Would a TV detective, generally speaking, ever listen to his or her theme song? 

(We know that James Bond is intimately familiar with his theme song — he probably hums it as he makes coffee — sorry, espresso.)

I can see Steve McGarrett listening to the furious, pounding adventure theme of Hawaii Five-0, but would Jim Rockford listen to the easy-going synth-driven rock that heralds The Rockford Files?  The theme to The X-Files seems to suit creepy, introverted Fox Mulder, but it seems a stretch to think that greying, wheelchair-bound Robert Ironside would hum his headache-inducing ambulance-siren theme song as he trundles about solving murders.  Would Baretta be caught dead listening to the mellow sounds of Sammy Davis Jr.?  Could Barnaby Jones move to the hard-charging theme that bears his name?  I suppose David Addison and Maddie Hayes would listen to the ironic, fake-Cole-Porter of their theme, as their adventures are all about being fake Cole Porter, but can the same be said of Laura Holt and her partner Remington Steele?  Is the solution to split the difference between characters, as they do The Streets of San Francisco, giving the older cop his jazz theme but setting it to the younger cop’s disco beat?

And what the hell did Mannix’s theme sound like?  Longstreet’s?  Cannon’s?  Quincy’s?

I guess the question is, does Greg House listen to Massive Attack as he mulls over cases?  Like many detectives, his music seems pitched at a demographic fifteen years younger than himself.  When House listens to “his” music, it’s generally things like Taj Mahal singing the Rolling Stones, or Elvis Costello singing Christina Aguilara. 

(Ironically, when House sits down at the piano the music he plays is always classical.  Which came first, I wonder?  Did he have classical lessons as a child, then take up the Rolling Stones as a teen?  If so, he came to the Stones late — born in 1959, he would have started with Exile on Main Street at the earliest, and gone back to 1969’s Let it Bleed for his philosophical lodestar “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”) hit counter html code


34 Responses to “Query”
  1. ayrn says:

    I would love to see a TV Detective so paralyzed by an identity crisis that he has to listen to his theme song in order to be a detective.
    Certain detectives are constantly surrounded by their theme music without regard to things like physical source or sonic environment of the space. You don’t ask Shaft where that music is coming from. That’s because Shaft IS his theme song.

    • craigjclark says:

      I can’t help but be reminded (for the second time this week) about Lookwell, in which Adam West’s former TV detective repeatedly watches his old episodes and refers to them as if everyone he meets does the same.

      • Todd says:

        That makes the “Grey Ghost” episode of Batman: TAS even more mind-blowing.

        • craigjclark says:

          I think you described that episode once. That’s the one where Batman teams up with his favorite TV detective from when he was a kid to solve a crime, right?

  2. moroccomole says:

    I, for one, have the Quincy theme tattooed on my brain. Here’s a goofy version, with new lyrics added:

  3. gdh says:

    Just how old is House supposed to be? Hugh Laurie’s got to be pushing 50, but how old is his character supposed to be?

    • Todd says:

      Fifty sounds right to me. He’s the “older generation,” and people are constantly making cracks about him losing his hair. Although Wilson, his best friend and supposed coequal going back to medical school is ten years younger than he is.

  4. dougo says:

    I should hope that Monk would prefer his first-season theme to the later Randy Newman crap.

    • craigjclark says:

      That reminds me of the capper for the second-season episode with Sarah Silverman as the obsessed fan who decries her favorite detective show’s change of theme song.

      • dougo says:

        I also just remembered that Monk is a huge Willie Nelson fan, so Randy Newman probably isn’t that far off from his tastes.

        • mcbrennan says:

          Willie Nelson is to Randy Newman what Da Vinci is to Bil Keane. Newman’s Monk theme is very possibly the single worst piece of music in recorded history. It’s a lazy, tuneless self-parody of the worst bits of Newman’s film scores. But then again it’s fitting that Monk adopted it, since that once-sublimely multidimensional show has likewise become a pathetic parody of itself.

          • Todd says:

            Now, now: Randy Newman has only sucked for the past twenty-five years; prior to that he was America’s greatest songwriter. He still did Sail Away and Good Ol’ Boys and Little Criminals and Born Again.

            I haven’t heard his song for Monk, but I thought the Django Reinhardt pastiche they used to have was fitting enough.

            • mcbrennan says:

              So you’re saying that Randy Newman is the greatest TV theme composer ever, except for this gypsy in France?

