10 TV Show Themes That (Indie) Rock
From "Shameless" and "Boardwalk Empire" to classic comedies "Get a Life" and "Kids in the Hall," indie bands have long provided the soundtrack to some of the best TV themes.
Show: Shameless (Showtime)
Theme song: “The Luck You Got” by The High Strung
This little-known trio from Detroit has taken their gritty, no-nonsense garage rock all the way to Guantanamo Bay, where The High Strung performed in 2009, after wrapping a U.S. tour of local libraries. But when they found out this song from their second album Moxie Bravo would be used as the theme to a new Showtime series, the band was, appropriately enough, “drinking with two super girls at a bar in town,” frontman Josh Malerman tells THR of the day he got the call from publisher BUG Music. “William H. Macy? Emmy Rossum? Cable TV? I was beyond excited,” he says. “Now, we're all beaming because not only is ‘Luck’ a theme song, but it's the theme to a very good show. Shameless is funny, edgy, weird, outlaw-esque, smart, and spirited, and that's a short list of my favorite things! We're already looking forward to season 2.”
Check out the opening sequence to Shameless here and nine more noteworthy uses of indie rock as TV show themes below…
Show: Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Theme song: “Straight Up and Down” by Brian Jonestown Massacre
Strangely, druggy Bay Area psych-rock meshes perfectly with Boardwalk’s prohibition theme and the icy tone of its opening sequence, which features a poker-faced Steve Buscemi staring upon a sea of bottles.
Show: Hung (HBO)
Theme Song: “I’ll Be Your Man” by the Black Keys
The bare-bones distorted blues of a fuzzed guitar aptly depict the twisted yet simple life of professional gigolo -- or “happiness consultant” -- Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane).
Show: That ‘70s Show (Fox)
Theme song: “In The Street” by Big Star / Cheap Trick
Only year one of the Fox sitcom featured the original Alex Chilton version from Big Star’s seminal 1972 album #1 Record. Cheap Trick stepped in for the other seven seasons of the show which would kick-start the careers of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Wilmer Valderrama.
Show: Weeds (Showtime)
Theme song: “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds
The show’s first three seasons featured interpretations of the classic folk ditty, which was a hit for Pete Seeger in 1963, by many beloved indie artists including Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists, the Shins and Jenny Lewis.
Show: Malcolm in the Middle (Fox)
Theme song: “Boss of Me” by They Might Be Giants
The quirky New York duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell won their first Grammy in 2002 with this song which was written specifically for the TV show.
Show: The O.C. (Fox)
Theme Song: “California” by Phantom Planet
The LA-based band, which featured Jason Schwartzman as one of its original members, licensed this track from their 2002 album The Guest for the fledgling Fox series. While the show is no longer on the air, the song remains synonymous with southern California.
Show: Undeclared (Fox)
Theme song: “Solid” by The Dandy Warhols
How is Judd Apatow’s short-lived college comedy, which featured future movie stars Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, connected to Boardwalk Empire? Its theme song was performed by Portland’s The Dandy Warhols, who famously feuded with Brian Jonestown Massacre in 2004’s critically acclaimed documentary, Dig!
Show: Get a Life (Fox)
Theme Song: “Stand” by R.E.M.
The band was already signed to major label Warner Bros. Records in 1989 when the quirky “Stand” became their second No. 1 hit and the theme to Fox’s two season-long version of the Chris Elliott show. Still, there’s no denying R.E.M.’s influence on indie rock in general, and for that reason, the song’s inclusion on this list is deserved.
Show: Kids in the Hall (CBC/HBO)
Theme song: “"Having an Average Weekend" by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet
A Canadian instrumental group provided the New Order-inspired guitar licks that opened the Lorne Michaels-produced sketch comedy show, which aired for five seasons and introduced the world to Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald.