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…
T is for the Twilight Zone:
I used to watch the Twilight Zone all the time and I still watch it to this day. It usually airs as a marathon on New Year’s Eve. I taped it one year. Yep, taped it on my VCR. I remember having to leave the bar to run home and change the VHS tape because they only recorded for 6 hours (I guess I was having a marathon of my own at the bar that night… 🙂 ). My favorite episode of all time is when the mild-mannered guy who liked to read books was down in the bank vault on his lunch hour reading a book when the atomic bomb struck. He was safe being in the vault and when he came out the whole world was destroyed. He wandered aimlessly and afraid — until he came upon the rubble of a library and there were books strewn all around. He was so happy, he so loved books. Ah, there was light at the end of this doomed tunnel. But then, after organizing stacks of books, his glasses somehow fell off his face and he was crawling around trying to find them (he couldn’t see without his glasses) when he crawled right on top of his glasses, crushing them. His world really ended then…
There are so many great episodes and I really have several favorites. My other favorite was when the townspeople started to turn on each other when they thought aliens were among them. Do you remember that one? What was your favorite episode?
The other thing I like about the Twilight Zone is all the great actors appearing in the show. Jack Klugman and Burgess Meredith hold the distinction of having the most starring role appearances in the series (4 each, I believe). Now, about the show:
The Twilight Zone (simply Twilight Zone in its fourth and fifth seasons) is an American science-fiction anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consists of unrelated stories depicting paranormal, futuristic, Kafkaesque, or otherwise disturbing or unusual events; each story typically features a moral and a surprise ending.
Rod Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. He was also the show’s host and narrator, delivering monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. Serling’s opening and closing narrations usually summarize the episode’s events encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had entered the Twilight Zone.
The series is notable for featuring both established stars (Joan Blondell, Ann Blyth, Buddy Ebsen, Jack Elam, Buster Keaton, Burgess Meredith, Ed Wynn) and younger actors who would become more famous later on (Jack Klugman, Bill Bixby, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Montgomery, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Don Rickles, William Shatner, Telly Savalas, and George Takei).
In 2002, The Twilight Zone was ranked No. 26 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the third best-written TV series ever and TV Guide ranked it as the fifth greatest show of all time.
The Twilight Zone premiered the night of October 2, 1959, to rave reviews.
“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling
Season 2 (1960-1961):
“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, the Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling
Season 3 (1961-1962):
“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop…the Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling
Season 4 (1963):
“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling
T is for Tour of Duty:
Although this series is WAY later than the ones I’ve been showcasing, I had to include it because it is one of my favorite series of all time. When it was airing, I was working as a Media Planner/Buyer in an advertising agency in Washington, DC. Being in that position meant that I got wined and dined by TV and radio sales reps frequently…and by frequently I mean almost every single night. Except on Thursday nights. Because on Thursday nights I had to be home by 8:00 to be in time for T.O.D. Those were the days long before TiVos and DVRs. Besides being immensely interested in the Vietnam War, the music featured in this series was outstanding. In fact the theme song intro features the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black. About the show:
Tour of Duty is an American drama television series on CBS. It ran for three seasons from September 1987 to April 1990 as 58 one-hour episodes. The show was created by Steve Duncan and L. Travis Clark, and produced by Zev Braun.
The show follows an American infantry platoon on a tour of duty during the Vietnam War. It was the first television series to regularly show Americans in combat in Vietnam and was one of several similarly themed series to be produced in the wake of the acclaimed Oliver Stone film, Platoon. The series won an Emmy Award in 1988 for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series, and it was nominated again in 1989 and 1990.
Not simply an action program, Tour of Duty was also groundbreaking as it addressed the issues of politics, faith, teamwork, racism, suicide, fragging, terrorism, civilian deaths, drug abuse, and the shattered lives and confused feelings of those troops who finally made it home alive. The story focuses mainly on Bravo company’s second platoon under the command of 2nd Lieutenant (1st Lieutenant from the start of season 2) Myron Goldman (Stephen Caffrey), and Staff Sergeant (later Sergeant First Class) Zeke Anderson (Terence Knox).
