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Expository Theme Tune / Live-Action TV

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  • U.S. television's Sitcoms regularly employ this trope:
    • The Brady Bunch ("Here's the story of a lovely lady...")
    • The 1981 Sequel Series The Brady Brides rewrote the lyrics to explain that the two oldest daughters, Marcia and Jan, grew up and found husbands, and now all four adults live together.
    • In 2019's A Very Brady Renovation, HGTV turned the house used for exterior shots into a close duplicate of the show's sets. The original "Brady Bunch" theme music got a new set of expository lyrics, "... That's the way that we remade the Brady House!"
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    • Charles in Charge of our days, and our nights. Charles in Charge of our wrongs, and our rights. And I see I want, I want, Charles in Charge of me!
    • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's season one theme song is a direct send up of this trope, and sums up the show pretty perfectly. The second season's is not quite as expository but could be considered to fit the trope as well.
    • The Beverly Hillbillies ("...So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools, movies stars...") Interestingly enough, though, the story recounted in the theme song is actually incorrect; it states that Jed found oil while shooting at food, while the first episode of the series shows us that Jed always knew there was oil on his land, he just didn't know it was worth any money. He was actually willing to pay the man from the oil company to take the oil away for him. Paul Henning, who created The Beverly Hillbillies, also used expository theme songs for the other CBS rural comedies he produced in the mid-1960s. To wit:
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    • "Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks to the junction/Petticoat Junction..."
    • "Green Acres is the place to be/Farm livin' is the life for me!" ... "Dahlink, I love you, but give me Park Avenue!"
    • The Patty Duke Show
    Meet Cathy, who's lived most everywhere
    From Zanzibar to Berkeley Square
    But Patty's only seen the sights
    a gal can see from Brooklyn Heights
    What a crazy pair...
    • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Subject to somewhat of an Internet fad — "Now this is the story all about how / my life got flipped, turned upside-down..." )
    • Gilligan's Island ("...Five passengers set sail that day / For a three-hour tour / A three-hour tour...") The theme actually helped to get the show on the air in the first place! Sherwood Schwartz had trouble selling it to CBS because the head of the network thought it would be a pain explaining to everyone every week why they were on the island, so he wrote an opening song to get the point across. It worked, but because it was a calypso and the show was set in the Pacific, it was drastically changed for the series...
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    • The Nanny, in a deliberate retro spoof of 1960s shows ("... That's how she became The Nanny...")
    • The Dukes of Hazzard — in the same vein as Animaniacs. ("Someday the mountain might get 'em but the law never will.")
    • The Addams Family ("They're creepy and they're kooky / Mysterious and spooky..." — * snap* , * snap* )
    • The theme to the McLean Stevenson sitcom Hello Larry is a hilariously clumsy attempt at this trope. It almost sounds like the producers just walked into the recording studio and handed the singer a copy of the pitch they gave the network, then told him to improvise a melody, change everything to second person and toss in some rhymes here and there. Not to mention the wonderfully narmish line "Portland is a long way from LA."
    • Mister Ed ("A horse is a horse, of course, of course...")
    • The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: "Dobie wants a gal who's dreamy..." The lyrics to this were by Max Shulman, who wrote the original stories.
    • That's So Raven ("It's the future I can see / It's so mysterious to me...")
    • Remote Control ("Kenny wasn't like the other kids...")
    • Hannah Montana: "Who would have thought that a girl like me / would double as a superstar?"
    • The Partridge Family, during the first season: "Five of us, and Mom working all day. We knew we could help her if our music could pay. Danny got Reuben to sell our song, and it really came together when Mom sang along."
    • WandaVision:
      She's the magical gal in a small-town locale!
      He's a hubby who's part-machine!
      How will this duo fit in and pull through?
      Oh, by sharing a love like you've never seen!
      Who's been messing up everything? It's been Agatha all along!
      Who's been pulling every evil string? It's been Agatha all along!
      She's insidious! So perfidious!
      Bet you never even noticed, and the pity is, the pity is, (pity-pity-pity-pity)
      It's too late to fix anything, now that everything has gone wrong!
      Thanks to Agatha, naughty Agatha, it's been Agatha all along!

      Agatha: And I killed Sparky, too! Hahahahahahahaha!
  • The Westerns that dominated American airwaves from the middle of The '50s through the first couple of years of The '60s produced a slew of them. Some of the best:
    All but one man died
    There at Bitter Creek
    And they say he ran away!
