Playlist of the Month: Best TV Theme Songs

It’s been a trend as of late for shows to skip theme songs in favor of the extra 30 seconds to 1:30 minutes of extra episode time. Remember when Grey’s Anatomy had an actual theme song? They gave up on that and now it’s just the white title screen. Elsewhere in Shondaland, Scandal just goes on a 3 second shutter speed sound so we can watch more of Fitz & Olivia argue why they can’t be together then immediately make up (and make out).

Back in the day, theme songs were more of a prominent fixture in TV culture, and as much a part of the show as the scenes in the program itself. TV theme songs were the equivalent of old movies putting all the credits in the beginning of the film so you saw all the cast & crew prior to the start, rather than the end. And while this practice of creating catchy, memorable and good tunes isn’t as much of a priority as it used to be, we still can’t forget the classics, and that’s why we’re throwing it back to our fave TV theme songs over the years.

Traci’s Picks

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights Theme by W.G. Snuffy Walden

In general, Friday Night Lights is an emotional show. It will make you laugh, cry, feel frustrated with Julie Taylor and elated when the Panthers win a game. Like with all Jason Katims-run shows, he incorporates music into the fabric of the storyline, and it never takes you out of the scene when one of composer W.G. Snuffy Walden’s instrumentals start swell during one of these forementioned emotional moments. As any FNL fan can tell you, hearing the first few notes of this theme song will make you feel all the feels, despite it not even having lyrics. But that’s how powerful it is – it doesn’t even need them. Also, it’s worth noting that this is my current ringtone, so it makes me feel the feels of not wanting to pick up phone calls.

Growing Pains

As Long as We’ve Got Each Other by B.J. Thomas & Jennifer Warnes

I watched Growing Pains off and on when I was a kid, and I can kind of tell you the basics of the show. However, one thing I can recite to you from memory is the theme song. It’s a classic 1980s jam that was sung by Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head singer B.J. Thomas and (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life star Jennifer Warnes. It has the sappy 90s family feel perfect for the show, and perfect for me to play on loop in 2015.

All That

All That by TLC

We talked about this during SNICK Week, but this song still holds up. As soon as you hear, “Fresh out the box…”, it brings you back to sitting on your couch and watching Nickelodeon, ready to laugh at some jokes from the best sketch comedy show for kids to grace the TV. Yeah, it was a great theme song, but in general, it was a track that could’ve been a radio hit, too.

The Nanny

The Nanny Named Fran by Ann Hampton Callaway

Besides the extreme catchiness of this song, the best part about it is the fact that it tells you the premise of the show before every episode. Like just in case you tuned in for the first time and were wondering what a brash lady from Queens was doing in a Manhattan mansion, no need to worry because Ann Hampton Callaway (and fans of The Nanny everywhere) can sing her origin story to you in a flash.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Love Is All Around by Sonny Curtis

This song sounds so dated and I just love it that much more. I was one of those kids who watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show at Nick at Nite, and this song is as embedded in my brain as All That and Pretty Little Liars. It’s a song of joy, positivity, and a sets up a strong female character – much like another Unbreakable female on this list.

Honorable Mentions:

Perfect StrangersNothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now by David Pomeranz. This song was written by the same guys who wrote the Full House, Step By Step and Family Matters theme song, so no wonder it was so good.

Girl Meets WorldTake on the World by Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter. Genius move to have the two main girls of the show sing the theme, and a super catchy one at that. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you were a Boy Meets World fan and you’re not watching this show, you are wasting your life.

Molly’s Picks

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Theme Song by Tina Fey/ Robert Carlock / Jeff Richmond / The Gregory Brothers / Mike Britt

UNBREAKABLE. They alive, dammit! It’s a miracle. This is one of the most creative, innovative theme songs you’ll ever hear, spoofing those wacky neighbors who always give interviews when shocking news breaks — paired with an auto-tuned news segment a la Antoine Dodson. So how’d they do it? (1) Tina Fey and Robert Carlock wrote the neighbor’s monologue. (2) They picked out the lines they want repeated in the song, and Jeff Richmond created the melody. (3) Mike Britt recorded the role of the emphatic neighbor Walter Bankston. (4) They hand it off to the Gregory Brothers, the guys behind Songify The News. (5) Kimmy Schmidt begins streaming on Netflix. (6) It has been over 6 months and you still have the song in your head, don’t you?

