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Poetry Friday: The small screen sings


There’s something both comforting and confounding about catchy TV theme songs. You want to get them out of your head, but sometimes you can’t. The Friends theme song, which I don’t like, is forever ingrained in my brain due to overexposure on the radio.

Not all TV theme songs are gems (the words to It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, while hilarious, are just silly). But there are some really good TV themes I believe qualify as poetry. 

For example, take the words to the theme for The Andy Griffith Show. Did you know that famous whistling tune had words? Surprise! The song is called The Fishin’ Hole and the lyrics are as quaint and poetic as the show itself. Andy Griffith initially recorded the song, but the producers decided to use the whistling theme instead, performed by the song’s composer Earle Hagen. The words are by Everett Sloane.

The Fishin’ Hole

Well, now, take down your fishin’ pole and meet me at The Fishin’ Hole,
We may not get a bite all day, but don’t you rush away.

What a great place to rest your bones and mighty fine for skippin’ stones,
You’ll feel fresh as a lemonade, a-settin’ in the shade.

Whether it’s hot, whether it’s cool, oh what a spot for whistlin’ like a fool.

What a fine day to take a stroll and wander by The Fishin’ Hole,
I can’t think of a better way to pass the time o’ day.

We’ll have no need to call the roll when we get to The Fishin’ Hole,
There’ll be you, me, and Old Dog Trey, to doodle time away.

If we don’t hook a perch or bass, we’ll cool our toes in dewy grass,
Or else pull up a weed to chaw, and maybe set and jaw.

Hangin’ around, takin’ our ease, watchin’ that hound a-scratchin’ at his fleas.

Come on, take down your fishin’ pole and meet me at The Fishin’ Hole,
I can’t think of a better way to pass the time o’ day.

Andy Griffith singing his famous TV show theme:

The theme to I Love Lucy written by Harold Adamson and Eliot Daniel, is primarily known as an instrumental tune. But in the episode titled “Lucy’s Last Birthday,” Ricky surprises America’s favorite redhead by singing a heartfelt version just for her. After all these years, the scene in the video below still brings a tear to my eye. If that isn’t poetry, I don’t know what is.

I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy and she loves me,
We’re as happy as two can be,
sometimes we quarrel but then again
How we love making up again.

Lucy kisses like no one can,
She’s my missus and I’m her man;
And life is heaven you see
Cause I Love Lucy
Yes I Love Lucy
and Lucy loves me.

Desi Arnaz sings the I Love Lucy theme:

How about a touch of famous poetry in TV themes?

I find an amazing similarity between the words of Gertrude Stein, written in 1913, and the theme of a 1960’s TV show written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston.

Ms. Stein immortalized the famous line “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Compare that to the famous line in The Mister Ed theme, “A horse is a horse, of course, of course.”

A coincidence? Neigh, I think not!

Mister Ed

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.
Go right to the source and ask the horse

He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse.
He’s always on a steady course.

Talk to Mr. Ed.

People yakkity yak a streak and waste your time of day
But Mister Ed will never speak unless he has something to say.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one’ll talk ’til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?

Well listen to this.

I am Mister Ed.

From the horse’s mouth:

Other TV themes also smack of poetry. “Believe it or Not,” from The Greatest American Hero, was a hit even though the show wasn’t. The song contains the upbeat refrain, “Flying away on a wing and a prayer, Who could it be? Believe it or not it’s just me.” The song was brilliantly parodied on Seinfeld when George Costanza recorded a version for his answering machine, “Believe it or not I’m not home!'”

Then there’s the iconic “Love is All Around,” by Sonny Curtis from the Mary Tyler Moore Show:

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it

A huge fan of Harry Nilsson, (I love to sing “Without You” when I’m stuck in traffic, and no I can not hit the high notes) his song “Best Friend” from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father is really sweet.

Best Friend

People let me tell you ’bout my best friend,
He’s a warm hearted person who’ll love me till the end.
People let me tell you ’bout my best friend,
He’s a one boy cuddly toy, my up, my down, my pride and joy.
People let me tell you ’bout him he’s so much fun
Whether we’re talkin’ man to man or whether we’re talking son to son.
Cause he’s my best friend.
Yes he’s my best friend.

I’m happy to see modern poets on the airwaves these days. One of the best and most clever poems is the theme to The Big Bang Theory by the Barenaked Ladies, watch out T.S. Eliot!

Big Bang Theory

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait…
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

“Since the dawn of man” is really not that long,
As every galaxy was formed in less time than it takes to sing this song.
A fraction of a second and the elements were made.
The bipeds stood up straight,
The dinosaurs all met their fate,
They tried to leap but they were late
And they all died (they froze their asses off)
The oceans and Pangea
See ya wouldn’t wanna be ya
Set in motion by the same big bang! It all started with the big BANG!

One of the best TV theme poems has got to be “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” from Cheers, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo. The full lyrics to the song never aired. And they’re kind of weird. Cheers!

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

All those nights when you’ve got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by its tail;
And your third fiance didn’t show;

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee’s dead;
The morning’s looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn’t even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

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