Suspiciously Similar Song/Live-Action TV

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.


  • Sesame Street's parodies almost always have original melodies, as PBS shows do not have the budget to license song rights.
    • Example: "Cereal Girl" was a pastiche of Madonna's "Material Girl", using the same beat and chord progression with a different melody. "It's Hip to Be a Square" is of course, a near-note-for-note parody of Huey Lewis & The News' "Hip to be Square". Billy Idle - "Rebel L" is suspiciously similar to Billy Idol - "Rebel Yell". Bruce Stringbean's "Born to Add" and "Barn in the USA" spoof Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA", respectively.
    • Sesame Street's composers being the creative people they were, sometimes these deviated pretty far from their sources. "Kids Just Love to Brush" was clearly based on "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", but really doesn't sound much like it at all. And word has it that Cookie Monster's famous rap "Healthy Food" was based on... "Walk This Way"!
    • The "Monsterpiece Theater" theme is slightly different from the "Masterpiece Theater" theme it is meant to parody, which was unnecessary since the "Masterpiece Theater" theme is just the "Fanfare-Rondeau" from the first Suite de Symphonies by 18th-century French composer Jean-Joseph Mouret and thus is public-domain.
    • Sesame Workshop (then Children's Television Workshop) almost got sued by ATV Music over The Beatles' "Letter B". Then Michael Jackson bought the Lennon/McCartney catalog, so CTW only paid $50.
    • The song Elmo pounds on the piano at the end of Elmo's World sketches is eight notes (in the end) away from "Jingle Bells", with a different word repeated 28 times.
    • In one jogging montage, they played music suspiciously similar to, but legally different from, Vangelis' main theme to Chariots of Fire.
      • Wasn't that sequence called "Chariots of Fur"?
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy featured parodies of pop songs with scientific lyrics for its music videos, in addition to Suspiciously Similar Songs to several tunes, e.g. La Bamba, the 007 theme, Wipe Out (the surfing song)...
  • A favorite running gag on Mystery Science Theater 3000 was to sing along to Suspiciously Similar Songs with the real song's lyrics.
  • MythBusters has a number of songs that fit this trope, most blatantly an off-key version of Queen's "Keep Yourself Alive".
    • And some of the previews featured a parody of Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science", with the lyrics "We're Bustin' It With Science".
    • And the music during "Sonic Boom Breaks Glass" is designed to evoke "Danger Zone" from Kenny Loggins (from Top Gun).
    • Their theme song sounds like (read: is all but identical to) "Legs" by ZZ Top.
      • Another incidental music sounds similar to "La Grange".
    • They did a Suspiciously Similar Song to Indiana Jones theme for "Motorcycle Flip", but Adam also sings a bar from it during the episode.
  • The Rutles, a fictional band with its own telemovie back in the late 1970s and several "reunion tours" since, have plenty of Beatles sound-alike tunes in their repertoire (not surprising, since they're a Beatles parody), all composed by Neil Innes and Eric Idle. However, EMI thought they didn't sound different enough, and, one lawsuit later, several of the songs on the original soundtrack were (and still are) legally credited to Innes, Lennon, and McCartney.
    • "Ouch!" and "Get Up and Go", in particular, are pretty blatant swipes of their Beatle counterparts, "Help!" and "Get Back".
    • Which has led to a severe case of Misattributed Song, because due to these credits, a whole lot of people think Rutles songs are "lost" Beatle bootlegs.
      • Absolutely true — the generally shoddy mid-1970s bootleg Indian Rope Trick] even listed "Cheese and Onions" as a lost Lennon demo. To be fair, Innes' take on Lennon's vocal style is uncanny.
  • Sometimes this happens when a TV show is released on DVD and the production company didn't manage to secure the license to the original music[1]. For instance, the DVD release of Married... with Children uses an instrumental opening song that's very reminiscent of, but not identical to, Frank Sinatra's "Love and Marriage"... unlike the original broadcasts, which actually did use Sinatra's song.
    • Also, the show used Queen's "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions" rather frequently. The DVD used Suspiciously Similar Songs.
  • Likewise the soundtrack of House M.D. in most non-U.S. countries is a Suspiciously Similar Song to the original.
  • One episode of Zoey 101 had the "Macalana", which was nearly identical to the Macarena.
  • Lewis Black's segments on The Daily Show were prefaced with a Suspiciously Similar Song to ACDC's "Back In Black".
    • A possible lampshading occurred on The Colbert Report - Stephen requested to use "Back in Black" for a segment intro, but was told that Jon had said no, as that was The Daily Show's thing.
