Sarah’s Top 10 Favorite TV Theme Songs

Really catchy title on this article, amiright? I’ll admit, I’m a shell of a woman right now, and I blame Christmas. All the shopping, and annoying carols on repeat, and more shopping, and watching Christmas movies for the podcast, and more goddamn shopping… yeah. I’m burned out.

So I’m taking a break from all that and writing about something fun, easy, and not Christmasy: television. Now, I’m no Dave McGuire, but TV is a consistent companion in my life. It provides endless entertainment whenever I need it, and I don’t have to work very hard at it. It’s simply a matter of DVR management due to my severe dislike of crappy commercials.

And what I love the most about TV are the theme songs. When done well, they prepare you for the tone of the story to be told, and to build joy and/or anticipation. When done really right, they take on a life of their own. So without further ado, here are my favorite TV theme songs.

10. Bill Nye the Science Guy

ANY kid that took a science class in the mid 90s remembers this one. How could they not? It’s catchy, a little repetitive, but I challenge any one to make a science show for kids any cooler than Bill Nye’s. And lest we forget the best matter-of-fact, spoken word lyric in all of music, “Inertia is a property of matter.” BILL BILL BILL BILL!

9. Animaniacs

(Yeah that’s ALL the variant endings…) I had trouble with this entry because I was trying to decide between this and the Tiny Toons theme, because they both effectively accomplish the same thing. They have a lot of lyrics that perfectly line up the type of show you’re about to watch and the characters therein. Not to mention, being able to sing either song in its entirety, lyric for lyric, made you a hit on the playground during recess. I racked my brain trying to come up with a valid argument as to why I prefer the Animanics theme, and all I could settle on was that I really like the different unexpected, pop culture referencey endings and the pace seems faster than Tiny Toons. So there.

8. Bonanza

Hello, random left turn. Yes, I’m stepping away from the 90s for a moment, but fear not 25 to 33 demographic, we’ll be back quickly.

For those youngins’ out there, Bonanza was a TV western that ran for 14 seasons from 1959 to 1973. But who the hell cares, because I guarantee you know the song. I do, despite never having seen an episode. (Sorry, Dad. You can take back my presents now.) Yet for some reason, whenever I go horseback riding, that song plays in my head. It’s my favorite of the classic show themes, followed closely by I Dream of Jeanne and The Monkees. This one however, is in the collective consciousness after 14 years of playing into the brains of baby boomers across America. Mission accomplished, Bonanza.

Also, can we bring back TV intros where actors just stare/smile at the camera for a very awkward ten seconds? Please and thank you.

7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Perfect 1997 post-punk-meets-Halloween soundtrack. So delightfully high school! And it then led the way for the honorable mention of the more mature, poetic theme song to the spinoff series Angel.

6. Lost

I know, I know. To call this music is debatable (tell that to John Cage, ya critics), but it changed the game on TV intros. It is purposefully eerie, distorted, and confusing. Just. like. LOST. You know exactly what you’re going to get in this box of chocolate, Forest, and that is an addictive and entertaining headache.

5. M*A*S*H

This is such a good show, you guys. Watch it. But not right now, because I’m still talking to you. This show does such a good job of juggling the theme of finding solace and humor during war, while working at a place where the injured come through and the dead leave on a regular basis. No wonder the name of the theme song is “Suicide is Painless.”

I’ll say that again. “Suicide is Painless.” Read the full lyrics of that song and tell me that that doesn’t shed a new light on that show that your grandpa liked.

4. The X-Files (Sorry, couldn’t embed this one)

Maybe it’s because I’m rewatching this show right now, but this never ceases to creep me out. It’s so perfectly ghostly and alien, or maybe my perception of those adjectives has been wholly affected by having watched this show during my crucial developmental age. Either way, I still have to skip through the intro for fear of nightmares.

Fun fact: this song reached the number one in France. I’m not kidding.

3. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

If I have to explain this to you, we’re no longer friends.

2. Cheers

You’re right, TV. I do wanna go where everybody knows my name…

Like the M*A*S*H theme (to a lesser extent), this is also a sad sounding song, but it’s beautifully hopeful too. Just the composition of the song itself is freakin lovely, and it makes me want to escape from the tedious tasks of life to a hole in the wall bar in Boston with friends and booze. Luckily, that’s what Nerds on Film is for.

1. Greatest American Hero

Guys, it’s about a high school teacher who is given an alien suit but… he loses the instructions!

Here’s the deal. This song is catchy, more family-friendly than Nancy Reagan, and better than the show itself. This regularly pops into my head while I’m working, driving, grocery shopping… it even got stuck in my head during an OB/GYN visit. I don’t know why, but the force fed inspiration coupled with a bumbling blonde afro just made for magic in 1981, and those reruns had an impact on me. And yeah, of course I want a red alien suit with powers, but who doesn’t?


Load up the comments, Nerds! What did I miss? Growing PainsThe Simpsons? Let me know!

Sarah Ashley

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