A little while ago an American TV blog, Comfort TV, ran a series of articles listing its favourite TV themes of each decade from the 1950s to 1980s. Many were of shows very familiar to Australian audiences, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, The Love Boat, Cheers, Moonlighting, Twin Peaks and Highway To Heaven.
So while Australian TV doesn’t have quite the same breadth of material to tap into, we’ve managed to scrape together a list of ten Australian TV themes that stand out (and that are available on YouTube). Some of them are original compositions, while others are adapted from other sources — but hopefully all trigger a few memories.
So, here they are, in no particular order.
Seven National News. The signature tune that introduced Seven National News on HSV7 Melbourne for almost 20 years was titled Industry Today by UK composer Sam Fonteyn. The theme music was also used by HSV7’s sister radio station 3DB in the 1970s.
National Nine News. Adapted from the musical score of the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, this theme was used by the American ABC network and since the 1970s by Nine in Australia. It has been updated and reworked a number of times but forty years later this theme still introduces Nine News each night.
The Sullivans. Composed by Nine’s Geoff Harvey for Two Way Mirror, a sexy soap that had been proposed by Nine in 1975 to combat the then top-rating Number 96 and The Box. Two Way Mirror never eventuated and a slightly modified version of the theme tune became immortalised by the much more sedate The Sullivans.
Prisoner. The song On The Inside, composed by Allan Caswell and sung by Lynne Hamilton, became a chart-topper when it was released following the debut of Prisoner in 1979.
Arcade. A series that launched with outstanding credentials — coming from the creative brains and network behind the former hit show Number 96 and boasting a decent cast — but in the end became Australian TV’s most infamous flop. Even though it was now 1980, Arcade‘s ’70s-style disco tune, composed by Mike Perjanik and sung by Doug Parkinson, was catchy enough.
Kath And Kim. The theme song that introduces those foxy morons from Fountain Lakes is an adaptation of the song The Joker, co-written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1960s musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd. For Kath And Kim, The Joker is sung by series co-creator and co-star Gina Riley.
Division 4. Most of the shows to have come out of Crawford Productions have come with standout theme tunes. This one for Nine‘s Division 4 was taken from a British composition which had also been used in some American programs at the time.
Neighbours. At one point this song was probably better known by Australians than the national anthem. Composed by Tony Hatch and written by Jackie Trent, the Neighbours theme has had many updates and revisions over 30 years, making it one of Australia’s longest serving theme songs, but the most recognised rendition would be the original, sung by Barry Crocker.
YouTube: Todd’s Retro TV World
Glenview High. The Seven Network‘s return to the schoolroom two years after the demise of Class Of ’75 was accompanied by a disco-inspired theme tune to appeal to its teenage demographic. Like the Arcade theme that followed a few years later, it was composed by prolific TV and film composer Mike Perjanik — whose other works included the themes to The Restless Years, Chopper Squad, Hey Dad!, Kingswood Country, A Country Practice and Home And Away.
YouTube: The Cathode Ray Choob
The Lost Islands. The 1976 children’s adventure series was a co-production between the 0-10 Network and Paramount Pictures. The series drew a lukewarm response in Australia but sold well overseas. The theme song, composed and sung by Michael Caufield, and opening titles have a Gilligan’s Island feel about them as they describe the premise of the series — that five young crew members of a ship are lost at sea and find themselves at a mysterious island.
Do you agree with this list… or are there others worthy of mention? Share your comments below.