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The Role of Musical Themes in TV Game Shows

Feature by Jack Foley

Throughout entertainment history, music has been a vital component within iconic television programs. In modern-day society, audiences watch a wide array of shows, almost each of which arises from various genres. Along with creating a tense atmosphere on quiz-orientated productions, sound is also central to bringing a light-hearted feel to comedic programs.

As a result, we’re going to look at the role of musical themes within certain TV game shows.


For many, many years, intellectually testing productions have proved to be a real hit among viewers. While each varies in its approach to quizzing participants, several of the most successful shows have consistently featured iconic sounds ever since they first came to the scene.

In November 1982, Countdown made its debut, and after 80 series of the program, the show’s clock and its musical theme remain an iconic part of British television history.

Countdown’s famous think music was composed by Alan Hawkshaw and, in the 1990s, attempts were made to modernise the production’s music, although such plans didn’t enjoy much longevity. The sound itself is critical to building the tension in this race against the clock while also captivating the audience in the show’s overarching sense of anticipation and intellectually-stimulating fun.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Alongside Countdown, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has also become one of the nation’s favourite shows, with music playing a pivotal role in the life-changing production. Since its first airing in 1998, the program has placed an emphasis on underscore, which is often less implemented within the genre.

The musical effect is a sound that plays in the background of a show which epitomises its overall narrative and, within Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, this is crucial in raising anticipation.

Although the show’s underscore sound has never been modernised on television, adaptations of the title have seen tweaks to this. For instance, the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? MegaWays online slot game, have altered the sound to match the fast-paced nature of the casino industry.

The title, available to play on online platforms such as Rolla Casino, about which you can read more at, features amped-up animations and rewards to fit the casino genre, yet the development has stayed true to the original production by retaining the tension-building sound effects both before and after answering a question.

Never Mind the Buzzcocks

While the majority of comedy panel shows throughout British television history use sound to create a desired feel among the guests and studio audience, Never Mind the Buzzcocks has an entire segment based around rock and pop music.

Typically, most sounds on modern-day shows are well produced and perfectly edited to create a memorable tune, but with the BBC’s comedic Intros Round on their 1996 production, celebrity participants acoustically generate sound.

In turn, this approach to musical themes not only suits the genre of the show, but it also enhances its comedic value. Through approaching and including sound in a light-hearted manner, the show highlights how music doesn’t have to be utilised only to build suspense or portray nerves, like in quiz programs, but instead form the basis of humorous enjoyment.

Different Genres, Different Impact

Ultimately, while musical themes are a significant part of television productions, the involvement of sound isn’t confined to specific genres. As demonstrated by Countdown and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, consistent tunes and underscores ensure for a dramatic feel within quiz programs, while the unedited use of music within comedy panel shows, such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks, encourages humour and light-hearted entertainment.