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.



  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.

    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.

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