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matt zoller seitz

Seitz Asks: What’s Your Favorite TV Theme Song?

Seitz Asks is a weekly feature in which our critic proposes a question about the medium, gives his own answer, then engages with readers about their responses.

The theme to The Bob Newhart Show is my favorite piece of opening music for any TV series. Composed by the series' co-creator Lorenzo Music with his wife Henrietta, it's got a commercial big band jazz feel that's fairly typical for the era. Not for series, though. For all its considerable sweetness, this is a surprisingly conceptual piece for network TV, easing in and out of different modes.

It starts with Bob answering a phone (a reference to his early stand-up routines featuring one-way phone conversations). This is followed by a false start, then by an extended bit of cheerful but hard-charging music accompanying Bob's walk from his office to the elevated train that'll take him home to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). When the train pulls into the station and Bob gets on, the music downshifts drastically — like the difference between a jogger's heartbeat and a relaxed sigh — and becomes beguilingly romantic: a love theme. (The title of the piece is "Home to Emily." You can watch the full version here. Just the music is below.)

My top ten favorite TV themes are, in descending order:

1. The Bob Newhart Show

2. Star Trek: The Original Series

3. The Rifleman

4. I Love Lucy

5. Mission: Impossible

6. Good Times

7. Police Squad!

8. Miami Vice

9. The Sopranos

10. Deadwood

What's your favorite TV show theme?