NZ On Screen's Zara Potts has been listening to some of the best theme tunes to have ever come out of our television speakers…

Think about some of the best movies you've ever seen. Chances are when you think about them, your memories are accompanied by music – the theme songs that make a movie instantly recognisable. Think the Imperial March in Star Wars or Celine Dion's epic My Heart Will Go On in Titanic.

Well, you don't have to be a big box office hit to have a memorable theme tune.

Television too has its share of earworms, that right from the first note, let you know exactly what you're watching.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the most catchy, unforgettable and instantly recognisable theme tunes from our small screens.


Country Calendar

From the first couple of twangs, you know you're going to be watching sheep and quad bikes and there will be a good chance of gumboots.

The iconic theme to Country Calendar, is actually called 'Hillbilly Child' by Alan Moorhouse, a British composer, and believe it or not, the tune is so beloved by Kiwis that it's been used for birthdays, funerals and, yes, even weddings. It might be more than 50 years old, but even today, it sounds as fresh as cut grass.

Ready to Roll

The Top-20 pop show ruled the airwaves in the 70s and 80s and, along with some cutting-edge graphics, the show featured two rockin' themes. The 70s version had the funky 'Machine Gun' by The Commodores, while the 80s version had a synth number written by Peter Blake (NOT the sailor). You decide which is best.

Listen to 70s RTR here:

Listen to 80s RTR here:

Radio with Pictures

RTR might have been unashamedly pop but its late-night cousin, Radio with Pictures, was unashamedly cool.

It was considered to be more alternative and more "muso" focused, and you can actually hear the difference in the theme music. RWP sounds like a serious music lover's show. The fashionable mid-80s synth opener is reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre but is actually composed by Auckland synth pop act, Marginal Era.

Romper Room

If you grew up in the 70s then you may have fond memories of Romper Room, hosted by various 'Misses', like 'Miss Yvonne' who went on to marry former Prime Minister Mike Moore.


Kids all around the country knew this theme song off by heart, a task made a little easier by the fact it was basically 'Pop Goes the Weasel'.

University Challenge

For those kids who outgrew Romper Room and became brainboxes, there was the trifecta of game shows to show your smarts, W3, It's Academic and University Challenge. While University Challenge was a worldwide franchise, the theme song, with its dinging bells, was immediately recognisable and a good cue for anyone who needed to swot up for exams to hit the textbooks.

It's in the Bag

And now to a game show that the whole family could enjoy – Kiwi audiences of an (ahem) certain age will almost certainly be able to recite the opening bars of It's in the Bag. The familiar ascending brass whoop was enough to remind viewers that New Zealand's favourite game show was about to begin.

Shortland Street

Soaps too have some fairly memorable theme songs. Close to Home, one of New Zealand's first regular series, had a minimalist score, but one that was instantly recognisable to anyone who watched telly in the 70s.

More recently, of course, is the phenomenally successful Shortland Street with its theme song sung by Tina Cross and composed by Graham Bollard. Over the years, the lyrics have sadly been phased out, but a whispery echo still remains.

Outrageous Fortune

But giving Shortland Street a race for its money – is the show about everyone's favourite bogans – Outrageous Fortune. The theme song is, of course, a classic old Kiwi pub favourite from Hello Sailor, Gutter Black.

The popularity of the show led to the 70s hit enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

What Now

For kids of the 80s and 90s – the only theme song in town was the theme from What Now? It became a Saturday morning ritual to turn up the volume and dance around to the Matt Bianco song Get Out of Your Lazy Bed – a song that is now inextricably linked to cartoons and kids TV.

A Dog Show

And saving the best for last – a masterpiece of trumpets and oompah beat can only herald the beginning of A Dog's Show. Originally the song was a country and western hit, Flowers on the Wall by the Statler Brothers, and sharp-eared film fans may also recognise it from Pulp Fiction, but the song really found its home on A Dog Show where it become synonymous with dog trials. Listen to it here, but be warned, you'll be whistling it all day.