April 4, 2023
EP. S2E37 — Best TV Theme Songs w/ Evan & Andrew Gregory
After reading Rolling Stone’s garbage list of the greatest TV themes of all time, Ashley knew she had to punch up the list. And who better to call for help than musicians, comedians, and filmmakers Evan Gregory & Andrew Gregory of the Punch Up The Jam podcast? Together the crew count down their superior TV theme song picks, with plenty of singin’ along the way. Plus, Ashley breaks down her weekly watchlist which naturally includes a show where Meryl Streep voices a humpback whale.
Watch Andrew & Evan on YouTube: https://youtu.be/xJlOH1yYsrM
Follow Andrew @arosegregory
Follow Evan @getsomeevan
What We Watched:
Love Is Blind
Darcey & Stacey
Love Is Blind
Seeking Brother Husband
90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way
If you have 2 minutes, please help TV, I Say grow by filling out this survey: podsurvey.com/tvisay
Wanna join TV Club? Get our official merch on Podswag or join our Patreon to tell Ashley what to watch.
S2E37 — Best TV Theme Songs w/ Evan & Andrew Gregory
[00:07:30] EVAN GREGORY: Thanks for having us. So happy to be here.
[00:07:32] ASHLEY RAY: I mean, TV theme songs to me, honestly, should be a genre. It should be a radio station. Something that everyone can enjoy.
[00:07:39] ANDREW GREGORY: I’m surprised it’s not what you talk about every week on your podcast. There are all the Norman Lear spinoff shows in the ’70s and ’80s that I was remembering, looking through lists of greatest theme songs of all time. I feel like you could do a spinoff podcast about the greatest theme songs of all time. I guess this is our chance to be in the spinoff because we’re in this episode.
[00:08:01] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, you’re part of the universe. You’re helping me build this out.
[00:08:05] ANDREW GREGORY: TV podcast universe.
[00:08:07] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, this is my multiverse of madness. And you know, this is great timing because actually about two days ago, Rolling Stone did put out a list of the 100 Best TV Theme Songs of all time according to them. Their number one? The Jeffersons. Sorry if I’m spoiling that for everyone.
[00:08:27] EVAN GREGORY: Oh, my gosh. I should have, like, written this down to prove it. Like, I should have mailed it to myself and postmarked it to just prove that I did this. But before we started recording today, I picked my three favorites. And that’s one of the three. I feel extremely validated right now. But for them to pick The Jeffersons as number one is extremely correct. I feel like we go into a top 100 list type of situation, anticipating how much we’re going to finger wag and say, “No, no, no. These elitist journalists didn’t get it right.” But this is one place I’m willing to affirm and say, “They did a good job with that number one.”
[00:09:08] ASHLEY RAY: Sorry because I actually was going to say these elitists did not get it right. Yeah, The Jeffersons is good. Classic. Definitely worthy of top five. But to me, number one is The Golden Girls forever and always.
[00:09:40] EVAN GREGORY: Yes, I know. They have the Golden Girls in their top ten.
[00:09:44] ASHLEY RAY: No! That’s the thing. Not even in the top ten. They don’t even have the Golden Girls theme song in the top ten. That’s a problem.
[00:09:50] EVAN GREGORY: Where did they shoot it down to?
[00:09:52] ASHLEY RAY: I don’t even see it. It’s not even top ten. I’m trying to find it.
[00:09:56] ANDREW GREGORY: I just want to shout out one of the most amazing… I mean, if you listen to our podcast, the real point of our podcast is we talk about a song and then we make a better version of it at the end of the song. Every week, we make a better version. But we also end up on a lot of songwriting fact tangents. And I think one of the greatest songwriting facts of all time… Are you familiar with the scary Halloween song Spooky Scary Skeletons, Ashley?
[00:10:17] ASHLEY RAY: Yes.
[00:10:19] ANDREW GREGORY: It’s written by the same guy who wrote the Golden Girls theme song.
[00:10:22] ASHLEY RAY: I mean, no wonder it’s a jam that is stuck with me through time.
[00:10:25] EVAN GREGORY: He has a Midas touch.
[00:10:29] ANDREW GREGORY: The writer’s name is Andrew Gold. It speaks to Andrew Gold’s ability to just write across idiom–write across space and time. The Golden Girls theme song and Spooky Scary Skeletons? You’re writing from both sides of the grave.
[00:10:40] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, that’s us covering everything. I am still scrolling through this list. The Golden Girl theme song is not even in the top 20.
[00:10:47] EVAN GREGORY: I found it. It’s number 38. Let me just touch on the ranking issue. There’s so many great TV theme songs out there that I had to sort of handicap the list. Like, how are you going to choose from all the theme songs of all time? Golden Girls would also be atop my list but eliminated it from consideration for my own list. Rolling Stone has not done so. They have it on their list at 38. Otherwise, that’s a top three for me–Golden Girls. But I eliminated it because it was a preexisting song, so I was sort of narrowing the field. Now, most people don’t know that because it’s much more famous belonging to The Golden Girls, even when it was a top 40 hit, you know, ten years prior to the existence of that show. But it was just “Thank you for being a friend” sung by Andrew Gold. And then they repurposed it for the show because it’s thematically perfect and then had it recycled and rerecorded, right? So, I was like, “Okay, I need a reason to exclude this from consideration and narrow the field, so I’m picking from less choices.”
[00:11:50] ASHLEY RAY: I mean, that is fair. I can understand that. I think the fact that it was redone for the Golden Girls makes it enough to be original. But I mean, come on, it’s one of the best ones.
[00:12:03] ANDREW GREGORY: Are we allowed to say the F-word on your podcast?
[00:12:05] ASHLEY RAY: Yes. Yeah. You can swear.
