Top 10 TV Theme Songs
By Ryan L. Terry
Greetings everyone, Professor Horror here! While my professional area of research and publication is the American horror film, including what I Tweet and blog about, I’ve always had a soft spot and fondness for the classic American sitcom. The situation comedy (or sitcom) was a staple of television programming for half a century! From the catchy theme songs to the punchlines to the iconic laughtrack, these characters invited us into their living rooms week after week to entertain and even inspire change through their comedic conflict. No expertly choreographed action sequences, no elaborate production design, and generally no overarching series-long plot, these episodic shows were built upon brilliantly written characters witty banter, and hijinks. There were so simple too: setup, conflict, and resolution all within a half-hour.
Birthed out of radio, the three-camera traditional sitcom formula was established by the show that arguably inspired every sitcom I Love Lucy. The formula it established would continue throughout the decades until this form of TV programming was replaced by single-camera comedies, mockumentaries, docudramas, limited-run series, and more. Despite the sitcom evolving over the decades, the core of the genre remained the same. Some sitcoms were so successful that they gave birth to spinoffs, some of which were ever more popular than the show from when they came. Examples being Laverne and Shirley (spinoff of Happy Days) and Frasier (spinoff of Cheers). Each sitcom created a self-contained world with characters that were so funny, likable, and clever that you could set three of them in a room together—with nothing else around them—and they could sustain entire scenes without losing the attention of the audience. Talk about exceptional writing combined with brilliant character actors. Many of these shows ran 20+ episodes per season, coming to us every week from September through May.
There was a magic to the sitcom, a magic that is rarely felt anymore. And that magic is what drew us to these shows, that we identify with so much, that we often pick out which character we are. Perhaps these shows were special because they came at a time that there was much less variety and fewer options on TV, so the entire country watched these shows as a great collective. Therefore, these shows brought all kinds of people together from all walks of life. Both horror and comedy have a way of uniting people, teaching people, and entertaining people by using similar tools of surprise, suspense, and yes even jump scares. Comedy and horror are the other two genres that explicitly and intentionally seek to evoke a physiological response from the audience. Moreover, this is what makes them the most engaging. Maybe you’re more of a comedy person, or you’re like me, and you’re a horror hound; but either way, these shows and films transcend the screen and find a place in our hearts and minds.
When you think of a sitcom, often times, the first thought you may have is the theme song for that show, and for good reason. Theme songs were cute, contagious, catchy, and singalong-able. These songs often conveyed something about the characters and plot. Theme songs (and jingles) are an art form that is highly under appreciated—and sadly—disappearing. Contemporary television programming lacks theme songs. Oh, they may have opening music, but the lyrics are most likely non-existent. Just start singing or humming the theme song to The Golden Girls, Cheers, or Gilligan’s Island and there will likely be someone around you that will join in the fun. So let’s count down my Top 10 favorite TV theme songs!
- Step by Step
- Fresh Prince of Bell Air
- Family guy
- The Nanny
- Laverne and Shirley
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show
- The Facts of Life
- The Golden Girls
Each of these theme songs capture the magic of each of these shows. And they will continue to be heartwarming and inspire for the decades to come.
And while we are on the topic of theme songs, you need to check out the theme song to my new audio (podcast) sitcom Four’s a Crowd now available wherever you catch your pods! Four’s a Crowd combines the classic sitcom packaging with a modern interpretation! Four 30-somethings share an apartment after broken relationships and skyrocketing rent force them together in this no-holds-barred subversive coming-of-age situation comedy. Follow us on Twitter, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or more today!
Ryan teaches screenwriting and American cinema at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW his blog The R.L. Terry ReelView. Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with or meet him in the theme parks. Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1