STATEMENT THAT APPEARS AT THE BEGINNING OF ALL A-Z 2016 PAGES:
Welcome to the A-Z Classic TV Shows Theme Songs and Intros! Last year I did an A-Z Musical Tour of My Life and featured tons of classic rock music. I had so much fun with it that this year I decided to present classic television shows theme songs and intros. These are shows that I remember from my youth during the 60s and 70s…with an occasional 80s show thrown in. Each show is introduced with information (gathered primarily from my favorite go-to for info, Wikipedia) or associated memories, followed by a video of the TV show’s theme song intro. At first glance, the posts may seem long because of the number of videos included but it’s really laid out in a way that will enable you to scroll through and read, watch or hear just what you want and then either move on to the next A-Zer or linger and go back in time with all the fun theme song intros you’ll find here. Please leave a comment and share your favorite classic TV shows. By all means, bookmark my blog so you can come back! I hope you enjoy my collection. Now, let’s get started with…
H is for the Honeymooners:
The Honeymooners is an American sitcom, based on a recurring 1951–55 sketch of the same name. It originally aired on the DuMont network’s Cavalcade of Stars and subsequently on the CBS network’s The Jackie Gleason Show, which was filmed before a live audience. It debuted as a half-hour series on October 1, 1955. Although initially a ratings success—becoming the #2 show in the United States during its first season—it faced stiff competition from The Perry Como Show, and eventually dropped to #19, ending its production after only 39 episodes (now referred to as the “Classic 39”). The final episode of The Honeymooners aired on September 22, 1956. Creator/producer Jackie Gleason revived The Honeymooners sporadically until 1978. The Honeymooners was one of the first U.S. television shows to portray working-class married couples in a gritty, non-idyllic manner (the show is set mostly in the Kramdens’ kitchen, in a neglected Brooklyn apartment complex).
Cast and characters:
The majority of The Honeymooners focused on its four principal characters on fixed sets within a Brooklyn apartment building. Although various secondary characters made multiple appearances and occasional exterior shots were incorporated during editing, virtually all action and dialogue was “on stage” inside the normal backdrop.
Ralph Kramden: Played by Jackie Gleason—a bus driver for the fictional Gotham Bus Company. He is never seen driving a bus (except in publicity photos), but is often shown at the bus depot. Ralph is frustrated by his lack of success, and often develops get-rich-quick schemes. Ralph is very short tempered, frequently resorting to bellowing, insults and hollow threats. Well-hidden beneath the many layers of bluster, however, is a soft-hearted man who loves his wife and is devoted to his best pal, Ed Norton. Ralph enjoys bowling, playing pool and being a member in the Loyal Order of Raccoon Lodge (although in several episodes a blackboard at the lodge lists his dues as being in arrears). Ralph was given honorary membership in the union for real New York City bus drivers (Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union) during the run of the show, and a Brooklyn bus depot was named in Gleason’s honor after his death. Ralph Kramden is the inspiration for the animated character Fred Flintstone.
Alice Kramden: Alice (née Alice Gibson), played in the first seven episodes by Pert Kelton and by Audrey Meadows throughout the “classic 39”, is Ralph’s patient but sharp-tongued wife of roughly 15 years. She often finds herself bearing the brunt of Ralph’s insults, which she returns with biting sarcasm. She is levelheaded, in contrast to Ralph’s pattern of inventing various schemes to enhance his wealth or his pride; in each case, she sees the current one’s unworkability, but he becomes angry and ignores her advice (and by the end of the episode, her misgivings are almost always proven to have been well-founded). She has grown accustomed to his empty threats: “One of these days… POW!!! Right in the kisser!” or “BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!”, to which she usually replies, “Ahhh, shaddap!”. She studied to be a secretary before her marriage, and works briefly in that capacity when Ralph is laid off. Wilma Flintstone is based on Alice Kramden.