    Branded! Scorned as the one who ran.
    What do you do when you're branded, and you know you're a man?
    Wherever you go, for the rest of your life
    You must prooooove you're a man.''
    • The Rebel, Johnny Yuma
    Away, away, away rode the rebel Johnny Yuma
    Johnny Yuma was a rebel
    He roamed through the west
    And Johnny Yuma, the rebel
    He wandered alone.
    Move 'em on, head 'em up,
    Head 'em up, move 'em out,
    Move 'em on, head 'em out Rawhide!
    Set 'em out, ride 'em in
    Ride 'em in, let 'em out,
    Cut 'em out, ride 'em in Rawhide.
(Memorably covered by The Blues Brothers)
Have gun will travel, reads the card of a man
A knight without armor in a savage land
His fast gun hire, heeds the calling wind
A soldier of fortune, is a man called —- Pal-a- din
Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam
Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home
(Almost as memorably used in Stand by Me)
  • F Troop, as both a Western and a sitcom, manages to combine the heroic and the ridiculous in its exposition:
The end of the Civil War was near
when quite accidentally,
a hero who sneezed abruptly seized
retreat and reversed it to victory...
  • Going Straight, the Porridge sequel, has Fletch sing that he's "going straight/Straight as an arrow/'Cos I'm fed up doing time"
  • It's About Time ('' It's about time, it's about flight . . .). Notably reversed when the astronauts returned to the present day with the cave family in tow.
  • Breaking Bad has The Ballad of Heisenberg, a narcocorrido theme song used in the Cold Open for the Season 2 episode "Negro y Azul".
  • Small Wonder
  • Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (PBS series)
  • Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego, which also aired on PBS.
  • One of the games in the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? is based on this concept.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 ("In the not-too-distant future, / Next Sunday A.D.. / There was a guy named Joel / not too different from you or me..." Featuring a Lampshade Hanging with the MST3K Mantra.)
    • It got changed several times along the way, usually after someone left the show and was replaced. For example, once Joel escaped and Mike was sent to replace him, the theme went through its first change.
  • Parodied by the theme song to The Weird Al Show, which goes off on weird meaningless tangents and only explains how he got a TV show at the end.
    Oh-h-h-h... This is a story 'bout a guy named Al and he lived in a sewer with his hamster pal
    But the sanitation workers didn't really approve, so he packed up his accordion and had to move
    To a city in Ohio where he lived in a tree, and he worked in a nasal decongestant factory
    And he played on the company bowling team, and every single night he had a strange recurring dream
    Where he was wearing lederhosen in a vat of sour cream
    But that's really not important to the story.
  • This was a common feature among Sid and Marty Krofft shows.
    • H.R. Pufnstuf: "But the boat belonged to a kooky old witch/Who had in mind the flute to snitch..."
    • Lidsville: "Falling, falling, into the hat he fell ..."
    • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters: "There's nothin' like a day out on the beach / When all it does is ra-a-ain / You need somebody else to make / The sun come out again..."
      • and there was another theme tune in the later episodes that served the same purpose: "Now Sigmund the sea monster/And Johnny and Scott are friends..."
    • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl: "Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl, fighting all evil things.."
    • Land of the Lost: "Marshall, Will and Holly / On a routine expedition..."
    • Even the 1991 Land of the Lost revival used an expository theme tune, but used an early 1990s pop sound to it.
  • Constantly parodied on Saturday Night Live. Theme tunes such as "Mr. Short-Term Memory," "It's Pat", and "The Girl with No Gaydar" always accompany the eponymous recurring sketches.
  • Power Rangers
    They've got a power and a force that you've never seen before
    They've got the ability to morph and to even up the score
    No one will ever take them down
    The power lies on their si-i-i-i-i-i-iiiide...
  • Power Rangers Zeo
  • The mostly dramatic (and certainly not a sitcom) Sea Change manages a pretty expository theme tune: "Don't want to live in the city/My friends tell me I'm changing". Complete with shots of the drive out of the city to the coast.
  • The first two seasons of Red Dwarf do this after the theme, which was disguised as a distress call describing the situation. The closing theme was originally meant to be an Expository Theme Tune referring to Lister's overall plan to settle on Fiji when they returned to Earth ("I want to lie, shipwrecked and comatose/Drinking fresh mango juice"). Since this was never mentioned after the first few episodes it's largely meaningless, something the composer is quite happy with.