[00:12:06] ANDREW GREGORY: Golden Girls at 38 is fucked up.
[00:12:08] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, it’s fucked up.
[00:12:10] ANDREW GREGORY: Top ten–even between six and ten would be, like, a little weird.
[00:12:14] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. 38. It’s behind The Wire theme song. It’s behind things that are like, “What? Who cares about that?”
[00:12:25] ANDREW GREGORY: After talking up how great it is, I do have to do a little explaining of my own because it’s not in my top five. But that’s only because we already talked about our top five before we recorded. And I knew it was in your top five, Ashley, so I took that into consideration because I was like, “I just want to talk about more show theme songs.”
[00:12:41] ASHLEY RAY: Fair, fair, fair.
[00:12:42] ANDREW GREGORY: It’s already covered in our top 13, between the three of us.
[00:12:45] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. Hello. We are back. Now we’re getting into our favorite TV show themes. We’ve talked a little bit about it. You know, how disappointed we are in this Rolling Stone’s list. But how would we get it right? Who wants to begin?
[00:13:07] EVAN GREGORY: I’ll go first as I already tipped my hand. The Jeffersons is one of my top three. On The Jeffersons–why do I think it’s so great? Not just because it’s really catchy. It does the most important thing that an expository TV theme does, which is lay out what’s happening in the show. But it also nails the thing that the greats do, which is attaches the premise of the show to a larger issue in everyone’s life to make it extremely relatable. And you could take it personally; you could see it as speaking to your own life. Or you could see it culturally about the, like, civil rights struggle. But also, it’s so applicable. They masterfully achieved it with just, like, “We’re movin’ on up.” Just the opening line is so masterfully done that basically it has achieved that thing that only great songs can do, which is that it’s in your head at all times when you get to go do something expensive. It’s now superseded the show. It has transcended the show and just become integrated into everyone’s lexicon. Anyone at any time could be, like… You’re going out to a fancy restaurant, and somebody in your friend group is going to be like, “We’re moving on up!” It transcended the show and now is just a part of the fabric of American life. You could just say at any time.
[00:14:42] ANDREW GREGORY: Is that your three, Evan?
[00:14:44] EVAN GREGORY: No, my number one is–
[00:14:46] ASHLEY RAY: Save the number one. Let’s all save the number one.
[00:14:50] ANDREW GREGORY: If Jeffersons is your three, then I should do my four and five. Ashley should do her four and five. Then we do our twos and threes. And then we all have our one–same time. No one knows what it is. No one can cancel us for having a bad pick.
[00:15:03] EVAN GREGORY: This is a great structure.
[00:15:05] ASHLEY RAY: Thank you for organizing this. Loving it. Yeah, go ahead.
[00:15:11] ANDREW GREGORY: Okay. I picked a song that I hate for a number five. And it, I think, has to be a top five pick. I’m not sure it was a top five pick on the Rolling Stone pick list. And I think when I first heard it at 12, I probably liked it. But it’s become one of the most hateful songs ever. But the success of it drove the success of the show. Like Movin’ On Up, it captures the vibe of the show. It is the Friends theme song.
[00:15:44] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. They have the friends theme song in the top ten.
[00:15:47] ANDREW GREGORY: And the other thing about the Friends theme song that people might not remember or might not know is I believe that it was written by the creators of Friends and maybe with one of their friends from college. And it was just, like, a 20 or 30-second song, right? Like, they just made it for TV. And people went so fucking crazy over friends that they started calling radio stations and requesting it. And radio stations would play it, but they only had a 25 second version, so they would loop it. So basically, within a couple of months, this was enough of a phenomenon that the creative brain trust of Friends were going to make a fake band called the Rembrandts. Or maybe there was already a band called the Rembrandts.
[00:16:30] ASHLEY RAY: I thought they were a real band! You’re pulling my leg!
[00:16:34] ANDREW GREGORY: No. But they had made a full version of the song. And they’re like, “You’ve got to make a radio-length version that’s two or three minutes.” And then that was a huge hit just because people were so obsessed with Friends and so obsessed with the theme. So, I think just because of the journey of that song, you have to… Game recognize game. I don’t like that song anymore. I wouldn’t put it on a playlist in my house.
[00:16:53] ASHLEY RAY: That’s wild.
[00:16:57] ANDREW GREGORY: Game recognize game.
[00:16:59] ASHLEY RAY: I thought this band made the song and then they were like, “Great song for our show,” and just pulled it… Whoa.
[00:17:05] ANDREW GREGORY: Yeah. And I think the creators wrote the lyrics. I think. I should look that up.
[00:17:09] ASHLEY RAY: I’m going to trust you on it.
[00:17:11] ANDREW GREGORY: My number four I’m feeling bad about because you specifically burned this, Ashley. But I wanted to pick something a little more… What was the word you were saying? I wanted to pick a prestige TV thing.
[00:17:23] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, yeah.
[00:17:24] ANDREW GREGORY: And I was like, “Larry Sanders–too weird.” I actually hate The Sopranos theme song. I think the Mad Men theme song is, like, actually the worst thing about the entire show.
[00:17:33] ASHLEY RAY: I love the Mad Men theme. I literally dance to it. I’m like, “Doo, doo, doo, doo…” Okay.
[00:17:39] ANDREW GREGORY: I think it’s really dated. So, I went with The Wire. I like The Wire. I like the thematic movement from, you know, every season there’s a different performer singing it. The first season, it’s The Blind Boys of Alabama. The second season, it’s Tom Waits, who wrote the song. It would be disqualified by Evan because it was written by Tom Waits in the ’80s. The third season, I think, is my favorite.
