Sometimes the random albums you are compelled to listen to and review are just average. Sometimes the random albums you are compelled to listen to and review are life-changingly bad. Sometimes, though, the random albums you are compelled to listen to and review are not albums at all. There’s no particular artist, no particular style, no lyrics even. This is one of those albums.
Released in 1991, and therefore mostly containing the themes from 80s TV series, Fantastic Television Themes is a collection of 14 TV theme tunes that may have been picked entirely at random, though the real unifying feature may have been that the original wish list contained more well known series and these were the 14 lesser shows to which the rights could be obtained. There are four genuinely famous TV shows here, and another ten that hover in the area between “I think I’ve heard of that” and “this may have been made up”.
Possibly the most important thing to understand about this album is that it sounds like these are cover versions of the TV themes – but given that they have no lyrics and most of the originals had a fairly cheap synthy 80s sound, it’s genuinely hard to tell. I don’t think these are the originals.
Let’s see what we’ve got here.
|Track||Word 1||Word 2||Word 3||Word 4|
|1. Quantum Leap||Feelgood||80s||teatime||telly|
|2. V: The Series||Self||important||orchestral||darkness|
|3. Freddy’s Nightmares||Spooky||midi||with||bells|
|4. Star Trek: The Next Generation||Classic.||Make||it||so|
|5. Knight Rider||The||synthiest||thing||ever|
|6. Highway to Heaven||Overly||schmaltzy||trumpet||dirge|
|8. Battlestar Galactica||Sounds||like||King||Arthur|
|10. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century||Generic||orchestral||drama||stuff|
|11. North Star: The TV Movie||Didn’t||notice||this.||Dull?|
|12. Bring ‘Em Back Alive||One||massive||3-minute||fanfare|
|13. The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.||Sudden||unexpected||electric||guitar|
|14. Tales of the Gold Monkey||Pleasingly||jaunty||trumpet||tootling|
Listening to this jumble of old instrumental pieces, I found myself wondering who this album was supposed to appeal to. Perhaps it was intended for the American market, since I’m not convinced all 14 of these series made it to air in the UK. I remember Highway to Heaven as a programme that came on ITV in the early afternoon, and my grandma would take the theme music as a cue to change sides to watch Home and Away or Turnabout or something. I’ve also heard of Buck Rogers, and while I haven’t seen it, I have at least seen the Daffy Duck cartoon Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, and I’ve heard the song Buck Rogers by Feeder.
Those aside, I know Quantum Leap, Star Trek and Knight Rider. I’ve also seen Battlestar Galactica, though I don’t remember its theme tune being quite so unbelievably dull. The rest were all new to me.
There are some surprises in here. The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. has not just unexpected electric guitar but also a surprise appearance of bongos. Tales of the Gold Monkey must have been a lively affair if its zippy horn-led theme is anything to go by. But apart from that, this is an album of theme tunes from shows that feature big fantastical ideas, and which seem to have only the most pedestrian theme tunes. My god, some of these are tedious to a level it’s hard to describe. Even Quantum Leap seems to be here as a reminder that its theme tune might be halfway decent but it’s a total mismatch for the show itself.
In summary, then, I would say that my favourite thing about this album was the opportunity to sing the lyrics I came up with over the theme tune to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I haven’t had a chance to do that since moving out of the flat above the exploding mattress shop, which I shared with Star Trek fan Big Steve. My least favourite thing was making the claim that the Knight Rider theme tune is the synthiest thing ever, when I know that Ian thinks “Don’t Go” by Yazoo is the synthiest thing ever, and I don’t want to start an argument. Let’s just say it’s a tie.