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April 26, 2012 2:02 PM   Subscribe

TV shows that used thematically remixed/covered versions of their theme songs for particular episodes.

The first two seasons of Sons of Anarchy used this pretty terrible song in the intro sequence. For part of the third season, which takes place in Ireland, they used this remixed version with bodhrans and flutes and shit, as if to say, Hey, look, now we're in Ireland! What other shows have done this?

I know The Wire, for example, had a different musician cover the theme song for each season, and Weeds had a different cover every (?) episode (I've only seen a couple of them) but I'm not aware of any thematic significance to those versions.
posted by theodolite to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think for the one epsiode of Dawson's Creek where his father died, they opened with a slower instrumental version of the usual Paula Cole theme song...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:03 PM on April 26, 2012

The Simpsons has done this many times, notably for the Halloween episodes.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:06 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Simpsons is a great example of this, on a few spectacular occasions (Yo La Tengo; Sonic Youth).
posted by Paper rabies at 2:06 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Marginal case but the Aeon Flux score regularly uses a part of the opening theme as a leitmotif within the episode's music.

Also, the series Lexx opened with this theme (used repeatedly throughout the series although never again as the main theme) and then had an Irish pub scene -- I know, right? -- and, at the end of the episode, had a full flutes-and-shit band playing the theme.
posted by griphus at 2:07 PM on April 26, 2012

I remember this happening on Buffy.
posted by millipede at 2:13 PM on April 26, 2012

Community does it as well -- the L&O episode coming up has its theme done in a similar style.
posted by KoPi_42 at 2:14 PM on April 26, 2012

I feel like Community's done this a couple of times, but the one that springs to mind right away is the D&D episode:

Dungeons and Dragons version
posted by Greg Nog at 2:14 PM on April 26, 2012

The Twin Peaks episode of Psych!
posted by Zoyashka at 2:20 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

In the first(?) season, M*A*S*H did a more funky, jazz version of their famous "Suicide is Painless" for a few episodes, for no particular reason.
posted by Melismata at 2:25 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Off the top of my head: Buffy's Once More With Feeling episode; Supernatural's Changing Channels episode and maybe the one where they made Dean wear lederhosen; both Community eps listed above and maybe the paintball ones too?

although maybe supernatural doesn't count as it doesn't even have an actual theme song. hm.
posted by elizardbits at 2:29 PM on April 26, 2012

Psych has done it several times. Those listed above, Bollywood, Gus's acapella group and a couple others I can't remember. They do it a lot.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 2:30 PM on April 26, 2012

This past season of the BBC's "Top Gear" featured an episode (2, I think) in which the hosts visited China and talked about the cars there. The final segment of that episode featured Chinese knockoff versions of themselves hosting (and transparently mocking their usual closing lines), followed by a Sinofied version of the Allman Bros. song "Jessica," the show's theme.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:31 PM on April 26, 2012

On Stella, the theme music was always the same in the beginning and ending of an episode, but it was always different when it played in the middle of an episode (usually going to a commercial break). Sometimes there would be some connection to the episode: for instance, in "Camping," there's a scene where the 3 leads suddenly start playing violin, viola, and cello on their camping trip. They aren't playing the theme song, but it then goes to commercial break with those instruments added to the theme song.
posted by John Cohen at 2:32 PM on April 26, 2012

Fringe does this, but pretty subtly. There are no lyrics to the theme, but it varies to match different episodes that deal in various dimensions and time lines.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:35 PM on April 26, 2012

I seem to remember Weeds having lots of variations on their theme song (the Ticky-Tacky Boxes song), but I'm not sure if it connected with the substance of the epidsodes.
posted by epersonae at 2:54 PM on April 26, 2012

Warehouse 13 used a Christmasy jingle-belled-up version of its theme song for at least one Christmas episode. Psych also has done a Christmas theme song, and recently did one that was based on The Shining.
posted by vytae at 3:00 PM on April 26, 2012

Veronica Mars used a different version of the same song in the third season. (Seasons one and two have the same music with different images.)