[00:18:12] EVAN GREGORY: What’s it called? Do you know what it’s called?
[00:18:12] ANDREW GREGORY: Way Down in the Hole.
[00:18:13] EVAN GREGORY: Wind Down in the Hole.
[00:18:14] ANDREW GREGORY: And the third season is the best.
[00:18:17] ASHLEY RAY: I think the third season’s the best version.
[00:18:19] ANDREW GREGORY: The Neville Brothers. It’s good. The fifth season sucks as a show, but also the theme song. Like, I do not know why the brain trust of The Wire thinks that Steve Earle should have been in the show, much less done the theme song of the show. I won’t speak about that at length. I think it’s a great theme song. And, like, even when they bring it back in some of the montages at the end…
[00:18:38] EVAN GREGORY: You know, I love that theme song. But it was so powerful, it created a whole subgenre of TV theme songs for gritty prestige shows, which is the growly, Americana thing. It wasn’t really happening in TV themes. I think The Wire–between 15, 20 years ago–created that whole subgenre. And then there’s a million examples. The ones that for some reason are front of mind for me are Bloodline and Sneaky Pete. But there’s 20 others that are just: “Growly dude singing about tough shit.”
[00:19:14] ANDREW GREGORY: Was The Sopranos first or The Wire? I can never remember. I thought The Sopranos was first. It’s kind of a growly dude.
[00:19:18] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, that’s definitely a growly dude.
[00:19:20] ANDREW GREGORY: I can’t even remember how that song goes. I’m watching The Sopranos right now. What’s that song? I don’t like it. I skip the intro. I feel bad about it.
[00:19:25] ASHLEY RAY: “Woke up this morning.”
[00:19:27] EVAN GREGORY: “Down in the jungle land.”
[00:19:30] ASHLEY RAY: “Got myself a gun. Meet me tonight in Atlantic City. Baby, we were born to–”
[00:19:38] ANDREW GREGORY: I’m mostly bummed that that show… Because it was the beginning of prestige TV, one thing that really cracked me up was how good the music cues got between Season One and Season Two. All the music cues in Season One are like, “I never heard the song before.” And then, like, in season two, it’s suddenly, like, Sinatra and Dean Martin.
[00:19:54] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, it’s like, “Oh, they got the budget.”
[00:19:56] ANDREW GREGORY: They didn’t have the budget or Sinatra’s like, “I’m not going to put my song on TV.” And then they saw the first season; they were like, “I gotta get my song on the show.”
[00:20:04] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:20:04] ANDREW GREGORY: I feel like if they had had that clout for the first season… I’d love to recut that intro with just, like, “Start spreading the news…” And it’s just Tony driving around with a cigar–what he thinks of himself, which is that he’s, like, the Sinatra guy.
[00:20:22] ASHLEY RAY: That’s your four and five?
[00:20:23] ANDREW GREGORY: Yeah, that’s my five and four.
[00:20:25] ASHLEY RAY: I’ll do mine. Five–this is, I think, going to be a controversial choice. I went with the Community theme song. Controversial because I know most people are like, “It is the most annoying theme.” I don’t think it ages well. Like, today when I rewatch Community, it’s kind of annoying because you’ll be like, “Oh, I want to, like, fall asleep to it–just watch it.” And then that theme song plays and it’s so loud. Like, “Give me some more time in a tree.” But like, growing up, I loved it so much. Like, Community was my favorite show. I could just hear the opening and I would just start getting hyped–like a dog salivating. Like, “Let’s go. New Community. Oh my gosh.” So, because of that memory…
[00:21:17] ANDREW GREGORY: You picked a warrior theme song. You picked a warrior theme song just like I picked Friends. You hate it now, but you loved it then.
[00:21:22] ASHLEY RAY: I loved it then. And now I’m like, “Okay, it’s so loud.” It barely goes with the show, I feel like. Like, it’s such an optimistic song that feels like it would be for, like, some sort of family sitcom. And then you’re like, “Oh, this is, like, a cynical NBC comedy. What are we doing?”
[00:21:40] EVAN GREGORY: Yeah. In some sense, like, I feel like they missed the brief–like they didn’t see the episodes of the show before writing the song. And stylistically it feels kind of dated to the era that the show came out. But you described something crucial, which is that you have two modes of watching the show. The one when it came out, where it has this real, high stakes viewing for you. You’re watching every episode, you’re really attached to it, and therefore the theme song is, like, really hitting you right in this nostalgia funny bone. And now you watch it as, like, comfort food. You’ve already seen all the eps. They’re on in the background. So, the theme song is serving an anti-purpose, which is to jolt you.
[00:22:19] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, it’s just very like, “Oh, this is not… Come on. Just take it out. Just let me skip the intro now.” I try to delete it. And my number four kind of may be a boring choice. I went with the Grey’s Anatomy theme song, which is called Cosy in the Rocket by the band Psapp. They only use this theme song during the first season of the show. And now they, like, don’t even use the theme song for Grey’s. But that theme song for the first season was so sexy and definitive and hot and, like, what established Grey’s Anatomy as a show that used cool music. That’s why the show blew up so big–because it had these, like, amazing soundtracks with new artists that people, like, really hadn’t heard of. And then they had this cool, like, European electro band do this, like, Cosy in the Rocket song. It’s just very like, “Oh, this is sleek.” This is not your regular ABC drama. And when Grey’s Anatomy came out and I was–I don’t know–14 or 15, that to me was like, “Oh, this is high class. E.R. is for my mom. But this sexy, like, theme song–this is for my age. Here we go.”
[00:23:47] EVAN GREGORY: That’s a great example about how it diverged from E.R., the other titanic medical drama. I’m having trouble recalling their theme song, but as I recall, it, like, could be confused for the breaking news stinger on the evening broadcast, right?
