4 Harmless TV Theme Songs That Somehow Stirred Controversy
Instead of just opening with a prolonged silence that makes us all question why we’re not doing something better with our lives, most TV shows begin with a zippy musical number. But because no aspect of human culture is 100 percent immune from wading into controversial waters, even some of these seemingly harmless pieces of musical fluff have led to weirdly dramatic incidents. Such as how…
A ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Cover Was Mistaken for a School Shooting Threat
We defy you to find a single person who grew up in the 1990s and doesn’t know every single word of the theme song of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which, of course, chronicles Will’s schoolyard fight and his journey to his aunt and uncle’s wealthy home via a stinky taxi cab. Will Smith could slap everyone in Hollywood and an entire litter of adorable puppies, and people would still love this song.
Oddly enough, one fan’s cover of this banger led to the police being called. In 2013, a 19-year-old missed an optometrist appointment; when the receptionist called to find out where he was, she got his voicemail, in which he playfully rapped the lyrics to the Fresh Prince theme.
Unfortunately, this receptionist was probably more of a Full House fan and wasn’t aware of the song, mishearing the lyrics “shooting some b-ball outside of the school” as “shooting some people outside of the school.” Presuming that this was the rare musical voicemail death threat, she called the cops, who then called the school — at which point the “entire county school district was put into lockdown.” The authorities eventually tracked the kid down and found, not a school shooter, just a confused fan of 1990s sitcoms.
‘The Big Bang Theory’s Theme Song Forced the Barenaked Ladies to Sue Each Other
Presumably, because every other rock band was too incongruously cool for the gig, The Big Bang Theory tapped Canadian pop-rockers The Barenaked Ladies to write the show’s theme song, dubbed “The History of Everything,” which races through the creation of life as we know it in around a minute.
Given the show’s huge ratings, the band presumably made a ton of money from this one song (which they no doubt spent on fake fur coats and macaroni and cheese). But this success also came with much behind-the-scenes acrimony. After co-founder Steven Page quit BNL, he claimed he wasn’t getting his share of the profits — a promised 20 percent of the Big Bang Theory dough. This led to a bitter legal feud, with Page suing his old band members for the missing money. While details weren’t made public, they seemingly reached some kind of settlement, which, again, he probably spent on a llama or something.
Barney Allegedly Stole That Goddamn ‘I Love You’ Song’ from a Suburban Dry Cleaner
While Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya is reportedly hard on his gritty reboot of Barney the Dinosaur, a key inspiration for his modern take on the character is Barney’s gratingly saccharine signature song: “I Love You.” As Kaluuya told the press, “Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’ That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true?”
In addition to being overly emotional and kind of clingy, Barney was allegedly a thief, too, as the folks behind Barney & Friends were sued for lifting the song from a children’s songbook. The writer of the tune, Lee Bernstein, was a dry cleaner in suburban Indiana who threw together some generically-syrupy lyrics to the tune of the traditional song “This Old Man.” She submitted it to the publisher, and once it was accepted, her only payment was a free copy of the book.
After her 9-year-old daughter heard the song on TV, Bernstein and the book’s publisher took legal action against the world’s cheeriest dino. While a few of the lyrics differed slightly, the two songs were virtually identical, and the case was eventually settled.
The ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Song Was Weaponized by a Petty Billionaire
Even if you were born long after the Gilligan’s Island gang was rescued, then immediately shipwrecked again, you’re probably aware of the show’s famous theme song, which recounts their fateful three-hour tour and newfound island life (but thankfully omits any references to their unspoken cannibalistic desires).
The same song was later weaponized during a squabble between neighboring rich dudes. Bond Billionaire Bill Gross — as in, he made his money in bonds, not Goldfinger-like villainy — was pissed off at his neighbors for complaining to the city about a million-dollar art installation, stating that the protective netting “blocked their ocean views.” Gross allegedly retaliated with sound. According to the neighbor, Gross started blasting “loud music and bizarre audio recordings at excessive levels,” which included playing “the Gilligan’s Island theme on a loop.”
The target of the theme song-based harassment ended up taking Gross to court, where a judge ordered him to stop playing loud music (although he ultimately won the debate over his sculpture). Presumably, he would have faced a much harsher penalty had he chosen the far more-hazardous Ted Lasso theme.
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