TV show opening them songs are a lost art. Back in the 80s, 90s, and even the early 2000s there were tons of great show openings that you looked forward to almost as much as the show themselves. They were fun, creative, and helped get you excited for what was to come. Well shows like Steven Universe and Rick and Morty, along with the always popular Law and Order series are keeping the long form intros alive, sadly because of changing attention spans of viewers these seem to be things of the past.
So to celebrate all the old-school, fantastic opening theme songs, I’m counting down my favorite TV theme songs, starting with the 1980s.
The neon soaked, cheesy ass 80s were an, odd time to be alive but fantastic for pop culture. The rise of music icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna, Eddie Murphy kicking ass in stand-up and in the box office, the birth of horror icons such as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhes, and Chucky. The NBA stepped up in popularity with the coming in of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and some dude from North Carolina, Michael something or other. Pro-Wrestling hit it’s first golden age with the birth and dominance of Hulkamania, the continuing (but sadly fading) NWA and other prominent promotions were doing good business; and of course America secured it’s spot as the global super-power with the continual fall of the Soviet Union and the rebirth of the conservative movement in the US lead by President Ronald Regan.
On the bleaker side of things, drugs and crime were running wild in inner cities, the HIV/AIDs crisis also heavily affected the decade, and tons of other insane thins happened during that decade. Simply put, the 1980s seemed like they were a crazy time to be alive!
With all that out of the way, let me lay down the criteria for both lists, the show has to have had either most, all, or about half of it’s run in which ever decade I’m talking about or have a distinct 80s/90s/2000s vibe to them; when I think that decade, I think of that show.
So with all of that out of the way, let’s get started with my top 10 TV Theme songs of the 1980s.
10. Super Friends- Before the fantastic DC Animated Universe that featured Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Static Shock, Justice League, and Justice League: Unlimited, there were the various versions of the Super Friends Cartoons and man were they, cheesy but in a good way. They were corny, yet were the first time that cartoon superheroes were done well (for the time) as there Marvel counterparts weren’t that good. The theme songs, like the shows themselves, were relatively simple in nature but they did their job. They got you excited to see what new adventures our heroes would get into and introduced the main characters. DC cartoon themes would get better (especially the ones by Danny Elfman) but for what would be many people’s first introduction into the world of superheroes, this theme song is solid enough.
9. Cheers- Indeed, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Cheers introduced us to the lovable gang of alcoholics at the Cheers bar, and the theme song does a great job in giving off a warm and inviting feeling. Times get tough and people do get really lonely, so it is comforting having a place were everyone is happy to see you and you are surrounded by your friends. Again, the regulars at the bar may have some deep issues with the drink, but this song always has you looking forward to the show and wanting Cheers to exist in real life.
8. G.I. Joe- What is easily the most patriotic cartoon ever, G.I. Joe was super macho, super cheesy, and dipped in that 1980s hyper-American Attitude. While some of the characters are dated (a few being borderline offensive by today’s standards) there is no denying how cool G.I. Joe was. The theme song was straight and to the point, it let you know who the Joes were, who they were fighting, and gave you the catchphrase. Murica the cartoon was fun and the theme song helped get you excited for the latest battle with Cobra!
7. Transformers- Another Saturday morning staple that sadly has to be associated with those awful Michael Bay movies, Transformers was awesome and helped spawn a multi-million dollar franchise of toys, cartoons, and those previously mentioned ass movies. Beast Wars was my first Transformers series and I feel it is the best overall in terms of a narrative, character arcs, and action, but the Classic 80s series still holds up. Like most things, it’s dipped in that sweet 80s cheesy, but I think for what it was (essentially a vehicle to sell toys) it was really good. The theme song was also classic, with weird/robotic like singing by the Transformers themselves, the little touches of opera, and of course the classic lines “Robots in disguise” and “more than meets the eye”.
6. Amen- After the massive success that was The Jeffersons ended, Sherman Hemsley moved on to this staple of late 80s/early 90s NBC programming. Amen was not nearly the success that The Jeffersons was, but it still holds a solid following, managing to bring a lot of laughs with religion, while not being too in your face with the message of the show. It was good enough, with the old man on the show often stealing scenes that he was in. The theme song for the show is an uplifting gospel song and it is outstanding. You can tell the spirit was in the singer as she was belting out this song, the choir was on point, the music was top notch. Overall this theme is really underrated and I think it deserves a whole lot more love.