Cheers

Where Everybody Knows Your Name by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Yes, this is mainly a song about people knowing what your name is. Yet it is so iconic that I had never seen an episode of Cheers, but I think I’ve known all of the lyrics since I can remember. It doesn’t sound as synth-ed up or jubilant as the classic 80s theme song. In fact I think something about it is sort of melancholy. It sets the tone for an unpretentious show about a Boston bar where there are no name tags.

Party Of Five

Closer To Free by The BoDeans

If the 60s and 70s were the era of the theme song that told the entire backstory and lasted 8 minutes, and the 80s were the era of the synthesized, schmaltzy pop song that’s just sort of vaguely about love or family, the 90s were the age of the crossover alternative music/ TV theme song radio hit. Think I’ll Be There For You (Friends) or I Don’t Want To Wait (Dawson’s Creek). I started watching Party Of Five when I was probably too young, and it was HUGE for me. The theme song still makes me feel like I’m about to kick back with the Salinger clan (and Jennifer Love Hewitt) (but not Claudia when she’s at boarding school) (and usually not Owen, when you think about it).

Parenthood

Forever Young by Bob Dylan

I’m not crying, you’re crying. Fine, we’re all crying. But if it were the Rod Stewart version, I would not be.

Friends

I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts

Is this song even good? I can’t be sure anymore. But it was such a hit that it launched the (largely defunct) TV soundtrack trend of the 90s and early 2000s. Plus just listening to that opening riff reminds me of one of my favorite Comfort TV shows – have a cruddy day? Turn on Friends and you’ll feel a bit better. You could almost say they’ll be there for you (but don’t).

Honorable Mentions

The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father – Best Friend by Harry Nilsson. Yes, that’s Harry Nilsson, of the Lime In The Coconut Nilssons. As Traci mentioned, our cultural touchpoint are colored by how much time both of us spent watching repeats of old shows as children.

Sesame StreetCan You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street? by Joe Raposo. It’s good and you know it’s good. And as an adult, sort of brings you back to being 4 years old in a kind of bittersweet way, right?

Fresh Prince of Bel AirFresh Prince Of Bel Air by Will Smith and Quincy Jones III. One of the proudest moments of my life was realizing that we were on a train of 100% American college kids in Spain going to a Jack Johnson concert, and leading a singalong to this theme song. It is SO good. Okay, I’ll stop here before I get into The Muppet Show and All In The Family.

Tres Por Tres and Other TV Shows Lost in Translation

I was recently having a conversation about Full House, as you do, and my one friend, who is originally from Colombia, mentioned that when she watched it back home, Full House was called Tres Por Tres. Translated, this means Three by (for) Three, which quite literally is the premise of the show – three daughters and three men raising them. We obviously proceeded to look up YouTube clips and found out that in the opening credits, there’s a woman introducing each actor. Is this necessary? Probably not, but it’s entertaining.

And then she remembered that while everyone else’s name is the same (and Kimmy is ‘Kyyymmeee’), DJ is “Dejota” and we simply could not get over this. In fact we made it into a hashtag because Deej’s name en Español is so fun to say. You can hear Kyyymmeee say her name quickly at 1:55 in the clip below:

Either I’m fluent in Spanish or I understood all that because I’ve seen that episode so many times it’s almost embarrassing (a combo of both). Of course Full House isn’t the only show called something completely different in another language. Here are a few other programs that aren’t exactly what you’d expect they’d be titled around the world.

Arrested Development

Sweden: Firma Ruffel & Bygg  = Company Monkey Business & Construction

To be fair, “Company” and “Construction” are probably giving too much credit to The Bluth Company.

