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The Top 10 Television Theme Songs From My Childhood

I can’t sing worth a lick. But I love music. And when the right lyrics come together with the right tune…well, I can recognize when it’s something special. Especially when it comes to television theme songs.

top 10 television theme songsMy TV viewing habits have certainly changed over the years. I’m more select now in what watch, mostly focusing on news, sports and a select few programs I consider must-see TV (any Dr. Who fans out there?) However, back in the day like most youth, I tuned into any and every TV show my parents would allow me to watch.

Some of my favorite shows had incredible theme songs. So just for fun today, I decided to put together a list of my top 10 television theme songs from my childhood. For reference sake, the bulk of my childhood was lived during the 1970s and 80s, which will become obvious based on the selections I’ve chosen.

My Criteria for Television Theme Songs

I do have some criteria though for the television theme songs to meet in order to make this top ten list. The theme song:

  1. Must have words in some portion of the opening song (either spoken or sung). This excludes some of my all time favorite shows like Andy Griffith, M.A.S.H. and The Cosby Show.
  1. Had to have been a show that I watched. Sorry diehard Fresh Prince fans.
  1. Needed “sing-ability” – a catchy tune you might sing or hum in private when your friends weren’t looking (…or that gets stuck in your head ALL DAY LONG!)
  1. Had to open for a show I absolutely LOVED. In other words, there is a greater than average chance that if I passed this show today while channel surfing I’d stop and watch.

I’ll rank the television themes songs from 10 to 1 to build suspense. And just to wet your appetite and get your mind humming something, here are a few TV shows I watched whose theme song didn’t crack the list but have to be listed as honorable mention candidates:

Honorable Mention Television Theme Songs: The Addams Family, Transformers, Welcome Back Kotter, The Jeffersons, The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mr. Rogers, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo.

My Top Ten Television Theme Songs With Words

10. Kid’s Incorporated

“Have you heard? Have you heard? Have you heard? We’re Kids Incorporated. K-I-D-S Yeah! Kids Incorporated, K-I-D-S Whoa oh oh…Looks like we’ve made it Cuz we’re Kids Incorporated!”

This was a long running kids show between 1983-1994. The premise of the show revolved around a group of kids and teens that performed in their own rock group. They preformed in a local former musical club called the P*lace. (In the club’s heyday it had been called the Palace but the first “A” in the neon sign had burned out and was never replaced).

I only watched in the early years as by 1986 the show seemed too childish for me. (And honestly, I wouldn’t tune in today to watch either.) It makes this list at #10 because – thanks to my sister’s eavesdropping outside the door – it’s the only song I’ve ever been caught signing in the shower.

9. The A-Team

“If you have a problem…if no one else can help…and if you can find the…maybe you can hire The A-Team.”

Hannibal, Murdock, Face and B.A. What’s not to love about these guys? A great cast of characters to be sure – culminating in the tension filled interactions between Murdock and B.A. I still don’t understand how no one was ever seen killed in this show given the level of violence. The bad guys always climbed away from the car wrecks.

To be fair 80% of this theme song has no lyrics. But you cannot deny the brilliance of those first 24 seconds. The monologue describing these “soldiers of fortune” takes place over quiet background music. Then the sound of gunfire spells out the show’s title as it transitions into the familiar soundtrack. Simply awesome!

8. The Super Friends vs. The Legion of Doom

This is the only cartoon to crack my top ten.

The Challenge of the Superfriends series pitted the superheros from the Justice League of America versus their evil counterparts (led by Lex Luther) known as the Legion of Doom. In each episode the Superfriends were forced to thwart some evil plot developed by the Legion. What made this show intriguing to me was how each superhero had a specific arch-enemy in the Legion they’d always battle against.

Only 16 episodes were produced in this series in the fall of 1978, a complete mistake in my mind for sure. They easily could have stretched the confrontation and storylines between these opponents for several years (which would have added incredible joy to my childhood – but I’m not bitter).

7. Sesame Street

“Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet, can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

Sure learning the alphabet and how to count were important. But I watched religiously in my early childhood for many other reasons. In what new ways Ernie would frustrate Bert? What would Cookie Monster eat next and why didn’t he ever get indigestion? Would Oscar the Grouch ever learn to be nice? Will Big Bird EVER convince someone he has a friend named Mr. Snuffleupagus?

And of course I learned to mimic The Count’s laugh…Ha-Ha-Ha.

6. Cheers

“You want to go where everyone knows your name…”

By a long shot this takes the prize over all other television theme songs with the most profound lyrical meaning. I won’t lie…there have been times in my adult life where I’ve felt emotion swelling inside while listening to this song. Don’t we all want our name be known? Don’t we want deep friendship with others? Don’t we want to share our problems but also share in the problems of others in the chance we can help?

I’d better stop with the deep reflection or I’ll end up writing an entire post on this issue.

5. The Muppet Show

“It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to meet the muppets on The Muppet Show tonight.”

This one gets extra points for the “actors” (the muppets) doing the singing, dancing and speaking during the opening (and closing) song. There were weekly insets of humor that interrupted the song often, coming from Fozzie Bear or the balcony guys, Statler and Waldorf. And you held your breath every week to see how Gonzo would screw up the ending. That always produced a laugh.

