You know what's awesome? Cartoons on Adult Swim. You know what else is awesome? Great Music. If I could only find a way to write about both together.....
This is a mostly comprehensive list of Adult Swim Cartoon Theme Songs Ranked.
Editor's Note: Yeah, sorry geeks, no anime.
* Rocky and Bullwinkle - Rocky and Bullwinkle had an iconic theme song and end credits song. What you don't think of is Adult Swim when it comes to the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The Adult Swim block of late night cartoons didn't officially launch until 2001 and Rocky and Bullwinkle re-runs briefly ran during Adult Swim's first year. The classic version of Rocky and Bullwinkle ran from 1959 to 1964, more than a generation before Turner's stab at changing the cable landscape.
Unclear whether we should count this one or not, so we'll create an honorable mention category and put it there...
We'll start with cartoons from this millennium and rank them from worst to best.
Mongo Wrestling Alliance -
Very, very disappointing theme. You basically get a 2 second soundbite. (Which isn't even on the clip.)
As one of the co-creators of Metalocalypse, you would think that Tommy Blancha would give the MWA a kick-ass theme song. Nope, you'll get nothing and like it.
You more or less get a 3 second sound file, so we'll keep moving.
God, the Devil, and Bob -
An alright cartoon. Basic, nearly non-existent theme.
The series started on NBC, but was later shuffled away to Adult Swim, which broadcast unaired episodes about a decade later.
Frisky Dingo -
Dingo was the bridge cartoon between the cult hit Sealab 2021 and the wildly popular Archer.
Archer has a really good theme song....On FXX.
The Sealab Song, we'll cover that later.
Where's the Frisky Dingo theme?
King Star King -
Only ran for a half a dozen episodes in 2014. Non-existent theme song, pedestrian post credits song. You can actually watch the pilot episode on YouTube.
Meh. I don't like Squidbillies, so, being generous, let's just say the theme song captures the subject matter.
But hey, I'm in the minority. Squidbillies starts their 12th season next year.
Tender Touches -
Sounds like a Soap Opera theme. How many great soap opera themes are there?
Tender Touches is in its second season on Adult Swim and I'm sad to admit that we're a bit behind the curve on catching up with Touches Episodes.
Stroker and Hoop! -
A good, generic riff on Cop Show themes.
Which vaguely reminds me of....
Assy McGee -
Another good, yet generic, riff that sounds like a cop show theme.
Which doesn't remind me at all of...
Hot Streets -
This buddy cop cartoon's theme song sounds like 8-bit video game background music.
Hot Streets is coming back for another season in 2019.
The Jellies! -
Not bad. I like its vibe.
Tyler the Creator is both Producer and Theme Song writer for the Jellies! It premiered in 2017 and was recently renewed for a second season.
Bushworld Adventures -
Hmmm. An interesting theme over an interesting concept.
I'm still not sure what to make of the Bushworld Adventures.
Samurai Jack -
In my mind, the Samurai Jack theme is a good one, but it doesn't stick in your head.
It suffers on this list because it's not as good as the Powerpuff Girls Theme. Which I could basically intone verbatim (if I could carry a melody.)
Xavier: Renegade Angel -
The theme song captures wandering spirit of Xavier.
The show lasted 20 episodes of....of.....
Xavier walked the thin line of funny (about 29% of the time) and horrible (the rest).
Baby Blues -
Baby Blues was a terrible comic strip, which was inexplicably turned into a terrible cartoon on a network that doesn't exist anymore (WB). Baby Blues was cancelled before all of the episodes aired, so Adult Swim aired about a half a dozen episodes of original content. Rumor has it that there are still unaired episodes, but no one has stepped up to volunteer to air them.
The Baby Blues theme song isn't bad, it's just unoriginal. Instead of coming up with something new, the producers simply bought the rights to #1 single (in Canada) "It's All Been Done" by the Barenaked Ladies. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song, but when you hear it today on your local 'Mix' station, do you think of the cartoon or do you think of clever Canadian banter?
China, Il -
I liked China, Illinois and I liked that Baby Cakes sang the theme song....
Brad Neely's Harg Nallin' Sclopio Peepio -
...And I'm a fan of the Peepio theme and Brad Neely's work. I just think that Neely's best effort is still ahead of him. He needs to find the right collaboration and he needs time.
Both theme songs are equally good in different ways.
Mission Hill -
Mission Hill was a short-lived series on the WB that found new life on Adult Swim.
The series only lasted one season with unaired episodes premiering on AS in 2002. Then Adult Swim re-ran those 13 episodes over and over and over for 7 years. The theme is actually the instrumental segment of the song Italian Leather Sofa by the band Cake.
Apollo Gauntlet -
Here Comes Apollo Gauntlet
He Fights Evil even when it's not there.
