You know, watching today’s TV sitcoms just ain’t the same as twenty years ago. Don’t get me wrong. The technology is miles apart. We have single-camera shows that out-slick their studio-based counterparts, and modernized three- or four-camera studio-based shows that outwit their predecessors. But there’s something sorely missing in our current crop of "laffers." And that’s a great theme song.
Back in the 80s, the theme song meant something. It was survival of the catchiest. It had to have a hummable hook. And more importantly, it had to have lyrics that not only got you singing along, but that taught you a valuable life lesson. Theme songs were our education away from school, and more than likely, we learn a lot more from some power chords and a so-white-he’s-pale singer waxing lyrical than we ever did from our teachers.
And so, it is with great pleasure, that Sceen Junkies presents the Top 12 80s Theme Songs to Live By.
#12 FULL HOUSE
The opening words echo modern man’s common plight. "Whatever happened to predictability… the milkman… the paperboy… and evenin’ TV?" It sets us up to ask ourselves the very same questions, only to turn around with a hopeful, "Don’t sell your dreams so soon! Everywhere you look… there’s a heart, a hand to hold onto!" Uncles Jesse and Joey took these lyrics too far when they decided to take advantage of Danny Tanner’s generosity. Freeloaders. On a side note, how much does the lead singer sound like Rod Stewart?
#11 FACTS OF LIFE
"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both… and there you have the Facts of Life." This subtext of this inspirational ditty tells us that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, in the case of the show’s rich boarding school girls, when life gives you lemons, shut the f*ck up because there are starving, malaria-ridden children in Africa and no African Mrs. Garretts to save their asses and teach them a valuable lesson in the end.
#10 PUNKY BREWSTER
You know, maybe the world IS blind. But I don’t think it’s just a little unkind, as the lyrics go. Especially not in the case of this show’s eponymous lead character, whose mother ABANDONED HER IN A F*CKING SHOPPING MALL!!! But, this theme song does teach us that when we’re feeling down in the dumps, all we have to do is "turn around," and a girl will be there to cheer us up. Many times have I heeded this song’s message when I’m depressed, but usually I only end up getting dizzy from all the turning. Actually, I just think this song’s theme is, "Count yourself lucky like this girl, who got adopted by an old man who didn’t want to sell her into the underaged sex trade."
#9 WHO’S THE BOSS?
This song is all about choosing the right paths to take in life, and that there’s always a "brand new life around the bend." It’s about finding redemption. Consequently, it’s the song most listened to by serial killers on the lam and folks in the witness protection program. But it’s such a great metaphor for us all, especially those, like Tony Danza’s character, had a pro baseball career cut short and who are looking into nannying as a second career.
#8 HEAD OF THE CLASS
There are no lyrics to this one, but the melody is enough to get it in the top 12. I play this on repeat on my iPod every morning I wake up, head out of the apartment and hop on the back of the plant nursery delivery truck to work. Pay special attention to how the song changes up as soon as our protagonist arrives at the school where he teaches. It rips into a Jan Hammer-inspired synth-fest. It makes me want to go back to school. It also makes me want to snort a bunch of cocaine, and I’ve never even seen cocaine.
#7 GOLDEN GIRLS
This song is about the power of friendship. It speaks to the special bond felt specifically by female geriatrics, but applicable nonetheless to any gender, age or race. As long as you have a friend, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t have any friends, I suggest memorizing the lyrics to this song, then immediately running out into a darkened alley and singing it into the ear of the first hobo you come across. You’ll have a friend for life. (Warning, this friend may turn out to be a leech like Full House’s Uncle Jesse.)
#6 SILVER SPOONS
Similar to Facts of Life, this song teaches us to appreciate what we have. In this case, the "father" singing in this song is talking about his multi-million dollar fortune and that sweet friggin’ choo choo train he had running through the house. (God dammit, I want that TRAIN!) Breathe… okay. Anyway, on top of telling you to appreciate what you have, it also says to not appreciate it TOO much. Instead, try appreciating the small things, because one day, you could own a bank, and the government could buy it and you will be ruined.
#5 SMALL WONDER
I’m including this one because it so perfectly captures the upbeat spirit that was the 80s. It also masks the dark secret that is Vicky, the robot girl created by the show’s father, who was compensating for the lack of love felt for his son (possibly played by the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan – yes, let’s perpetuate the rumors.) Going by this theory, I recommend this song to any depressed parent who’d like to wean themselves off Zoloft. It’s better than eventually building a robot child. You’d just come off looking like a pervert anyway.
#4 PERFECT STRANGERS
As the soulful wail of the harmonica introduces us to stock footage of New York and Chicago, we know we’re in for a tribute to the American Dream. This song is about accepting strangers into your life, even if those strangers tell you they’re your distant cousin from an obscure country in the Mediterranean. It’s a song about tolerance that we need to hear. How many cousin Balky’s are still wrongfully locked up in Guantanamo? None, you say? Don’t be ridiculous!
#3 FAMILY TIES
Get a little funky, get a little soulful with the Keatons in this he said/she said call-and-response between two warbling lovebirds. The chorus is simple: "What would we do, baby? Without US?" The answer? Maybe heroin. But it doesn’t matter because look at this beautiful family that we made instead… even if our son Alex is a member of the Hitler Youth.
Ah, the Cheers theme. A song about coming home. A song about escaping reality and spending a little quality time with your pals. A song that tells us when your lover leaves you, your rent is overdue and you hate everyone, you can always chug that booze until you can’t see your hand in front of your face. (For teetotalers, replace "booze" with "zest for life.")
#1 GROWING PAINS
Oh my god, do I even need to explain why this one is #1 on the list? You don’t even need to watch this video, because you’re already singing it to either yourself, your friend sitting next to you, or that ex you just called up in tears in hopes of wooing her back with a little "As long as we got each other…" hooey. This is hands down the greatest 80s sitcom theme song of all time. It means something different to everyone. It’s why Alan Thicke is "great actor" and not just "great Canadian actor." Bow to this theme song. It is your master.
MR. BELVEDERE: Because I can’t understand a word of Leon Redbone’s lyrics.
CHARLES IN CHARGE: Because this "Charles" fellow they sing about sounds a little too much like a fascist dictator.
DIFF’RENT STROKES: While the song preaches tolerance, it does not have Perfect Strangers’ harmonicas to drive the message home.
– PATRICK SCHUMACKER
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