I love TV theme songs! I bought the CD compilations, used torecord my own tapes (remember doing that?), and have tons of TV theme audio files sitting on my computer and Ipod. Finally going to discuss my favorite tvtheme songs. I thought about doing this as a look at the evolution of themesongs, but decided that would be boring. Also I was going to make this ageneral list, but it’s not possible.
Special thanks to Les for inspiring this little treat.
Theme songs are important to TV, it’s what connects us tothe show. Is there anyone who can think of The Andy Griffith Show and not start whistling? These little songs bring back happy memories of better times, andthat’s why we love them so. And that’s why it sucks people don’t use them asmuch anymore! Ok, off track. Though I can understand why theme songs have faded a bit, in oursociety of hundreds of channels it is very easy for people to switch channelsso a cute little theme song doesn’t quite do it anymore. But once upon a timethey were enough, and they were loved.
What makes a great TV theme song? Especially for sitcoms,there are a couple rules to making it a very memorable one:
It has to explain the premise of the show like The Beverly Hillbillies, Fresh Prince, or The Nanny did so well. If not specifically the theme has to at least give us some idea what the show is about. The Jefferson’stheme song simply tells us they are “movin on up”, and that’s enoughfor us to get the idea. Alice was the new girl in town who was starting over,ok got it. Listen to the Mad About You theme you figure out it was a show abouta couple who loved each other. And on and on.
It has to be a catchy tune we can’t get out of out of ourheads like The Golden Girls theme for instance or Punky Brewster (which is areally good song if you listen to it), or saved By The Bell which did anamazing job of drawing us in.
It has to introduce us to the cast and/or characters.Sometimes the theme will give us actual insight to the characters, take ThePatty Duke Show as an example. We learn all about Patty and Cathy in the courseof the sixty second opening! I have never seen an episode of that show, but I know they’re cousins..Identical cousins. And then there’s Maude. True this is the one often broken rule in most themes, the shows rely on the title sequence more than the song for this, but some shows will be creative like having thecast literally sing the song like All in the Family, Green Acres, or even The Monkees did.
and most importantly it has to make us interested inwatching the show. I had no interest in Perfect Strangers at first, but the theme song made me curious. Don’t you want to know more about Mr.Ed afterwatching the opening to that show?The theme used for Big Bang Theory is a perfect tone setter for that series.
Before I get into my list I wanted to ask a question. So what is the most perfect theme song ever? Hard to say, but the Ballad ofGilliganâ€™s Island is pretty close. It literally does everything I just said. Itis a catchy memorable tune. It explains the backstory of the show and sets upthe premise. It introduces us to the characters, and makes us curious enough to want to see more. Itâ€™s not on my list because there are themes I like more, but Gilliganâ€™sâ€™ Island has to be acknowledged as possibly the most perfect theme song ever recorded.
Here are the sitcom theme songs I love. Yes I will cover other areas in future articles including cartoons.
#11. Mary Tyler Moore
This is why I had to have an 11 spot, how could I leave thisfantastic theme off? “Love is All Around” is a perfect song to fitthe mood of the series, and plays perfectly with the visuals right up to thatfamous moment when Mary Richards takes her hat off and throws it into the air.
This is the one I was a little unsure of putting it on here.This was never my favorite show, nor my least favorite, but the theme song iscatchy and memorable. It doesn’t spell out the entire premise of the series,but gives us enough to get us interested. Itâ€™s certainly a memorable littletune.
#9.The Addams Family
I love this theme, because it’s so quirky and original. Kindof like the series! How do they make it quirky and original? By having thesnapping through the opening. Snap snap! (okay it doesn’t translate to text). Ilove that, it’s so simple and yet effective. In fact when The Addams Familymovie came out and I heard that classic theme, well, I already loved that filmand it was only a minute in.
#8. Mr. Belvedere.
I know, what? That silly show from the 80’s starring ChristpherHewett? Really? Well actually this theme song is really good if you hear thefull version rather than chopped up version. Not only is it a cute tuneperformed by a very talented artist (Leon Redbone), but it actually explainsthe show. Mr.Belevdere is there to teach the family there is more to life, justlike the song says. Underrated show, and theme song in my opinion.
