Anatomy Of A Television Theme Song Gone Awry – JP Looks At How The New Human Target Theme, Well, Misses It

There once was a day, a long time ago, where theme songs from television shows were as important to a particular program as the lovable characters in those very same shows. If you were born sometime in the 1970’s – or earlier, who can’t remember the exciting staccato beat of the Magnum P.I. theme song? That music and actor Tom Selleck are one and the same – it’s a theme that has surrounded him his entire life. And it’s a fantastic piece of music. The same goes for the country twang of the detective series Simon & Simon, the digital rouse of Airwolf and the sweeping string arrangement of The A-Team. Remember those? Treat yourself on YouTube if you don’t.

Those themes and other like them (I’m listening to you, Hardcastle and McCormick – and you too, Riptide, you and your Brian Wilson choral break!) are classics, one and all. They were of a time when the introduction to a weekly television show ran anywhere from 45 seconds to 2 minutes in length! Compare that to today, where because of almighty advertising revenue, we get the 5 second, one-note pulse of shows like Lost. 
Now, I’m not knocking Lost. I’m just saying we’re living in a different day and age, one where gratification is not just found in instant messaging, but also in the content we’re viewing on television. There’s no room anymore, it seems, for the memorable theme song to an action/adventure weekly series.
January of 2010, with the release of the mid-season replacement series, The Human Target, changed all of that. It was a return to the old 1980’s theme-with-character sort of series. And what a memorable one it was!        
At that time, I wrote of The Human Target theme music, stating that: “The opening theme score, written by Bear McCreary, who also penned the music to Battlestar Galactica, is an instant television classic: a bursting orchestral, aurally matching the intensity of the on-screen visuals.” You can read my full article here.
Here’s your chance to hear it again. And for the purposes of this piece you’re reading, you should. I’ll wait for you while you start up the video.  
After receiving accolades from fans and critics alike and after receiving an Emmy Award nomination, it would seem that the producers of the Fox series had other ideas than to continue with Bear McCreary for season two of the series. They let the composer and his rousing, adventurous theme go, replacing it with a Tim Jones (Chuck) composition.
Apparently, Mr. McCreary’s work was a tad too expensive for a series that was struggling in the ratings. It’s said that the composer employed an average of 60 musicians for his work and that the score for the final episode of season one, a piece of music that was slightly tweaked from the original, had over 94 musicians – the largest live orchestra for a television series ever assembled! So, yeah. That’s got to cost some pretty coin. Still, the theme is stupendous. It doesn’t feel like anything else on television. If anything, it belongs on the big screen, in movie theatres across the world.  
I don’t know much about the new composer, Tim Jones. Chuck isn’t a series I watch. Ever. Still, have a listen to the new, season two theme music to The Human Target here
Go on. I’ll wait.
Here’s a theme that, at the beginning, reminisces the previous work of Bear McCreary, but quickly rocking it up with electric fuzz guitars and bass, trying to instil a sense of action, of youthful vigour and, in the end, going absolutely nowhere at all. I can/t begin to tell you of my disappointment upon hearing this work during the season two premiere. It’s quick, it’s dated and it shows no imagination or creativity.
Ultimately, it’s a musical travesty that McCreary’s – and The Human Target’s – singular identifying piece of music has been, essentially axed, in favour of non-descript background noise. For a series that is still trying to find an audience, one would think that any sense of positive personality would be a good thing for the programs hoped-for longevity.
The good news is, however, that the money the producers apparently saved in going with this new theme is now being pumped into the television show itself. Action sequences in The Human Target have never looked better and never been more edge-of-your-seat viewing. There is a marked difference from season one to season two in terms of story telling and visual treats.
And who knows? There’s always the possibility that the original theme comes back at some point in time. More action, hopefully means more viewers and more viewers means more advertising dollars that can be pumped back into the show’s production. And if there ever is a big budget Hollywood movie of The Human Target, a memorable piece of music is just waiting to be heard again. Still, there’s no guarantee, at this point, that Human Target even returns for a third kick at the can. Ratings this season have been lower than ever – although it’s possible that the program has some word of mouth working for it.        
Today, Bear McCreary plies his trade on the hit AMC series, The Walking Dead, so don’t mourn for him. He’s doing quite well for himself. And his original composition will always be there, for posterity if nothing else.
Instead, let’s all enjoy the full length McCreary theme, found on the Human Target soundtrack, and hope for brighter minds, sharper ears, and, perhaps, deeper pockets to prevail.
Full Theme From Human Target (From the Soundtrack) by Bear McCreary

Leave a Reply