              No, I know. I have a ton of early Randy Newman stuff and he was tremendously talented. And still is, I’m sure. But how many times can you rewrite that song from Parenthood? yeesh. And the lyrics to his Monk theme are so smug and so annoyingly dead-on, sung in the first person as if Monk himself was singing. That aspect of it, the first-person lyrics are so completely inappropriate, they undermine the character and cheapen the show. “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” is “A Day In The Life” by comparison.

              In answer to your original question…I think Jake would definitely listen to his theme, but The Fatman would probably be more of a classical guy. Magnum would listen to his theme. Hong Kong Phooey–more of a superhero, I guess–sings his theme so I’m sure he digs it…which also brings to mind Lee Majors’ touching vocal performance on The Fall Guy. Simon and Simon would definitely listen to their laid back guitar rock theme. Ironside, maybe not, but one shudders to think the kinds of things Raymond Burr did while listening to the Perry Mason theme.

              I don’t know if any of the music House loves would work as the theme to his show. Stones? “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” has been so overused. Some old blues? I think the Massive Attack sets the mood well but I’d be curious to know what House himself would pick.

              Disturbing fact: the same Chick Webb poster that’s on House’s apartment wall is on Charlie Sheen’s wall in Two And A Half Men.

  5. ghostgecko says:

    By “his music” you mean the crap that usually plays over the end montage?
    House seems pretty addicted to current pop culture – daytime tv, handheld video games – so I could see him knowing the end-montage music, but not actually liking it. The dude likes demolition derbys, I’d like to think he listens to stuff that’s a bit harder, if not more recent.

  6. popebuck1 says:

    Laura Holt doesn’t know the “Remington Steele” theme music, but Steele certainly does – he’s all about the meta.

  7. randymonki says:

    The question is, if House could choose his theme song, would he choose something totally off-the-wall just to mess with people instead?

  8. teamwak says:

    Here’s an obscure one for you.

    Have you heard of Van Der Valk? It was a British detective show from the 70’s actually set and filmed in Amsterdam about a Dutch cop, but filmed with a British cast.

    Had had one of the best theme tunes ever, played by a brass band.

  9. Todd says:

    I’m sure that’s how the producers made the decision to use the song — saw the video, said “hey, this would make a good title sequence — let’s just change it around a little.”

    • toliverchap says:

      You know it MTV generation err MTV2 errr well whatever generation shows strange music videos.

    • yetra says:

      It is an awfully lovely song. I can imagine House having very little interest in Massive Attach in general, but being familiar with and appreciating that particular song, which was quite popular. I know I personally love that they are using it for the show.

      I’m pretty sure that Veronica Mars would listen to the Dandy Warhol’s intro song they used, and their choice of song, we used to be friends, is incredibly fitting given the first season arc. In fact, she even speaks the exact lyrics of the song at one point, describing an ex-friend.

      I know I aspire to someday have my own theme music, ala I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, or my fave yugoslavian film, Underground. People following me around, playing music just for me. Hell yeah! Bring it!

  10. Todd says:

    That’s sad — I would have thought for sure the theme to Life on Mars would be David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?”.

    • craigjclark says:

      According to the IMDb, they have at least used the song a couple times (one of them in the pilot).

      I remember my first exposure to the David Bowie song “Golden Years” was as the opening credit music for the Stephen King TV serial of the same name from the early ’90s. Not a detective show by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought I’d mention it.

      • teamwak says:

        They use Golden Years fantastically in A Knights Tale,as a medieval dance tune. Have you seen it? Its a giggle.

    • eronanke says:

      They did use it in the pilot- Perhaps they couldn’t get the entirety of the rights or something?
      I dunno. Again, I think the techno theme is to REMIND the viewer that, hey, this guy isn’t from the 70s, even though he fits in rather well.

    • Anonymous says:

      There’s also a great Funk/Soul album from 1976 called “Life on Mars” by TSOP producer/artist, Dexter Wansel that also would’ve served as an excellent theme for the show.

    • mcbrennan says:

      No, but “Life on Mars” is used to brilliant effect in the pilot, as Sam makes his transition between the present and 1973. I won’t ruin it for you, but I really loved that sequence.

  11. urbaniak says:

    This is the best detective show ever so it goes without saying that it also has the best opening theme song and credits sequence. I discovered it while shooting “Fay Grim” in Berlin.