“Now this is a story all about how…”: Top 10 TV Theme Songs

“….my life got flipped turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute just sitting right there and tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air.”

I could go on. Do you want me to go on? I’m doing this all from memory, you know. (Ok there is no way for you to check that, but trust me, I am.)

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to do the counter to my blog last fall on my top 10 opening sequences. That blog focused on the credits as a whole – including both song choice and creativity with video. But let’s face it – there’s a lot of boring opening credit sequences with kick ass theme songs. So today, I’m going to present to you my 10 favorite. The choice was not easy. Ultimately, I decided to go with original theme songs (sorry Gilmore Girls!) with one notable exception, because it kicks that much ass. (I’ll give more of an explanation when it comes up below.)

Requirements: 1.) It must kick ass, and, as an added bonus, psych me up to watch the show.  2.) Have amazing harmony. 3.) Have either clever or hilarious lyrics (or both). 4.) Be catchy, to the point where I can’t get it out of my head. (I currently have about 25 theme songs rolling around in my head as a result of this blog.)

Here they are in no particular order….

“Stand behind me come one May…”
A Different World

For the youngesters who may be reading this: Back in the 80s, there was The Cosby Show. From that came a spinoff called A Different World. Originally it was supposed to focus on Huxtable daughter, Denise, but she left the show after one season, and it was retooled. A lot. So, even though it’s technically a spin-off, it really has nothing to do whatsoever with The Cosby Show, except when Denise is brought up occasionally, usually by Dwayne Wayne (hee!) who had a major thing for her. Denise eventually returned to New York, married a Navy man, had a stepdaughter who would later star in a show that Dawnn Lewis, who played Jaleesa Vinson, one of Denise’s roommates on A Different World was in for the first season. Until Denise left. The moral of this history lesson is twofold: 1.) I watched way too much TV growing up and 2.) I freaking loved A Different World. It’s totally a guilty pleasure show, and I know that. Still though, you could do a lot worse then Debbie Allen as executive producer, Jasmine Guy as your lead, Patti LaBelle as a frequent guest star, and freaking Aretha Franklin singing your theme song.

“On a wing and a prayer.”
The Greatest American Hero

Ok, full disclosure: I’ve never seen this show. It was before my time, and I guess never in repeats on Nick at Nite. Considering it only ran from 1981 to 1983, I’m guessing most people didn’t see it. But the theme song! Oh, the theme song! If it’s good enough for George Costanza, it’s good enough for me.

“Your dreams are your ticket out.”
Welcome Back, Kotter

Now this DID rerun on Nick at Nite. Probably for John Travolta, but either way, I spent my youth watching the Sweathogs try to make something of themselves.

“You’re gonna make it after all.”
Mary Tyler Moore

I mean, obviously. I never really got into this show – in high school, it began to rerun on Nick at Nite, and my parents were delighted. I’m all for watching reruns of shows of yore, but for a solid six months, this was ALL THEY WATCHED. EVERY NIGHT. TWICE A NIGHT. I’d come downstairs from doing my homework, it’d be on. I’d head into the den after dinner, wanting to watch a current show, and it’d be on. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, it’d be on. So you’ll excuse me for not having MTM as part of my TV history. I’m all for watching now – it’s been 10 years, I think I’m recovered. Plus, you know, Liz Lemon before there was a Liz Lemon. Regardless of my history with the show, I can’t deny the theme song rocks.

“Sha nananaa”
Family Ties

So 80s. So corny. So great. And not that it has anything to do with the song, but without this intro, I couldn’t do my Merideth Baxter Birney impression. (Anyone can do it really; it just consists of spinning around in a kitchen and stopping by placing your hand on the table.) Man. What happened to this show? It was fantastic! Alex P. Keaton, ditsy Mallory and her boyfriend Nick…great stuff. I’m not inspired enough to go out and get the DVDs, but why isn’t it in reruns anymore? I’d totally go for a Family Ties marathon. Especially if they showed the one where Tom Hanks plays Alise’s alcoholic brother, who is so hard up that he drinks a bottle of vanilla.

“We gotta be the luckiest dreamers…”
Growing Pains

There’s a lot of versions of the song; this one is my favorite. (Don’t tell anyone but I secretly love a Capella.) Do I really need to say anything more?