[00:24:02] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:24:03] EVAN GREGORY: That’s the style of “Pomp and circumstance. You know, we’re going to the E.R.” That was the vibe of that show. And so, you’re exactly right; that’s kind of revolutionary when Grey’s Anatomy comes out. You used the perfect word–“sleek”–this indie band… “We might have sex in the operating room.”
[00:24:20] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah! Exactly. It was so much “We might have sex in the operating room.” I loved it.
[00:24:41] EVAN GREGORY: I guess we’re round tabling where it’s back to me. So, I’m gonna say my number two pick, which is… And now I’m realizing that I do kind of have a narrow view of all my picks are from sitcoms. But I did also disqualify instrumentals.
[00:24:59] ASHLEY RAY: Fair. Okay.
[00:25:01] EVAN GREGORY: We didn’t really talk about that.
[00:25:03] ASHLEY RAY: I do have an instrumental on my list.
[00:25:05] EVAN GREGORY: Which is great to just remind people that they exist. For me, to make the task doable, I had to cut out… Many of the greats, say, like, Game of Thrones or The Simpsons immediately draw you into a world, and they have perfect aesthetic to describe the song. But they haven’t had to make any lyrical choices, right? So, I just disqualified those, and now I’m realizing I’m left only with, like, very old TV Land sitcoms.
[00:25:27] ANDREW GREGORY: Is the Simpsons an instrumental?
[00:25:33] EVAN GREGORY: You mean when they go, “Doo, doo, da, da,” and all those Swingle Singers in the background?
[00:25:37] ANDREW GREGORY: No. When it starts and they go, “The Simpsons.”
[00:25:43] EVAN GREGORY: They said the title. They said the title of the show. You’re right.
[00:25:46] ASHLEY RAY: And then, I mean, you do get the verbal Homer “D’oh!”
[00:25:50] ANDREW GREGORY: I don’t want to tip my hand at my future picks. Sorry. So, you disqualified instrumentals?
[00:25:57] EVAN GREGORY: Just to make this task achievable for me.
[00:26:00] ASHLEY RAY: Fair.
[00:26:00] EVAN GREGORY: It’s fine to pick whatever you want. My number two pick is Welcome Back, Kotter.
[00:26:16] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, that’s a good one.
[00:26:19] EVAN GREGORY: Yeah. I mean, I fell in love with the song again, you know, more recently when Mase rerecorded it for, you know, his track, Welcome Back. But just as its own theme song, it nails the brief on the metrics I previously described. The premise of the show is in there, but it’s generalized in the way that it describes a feeling that could apply to you in your life. And to me, this one–even though it’s not a funny “ha ha” song, that’s okay because I don’t require my sitcoms to have goofy comedy songs as their themes. Instead, I want to laugh when I watch the sitcom. But I’m going back there because it feels like I’m visiting my friends. And so, the theme songs that suggest a welcoming in really work. This song is so good, if I listen to it without watching the show, it really does make me want to cry.
[00:27:09] ASHLEY RAY: It’s an incredible song.
[00:27:10] EVAN GREGORY: Thinking about the position of Kotter–having failed dreams that has brought him back to the to the school–that’s very relatable to a young adult or quarter life or midlife crisis person thinking about the stakes of their own life. And this song is nailing it.
[00:27:26] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. Oh, that’s a good one. Welcome Back, Kotter was, for my age, one of those Nick at Nite shows. And for me–most of the Nick at Nite shows–I was kind of just like, “I don’t really care about these.” But that one–because the theme song was so good–I was pulled in. I was like, “I love Welcome Back, Kotter” just because the song pulled me in so much. So good choice. Yeah.
[00:27:45] EVAN GREGORY: You got to ask: If the theme song weren’t so good, would we have John Travolta today?
[00:27:51] ASHLEY RAY: Probably not.
[00:27:52] EVAN GREGORY: Would we have gotten Saturday Night Fever? I don’t think we would have.
[00:27:55] ASHLEY RAY: I don’t think we would have.
[00:27:56] EVAN GREGORY: I don’t think so. Yeah.
[00:27:57] ASHLEY RAY: No.
[00:27:58] ANDREW GREGORY: Evan, you picking The Jeffersons and Welcome Back, Kotter… You know, I was scrolling through a lot of lists to try to get some ideas. You know, I had a couple on my list, but I was like, “I want to get up to five.” I’m realizing that I did give myself one stricture–one rule–just like you did. And that was I decided not to pick any shows from before my time.
[00:28:19] ASHLEY RAY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Okay,
[00:28:22] EVAN GREGORY: Sick burn.
[00:28:24] ANDREW GREGORY: I don’t know, like, how do I know the Mary Tyler Moore theme song? The way I became familiar with the Mary Tyler Moore theme song is literally by watching the movie Wayne’s World, where they have the whole gag where they’re doing the theme song to Mary Tyler Moore. I was like, “Oh, this song is good.” My mom and dad were like, “It’s from a television show called The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” It’s like, “Oh…” Similarly, The Jeffersons and Welcome Back Kotter, I just didn’t super watch. I was mostly sticking with shows I’ve watched for and one–this next one–arguably still on the air. I think this is a really good one. It is an instrumental. It wouldn’t be included by Evan. I’m going to sing it for you all.
[00:29:00] ASHLEY RAY: Okay.
[00:29:01] ANDREW GREGORY: And just tell me if you all get hype or not.
[00:29:05] ASHLEY RAY: Okay?
[00:29:06] ANDREW GREGORY: I’ll do my best here. “Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. Bum bum, bum, bum, bum. Daaah. Daaah. Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.” You are about to watch some Olympians do their dang best. You only get it once every four years, but you’re waiting for it. And it, like, hits a month or two before the Olympics and… “Oh, yeah. It’s time for sport. Not sports plural.”