Another foil for Ralph is Alice’s mother, who is even sharper-tongued than her daughter. She despises Ralph as a bad provider. Alice’s father is occasionally mentioned but never seen. Alice’s sister, Agnes, appeared in one episode (Ralph jeopardizes his newlywed sister-in-law’s marriage after giving some bad advice to the groom, but all works out in the end). Ralph and Alice lived with her mother for six years after getting married before they got their own apartment. Ralph’s mother is rarely mentioned, but appears in one episode. Ralph’s father is only mentioned in one episode (“Young Man with a Horn”) as having given Ralph a cornet he learned to play as a boy, and insists on keeping when Alice suggests it be thrown away. In a 1967 revival, Ralph refers to Alice (played by Sheila MacRae 1966–70 and once more in 1973) being 1 of 12 children and her father never working.
The Honeymooners was originally a sketch on the DuMont Network’s “Cavalcade of Stars”, with the role of Alice played by Pert Kelton. When his contract with DuMont expired, Gleason moved to the CBS network where he had The Jackie Gleason Show, and the role went to Audrey Meadows; Kelton had been blacklisted during the McCarthy hearings, affecting her career at the time.
Edward Lillywhite “Ed & Eddie” Norton: Played by Art Carney; a New York City sewer worker and Ralph’s best friend (and upstairs neighbor). He is considerably more good-natured than Ralph, but nonetheless trades insults with him on a regular basis. Ed (typically called “Norton” by Ralph and sometimes his own wife) often gets mixed up in Ralph’s schemes, and his carefree and rather dimwitted nature usually results in raising Ralph’s ire, while Ralph often showers him with verbal abuse and throws him out of the apartment when Ed irritates him. In most episodes, Ed is shown to be better-read, better-liked, more worldly and more even-tempered than Ralph, despite his unassuming manner and the fact that he usually lets Ralph take the lead in their escapades. Ed and Ralph are both members of the fictional Raccoon Lodge (“An Emergency meeting is an Emergency meeting—never a poker game. An Executive Meeting, that’s a poker game.”). According to Entertainment Weekly he is one of the “greatest sidekicks.” Ed worked for the New York City sewer department and described his job as a “Sub-supervisor in the sub-division of the department of subterranean sanitation, I just keep things moving along”. He served in the U. S. Navy, and used his G.I. Bill money to pay for Typing School, but felt he was unable to work in an office as he hated working in confined spaces. The relatively few scenes set in the Norton apartment showed it to have the same layout as the Kramdens’, but more nicely furnished. Though Norton makes the same weekly $62 salary as Ralph, their higher standard of living might be explained by Norton’s freer use of credit; at one point he admits to having 19 charge accounts. Ed enjoys bowling and playing pool. Ed is the inspiration for Barney Rubble in The Flintstones.
In 1999, TV Guide ranked him 20th on its list of the “50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time.”
Thelma “Trixie” Norton: Played by Joyce Randolph; Ed’s wife and Alice’s best friend. She did not appear on every episode and had a less developed character, though she is shown to be bossy towards her husband. In one episode she is depicted as a pool hustler. On another episode, Ralph insults Trixie by making a reference to Minsky’s (a burlesque theatre; the original Trixie [played by Elaine Stritch] was a burlesque dancer). There are a few references to Trixie’s burlesque background in the lost episodes (e.g., Norton: “Every night I’d meet her backstage and hand her a rose … It was her costume!”). Randolph played Trixie as an ordinary, rather prudish, housewife, complaining to her husband on one occasion when a “fresh” young store clerk called her “sweetie-pie”. In a 1967-hour special Trixie (played by Jane Kean from 1966–1970 and 1976–1978) resentfully denied Ralph’s implications that she “worked in burlesque” to which he replied “If the shoe fits, take it off.” Trixie is the inspiration for Betty Rubble in The Flintstones.
