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TV's Biggest Hits

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A rich, intelligent television book is Jon Burlingame’s TV’s Biggest Hits, subtitled ”The Story of Television Themes From Dragnet to Friends.” Burlingame has had one of those so-obvious-it’s-clever ideas and did a ton of research to dig up anecdotes about the theme songs and background music that are the soundtrack to a TV watcher’s life. What crops up again and again is the notion that the music producers and arrangers who work in television are witty pop scholars who take their themes seriously. For instance, Alf Clausen, who writes scores for The Simpsons, once quoted Elmer Bernstein’s theme from The Great Escape to give an episode about little Maggie Simpson’s day-care adventures some tense zing. A-