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Carlton Fletcher

“I have only one thing to do and that’s be the way that I am and then sink back into the ocean.”

— Fiona Apple

Every person in the English-speaking world over the age of 2 — except maybe those weirdos who don’t watch TV or, if they do, they watch stuff like reality TV (that’s about as real, by the way, as a CNN report as reviewed by Donald Trump), C-SPAN or the Weather Channel (which still baffles me) — knows when they hear the words “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” that the answer to that question and the subject of that little ditty is Spongebob Squarepants.

The “Spongebob” theme song is perhaps one of the most well-known TV-related songs on the airwaves today.

After a recent night of watching WETV’s classic — vintage? — lineup of “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Gomer Pyle, USMC” and “Green Acres,” it dawned on me that the theme songs to those shows are about as memorable as the shows themselves.

Sure, Andy, Gomer, Lisa and Oliver are memorable characters, but you hear the familiar whistle of “The Fishin’ Hole,” the martial horns of the “Gomer” theme and, better yet, the “Green Acres is the place to be ...” catchiness of that show’s theme, and you’re on your way to TV theme song heaven.

Heck, Flatt and Scruggs’ “Beverly Hillbillies” theme — “Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named Jed ...” — became a radio hit, just as Mike Post’s “Hill Street Blues” and “Rockford Files” instrumental themes did. Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice” theme actually climbed the upper reaches of the Top 40.

Which begs the question ... what the heck ever happened to TV theme songs? It’s like now, the TV suits say, “Wait a minute, that’s 24 seconds we could be devoting to commercials, let’s cut the music.”

In the day, theme songs were such a big part of TV, I remember the opening/closing-credit songs of really bad shows like “Flipper” (“... lived in a world full of wonder ...”), “Petticoat Junction” (“... that’s Uncle Joe, he’s a-movin’ kind of slow at the Junction, Petticoat Junction.”), “The Jeffersons” (“Well, we’re moving’ on up, to the east side ...”), “Mr. Ed” (“A horse is a horse, of course, of course ...”), “Gilligan’s Island” (“... a three-hour tour ...”) and even “Welcome Back, Kotter” (“Welcome back, to that same old place that we laughed about ...”).

Two of the all-time best TV shows ever — “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” — were actually enhanced by their perfect themes, Alabama 3’s “Woke Up this Morning” and Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole,” respectively. And I watched HBO’s “Treme” mostly to hear that series’ theme.

Even the cartoons in TV’s theme song sweet spot — “The Jetsons,” “The Flintstones,” “George of the Jungle,” “The Pink Panther,” “Underdog,” “Wally Gator” (surely you remember “the swinging alligator of the swamp”) — had their own hip songs.

A listen to some of TV’s most famous theme songs could fill an afternoon with entertainment, songs like: “Little Boxes” from “Weeds;” the “WKRP in Cincinnati” theme; “Friends;” Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission Impossible” theme; “Suicide Is Painless” from “MASH;” Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” theme; Waylon Jennings’ (Ole Waylon!) “Dukes of Hazzard” theme; the Monkees’ TV show theme song; Gary Portnoy’s “Cheers” theme; Quincy Jones’ “Sanford and Son” theme, and The Ventures’ immortal theme from “Hawaii Five-0.”

Today, except for maybe “Shameless” (“The Luck You Get” by The High Strung), “The Affair,” (see the opening quote), and “Our Cartoon President” (Stephen Colbert’s hilarious “Donald Trump Is the President”), theme songs have gone the way of Kramer’s career ... that is to say they’ve become non-existant. At the same time, quality TV has become almost as rare. You might think that’s coincidence. I think not.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com or follow him on Facebook.

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