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The Best TV Show Theme Songs (that are actual songs)

With all of us locked inside our homes, many of us have turned to our favorite TV shows to get us through these unusual times. As any good English or film major would know, the music in a film or TV show is very important, it helps the audience understand a scene or moment in the action and give visual images more impact.

For TV, the show’s theme or opening title song is just as important as the music within the show. It must capture the tone of the show, and help get you into the right state of mind for what you’re about to watch.

Some of these songs are written especially for the show themselves, while others use pop songs repurposed into the theme songs. It’s these actual songs that have me thinking… which are the best tv theme songs that are actual songs.

So that got me thinking – what are some of the best TV theme songs that are actual songs.

By actual songs, we’re talking about songs that were recorded by artists and were not originally intended to be theme songs for television shows. This means themes songs from the Simpsons, Game of Thrones and even the Friends and Cheers theme songs (I don’t care they got a full length version and 7 inch release, they were written for the TV show) don’t make the cut.

Let’s have a look at some of the best tv theme songs that are actual songs, broken down by genre.

British Comedy: Monty Python’s Flying Circus – The Liberty Bell

Arguably the oldest song on this list, The Liberty Bell was composed in 1893 by John Philip Sousa. A military march, the tune invokes feelings of patriotism and pride in the men marching to it – something that Monty Python would rip the piss clean out of. This song makes the list due to its age and actual title, despite being known better nowadays as the ‘Monty Python Theme Song’.

Prestige Drama: The Sopranos – Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3

The open high hats set the pace to this song early, and snarling lyrics indicate that this show is going to show you some shit. The small glitches across left and right channels indicate that something’s a little bit off however – it’s true Tony Sopranos is a vicious mobster, but why does he need to see a shrink?

Medical Drama: House – Teardrop by Massive Attack

The deep piano chords of this track combined with the soft vinyl record style crackle shows the gravitas of this detective medical drama. The bass drum has a rhythm like a steady heartbeat, denoting House’s ability to stay cool, calm and calculating in any crisis.

Teenage Drama: Veronica Mars – We used to be Friends by The Dandy Warhols

This one hits me right in the nostalgia. Perfectly capturing that early 00s high school sound with grainy guitars and that pop punk sound, there was no better theme song for a show about a high school detective.

Cooking Show: Jamies 15 Minute Meals – The Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry

Wait what? A cooking show? Yes I know – I’m as surprised as you are. This song may have been the basis for this entire article.  A 1980s club banger, used to put some drive behind you to create how quick and easy it is to whip up Mighty Mackerel and Golden Chicken

Do you agree with my picks? Which TV themes that are actual songs did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

I’ve made a playlist with 20 more songs on it – can you name every TV show presented on the list?

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