Season 2 theme song
Season 3 theme song

According to some guy on YouTube:
Rob Thomas said in the commentary that they changed it because it needed to feel more 'grown-up,' since the characters were transitioning from high school to college.
posted by tantivy at 3:10 PM on April 26, 2012

Going along with Fringe, and its parallel universe, I submit this:
Star Trek: Enterprise ran a 2-part episode "In the Mirror, Darkly," which was set primarily in Trek's Mirror universe (a parallel universe established in The Original Series, where each actor plays a greedy, sometimes bloodthirsty, and often goatee'd version of their usual character, and to which all(?) of the Trek spinoff series have paid a visit). Rather than the optimistic Rod Stewart song played over images of space exploration beginning in the 20th century, the opening credits featured a martial music over images of the armed conquest of space. Not quite what you're asking about, as them music was not really a variation on the original, but a replacement. The visuals, though, were a frankly hilarious pastiche of the original credits, though.

epersonae mentions "Weeds," which IIRC had a different cover version of the theme song for each of the seasons after the first. Excellent series "The Wire" definitely did this for its theme song, Tom Waits' "Way Down In The Hole," performed in the first season by the Blind Boys of Alabama.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:10 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oops, my last paragraph was covered by the OP. Sorry!
posted by Sunburnt at 3:11 PM on April 26, 2012

but I'm not aware of any thematic significance to those versions

It's definitely the case in Season 4 of The Wire, which focused on the education system in Baltimore. The theme song for that season was the only one not recorded by a major artist, and was actually sung by Baltimore teenagers.
posted by mannequito at 3:19 PM on April 26, 2012

Red Dwarf had a Hammond Organ version and an Elvis Impersonator version of the closing theme, to go along with the corresponding episodes.
posted by jozxyqk at 3:20 PM on April 26, 2012

Eternally running BBC radio soap The Archers has traditionally used a piece called Barwick Green as its theme. On Sundays, there's an omnibus edition of all the episodes of the week, which theme is a version of the tune by folk group The Yetties. In the past, however, deaths and other serious developments have caused the end theme to be replaced by a different part of the piece (supposedly more sombre, but it's all annoyingly chirpy to me).

Billy Connolly said that it should be the national anthem.
posted by Grangousier at 3:26 PM on April 26, 2012

Snoop Dogg (who also guest starred in the episode) did a rap version of the Monk theme song, usually sung by Randy Newman, for the episode "Mr. Monk and the Rapper."

The Monk theme song--or songs--has an interesting history, which the show played with to funny effect in the episode "Mr. Monk and the TV Star."
posted by dlugoczaj at 3:33 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to watch One Tree Hill when it first started and one day, I randomly browsed through all of the songs that were used throughout the years.

Gavin Degraw's song I Don't Want To Be was used for a long period of time.

Although, eventually other artists covered the song "I Don't Want To Be" including Tegan and Sara , Susie Suh, Kate Voegele, and various other indie artists.
posted by livinglearning at 4:01 PM on April 26, 2012

Quasi-related: On the FOX NFL broadcasts, they play a subdued, piano-heavy version of their NFL theme when they go to commercial while a player is injured on the field.

Here's the regular version.

Here's the "injury version" (about 45 seconds in...apologies for the language in the video description).

I don't know if the other networks do this.
posted by griseus at 4:04 PM on April 26, 2012

Frasier did this in the "Sweet Dreams" episode during Season Five. (Can't find a YouTube clip, sorry.) The KACL radio station went to an all-Latino format, and the closing theme was performed in Spanish by a mariachi band.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:10 PM on April 26, 2012

drezdn: Psych has done this... once with a Mariachi version for a telenovella-style episode Warning: TV Tropes link.

Note: that link is to the TV Tropes page Rearrange The Song, which is the place to go for your question.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:17 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

King of the Hill did this several times (the "Ho Yeah!" Snoop Dogg episode comes to mind).
posted by flod logic at 4:23 PM on April 26, 2012

Seinfeld had a alternate version of the theme for just one episode - Season 3, Episode 1 (The Note). Makes me twitch a bit every time I hear it.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 4:34 PM on April 26, 2012

korean dramas do this all the time.
posted by thischarmingirl at 5:17 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

That 70's Show did it several times, mostly for holidays.
posted by freshwater at 5:57 PM on April 26, 2012

In 30 Rock's live shows (like tonight's), the theme song is performed with lyrics (different lyrics each time, I believe).
posted by Ms. Toad at 8:30 PM on April 26, 2012

Teen Titans! The episodes with the Japanese theme are lighter than the English version.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:48 PM on April 26, 2012

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