Inspector Morse voted the nation’s favourite TV theme

Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall made the top five.

The opening titles to Inspector Morse are shortlisted in the Crime section

Distinctive theme music can make a TV series (Succession springs to mind) and can often be more popular than the show itself, or just as beloved.

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The nation’s favourite television music has been revealed from a poll conducted by Classic FM’s TV Music Countdown, featuring tens of thousands of votes by the station’s listeners, visitors to ClassicFM.com, readers of Radio Times magazine and RadioTimes.com.

The dark and gothic theme tune to Inspector Morse, composed by Australian-born Barrington Pheloung, has been voted the nation’s favourite TV theme, 34 years after its debut on screen.  

The ITV crime drama which starred the late, great John Thaw as the world-weary, classical music-loving detective, aired between 1987 and 2000, and is still repeated on TV and is a popular box set on streaming services. The music for the Inspector Morse spin-off Lewis, also composed by Pheloung, is the 20th most popular TV theme.

Game Of Thrones

Composer Barrington Pheloung died in 2019. Heather Pheloung, his widow, said: “Thank you to everyone who voted for the Inspector Morse theme and Lewis theme. I am sure Barry would have been overjoyed and honoured that the Inspector Morse theme has been chosen as the UK’s number one favourite TV theme of all time. It is such incredible news. I know he would have been quite humbled to be receiving this accolade given the many great, iconic TV themes that have been written for UK television.

“For Barry, writing music was a way he could bring joy and love to people, his music came from the heart, and composing music and bringing it to life with his colleagues and friends was his passion. The huge success of Inspector Morse, followed by Lewis and then Endeavour, allowed him to do what he loved in life, which he was always very grateful for. Barry regularly listened to Classic FM, and for him to receive the support and love from the Classic FM listeners is very special, and it makes me think of Barry with a lovely, beaming smile on his face. Barry’s children and I are so very proud of him.” 

The nation’s second most popular choice is Aram Khachaturian’s Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia from the ballet Spartacus, famously used as the theme for BBC TV drama The Onedin Line, which was broadcast from 1971 to 1980. Downton Abbey (John Lunn), Game of Thrones (Ramin Djawadi), and Wolf Hall (Debbie Wiseman) all made the top five. 

The top 1o also included Poldark (Anne Dudley), while the top 20 featured Blue Planet II (Hans Zimmer), Doctor Who (Ron Grainer), and Peaky Blinders (Nick Cave).

The top 20:

  1. Inspector Morse
  2. The Onedin Line (Adagio of Spartacus and Phyrgia
  3. Downton Abbey
  4. Game of Thrones
  5. Wolf Hall
  6. Band of Brothers
  7. Van der Valk (Eye Level)
  8. Brideshead Revisited
  9. Pride and Prejudice
  10. Poldark
  11. Blue Planet II
  12. Harry’s Game
  13. Doctor Who
  14. The Lone Ranger (William Tell Overture
  15. Poirot
  16. Peaky Blinders
  17. The Vicar of Dibley
  18. Miss Marple
  19. Thunderbirds
  20. Lewis
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