  • Here Come the Double Deckers
  • Parodied in The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo whose theme song raves on about how brave and selfless the sheriff is (though we know he's actually greedy and incompetent) played over a montage of the disasters Lobo and his men cause. It ends with Sheriff Lobo, who's been striding down a line of deputies standing by their patrol cars, calling "Move 'em out!" whereupon they all drive off at the same time causing one big pile-up.
  • Two and a Half Men played with this trope a little. Charlie was assigned to compose a theme song for the animated adaptation of a comic book called "Oshikuro, the Demon Samurai". But Charlie was only given a very vague description of the show, making his lyrics narrating an inaccurate version of the Samurai's characterization (besides sounding happy and campy like a theme song from a 1980s cartoon). The entire episode shows Jake trying to teach his uncle about the actual story of the comic book and how he should write the song. In the end, Charlie sent the new version of the song (which the viewers never hear), but the studio preferred the first happier and inaccurate version. Amusingly enough, Jake is furious with how horrible the campy intro is, but both Charlie and Alan enjoy it.
  • The Smothers Brothers Show ("My brother dear was lost at sea / Without his water wings / So now he is an angel / And he does the most amazing things!")
  • Space Cases ("Once upon a time at a school in outer space / There was a class of misfit kids from all around the place...")
  • Shameless may fit here, having one of the lead characters speak (as opposed to sing) over a basic tune, a la My Name Is Earl.
  • Most 1960s to late 1980s tokusatsu had these types of themes to various levels. Some such as Fireman's OP only made smaller references such as to his henshin device, but others like most early Ultra themes hit you over the head with references to the show.
  • The one season Bruce Campbell wonder, Jack-of-All-Trades, was almost a throwback: "In 1801, the Revolution had been won, and Uncle Sam's favorite son, had a job he needed done..."
  • One Foot in the Grave. The opening and closing themes sung by Eric Idle describe the main character, Victor Meldrew, quite well. ("It's true that my body has seen better days / But give me half a chance and I can still misbehave")
  • Phil of the Future: "Meet a boy named Phil and his family, on vacation from the 22nd century..."
  • Parodied by It's Garry Shandling's Show ("This is the theme to Garry's Show/The theme to Garry's show/Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song/I'm almost halfway finished/How do you like it so far/How do you like the theme to Garry's Show/This is the theme to Garry's Show/The opening theme to Garry's show/This is the music that you hear as you watch the credits/We're almost to the part of where I start to whistle/Then we'll watch "It's Garry Shandling's Show"/This was the theme to Garry Shandling's show.")
  • The Goodies had two sets of lyrics over the course of its run. The first set listed some of the services the Goodies might be able to provide (A circus or a seaside pier/A sausage or a can of beer,/A stripper or a clown/Prices going down/We can make it happen here). The second was a more generic description of the Goodies themselves (Here we come, into town/Gettin' up, fallin' down).
  • Welcome to LazyTown / A place where you'll wanna stay
    You'll meet Robbie with his Rotten plan / And Sportacus saving the day
    Stephanie is new in town / And soon she and Ziggy are friends...
  • Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman./ All the world's waiting for you,/ and the power you possess./ In your satin tights,/fighting for your rights/And the old Red, White, and Blue!
  • Sonny with a Chance's theme song starts off with "Off to the races; I'm going places; Might be a long shot; Not gonna waste it; This is the big break; And it's callin' my name"
  • Forgotten sitcom Best Of The West.
  • British Game Show Chain Letters explains the rules of the game for its Theme Song. The jingle between rounds also explains that whoever is currently in shot is the Winner So Far.
  • Why even bother watching the first episode of Beetleborgs? The theme song is basically a synopsis of the whole thing.
  • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad
    Superhuman Samurai!
    Superhuman Samurai!
    They're gonna amp it up!
    And kick some giga-butt!
    They're gonna rip it up!
    Our hero always makes the cut!
  • My Mother the Car
    A 1928 Porter; That's my mother dear.
  • Hank
    He'll get his degree; His phi beta key; and get them all for free; That's Hank!
  • The Mickey Mouse Club
    Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? M-I-C K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.
  • To Tell the Truth
    Only one of these people is the real (name of participant) and is the only one sworn to tell the truth.
  • Frasier's Ending Theme is technically something of an exposition describing the title character, but it's so meandering, oblique, and metaphorical that it barely counts.
