
Season One
Season Two

 

14 thoughts on “12 TV Shows That Changed Their Theme Song

  1. Out of the shows I watched, I like the earlier versions of Kojak and Bonanza, and I prefer the later versions of Magnum PI, The Avengers and Monk. Love that Randy Newman song.

  2. Definitely the first Bonanza. 2nd Magnum PI, Walker, Monk, Avengers, Simon and Simon. Te rest are forgettable for each. Thanks for reminding me of the Avengers.

  3. I think which theme song you prefer can depend on which one you first hear. For example, I watched Lost in Space and Bonanza early on in those series when I was a child and the theme songs that I remembered were the original ones. However, I came to The Avengers and Magnum later and prefer the second theme songs for them because that was what I remembered best. Music is meant to evoke an emotion so my theory is that if you enjoyed a show when you first watched it, you’re more likely to remember that theme song than you are a version you hear later. Having said that though, I came to Monk later but then made a point of watching all the series (thank you cable tv) and have to say that I prefer the first theme. Of course, who can forget Marci’s comment to Monk about never changing his theme song if he ever gets his own tv show! And I especially like how the producers played the original theme song in other ways throughout that series. Well done Monk.

  4. What about Starsky and Hutch? The first theme song was hard-nosed, reflective of the series’ early going as a tough cop show. But when the vibe of the show changed into more goofy plots, them new techno theme song reflected that change.

  5. “Hazel” and “I Dream of Jeannie” are two more examples of television series’ main theme music that were changed. In the case of “Jeannie,” most fans would probably agree for the better from the theme used the first season to the iconic theme accompanying the animated opening of “Jeannie” (Barbara Eden) pouring out of her bottle in a stream of smoke and dancing toward her master, “Captain/Major Anthony Nelson” (Larry Hagman).

    The first season’s theme of “Jeannie” was a pleasant enough instrumental with a waltz tempo written by Richard Weiss. Apparently, series’ creator.producer Sidney Sheldon became dissatisfied with the original theme music, so commissioned a new one by Hugo Montenegro with lyrics by Buddy Kaye. And that was the one that stuck, danceably and infectiously so. Brill Building tunesmiths Gerry Goffin and Carole King had also composed a song called “Jeannie” for Sidney Sheldon before the series began, but it was never used. Given the Goffin-King tracks’ record, I’d certainly like to hear that one some day, if a recording of it even exists.

    But in the case of the “Hazel” main theme song (three of them), I think the show’s producers should have left well enough alone and stuck with the first and most catchy theme (lyrics by Sammy Cahn & music by James Van Heusen) of the first three seasons. And even in that first season, the vocal version sung by The Modernaires over the closing credits was abandoned after the first eight episodes. I think that was also a mistake, as was nice to have a vocal version at least one full season. Bouncier versions of that same Van Heusen-Cahn theme were used the second and third seasons before a change of tunes.

    The theme used for the fourth season of “Hazel” was a faster-paced but relatively innocuous one composed by Screen Gems’ house songwriter (and onetime songwriting partner of Neil Sedaka) Howard Greenfield with Helen Miller. The fifth and final season’s main theme music (accompanying a network switch from NBC to CBS; also the season which saw series’ co-stars Don DeFore and Whitney Blake leave the series in a salary dispute) was a more conventional tune also penned by Greenfield, but with Jack Keller; the team that would co-write some other memorable TV themes songs, including “Bewitched,” “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun.”

  6. In at least two of your examples, the theme music changes accompanied major changes in other aspects of the series. Both Space:1999 and Seaquest were innovative sci-fi series and were intriguing and enjoyable in their first seasons, but jumped the shark and became nearly unwatchable in their second seasons, leading in both cases to their cancelleation. I always assumed that the changes took place to make the shows more “exciting” and shore up flagging ratings, only to have the opposite effect.

    • That’s true…but one correction. The big change on SeaQuest happened in the third season, and I was a part of it as a supervising producer on the show, though I was strongly opposed to changing Debney’s theme. I loved the original theme. But our showrunner felt strongly that the new take on the series required a new theme.

  7. Hey, I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned when “The Outer Limits” main title was replaced for its second and final season by a rehash of Harry Lubin’s main title from “One Step Beyond”

  8. I was wanting to know who did the theme music for the t.v. show “Martial Law” for the first and second season. Can anyone tell me?

    • The first season theme was by Mike Post. I don’t know who did the episodic scores. Second season theme was by Joel Goldsmith, who also scored 1/3 of the episodes. The other composers scoring 1/3 were Corey Lerios & John DeAndrew and John Keene.

      Lee

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