So let's do something else, something I'm not sure I've seen in other blogs. There probably are several posts like this, I've just can't remember seeing one.
I thought we'd take a look at some of the music themes to a selection of TV mystery shows. No movies (so no Murder She Said, Pink Panther or 007 tunes), but I'll be rather inclusive in what I call a mystery show. Adventure series and thriller series will feature here. And these are just the ones that I remember best - I'm sure I've missed a few that should have been here. And if I've missed a favourite of yours, just let me know in the comments!
We'll do this in a roughly chronological order as well, so we'll begin with those nifty 50s-60s themes that everyone has heard and move on to some of the more recent things we've been able to see on the box. The links below all lead to YouTube. If you're reading this some time in the future, then hello future human being and sorry if these links do not lead to anything playable any more.
The Perry Mason theme
Yeah, let's begin with this one, because I guess it's the most ubiquitous one. Composed by Fred Steiner, I'm sure everyone recognises this and considers it one of the standards of the genre. I like it as well, though I have bigger favourites coming up later. I used to watch the 80s reboot of Perry Mason, but have never seen the original series.
The Peter Gunn theme
If there's one theme that can compete with the Perry Mason one, this piece, composed by Henry Mancini, is it. Unlike Perry Mason, this is one show I never watched - I'm not that old! Another good swinging tune.
The Richard Diamond theme
The lesser known cousin of Perry Mason and Peter Gunn, and that goes for both the TV show and the theme. This piece of music, by Pete Rugolo, is quite distinctive, but doesn't really have the immediateness and instant recognisability of the two earlier themes.
The Avengers theme
Moving on to British TV, this is one of the iconic shows from the 60s. The music by Laurie Johnson is however not a real favourite of mine. It's certainly quite distinctive, but there are so many better ones out there. But yeah, it's better than the souped-up, modernized version that they foisted on the somewhat recent movie with Val Kilmer.
The Saint theme
Edwin Astley composed this, another really famous melody. It's iconic and immediately conjures up pictures of those 60s thriller/mystery shows. Really good stuff.
The Prisoner theme
We remain in Britain for yet another iconic show, and again I find the theme, by Ron Grainer, fairly dull. It's one of the least distinctive tunes from this time, and doesn't live up to the reputation of the TV show. Quite a disappointment.
The Mission Impossible theme
So I guess it's time we move on to another truly recognisable TV theme. Lalo Schifrin has created a true winner here, and not even the "other two" from U2 could destroy it completely when they tried updating it in the 90s. An excellent theme.
The Persuaders theme
More Moore! And some Curtis. Although John Barry will always remain most remembered for his contributions to the Bond soundtracks, he was always a prolific soundtrack composer and had several tunes for TV shows. This is the very best theme of them all, a true classic from a TV show that is unjustly forgotten - it's a crime it only got one season. (Never fear, I didn't watch it when it was new - it's been rerun several times over here in Sweden.)
The Adventurer theme
So let's continue with some more John Barry. This theme tune is similar but perhaps not quite as distinctive as the one from "The Persuaders", but it's still a great tune that says "70s thriller" like nothing else.
Orson Welles' Great Mysteries theme
Let's continue this trifecta of Barry tunes with this one, another great one from the master. Like the theme from "The Adventurer" you can hear similarities with "The Persuaders", but it's still distinct enough to stand on its own legs. Barry was at the top of his game in the early 70s.
The Rockford Files theme
We're back in America for what might be the most recognisable 70s theme tune. Written by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, everyone will recognise this melody. This is the first show that I actually saw "live", as it were, though I don't have any memories of it from that time. After all, I was only seven when it ended.
This might be the absolute best melody and arrangement of all the tunes here. It evokes some of that French-British-seaside setting that you get from a show set on Jersey. But I don't think that it really says "mystery". No matter, this is still the part I'll always associate John Nettles with.
The Hill Street Blues theme
Mike Post strikes again. We're now firmly in 80s territory. I still have fond memories of this Stephen Bochco show, though I know that I did NOT like this tune back then. I like it better now, but again, I don't know that it actually evokes "mystery".
