Sitcom Theme Songs and Elevator Pitches
The death of Patty Duke this week had me singing the theme song to the Patty Duke Show. Word for word. The whole thing. For a TV show that originally ran more than 50 years ago.
And that leads me to a bigger question. Whatever happened to TV theme songs that laid out the entire premise of the show? Think about it. The Patty Duke Show theme told us she had an identical cousin – Cathy – who was a sophisticated world traveler. Patty of course, was a “typical” Brooklyn Heights teenager. And this was typical of the genre. We had The Beverly Hillbillies theme – which told us all about Jed Clampett’s journey. The Gilligan’s Island theme told us how the Minnow crew got stranded and introduced us to the castaways. The Brady Bunch theme gave us a decent summary of that family’s dynamic.
But what happened to this art form? There are some well-known theme songs that are thematic – they lay out the general sensibility of the show, but they don’t tell us much detail. We know “Cheers” is the place where everyone knows your name and the cast of Friends will be there for each other. But the level of detail is missing. The last show I can recall that really lived up to the glory days of theme songs is The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
And if you think of it, the classic theme songs were like elevator pitches – they told you enough about the show to get your interest. More than that would be too much, but less is insufficient. In thinking about it, the TV theme song is not a bad model to build on when developing a pitch. So here’s mine, to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies Theme:
Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named Jack;
A First Amendment lawyer who will always have your back;
He’s great in front of juries and he’s awesome on appeal;
Call him up today and you’ll get a winning deal.