[00:29:37] EVAN GREGORY: There’s only two notes back and forth, and I could hear the timpani in your voice.
[00:29:43] ANDREW GREGORY: That’s John Williams, right? Not a lot of Oscar-winning composed TV themes.
[00:29:50] EVAN GREGORY: I think they might have shelled out the big bucks to get John Williams to write the Olympics theme.
[00:29:54] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. I feel like they got the big bucks for that one.
[00:29:56] EVAN GREGORY: I’m already picturing Usain Bolt.
[00:29:58] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. That’s a good choice. And I don’t do sports, so I never would have thought of that one. I like that one.
[00:30:03] EVAN GREGORY: Yeah, that’s out of the box thinking.
[00:30:08] ANDREW GREGORY: I should have picked that SNL sketch basketball one from Tim Robinson. I love that one.
[00:30:13] ASHLEY RAY: That’s immediately what I thought about.
[00:30:14] ANDREW GREGORY: You know they just gave that words last year for the first time and it makes me so mad that they did not use the Tim Robinson lyric. That’s so dumb. I would pick that as maybe the worst theme song now. It went from, like, a really good theme song.
[00:30:27] EVAN GREGORY: It was formerly instrumental, and now there’s official words?
[00:30:30] ANDREW GREGORY: Yeah, just as of last year. It’s like, “It’s the heart of a champion.” Nope. No, give me the ball because I’m going to dunk it. My number two I think of as being the pinnacle– Like, a lot of the ’70s stuff Evan’s talking about were like, “You need lyrics. It’s original for the show. It gives you the setting perfectly. It has a ’70s vibe.” I picked this, but it’s not before my time. Sesame Street.
[00:31:11] ANDREW GREGORY: Just sunny days. The vibe. The kids are singing it.
[00:31:13] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:31:14] ANDREW GREGORY: You see the puppets.
[00:31:17] EVAN GREGORY: “Sweeping the clouds away.”
[00:31:18] ASHLEY RAY: It makes me smile any time I hear it.
[00:31:22] ANDREW GREGORY: It hits you right in the feels.
[00:31:23] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. As soon as he says it, I’m like, “Aw, yeah, I’m smiley. The world’s great. Everything’s good.”
[00:31:29] ANDREW GREGORY: I feel like if I heard the current one, I maybe would be bummed out because I’m still thinking of the one from 1984. Like, I want the 1984 one, not the one I remember as a two-year-old. Yeah, not the 2022 one, but I love that.
[00:31:41] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. They remixed it.
[00:31:41] EVAN GREGORY: They refresh it, like, every five years or so. But it’s still the same basic motif, right? There was, like, a hip hop one in the ’90s.
[00:31:49] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. “Sunny day…”
[00:31:52] EVAN GREGORY: Yeah. Exactly. “We’re talking about the letter B today.”
[00:31:58] ASHLEY RAY: I love that. It’s versatile. It stands the test of time. That’s a good choice. That’s a good choice. So now my three and four… For four, I did go with an instrumental–the Law & Order theme song. As a kid, when this theme song would play, I had a full choreographed dance I would do in my living room to the Law & Order theme song. And my mom would just laugh and watch it. So maybe it’s that memory, but that’s a good theme song to me. Law & Order nailed it.
[00:32:38] ANDREW GREGORY: It has the most iconic, like, kind of musical sting of all time in the history of TV.
[00:32:43] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:32:46] ANDREW GREGORY: “Dun-dun.” That’s number one.
[00:32:46] ASHLEY RAY: And then it’s, like, that, but then the theme song is, like, this weird, experimental jazz piece. So, it’s a good time. You know, it just makes me feel like some sort of, like, modern, new age dancer. I got to give it to Law & Order. And then after that, my number… What is this, three? I went with M*A*S*H–the M*A*S*H theme song. Suicide is Painless. Incredibly depressing. I think mostly because as a middle schooler, I just, like, was very “I’m goth. I’m depressed. This song is perfect. You kids don’t get it.” And I would just listen to the song by itself. And I was like, “M*A*S*H is an okay show, but just let me watch this theme song and I’m good for the episode.”
[00:33:43] ANDREW GREGORY: In the TV show, are the lyrics in it? They took out the “suicide is painless” part, right?
[00:33:47] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, yeah.
[00:33:47] ANDREW GREGORY: It’s just flutes.
[00:33:48] ASHLEY RAY: It’s just flutes. And I was like, “This makes me feel sad. I gotta go find this whole song.” And I was like, “Oh, sweet. The whole song will make you feel very sad.”
[00:33:59] EVAN GREGORY: Imagine looking it up like you didn’t know the original existed. And you’re like, “All I know is the ‘Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo.’ Oh, what’s this song called? Suicide is Painless?”
[00:34:10] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, man. Immediately right now I just want to go start playing it. I’m like, “As soon as we’re done here, I’m going to start listing Suicide is Painless. That’s how much I love that song.”
[00:34:18] ANDREW GREGORY: That song–I saw that on the list, and I was like, “That bums me out so much that there’s no way I would ever pick it.”
[00:34:27] ASHLEY RAY: So now are we all on our number ones?
[00:34:29] ANDREW GREGORY: We’re on to our number ones, right?
[00:34:31] EVAN GREGORY: Number one–I’m not going to beat around the bush. For me, number one is the Cheers theme song.
[00:34:48] ASHLEY RAY: Fair.
