Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 1 of 2

I think you will agree…

Sometimes, the music in a TV series can make a good series great or a great series even better. (Or, even a bad series tolerable.) This is especially true with the opening theme, which sets the mood for what the audience is about to watch. In fact, beyond the opening and closing credits, you might only ever notice any real music during transitional shots. But, those few times can make all the difference.

In this post and the next, I want to focus on the theme music from some of my favorite shows — from stuff already in syndication during my early childhood to new stuff currently airing. My first criterion was, of course, that the series had to fall under the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure banner that this blog is about. The theme couldn’t be taken from a movie (e.g., “The Highlander” series borrowed Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the original movie). And, the theme had to be — to my mind, at least — particularly catchy or otherwise memorable.

How many of these can you remember before playing the video clips? I have likely left out some of your favorites, but you’ll probably agree that these are among the best of genre theme songs. Moving in chronological order…

1) The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)

2) Peter Gunn (1958-1961)

3) Star Trek: TOS (1966-1969)

4) Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

5) Batman (1966-1968)

6) Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)

7) The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

8) Wonder Woman (1975-1979)

9) The Bionic Woman (1976-1978)

10) Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

That was fun! Did I get to your faves, yet? I hear you humming something….

Stay tuned until next week, when we continue the nostalgia trip into the 1980s and beyond!

P.S.  Just for the record, #s 1 & 2 were before my time, and #s 3 thru 6 I only ever saw in re-runs. I’m not that old!

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Re-engineering the Bionic Woman

Speaking of cyborgs….

New Bionic_Woman and castA few years ago, I was excited to read that they were “bringing back” the Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers. I had a bit of a crush on Lindsay Wagner from the original back in the mid-70s, and it was one of my favorite shows. The new show — call it a “reboot”, I suppose — debuted on 9/26/2007, starring Michelle Ryan. I liked it OK but was disappointed that they had changed a number of things for no good reason, as far as I could tell. For example, Jaime herself looked and acted very differently; she was now a bartender, not a tennis pro; she lived with her rebellious, teenage sister; the organization that gave Jaime her “updated” bionics was the Berkut Group, not the Office of Scientific Investigations (O.S.I.); her boss was some jerk named “Jonas Bledsoe”, not the fatherly Oscar Goldman; they gave her a bionic eye, in addition to the legs, arm, & ear; the bionics were now nanite-powered (really? default to nanites?); etc. In some ways, the darker, ethically-questionable, more secretive feel of the series seemed to be trying to capitalize on the popularity of “La Femme Nikita”. This all bugged me a bit, but, as with most things sci-fi, I was still willing to give it a chance.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one disappointed in the series, since it was quickly cancelled and ground to a halt after 8 episodes. So, at the time I decided to jot down a few ideas of what I thought they could do to revive and improve it.

1) Bring back Oscar Goldman, Rudy Wells, and the O.S.I. (Also, minimize any dark, shady aspects. These are the good guys!) Berkut should be renamed, re-organized/re-focused (maybe as a unit within the O.S.I.?), or maybe just disbanded. Jonas and (therapist) Ruth could be killed or reassigned. Not sure whether or not to keep the little sister.

2) Oscar should be a mentor and father figure to Jaime, while Rudy could be somewhat of an absentminded professor/uncle-type. (You know, like in the original series, where they actually liked each other and worked well together?) Maybe Rudy could be a former associate, then rival, of (nemesis) Anthros, who worked on his own version of the bionic technology for either a different government agency or an independent lab. [In fact, I would like to see a totally different approach to the “bionic” technology, blending “old school” with new.]

3) Spend more time training Jaime in espionage, guns, field tactics, etc. Maybe have flashbacks of her learning to control her strength, speed, etc. [This aspect of showing her training with one or more other operatives was one of the things that actually made sense in the reboot.]

4) Borrow from ‘Alias’, where a) there were one or two main opponent organizations whose activities are tracked; and b) operations/assignments should be planned in a briefing room w/ Oscar, Jaime, Rudy(?) and/or Nathan or Jae (assuming they keep those characters), and one or two senior operatives whom she could be alternately paired with on training missions.

Overall, the show seemed to be unfocused (to me, anyway) and in need of better writing. Most of the characters weren’t all that interesting or even likable. For one, I prefer the more lighthearted & fun-loving Jaime of old. (Maybe they would have had her lighten up a bit later on, after grieving for her fiance and “dealing” with the realities of her new life?) On a positive note, casting Katee Sackhoff as Jaime’s troubled, bionic opposite-number, Sarah Corvus, was brilliant! She did a great job, gloating in her superior skills, while also trying to convince Jaime to leave Berkut and join her. It was also a nice homage to Monte Markham’s “Seven Million Dollar Man” character, Barney Hiller/Miller, from “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

This leads me to another way I thought of to improve the show — namely, bring “Col. Steve Austin” into the picture by sort of mirroring the way Jaime Sommers was introduced in the original TSMDM series. I had a couple of background and story ideas back then, which I have fleshed out a little, here.

5) In season two, introduce Steve Austin. Steve and Jaime were high school sweethearts, with Steve being at least a couple years ahead of her. He graduated in 2001 and began attending community college that Fall. Then, one or both of Steve’s parents were killed in the 9/11 attacks. He enlisted, becoming an Air Force pilot. Meanwhile, he & Jaime became estranged and, when he was stationed overseas, they lost touch.

6) Now in 20XX, Steve appears on Jaime’s doorstep. After several tours in the Middle East and a brief stint in the now-defunct NASA Space Shuttle program, the newly-promoted colonel is about to begin working as a test pilot. Over the next few days, they spend a lot of time together and rekindle some old flames. Steve asks Jaime to come watch him on his first flight of a new supersonic jet. As in the original TSMDM, Steve has a terrible accident while landing and is near death. A distraught Jaime manages to convince Oscar to let Rudy operate on Steve and replace various parts with bionic ones. (Steve’s superb military record certainly works in his favor, since Oscar thinks he would make a good O.S.I. operative.)

7) Taking another cue from the original TSMDM/TBW, Steve suffers minor brain damage and doesn’t remember Jaime or their relationship. Nevertheless, he accepts her friendship and assistance in learning to accept (and use) his bionics. This aspect can, of course, be interspersed throughout 2 or 3 or more episodes.

8) At some point, Oscar tries to recruit Steve into working for the O.S.I. If he does it full-time, perhaps he would be assigned to another installation. Or, maybe he could agree to only the occasional assignment while he concentrates on relearning his piloting skills. Or, maybe they work out that he remains in the military for another 2 or 3 years (perhaps training recruits?), before beginning training with the O.S.I.? (Of course, this will be affected by whether or not Steve gets his own show.)

So,… thoughts? I think the old fans (like me) would really appreciate these changes, bringing back both the tone and some familiar characters/elements from the original series. New, younger viewers might like it better, too. As long as the casting and writing were up to snuff, it could be a popular show (or two) once again. And, speaking of casting, that’s what I’ll do in my next post….