Theme songs reel us in with catchy lyrics, melodies, and breaks in the song that can often times become total earworms, i.e. never leave our heads. Even shows that aired decades ago find their way into our minds and sometimes surface when we least expect it. We never forget the popular lyrics and can easily hum along to the music of shows we haven’t seen in decades. Today we decided to rehash such songs.
Here are 20 TV theme songs that are still in our head today.
The CBS sitcom “M*A*S*H” has been off the air since 1983 although it can be found in reruns today on cable stations. The theme song “Suicide is Painless” is etched in our memories. The instrumental song is unforgettable as the opening music to the movie that was released in 1970 and the sitcom that followed from 1972 until 1983. The movie and show are about doctors and medical personnel working in an army MASH unit during the Korean War. The doctors and nurses cope with the treatment and deaths of soldiers during the war by using humor and playing pranks. The theme song makes a point of portraying the sadness and trauma of the war, and when we hum along with the tune we can’t forget the classic show. Even those too young to watch the original show remember the theme music which meant it was bedtime for them on a school night.
For those of us that watched “Cheers” growing up, we loved every time Norm (George Wendt) walked into the bar greeted by “Norm!”. The NBC sitcom ran from 1982 to 1992 and followed the lives of the bartenders, servers and patrons of the Boston pub Cheers. The theme song “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” is memorable. It’s amazing how we can all remember the lyrics and how well the capture the spirit of the show. While we watched the characters taking a break from their problems of the day by hanging out at the local pub, we realized that we were taking our own break by watching the comedy of “Cheers”.
The Love Boat
One of the most memorable television theme songs is the theme from the “Love Boat”. The popular Saturday night ABC show ran from 1977 to 1986. Every week we got to see the regular cruise ship crew members and special guest stars take a trip from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta and back. The comedy always delivered what the theme song promised:
The Love Boat soon will be making another run. The Love Boat promises something for everyone. Set a course for adventure. Your mind on a new romance
All In the Family
“All In the Family” is one of the most classic sitcoms that ever aired. The Norman Lear produced show aired for 9 seasons during the 1970’s. It was one of the first television shows to take provocative subjects like race and politics and turn it into a comedy. The show starred Carroll O’Connor took the character of Archie Bunker, an unlikable man, and made him endearing and lovable despite his strong opinions. We saw the Archie Bunker who at heart was a good husband, father and friend. The theme song “Those Were the Days” is memorable as Archie and his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) sing at the piano a song about nostalgia.
As the spinoff of “All In the Family”, “The Jeffersons” follows the rise of Archie Bunker’s former neighbors. George and Louise Jefferson were Archie and Edith’s neighbors in Queens. George’s neighborhood dry cleaning business grew into a franchise and the Jefferson family were able to move to a high rise apartment on the posh East side of Manhattan. The show’s theme song “Moving On Up” is about the Jefferson family’s rise in the ranks of wealth. The lyrics of “Moving On Up” are etched in our memories.
The 1970’s hit sitcom “Happy Days” is set in the wholesome 1950’s. Its theme song evokes the fun memories of being in high school during the 1950’s. The sitcom about high school students in letter sweaters and leather jackets hanging out at the local diner and listening to the juke box is as wholesome as it is funny.
Laverne and Shirley
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated. We’re gonna do it!
“Making Our Dreams Come True” is the memorable song from Gary Marshall’s sitcom “Laverne and Shirley”. The ABC spin off of “Happy Days” ran from 1976 through 1983. The show about 2 young women working their assembly line jobs at a Milwaukee brewery and hanging out with friends during the 1950’s was always funny to watch. It’s hard to ever forget the theme song that started with the friends girls singing as they walk on the sidewalk.
The Brady Bunch
The theme of “The Brady Bunch” is one of those television themes that tells the story of the show. The lyrics stick with anyone who grew up watching the classic sitcom or the reruns in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We can’t help but sing along with the Brady kids to the story about how their families united and became “The Brady Bunch”.
The story of how Gilligan and the gang became castaways on an “unchartered desert isle” while out for a 3 hour sightseeing cruise is told in the theme song and it’s impossible to forget. The comedy took a mixed match of 7 people who would have to learn how to survive as castaways and how to form a rescue plan. Of course Gilligan always managed to ruin the rescue attempts.