    And maybe I seem a bit confused / Well maybe, but I got you pegged!
  • Dick & Dom in da Bungalow
    Wake up Dick and Dom, and get out of bed
    Get youselves dressed, there's a crazy day ahead.
    There's so many things to do and lots of people to meet
    In Da Bungalow and on the street...
    (Go Go Dick and Dom!)
  • The short-lived 1981 sitcom Open All Night took this to its logical extreme by having a theme song that told the entire life story of the protagonist, from birth to the present day.
    This is the story of Gordon Feester
    Born in Ohio the day before Easter
    Had a normal childhood, did OK in school
    Graduated from Columbus High in 1962...
  • In a rare modern example, The Exes has one as of its second season. Previously the opening was just a title card featuring the leads, now it details exactly how they each got divorced, introduced by their divorce lawyer (who lives across the hall), and moved in together, "now just call us the Exes!"
  • The Slammer ("You've been convicted of a howling showbiz crime...")
  • Nearly Departed
  • The Aquabats! Super Show! has one in which the Aquabats (quite literally, at one point) introduce themselves.
    We're a band of five heroes
    We're out to save the world you know
    We'll travel the land in our Battle Tram
    We're the Aquabats! The Aquabats!
  • Life with Derek ("It used to be my mother and my sister and me, a happy little family, and all right with me. But Mom got married; that's when everything changed. Some things were lost, while others were gained...")
  • CBS's 1967 expy of Batman, Mr. Terrific:
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017) actually changes up the second half of its expository theme tune to recap the plot of the current episode, and also to vary the Snicket Warning Label.
    • The Bad Beginning, parts 1 and 2:
      "Three children lose their home and go to live with someone awful. He tries to steal their fortune with a plot that's not quite lawful. It's hard to fathom how the orphans manage to live through it, or how a decent person like yourself would even want to view it."
    • The Reptile Room, parts 1 and 2:
      "The Baudelaires are living with a man who studies snakes. He's jolly, and he's secretive, and makes a few mistakes. Spoiler alert! A villain comes to steal and murder, and so if I were you, I wouldn't even watch one minute further."
    • The Wide Window, parts 1 and 2:
      "The Baudelaires' new guardian is wracked by fear and panic. They end up on a boat that might as well be the Titanic. We polled a bunch of adults; 99% agree there must be something happier on stream for you to see."
    • The Miserable Mill, parts 1 and 2:
      "The lumber mill is where the Baudelaires are forced to work. The eye doctor is sinister, the owner is a jerk. They end up in a fiendish plot with logs and hypnotism. The very thought of watching should be met with skepticism."
  • A variation on the theme (no pun intended) in The Greatest American Hero. While the tune in the opening credits itself ("Believe It or Not" by Joey Scarbury) was not expository, the opening credits during the theme were basically a visual expository recap of the first episode or two, explaining the premise.
  • The Kidsongs TV show has one of these, the kids dressing up an abandoned TV station in the syndicated 1st season, and the kids going to the local TV station to pitch their show to the owners in the subsequent seasons on PBS.
  • Another PBS show, Zoboomafoo, has a theme tune that also fits this trope to a T: "While walking in the woods one day Chris and Martin saw something strange: a little leaping lemur who liked to bounce and play..."
  • The one thing anyone who has seen The Happy Apple remembers is the expository theme tune set To the Tune of Eine kleine Nachtmusik:
    Nancy is junior secretary
    In an advertising agency...
  • Barney & Friends:
    Barney is a dinosaur
    From our imagination
    And when he's tall, he's what we call
    A dinosaur sensation
    Barney's friends are big and small,
    They come from lots of places
    After school, they meet to play
    And sing with happy faces...
  • The Olden Days:
    Men come from Cooper's Crossing,
    And Darwin in the south
    From the dusty plains of Innisfail
    To the Murrumbidgee's mouth
    Through bush fires, snakes and tinea,
    Drizzle, drought and flood
    None of those will hold them back,
    When someone cries out 'Mud!'
    (Oh) Mud, boys, mud;
    We'll give our sweat and blood
    Though our backs may break,
    Our beards are fake
    We'll all pretend the sets don't shake...
    Mud, boys, mud;
    We'll deck them with a thud,
    The fires may burn,
    the floods may drench
    But we'll still have a buxom wench
    And keep on shouting 'Mud!'
  • The Australian/American series The Lost Islands had a beauty of one.


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