#7.Happy Days/Laverne & Shirley
I made this a tie because these shows are obviously similar,and I love both themes pretty equally. While the two songs “HappyDays” and “Making our Dreams Come True” do not tell usspecifically what the shows are about, they give us a general idea. Happy Daysis about the glory days when life was good, that was the 50’s. “Making OurDreams Come True” is about two people working and struggling to achievetheir dreams, well that basically sums up Laverne & Shirley. Mostimportantly, I love these songs.
It was this or Who’s The Boss?, and this won because itâ€™sjust a better song (seriously, who remember â€œA Brand New Life?). â€œAs Long asWe’ve Got Each Other was written by B.J.Thomas and it may be the best thingthis show created. Well, until they did the boring version in the later years.Now as you know many theme songs are abridged versions of real songs. I lovehearing the full version of these themes, and “As Long as We’ve Got EachOther” is one of my absolute favorite. Never heard it, look it up. Againthe theme gives a general idea what the show is about, but that’s enough.
#5.Welcome Back, Kotter
Is it possible to love a theme song for a show you reallydon’t care for? I guess so because this is one of my favorite theme songs, andI don’t care for the program. I hate it, right down to its annoying cannedlaugh track. However this theme is very strong. It is a bit closer to tellingus what the show is actually about, and need I say that it was a huge hit inthe 70’s? John Sebastian wrote it by the way.
“Where Everybody Knows Your Name” by Gary Pornoyis a perfect example of a theme that does and does not explain the premise of aseries at the same time. It really isn’t about the show specifically, but thelyrics speak to what the show is all about so well. Besides, it’s such a catchyand memorable little tune and since I live in the Boston area, I have a specialaffection for it.
#3.Out of this World
Every top 11 has to have an oddball, something you wouldnever expect. Never heard of it? Don’t blame you. This was a syndicated 80’scomedy about a girl whose father was an alien, so she had some odd powers likethe ability to freeze time. It was a silly show like Small Wonder or Charles inCharge but my favorite part was the theme song. Swinging on a Star is a greatsong, and the adaptation used on the series is great, it’s one of those”will never leave your head” themes which hits most of my rules (especiallyexplaining the series) while the show is cheesy the theme is just awesome.
You knew this was going to be on here, right? Just whentheme songs were starting to fade, this gem came along. What can I say aboutthis little tune that hasn’t already been said? The Rembrandts released this inthe mid-90’s and for a time it was on the radio constantly! Why not, it’s agreat song and a decent theme. It really explained what Friends is about, agroup of friends not sure where they are going in life that will there for eachother. Itâ€™s also a good song which gets you pumped for the show. What more doyou want from a theme song?
#1. The Brady Bunch
Well, duh. I won’t go so far as to say this is a perfecttheme song, but it certainly does everything a great theme song should do.Catchy tune? Yep! Song explains the backstory of the show? Yep! Introduce us tothe characters? Yep! Short and sweet? Yep! Ok, the one complaint I always hadwith the opening was that the kids names were never shown. They were reservedfor the “also starring” category at the end which was standardpractice in those days, and I hated it!! Itâ€™s the same reason Star Trek starsWilliams Shatner, Leonard Nimoy…and that was it! Gilligan’s Island was famousfor their “and the rest” line they did with the cast but theyactually corrected it in its last few years (seriously, two more names? Youcouldn’t say two more names???). I get that Robert Reed and Florence Hendersonwere the stars, but the kids were the whole show they should have gotten topbilling! Wow, sorry about that. Despite that nitpick it is still a great themesong. Originally recorded by the Peppermint Trolley Company the first season,they realized that sucked big time and had the kids do it from then on whichonly made it that much better. “Here’s the story, of a lovelylady….” And before someone comment, yes it was written by the sameperson who did Gilliganâ€™s Island, Sherwood Schwartz.
Honorable Mention include Scrubs (just barely made it),Gimmee A Break which nearlyÂ made it,Family Ties theme is sweet but kind of boring, Mad About You is good but notmemorable, The TGIF shows which I just couldn’t find a place for like FullHouse, Diffâ€™rent Strokes, WKRP in Cincinnati, Good Times, Blossom, and so manyothers I could be here all day. I am sure I missed your favorites, if I did letme know.
Next time we look at the more instrumental side of things,those themes that have no lyrics (that are sung anyway) but the melodies stay with us forever. You know, I think that list may be even harder!