“I Love TV Theme Songs” Club

This morning I woke up with the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati in my head. “I’m living on the air in Cincinnati; Cincinnati WKRP.” I’m not sure why my mind pulled up this ditty to get stuck in my head; it wasn’t even one of my sitcom staples and I’ve been consumed with listening to Hamilton the Musical on repeat.

I once read if you can’t get a song out of your mind, you should listen to the whole thing from beginning to end. I went to YouTube to get the song out of my head and instead got sucked into a world of TV theme songs. Like a comfort food or cozy afghan, they served as a mental time machine, teleporting me to 1986 and I was surprised to learn how many lyrics I knew. I was in the first generation of latchkey kids who came home to our TV babysitters. We heard these songs daily and now they’re a direct thread to our youth, a musical shortcut to nostalgia. I listened to over 50 TV theme songs which were instantly recognizable, ingrained in our collective pop culture history; a soundtrack to our past. It’s amazing how you can identify Mission Impossible, Hawaii 5-0, or the Knight Rider within seconds.

TV serves a social unifier; it’s a way we connect across social and cultural divides. Prisoners and debutantes alike can join in the chorus of the Facts of Life theme song because great life lessons can be ascertained from the opening seconds of a good sitcom: “you take the good, you take the bad, and there you have the facts of life.”

My favorites, it turned out, were the ones which were full songs in their own right, beyond what we hear in the 30-second show introductions. Some shows had entire sitcom summaries in their theme songs and those didn’t engage me as much (Mary Tyler Moore Show, Gilligan’s Island, The Love Boat).

My 7 Favorites:

7) Laverne and Shirley

6) WKRP in Cincinnati

5) Fame

 4) Greatest American Hero

3) Family Ties

2) M*A*S*H

1) Cheers

Here’s is a fun frolic through sitcom theme song history: 

8 thoughts on ““I Love TV Theme Songs” Club

  1. It’s so freakin’ good. Classic stuff. Gut wrenching; life and death. I also loved “China Beach” which was a different war and a brunette and used Rolling Stones’ “Painted Black” as the theme song.

  2. I watched some of it in college, and I like how it goes tastefully back and forth between slapstick and serious.

    Never heard of that China Beach show, but I like that song a lot.

  3. Somewhere on my bookshelves is “The TV Theme Song Sing-a-long Songbook.” A true classic for TV trivia. My favorite part is that it contains the full lyrics of the Andy Griffith Show theme, which was only whistled on the show.

  4. My husband was obsessing with it the other day when I was writing it. I’m a decade behind, grew up glued to the tube in the 80s w/ Threes Company and such!

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