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The 15 Best Pop Songs Appropriated for Television Themes

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | June 28, 2012 | Comments ()


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15. Joan Osborne, "One of Us," "Joan of Arcadia"

14. Remy Zero, "Save Me," "Smallville"

13. Love Spit Love: "How Soon is Now," "Charmed"

12. Phantom Planet, "California," "The O.C."

11. Paula Cole, "I Don't Want to Wait," "Dawson's Creek"

10. Andrew Gold, "Thank You for Being a Friend," "The Golden Girls"

9. The Who, "Who Are You," "CSI"

8. They Might Be Giants: "Boss of Me," "Malcolm in the Middle"

7. The Von Bondies, "C'mon, C'mon," "Rescue Me"

6. Massive Attack: "Teardrop," "House"

5. Dandy Warhols: "We Used to Be Friends," "Veronica Mars"

4. Queen: "Princes of the Universe," "The Highlander Series"

3. Foo Fighters: "Next Year," "Ed"


2. Massive Attack: "Paradise Circle," "Luther"

1. Joe Cocker, "A Little Help from My Friends," "The Wonder Years"







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Glenn Dunks

    Aretha Franklin's rendition of "Lady Madonna" for "Grace Under Fire" is a great one.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    The TMBG song for Malcom in the Middle wasn't co-opted, it was written for the show specifically. Technically Highlander doesn't count either as Queen wrote "Princes..." for the first Highlander movie.

  • "i'm no superman" scrubs

  • someone that you used to know

    The Sopranos should be on here, as well as Bosom Buddies using Billy Joel's "My Life". Another good one, that was short-lived was the opening to John from Cincinnati using Joe Strummer.

  • PerpetualIntern

    The whole time I was scrolling I was saying "where's the Wonder Years? WHERE IS THE WONDER YEARS??" Phew.

  • mudywaters

    Dawson's Creek theme needs to be moved up the list. Just sayin'.

  • Gumbercules

    Mad props for including "Next Year". Though the video version is not as great as the single off the album. Also, where in Zeus's name is my "Ed" on DVD? 10 dollars says no one knows.

  • Johnnyseattle

    I remember reading some time ago that the problem with the DVD set was the licensing for the music in the show. I really hate that we can have a bajillion retarded reality show seasons on DVD, but no Ed.

  • Crystal O.

    The video for Queen's "Princes of the Universe" might be the greatest thing I've ever seen. I can't believe I've been living my life without ever experiencing it before.

  • Hater from Siloam Springs

    That Remy Zero video turns out to be better than the who 10 seasons of Smallville. The opening sequence with this music was the only thing that held my interest through seasons 2 and 3 ...

  • Javier

    Sinatra's "Love & Marriage" for Married...with Children
    "Cleveland Rocks" for The Drew Carey Show
    War's "Low Rider" for George Lopez (the show sucked but it fits the article)

  • Muteki

    Hmmm. I was thinking of that Rembrandt's song from Friends. But maybe they recorded it for the show.

  • No. 'California' is a fucking insipid travesty of a parcel of whale vomit of a song.

  • Salad_Is_Murder

    Was "How Soon is Now" originally a Morissey song or did Love Spit Love do it first? Both versions are pretty good, I'm just wondering which chicken came all over the egg is all.

    Also, don't forget: "I don't wanna wait, for my Trapper Keeper to be over". A true classic.

  • Katylalala

    The Trapper Keeper version of that song is sung in my house at least once a week. That was just good stuff.

  • Kitty

    How Soon is Now was a Smiths song, covered by Love Spit Love.

  • Nicole

    The Smiths' version is the original from 1984. Johnny Marr & Morrissey wrote it.

  • DominaNefret

    A Little Help From My Friends is actually the first thing I thought of when I saw this list. That is probably still the most perfectly fitting opening theme for any show.

  • Helder

    My favourite- "Johnny Appleseed" by Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros used as the theme for "John From Cincinatti"

  • No Lazlo Bane's "Superman" from Scrubs?

  • e jerry powell

    The scary TV cover of Billy Joel's "My Life" for Bosom Buddies?

  • I can't argue #1, but you forgot Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" (World is a Vampire) on '"Whale Wars"

  • Jezzer

    Which is surprising, because "Whale Wars" is such an important, well-known part of the pop culture zeitgeist.

  • Excellent choice for #1. Joe Cocker's cover of that song has a permanent spot on my iPod.

    The Veronica Mars theme was perfect until they remixed it for season 3. Total travesty.

  • Jezzer

    We don't speak of the Season 3 theme in this house, young lady. >:(

  • laylaness

    We don't speak of the Season 3 theme in this house, young lady.

  • googergieger

    Surprised Scrubs wasn't on here. Anywhoots I liked the 4400 theme. Then again apparently I'm one of the few that actually liked the show. Oh what about Roswell? Dido, innit?

  • If we're counting covers (which it appears we are, what with "How Soon Is Now" et al), I'll throw in "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" from "Coupling." "Ed" gets a double win for the second season's use of "Moment in the Sun" by Clem Snide.

  • RJ

    "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys for Big Love was pretty cool as was their original title sequence.

  • Breanna

    I always watch the full opening titles for "Portlandia" for Washed Out's "Feel It All Around." #chillvibes

  • appwitch

    I think Princes of the Universe was written specifically for the Highlander movie, though it was also released on the Queen album A Kind of Magic. If that's the case, it wasn't really "appropriated" for the Highlander TV show in the same way as most of these other songs.

  • Bert_McGurt

    How about Cheap Trick on That 70's Show? I think it's called "In the Street".
    They actually wanted to use "Baba O'Reilly", but the Who turned them down. I guess Gary Sinise is a better negotiator.

  • summerteeth

    In the street was originally performed by Big Star, but I think they used a Cheap Trick cover.

  • Wasn't the show originally titled "Teenage Wasteland" even?

    Yeah, I can probably Google that. BUT IT SEEMS SO HARD.

  • L.O.V.E.

    I remember when I was a kid that the Rolling Stones "Paint it Black" was the theme song for a Vietnam War-themed drama.

    And Crime Story had the Del Shannon's, "Runaway".

    And China Beach had a Diana Ross song.

    And I guess its time for me to drink my metamucil and take my heart pills, because I am evidently old as shit.

  • Green Lantern

    Right there with ya, L.O.V.E. I'mma go get those kids off yer lawn...

  • L.O.V.E.

    Thanks for the assist, C_D.
    Lantern, what the hell does everybody want with my Gran Torino?

  • Clancys_Daddy

    Tour of Duty and China Beach was Reflections. Make Mine a double.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Since you already have two of their songs on here I have to SERIOUSLY object to you not including Massive Attack's Splitting the Atom from Luck.

    SERIOUSLY!!

  • Neil

    No "Where You Lead" by Carol King from Gilmore Girls? Shenanigans!

  • Katylalala

    I'm going to assume that song was only left off because this list is for "pop" songs. Otherwise, it just makes no damn sense. That song is perfect on its own, and it is perfect for the Gilmore Girls.

    I feel much more strongly about this than I should, but the whole Rory Gilmore getting it on with Pete Campbell thing just won't leave my nightmares. Pete? He's even worse than Logan!

  • That is an awesome song!

  • Lee Lee

    What?! How is Big Bang Theory and Barenaked Ladies not on this list?!

  • Rufio

    Barenaked Ladies wrote that song specifically for the show, so it's not really a pop song, is it?

  • Quorren

    They're BNL now. We need a shorthand for Barenaked Ladies. That's how fundamental they are.

  • thegardenhead

    Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, "Bad Reputation," "Freaks and Geeks."

    Unless you're not counting it because it's not "pop."

  • AudioSuede

    A whole bunch of one-word show titles with amazing theme songs.

    Hot Chocolate's "Brother Louie" (Louie)
    Lazlo Bane's "Superman" (Scrubs)
    Malvina Reynolds's "Little Boxes" (Weeds)
    Cake's "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" (Chuck)
    The 88's "At Least It Was Here" (Community)

    And the best one that you forgot:

    Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" (Parenthood)

    [Also, a multiple word show title with a great pop theme:
    Joan Jett and the Blackhearts's "Bad Reputation" (Freaks and Geeks)]

  • AudioSuede

    Oh, and how could any of us forget Tom Waits' "Down in the Hole" from The Wire?!

  • Hazel Dean

    Oh, indeed!

  • branded_redux

    You consider that to be a pop song?

  • AudioSuede

    Well, there's no strict definition given for what constitutes a "pop song" in terms of this list. There are several songs, like the ones from Massive Attack and The Dandy Warhols, that are as difficult and alternative as the Waits track, and the Waits song can easily be converted to a more poppy rendition, as it was in The Wire's seasons 4 & 5. So I would say it fits.

  • Arran

    We Used to Be Friends is "difficult"? It's the poppiest pop ever to pop.

  • Brandon Purifoy

    Tell me whether these songs existed before the show because if not they really should have been up there. Theme from Cheers and theme from Greatest American Hero. Also "My Life" from Bosom Buddies should have been on there

  • llp

    I still sing the theme to Greatest American Hero, and I was really small when it is was on. Also, I am old, and a little bit lame.

  • fracas

    I don't know if you can say that Princes of the Universe was a pop song appropriated by the TV Highlander when it was written for the soundtrack of the movie Highlander. It is a great song though.

  • branded_redux

    I thought nothing would be able to top Queen here, but Joe Cocker is a fantastic choice.

    I can't not laugh as "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys plays during the opening to "Big Love".

  • godzilla's foil

    Including two Massive Attack songs and that atrocity from Smallville and forgetting to add "God Only Knows" gets you a nice seat in Godtopus' Hell.

  • Threenineteen

    The Golden Girls theme shouldn't count, because it was rerecorded by a different arist for the show.
    If you are going to count "Princes of the Universe", "Suicide is Painless" from M*A*S*H should be on this list.
    My submission: "My Life", Billy Joel, from Bosom Buddies.

  • fracas

    Bosom Buddies was my first thought as well.

  • Legally Insignificant

    When I ran cross-country in high school, Princes of the Universe was the song I used to psych myself up whenever I was tired. I wasn't a world beater, but let me tell you, you never give up on Freddie Mercury. And do you know why? Because he'd never give up on you.

  • fribbley

    I'ma vote for Lazlo Bane's "Superman," on Scrubs. But maybe it's not poppy enough?

  • Ahhh, I just asked that, too. I'm glad someone else thought of it!

  • WestCoastPat

    I second this idea. Just slot it in the bottom half of the list (anywhere after number 7).

    Out the door, just in time....

  • BWeaves

    Where's "Rock Around The Clock" from the 1st season of Happy Days?

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