How The Goldbergs and Other New Shows Kept Their Theme Songs
When Adam F. Goldberg created his 1980s-set ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, he knew he needed to include a catchy title tune. "The '80s was the Golden Age of theme songs," he says. "From Golden Girls to The Facts of Life to Silver Spoons, people sometimes remember the theme songs more than they remember the show."
Goldberg co-wrote the theme song for his last comedy, Fox's short-lived Breaking In. This time, he decided to contact his favorite band, the Chicago-based group I Fight Dragons, to do the job. It seemed like a perfect match: I Fight Dragons uses "chip tuning" — sampling audio from 25-year-old Nintendo video game consoles — in its music. "It has a really retro sound," Goldberg says. "The band seemed like a perfect match for my show, set in the same time period."
I Fight Dragons had just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its next album; that's how, after a quick Google search, Goldberg found the band's lead singer, Brian Mazzaferri. "He watched the pilot and we discussed what the show was," Goldberg says. "Then he started sending me songs every day. He sent me 25 different songs. He did a bunch with the name 'Goldberg' in the song, and a bunch about looking back. Some of them are going to be my ringtone."
On his blog, Mazzaferri called it "an exciting, crazy process. The show is twisted and hilarious, and we're honored to be a part of it." Ultimately, Goldberg chose his five favorites of Mazzaferri's submissions and sent them to ABC to make a final selection. The network settled on the track "Rewind," which was the first one Mazzaferri and I Fight Dragons recorded. "We always kept coming back to the first," Goldberg says. "It lyrically felt great and had such great energy."
I Fight Dragons is now working on a longer version of "Rewind," which will soon be available soon for fans to download.
The Goldbergs is a rare exception to the broadcast networks' move away from theme songs. TV's No. 1 comedy may boast an insanely catchy opening — The Big Bang Theory's Barenaked Ladies concoction "The History of Everything" — but many primetime shows now eschew the once-common practice.
Goldberg notes that the theme songs of the 1980s sometimes lasted longer than a minute. "There were fewer commercials then, and more time for content of the show," he says. "Our [comedies] are only 21 minutes long now, and that's not a lot of time. Rightfully so, a lot of showrunners don't want to allocate 30 seconds for a theme song. So it's really a creative choice. For me, I always look forward to a theme song."
CBS' four remaining new fall series each have opening title sequences with a short burst of instrumental music, lasting between 12 and 18 seconds. None of The CW's new shows feature a theme song. (On cable, however, haunting tracks — like "Until I'm One With You," for FX's The Bridge, written and performed by Ryan Bingham, and "This Life" for FX's Sons of Anarchy, performed by Curtis Stigers and the Forest Rangers — help define the moods of those shows.)
Here are some of this fall's new TV show themes:
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox): "Where's Brooklyn At?" performed by Dan Marocco featuring Jacques Slade, Lamar Van Sciver and Frank Greenfield.
Dads (Fox): "Daddy Took Me to the Zoo," performed by The Bogmen.
Hello Ladies (HBO): "Alone Too Long," performed by Hall and Oates.
The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC): "The Michael J. Fox Show Theme Song," composed by Jeff Cardoni.
Sean Saves the World (NBC): "Main Title Theme," composed by Scott Icenogle and Josh Harris.
Sleepy Hollow (Fox): "Sleepy Hollow," composed by Brian Tyler.
Super Fun Night (ABC): "Don't Stop Me Now," performed by Rebel Wilson and cast; written by Freddie Mercury and originally performed by Queen.
Witches of East End (Lifetime): "Theme from Witches of East End," composed by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman.
We Are Men (CBS, now canceled): "I Will Survive," performed by Cake, which covered the Gloria Gaynor track in 1996.
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