Television themes: Home and Away: what were they thinking ?

Theme tunes for television programmes have a crucial role to play. They need to establish the nature of the programme they introduce very quickly, in order that viewers don’t change the channel; they must grab the viewer’s attention if it’s an action programme or provide calm reassurance if it’s a programme about evaluating antiques. They need to convey Anxiety and Righteous Indignation if they’re for a consumer rights programme – a hint of menace combined with justice needing to be meted out – or the atmosphere of relaxed, sun-kissed destination spots if they’re for holiday shows.

Think of the great themes from the 1960s – Lalo Schifrin’s Mission: Impossible, The Man from UNCLE, or the music for the film Bullitt; Neal Hefti’s Batman; Quincy Jones’ Ironside; punchy, exciting themes that instantly and effortlessly used to let viewers know what they were in for, and which are still in use today. Or the synth-tastic introductions from the 80’s, the mock-heroic bombastic fanfare that was the signature tune to The A-Team or the ostinato-electronica of Knight Rider. 5/4 time-signatures, driving percussion, fat brass textures, bubbling synthesizer lines.

Now remember, if you dare, the theme tune to the long-running Australian soap Home and Away.

Drenched in anodyne harmonies clothing lyrics of almost exciting banality. The melody hangs desperately around the mediant, as though it’s not confident enough to move away from it for too long; and the modulation at the end of the whole theme, instead of returning to the tonic of G major, moves to the alarmingly bright key of E major, which is not technically allowed, as there’s no G# in G major.

The whole thing is unremittingly awful. How could anyone have heard it and thought “Yep: that’s the one!” ?

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