5. 227- There’s no place like home, a simple but heartfelt sentiment. Marla Gibbs, best known for playing Florence on The Jeffersons, moved on to this show a few years after living the Jeffersons for a while. Like her fellow, former co-star Sherman Hemsley’s follow up show Amen, Marla’s follow up show wouldn’t quite reach the same heights as The Jeffersons (few shows do) but it was still a solid show with a great cast (early role for Regina King and even an Emmy win for Jackée, 227 followed the goings on of neighbors who lived in a DC apartment building; like the old man in Amen, Rose the nosey neighbor was the scene stealer, often spilling the tea on whatever was going on. The theme song, sang by Gibbs, gives off a comforting vibe that no matter where you go or how long you stay away, there really is no place like home!
4. Different Strokes- Different Strokes was an…odd show overall. The premise of a rich white man adopting the orphaned sons of a former employee has shades of Annie and they did get into the typical hijinks that you could expect from an 80s sitcom, but the amount of “Very Special Episodes” that covered things such as racism, drug use, and of course that one with Arnold (Gary Coleman) and his friend Dudley in the bike shop…yeah this show was daring to say the least. And the fact that sadly the young stars of the show Coleman, Todd Bridges (who played Arnold’s brother Willis) and Dana Plato (who played their adopted sister Kimberly) all had legal and drug issues and Plato and Coleman both passed away at really early ages.
Again, the show knew when to bring the laughs and be upbeat and the theme song definitely brought that out. Having a good, light, vibe to it with the guitars, drums, and the eager singing, it was something that you always looked forward to watching, even if the show got dark for that week.
3. Golden Girls- From the outside looking in, you’d think this show would be about four old friends laughing and getting into some crazy adventures together, and while they did do that, most of the time this women were complete savages to each other. Talking so much shit about one another, with Dorothy (played by Bea Arthur) being the main person dishing it out, although Rose (played by Betty White) and Blanche (played by Rue McClanahan) would give it out good too. Sophia (played by Estelle Getty) , Dorothy’s mom would often steal the show with the best insults to the other 3 women. They talked about life, love, and what was probably surprising to people back then, sex (especially Blanche). The cast had great chemistry (which lead to each leading lady getting an Emmy for their performances) and the show is pretty loved by generations.
The theme, like most on the list, gives off a pretty inviting tone and acts as a simple thank you to anyone who has been your friend. Classic all around.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- The TV show that helped solidify a kid’s media empire, TMNT is pretty much timeless. The franchise has had series span the 80s, 90s, and well into the 2000s and today. While not have have been good (let’s bury the memories of the Next Mutation) for the most part the franchise has managed to endure, not bad for a series that started out as a parody of Frank Miller’s time on the Daredevil comic.
While I love every version of the cartoon Turtles, with the 2003 and current series being my favorite, the original is beloved for a reason and it’s opening theme is a huge reason why. Literally hearing just the first few seconds of the song was enough to drive kids crazy and want them to annoy their parents to buy all the Ninja Turtles things! Awesome, iconic, nuff said.
Before I get to Number 1, let’s take a moment to shine some light on an Honorable Mention
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood- To call this show timeless would be an understatement. Mr. Rogers is one of those shows that anyone, of any age can enjoy, the best neighbor that you could ask for and something that all parents love putting on for their kids. Fred Rogers is an icon of educational media, teaching kids life lessons, putting on a friendly and welcoming show, and letting generations of kids know that someone out there loved them just the way that they are. It’s hard to nail down a decade or time period for the show as it spans almost 4 decades, but I felt that it would be most at place with the other 80s theme songs. Just like the show and the man himself, this theme song is simple, upbeat, and extremely welcoming. RIP to Mr. Rogers.
And the Number 1 TV Theme song of the 1980s is…
1. The Jeffersons- Pretty much checking every box you could want for your show’s theme song, it is catchy as hell, upbeat, easy to learn, memorable, and has a lasting reputation. The theme song of The Jeffersons (song by Janet DuBois of Good Times fame and the best damn choir in TV history) is triumphant in nature, telling the story of how we have finally made it and overcame the struggle that they had. It gets you pumped up and whenever good times happen, you can imagine this song playing in the back of your mind.
The show is one of the most successful staring a mostly black cast and launched the careers of pretty much every actor on the list (with Hemsley having later success with Amen and Marla Gibbs having success with 227) and made the character of George Jefferson an instant TV icon and the theme song stands as one of the best in the history of the media. I can literally sing this thing word for word or hear it on a loop and not get tired of it. The Jeffersons simply have the best theme song of the 1980s, and maybe of all time.
So those are my picks for the top TV theme songs of the 1980s, but I know there are plenty that were left off, so in the comments below sound off and let me know some of your favorites. Also make sure to keep following the Macho Mars Blog this week as I give you my top TV themes of the 90s, which was also a really tough list to nail down to just 10 songs.
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram if you want @Jamel727 and until the next time, be safe, be cool, and I’ll catch you later!!