Magnum, P. I. theme
This show was never my favourite at the time, but I do think that Mike Post's theme here is a bit better than the one to "Hill Street Blues". But it's less of a mystery theme tune, it sounds more like an adventure theme.
Knight Rider theme
By Glen A. Larson and Stu Phillips, this is another very typical 80s theme tune. As stupid as the show was, the theme tune still evokes a lot of action adventure.
The A-Team theme
Another one by Mike Post, this is possibly his least successful theme (of the ones I've managed to remember). It has a memorable hook, but the rest of the theme is very bland and uninteresting.
The Inspector Dalgliesh theme
Let's move away from these American adventure/action shows, which really are hardly mysteries at all, and to some British true mysteries. This is a great theme from the filmatisation of P. D. James novels. Richard Harvey has composed a real classic, and it just says mystery like nothing else.
Partners in Crime theme
This Tommy & Tuppence adaptation was a really good show, and the theme tune by Joseph Horovitz evokes the setting of the 1920s very well. However, it certainly doesn't scream mystery. A nice enough tune, but not a particularly successful theme tune, if you catch my drift.
Miss Marple theme
This melody from the 80s adaptation, written by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, is... well, I just can't review it objectively. I think it's super wonderful, but like the previous track it doesn't actually scream mystery. It is however more than just a period piece, and works much better as a theme tune.
Sherlock Holmes theme
A lovely melody which is wonderfully evocative and a great listen. At the same time, this theme by Patrick Gowers has something in common with the Marple one and the Partners in Crime one - it doesn't really say "this is a mystery show". So with that in mind I'll have to dock a point from my rating.
So, back in America for another adventure thriller theme tune. I think this one by Sylvester Levay is appropriately 80s-y and has that synth beat down. Perhaps it's just a tad too typical?
Miami Vice theme
This theme from Jan Hammer is certainly distinctive. However, I also think it's one of the worst themes I've ever heard. There's another theme from the show, "Crockett's Theme", by the same composer, which is miles better.
Okay. I hear the first notes and I just lose all objectivity. This is, together with the Persuaders theme, the single best TV theme ever. Christopher Gunning has written a theme that manages to evoke the early decades of the 1900s. But while quite a few of the previous 80s British mystery shows had themes that weren't as typically "mystery", this also manages to sound more mysterious. So much awesome.
Twin Peaks theme
By Angelo Badalamenti, the theme tune is miles better than the show. It's not only a great melody, it's a great mystery melody.
Inspector Frost theme
To me, this sounds much more like a mystery theme than the earlier British ones. Barbara Thompson and Jon Hiseman have composed another standout. I think it is a bit overlong here, but of course the whole thing was never played on the show itself. Another good 'un.
Jonathan Creek theme
Though this theme ("Danse Macabre" by Camille Saint-Saëns) is great and all, it's rather unoriginal to just use an already existing melody instead of writing a new one.
The X-files theme
This theme, by Mark Snow, should have been used for a real mystery series instead of the conspiracy thriller that we got. Because this is truly awesome. If any of these themes says mystery, it's this one.
Midsomer Murders theme
Say what you will about the show itself, this is a great theme tune. The theremin immediately creates a spooky vibration and unlike some of the earlier theme tunes, this just screams mystery. Really great.
Agatha Christie's Marple theme
This one (by Dominik Scherrer) pales in comparison with the one from the 80s, just like the TV show does. It's not bad, it's just not particularly distinctive to me.
This isn't a favourite of mine. David Arnold has previously done some fairly John Barry-esque things (which isn't that strange since he got the task to score a number of Bond movies after Barry retired), but this theme, written in tandem with Michael Price, isn't all that good. I guess its serviceable, but I'd definitely have liked to see something more mysterious.
Father Brown theme
This theme really is a distillation of all British mystery themes since the 80s. It sounds like all of them, yet different. So it's not wholly original, but composer Debbie Wiseman still has managed to produce a very good mystery theme.
Death in Paradise theme
Again, I don't like that they're just using an already written song. Yeah, they manage to evoke the Caribbean setting, but otherwise there's nothing about this that says "mystery theme". An all right tune, a poor theme.
Aaaaand... that's it. That's some great music up there. So, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessments? Did I miss any important, iconic themes?