Above: José Feliciano (center) with Freddie Prinze (left) and Jack Albertson on
Chico and the Man (entry No. 5), for which he wrote and performed the theme song.
Sometimes the best part of an old TV show is the music running over the opening credits.
Maybe we didn’t notice it at first; perhaps we were too busy stuffing our preteen pie holes with Twinkies or ogling Ginger, Chrissy, Batgirl or Brenda as they jiggled across our screens. But it was there.
With this in mind, and in hope of redeeming ourselves slightly for our cathode-ray binges, we set out to find TV themes that contain cool guitar work. (And yes, we're using the word “cool” loosely.) Now pass the remote… Baywatch is on in five!
10. Simon & Simon
Ah, the vaunted “private investigator” genre. Ripping yarns, funny gags, head-scratching cases, despicable bad guys! And for once, a cool theme song reflecting the yin (street-smart Rick) and yang (booksmart A.J.) of those crazy Simon brothers.
09. The A-Team
If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire … the A-Team. And if not, at least you’ve got this cheesy hard-rock riffing that provides the perfect backdrop to Mr. T & Co.’s explosions and rapid-fire machine guns.
08. The Ren & Stimpy Show
A psycho chihuahua, dopey cat and an early-rock/rockabilly theme? “Happy Happy, Joy Joy” indeed.
07. Three’s Company
One thing’s for certain: some dude was totally trippin’ when he cut this nasty wah wah freakout. Then again, the show is essentially about one man, Jack Tripper and his masturbatory, ménage-a-trois fantasies. Even so, we’re not sure how this insane guitar part slipped by the show’s producer. Unless, of course, it was recorded by his son, and he had no choice.
06. The Munsters
While a million surf and instro bands have taken this ol' tune to new heights (including Los Straitjackets), we'll always reserve a place in our hearts for the original (well, Season 2) version. And who can pass up a chance to look at Pat Priest, who played "plain" Marilyn Munster?
05. Chico and the Man
Prior to his tragic suicide at age 22, Freddie Prinze was, by all counts, “loooking goood!” And Jose Feliciano’s brisk Latin theme song, played on acoustic, was sounding good. Too bad the pairing only lasted three seasons.
Holy hitmaker, Batman! The weirdest thing about Neil Hefti’s popular theme is that it charted four different times, at the hands of four different artists, all in 1966! Same Bat song, different Bat channel!
03. Beverly Hills 90210
The perfect hair-metal chord progression, laid over a lame keyboard lick and a heavily processed trumpet. Hmmm… “perfect hair,” “lame” and “heavily processed.” Sounds like the cast of the show.
02. Law & Order
Mike “Rockford Files” Post proved that TV tunes were songs, too, meaning they could even reach heights on the charts. Here super-stiff yet amazingly tasty blues plucks merge with a heavy, measured rhythm section to create feelings of simmering introspection and patience—both of which you’ll need, incidentally, to get through the show.
01. Barney Miller
Barney’s wacky 12th Precinct in New York City seems an unlikely setting to have inspired this Larry Carlton sound-alike to jam out over a funk-fusion rhythm track. But add the inscrutable presence of Wojo and Fish, and it all seems to make sense.