Theme songs are literally an introduction to a TV show. They set the tone, give a little information about the characters and plot…and then get stuck in your head forever. Several have become so ingrained in the collective consciousness that it’s been almost totally forgotten that they weren’t the series’ original theme songs.
You may not have watched The Flintstones in years, but you could probably sing the whole theme song right now, off the top of your head. (“Flintstones, meet the Flintstones, they’re the modern Stone-Age Family…”) But this song wasn’t introduced until 1962—at the beginning of the third season of the show. Up until that point, the show used a bouncy but generic instrumental tune that makes no mention of Fred Flintstone whatsoever.
The retro, ’50s-set sitcom Happy Days was such a cultural phenomenon in the mid-’70s that its retro, ’50s-sounding theme song, the cleverly titled “Happy Days,” went to #5 on the pop chart by its performers, a duo called Pratt & McClain. But at first, this song was heard for only a few seconds over the show’s end credits. It was made the official theme in the third season of Happy Days‘s long run. Before that, an actual song from the ’50s was used: “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets.
I Dream of Jeannie
The well-known theme song to ’60s supernatural sitcom I Dream of Jeannie by Buddy Kaye and Hugo Montenegro has no lyrics, but it’s hummable (and danceable) nonetheless. It replaced the original, drums-and-horns theme song by composer Richard Wess. It was also instrumental and catchy…just not as catchy.
The Twilight Zone
The creepy, foreboding musical motif (it’s not quite a song) at the beginning of The Twilight Zone was just as creepy and foreboding as the show itself, making the composition by experimental French composer Marius Constant the perfect way to begin the show. Constant’s music was not a constant, however, being added on to episodes in the series’ second season. Before that, famed film composer Bernard Hermann (Psycho) had contributed a now-forgotten piece of theme music.