My Five Favorite…Classic TV Show Openings

This month, I am honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

This month, I am honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

When I was a kid, I made a TV theme song compilation with my cassette recorder. In my teens, after we acquired our first VCR, I committed a long string of show openings to video. In my 20s, I purchases more than one theme-song compilation CD.

From these facts, you can deduce two things:

  • I’ve always been kind of a loser.
  • I’ve always really loved theme songs.

Recently, I started thinking about my favorite TV show openings. The perfect opening combines music and visuals to tell a story, set a mood, and prepare the viewer for their imminent TV experience. These five openings do their job well.

(The first two shows on this list are celebrating anniversaries today. The Addams Family debuted September 18, 1964, and The Patty Duke Show premiered on that same date the previous year.)

The Addams Family
Composer: Vic Mizzy. Vocal Performer: Ted Cassidy.
Who can resist that finger-snapping rhythm? Recently, I saw a touring production of The Addams Family musical, and the crowd came to life as soon those familiar notes rang out. No wonder the tune is a favorite at sporting events. The lyrics are fun, too, with words like “kooky” and “ooky” to contrast with the deadpan visuals.

The Patty Duke Show
Composers: Sid Ramin and Robert Wells. Vocal Performers: The Skip-Jacks.
In classic television, the stranger a show’s premise was, the heavier a burden its theme song bore. For a premise like “this is a family with three kids,” you don’t need words at all. But if your show’s about a group of passengers on a three-hour cruise who get shipwrecked, you have some explaining to do. Few premises are as unlikely as “identical cousins,” but The Patty Duke Show theme does a good job laying out the situation and distinguishing between the girls. This opening also gives us fun lyrics like “Our Patty loves to rock and roll/A hot dog makes her lose control” over images of teenage life.

The Dick Van Dyke Show
Composer: Earle Hagen.
The tune is as jaunty as Van Dyke himself, and the producers’ clever ploy of filming two opening sequences (used during seasons two through five) kept viewers guessing from week to week–would Rob Petrie trip over the ottoman or deftly sidestep it?

Room 222
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith.
I have a soft spot for this one. The recorder-laced melody captures the mingled excitement and ennui of a new school day. Besides, the mini-skirt-and-knee-socks fashions are adorable.

All in the Family
Composers: Lee Adams and Charles Strouse. Vocal Performers: Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton.
As a kid, I didn’t know who Glenn Miller or Herbert Hoover were, and “Gee our old La Salle ran great” was a undecipherable string of syllables. Still, I understood where these characters were coming from. Maybe it was the line “Girls were girls and men were men” that gave it away. Like my own blue-collar grandparents, the Bunkers were pining for a simpler world that was slipping away. Even the visuals of Queens reminded me a bit of my grandparents’ neighborhood outside Pittsburgh. And Jean Stapleton’s tortured high note sums up her character beautifully.

What are your favorites?

Other posts you might enjoy:

Spin Again Sunday: Addams Family Card Game

Spin Again Sunday: Patty Duke Game

Room 222 Call Sheet: A Day in the Life of a 1970s Sitcom

Spin Again Sunday: All in the Family Game

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Room 222 Call Sheet: A Day in the Life of a 1970s Sitcom

Room 222 call sheet, 1970

When it comes to collecting, I’ve always admired people who have a laser-like focus. I’ve been a collector all my adult life, but the resulting collection is eclectic, to say the least. Today, I present one of the more interesting pieces of ephemera I own—a call sheet from the sitcom Room 222, which ran on ABC from 1969 to 1974.

The call sheet is interesting to me, anyway. (The fact that I was the only one to bid on it when it appeared on Ebay 10 or so years ago suggests the interest might not be widespread. That worked to my advantage though—I only paid $2 for it.) It provides a fascinating window into television production in the 1970s.

A call sheet, as Webster’s defines it, is simply “a daily schedule of filming for a movie or television show.” This call sheet dates from August 7, 1970, when filming was under way for two season two episodes. “Adam’s Lib,” a feminist story about a girl trying out for the boys’ basketball team, would air October 14, 1970; “What Would We Do Without Bobbie?,” an ugly duckling story, wouldn’t air until December 23, 1970.

The “Adam’s Lib” scene featured three day players—Tracy Carver as the basketball player, Terri Messina as the feminist activist, and “Darrell Carson” as the boy who helps them advance their plan to infiltrate the boys’ team. According to the Imdb, the actor’s name is Darrell Larson, and he’s the only one of the three who has acted steadily since then.

Larson, Messina, and Carver

This basketball court scene was shot at a playground in Los Angeles’ Rancho Park neighborhood. The female actors had to arrive at 7 a.m. for makeup that day, with Larson arriving 30 minutes later. It looks like they met up at 8 a.m. on Stage 10, Room 222’s usual filming location on the Twentieth Century Fox lot.

The “Bobbie” scenes, filmed on Stage 10, required the presence of series star Denise Nicholas as Liz McIntyre, recurring actor Howard Rice as Richie, and day player Nicole Jaffe as Bobbie.  Once again, the women reported for makeup 30 minutes earlier than the male actor. This group got a more leisurely start to their day; filming didn’t start until 10 a.m.

Jaffe and Nicholas in one of the office scenes. You might not recognize Jaffe’s face, but you would know her voice. She was the original Velma on Scooby-Doo.

At the bottom of the call sheet, we get a glimpse at what the cast would be doing the following week—reading and rehearsing on Monday, shooting a Walt Whitman exterior scene at Los Angeles High on Tuesday, and shooting more studio scenes on Wednesday (including a scene outside the “Berman Bungalow,” which would represent Bobbie’s house.)

William Wiard directed the filming on this day. Mike Salamunovich was the unit production manager. Both had long and prolific careers in television.

Room 222 call sheet, 1970, reverse side

The call sheet’s reverse side details the day’s production requirements. Those requirement were modest on August 7, 1970. They didn’t need any birds, livestock, wranglers, registered nurses, or firemen—not even any coffee or doughnuts. They did need one Los Angeles policeman, a stretch-out bus, a crab dolly and grip, and a “dialogue man.” (The call sheet almost consistently uses “man” in its crew terminology—mechanical effects men, camera men, prop men, makeup men. The only exception is “body makeup woman.”)

This little piece of TV history delights me so much that it might have launched me on a whole new field of collecting. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck finding similar items.

To close, I present the Room 222 opening, just because I love the music and the fashions.