  • The Banana Splits theme shares a notable refrain with Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier" (as pointed out on Ed.)
    • Marley and his family were in the United States (Wilmington, Delaware, to be exact) for an extended visit with his mother in the summer of 1969, when The Banana Splits were in the middle of their original run. Given that he had some young children who might have been Saturday morning TV viewers, it's within the realm of possibility that he might have been familiar with their theme song.
  • Comedian Frank Sidebottom once performed a sketch in which he claimed that 'after the first six notes you have to pay royalties'. He proceeded to perform a cover-version of the Star Wars theme tune, with a handful of notes played a semitone off at the times in the tune where they would sound the most agonizingly painful.
  • Similarly, a Saturday Night Live sketch featured Jon Lovitz as the host of a program presenting an unauthorized adaptation of Disney's "Snow White", who explains that it's legally not plagiarism as long as every third note is different.
    • In another Saturday Night Live sketch, fake soap opera The Californians uses a poor man's version of America's "Ventura Highway" during the between-scene bumpers. For those who recognize what the music is supposed to sound like, it also serves as a nice little in-joke...Since the main theme of the sketch revolves around stereotypical surfer-accented blondes making repeated references to the Los Angeles street grid/highway system.
  • Parodied by Harry Hill in Harry Hill's TV Burp in a segment where he mocks a wildlife show for using a cheap rendition of the James Bond theme, as shown here.
  • This video contains what can be described as the Suspiciously Similar Song to the Doctor Who theme tune.
  • A track from early in the first series of Doctor Who "Westminster Bridge" is an admitted Suspiciously Similar Song to Pixies' "Cecilia Ann."
  • The Knight Rider theme is lifted almost note-for-note from "March and Procession of Bacchus" by Delibes.
  • Used for laughs in Father Ted, when Ted and Dougal write Ireland's Eurovision Song Contest entry using new lyrics and an old Eurovision song track's tune, which they assume to be too obscure to be widely known. They assume incorrectly.
  • A particularly uninspired workover of Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1" is used in two graduation-themed episodes of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, which was completely unnecessary, as the march is in the Public Domain.
    • Predictably, WCW did this with Randy Savage when he jumped to there.
      • This is one of TNA's few justified uses of the trope, as it's a remix for Jay Lethal's "Black Machismo" character.
  • The FLN showings of Iron Chef have had all the music of the Food Network version (originally used in the movie Backdraft of all things), replaced with royalty-free-to-Universal Suspiciously Similar Songs.
  • The theme song to Spanish comedy series Los Serrano, which became a hit single itself, was a rather brazen knockoff of "Pure" by The Lightning Seeds.
  • The pilot episode of the American game show Bullseye used "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" by The Animals as the theme. When the show made it to air, a new theme with similar instrumentation was used.
  • Alan Thicke has written Suspiciously Similar Songs to themes for three different game shows:
    • The 1970s game show Blank Check used Quincy Jones' "Chump Change" as the theme in the pilot episode. After Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions decided to use this theme for its game show Now You See It, Thicke wrote a theme with a similar melody.
      • Similarly, "Now You See It" itself briefly stopped using "Chump Change" for anything else than the opening, instead going for a doppelganger theme written by Edd Kalehoff. The original was still used in the intro.
    • After The Joker's Wild stopped using Jean-Jacques Perry and Gershon Kingsley's "The Savers" as its theme, they briefly switched to a Suspiciously Similar Song to the theme, written by Thicke.
    • The pilot episode of Wheel of Fortune used "Give It One", composed by Maynard Ferguson. When the show made it to air in 1975, the first theme that it used was "Big Wheels", a Thicke composition with similar melody.
  • The short-lived 1998 revival of Match Game used a Suspiciously Similar Song to the 1970s theme.
  • When the Pyramid game show franchise was brought back in 1982 as The New $25,000 Pyramid, it used a theme song that was suspiciously similar to "Tuning Up", the theme that had been used on all 1970s incarnations of the Pyramids. This is actually a subversion, as "Tuning Up" was a piece of stock music that Bob Cobert arranged, and the $25,000 theme was his own composition.
  • Brazilian TV station Globo reworks songs into opening themes of some programs. The most obvious case is for Video Show, which is the instrumental bridge for Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough". Their major news show, Jornal Nacional started with an already-existing intrumental, "The Fuzz" but eventually changed to a Suspiciously Similar Song.
  • The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "The Pantomime Horse is a Secret Agent Film," being a spoof of James Bond movies, uses music that, though probably from a stock music vault, has a fairly obvious resemblance to the James Bond theme.
    • They also retooled (just barely) the Peter Gunn theme for "THE BISHOP!"
  • For the Power Rangers 15th anniversary teamup, there was a Suspiciously Similar Song to "Go Go Power Rangers" for Adam's scenes, as copyright issues prevented Disney from accessing the Saban song library for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. As the other four retro rangers in the teamup were from the Disney seasons, the actual themes were used for them.
    • Listen to RPM's instrumental for a moment. The riffs sound very similar to Metallica's "Fuel" in composition.
    • Another example from RPM, uses a version of a-ha's "Take On Me" during a Hard Work Montage.
    • In Dino Thunder's 9th episode Beneath The Surface, at the end there's a instrumental that is suspiciously like The Black Eyed Pea's "Where Is the Love".
  • The Psych episode "Extradition: British Columbia" uses Suspiciously Similar Songs to the anthem "O Canada", including a rock version and a guitar version.
  • Alton Brown's Good Eats has an episode called "The Egg Files," which features a tune that sounds quite similar to the theme of, you guessed it, The X-Files.
    • A suspiciously similar song to the James Bond is used for W's appearances (Herself a parody of Bond's Q).
    • He also did the theme in the theme in the style of "Tubular Bells" for the episode "Give Peas A Chance", which spoofed The Exorcist.
  • One Cake Boss trailer used a Suspiciously Similar Song to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger".
  • Modern Marvels episode '70s Tech had a segment comparing the speed of a calculator to that of a slide rule. The background music playing was a rendition of the Jeopardy theme.
  • Gerbert had a scene in which the title character gets upset over losing a spelling bee. The very dramatic music playing during this scene sounds like a Suspiciously Similar Song to the Twin Peaks theme.
  • The game "Safecrackers" on The Price Is Right originally used the Pink Panther theme when introduced, but two different songs replaced it, the latter being a Suspiciously Similar Song.
  • A episode of The UFO Files has a just-off version of The X-Files theme.
  • Suspiciously Similar Songs to the Superman movie theme by John Williams show up in the 1988 Superboy TV series and Lois and Clark. Smallville, however, averts this.
  • The theme to Sandra Lee's Sandra's Money Saving Meals sounds like a poor man's Good Times by Chic.
  • In this Jimmy Kimmel Live segment, Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz sings a Suspiciously Similar song to "Indeed, I am very glad that I finally am returning home", aka the Trololo song.
  • The theme song for this Singaporean drama series (starts at about 9:18) is a Chinese version of "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.
  • When the 2000s version of Ripley's Believe It or Not! aired a segment on a man spinning 25 basketballs at once, they played a Suspiciously Similar Song to the Harlem Globetrotters' whistling theme song ("Sweet Georgia Brown") with footage of the team.
  • You could easily make a Drinking Game out of this while watching a few hours of HGTV. "Hey, that sounds almost like "All Star" by Smash Mouth! And this sounds almost like that song from Zoolander!"
  • There's a Hong Kong period drama that utilises a piece of background music that's really a suspiciously similar instrumental of "I Dreamed a Dream", no doubt banking on Susan Boyle's popularity.
  • The theme tune to America's Got Talent is a Hart version of the theme tune from The X Factor. It must be noted that both shows were created by Simon Cowell.
    • As a consequence to this, Britains Got Talent mostly averts the trope with a different theme tune.
  • The opener for the 1990 Logie Awards telecast (the Aussie version of the Emmys) was designed to evoke Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire".
  • Better Off Ted episode "Secret and Lives" has a Suspiciously Similar Song to "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" when the magic starts.
  • Cartoon Network original movie Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins has a scene featuring a Suspiciously Similar Song to "Battle Without Honour Or Humanity".
  • FOX's 2010 baseball playoff promos use a very close instrumental knockoff of Aerosmith's "Dream On".
  • The theme from the Disney Channel Original Series The Jersey is almost identical to the instrumental chorus of Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song".
  • The Edison Twins' animated educational segments used a quite obvious Suspiciously Similar Song to the Laurel and Hardy theme music.
  • In Torchwood, Captain John Hart, appropriately enough, gets a Suspiciously Similar Song to "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" by The Beatles as his theme music.
  • TLC's What Not to Wear occasionally uses a Suspiciously Similar Song to Duran Duran's "Rio" for the subject's post-makeover interview.