[00:34:48] EVAN GREGORY: “Where everybody knows your name.” It puts you in the feels hard. It puts you in the feels hard. It does all the things that I had described in the previous theme songs from, like, setting up the show, being broad enough that, like, you want to import this song into your own life. And it’s also even catchier than all the other examples, so it just works as a pop song.
[00:35:09] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. That’s a classic choice.
[00:35:11] EVAN GREGORY: Rolling Stone ranked it, but it’s outside the top ten.
[00:35:15] ANDREW GREGORY: You’ll get no disagreement here. You know, it’s not my number one but…
[00:35:18] ASHLEY RAY: Would have been in my top ten.
[00:35:19] ANDREW GREGORY: It deserves to be someone’s number one.
[00:35:20] ASHLEY RAY: Definitely top ten-deserving.
[00:35:22] ANDREW GREGORY: There’s some number ones where you hear it and you’re just like, “Wow, that person’s a moron.” And there are other number ones where you hear it and you’re like, “Well, I respectfully disagree, but it’s a great pick.”
[00:35:30] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. Okay.
[00:35:31] ANDREW GREGORY: Mine is–as I tipped my hand before–The Simpsons.
[00:35:51] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:35:52] ANDREW GREGORY: The Simpsons theme song is just so playful. It’s so fun. It puts you in the right mood. It’s not an instrumental because it starts with lyrics.
[00:35:59] ASHLEY RAY: It does start with lyrics.
[00:36:02] EVAN GREGORY: You’re sneaking it on a technicality, but we’ll allow it.
[00:36:04] ANDREW GREGORY: And it has a couple of gags that, like, make it kind of Must-See viewing. As I’ve been watching back–as I’ve been watching Season Two through Eight–Disney+ asked me if I wanted to skip the intro.
[00:36:15] ASHLEY RAY: No, you never skip the intro.
[00:36:16] ANDREW GREGORY: I’ve got to see the chalkboard gag. And I’ve got to see the couch gag. And that’s kind of built in. And there’s moments where I’m two-screening and I’m like, “Oh, I miss the couch gag.” I’m skipping back. I’m skipping back into the credits. And it’s just so playful, so zany, so, like, peak Elfman.
[00:36:30] ASHLEY RAY: That’s good stuff. Yeah. You never skip The Simpsons theme song.
[00:36:35] ANDREW GREGORY: And then you get the scary Halloween ones.
[00:36:38] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, yeah.
[00:36:39] EVAN GREGORY: Oh, so good. Yeah. Roundly agree. How many theme songs out there are non-skippable viewing–Must-See viewing?
[00:36:45] ASHLEY RAY: Very few in this day and age. I’m looking at you, Big Mouth. Can’t stand that theme song. I got to skip it every time. I love the show, hate that theme song. My number one… Okay. So, I clearly was like, “Golden Girls is the number one.” So, I’m going to do my other number one because I just feel like that one–Golden Girls–is untouchable. My number one is the Growing Pains theme song. If you’re familiar with that family sitcom, starring Alan Thicke. “Show me that smile. Don’t waste another minute on your crying.” Oh, I love that song. It’s so catchy. Anytime it’s on, I sing with the whole thing. I’m hitting those notes. It’s beautiful.
[00:37:46] EVAN GREGORY: Yeah, great pick. Just the melody on that. That’s one of those melodies that’s like, “It’s so good. Why didn’t I think of that?” Like, they did a deal with the devil to get this one dialed in that tight. It’s really good. That’s a great pick.
[00:38:00] ASHLEY RAY: “Show me that smile.” Just when she hits that, it’s like, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Show me that smile, Growing Pains.” And I was also obsessed with that sitcom. It was one of those ones–when I came home from school, it was playing. I watched every episode. Never skip the theme song. So, I got to give it to Growing Pains.
[00:38:22] EVAN GREGORY: That riff–I call it the ice cream truck riff. You hear that riff–that theme song comes in–and you come running when you hear the jingle. You come running to the couch when it’s on.
[00:38:35] ANDREW GREGORY: Amazing that, as ’90s coming-home-from-school kids, none of us have Saved by the Bell on our list. That to me was the ultimate coming home from school song. Like, your parents aren’t home between 3:00 and 5:00, you can pop off two to four episodes of Saved by the Bell without them maybe knowing about it. Did this conversation shake out any honorable mentions for you guys?
[00:38:56] EVAN GREGORY: I’m really glad you brought up Saved by the Bell because that was on my mind for exactly that reason. One pet peeve of mine on that specific song is that I feel like it’s such a direct Kenny Loggins rip off. It sounds just like the main theme from Caddyshack, where they’re just trying to rip his bag. I don’t think of that show as being, like, saucy and bluesy in any way, sort of like the characters in the show.
[00:39:31] ANDREW GREGORY: It doesn’t match. My honorable mention that you shook out of my brain that I absolutely forgot even existed. And then, like, when you were talking about doing an interpretive dance to the Law & Order theme song, it suddenly, like, shot me through a brain tunnel to, like, being ten years old. And I’m pretty sure I did an interpretive dance every week when the animated X-Men came on. “Da, na, na, na, na, na, na. Da, na, na, na, na, na, na.” So short. Instrumental–apology. But just, like, bringing up the vibe.
[00:40:04] ASHLEY RAY: Intense.
[00:40:04] ANDREW GREGORY: Gambit’s throwing his cards, blowing everything up. “What’s Magneto going to do this week?”
[00:40:08] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah. That’s a good– I remember this one. My honorable mention is the Good Times theme song. I love the Good Times theme song. And I was very upset because also Rolling Stone put that one in like the top 40s. And I’m like, “How is the Good Times theme song not top ten, top 20?” Come on. It was mentioned in, like, a Dave Chappelle’s Show sketch, where it’s like, “What’s the line where they’re like, ‘Hangin’ in a chow line. Good times.’” And no one knew what the line “hangin’ in the chow line” was. And it was him quizzing people, like, “What is the line?”
