TV Cream

Pot pourri

Also available on BBC Records

Last night’s edition of Howard’s Way on BBC4, after climaxing with someone running in slow motion down a gangplank, slipping onto the wood and somehow contriving, in the next shot, to be sinking underwater, brought forth the reviving strains of the Simon May Orchestra wigging out to a disco beat.

It is, and forever will be, a superlative example of a TV theme whose opening is totally surpassed by its closing, wherein an epilogue of barnstorming proportions unfolds out of nothing before sinking back into the strains of the original melody.

Superlative, that is, along with these:

‘Allo ‘Allo. The beginning is just a boring accordion. The ending has all kinds of funny business going on with high octave strings and sashaying cymbals. Then again, as We Had Been Watching what felt like 257 people, some kind of extended instrumental variation was mandatory.

The Bill and EastEnders. Two you don’t hear anymore these days thanks to the need to speedupendcreditstothepointthatyoucantreallyreadanyofthematleastnotwithoutavideorecorderthatallowsyoutoviewprogrammesoneframeatatime. That twiddly bit, or middle eight, in The Bill closing theme – the section where the keyboards sped up faster and faster for no reason other than to sound brilliant – is sorely missed.

Miss Marple. The BBC/Joan Hickson vintage, that is. Given the final credits went on for hours, a set of instrumental extemporisations was once more obligatory, and once again it was lovely, in particular that call-and-response section between the low brass and the high woodwind, and then that tiny interlude of calm with the theme being played on a solitary harp, before the entire orchestra came bristling back in, parping to a halt.

Ever Decreasing Circles. The opening piano melody is sublime enough, but the closing section, recapping the theme before coming to rest in a quiet, plaintive, melancholy coda, is just wondrous.

A Bit Of Fry And Laurie. To be specific, the second series, the one which opened superbly enough – with Stephen and Hugh larking around central London – but closed even more spectacularly with a shot of a piano keyboard playing itself, with not two but four unseen hands dazzling their way through the finale from Carnival Of The Animals.

You Rang M’Lord. Anything that involves *still more* of Bob Monkhouse singing has to be a good thing.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. steve norgate

    February 26, 2008 at 12:18 am

    It’s not better, but the closing titles of The Sweeney were somehow apposite in relation to the opening. The opening is all blaring sawgger ideal for sending down slags for armed blags, err, whilst smoking fags (cheers!). But, in the end crime never pays and the toll it takes on the theif takers (what is wrong with me!?) deserves a more (here we go) telling/tolling denoument. Hence, the smokey, end of the night re-reading of the opening. It really sent you off to bed thinking about the serious nature of what George and Guv’ were doing. Hmmm.

    The, what I like to think of as the 12 inch mix of Miss Marple certainly deserves praise. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSMCN0IcJH0

    I’m sure there’s a closing theme out there that really trounces the opening but I can’t bring it to mind. Probably just something that didn’t bother with the opening as such.

  2. FeedbackReport

    February 26, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons of course has that tedious ‘Hammer Horror’ organ intro with Ed Bishop’s narration and the sound of a cat being trodden on, and closes with the far superior theme song as performed by fictitious psychedelic bubblegum band The Spectrum (or, if raining, a Gary Numan-inspiring ‘Robot Voice’).

    And while we’re on the subject of Andersonia, there’s two shows where the closing themes at least rival the opening themes for aceness – Fireball XL5, with its Joe Meek-esque instrumentalism and pre-Beatles pop dichotomy, and the winningly bombastic orchestral closing credits rearrangement of Joe 90.

  3. fl3m

    February 26, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Surely you have to acknowledge the way that Bullseye broke new televisual ground by alternating closing theme tunes, depending on whether or not the star prize was won.

    An honourable mention to Lassie as well

  4. Paul McQuillan

    February 28, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    I second the comment regarding The Sweeney. The end-credits music was suitably poignant, almost melancholic. It usually followed a suitably downbeat ending to the episode too, in stark contrast to The Professionals, which usually ended with some horrid cabaret-like ‘comedy’ moment, despite several men having just been blown up, usually with Cowley extolling the pleasures of ‘Pure Malt Scotch’ into the bargain.

    Several years ago I was thrilled to discover the theme tune to Ever Decreasing Circles on a slightly obscure disc of Shostakovich piano music I bought. I am hoping to one day find another such disc featuring the rag-time piano music which they used to play during Round Two of Bullseye, where many a left-handed woman from Essex would alternate between scoring 26 and threatening Tony Green’s face with their errant arras’.

  5. Don Hilliard

    March 2, 2008 at 5:11 am

    The other open/close rearrangement that matches The Sweeney‘s counterpoint job has to be the titles for Danger UXB. At the head of the show, ominous drums and horns calling up the spectres of bombs and air-raid sirens, cut off sharply by that three-note “sting”; at the end, a quick-march rework that manages to sound jaunty and fatalistic at the same time. Both nailed the tone of the show perfectly.

  6. Richardpd

    October 30, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    Porridge manages to effectively open with just Ronnie Barker summing up Flectch’s trial & the sound cell doors slamming shut. The ending them by Max Harris starts like a serious thriller theme, only to turn into a quirky tune a few bars in to get the feel of the show just right.