  • The broadcasts of Newton's Apple used Kraftwerk's "Ruckzuck" from 1983 to 1989, and a remixed version from 1990 to 1994, but due to licensing difficulties, the home videos used a Suspiciously Similar Song.
  • In one episode of That's So Raven, Raven knocked over a lamp while compulsively dancing to "HER JAM!", which sounded suspiciously like the understandably danceable song "Crazy In Love" by Beyonce.
  • When something very slick and spy-like is going on in Chuck, an obviously James Bond-like theme tends to play.
  • In a segment on Conan members of the audience were to guess what songs the band played. The only problem was that, according to Conan, they couldn't afford to play any actual pop songs, and had to do Suspiciously Similar Songs instead.
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Conan: What song does that sound like, but I can prove to you legally it isn't?

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  • Arrested Development has great fun lampshading this trope in the episode "Making a Stand". The narrator muses, over a series of still photographs played in lieu of interesting footage, that no matter what theme music is played underneath, it still isn't very interesting. He comments that they even tried The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine", but they couldn't afford it. Over a subsequent photo montage, an obviously Suspiciously Similar Song called "Yellow Boat" can be heard.
  • Red Dwarf's original theme tune was a variant of Also Sprach Zarathustra. Also, Ace Rimmer's leitmotif is a clear version of Take My Breath Away. Meanwhile, the theme tune used from the third series onwards contains a riff lifted straight from David Bowie's "Life on Mars".
  • In Treme, violinist Annie takes a stab at writing her own songs. Her first attempt results in a slightly altered version of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."
  • NCIS Los Angeles season 2, episode 23 featured a recurring tune that sounds a lot like one of the instrumental songs from the video game Legend Of Mana.
  • Every single Mad TV song parody, ever. Likewise, any time the show parodied a movie or a TV show, the background music was suspiciously similar to the music most associated with the parody source.
    • Which is hardly a surprise as In Living Color did the same thing years before Mad TV existed.
  • The South Korean drama "Myeongweol, the Spy" has Suspiciously Similar Songs to the James Bond theme and the Mission Impossible theme running in the background during scenes.
  • In the last episode of Just Cause, when Patrick runs in slow-motion down the street to deliver a document on time, a Suspiciously Similar Song to the theme from Chariots of Fire plays.
  • The fanfare used for the 1990s-early 2000s version of the Paramount Television Vanity Plate is actually a Suspiciously Similar Song to the Star Wars opening theme.
    • It's actually a remix of the last six notes of the rarely-heard Paramount Pictures theatrical fanfare, but does sound similar.
  • An in-universe example: Jeremy's song "Outrageous" sounds a lot like "Firestarter" by The Prodigy if you removed everything musical about it and made a music video full of confusing political "satire".
  • Whitest Kids U Know- Let's Wake Up The Neighbors is suspiciously similar to Daddy Yankee's Gasolina, and rather dangerously close to the original.
  • The instrumental portion of the Remote Control theme song (which you hear over pretty much half the show) very closely resembles "Fire" by the Ohio Players.
  • I'm Telling (The Newlywed Game FOR KIDS!) has a Footloose ripoff as its theme.
  • In the episode of Saved by the Bell where Bayside gets a new school song, the new song is based on the theme song from Cheers.
  • Super Sentai examples:
  • The opening theme song to Touch sounds quite a bit like Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place". This similarity is practically confirmed by the original closed captions used on the pilot episode (and still present on the Hulu stream); suffice it to say, apparently the version submitted for captioning did use the Radiohead track, before it was overdubbed for the final broadcast.
  • The first theme song written for Sigmund and The Sea Monsters sounded very similar in some respects to I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (AKA: the famous Coca-Cola "hilltop song"), so much so, that Sid And Marty Kroft were allegedly sued, leading to the creation of the show's second theme dong.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati used a ton of licensed music, but those licenses eventually expired. For syndication and DVD releases, the music was replaced. The new music tends to sound nothing like the original, except when a specific song was central to a plot point or mood. One notable example was at the end of the episode "I Want To Keep My Baby," where Johnny Fever plays James Taylor's "Your Smiling Face"; the syndicated version replaces this with an obvious soundalike.
  • The theme used by PBS‍'‍s Masterpiece (the successor to the the world-famous Masterpiece Theatre) is an entirely new piece clearly written to evoke the classic theme of the original.

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  1. In the U.S., one has to contract separately for the right to use a song for broadcast purposes and the right to include the song for distribution purposes. Even ten years ago, who would have thought consumers would spend good money on box sets of old TV shows?