The facts as to whom performed the Apollo Gauntlet theme song have proven to be elusive.
Home Movies -
The vehicle that landed H. Jon Benjamin onto my radar
Starting on UPN, Home Movies was quickly cancelled after 5 episodes. At first, I wasn't a fan, the animation gave me a bit of a headache, but after being resuscitated by Adult Swim, the series continued for another 50 or so episodes. By season 4, the quality of the production was much better, as was the writing. The theme music gently eases you into the adventures of Brendon and his friends.
King of the Hill -
A nice song that captures the spirit of the cartoon. 13 seasons, over 250 episodes on Fox, it seems like King of the Hill reruns were on Adult Swim every single day for a decade. Rumors persist that a reboot of King of the Hill is in the works.
The name of the King of the Hill theme is Yahoos and Triangles by The Refreshments. It was probably the bands second most recognizable tune behind the college radio hit Banditos.
12 oz Mouse -
The theme song was awesome. the cartoon was...uh, less than awesome.
Inexplicably, over a decade after its last airing, Adult Swim ordered a third season to be aired in 2020. The band that wrote the theme, Nine Pound Hammer, just released their 9th studio album, Bluegrass Conspiracy. Nine Pound Hammer are considered one of the first Rural, Hardcore Punk bands. (Really? That's a thing?)
Clerks: The Cartoon -
Frequent Kevin Smith collaborator James Venable created this theme song. It's awesome, but short. A few years later, Venable would be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Score Main Title Theme for his work on Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends on Cartoon Network.
I don't want a Clerks III, but I would love another season of Clerks the Cartoon, but the chances of that happening are slim to none. Why? Smith would love to do it, but "I can’t do it, because I don’t own it. The new Miramax consortium owns it."
Mike Tyson Mysteries -
You don't see a lot of love for MTM. Between Mike Tyson, Jim Rash, and Norm McDonald, there's comedy gold in every single episode.
The theme is a darker, more aggressive take on classic mystery music, but it fits. Why? Because Mike Tyson's Mysteries are usually never solved, and episodes sometimes end on cliffhangers which are never resolved.
Black Dynamite -
Black Dynamite is one of my favorite movies of all time. The cartoon is good, but the timing and delivery are slightly off.
The theme song to Season 2 harkens back to the movie more than the cartoon series. But no music captures the essences of the character of Black Dynamite better than the movie theme "Your Kiss Sho-Nuf Dy-No-Mite."
The Drinky Crow Show -
Have you ever tried to WATCH the Drinky Crow Show? Ughhh.
The theme, though, is a classic. Vintage music from They Might be Giants that ranks right up there with their best work.
The Cleveland Show -
The theme was sung by Executive Producer and voice actor Mike Henry. The music was by composer Walter Murphy.
The Family Guy spinoff lasted 4 years and nearly 90 episodes. After the shows' cancellation, the beloved character of Cleveland Brown lived on, simply moving back to Quahog and re-joining his friends on Family Guy.
Tom Goes to the Mayor -
Sorry, the audio mix on this clip is a little low.
All of the Tim and Eric craziness sprang from this show. I can't remember where I placed my keys in the morning, yet somehow I remember the Jefferton Alive song.
The Oblongs -
Back in 2001, the WB produced 13 episodes of a strange family called the Oblongs. The WB cancelled the series after 8 episodes, then Adult Swim bought the rights and aired the final 5.
Will Ferrell and Jean Smart voiced the clever Southern California comedy which seemed to own the 4 a.m. Sunday Night time slot for about 5 years. The Oblongs theme was also performed by They Might be Giants.
Harvey Birdman! Attorney at Law -
Who's the man in the suit?
Who's the cat with the beak?
The contemporary lyrics are set over a jazz piece called Slow Moody Blues by Reg Tilsley. Released in 1967 by the Tilsley Orchestra, the Harvey Birdman theme was created over a decade after Tilsley's death.
An epic song that merges the sights and sounds of the future with the pop sensibilities of today.
What you hear today is the 30 second edited version of the song. Futurama's success was partially thanks to the popularity it found as re-runs on Adult Swim.
Fox poorly managed an awesome show. Still not sure who owns the Futurama movies (which became Season 5). Comedy Central then made more Futurama episodes. It shouldn't have been so hard to broadcast a great show. [Rumors continue to circulate that Futurama may be back from the dead a fourth time.]
Family Guy -
The theme is a modern day take of the Classic Archie Bunker Theme....
....which is ironic because Archie Bunker was an old Conservative living with young Liberals. Whereas Family Guy is liberalism and conservatism all jumbled up and amped up on drugs, which is a good analogy of America today.
