This Day in History: Hill Street Blues

Thirty-two years ago this day, January 15, 1981, the television police drama Hill Street Blues debuted, setting the template for many of the police shows we have now.

So, to be honest, I don’t know whether to be happy or angry, considering that you can’t watch anything on TBS, USA, or TNT without running across some sort of freaking Law and Order marathon. Sheesh.

What’s notable about this show, though, is that it debuted in a time when TV theme songs regularly appeared on the pop charts.

The Hill Street Blues theme, written by legend Mike Post, reached #4 in the Billboard charts in 1981. In fact, according this chart on Billboard, six of the top 10 TV themes between 1980 and 2011 were from either 1980, 1981, or 1982, including three in 1981:

  • WKRP in Cincinnati (1981)
  • Dynasty (1982)
  • Magnum P.I. (1982)
  • The Theme from the Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys) (1980)
  • Hill Street Blues (1981)
  • The Greatest American Hero (1981)

Which begs the question: what happened between 1983 and 2011? My guess is that TV execs found a way to sell more ads by shortening and eventually doing away with TV themes. That way, they could sell more air time without cutting the TV show itself. The Hill Street Blues theme runs about a minute. That’s two commercials.

I guess it’s a fair trade off, I mean, we watch TV for the show, not the intro, right? … (although, let’s face it, the best thing about WKRP in Cincinnati is the theme … and Loni Anderson … and the other lady who was Mary Ann to Loni Anderson’s Ginger … [and if you get that reference, congrats to you] … and Howard and Venus Flytrap were pretty cool too … and don’t forget Les Nessman … Ok, maybe WKRP was a pretty fly show on its own right … with a cool theme).

What TV themes do you remember? Are there any current TV shows with cool themes that aren’t from The Who?


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