  7. Glenn Aylett

    October 30, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    The Liver Birds theme is an interesting one. It was based on a Scaffold B side called Liverpool Girls, where the Scaffold extol the virtues of women from Liverpool to the same tune as the Liver Birds theme, but in the television version, used different lyrics.

  8. Droogie

    October 30, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    The sublime Night Flight by Pentangle also had a lyric change for Take Three Girl with lines about coming to London Town instead. Stingray also had a different closing theme with syrupy ballad Marina.

  9. Richardpd

    October 30, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    The Two Ronnies had a slower, more sentimental arrangement of the theme for the end credits, the full version manages to bridge the two with some trickery from Ronnie Hazelhurst.

    I’m sure the Grandstand theme was slowed down slightly for the end credits, which tended to be very long.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    October 31, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    Didn’t Crown Court have two themes? It used to start with some jaunty classical style piece and end with a slow, wistful tune at the end, probably to signify some second rate criminal was being carted off to Strangeways.

    • Droogie

      October 31, 2021 at 12:26 pm

      @Glenn Aylett. Crown Court did indeed have 2 themes. The opening one was a sparse dramatic affair that I always confused with the Mastermind theme. The end titles theme was a rather lovely melancholy baroque instrumental. Hearing this and the theme to Farmhouse Kitchen immediately takes me back to sick days from school and the taste of Lucozade.

      • Glenn Aylett

        October 31, 2021 at 4:33 pm

        @ Droogie, Crown Court’s music was quality, which belied this was a studio bound, cheap drama. Also it reminds me of when daytime on ITV was actually quite watchable, schools programmes, Rainbow, Crown Court, Farmhouse Kitchen, repeats of Return Of The Saint, a decent film and game shows like Three Little Words. Then came the Australian invasion and things went downhill.

  11. Droogie

    November 1, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    @GlennAylett. Indeed. I used to also like Looks Familiar with Dennis Norden for the old movie clips. Paint Along With Nancy was a favourite too.

  12. Richardpd

    November 1, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    Monkey had a cracking set of songs as the opening & closing themes.

    Both were by the band Godiego, Monkey Magic was all in English, but the full version lacks the opening narration.

    The closing song for the first series was Gandhara, which was sung in a mixture of English & Japanese.

    These two were released on a single by BBC Records & Tapes.

    The second series used a song called Holy & Bright, but I’ve not heard that & not sure if it was released over here.

    http://www.monkeyheaven.com/music.html

    • Droogie

      November 2, 2021 at 6:17 pm

      A friend of mine had the Monkey Magic LP. From what I recall it contained the 2 theme titles and all the characters had their own song on the album too. I loved that show as a kid, and was a bit upset when they replaced the bloke who played Pigsy with an inferior actor in the later episodes.

      • Richardpd

        November 2, 2021 at 10:36 pm

        The Monkey single also included a bit of background music from the series.

        There was a 3rd theme used for the ending titles from second series, but I don’t think that was released here.

        Image songs are quite common in Japan, especially for anime series, mostly sung by the original performers as it seems almost obligatory to be able to sing as well as act in Japan.

  13. THX 1139

    November 1, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    “Mr McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” I mean, c’mon!

  14. Droogie

    November 5, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    I’d be amazed if anyone else here remembers this, but there was a bizarre BBC early Saturday evening sitcom aimed at kids called Morris Minor’s Marvellous Motors back in 1989. It was written by and starred Tony Hawks who’d had the Stutter Rap comedy single a few years before. The 2 blokes who were in the original band were replaced for the tv show with 2 actors, including a young guy called Andy Serkis ( whatever happened to him?) Anyway, the opening theme was a fast synthpoppy thing that sounded like it was written on one of the those small battery operated Casio keyboards. The closing theme was an instrumental version of the same song, but done in the style of Status Quo. A very strange show.

    • Richardpd

      November 5, 2021 at 10:03 pm

      I remember it & it was forgotten by the BBC as soon as the lest episode aired.

      The theme went something like “You can keep your Lamborghinis & your BMWs, I don’t care about speed of flair there’s just one car for me…A Morris Minor!” This was sung by the cast in Brady Bunch like boxes.

      There were some other songs featured, sometimes with little connection to the plot. One was a glam rock like song called “T-Shirt Party” & another was about having a Brazilian girlfriend done like a Rock & Roll era love song.

      • Droogie

        November 6, 2021 at 2:53 am

        @RichardPd Thanks for sharing and letting me know this wasn’t a fever dream of mine! The show co-starred the late lovely Una Stubbs too..Tony Hawks went on to later success with his quirky travel books.

        • THX 1139

          November 6, 2021 at 9:53 am

          And his skateboarding empire.

        • Richardpd

          November 6, 2021 at 4:32 pm

          Around the same time Tony Hawks was the warm up man for Red Dwarf, and often filled a small part if one was spare like voicing a food dispenser.

          • droogie

            November 6, 2021 at 11:35 pm

            He plays Caligula in one Red Dwarf episode I recall

  15. Richardpd

    November 7, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    Yes that was a fun part, especially when he & Rasputin threatened Lister & The Cat with a bucket of soapy frogs!

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