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The Top 5 Television Theme Songs

July 29, 2008
By Ben Moffat
What is it with TV theme songs? You can’t like them, seriously. You can seriously like them, like “I seriously like Rhianna” but I can’t actually like her, seriously. Get it? Well I swear on a stack of Bibles there is a difference; it’s in the commas.

Let me begin with the fact the TV theme song is flawed because it’s not the same length as an average pop song. Most theme songs are either well less than a minute or no more than a minute 20 seconds. That’s not a lot of time to say a lot of stuff. And all that stuff is supposed to get you interested in the show by either singing about the ideals the show is supposed to have, such as in Cheers where you wish you could have a place where everyone knows your name or with Fresh Prince telling you the back-story so you’re well aware Will isn’t in Bel-Air by natural causes.

Because of this there is no way anyone would listen to these songs separate from their show. But I guess that’s why there’s reality TV now, everyone just got sick of watching things work out so well for so many people in TV land that they need someone like Omarosa to treat people like crap.

Sometimes theme songs are like little cultural time capsules. Take Seinfeld for example, when else could you get away with the slap bass theme song than during the early ’90s and doesn’t that say something about that time? It says something about how people felt about life or at least what they wanted to hear right before they watched the best sitcom of all time.

But where were we on this magical mystery tour of TV theme songs? The greatest of the greats, the cream of the crop of TV land that’s where! While you might read on and say I’ve totally missed the mark, you know I don’t care, for so many reasons, but mostly because any way you slice it I can’t go wrong, every TV theme song will make you smile, that is, only if something terrible didn’t happened to you while watching the “Wonder Years.”

1. “The Wonder Years” — Yes, I know it’s not technically a “theme song,” but it was the song that played every time and it was amazing. The combination of vintage video footage and Joe Cocker just brings a tear to my eye and a smile to my face every time. I mean who cannot think about Winnie Cooper and how much you wished she was in your neighborhood. It might be far fetched but this show might account for this generation’s affection for the ‘60s and ‘70s or at least the obsession with Joe Cocker.

2. Cheers — Simply put, it’s every drunkard’s dream. Contrary to popular belief it is not the love of a good woman that a drunk needs, it’s a place where everyone knows his or hier name. “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot,” might be some of the most profound TV theme song lyrics ever, and kind of makes all the reasons we all may or may not flock to a bar after work make sense.

3. “Perfect Strangers” — This one is just so good. It’s like a male Mary Tyler Moore theme, instead of “making it after all” Balki just gets up and Alex endures the painful transition from being an independent person to someone who is constantly imposed upon. The theme song is so corny and awful but wonderful at the same time. Meaning that while it doesn’t really have any endearing musical qualities the lyrics still ring true even though they’re sung in that 80’s solf rock ballad, don Henly meets Jon Bon Jovi meets Billy Ocean voice.

4. “The Animaniacs” — This one is hard to resist. “We’re An-i-man-i-acs, We have pay for play contracts, We’re zany to the max, There’s baloney in our slacks” This is like watching the Marx brothers again when you are older and realizing how dirty Groucho Marx is. This show was so far ahead of its time and the theme song is just as much. It takes digs at Hollywood, politics and even good old-fashioned American values. You’ve got to love that. 

5. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – This is number five but if there was a category for rapping theme songs this would win hands down. By far the best work Will Smith has done, period. This represents a huge departure not just because of the fact that it’s the first hip-hop/rap theme song but because it’s one of the few that could stand alone as a song, akin to such themes from “Friends.” Unlike, “Family Matters” or even “Cheers” (even though “Cheers” is an amazing theme song) it doesn’t try and gloss over American life, it’s a very real-world song for a very real show. I mean who didn’t live in an awful neighborhood during the early ‘90s?

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