Mr. Pickles -
Mr. Pickles is one of the most messed up things I've ever watched, in a good way. For me, the most confusing thing about Mr. Pickles is the theme song. It sounds an awful lot like a Brendon Small composition, but the credit goes to Mark Rivers. So I'm unclear whether Rivers was trying to channel his inner Small, or if the sound was a coincidence and Rivers was just flexing his range.
As we wait for Season 4, don't forget it was a classic country song that ended Season 3.
Bob's Burgers -
The Bob's Burgers theme is a quirky ode to life on Ocean Avenue.
The whole series is an homage to a family's love of music. The infectious energy of the Belcher Clan has already steamed through 9 seasons and a feature film should be completed for a 2020 theatrical release. Bob's Burgers is a staple in reruns on Adult Swim and Executive Producer Loren Bouchard is also responsible for the theme music.
10. The Brak Show -
A spinoff of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the Brak Show Theme harkens back to a quiet and simpler time. A time of Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed.
Not unlike Bob's Burgers, the whole series gave multiple gifts of music, with my favorite being the straight-forward Don't Touch Me.
Editor's Note II: C'mon Adult Swim, you're bringing back 12 oz Mouse (?!?). You know Andy Merrill is waiting by the phone waiting for you to call. Make that call!
9. Boondocks -
This one was a hard one to gauge. The Boondocks was a very uneven cartoon. Some episodes captured lightning in a bottle, while some were heavy handed and plodding. Then there was the backroom drama with the production staff and even series creator Aaron McGruder being thrown overboard after season 3.
But Asheru's Theme Song for the Boondocks was SPOT ON.
8. RIck and Morty -
The Rick and Morty Theme sounds like a race through space.
Kudos to Ryan Elder for the theme music as Rick and Morty is a powerhouse of a cartoon for Adult Swim, both in quality and in merchandising. Anything else I write is simply an exercise in sycophancy.
7. American Dad! -
Quietly American Dad was renewed for a 16th and 17th season by TBS.
To me, American Dad's humor is just right. Family Guy is a bit too mean, and the Cleveland Show was a bit too soft. The theme song, composed by Walter Murphy, is performed by Seth McFarlane. The same Seth McFarlane that created American Dad and is the voice of the title character. American Dad is another series that has run on Adult Swim forever (since 2005). New American Dads pop up on AS a week after they're broadcast on TBS.
6. Venture Brothers -
Not the biggest Venture Brothers fan.
But I'm a huge JG Thirlwell fan. The Venture Brothers Theme is one of hundreds of songs from Thirlwell. As the driving force behind the Foetus projects, go all the way back to 1985's Nail album and re-visit Anything! And then put on a pair of headphones and listen to the 1992's Fixed EP by Nine Inch Nails, specifically Fist F*ck re-mixed by JG Thirlwell. (Trust me, you have to have on the headphones.)
Now you're ready to understand why the Venture Brothers theme is so great.
5. Metalocalypse -
Dethklok, Dethklok, Dethklok.
Brendon Small, Brendon Small, Brendon Small. I'm not exaggerating, besides the theme song, Small was the Creator/Executive Producer/Writer/Director/Voice Actor & Composer for Metalocalypse.
4. Space Ghost Coast to Coast -
Adult Swim was built on the back of Space Ghost.
To me, the spirit of Space Ghost is synonymous with the founding of Adult Swim and the theme song is the soundtrack to early Adult Swim content. Space Ghost interviewing a wild cacaphony of guests across over a hundred episodes started on the Cartoon Network and Space Ghost was there from the first day of Adult Swim on September 2, 2001. It was Space Ghost's 79th episode.
3. Aqua Teen Hunger Force -
We're going with the original ATHF theme by Schoolly D.
Adult Swim stretched 139 gloriously epic episodes across 15 years before being cancelled in 2015. The Schoolly D theme encapsulates the manic energy of the superheroes who don't really stop any crimes. Why doesn't Adult Swim bring back the Aqua Teen Hunger Force? [they might]
2. SuperJail -
SuperJail is one of the most f#cked up things I have ever watched. In a bad way. It upset me in ways I don't ever want to talk about. Yet it had a great theme song.
Forget about the Rolling Stones or Fleetwood Mac, one day I'd like to meet the fellas from the band Cheeseburger and talk about making the Superjail Video.
1. Sealab 2021 -
A simple, catchy theme that harkens back to the spirit of the early 70's. When every kid knew and loved the Scooby Doo and the Josie and the Pussycats theme songs.
The band that performed this theme was a small Indie Pop outfit called Calamine. They only put out 2 albums and have been quiet for about a decade. Sealab itself never really overcame the real world death of Harry Goz. Its creators went on to win a bucketful of awards for the currently running Archer.