Entertainment Feature Music TV

8 TV Themes That Are Actual Songs – Part 1

You’ve been performing as a group for years. Done the rounds in pubs and clubs. You’ve even had a crack at reality talent shows, but to no avail.

What’s the best way to earn some coin when you’re in a band?

Send your stuff to television production companies and aim to get your song suited as a theme for a TV series. I cannot explain exactly how to get your stuff there, but if you get a chance to get your foot in the door, there’s some real potential money making opportunities that can arise. If the show is popular enough and goes into syndication and DVD release, you could retire pretty comfortably if you choose to. BUT: only depending on what the fine print below the dotted line says. Each song has a history, but because of the lengthiness and legal details behind it, some only get royalties if they perform it live and not from a commercial print release.

The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There For You


Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe have been trotting to this around the Central Park fountain for 10 years, making them a household name. The Rembrandts (Danny Wilde and Phil Solem) have been a group since 1989, their first major single Just The Way It Is, Baby released in 1990 – four years before the show FRIENDS itself. I’ll Be There For You was co-created by The Rembrandts as well as two producers from FRIENDS  David Crane and Marta Kauffman, and composer Michael Skloff, and songwriter Allee Willis. Originally written as a one minute jingle for the intro for the show, they extended the tune and was featured on The Rembrandts LP at the last minute, making it a success in the US and overseas. The Rembrandts make most of their money from performing it live though, not necessarily through syndication.

BoDeans – Closer To Free

Show: Party Of Five

Closer To Free by BoDeans was written in 1993, with moderate success. After TV show Party Of Five (starring Neve Campbell, Matthew Fox and Scott Wolf) used the tune for its theme from 1994 onwards, the song was re-released in 1996 to grasp the popularity at the time. The same song was also used in the childrens 1993 movie Heavyweights starring Ben Stiller.


Lazlo Bane – (I’m No) Superman

Show: Scrubs

Enter the talent of Scrubs star Zach Braff. He knows quality music when it bites you on the butt. Written just before Scrubs had finished being developed in 2001, Braff suggested to Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence to use the tune as the theme song. Funnily enough, Lawrence went on to direct the music video. So popular was the song with Scrubs fans, the tune was covered by A Capella group The Blanks, which is Scrubs co-star Sam Lloyd‘s actual band who play The Worthless Peons in the show.



Massive Attack – Teardrop

Show: House MD

UK group Massive Attack are usually known for their experimental electronica and trip hop tunes, but their 1998 hit Teardrop gained popular exposure in the indie/alternative music scene. Only six years later, it would be picked up for the theme of House starring Hugh Laurie. With a show distribution of 66 countries, you wouldn’t complain! Except… most countries such as Australia, Europe and Singapore got a re-dubbed version of the theme, entitled ‘House’, compised by composed by Scott Donaldson and Richard Nolan. This was due to broadcasting rights for Massive Attack‘s original tune. Teardrop comes with a wicked video clip of an unborn fetus too. Try and watch it without thinking of House not about to cut open someone’s stomach.


Tom Waits – Way Down In The Hole

Show: The Wire

Written and performed by Tom Waits in 1987, the song was used for HBO’s critically acclaimed drama The Wire for the entire five seasons. However, Tom Waits’s version wasn’t used until Season Two. The song was covered by Blues and roots artists with their own interpretation of the song, suiting the mood of each season’s theme.

Season One = Blind Boys Of Alabama
Season Two = Tom Waits
Season Three = The Neville Brothers
Season Four = DoMaJe
Season Five = Steve Earle 


Alabama 3 – Woke Up This Morning

Show: The Sopranos

Written and created by British country blues band Alabama 3, the song was released in 1997 on their album Exile On Coldharbour Lane. In 1999, it became the masterpiece with HBO’s award winning mafia/organised crime drama The Sopranos. However, the tune used for the theme song is called ‘The Chosen One Remix”, with the original tune being more laid black and country-esque.


Foo Fighters – Next Year

Show: Ed

From 2000 to 2004, the highly popular dramedy Ed was created by Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, who worked on talk show The Late Show With David Letterman. Starring Tom Cavanagh and Julie Bowen, the lawyer who ends up owning a bowling alley in his hometown would start each show with Foo Fighters‘s 2000 hit Next Year. However, media production company Viacom kicked up a stink about owning the rights to the song, so it was replaced with Clem Snide‘s mellow Moment In The Sun in Season Two. Burnett and Beckman cried foul, which Viacom ended up retracting and allowed for Next Year to be used again for Season Three and Four. The show also heavily used mainstream music such as The Rolling Stones and Hall & Oates, that a DVD release still delays this show to this day.


Inner Circle – Bad Boys

Show: COPS

Well, this show doesn’t stop, does it? As long as the American public keep committing street crimes, this show will go on and on. As of this post, COPS is up to its 24th season (beginning in 1989), which means that Inner Circle‘s b-side reggae song continues to play since its 1987 release. How did it get chosen? One of the field producers for the show was a fan of Inner Circle.

The song has also been used as the main tune for Will Smith and Martin Lawrence‘s action flicks Bad Boys / Bad Boys II.

There’s more to this list, so stay tuned for a Part 2. Some good songs, but bad shows…




Owner and Operator of Wireless Fodder.
Lover of Australian pop culture, comedy, and obscurities. Works in Australian media, enjoys a beer or three. Happily married to an American.

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