[00:40:56] ANDREW GREGORY: Rolling Stone was trying to get us to click, and it worked.
[00:40:59] ASHLEY RAY: It did work.
[00:41:00] ANDREW GREGORY: At least three times this week.
[00:41:00] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, I was, like, clicking through and it just made me angry every time.
[00:41:05] ANDREW GREGORY: And I went to two because of course they split the list into two pages.
[00:41:07] ASHLEY RAY: Oh yeah. You got to do 100 to 91 and then keep clicking on all this stupid stuff.
[00:41:15] EVAN GREGORY: That’s all the top 100 hundred lists. What have they accomplished? They’ve sort of hacked the human brain with the idea of, like, “We’re just going to create this list. We’re just broadcasting a bunch of opinions by doing this. And there, we’ve invited you to either walk through nostalgia and feel good or disagree with us vehemently, which also feels good.” My honorable mention just hasn’t come up in this conversation yet, but it’s just titanic. It left the world of TV and just became a forever pop song. And that is Fresh Prince.
[00:42:03] ASHLEY RAY: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
[00:42:05] EVAN GREGORY: Everybody in the freaking country knows the whole rap, top to bottom.
[00:42:08] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, top to bottom. Yeah, absolutely fair. It just seems bigger than a TV theme song to me.
[00:42:17] EVAN GREGORY: And they also hacked the system where they’re casting Will Smith after he’s already known for doing this. And then they’re like, “Will Smith, why don’t you make one of these bouncy ass raps for our show.”
[00:42:33] ANDREW GREGORY: That’s also, like, a comedy writing life hack. If you’re singing something, you can only get through so many syllables and so many words so fast. Even if you’re doing a late-’80s, early-’90s rap, you can really get through every syllable, every word, every paragraph of the premise of your TV show about the fight you’re having in West Philadelphia.
[00:42:56] ASHLEY RAY: The taxi ride.
[00:42:56] ANDREW GREGORY: In others, you’ve got to sing long notes.
[00:42:59] ASHLEY RAY: You can’t tell that much story.
[00:43:01] ANDREW GREGORY: Yeah, you can point to the theme of the show with Movin’ On Up, but you’re not going to explain, like, “Hey, this guy has a dry cleaner. He was living in Queens next to Archie Bunker. But who would want to live next door to that guy?”
[00:43:12] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:43:12] EVAN GREGORY: You’re definitely not getting in details like fuzzy dice.
[00:43:15] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah, I got to add another honorable mention. The Nanny theme song. Come on. That’s all the story. “She was working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens, till her boyfriend kicked her out in one of those crushing scenes.” Come on. That is…
[00:43:41] EVAN GREGORY: A great example. And different stylistically. They wanted to do that same thing. Syllable density. But they basically were like, “Rap is not right for the show. So instead, we’re doing, like, Stephen Sondheim meets, like, jazz scat singers.”
[00:43:56] ANDREW GREGORY: Okay, I have an honorable mention non-theme song, which is–I only recently learned this–that every week they recomposed the Seinfeld theme song. Every week the bass was, like, different.
[00:44:21] ASHLEY RAY: No.
[00:44:22] ANDREW GREGORY: Yeah, every week, he was doing a standup set at the beginning of it. And the same bass player would come in and, like, play slightly different.
[00:44:29] ASHLEY RAY: What? It was always like, “Bow, bow.” Like, what?
[00:44:29] ANDREW GREGORY: I think I saw this. I don’t want to do another correction on the show, but it’s always a little different.
[00:44:39] EVAN GREGORY: What I would buy is that, like, there’s some aspect of it that is locked in the can and that he’s improvising just a few seconds to go with the punchline of the cold open. There’s a new cold open every week.
[00:44:52] ASHLEY RAY: I guess I don’t feel that Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes would require that much, like, diverse improvisation. Right? Isn’t it just he hits the one liner or whatever and then, “Bow, bow.”?
[00:45:06] ANDREW GREGORY: But it’s amazing that that show is so tied to that sound and that music. But it’s not even a theme song. It’s just a guy playing the bass while there’s, like, a drum machine.
[00:45:20] EVAN GREGORY: God bless that bass player.
[00:45:22] ASHLEY RAY: Wow. You’ve blown my mind here tonight.
[00:45:25] EVAN GREGORY: And the fact that he knew that you slap the bass differently whether it’s a joke about airplane food or blind dates?
[00:45:31] ASHLEY RAY: You know, they don’t teach that in schools.
[00:45:35] ANDREW GREGORY: It’s a non-theme song theme song, which is appropriate for–I don’t want to go full grad student here–a show about nothing.
[00:45:44] ASHLEY RAY: Exactly. Wow. You broke it all down right there. That is the thesis of the theme song. How does it represent the show? What does it tell us? What does it teach us? Boom! There it is.
[00:45:58] EVAN GREGORY: And this is hard for Andrew to talk about because if you listen to our show, you’ll learn that Andrew’s least favorite instrument is the slap bass.
[00:46:04] ANDREW GREGORY: Yes, that’s true. Evan dogs me every week by just playing the slap bass again and again while I beg him.
[00:46:14] ASHLEY RAY: I was a big Béla Fleck and the Flecktones fan, so…
[00:46:18] ANDREW GREGORY: You got to respect Victor Wooten. Sometimes maybe he slaps a little too much.
[00:46:23] ASHLEY RAY: Still too much. Sometimes even I’m like, “We don’t need all of this. Okay?” Ani DiFranco uses a lot of slap bass sometimes in her early stuff. And I just skip those songs a lot.