“Here we cooooommeeeee!”
The O.C.

Here is my exception to the rule: The O.C. It’s actually a song by Phantom Planet that was written years before Seth Cohen existed. But I had to include it because it’s one of the few theme songs that actually gets me pumped, every single time. The piano, the surf, Adam Brody..it all works for me. (In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit  I stopped watching the show somewhere in season 3. But I think we can all agree: It was amazing in its prime. It’s just too bad the prime only lasted about a year and a half.)

“In west Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground was where I spent most of my days.”
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

I’ve not seen this show in years, and can still recite the song on command. (Well, not this long version, but the shorter, regular one that normally ran.) The lyrics – remember the requirement of hilarious and/or clever? Well this is the epitome, don’t you think?

“We’re bopping along in our barrell…”
Wonderfalls

Most of you didn’t see this show that only aired four episodes. I’m doing you a favor now by showing you the theme song. (You’re welcome, Liz. Look, there’s your boyfriend!) Not only was the show brilliant (all 13 episodes are available on DVD and a must-have) so was the theme song. Oh Wonderfalls. I miss you. You were so great.

And saving the best for last…..

“Be glad there’s one place in the world…”
Cheers

This song is so great, I spent about 15 minutes trying to decide which version to embed. (They’re subtle differences, but they are there.) I finally decided to go with original. Y’all, Where Everybody Knows Your Name  is the reason I am writing this blog. In my Great Cheers Rewatch, I not only rediscovered the bar, I rediscovered the theme song. (Not that I forgot about it, but you know what it’s like when you watch/read/listen to an old favorite again after a long absence.) Others may disagree, but in my humble opinion, this is the greatest theme song ever written. It meets all four requirements with flying colors. (Not sure about the humor? Check out the full version, below.) Not to get all corny on you, but this song, to me, is like coming home. Maybe because I grew up watching the show and it was my Favorite Thing Ever for many years, but, it’s just comforting, you know? And it gets me excited, every time. (Again with the piano; what is it about that instrument?)

More on this after I finish my great rewatch.

I know there’s a lot I missed. Runners up include Friends, Everwood (though it is all instrumental), Laverne and Shirley, Who’s The Boss?, Different Strokes and Saved by the Bell. Any more you would have included?

Video of the Day: Rounding out the TV Theme Songs, here is the full version of my ultimate TV theme song.

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? My personal favorite clip is the water gun fight.

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6 thoughts on ““Now this is a story all about how…”: Top 10 TV Theme Songs

  1. OMG, my TV boyfriend! Also, I can’t believe you didn’t include the Dead Like Me theme–not so much for the song, which I don’t even recall, but for the little movie behind it. So, so funny.

    Also, I think it’s “my life got flip-turned upside down.” Like in swimming?

  2. Well, if Dead Like Me would go anywhere, it’d be in the opening sequences list. Cause the theme song is pretty standard. So that’s why it didn’t make this list, which is on the song alone.

    I checked and you’re right, it’s flipped. I’ll fix it, thanks.

  3. Okay – – clearly I am on a Weeds kick. However, you need to check out their opening credits:

    The song is called “Little Boxes.” Each opening sequence they have a different artist sing the opening credits in their own genre of music. It’s the most interesting way to include variety in an opening credits I’ve ever seen. It is HUMOROUS because if you watch the show you realize how wry the lyrics are. And, as for sticking in your head – -Justin and I have been singing it almost nonstop for the last 2 weeks. We were motivated enough to download the entire soundtrack for the show, which includes some of the multiple versions of the song.

  4. Ooh, I like that! It’s cool how they have different people sing the theme song each week. Whenever I check out Weeds (which will be…sometime) I’ll look out for the theme song.

  5. The theme for “Moonlighting” was great–beautiful melody, romantic lyric. It set the tone for the show-which was equal parts romantic comedy/mystery/action and launched Bruce Willis’ career. I am pretty sure it was written for the show. Here it is (if I did this right):

  6. Okay, the version I sent before is the really short, 30 second version. Here is the original, one minute version that is, in my opinion, one of the best TV themes songs ever written; also a great opening sequence.

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