The first season was filmed on location in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks. For the second and third seasons the series was filmed around Los Angeles, California in order to reduce costs. This also enabled the producers to redress a studio backlot as Saigon. The move also meant reusing the same locations, notably a small river with grass on one bank and woods on the other which turns up in a number of episodes. A lot of filming was undertaken on the old set of M*A*S*H. Helicopter scenes with McKay were filmed on the ground with the rotors running.
The first season opens in 1967 and follows a standard light infantry platoon. In the second season, the troops found themselves relocated to a base near Saigon while conducting the typical “search and destroy” missions. Production staff interviewed in VIETNAM Magazine cited this change as a change in premise that doomed the series, as female characters were also introduced (in hopes of gaining more female viewership and because of the premiere of the ABC Vietnam Army Nurses drama China Beach which was aimed at a more female audience) and the show ceased to be a realistic chronicle of life in the field for the average line infantryman in favor of being more romance- and action/adventure-oriented. In the third season, the remaining female character was killed off and the platoon was transferred to a SOG (Studies and Observation Group) unit under the command of Colonel Brewster—played by Carl Weathers, conducting covert operations in Vietnam and in Cambodia, culminating in the fictional version of the raid on Son Tay Prison. The third season was the show’s last.
Music: The music in this series was also a great allure for me. The opening theme song was an abbreviated version of The Rolling Stones hit “Paint It, Black” that had featured in the end titles of the 1987 Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket. The show was known for its classic American rock soundtrack including Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane. One first-season episode, “USO Down”, used “live” versions of “Wooly Bully”, and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” as performed by a USO band, the latter song being used also for ironic comment. The Tour of Duty television series soundtrack was released by CBS on Columbia Records as four different compilation albums during 1988 and 1989. The original albums are now out of print. (If anyone has these and wants to sell them, let me know!)
T is for Taxi:
Taxi is an American sitcom that originally aired from 1978 to 1982 on ABC and from 1982 to 1983 on NBC. The series—which won 18 Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series—focuses on the everyday lives of a handful of New York City taxi drivers and their abusive dispatcher.
The show focuses on the employees of the fictional Sunshine Cab Company, and its principal setting is the company’s fleet garage in Manhattan. Among the drivers, only Alex Rieger, who is disillusioned with life, considers cab-driving his profession. The others view it as a temporary job that they can leave behind after they succeed in their chosen careers.
Elaine Nardo is a receptionist at an art gallery. Tony Banta is a boxer with a losing record. Bobby Wheeler is a struggling actor. John Burns (written out of the show after the first season) is working his way through college. All take pity on “Reverend Jim” Ignatowski, an aging hippie minister, who is burnt out from drugs, so they help him become a cabbie. The characters also included Latka Gravas, their innocently wide-eyed mechanic from an unnamed foreign country, and Louie De Palma, the despotic dispatcher.
A number of episodes involve a character having an opportunity to realize his or her dream to move up in the world, only to see it yanked away. Otherwise, the cabbies deal on a daily basis with their unsatisfying lives and with Louie DePalma, their cruel dispatcher. Louie’s assistant, Jeff Bennett, is rarely heard from at first, but his role increases in later seasons.
Despite the zany humor of the show, Taxi often tackled such dramatic issues as drug addiction, single parenthood, blindness, obesity, animal abuse, bisexuality, teenage runaways, failed marriage, nuclear war, sexual harassment, premenstrual mood disorders, gambling addiction, and the loss of a loved one.