Six Feet Under

Russia: Клиент всегда мертв = The Customer Is Always Dead

It’s actually the customer’s family member that’s always dead, but vodka/vodka, right, Russia?

Breaking Bad

Bulgaria: В обувките на Сатаната = In The Shoes Of Satan

Creepily accurate.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Brazil: Um Maluco no Pedaço = A Crazy in the Area

Fortunately, the Crazy in the area turned into the permanent crazy in the neighborhood.

Murder, She Wrote

Germany: Mord ist ihr Hobby = Murder Is Her Hobby

I’ve actually never seen an episode of Murder, She Wrote, so is this title right, or not? What am I missing here???

Two and A Half Men

Germany: Mein cooler Onkel Charlie = My Cool Uncle Charlie

The Germans probably weren’t expecting Charlie Sheen to go all Tiger Blood and die (twice) *spoiler alert?? ugh who cares* when they chose that title.

Pretty Little Liars

Finland: Valehtelevat viettelijät = False Seducer

DOES FINLAND KNOW SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW?? IS -A FINNISH?? IS ARIA -A BECAUSE SHE USED TO LIVE IN ICELAND AND THAT KINDA NEAR FINLAND?? THEORIZE, LIARS!

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

Poland: Tajemnica Amy = Mystery Amy

Is Poland doing an ABC Family crossover with PLL? What’s the mystery with a girl who got knocked up at 15?

Gilmore Girls

Poland: Kochane klopoty = Dear Trouble

I know Gilmore Girls backwards and forwards and I still don’t understand why it’s translated into “Dear Trouble”.

30 Rock

Brazil: Um Maluco na TV = A Crazy on TV

Just ONE crazy on TV? There’s too many to choose from.

Beverly Hills, 90210

Brazil:  Barrados no Baile = Barred From the Dance

Again, I’ve never seen a full episode of Bev Hills, but I’m assuming like many teen dramas, there are a fair share of dances, and I’m under the impression these kids were cool enough to at least attend one spring fling.

How I Met Your Mother

Finland: Ensisilmäyksellä = At First Glance

OKAY but Finland is up to something here. Based on what happened in the finale, did Finnish Craig Thomas and Carter Bays purposely title it At First Glance as a call back to the pilot when Ted first puts his eyes on Robin?? Because At First Glance is wayyyy less misleading of a title than How I Met Your Mother.

Scrubs

French: Toubib or not toubib = Doctor or Not Doctor

The answer is: ‘Barely’.

Everybody Loves Raymond

Israel: Mishpacah Lo Bochrim (משפחה לא בוחרים) = You Can’t Choose Your Family

While the Israelis have a good grasp of the concept, Everybody Loves Raymond executive producer Philip Rosenthal took his efforts to Russia in hopes of creating a version of the show in Russia called Voroniny, a play off the family name. He documented his journey in a documentary called Exporting Raymond, which is a great watch if you’re into this stuff and have read this far.

Married… With Children

Estonia: Tuvikesed = Pigeons

Estonia thinks they’re pigeons, and Hungarians call them “A Terribly Nice Family”… which one is the real show??

Bleth & More Fictional Couples Who Should Marry IRL

It happened, y’all. Two of the most beloved characters in millennial TV history are getting married IRL!

If you haven’t heard yet, Blair Waldorf and Seth Cohen (Bleth) are engaged!!!

Okay, so it’s actually Leighton Meester and Adam Brody. Two things came to my mind upon hearing this: 1) UGH now Seth and Summer will NEVER be together. 2) Blair and Seth. Weird.

It did not occur to me until a good minute later that these folks are not their fictional characters, because I am too engrossed in the lives of TV characters instead of my own real life. (It’s fine, I’m not the only one. The internet is stuck in the land of Newport & the Upper East Side too).

Anyways, while the idea of Queen B and lovable geek Seth getting together seems almost impossible that it could actually be true love, it got me thinking – what other characters from 90s/00s TV shows would actually be really compatible? Here are a few I came up with. Agree? Disagree? Want to add more to the list? Let us know!

