Themes from ‘20/20’

“20/20” Current Theme


For the fall 2012 season, 20/20 was given a makeover. The darker and more dramatic look that was adopted two years earlier were replaced with  a more colorful palette. The ABC news magazine still, however, does not have its own set. It’s taped in the World News studio. In 2013 20/20 co-anchor Chris Cumo left ABC News for CNN. He was replaced by David Muir. For the theme music, ABC turned to DreamArtists Music, who composed the third new 20/20 theme in a row. The theme music has that big and bold sound (with a touch of cool) that has become synonymous with ABC News.

DreamArtists Music - 20/20 theme

 


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“20/20” 2010 – 2012 Theme


This 2010 theme is part of a new theme package by ABC’s friends at DreamArtists Music. The package was commissioned for 20/20’s relaunch in october of 2010. The new theme package reflects the “darker, more dramatic” approach ABC has taken with the popular news program. You might also hear hints of the 2009 theme, also by DreamArtists Music, that has now become the closing theme to the broadcast.

DreamArtists Music - 20/20 theme

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“20/20” 2009 – 2010 Theme


20/20 started using this theme in september 2009. However, the theme was originally used for ABC branding promos starting in 2008. The promo was popular and the network liked the music so much that they asked the composers – DreamArtists Music – to develop an entire package around it for the ABC news magazine. While the theme was replaced in the fall of 2010 with a darker theme by DreamArtists Music, it was still occasionally used to open 20/20.

DreamArtists Music - 20/20 theme

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“20/20” 2004 – 2006 Theme


As one of the first veteran anchors, Barbara Walters chose to semi-retire in 2004. While she continued to host The View, file occasional reports and host her various annual specials, she stepped down as anchor of 20/20. ABC’s rising star at the time, Elizabeth Vargas, was promoted to the position. With a new anchor, they also debuted a new theme. It is composed by the L.A.-based music production team Transcenders. That company, which by the way also composed the theme to Friends-spin off Joey, produced an entire music library for use during broadcasts of 20/20.

Transcenders - 20/20 theme

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“20/20” 2001 – 2004 Theme


Composed by VideoHelper, this theme started and ended as a promo cue for ABC’s evening newscast. While it was used as a promo in the late 1990’s for Peter Jennings’ broadcast, someone at ABC liked it so much that they suggested it’d be a good 20/20 theme. Five years after it was dropped as a theme for 20/20, it was used to promote the debut of Diane Sawyer as anchor of the program.

20/20 used this theme at a time when there were significant and constant changed in the anchor line-up for the first time in its history. When this theme first started being used, Barbara Walters anchored solo since former co-anchor Hugh Downs had retired in 1999. In early 2002 John Miller, who impressed many with his live analysis during marathon coverage of the September 11th attacks, became co-anchor. But he never got very comfortable as an anchor and a year later he jumped at the chance to rejoin law enforcement and leave TV news. So for a few months in early 2003 Barbara Walters anchored solo again. But she was nearing retirement and preferred a co-anchor. In May of 2003 John Stossel, the man behind the controversial though popular “Give me a break” segments, was named co-anchor of 20/20.

VideoHelper - 20/20 theme

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“(20/20) Downtown” Theme


Unlike most other news magazines, 20/20 Downtown (or later just Downtown) was never carried by any big name anchor. An ensemble of anchors fronted the broadcast, which was aimed at attracting younger viewers. The anchor and reporting duties were covered by the team of Elizabeth Vargas, Cynthia McFadden, Chris Cuomo, and John Quiñones. For the theme ABC turned to Score Productions. Though Downtown was officially cancelled in 2002, it returned for one season as Primetime Monday a year later. Same anchors, same format and same theme (though a slightly different arrangement).

Score Productions - Downtown theme

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“20/20” 2000 – 2001 Theme


In the fall of 2000 the Barbara Walters news magazine was given a totally new theme for the first in its history. Previously they had used a version of its classic 1979 theme with slightly modernized instrumentation. Although this theme includes some notes from the previous theme, it is without a doubt more contemporary. Like the previous 20/20 themes, this theme is composed by Score Productions.

Score Productions - 20/20 theme

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“20/20” 1998 – 2000 Theme


This 20/20 theme is an update of the classic theme composed by Score Productions. When it premiered, ABC decided to name its news magazine 20/20 to drive home the point that it would help viewers see the events that shape their lives, clearly. The first executive producer, Bob Shanks, came up with the name. In optometry 20/20 stands for clearness of vision. It is expressed as a fraction because the two numbers have different meanings. The top number means the distance you stand from the chart from which you are asked to read (usually 20 feet). And the bottom number stands for the distance at which a person with normal eyesight could correctly read the line with the smallest letters.

Score Productions - 20/20 theme

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“20/20” 1992 – 1998 Theme


“From ABC News around the world and into your home, the stories that touch your life. With Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters, this is 20/20.” That’s how every edition of 20/20 in the 90’s started. For this version of the 20/20 theme, all whooshes and pows known to man were pulled out. Network news, generally speaking, has gone easy on sound effects but cable news certainly has has not. Almost all graphics and transitions are accompanied by a woosh or other sound effect. That’s what gives it the cable news feel. Why do they do it? Cable news channels feel it makes them look and sound more urgent and exciting – like something big is going on – which keeps viewers tuned in.

Score Productions - 20/20 theme

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“20/20” 1979 – 1992 Theme


In June of 1978, Roone Arledge’s first news magazine hit the airwaves. It was called 20/20 and created to compete with 60 Minutes, the show that originated the genre. While Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters may be most closely associated with the early days of the program, they were not the original anchors. Harold Hayes and Robert Hughes anchored the first show. But that first edition was nothing short of a disaster and they were quickly replaced. The show featured Jimmy Carter and Walter Cronkite represented by puppets doing short comical bits. Critics were not kind when writing their reviews. As a result, Downs was asked to take over as anchor. Walters joined him in 1981 as something slightly less than a co-anchor, though she officially became his equal three years later. This reunited a duo that had already anchored together on NBC’s Today from 1964 to 1971.

The first couple of 20/20 shows used an unknown theme without the ABC News signature. (They reportedly also used the World News Tonight theme during this first season.) In 1979 they started using their own theme, which they would use for many years to come. It is composed by Walt Levinsky for Score Productions.

Score Productions - 20/20 theme

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