By Andrew Rabin
“Now this is just an introduction, before I blow your mind.”
With the current Roundtable Reviews series on Nickelodeon shows, I decided to rank some of the theme songs of Nick shows. You know, because of this site’s revered history with theme songs. (Just kidding. That never happened. That reference probably stopped this piece from reaching part two.) I limited the rankings to only shows that debuted before 2000 to keep the list “historic,” at least relative to a network that launched in 1979. This eliminates all but two shows currently on the channel. I mostly focused on Nickelodeon’s original series (with one notable exception), which is what left the list at 40 out of about 45 possible shows (and The Amanda Show, which had a non-notable theme song and aired only a handful of episodes in 1999). Both the music and the visual opening sequence were considered, but this is an admittedly subjective list. Please share your complaints in the comments.
Why am I the one doing this? I have a deep love of both Nickelodeon (we were definitely a Nick family, and not a Disney Channel family, which was not part of my cable system growing up) and theme songs (about 300 on my iPod). Also I offered to do it. And, while in the interest of full disclosure, my sister currently works for Nick Jr., she started only at the beginning of this August, so she had no input into the creation of these theme songs.
We’ll get to the highlights in the next few weeks, but this week we start with the bottom of the barrel with a parade of puppets and the first paw print.
40. The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996-98)
We start with a theme song that is barely there. These first two videos are the only ones I will have featuring the song playing without the visual context, and that is because there is no visual context. In episodes of The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, mere beats of the music played before Irene Ng’s Woo started talking about the case of the week. The music is vaguely western, but the show takes place in Florida. This is simply placeholder music, and while it serves that purpose, it adds nothing and bears no relation to the series as a whole.
39. Figure It Out (1997-99; 2012-)
Much like Shelby Woo, Figure It Out‘s opening song plays over episode-specific introductions of the first contestant and the four panelists, with little attention paid to the music itself. Yet, for whatever reason, this feels much more natural for a game show than it does for a scripted series. It should be noted very similar sounding themes were used for the original series and last year’s relaunch, and I am not completely sure which version of the music is in the video above.
38. Blue’s Clues (1996-2006)
I know what you’re thinking. The Blue’s Clues song? With the paw prints and the notebook and the thinking chair? That song is so catchy, and it explains the show so well. That has to be higher than 38th. And you are right. That would be higher than 38th. That would probably be in the top ten. But that is not actually the theme song for Blue’s Clues. Instead, it is this short little tune which introduces the audience to both Steve and Blue, but does little else to show the premise of the show or the characters. Notably, the later, Joe-era theme song was a bit better in this regard, including appearances by several supporting characters.
37. Wild & Crazy Kids (1990-92)
The voice over for the Wild & Crazy Kids theme song states specifically that this is a show that “goes anywhere and does anything to find kids having fun.” The title of the show suggests this fun will be wild and crazy, and not just ordinary, run-of-the-mill fun. So why does the video twice highlight kids playing baseball? Is this show going to give me the wild and crazy, or little league highlights?
36. Weinerville (1993-96)
Given the inherent insanity of Weinerville, in which host and creator Marc Weiner also served as the face and puppeteer of several puppets, the theme song is disappointing. Only two of the puppets are seen, and generic rock music is used. Weinerville was very much in the vein of the popular Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and this theme could have benefited from the silliness of that show’s opening.
t34. Allegra’s Window (1994-96)
t34. Eureeka’s Castle (1989-95)
Yes, you read that right, it is the first of two ties we have in these rankings. Not only are these shows very similar sounding, but the theme songs are very similar with the same fatal flaw. Both openings show an endless parade of characters, primarily puppets, without any clue as to who these characters are. It becomes clear at the end of the Allegra’s Window theme who Allegra is, but that is only the final four seconds, after we are shown eight different puppet characters and three humans. Eureeka’s Castle never tells us who Eureeka is, and in fact provides several false hints. My guess from watching the intro was that the giant who claims ownership of the castle would therefore be Eureeka, but it apparently is the sorceress we see briefly throughout the sequence. In this intro, she is one of about a dozen different puppet characters with equal screen time. In a children’s show, like these, an introduction sequence not highlighting the title character is a fatal flaw, and parading several characters without any frame of reference confuses the viewer before the program even begins.
33. Roundhouse (1992-94)
Nickelodeon’s All That predecessor in sketch comedy, the actor-by-actor credits in the opening sequence bear a resemblance to the later show. However, one must wonder whether someone is after the cast of Roundhouse, or the entire cast is simply paranoid. Each and every character looks in several directions, often over their shoulder, before running off. Meanwhile, the first twenty seconds of music can best be described as repetitive.
Next time: Skateboards, comics, and 32-25