The Beverly Hillbillies
Anyone who grew up watching television in the 1960’s and 1970’s will always remember the theme song to “The Beverly Hillbillies”. The song narrates the story about how a man named Jed who was shooting for food to feed his family when he struck oil. The suddenly wealthy family moves to Beverly Hills and lives a luxurious life but can’t seem to leave behind their hillbilly lives.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
“Love Is All Around” is the theme song of the loveable “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” which aired on CBS throughout the 1970’s. The comedy starred Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, a divorced woman (although that could only be implied at the time) who becomes a television news producer in Minneapolis. Mary could always “take a nothing day and suddenly make it all worthwhile”. Who can resist throwing her hat into the air on a busy street in memory of Mary Richards?
Sandford and Son
Another unforgettable instrumental theme song from “Sandford and Son”, “The Streetbeater”. No one can forget the introductory music for this 1970’s CBS sitcom. Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson starred as the father and son team who ran a junk yard next to their home in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Foxx’s character Fred G. Sandford was created by Norman Lear to mirror Archie Bunker in “All In the Family” and his son Lamont mirrors Edith Bunker as the peacemaker. The show used catchphrases and running gags to counter the political incorrectness of Fred Sandford. The catchy theme song is one of the most memorable in television.
The Addams Family
Who can’t help but click along with the 1960’s theme song of “The Adams Family”? Whether you know the show from its original run, its repeats or its recent movie remakes, the theme song is unforgettable. The song introduces us to the strange family of Gomez, Morticia, Fester, Pugsley, Wednesday, Uncle Fester, Lurch and of course Cousin Itt.
Welcome Back Kotter
The show that launched John Travolta’s career has a nostalgic theme song that is memorable. “Welcome Back” is perfect for the show about a remedial teacher, Gabe Kotter, who returns to his old high school to teach the group he was once a part of, The Sweathogs”. The theme song about a high school kid who had dreams to get out yet finds himself right back where he started is thoughtful.
“I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts and co-written by “Friends” producers for the show. The hit NBC show ran from 1994 through 2004 and can be endlessly seen on reruns. The song is one that you can’t get out of your head when you hear it. It’s reminiscent of songs by The Beatles and The Monkees. It’s fun and it shows just how close these friends will always be as they are there for each other through the events of their 20’s and 30’s when their trying to figure out what to do with their lives as young adults.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Will Smith was a popular wrapper from West Philadelphia before he became a comic and action movie hero. The theme from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” serves as Smith’s transition from singing to acting. He wrote and recorded the theme song with his partner DJ Jazzy Jeff for the show. Like many sitcom theme songs it is a appealing tune set to lyrics that tell the story about the beginnings of the sitcom.
“Everywhere You Look” is the theme song that captures the spirit of ABC 1990’s sitcom “Full House”. The kid friendly show about a widowed father of 3 is actually a comedy and filled with life lessons imparted in each episode. The song is about the dad Danny (Bob Saget), his brother-in-law Jessie (John Stamos) and best friend Joey (Dave Coulier) learn to live together help each other raise Danny’s 3 daughters.
It’s the show that pretty much introduced David Hasselhoff to the world and he’s been in our hearts ever since. But there was once a time back in the distant 80s when Hasselhoff had to play costar to a vehicle that talked. And it was the theme song to Knight Rider that still sticks with us today. In fact it’s been sampled in rap songs and was even in the movie Half Baked.
This is one of those theme songs that you don’t necessarily think about all the time but if someone asked you to hum it, it would not take very long for you to remember it at all. It was explosive, simple, and very very easy to memorize. Well, there weren’t many words but I’m speaking of the melody.
You didn’t think we’d forget Different Strokes did you? I don’t even need to start spitting out lyrics because you already know them. “Everybody’s got a special kind of story. Everybody finds a way to shine. No matter what you got! Not a lot. They’ll have theirs and you’ll have yours and I’ll have mine. And together we’ll be fine!” You know the rest.
*P.S. there are loads more than this and we’ll keep coming up with great lists. But for fun let’s just add Miami Vice, Family Ties, Growing Pains, and I don’t know, a thousand more!