4. Different Strokes

“They got different strokes, it takes different strokes, it takes different strokes to move the world. Everybody’s got a special kind of story…”

Yet another one of those socially conscience television theme songs whose message I could write an entire post about. Only a couple of shows did my sister and I watch more religiously than Different Strokes. It was laugh out loud humor especially when Arnold cracked, “What you talkin’ about Willis?” And for awhile I secretly had a crush on Dana Plato…guess it’s safe to reveal that now.

The Top Three Television Theme Songs

These final three shows are so inseparable in my mind, I had a difficult time ranking them. To this day, if one of these is playing on TV or streaming on an iPad in our home, I’d stop to watch no matter what I was doing prior.

3. Star Trek: TNG

“Space…the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise…”

Of all the shows on this list, I’ve watched more Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes than any other. So much so that my two oldest kids have now become addicted. The opening monologue, which dates back to the original series, is a classic I’m sure you can all recite.

Did you know however, there are actual lyrics written by Gene Roddenberry to accompany the tune? I didn’t know this until recently…guess I’m not a full green-blooded Trekkie after all. It is an interesting story nonetheless and one that caused some tension between Roddenberry and Alexander Courage, the author of the instrumental musical piece which opens each show.

2. The Dukes of Hazzard

“Just a good ol’ boys, never meanin’ no harm, beats all you never saw been in trouble with the law since the day they was born…”

Waylon Jennings can sing a country theme song, can’t he?

I loved every character in this show. (Just please don’t make me discuss the Coy and Vance episodes.)

Luke Duke…who was brains of the whole operation. Bo Duke…who always got the girl. Daisy Duke…who WAS the girl (oh my!) Uncle Jesse…who kept it all together. Cooter…the faithful friend running interference with his tow-truck. Boss Hogg…devious town administrator and antagonist to the Dukes. Roscoe P. Coltrain…devoted-to-a-fault sheriff to Boss Hogg (And who could forget Flash…yes, he’s a character). Cletus and Enos…town deputies who secretly loved the Dukes.

What I remember most about this show was regularly watching it at my grandparent’s house. We seemed to end up at there a lot when this show was on. Whether that was intentional or not I don’t recall but the show gets a bump in ranking over Star Trek: TNG here due to the memories of hearing my grandfather laugh.

1. Gilligan’s Island

“…five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour…”

You may have seen this ship coming. This could be the greatest television theme song of all time when it comes to people being able to remember and sing the entire tune. The show gets additional points for having a closing theme song (which is just as catchy and memorable as the opening song… “Now this is the tale of our castaways, they’re here for a long, long time…”)

My preference is for the season two theme song as opposed to the season one song which is a bit too twang-y for my taste. The season two theme song also saw the introduction of the Professor and Mary Ann in the opening credits, something I’ve read Bob Denver (Gilligan) fought for. Plus, it’s in color, which in my kid mind just made it better.

This show sparked so many laughs but also questions like:

Why did Mr. and Mrs. Howell bring all that luggage for a three hour tour?

How come they just so happened to land on an island that had every supply of berry, rock or mineral the Professor would need to solve all their problems?

How did the Skipper ever survive Gilligan’s clumsiness?

Ginger or Mary Ann?

Despite these perplexing questions it still remains a show I enjoy and is the only one on this list for which I own every DVD. And yes, my kids are into the show too.

So there you have the top ten television theme songs with words from my childhood. Did you watch any of these shows growing up or later as a rerun? What would you have added to the list? Please debate and share your television passion in the comments below.

Questions: What television theme songs would you add to the list?

Original image by justaprairieboy at Flickr Creative Commons

Next Post: Your Do-Over Moment Is and Isn’t a Big Deal

Prior Post: Reshaping My Focus in 2015

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  1. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says

    I was kinda lost. The only show I could relate to is the Sesame Street. Up until now, I know the whole lyrics. Dora the explorer is my favorite children show by the way.

  2. I love this list!!

  3. This brought back SO many memories Brian!! I LOVED Kids Incorporated and the second I saw the show name on your blog, I was singing the theme song in my head. My favorite tv theme song from my childhood is The Greatest American Hero. Every now and then it comes up on my Christopher Cross station on Pandora and I crank it up every time I hear it.

    • I never watched GAH for some reason. I know that was very popular but it just wasn’t on my radar. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one singing K-I-D-S… 🙂

  4. To this day I can sing the Brady Bunch, Flintstone, Gilligan’s Island songs but the one that sticks in my head so that I have to sing it all day long is the theme from Mr. Ed. “A horse is a horse of course of course and no one can talk to a horse of course unless of course the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.” I know the second verse also. Do you want me to sing that for you also? 🙂

  5. Fun post Brian! It’s funny how theme songs can get stuck in your head and still sing them (well to myself at least because I sound like a near dead mule getting shot when I sing) decades later. #2 & #5 are definite favorites with Cheers being at the top for me. I also liked the Cosby Show, but funnily enough the one that runs through my head as well is Dallas as my parents watched it religiously.

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