Elaine Stritch was the first and original Trixie Norton in a Honeymooners sketch with Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, and Pert Kelton. The character was originally a burlesque dancer, but the role was rewritten and recast after just one episode with the more wholesome looking Joyce Randolph playing the character as an ordinary housewife.
H is for Hill Street Blues: This is the show that got me hooked on cop dramas!
Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that aired on NBC in primetime from 1981 to 1987 for a total of 146 episodes. The show chronicled the lives of the staff of a single police station located on the fictional Hill Street, in an unnamed large city, with “blues” being a slang term for police officers for their blue uniforms. The show received critical acclaim, and its production innovations influenced many subsequent dramatic television series produced in North America. Its debut season was rewarded with eight Emmy Awards, a debut season record surpassed only by The West Wing. The show received a total of 98 Emmy nominations during its run.
MTM Enterprises developed the series on behalf of NBC, appointing Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll as series writers. The writers were allowed considerable creative freedom and created a series that brought together, for the first time, a number of emerging ideas in TV drama. Each episode features a number of intertwined storylines, some of which are resolved within the episode, with others developing over a number of episodes throughout a season. The conflicts between the work lives and private lives of the individual characters are also large elements of storylines. In the workplace, there is also a strong focus on the struggle between doing “what is right” and “what works”. Almost every episode begins with a pre-credit sequence (or “teaser”) consisting of (mission) briefing and roll call at the beginning of the day shift. (From season three, it experimented with a “Previously on…” montage of clips of up to six previous episodes before the roll call.) Many episodes are written to take place over the course of a single day, and often concluded with Captain Frank Furillo and public defender Joyce Davenport in a domestic situation, often in bed, discussing how their respective days went. The show deals with real-life issues, and employs commonly used language and slang to a greater extent than had been seen before.
H is for Hawaii Five-O: Loved it then, love it now! I was actually surprised that the revival of Hawaii Five-O that is airing in primetime now is so successful but it’s a darn good show! For today’s purpose though, I’m focusing on the original show:
Hawaii Five-O is an American police procedural drama series produced by CBS Productions and Leonard Freeman. Set in Hawaii, the show originally aired for 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980, and continues in reruns. At the airing of its very last episode, it was the longest running cop show in television history at that time. Jack Lord portrayed Detective Captain Steve McGarrett, the head of a special state police task force which was based on an actual unit that existed under martial law in the 1940s. The theme music composed by Morton Stevens became especially popular. Many episodes would end with McGarrett instructing his subordinate to “Book ’em, Danno!”, sometimes specifying a charge such as “murder one”.
The show centers on a fictional state police force led by former US naval officer Steve McGarrett (played by Jack Lord) a Detective Captain, who was appointed by the Governor, Paul Jameson (played by Richard Denning, though Lew Ayres played the Governor in the pilot). In the show, McGarrett oversaw State Police officers — a young officer, Danny Williams (played by Tim O’Kelly in the show’s pilot but replaced in the regular series by James MacArthur), Chin Ho Kelly (played by Kam Fong Chun), and Kono Kalakaua (played by Zulu) for seasons one through four.
For 12 seasons, McGarrett and his team hounded international secret agents, criminals, and organized crime syndicates plaguing the Hawaiian Islands. With the aid of District Attorney and later Hawaii’s Attorney General John Manicote (played by Glenn Cannon), McGarrett was successful in sending most of his enemies to prison. Most episodes of Hawaii Five-O ended with the arrest of criminals and McGarrett snapping, “Book ’em.” The offense occasionally was added after this phrase, for example, “Book ’em, murder one.” In many episodes, this was directed to Danny Williams and became McGarrett’s catchphrase, “Book ’em, Danno.”
H is for Hunter: another cop show that I really liked:
Hunter is an American police drama television created by Frank Lupo, which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1991. It starred Fred Dryer as Sgt. Rick Hunter and Stepfanie Kramer as Sgt. Dee Dee McCall. The titular character, Sgt. Rick Hunter, was a wily, physically imposing, often rule-breaking homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The show’s main characters, Hunter and McCall, resolved many of their cases by lethal force, but no more so than many other related television dramas.
