Six of the best... British Television Tunes

Are TV themes a lost art? Here are six of the best from British telly...

Six of the best... British Television Tunes
Telly Tunes

The BBC’s serial hospital drama Holby City recently celebrated 20 years on our screens and it got us thinking about music for the small screen. Are great TV themes a lost art? We rundown six of the most iconic…


The Adventures of Black Beauty (1972-74)

If we were going for a Top 15, then this would surely come close to the top. Denis King’s noble and thrilling theme tune, aka Galloping Home, is an absolute classic. It was King’s first foray into television composing and it won him an Ivor Novello.

Did you know? Denis King also wrote the theme tune for the BBC’s popular drama Lovejoy…




Antiques Roadshow (1979-present)

Sunday evenings wouldn’t be the same without the show, or Paul Reade and Tim Gibson’s jaunty theme music. It evokes both a feeling of warm familiarity and the light dread of a Monday morning to follow. Reade penned a handful of telly tunes during his career, but went on to write scores for the ballet stage.




Blue Peter (1958-present)

Though the musical palette may have changed over the years, the BBC’s longest running children’s programme has enjoyed the same theme tune. ‘Barnacle Bill’ was composed by Herbert Ashworth-Hope and the original recording, by Sydney Torch and the New Light Orchestra, was used until the 1980s when Mike Oldfield re-arranged it. Since then it has been reimagined by the likes of Simon Brint, Stomp and Murray Gold.




Doctor Who (1963-1989, 2005-Present)

Like Blue Peter, the theme for the BBC’s flagship sci-fi drama has remained the same since its beginning in 1963. Australian composer Ron Grainer wrote the theme, but it wasn’t until it was in the hands of Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop that it took on its iconic otherworldly colour. Since then it has been reimagined by other members of the workshop then, later, Murray Gold and Segun Akinola.

Did you know? Ron Grainer also wrote the theme tune for the classic comedy series Steptoe and Son…




Downton Abbey (2010-15)

With a feature film currently in production we haven’t heard the last of the Crawley family, or indeed John Lunn’s music. The sight of Highclere Castle will forever be entwined with John’s spirited theme tune, which is no doubt one of TV’s most recognisable thanks to the show’s enormous success around the world.




Coronation Street (1960-present)

The roofs of a Manchester terrace and the iconic theme by Eric Spear have heralded the start of ITV’s Coronation Street since the series began in 1960. The meandering bassline, brush percussion, brass and woodwinds that play beneath the trumpet solo have echoes of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. It has changed little over the decades. Iconic.

Did you know? Eric Spear worked as an arranger and conductor for Charlie Chaplin on his 1959 music for The Chaplin Revue




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