October 24, 2007
"Another Opening, Another Show"
TV Academy presents all-star salute to series' themes
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Ca.—More than 650 people attended "Another Opening, Another Show," an all-star salute to television theme music held Thursday, Oct. 11 on the campus of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
The two-and-a-half-hour show featured clips from more than 120 different TV series dating back to the early 1950s, as well as live performances of classic TV themes and several stars introducing montages of great "main title" sequences through the years.
In addition, journalist and author Jon Burlingame – whose 1996 book TV's Biggest Hits chronicled this quirky genre of music – interviewed television composers Earle Hagen, Vic Mizzy and Mike Post, along with producer Steven Bochco, about the role of TV themes and the use of music in the medium generally.
Singer Monica Mancini, whose father Henry Mancini practically launched the TV-theme craze in 1958 with Peter Gunn, served as host. "We knew the names of the people who wrote the music for shows like Dynasty and The Fugitive and Bonanza," she said, citing the composers for those shows by explaining that "to the Mancini kids, Bill Conti and Pete Rugolo and David Rose weren't just names on the screen, they were the guys our dad hung out with."
Maureen McCormick of The Brady Bunch fame introduced the sitcom montage, as well as her former boss, Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island creator Sherwood Schwartz, in the audience. And while the original Brady Bunch opening was projected on the big screen, with Schwartz's original lyrics appearing beneath the images, the entire audience sang The Brady Bunch theme to the 90-year-old producer.
The opening sequences for The Addams Family and Green Acres were screened, after which Burlingame introduced Mizzy, the composer of both iconic themes. He regaled the crowd with amusing anecdotes about shooting the sequences and directing the Addams Family cast in the famous finger-snapping of the opening; and of coaching singer Eddie Albert and non-singer Eva Gabor in performing his Green Acres words and music.
Actor-singers John Schneider and Jean Louisa Kelly did a 10-minute segment devoted to live performances of classic TV theme songs. They dueted on "This Is It!", the theme from The Bugs Bunny Show, as well as Car 54, Where Are You?, Three's Company, the rarely heard vocal version of Bonanza and "Happy Trails" from The Roy Rogers Show.
Schneider soloed on "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" from The Beverly Hillbillies, I Love Lucy, Davy Crockett and The Dukes of Hazzard. Kelly sang Petticoat Junction and Welcome Back Kotter and wowed the crowd with a torch-song rendition of The Mickey Mouse Club March.
Former St. Elsewhere costars William Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett introduced clips of great themes from medical and legal dramas; Mancini (subbing for an ailing Robert Conrad) introduced the Westerns segment and producer Steven Bochco introduced the cop and detective show montage.
Burlingame was joined onstage by Bochco and Mike Post for a discussion of their collaborations on Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue and other series. Especially interesting were Bochco's recitation of the struggles involved with several different producers attempting to decide on a musical approach to L.A. Law – and Post's attempts to reconcile the idea of an all-percussion theme with another involving subway sounds for NYPD Blue.
Robert Vaughn, best known as Napoleon Solo on the seminal 1960s spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was summoned from the audience to the podium by the original pen-communicator sound effect from that show. It was a 1960s flashback that the crowd loved. Vaughn saluted U.N.C.L.E. composer Jerry Goldsmith – who also wrote the themes for Dr. Kildare, The Waltons and Star Trek: Voyager – in his introduction to the segment on spy and action-adventure show themes.
Former Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner quoted Rod Serling in her introduction to a montage of clips from science-fiction, fantasy and superhero shows. She mentioned John Williams' early career efforts in such Irwin Allen shows as Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel, and quipped that the Wonder Woman lyrics ("in your satin tights, fighting for your rights") were "the greatest in the history of television music."
Stacy Keach revealed a talent as a jazz pianist by performing "Harlem Nocturne," composer Earle Hagen's theme for his long-running Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer series, and then introduced a montage of great themes from drama and anthology shows, mentioning Bernard Herrmann's work on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and the fact that Aaron Copland even wrote the theme for CBS Playhouse.
Burlingame brought Hagen to the stage after a medley of several of his long-running series: Make Room for Daddy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle USMC, That Girl, The Mod Squad, Mike Hammer and I Spy. Hagen talked about his years as a composer in television, noting that he was the whistler on the Andy Griffith theme and pointing out that "I had never whistled before, and I've never whistled since."
Post surprised the veteran composer by returning to the stage (along with Academy Chief Operating Officer Alan Perris) to present Hagen with a special award from the Academy "for his pioneering work and enduring contributions to television music."
Emmy-nominated composer Ray Colcord, a governor of the ATAS music peer group, produced the event, from a script by his co-producer, Arthur Greenwald. Stan Beard was the musical director.
Photos by Craig T. Mathews, courtesy ATAS