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10 Top TV Theme Songs

Remember when series openers had catchy tunes and fun lyrics?

Shot of Gilligan's Island cast

Gilligan's Island cast: (from left) Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Bob Denver, Tina louise, Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Alan Hale Jr. — Courtesy Everett Collection

The six opening show themes nominated for Emmy Awards this year are missing something. They may have lush orchestrations like HBO's Mildred Pierce or honky-tonk brass like Episodes on Showtime, but what they don't have is words.

Long before HD and 3D, television relied on theme songs with catchy lyrics and memorable tunes to grab an audience. "Themes were too important in making a show successful to be assigned to the [inexperienced] kids,'" recalled Norman Lear, the creator of All in the Family, The Jeffersons and many other celebrated series, in a recent interview with AARP. "I'd find the best pros available and let them go at it."

With the 2011 Emmy Awards coming Sept. 18, we recall some of the best TV theme songs with music AND words. They speak for themselves.

1. All in the Family

For his American remake of a British series, Lear recruited the seasoned composing team of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, who had written the musical, Bye, Bye Birdie. Lear told them to "envision Archie and Edith at the piano and what they could do to get a big laugh." The result was "Those Were the Days," a recollection of better times, climaxing with a high-pitched ear-buster from actress Jean Stapleton (Edith).

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