Alex Rieger (Judd Hirsch) – Alex is the sensible, pragmatic, compassionate core of the show, the one everyone else turns to for advice. At one point, he reveals his frustration with this unwanted burden. He once worked in an office, with a good chance of advancement, but lost his job owing to his refusal to follow the company line. He was married to Phyllis Bornstein (Louise Lasser), and when she divorced him because of his lack of ambition she sought sole custody of their baby daughter, Cathy. He gave in rather than fight it. He is also estranged from his philandering father, Joe (Jack Gilford). Alex is a recovered compulsive gambler, although he relapses in one episode. A dry-humored pessimist, he has resigned himself to driving a cab for the rest of his life.
Robert L. “Bobby” Wheeler (Jeff Conaway) (1978–1981, recurring 1981–1982) – Bobby is a shallow, conceited actor whose pretensions are Louie’s favorite target. Success eludes Bobby as a struggling actor. Once, he is signed up by a famous manager, but it turns out she does not want to represent him; she only wants him as a lover. Another time he is cast in a pilot for a soap opera called Boise. The show goes into production, but his part is recast. Conaway left the show after Season 3, but made guest appearances in Season 4. On The Howard Stern Show, Taxi writer Sam Simon said that when Conaway was absent during the production of one episode, his dialogue was reassigned to the other cast members who delivered the jokes as well or better, which made the producers realize that Conaway was expendable.
Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito) – The head dispatcher for the Sunshine Cab Company, Louie spends the bulk of his time holding court inside the caged-in dispatch office at the garage and trading insults with the drivers. He not only has no morals to speak of, he positively revels in his misdeeds. Nothing is beneath him, from taking advantage of a drunken friend of his sometime-girlfriend Zena Sherman (played by DeVito’s real-life wife Rhea Perlman) to gambling with a young boy to stealing from the company to even spying on Elaine while she is changing (which he does indiscreetly and almost loses his job). He lives with his mother (DeVito’s real mother, Julia, in two episodes). He has (on very rare occasions) helped his workers, as in the episode in which an arrogant hairstylist (played by Ted Danson) gives Elaine a garish makeover just before a very important event and further humiliates her by stating he “didn’t know how to do taxi drivers”. It is Louie who bolsters her confidence to confront him. In 1999, TV Guide ranked De Palma first on its list of the 50 greatest TV characters of all time.
Elaine O’Connor Nardo (Marilu Henner) – Elaine is a divorced mother of two, struggling to cope while trying to realize her ambitions in the field of fine art. The object of lust of Louie, she is attracted to characters played by actors ranging from Tom Selleck to Wallace Shawn. The last name for the character was taken from Patricia Nardo, a scriptwriter, former secretary, and close friend of Taxi co-creator, James L. Brooks.
Anthony Mark “Tony” Banta (Tony Danza) – The sweet-natured, if somewhat dimwitted, boxer has little success in the sport. (Danza himself actually was a former professional boxer.) In fact, Louie makes a lot of money betting against him. Finally, the boxing commission takes away his license because he has been knocked out one too many times. Though not by any means the smartest of the cast, he has no trouble comprehending the meaning of Latka’s speech, even though he cannot actually understand him. In the final season, Tony is introduced to new girlfriend Vicki (Anne De Salvo) by Simka. He and Vicki have a falling out after she becomes pregnant by him, but reconcile and get married. The last name for the character was taken from Gloria Banta, a scriptwriter and close friend of Taxi co-creator James L. Brooks.
Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd) (guest star 1978, main cast 1979–1983) – A burned-out relic of the ’60s, Jim lives in a world of his own. He was once a hard-working, serious student at Harvard University, with an extremely wealthy father (Victor Buono), but one bite of a drug-laden brownie was enough to get him hooked and send him into a downward spiral. (His last name was originally Caldwell; he changed it to Ignatowski, thinking that the backward pronunciation of that name was “Star Child”.) In a particularly memorable episode the cabbies help him pass a written exam to become one of them. He occasionally exhibits unexpected talents, such as the ability to play the piano masterfully. TV Guide placed Ignatowski 32nd on its list of the 50 greatest TV characters.
Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman) – Latka is an immigrant from a strange foreign land, often speaking in his foreign tongue (actually composed of gibberish, often using invented phrases such as “ibi da” or “nik nik”), but when speaking English he speaks with a very heavy accent. He works as a mechanic, fixing the taxis. Latka was an adaptation of Kaufman’s “Foreign Man” character, which he originated in his stage act. In this act, “Foreign Man” claimed to be from Caspiar, an island (which does not actually exist) in the Caspian Sea. Kaufman, feeling that he had lost creative control over the character he had created, eventually grew tired of the gag, leading the writers to give Latka multiple personality disorder. This allowed Kaufman to play other characters, the most frequent being a repellent, smooth-talking lounge-lizard persona calling himself Vic Ferrari. In one episode however, Latka becomes Alex, with profound insights into “his” life. Just when he is about to reveal to the real Alex the perfect solution for all his problems, he reverts to Latka.
Simka Dahblitz-Gravas (Carol Kane) (recurring 1980–1982, starring 1982–1983) – She is from the same country as Latka. They belong to different ethnic groups which traditionally detest each other, but they fall in love and eventually get married. She is much more assertive than her husband, often standing up to Louie for him.
John Burns (Randall Carver) (1978–1979) – The naive young man works as a cabbie to pay for college, where he is working towards a degree in forestry. According to Carver, “…the characters of John Burns and Tony Banta were too similar…Some of the lines were almost interchangeable…,” so he was dropped after the first season, without explanation. The premiere episode, “Like Father, Like Daughter,” established that John started working for the cab company after he was a passenger in Alex’s cab. John did not have change, so he had to ride with Alex to the garage to pay him. Once there, he started hanging around and eventually applied for a job. In the episode “The Great Line,” he spontaneously marries a woman named Suzanne; their marriage lasts through the rest of his run on the series.
T is for Three’s Company:
Three’s Company is an American sitcom that aired from March 15, 1977 to September 18, 1984 on ABC. It is based on the British sitcom Man About the House.
The story revolves around three single roommates: Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt), Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), and Jack Tripper (John Ritter), who all platonically live together in a Santa Monica, California apartment building owned by Stanley and Helen Roper. Following Somers’ departure, Jenilee Harrison joined the cast as Cindy Snow (Chrissy’s cousin), who was later replaced by Priscilla Barnes as Terri Alden, a registered nurse. After the Ropers left the series for their own sitcom, Don Knotts joined the cast as the roommates’ new landlord Ralph Furley.
The show, a comedy of errors, chronicles the escapades and hijinks of the trio’s constant misunderstandings, social lives, and financial struggles, such as keeping the rent current, living arrangements and breakout characters.
The plot: After crashing a party and finding himself passed out in the bathtub, cooking school student Jack Tripper meets Janet Wood, a florist, and Chrissy Snow, a secretary, in need of a new roommate to replace their departing roommate Eleanor. Having only been able to afford to live at the YMCA, Jack quickly accepts the offer to move in with the duo.
However, due to overbearing landlord Stanley Roper’s intolerance for co-ed living situations, even in a multi-bedroom apartment, Jack is allowed to move in only after Janet tells Mr. Roper that Jack is gay. Although Mrs. Roper figures out Jack’s true sexuality in the second episode, she does not tell her husband, who tolerates but mocks him. Frequently siding with the three roommates instead of her husband, Mrs. Roper’s bond with the roommates grows until the eventual spinoff The Ropers.
Jack continues the charade when new landlord Ralph Furley takes over the apartment complex because Mr. Furley insists that his hard-nosed brother Bart (the building’s new owner) would also never tolerate such living situations.