The show’s executive producer during the first season was Stephen J. Cannell, whose company produced the series. Stephanie Kramer left after the sixth season (1990) to pursue other acting and musical opportunities. In the seventh season, Hunter partnered with two different women officers.
H is for Happy Days:
Happy Days is an American sitcom that aired first-run from January 15, 1974, to September 24, 1984, on ABC. The show was originally based on a segment from ABC’s Love, American Style titled “Love And The Happy Day” featuring Ron Howard and three future cast members.
Created by Garry Marshall, the series presents an idealized vision of life in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s United States.
The series was produced by Miller-Milkis Productions (Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions in later years) and Henderson Productions in association with Paramount Television. Happy Days was one of the highest-rated shows of the 1970s.
Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the series revolves around teenager Richie Cunningham and his family: his father, Howard, who owns a hardware store; traditional homemaker and mother, Marion; younger sister Joanie; Richie’s older brother Chuck season 1 only and high school dropout, biker and suave ladies’ man Arthur “Fonzie”/”The Fonz” Fonzarelli, who would eventually become the Cunninghams’ upstairs tenant. The earlier episodes revolve around Richie and his friends, Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph, with Fonzie as a secondary character. However, as the series progressed, Fonzie proved to be a favorite with viewers and soon more story lines were written to reflect his growing popularity, and Winkler was eventually credited with top billing in the opening credits alongside Howard as a result. Fonzie befriended Richie and the Cunningham family, and when Richie left the series for military service, Fonzie became the central figure of the show, with Winkler receiving sole top billing in the opening credits. In later seasons, other characters were introduced including Fonzie’s young cousin, Charles “Chachi” Arcola, who became a love interest for Joanie Cunningham. Each of the eleven seasons of the series roughly tracks the eleven years from 1955-1965, inclusive, in which the show was set.
Here are a few of the show openers/theme songs:
H is for Hardcastle & McCormick:
This is a show from the 80s and a little late for my presentation of shows from the 60s and 70s, I wanted to include it because it’s another crime and justice series that I enjoyed. I liked it because I like to see justice and these guys were all about getting justice for the victims:
Hardcastle and McCormick is an American action/drama television series from Stephen J. Cannell Productions, shown on ABC from 1983 through 1986. The series stars Brian Keith as Judge Milton C. Hardcastle and Daniel Hugh Kelly as ex-con and race car driver Mark “Skid” McCormick. The series premise was somewhat recycled from a previous Cannell series, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe (which I never heard of, have you?).
The show’s premise: Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Milton C. “Hardcase” Hardcastle, an eccentric judge notorious for being strict with the law in both his duties and towards defendants, is retiring. With file drawers filled with 200 people who escaped conviction due to legal technicalities, the judge, inspired by his childhood hero the Lone Ranger, desires to make the criminals answer for their crimes anyway. Mark McCormick is a smart-mouthed, streetwise car thief. He faces a long incarceration for his latest theft, a prototype sports car called the Coyote X, designed by his murdered best friend. Together the judge and the car thief strike a deal: Hardcastle helps McCormick catch the murderer; McCormick agrees to be released and work as the judge’s agent. In addition, McCormick is allowed to keep the Coyote, which proves to be an excellent pursuit vehicle for their needs.
The opening theme song during Season 1 was entitled “Drive”. It was composed by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer and sung by David Morgan. For the first part of Season 2, the theme song was “Back to Back”, also composed by Post and Geyer but sung by Joey Scarbury (who also sang Post and Geyer’s theme for The Greatest American Hero). Public demand, however, resulted in the “Drive” theme being reinstated and kept through Season 3. Post and Pete Carpenter scored the music for the series.
Here is the Intro from Season 1 featuring “Drive”:
Do you remember these shows? Did you watch them? What are your favorite TV shows, past and present?