The distinguishing feature of any great TV theme tune is how inherently catchy it is, from the tunes that are actively fun to hum along to as they play on screen to the ones that you can't get out of your head and end up singing along to for weeks afterwards. These days, you can even say that a sign of a great TV theme tune is whether or not you skip past it while binge-watching a show. To that end, we've assembled the definitive, no-argument list of the best theme tunes currently on TV.
Netflix's animated comedy hit about a washed up sitcom horse earns its spot on this list with not one but TWO great theme tunes. The opening theme, composed by Patrick Carney (from blues-rock duo The Black Keys) is a bleary, melancholic sax-driven instrumental that perfectly soundtracks BoJack's hazy wandering through Los Angeles in the credits sequence. The closing song, "Back In The 90s (BoJack's Theme)" (performed by the indie-pop act Grouplove) is a delightfully catchy number that succinctly summarises the show's set-up: “Back in the '90s, I was in a very famous TeeeeeeeVee show...”
Bojack Horseman seasons 1-3 are available to watch on Netflix now
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
“Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! It's a miracle!” – it’s the ultimate can't-get-it-out-of-your-head song. The chances are that if you've watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, then you've found yourself singing those words at some point. Written by Kimmy Schmidt co-producer Jeff Richmond, the song was produced by The Gregory Brothers, in the style of their successful auto-tuned news interview YouTube series, Songify The News. Designed as neighbour Walter Bankston's (Mike Britt) eye-witness report of the show's set-up, the writers produced a full monologue for Britt, with the Gregory Brothers given free rein to choose the bits they wanted.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns for season three on 19th May on Netflix. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch on Netflix now
Sometimes an independently written song can find a whole new life of its own as a TV theme. That's certainly the case with Jake Bugg's indie-rock song Trouble Town, which is used as the theme tune to the BBC's Yorkshire-set crime drama, Happy Valley. There's a vaguely country and western vibe to the song, which fits in nicely with the law and order theme, plus the lyrics are suitably downbeat and cynical, reflecting the show's overall tone. Altogether now: “Stuck in speed bump city / Where the only thing that's pretty / Is the thought of getting out”.
Happy Valley series 1 is available to watch on demand now. Find it in On Demand > Box Sets > Drama
The theme tune to Netflix sci-fi hit Stranger Things is a great example of the opening music working in perfect harmony with the show. Written and performed by Austin, Texas electronica band S U R V I V E, the haunting synth waves establish the 1980s tone of the show, while creating an appropriately creepy atmosphere. It's so perfectly done that it's hard to believe the producers didn't just steal it off an obscure '80s horror flick.
Stranger Things is available to watch on Netflix now
The theme tune to E4's NYPD comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine (set in New York's fictional 99th precinct) is yet another perfect fit. Performed by Dan Marocco and composed by Jacques Slade, Lamar Van Sciver and Frank Greenfield, it's effectively a funky, horn-heavy '70s cop show riff that suits the show's vibe perfectly. Confusingly, the name of the tune is “Where's Brooklyn At?”, which is also the name of a Biggie and Tupac rap song, making it very difficult to google.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine seasons 1-3 are available to watch on Netflix now
The theme tune to Cold War-set spy drama The Americans (about a KGB couple posing as American citizens) is written by TV composer genius Nathan Barr, the man behind the equally excellent theme to HBO's True Blood. Combining a tense, urgent thriller score with a 1980s vibe and Soviet-style instrumentation, the tune perfectly encapsulates the Russia-meets-America theme of the show. Fun fact: Barr is known for playing the majority of the instruments in his compositions himself.
Composed and performed by Scott Sims, the jazzy theme tune for this adult animated spy comedy deliberately evokes the opening music from 1960s secret agent sitcom Get Smart, a key influence on the show. Like BoJack Horseman, Archer also has a great closing theme as well as a great opening theme, in this case, a burlesque-sounding number called The Killer, by composer Mel Young, which appeared on the 1997 album Betty Page: Danger Girl.
Archer seasons 1-7 are available to watch on Netflix now
All three of Netflix's gritty Marvel superhero shows have great theme tunes, but for our money, composer John Paesano's score for Daredevil is the best of the three. Conceived and written after the striking credits sequence was completed, Paesano's rhythmic, pulsing theme tune cleverly pulls together moody, noir-ish detective thriller elements and an insistent, pounding beat suggestive of superheroics (see also: Danny Elfman's Spider-Man theme). So good it will make you seriously consider watching the “Ten hours of the Daredevil theme” video on YouTube.
Daredevil seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch on Netflix now
A Series Of Unfortunate Events
“Look away, looook awaaaay / This show will wreck your evening, your whole life and your day / Every single episode is nothing but dismay”. As comic theme tunes go, it's hard to beat the jaunty opening song for Netflix's A Series Of Unfortunate Events. Written by Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler and composed by Nick Urata, the song features star Neil Patrick Harris entreating viewers to stop watching because everything they're going to see is horrible. In a particularly nice touch, the lyrics to the song change as the series progresses, reflecting whatever is going on in that particular episode.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events is available to watch on Netflix now
We Bare Bears
Composed by Ivan Barias and sung by Hammersmith's own Estelle, the theme tune to Cartoon Network's adorable cartoon We Bare Bears is the kids' equivalent of the Kimmy Schmidt theme, in that once you get it into your head, you can't get it out, no matter what you do. We defy you to listen to this and not find yourself going “Da, da, da-ba-da, da, da, da, ba-da-ba-da-ba, da, da, da-ba-da, da-da, WE'LL BE THERE!” for weeks afterwards.
We Bare Bears is available to watch on demand now. Find it in On Demand > Kids > Cartoon Network