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TV Theme Songs: You Can't Do That on Television

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale" of a time when television shows began with awesome TV Theme Songs. "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name" and sometimes you want to go back to when TV Theme songs were special. "Here's a story... of a lovely" time when TV Theme Songs served to identify, distinguish and set the stage for the television program that followed. "You take the good, take the bad, take them both and there you have" what unfortunately has become a lost artform. "Believe it or not", sadly it seems no effort or pride is taken in the TV Theme Song ever since Seinfeld proved a short synth-bass riff could be used instead. “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” This regular feature may not "make all our dreams come true", but it will remember some of the best TV Theme Songs from years past (with a focus on the '80s decade). "Come aboard, we're expecting you."


This time we will cover the theme song for You Can't Do That on Television. It actually started in 1979 as a local kids sketch program in Ottawa, Canada. It wasn't until You Can't Do That On Television was picked up and broadcast on the cable channel Nickelodeon in the U.S. beginning in 1982 that it became the popular show that many of us so fondly remember. You Can't Do That On Television was certainly one of my favorite television programs for at least a couple years in the early-mid-80s. The show ran a total of 10 seasons and 143 episodes until 1990, but its peak of popularity was really from 1983-1986 when it was Nickelodeon's highest-rated program.


The show's theme song is quite recognizable though it was obviously not created specifically for You Can't Do That on Television. The opening sequence is set to Rossini's "William Tell Overture" (which originated all the way back in 1829) with a Dixieland jazz arrangement performed by the National Press Club and Allied Workers' Jazz Band. The National Press and Allied Workers' Jazz Band Inc., was formed by various members of national Canadian media, alongside others from information departments in the government, and others around the city of Ottawa. The Band was in constant demand for concerts and charity benefits around the globe. Thanks to their musical genius, incisive and clever political satire, and unique musical arrangements, they enjoyed recognition as a first-class entertainment package. With the show originating in Ottawa, they brought this band in to record their arrangement of what would become the show's theme song.

The animated sequence that went along with the song was inspired by Monty Python and the style of Terry Gilliam's "gilliamations". The "Children's Television Sausage Factory" sequence was originally created by Rand MacIvor under art director John C. Galt. It ends showing Les Lye's face getting stamped with "You Can't Do That on Television" followed by the screen cracking and splitting before the show begins. I really love the whole thing. Here is the opening sequence for You Can't Do That on Television featuring the "William Tell Overture" as arranged/performed by The National Press and Allied Workers' Jazz Band...



I had the incredible pleasure of an interview with cast member/host Christine McGlade who was affectionately nicknamed "Moose" on the show. Check out that interview to find out much more about You Can't Do That on Television from her perspective.


As mentioned here before, I generally prefer television theme songs with lyrics/vocals, but there are definitely a handful of them that are just instrumentals which I also consider truly special. This song obviously was not created specially for the show, but You Can't Do That on Television was a favorite show of mine for a couple years and hearing the theme song brings back such great '80s memories. And that makes it pretty special to me.


Hope you enjoyed tuning in for another "episode" of TV Theme Songs!


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