There’s a bit of a story behind how this list came to be. I’ll be sharing it on the Facebook page later. In a nutshell, I had originally decided to sit down and write up a list of my favorite TV themes. After consulting with my usual crew, I realized that I could just do a whole list of TV themes written by Bear McCreary. Over the past decade, McCreary has become a household name and a go-to guy when it comes to composing memorable themes. I haven’t seen all of these shows, but I did spend a great deal of time today listening to each and every one of them.
11. “Defiance” (2013 – )
My only complaint about the theme from “Defiance” is that it’s so short. Still, in the brief time that the audience gets to hear it, it says everything you really need to know about the show. There’s the relentless moving forward of the beat with that veneer of civilization supplied by the strings. Accompanying those elements are bits of electronic noise to give it that future vibe. It feels a little rough around the edges and that’s what makes it perfect.
10. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (2013 – )
Composing a theme for the small screen outing of everyone’s favorite Agent must have been a tall order. Somehow with that opening fanfare, the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” theme definitely fits in with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s grand without being pretentious. It’s perfect and leaves quite an impression in such a short time.
9. “The Walking Dead” (2010 – )
I have never seen “The Walking Dead.” One of these days, I’ll get around to it. Until then, I can definitely enjoy the insistent eerie quality of the strings. Add the whine of the guitar and what sounds like some piano, and you’ve got yourself the perfect way to transition into this show about the Zombie apocalypse and the survivors left behind.
8. “Eureka” (2007 – 2012)
If I had to pick a genre for this theme song, it would be Rockwellian Sci-Fi. Yes, if Norman Rockwell had been a composer who was into Sci-Fi, he’d have written something like this. I love the percussive gadgetry that accompanies the whistling. It reminds me a bit of the “The Andy Griffith Show” theme in the best sort of way. It definitely fits “Eureka,” a show about a small town full of geniuses and inventors.
7. “Human Target” (2010)
Back in middle school, I had the privilege to be in the band under the direction of Mr. Kenneth Krohn. I played trumpet back then and I was pretty darn good, actually. Mr. Krohn loved to challenge us by giving us music that was supposedly above and beyond what we should be able to play. One of those pieces was the theme song from “JAG.” While doing research for this list, I listened to the theme from “Human Target.” I’ve never seen the show but this song makes me want to. It reminds me a bit of the “JAG” theme and the days when I was a great instrumentalist. Nostalgia aside, it’s just a great song.
6. “Constantine” (2014 – )
While “Constantine” may have its rough spots, one of the things is certainly has going for it is a fantastic theme song. Starting out with the creepy harpsichord and fitting in that rough electronica groove feels ideal for the show about a man who mixes things up in the magical sphere. It’s also got the right amount of horror to leave the listener feeling just a little unsettled. It is as it should be.
5. “Outlander” (2014 – )
The only them song on this list with identifiable lyrics, the theme from “Outlander” is a reworking of “The Skye Boat Song,” an old folk song about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flight from Scotland. The lyrics were altered to accommodate the tale of Claire Beauchamp’s adventures through time and this arrangement is, in a word, magical. The vocals are amazing and the bagpipes? Oh, I love me some bagpipes.
4. “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (2008-2009)
One of these days, I’ll sit down and watch “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” I keep meaning to and just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I will tell you that it’s got a kick-ass theme song. Frantic strings heading straight into martial percussion and ending with that iconic rhythm? Yeah. This was a fitting addition to the already existing themes in this franchise.
3. “Black Sails” (2014 – )
You’ve got to respect a theme that rocks the fuck out with a hurdy-gurdy. I rarely use profanity on this site, but the “Black Sails” theme needed the expletive for emphasis. There is some serious rocking out with an instrument that doesn’t get rocked out with very often. It’s rough. It’s hard. It’s like the protagonists of this piratical show. I’m going to quit while I’m ahead here because the urge to descend into innuendo is too strong.
2. “Da Vinci’s Demons” (2013 – )
Originally, the theme from “Da Vinci’s Demons” had been edged out by my love of the theme from “Black Sails.” It’s such a ridiculously beautiful theme that the showrunners kept it at its full length and simply re-worked the credits to fit the longer time. That’s how gorgeous it is. What brought it in front of “Black Sails?” Well, some lovely person on the internet pointed out how the theme also worked in reverse. That just made it even more amazing in my eyes and totally Da Vinci. You can find the original and reversed versions here.
1. “Battlestar Galactica” (2004 – 2009)
I feel like there may have been some sort of open revolt if the theme from “Battlestar Galactica” wasn’t at the top spot on this list. It’s well-earned. Starting out mournful with the militaristic snare drum rolls and then going into slightly more chaotic drums? In a minute, you’ve summed up the show. From the moment they lost the planet and into the battles to come, this song says it all. This is what really put Bear McCreary on the map and he’s more than earned his rise to prominence ever since.