Jenny Oliver
To continue with the Gossip Girl/The OC crossover, I present to you Jenny Humphrey and Oliver Trask. Jenny was a good girl gone bad, while Oliver was just a nutjob gone cray cray. Put them together and you have a big ball of insanity, which is probably not condusive to you know, living a normal life, but at least they would be happy together?

lisa carlton
When you think about it, these two could have actually gotten together. Lisa lived in the Pacific Palisades on Saved by the Bell while Carlton lived (with the Fresh Prince) in Bel-Air. It’s only like a “20 minute” commute, so it’s totes easy for Lisa to pick up Carlton and the two (read: just Lisa) can go shopping on his credit card. Not to mention, she would have a BFF in his sister Hillary.

ruthie ben
I’m going to pretend that Ruthie is still 8 years old on 7th Heaven and Ben is 6 on Friends, because I can’t handle the fact that Grown up Ruthie is posing half naked in magazines and Ben has split into twins and one of them works in a restaurant. These two were both troublemakers at some point in their respective series so while Ben avoids hanging out with Sting’s son, he can just casually date/hold hands with Ruthie and everything will be okay.

jonathan erik
Alright, before you leave a nasty comment, I realize that Jonathan Bower from Who’s the Boss was never actually gay on the show. It was the ’80s/90s, they couldn’t do that. On the other hand, Danny Pinaturo, the actor, actually is gay, so lets pretend new came out later in life and started dating Eric Van der Woodsen from Gossip Girl. Eric, since he grew up in the age where coming out isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be, has had his fair share of bfs, so he could teach Jonathan a little something about being ‘out’. In public.

kimmy neal
Ah Gibbler. The annoying sometimes charming BFF/neighbor to the Tanner family on Full House. She’s the type of person that would only get on with someone that’s just as weird and freaky as her. Enter Neal Schweiber from Freaks and Geeks. If you’re not familiar (what’s wrong with you? Watch that shit now), Neal is part of the Geek section of Freaks and Geeks. He thinks he’s a ladies man but, let’s face it. He’s not. Except with Gibbler.

jessie randy
There’s an episode of Saved by the Bell called Cut Day (is it disgusting I didn’t even have to look that up?) where Jessie finds a love connection with Graham – a boy she’s NEVER met or seen before in this high school where we see the same students over and over again – after they bond over protesting the delivery of styrofoam cups to the cafeteria and chaining themselves to lockers. Meanwhile, over on Home Improvement, Randy Taylor was kind of the odd man out in the family, as he cared more about environmental and civil rights and even became a vegetarian, much to the chagrin of Tim the Toolman Taylor. JTT decided to leave the show to go to college IRL, so the writers shipped Randy off to Costa Rica with his girlfriend in an attempt to save the rainforest. Basically, these two belong together in Colorado living a crunchy granola vegan lifestyle or for Americorps in – where else – Costa Rica.

kate dickKate Sanders was the bitchy, popular girl on Lizzie McGuire and Dick Casablancas, well Dick lived up to his first name. I realize that maybe there’s a slight age difference here, but theoretically, Kate and Dick would be a match made in heaven. And provide plenty of fodder for Veronica Mars’ flawless snark.

cher joeyLest we forget, Clueless was so popular that it spawned a TV show. Even though it only lasted for three seasons, Cher was still Cher and swimming in the middle of a bunch of Monets in Beverly Hills. Joey may have been a dumb jock on Blossom, but all he really needs is someone who is like him but smarter, and Cher can totally fit that role for him.

ren parisOkay, okay. These two aren’t lesbians. But bear with me for a second. Ren Stevens was a Type A overachiever on Even Stevens. Paris Geller was a Type A overachiever on Gilmore Girls. The ultimate power couple? And just think about it – these two could EASILY be lesbians. Like if one day they returned and it was revealed they’ve switched teams and gone all Piper Chapman over the past couple of years, I wouldn’t be surprised.

bliss feenyHonestly, I don’t know why no one ever thought of this before. Two teachers from beloved teen sitcoms, each providing life lessons for their students/adopted kids? Goood Morning, Mrs. Feeny.