[00:46:31] ANDREW GREGORY: Are familiar with the artist Shuggie Otis. Do you know Shuggie Otis?
[00:46:34] ASHLEY RAY: Yeah.
[00:46:35] ANDREW GREGORY: Probably one of my favorite albums of all time is his album, Inspiration Information. I think that’s what it’s called. And about ten years ago–he is a recluse–suddenly he went on tour, and I went to Brooklyn and saw him play. And it was this magical experience. His mouth opened, and it was the opening notes. He sounded amazing. And then the bass started playing. The entire concert, the guy was just slapping the bass. There is not slap bass on the album. Everything else sounded like the album. And this one 60-year-old guy, who’s probably Shuggie Otis’ friend…
[00:47:09] ASHLEY RAY: “Let’s change it up live, buddy.”
[00:47:10] ANDREW GREGORY: Just slapping on the bass. And I was just like, “How much more would I have paid for a ticket?” I paid $20 for the thing. I think I would have paid 60 for the same concert, no slap bass.
[00:47:21] ASHLEY RAY: Oh my gosh. You two are hilarious. If you’re out there, you got to go listen to Punch Up The Jam and you can have more of this. You two are so amazing. Thank you so much, Andrew and Evan, for joining us today. Where can the people follow you? Anything else you want to plug?
[00:47:37] ANDREW GREGORY: Just go check out Punch Up The Jam. You know, we recently did an episode about Shania Twain’s You’re Still the One I Want. We just did an episode about 15 episodes ago that I thought was really funny where we punched up John Lennon’s Imagine. I’d never thought about how bad that song was. Once our guest brought it on and talked about the problems with it, we made a better version of John Lennon’s Imagine. I didn’t think we could do it, but we did.
[00:47:59] EVAN GREGORY: If you’re a fan of TV, then you are steeped in the pop culture, so you probably have a lot of knowledge also about Top 40 music. And that’s what we do. We talk to death about a song, interesting background about what’s going on–I don’t know–the random stuff that comes to mind about the improvised slap bass. You know, whatever we happen to know about the songs, the songwriting process, the music industry. And then we improve the song, of course. You know, what way do the Backstreet Boys want it? Well, we uncovered that they want it missionary. That song is improved.
[00:48:27] ANDREW GREGORY: If you do a deep reading of the lyrics, we finally realize that what they’re talking about is they were having a fight about who gets to be on top with their girlfriends. We also make YouTube videos. You can check out our YouTube videos. We had a breakout this year with It’s Corn. If you saw the It’s Corn video, we worked on that one. And you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram @arosegregory. And you can follow Evan @getsomeevan.
[00:48:47] ASHLEY RAY: Love that. Thank you two so much. This was so fun. And hey, if you’re out there listening, go enjoy some TV theme songs for the rest of day. Just play them. All day. Don’t listen to Beyoncé. Just listen to the TV theme songs. And I will be back soon with your homework for the episode. I want to thank my wonderful guests, Andrew and Evan. Listen to their podcast, Punch Up The Jam. They’re so much fun. And before we go, let me leave you with some homework. Let me let me give you some notes. Like I said, I need you to watch Extrapolation so I can be sure I didn’t just, like, make it up. Okay? So, if you’re out there, watch it. Watch Extrapolation. So, I know it’s a real show and not a fever dream I had. After that… Okay, actually, let me just give you a heads up. All the homework today? Reality TV. Yeah. We’re getting back in our junk TV. Okay, it’s back. There’s some good stuff. We’re doing it. Darcey & Stacey two-episode finale this week. The girls brought to tears by a medical crisis their dad faces. And then on top of it, Stacey’s wedding is supposed to happen. Oh, my goodness. It’s a mess. It’s a mess. It’s a full, full, messy drama. So, you got to get into that. Love is Blind, I already told you why you need to watch. There’s only one couple I think’s going to make it, but I want to see every other couple fall apart. Then we have Seeking Brother Husband, which is on TLC. Just started. New season. We are now three episodes in. It is, I think, really good. It’s better than Seeking Sister Wife. It doesn’t feel gross and misogynistic, but you also can tell which of these relationships are, you know, trying to spice things up because they’re in their death throes. But there are also couples that genuinely are like, “Yeah, this is my wife, she has another husband, I’m her husband, and we’re cool.” So, I love it. It’s really kind of the most interesting thing about polyamory on TV right now. It’s rare we get that. And finally, 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way. Where to begin with that mess? I guess the only couple I really care about is Gabe and his fiancée. And I am so happy Gabe was able to tell his truth and he was met with maybe mostly acceptance. We aren’t really sure yet, but I’m crossing my fingers. So, you know, as I said, I still think 90 Day: The Other Way is the most interesting version at this point of 90 Day. This season’s killing it. It is really, really good. I’m going to have a deep dive for you on the newsletter, so make sure you follow. And hey, thank you for listening. Why don’t you share this episode with someone, a friend, someone who’s always bugging you for TV recommendations? And, you know, write and review. Subscribe. All those fun things. We’ll be back next week with another episode. TV, I Say with Ashley Ray is an Earwolf production made by me, Ashley Ray-Harris. It’s engineered by Abby Aguilar and produced by Amelia Chappelow. And our original theme song is by RaFia. It means so much to me if you go rate, review, subscribe. Follow TV, I Say. Let us know what you think and tell your friends. Share with your Golden Girls. Tell your Boys. If you love my TV recommendations, let everyone you know know. For special TV Club members, join my Patreon. And you can also find my full archive of ad free episodes of TV, I Say over on Stitcher Premium. Use Promo code “tvisay”–all one word–for a one-month free trial at stitcher.com/premium.
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