The best TV show theme songs you need to add to your playlist

The best TV show theme songs you need to add to your playlist

Words by Saskia Morrison-Thiagu

Everything from Malcolm in the Middle to Bondi Rescue.

Since we started watching TV, our favourite shows have been accompanied by catchy theme songs. While a lot of themes are written for TV, some are just tracks that’ve since become synonymous with their TV counterpart. Either way, here are the best theme songs that deserve a spot in your playlists ASAP.

‘Boss of Me’ — They Might Be Giants (from Malcolm in the Middle)

‘Boss of Me’ was released in 2001 and ended up winning a Grammy for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for Malcolm in the Middle. The insanely catchy hooks and cheerful harmonies are instant mood improvers, especially if you have a terrible boss.

Interestingly, the original lyrics for the chorus were “Who’s gonna guess the dead guy in the envelope”, in place of “You’re not the boss of me now and you’re not so big”. Yeah, I think they dodged a bullet with that one. 

This opening track perfectly epitomises Malcolm’s (Frankie Muniz) attitude towards his dysfunctional family, his classmates and his teachers. Malcolm in the Middle ran for seven seasons and is renowned for blessing us with characters like Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) and Hal (Bryan Cranston).

While today’s teenage girls might associate the word dewy with a type of makeup finish, Dewey will always mean the best Malcolm in the Middle character in my eyes. 

‘California’ — Phantom Planet (from The O.C.)

Released in 2002, ‘California’ is Phantom Planet’s dedication to their home state. The track isn’t particularly complex, but that’s not the point. It evokes a sense of nostalgia, painting a picture of the sunny California depicted in The O.C.. 

I’m not too sure what the obsession with writing songs about California is. I mean, you don’t see any songs written about Canberra, do you? ‘California Dreaming’, ‘California Love’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘California Girls’. One article even ranks all the songs about California (there are over 100 in this list).

The O.C. is the perfect backdrop to this track. The roadside palm trees, beachside mansions, tanned skin, “Driving in the sun/Looking out for number one/California, here we come”. What started out as the picturesque state in the first three seasons took a sharp u-turn in the fourth, when they jumped ship and started writing episodes about alternate universes.

Despite being cancelled, Marissa’s death in the final episode of season three will always go down as one of the most heart-wrenching television moments of all time. 

‘Superman’ — Lazlo Bane (from Scrubs)

The pop-rock, country-tinged ‘Superman’ by Lazlo Bane makes up the short but punchy 12-second intro to Scrubs. While you might only get to hear a short fragment of the original song, the tune is instantly recognisable.

From their album All the Time in the World, released in 2002, the song found its place as the show’s theme after being recommended by its lead actor, Zach Braff (J.D).

Throughout the show’s nine-year stint, Scrubs acquired a huge, loyal fanbase. Similar to fans of Brooklyn 99, Scrubs fanatics tend to think that being a fan of the show substitutes for having a personality.

That said, the show is still extremely entertaining — largely due to the infectious chemistry between the main characters, like J.D and Turk (Donald Faison). 

‘We Used to be Friends’ — The Dandy Warhols (from Veronica Mars)

Off their fourth studio album, Welcome to the Monkey House, The Dandy Warhols’ ‘We Used To Be Friends’ is all warm synthesisers and catchy falsetto “ah aah ah ah”s, making it hypnotic enough that you’ll gladly sit through the Veronica Mars intro to savour it.

Veronica Mars follows the journey of teenage private detective and namesake Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), and forays into some pretty dark territory without abandoning its comedic flair.

The opening track also appeared in an episode of The O.C., as well as serving as the theme song for Australian reality series, My Restaurant Rules. Although, this wouldn’t be the first time an Australian cooking show had an interesting choice of theme song. ‘Hot and Cold’ by Katy Perry, anyone? 

‘In the Summertime’ — Thirsty Merc (from Bondi Rescue)

Australians have no culture? Um, try again sweetie, because you’ve clearly never heard of ‘In the Summertime’ by Thirsty Merc. 

The melodic guitar riff in the chorus and the embracing lyrics were actually a deliberate ploy to make a hit, according to frontman Rai Thistlethwayte. Well, it bloody worked because this song has become a staple of Australian culture.

Forget ‘Advance Australia Fair’, ‘In the Summertime’ by Thirsty Merc should be the Australian national anthem. The song is so inescapable that you can still hear it every weeknight on Channel 10, when watching the greatest television show in Australia, Bondi Rescue

The show first aired in 2006 and is narrated by the best talent Australia has to offer — aside from Grant Denyer — Osher Günsberg. The boys in blue are known for their schoolyard antics and being some of the most hard-working lifeguards in the world.

There are no better lyrics to introduce the program than “Take me back to the sweet times/The hot nights/Everything is going to be alright/In the summertime’.’ So good, I want to get it tattooed across my chest. 

Some honourable mentions go to: ‘Woke Up This Morning’ — Alabama 3 (from The Sopranos), ‘Where You Lead’ — Carole King (from Gilmore Girls), ‘In the Street’ — Big Star (from That ’70s Show) and ‘Lift’ — Shannon Noll (from The Biggest Loser Australia).