The 10 Most Rockin’ TV Theme Songs of All Time


    It’s hard for a TV theme to actually be rocking. Even if the song rocks, the visuals accompanying it might not, rendering the end product cheesy, dated, or simply bad. The following songs avoid this pitfall, hitting that sweet spot of muscular songwriting and audiovisual synchronicity. In other words, each theme has obtained true rockability.

    –Dan  Caffrey
    Senior Staff Writer

    10. The Shield

    “Just Another Day” by Vivian Romero, Ernesto Bautista, and Rodney Alejandro

    Don’t say nu metal never did anything for you. Every time Vic Mackey kicked some punk’s dick in or uttered a truly badass bon mot, giving way to The Shield’s choppy, aggressive opening theme, nu metal didn’t just transcend itself, it conveyed the exact level of swelling aggression the genre always aimed for. The Shield is the televisual equivalent of a line of coke, and “Just Another Day” is that first glorious sniff. So, like, don’t do drugs. Watch The Shield instead. –Randall Colburn

    9. King of the Hill

    “Yahoos and Triangles” by The Refreshments

    As much as it sucks that everyone thinks Primus performed the King of the Hill theme, it’s also a testament to The Refreshments’ kickassery. Distinctly Texan (even though the band is from Arizona), the song’s lazy twang quickly gives way to rapid-fire strumming. The sudden distortion, staccato switches, and that cymbal solo in the middle (or is it a glass bottle?) make standing around and drinking beer while the world passes you by (the preferred activity of Hank Hill and his buddies) look like the most exciting thing ever — a Mike Judge joke if there ever was one. –Dan Caffrey

    8. Superjail!

    “Comin’ Home” by Cheeseburger featuring Doc

    Considering most episodes of animated black comedy Superjail! end with a prison massacre, the opening song kinda had to be rocking, or very, very dark. Fortunately, the creators went the former route and hired Brooklyn trash rockers Cheeseburger to pen the theme. Aptly titled “Comin’ Home”, the half garage/half rockabilly nugget of sleaze scores an escaped inmate’s capture and return to the titular jail, a facility located underneath a volcano inside a larger volcano. Along the way, he passes different psychedelic landscapes, but those aren’t even half as weird as what goes on inside the slammer, which is run by a cheerful yet sadistic warden reminiscent of Willy Wonka. Not everyone will find his inevitable blood baths funny. Then again, you can’t say the credits didn’t warn you. –Dan Caffrey

    7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    Theme by Nerf Herder

    A charging bit of pop punk from a self-professed “geek rock” band named after a pop cultural reference to a sci-fi staple. Yeah, Nerf Herder’s theme to Buffy perfectly captures the intersection of high-energy excitement and cool-nerd adventure the Scooby Gang would get up to on a weekly basis. Much like many Buffy episodes, it opens on the promise of a fun, spooky time (courtesy of some moonlit synths), only to be supercharged by some pitch-perfect late-’90s angst — one listen and it’s tough to fight the itch to go patrol Sunnydale Cemetery. –Adam Kivel

    6. The Drew Carey Show

    “Cleveland Rocks” by The Presidents of the United States of America

    Drew Carey’s loveable loser office worker character embodied his native Cleveland pretty well: dependable, underappreciated, and kinda lousy at sports. But for 45 seconds at the beginning of each episode, Drew and C-Town got their much-deserved shout-out. The Presidents of the United States of America’s take on “Cleveland Rocks” was so damn rocking that not only did we need our weekly fix, but we rooted for the extended opening theme — a brilliant sequence that took us from quitting time to “Ohiiiooo … Ohiiiooo” with stops at an Indians tailgate and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along the way. Does Cleveland always rock that hard? Hey … 3-4! 3-4! –Matt Melis

    5. John from Cincinnati

    “Johnny Appleseed” by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

    David Milch’s John from Cincinnati is … weird. When it’s good, it’s unlike anything else on TV. When it’s bad, well, it’s still unlike anything else on TV, but frustrating. But even during the dud episodes, viewers could always look forward to the muted strums of Joe Strummer, whose 2001 stomper “Johnny Appleseed” served as the show’s opening theme. Not only does the track correspond to John from Cincinnati’s breezy, shambling tone, its lyrics help convey its sun-baked spiritualism: “Think there is a soul?/ We don’t know/ That soul is hard to find!” And with that lyric, Strummer pinpoints the burning question behind Milch’s entire oeuvre. —Randall Colburn

    4. The Adventures of Pete & Pete

    “Hey Sandy” by Polaris

    Each week in the mid-‘90s, Nickelodeon kids entered the weird world of Wellsville to the summons “Hey smiling strange/ You’re looking happily deranged,” as Muggy, Jersey, and Harris Polaris jammed on the Petes’ front lawn. (Was Muggy playing a Krebstar 3,000 Eviscerator, by chance?) The jangly pop served up by Polaris — actually Mark Mulcahy and two-thirds of his Miracle Legion cohorts — not only perfectly soundtracked the Petes’ always epic coming-of-age adventures but also made Wellsville a town fit for cameos by rock royalty like Michael Stipe, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and Juliana Hatfield.

    Going to be in Chicago on October 26th but would rather be in Wellsville? Come see Polaris and the Petes, brought to you by CoS! –Matt Melis

    3. Metalocalypse

    “Deththeme” by Dethklok

    When Brendon Small started his cartoon theme-writing with the chipper piano and guitar of Home Movies, who’d have known he had a shredding death metal band living inside of him? (Well, maybe Dwayne could’ve turned “Don’t Put Marbles in Your Nose” into a serious metal anthem, keeping my fingers crossed for a follow-up.) But then Metalocalypse and Dethklok showed Small for the musical genius he is, providing the vocals, guitars, and often bass for the “Deththeme” and the rest of the show’s music. The mind-bending solos and silly lyrics delivered in Nathan Explosion’s ultra-bass death grunt set the tone perfectly for the brutal and brutally funny 15 minutes to follow. –Adam Kivel