12 classic TV shows that changed their theme songs

Do you remember the original tunes from 'The Twilight Zone' and 'Family Matters'?

The song doesn't always remain the same. Just take a listen to these twelve major changes to TV theme songs. For the most part, they were all wise moves in hindsight, as you will be most familiar with the replacements. Well, except for one famous Western…

1. Happy Days

Original: "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets
New: "Happy Days" by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

Rock & roll legend Haley re-recorded his hit in 1973 for the sitcom. The tune was used in the first two seasons, which overall vary stylistically from the rest of the series. In season three, the familiar "Happy Days," sung by Jimmy Haas, took over as the opening theme. In season 11, the song was given a fresh update with Bobby Arvon on lead vox.

2. The Twilight Zone

Original: Theme by Bernard Herrmann
New: Theme by Marius Constant

Hollywood maestro and Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann composed a dreamy, eerie piece for the first season. In season two, that overshadowed music was replaced with the now iconic "do-DO-do-do, do-DO-do-do" music, written by French avant-garde composer Marius Constant.

3. Bonanza

Original: "Bonanza" by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
New: "The Big Bonanza" by David Rose

The galloping Western classic remains one of the most familiar theme songs in television history. Oddly, for season 12, in 1970–71, the show replaced that brilliant work with a more '70s groove. Today, this one-year abberation remains forgotten.

4. Bosom Buddies

Original: "My Life" by Billy Joel
New: "Shake Me Loose" by Stephanie Mills

Tom Hank's breakthrough drag comedy nabbed a big name when it roped in the Piano Man and his jaunty, defiant "My Life." However, Bill Joel is a major pop star with high royalty rates, so that No. 3 Billboard smash was replaced with funkier, stereotypical '80s theme.

5. Remington Steele

Original: "Laura's Theme" by Henry Mancini
New: "The Remington Steele Theme" by Henry Mancini

In its first season, the lighthearted mystery series focused on its lead female detective, as star Stephanie Zimbalist narrated the premise of the show over a woozy, late-night jazz number. The following year, film score mastermind Henry Mancini switched it out for something a little peppier and brassier.

6. The Rebel

Original: "The Ballad of Johnny Yuma" by Richard Markowitz, sung by Johnny Cash
New: "Dodge City" by Jack Trombey

The one and only Man in Black bellowed the original theme to the hit Nick Adams Western. Oddly, Adams himself was the first to release a single of the song in 1960. Cash released his version in 1961. As with Bosom Buddies, this big-name singer had to be replaced in syndication. Instead, The Rebel now airs with a piece of stock music.

7. Magnum, P.I.

Old: Theme by Ian Freebairn-Smith
New: "Theme from Magnum P.I." by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter

It's fascinating what difference a theme song can make. The initial piece of music used for Tom Selleck's action classic featured a funky bassline that seemed like a remnant of the 1970s. However, this was 1980. Halfway through the first season, it was wisely replaced with something sleek for the new decade, complete with a rocking guitar riff fit for the roaring red Ferrari.

Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution

8. The Partridge Family

Old: "When We're Singin'"
New: "C'mon Get Happy"

The musical family comedy naturally showcased its singing stars with its opening salvo. After season one, the tune remained the same but the lyrics were changed to the now-familiar version.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

9. I Dream of Jeannie

Old: Theme by Richard Wess
New: "Jeannie" by Hugo Montenegro and Buddy Kaye

To most, the original jazz opening to this magical sitcom will sound alien. Despite kicking off with a drum solo, it feels rather flat. Producers heard the flaws and replaced the theme when the show went full color in season two. Montenegro's swinging, hep instrumental was the perfect bachelor pad music for the era.

Image: Screen Gems

10. Starsky & Hutch

Old: Theme by Lalo Schifrin
New: "Gotcha" by Tom Scott

As with Magnum, P.I., this buddy cop show featured a fine, if generic and somewhat dated theme at its start. It too upgraded with something a little flashier and fit for its funky time.

11. Family Matters

Old: "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
New: "As Days Go By" by Jesse Frederick

Yep, the Urkel show originally began with Louie Armstrong's melancholy classic. On the other hand, Jesse Frederick's peppy, narrative tune embodied the early-'90s family sitcom theme. 

Image: Warner Bros.

12. Simon & Simon

Old: "Best of Friends" by the Thrasher Brothers
New: Theme by Barry De Vorzon

The second theme by De Vorzon, with its slide guitar, saxophone and dash of Southern boogie, is more associated with this '80s action staple. The original piece used by the buddy series sounded a bit like a Jimmy Buffett outtake. Like so many others on this list, it was replaced after the first season.

Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution


There were some famous voices behind the mic for "My Two Dads," "Eight Is Enough" and "21 Jump Street." READ MORE

Image: The Everett Collection

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Fleiter 41 months ago
You know you are watching a good episode of "Happy Days" if it has the Bill Haley theme. Those episodes live in the real world of the '50s.
GordonBombayIII 48 months ago
But Magnum Pi switched twice during season 1.
Now, I’m watching on Amazon Prime, but the first couple episodes have the iconic song and then the weird one, and the back to the iconic one.
RGD1 63 months ago
What about Alice and Gimme A Break!
They changed theme songs too
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?