It entertained, confused, and enthralled viewers over four wonderful television series, and made a household name out of Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, the smash-hit television series ‘Sherlock’ can add a new accolade to its impressive list – according to a recent article in the Guardian, it’s now the most popular television theme tune of all time.
The distinctive theme music to the series, which composed by the team of David Arnold and Michael Price in 2010, also holds the distinction of being the only piece of music in the top five listed shows to come from the 21st century. The list shows that the British public have a strong taste for nostalgia in both their listening and their viewing habits, but they’ll always have time to let in the new if it’s done well.
Blasts From The Past
Coming in at the bottom of the top 10 is the music that accompanies every Saturday night on BBC1 during the football season – the soundtrack to ‘Match of the Day.’ The theme has been largely unchanged since the show was first aired in 1970, and is considered to be as iconic a part of the show as the ‘Goal of the Month’ competition. Every aspiring footballer in the country grows up wanting to see themselves appear on the screen accompanied by the music, and every football fan stays up late wanting to see their team appear – so long as they’ve done well, of course!
We stay in the 1970s for the ninth-placed entry on the list, which is Denis King’s 1972 composition for ‘The Adventures of Black Beauty.’ The song had no lyrics, but that didn’t stop schoolchildren in playground up and down the country coming up with their own words to it for much of the following twenty years. Sadly, for the sake of taste and decency, we’re unable to publish any of those lyrics here, but the tune still evokes a deep sense of connection to childhood for many who hear it.
A pair of action-themed shows from 1965 come next in eighth and seventh place, where ‘Thunderbirds’ is followed by ‘The Avengers.’ While it may be a surprise to see ‘Thunderbirds’ so far down on the list, it has now been several years since the original version of the program aired on British television. A rebooted series – with altered theme music – now airs in its place.
One thing that most of the themes on the list have in common is that they’re classic compositions, often performed by a full orchestra. Although electronica was preferred in the composition of television theme tunes for much of the 1980s and 1990s, tunes from that era are considered to have aged badly and haven’t made the list. Had this poll been conducted in the mid-1990s, the theme from ‘The Bill’ would have been a certainty to appear in the upper echelons. As it’s 2019, it doesn’t even factor in.
That fact is probably best exemplified by the inclusion of ‘Poldark’ at number 6 on the list. The show – and the theme – only date back as far as 2015, but has quickly worked its way into the hearts of audiences. If we were to be a little cynical, we suspect that the constant presence of a shirtless Aidan Turner in the show may have helped with its standing, as the two things are firmly connected in the minds of viewers.
The Immortal Detective
Moving up the list towards the top two, we pass ‘Inspector Morse,’ ‘Robin of Sherwood’ and ‘The Persuaders,’ all of which have their own memorable quirks and foibles. The longevity of ‘Inspector Morse’ in particular likely did much to make it linger in the minds of those who were asked to give their opinion for the poll. The demure veteran detective was a mainstay of television for more than twenty years, meaning successive generations grew up watching it. Sadly for Morse, a fifth-place finish means he isn’t the highest ranking detective on the list. That honor, as we already know, is reserved for Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuth from Baker Street.
Second place goes to a show which goes back even farther than ‘Inspector Morse’ and ‘Match of the Day,’ and that’s the BBC science-fiction juggernaut ‘Doctor Who.’ Originally composed by Ron Grainer in 1963, the eerie theme is the result of skilled theremin play being carefully sequenced through a tape loop. The music has a long history of winning polls like this, so to see it pushed into second place is a surprise. It’s been covered and remixed by several famous recording artists over the years, changing as often as the face of the Doctor herself, most recently seen performing a gender swap from Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker.
Even the fifty-plus years of ‘Doctor Who’ can’t hold a candle to the longevity of Sherlock Holmes, however, which has now enjoyed a shelf life of over a century after the publication of the first novel, ‘A Study in Scarlet,’ in 1888. There have since been sixty novels, various movies and television shows, and even official slot games based on the detective. ‘Holmes and the Stolen Stones’ and ‘Sherlock: A Scandal in Bohemia’ are both popular with players at Late Casino. Turning into an attraction for slot game players is no mean feat for Holmes; although there are plenty of officially-licensed slot games for headline-making movies and bands, they tend to be reserved for blockbusters like ‘Superman’ and ‘King Kong.’ The fact that Holmes is considered popular enough to merit two separate games says a lot about how well-known and well-loved the character is.
Many actors have played the great detective on screens both large and small, with Robert Downey Jr. having done so with distinction in recent movies, but Cumberbatch arguably providing the definitive interpretation in the aforementioned show. Fans still clamor for a fifth season – despite the seemingly-definitive way in which the fourth ended – but as of yet, there’s been no sign of one entering production. Until then, fans will have to continue listening to the music, and watching repeats.