T is for That Girl:
That Girl is an American sitcom that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971. It starred Marlo Thomas as the title character Ann Marie, an aspiring (but only sporadically employed) actress, who moves from her hometown of Brewster, New York to try to make it big in New York City. Ann has to take a number of offbeat “temp” jobs to support herself in between her various auditions and bit parts. Ted Bessell played her boyfriend Donald Hollinger, a writer for Newsview Magazine; Lew Parker and Rosemary DeCamp played Lew Marie and Helen Marie, her concerned parents. Bernie Kopell, Ruth Buzzi and Reva Rose played Ann and Donald’s friends. That Girl was developed by writers Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, who had served as head writers on The Dick Van Dyke Show (with which Thomas’s father, Danny Thomas, was closely associated) earlier in the 1960s.
That Girl was one of the first sitcoms to focus on a single woman who was not a domestic or living with her parents. Some consider this show the forerunner of the highly successful Mary Tyler Moore Show, Murphy Brown, and Ally McBeal, and an early indication of the changing roles of American women in feminist-era America. Thomas’s goofy charm, together with Bessell’s dry wit, made That Girl a solid performer on the ABC Television Network, and while the series, in the overall ratings, never made the top thirty during its entire five-year run, the series did respectably well.
At the end of the 1969–1970 season, That Girl was still doing moderately well in the ratings; however, after four years, Thomas had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on. ABC convinced her to do one more year. In the beginning of the fifth season, Don and Ann became engaged, although they never actually married. The decision to leave the couple engaged at the end of the run was largely the idea of Thomas herself. She did not want to send a message to young women that marriage was the ultimate goal for them and she was worried that it would have defeated the somewhat feminist message of the show.
T is for T.J. Hooker
T.J. Hooker is an American police drama television program starring William Shatner in the title role as a 15-year veteran police sergeant. The series premiered as a mid-season replacement on March 13, 1982, on ABC and ran on the network until May 4, 1985. The show was then picked up for a further single season by CBS.
The supporting cast includes Adrian Zmed as rookie Officer Vince Romano, Heather Locklear as rookie Officer Stacy Sheridan (season 2 onwards), and Richard Herd as Captain Dennis Sheridan as personnel in the fictional “LCPD” Police Department Academy Precinct. Towards the end of the show’s second season, James Darren became a regular cast member as Officer Jim Corrigan.
The series was created by Rick Husky, who later went on to serve as executive producer of Walker Texas Ranger, and produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. Husky had also worked on The Rookies for Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. The series was originally to be a reworking of that former cop show, this time called The Protectors. After the pilot, it was decided to focus the series on William Shatner’s character and retitle it T. J. Hooker. The series initially set out to give a more “hands on”, procedure-based view of police work than some of the more stylized cop shows of the 1970s and 1980s, evident in the very early episodes.
T is for Trapper John, M.D.
Trapper John, M.D. is an American television medical drama and spin-off of the film MASH. Pernell Roberts portrayed the title character, a lovable surgeon who became a mentor and father figure in San Francisco, California. The show ran on CBS from September 23, 1979, to September 4, 1986. Roberts played the character more than twice as long as had Wayne Rogers (1972-1975) in the series M*A*S*H.
Trapper John, M.D. focuses on Dr. “Trapper” John McIntyre (Pernell Roberts) twenty-eight years after his discharge from the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the Korean War. In the nearly thirty year interim, the character had mellowed considerably. He did not just learn how to stop fighting the system but became a part of it, in a sense, as the Chief of Surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. Trapper showed tremendous compassion toward his patients, often violating “established hospital procedures.” Working with Trapper was an aspiring young professional named Dr. George Alonzo “Gonzo” Gates (Gregory Harrison). Gates had a lot in common with Trapper, as he too had served in a MASH (albeit during the later Vietnam War). His sense of humor and love of life also reflected elements of Trapper’s younger days. In the show, Gonzo resided in a motor home (dubbed “The Titanic”) in the hospital parking lot.
Did you ever watch any of these shows? Can you think of other T shows? What are your favorite TV shows, past and present?