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10 Coolest TV Theme Songs: Mad Men, Portlandia, and more

by Joey DeGroot   Apr 12, 2014 14:04 PM EDT

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Julian Barratt on playing eyepatched Mindhorn: 'When I act with two eyes, it's too emotional'

In celebration of the premiere of Mad Men's final season this weekend, we've come up with a list of ten of the coolest TV show theme songs of all time. Let's begin with the song that inspired this list...

1. Mad Men - "A Beautiful Mine" by RJD2

The '60s in America were the crossroads of traditional and progressive cultures, and the theme to Mad Men captures this tension between past and future perfectly, with its eerie mix of classical music, jazz, and hip-hop.

2. Squidbillies - "Warrior Man" by Billy Joe Shaver

The angry yet beautiful outlaw country tune that opens up Squidbillies every week is by far the most pleasant thing about this crudely surreal show.

3. Aqua Teen Hunger Force - "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Theme" by Schoolly D

Hip-hop is integral to the fabric of Aqua Teen Hunger Force; the characters were featured heavily on the Danger Mouse/MF Doom album The Mouse and the Mask, and not only did legendary rapper Schoolly D write the theme song, he occasionally narrated episodes as well.

4. Cowboy Bebop - "Tank!" by The Seatbelts

The space-noir anime Cowboy Bebop might be the coolest TV show ever made, and a huge part of its atmosphere can be credited to the old school big band theme song by Japanese jazz band the Seatbelts.

5. The Kids in the Hall - "Having an Average Weekend" by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet

I don't think any song could have captured the upbeat, feel good nature of The Kids in the Hall better than this sunny classic by Canadian surf-rock band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (just make sure they don't hear you call them a surf-rock band).

6. The Mighty Boosh - "The Mighty Boosh Theme" by Julian Barratt

Along with being a writer and actor in The Mighty Boosh, Julian Barratt also composed the music for the show, including the psychedelic but strangely anthemic theme song.

7. The Wire - "Way Down in the Hole" by Tom Waits

Each season of The Wire featured a different version of the Tom Waits song "Way Down in the Hole" for the opening credits, and though Waits' original version is used in season 2, my favorite is the season 1 version by the Blind Boys of Alabama. Here's a compilation of all five versions, so you can choose for yourself:

8. Space Ghost Coast to Coast - "Hit Single" by Sonny Sharrock

Space Ghost Coast to Coast pretty much invented the aggressively disjointed style of comedy on Adult Swim, and its wonky theme song by the late Sonny Sharrock sounds like the musical equivalent of the show's writing.

9. The Boondocks - "Judo Flip" by Asheru

The Boondocks is in large part about the clash between cultures within the African-American community, and the excellent theme song sounds like the kind of socially conscious hip-hop that the main character Huey Freeman would listen to, while his gangsta rap-loving brother Riley would likely dismiss it.

10. Portlandia - "Feel It All Around" by Washed Out

No matter how stressed out or upset I may be, I know I can always turn on an episode of Portlandia and let the show's ethereal theme song calm my nerves. The song is the aural equivalent of stepping into a warm house on a brutal winter night.

What are some of your favorite TV theme songs? Let us know in the comments section!

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