The ‘Big Brother’ theme had absolutely no right to be that good.
A lot of the time, TV show theme songs just drift past us, never distracting from the entertainment that follows. But sometimes, theme songs can take on a life of their own, etching their way into our subconscious and becoming beloved in their own right.
Think, if you will, of The Saddle Club’s ‘Hello World’ — we can almost guarantee you remember nothing of the actual show (it involved some horses and a well-dressed villain named Veronica, if you’re wondering), but that song has implanted itself in a generation of Australians, and playing it in a crowd will elicit a visceral response like nothing else.
So apropos of nothing in particular — apart from a continuing appreciation for the Big Brother theme — we’ve taken a look back at the best and most memorable Australian TV theme tunes, from skittish synth explosions to wacky lighthouse numbers. We’ve also ranked them, because why on Earth not?
It’s not a long theme by any means, but the springy, hooky theme tune of beloved show Offspring really wormed its way into viewers minds. It’s taken from the song ‘When We Swam’, by San Francisco alternative outfit Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.
It’s a prime example of a perfectly chosen TV theme — fitting with Offspring’s slightly batty, fun edge. The full version more than deserves your time.
#9. Lil’ Elvis & The Truckstoppers
I’m not sure I can express this show better than the curiously mournful Wikipedia entry: “The title character of the series, Li’l Elvis, is a ten-year-old boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Lil Elvis has a gift for music, a talent for trouble and a desire for only one thing – to find out who he really is and be a normal kid again.”
I don’t quite remember this show being that profound — from memory it was just about a child with a massive quiff — but who am I to argue. Most importantly, this song is burned into all of our brains.
#8. Australian Idol
Cut from the same cloth as Big Brother, the Australian Idol theme was a gurning, pulverising experience. Much like the show.
#7. Play School
The fact that Play School’s theme has been more or less the same since it premiered back in 1966 is wonderfully wholesome — something to hold onto in the dark, swirling depths of 2020. It’s been reworked a handful of times over the years, but the original lyrics and melody remain.
Most of you would be most familiar with the 1987 — 2011 version, with its plucky instrumentation that sounds like someone just took down some jars from the kitchen and started to tap along. The most modern one, which came along in 2011, is a rather ostentatious affair.
#6. Ship To Shore
Everything about this song is pure joy, and it really had no right to pop off this much.
#5. The Saddle Club
To this day, if anyone mutters the phrase “hello world”, it is impossible to not yell “THIS IS MEEEEEE” at the top of your voice in response. The Saddle Club — an Australian/Canadian TV show, so it’s allowed in this list — was every horse girl’s dream, complete with some of the strangest storylines of any TV show we’ve encountered.
The theme song can still be heard today at any karaoke night across the country — RIP Ding Dong Dangs.
#4. Kath & Kim
The first comment on the YouTube clip of this reads, “Make this the Australian national anthem”. And they do have a point — plus that would mean we wouldn’t have to sing through the completely dreary Advance Australia Fair.
‘The Joker’ sung by Gina Riley, AKA Kim, comes from the 1964 musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint — The Smell Of The Crowd, and offers everything the show lacks in spades: class, dignity, and appropriateness.
#3. Round The Twist
No list of Australian TV show themes excludes the classic Round The Twist theme, and with good reason. I’ll admit, that opening cackle and twisted murmur of “round the twist” unnerved me as a child — like, to be honest, a lot of the show did, with its plots of penis fish and wars and ghosts.
The full theme, sung by Linda Twist herself, Tamsin West, remains embedded in the minds of anyone that switched on a television in the ’90s.
#2. ABC News
The beloved ABC News theme was given new life in 2010, when Perth drum and bass slingers Pendulum decided to give it a rather hectic facelift. Their remix hit upon gold, winding up at #11 in that year’s Hottest 100 poll and on dancefloors around the nation.
The original — composed by Tony Ansell and Peter Wall in 1985 and used by the ABC until 2005 — is still completely iconic, an incredible piece of music.
#1. Big Brother
The theme changed many times over the years, but that familiar pitch-warbling riff never strayed far from proceedings. The Big Brother theme is, simply, excellent — a mess of menacing synths and bleeps and bloops that captured the Y2K technological frontier feeling of the first few seasons. Years later, it still goes off.