The Nation’s Most Memorable TV Theme Tunes
If done well, a good TV theme tune can outlast the popularity of the show itself, but which ones do we love (and remember) the most? We did some digging to find out.
From soothing instrumentals to upbeat ‘90s hit songs, the introduction sequences of popular TV shows not only gear the audience up for what to expect, but they also act as a nostalgic marker for when you obsessively binge-watched your favourite TV show for the first time. We surveyed the nation to find out which shows have the most iconic and memorable theme songs, whether we still enjoy them now and if they really have an impact on the portrayal of a show.
What are the most memorable TV soundtracks of all time?
A good TV theme tune is something you would recognise instantly and might have you humming or singing along while you’re doing the dishes. But which ones do we remember the most? When it comes to thinking of an iconic TV theme tune, you’ll be in good company if the words “I’ll be there for you” spring to mind first. We surveyed the nation and found that the Friends introduction song still has the nation in a metaphorical chokehold, with 23% stating it is the most memorable theme tune. Despite the fact the show ended in 2004, the upbeat theme song by The Rembrandts lives in the hearts and minds of the audience – even if it is tricky to place the iconic clap.
While a catchy instrumental will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the memorability of a show, it certainly helps if the programme is aired multiple nights a week – even more so if it’s over the space of 60 years. That’s right, three long-standing British soaps have earned themselves coveted spots in the top 10 most memorable theme tunes, with the silver and bronze medal going to EastEnders and Coronation Street, with Neighbours not far behind. EastEnder’s iconic ‘doof doofs’ and Corrie’s cornets have had a lasting impact on the minds of British viewers around the country.
Do theme tunes conjure up feelings of nostalgia?
Music has the power to transport you to a specific time in your life and a good theme song wields the same effect. Whether it was watching cartoons after school or waking up early to enjoy your favourite show on a Sunday morning, hearing the tune can place you right back in that moment. That’s according to nearly half the nation (42%) anyway, who say there is a theme tune that reminds them of childhood or another period of their life. But who is most nostalgic out of all of us? Well, 46% of Gen X (45-54-year-olds) stated there is a certain theme song that transports them to their childhood. On the other hand, millennials are least nostalgic with 62% saying no theme tune reminds them of their younger days.
So, which title sequence takes us back to days gone by the most? Well, it’s the unforgettable Doctor Who introduction that mentally transports listeners to the glory days of their childhood – however, which version of the ever-changing tune is the most popular is still a great debate. Again, Coronation Street has earned itself a position in the top three, taking second place on the list of most nostalgic television theme tunes. And, in third place is the sea shanty theme tune of the classic kids’ show Blue Peter, which has changed many times since its inception in 1958, but still lives on in the hearts and minds of the nation.
Are we a nation of intro skippers?
For some shows, the opening credit sequence is designed to be a part of the episode itself. Game of Thrones and The Witcher are examples of this, changing as their stories progress, whereas The Simpsons adds an extra gag for the audience to enjoy before each episode starts. In these cases, the intros aren’t meant to be skipped. However, with Netflix’s ‘Skip intro’ feature, it’s easier than ever to bypass the opening credits, resulting in 82% of Brits opting to skip to the main story.
But who are the biggest skippers? Well, not only are millennials (25-34-year-olds) the least nostalgic when it comes to theme tunes, they are also the most likely to skip the introduction, with 92% admitting they do so. The biggest reason they do this is to save time or to continue their binge-watching session seamlessly. However, nearly 1 in 10 Gen Z respondents stated will skip it simply because they don’t like the theme tune – fair enough! At the other end of the spectrum, those who are 55+ enjoy a good theme tune, being the generation least likely to fast-forward the title sequence.
Are older theme tunes more memorable?
Has all this intro skipping meant that people are less likely to recognise new TV theme tunes at the drop of a hat or is it something else? We unearthed that the average number of years the top 10 TV shows with the most memorable theme tunes have been running for is 39 years, with six of the shows still running to this day. It appears longevity does have an impact on memorability, as nearly half of the shows were first broadcast in the 60s (long before zooming past the title credits was even an option) – these being Coronation Street, Doctor Who, Match of the Day, and Star Trek, all of which are still running. In fact, only one show made this side of the millennium featured on the list, which is Game of Thrones running from 2011 to 2019 – not even totting up to a decade. So, if new shows want their theme tunes to stand the test of time and linger in the minds of their audiences, a show either has to run for a very lengthy (yet unrealistic) 39 seasons or be so good that people don’t want to skip it.
This survey was conducted with a sample size of 2,006 people across the UK with Censuswide.