To wrap up my look back at the best tv show theme songs, I’ll list the ten best theme songs with lyrics. Again, I am limiting myself to the post-1980 tv world, but this time I managed to fit all the sitcoms and dramas into one list, unlike the instrumental theme songs. I hope you enjoy listening to and reminiscing about these songs as much as I did!
- The Dukes of Hazzard – I mostly associate this show with the house of a lady who babysat me in the early 80s. It was an old, creepy (to a kid, at least), isolated house, with lots of mysterious steps and closed doors. The main living room is the only place that I and my siblings were allowed to go, and the one constant about the room is that, at least in my memory, The Dukes of Hazzard was always on the television! Maybe my parents happened to drop us off there on the same weeknight every time, or maybe there was some channel that always showed Bo and Luke joy riding in their General Lee, but whatever the case, this theme song’s laid back, country tone was an appropriate soundtrack for that house. “Just two good ole’ boys, never meanin’ no harm…” As for the song making this list, it is a classic tune that was perfectly suited for the show. Too bad that the show itself hasn’t held up well over time. I tried to stomach an episode awhile ago, and it was just awful – pure campiness, horrible acting, and very little plot.
- Diff’rent Strokes – I have a vague memory of using this theme song as my answering machine greeting my freshman year of college. That’s about the time I bought a couple of “TV’s Greatest Hits” CDs and started reminiscing about the best theme songs. I love the end of the bridge with the harmonized “and together we’ll be fine.” This song has a funky beat and catchy lyrics. Fun times.
- Growing Pains – “Show me that smile again, don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.” I love the sentimental, heartfelt lyrics of this song, and it is so singalongable. Whether it was the original version or the later version with the barbershop quartet singing, this may be my favorite tv theme song. It helps that I had a crush on Kirk Cameron in the ’80s.
- The Golden Girls – Um, I just claimed that Growing Pains was my favorite theme song. Scratch that. Golden Girls takes that title hands down. What other theme song do I still spontaneously sing at random times – something I’ve done for almost 20 years now! What a wonderfully nostalgic song about lasting friendship. Sing it with me now: “Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant. And if you through a party, and invited everyone you ever knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.”
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – “Now this is a story, all about how, my life got flipped – turned upside down…” Back in the day, kids at school (myself included!) would pride themselves on being able to recite this tv theme rap from beginning to end. It really is fun, and was certainly an appropriate style for star Will Smith. His career as a rapper sure seems like a distant memory now that he’s a full-fledged movie star. I’ve seen reruns of this show from time to time, and it is quite dated, super cheesy, but still fun to watch.
- Gilmore Girls – This theme song took some time to grow on me. At first it was too cutesy, sappy, and sweet, but after I had made my way through the first season or two of this mother-daughter dynamic duo show, I was singing right along with Carole King and her daughter Louise Goffin, as they sing about being there for each other – “all you have to do is call my name, and I’ll be there on the next train.” The song really is perfect for the show’s quirky tone and themes of sisterhood, family, and friendship.
- CSI – From the opening chords to the dramatic closing chorus of “you, you, you, you…,” this song is very memorable. The song, “Who Are You” by the Who, may have been around long before this show began, but the crime show was my introduction to it, and so I will always associate it with those opening credit images of Warrick examining a shoe string, Grissom smashing a fake human head with a sledgehammer, and the other CSIs doing similar things looking equally attractive and stylish. The spin-offs, Miami and New York, are cheap imitations of the original, and though their theme songs are also by The Who, they lack the punch of “Who Are You.”
- Smallville – “Somebody SAVE me!” With that emotionally charged opening line, Remy Zero introduced us to the trials and adventures of a teen Clark Kent and his band of unsuspecting classmates. This show has lost a lot of its quality over the years, but the first couple of seasons were outstanding and fascinating. I still love the song, and it fit the show perfectly. The fairly recent trend of using pop songs as tv themes doesn’t bother me. If the song is well suited for the show, then why not use it? Another show and song that almost made this list are Dawson’s Creek’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole. I guess you could say that the WB perfected the art of choosing pop songs to represent tv shows.
- Firefly – We move now from a couple of pop song themes, to one that is entirely original. Joss Whedon wrote the theme song, and Sonny Rhodes performed it, and it is about as close to theme song and musical perfection as you can get. It has a Western sound, and a mysterious melody, perfect for a sci fi space western, and its lyrics are very poetic and closely related to the show’s themes:
Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me…
- Veronica Mars – “A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all.” I’ll close out the list with one more pop song, the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” This edgy, unusual song perfectly represents this edgy, unusual show and its edgy, unusual heroine, teen PI Veronica Mars. As the show began, we learned that Veronica had once been popular but was now at the bottom of the totem pole, so the “used to be friends” lyrics are appropriate. Here is a character who channels her anger and sadness over what has happened into solving crimes and righting wrongs, all while trying to keep herself and her dad afloat in the social waters of Neptune. Can you tell that I was a big fan of this show? I didn’t even mind the new version of the theme song for season three. The slower, jazzier style seemed appropriate for Veronica’s new life in college, as she faced a slightly more grown up set of concerns and problems.
This wraps up my series of posts about the best tv show theme songs, unless I get around to making a list of the best “classic” (read: old) tv show theme songs. So which of your favorites did I leave off?