Monday, September 13, 2010

10 FAVORITES (2) - 1980's TV Themes PART I: Sitcoms

The 1980's was a confusing and fascinating time to grow up in. Conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were the political power players in the world. The Cold War was coming to a groundbreaking (and Wall-breaking) close throughout Eastern Europe. And the Pop Culture scene was filled with iconic images, sounds and moments that shaped everyone of my generation. Movies like E. T. and Top Gun were box-office blockbusters alongside franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Music had pop/rock icons like Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Madonna and the late self-proclaimed King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson topping the charts and selling out arenas. The music scene also had epic "Arena" rock bands like Journey, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi proving just as popular as Jacko and Madge. The "Epic-ness" of the culture seeped into the Broadway scene too as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber led a British invasion with powerful pop operas (or "poperas" as they're called) and dominated theatre in the decade.

But if there is one thing people of my generation remember about 1980's entertainment above anything else, it is the television shows that thrilled, charmed and just made us laugh throughout our childhood. And what made a great TV show in the decade? The catchy theme song. That's why I have dedicated this week's 10 FAVORITES to the decade that raised me and the sitcom themes we knew and loved (next week will be the drama show themes so stay tuned!). This week's topic:


Night Court (1984-1992), NBC
This is a very memorable theme that I heard constantly. It's not in the Top 10 only because its instrumental (no lyrics), which is not a bad thing. It's just that the other 10 shows all are memorable because of their theme's words. My brother thinks this should be good enough to be in the Top 10 because this is one of his all-time favorite sitcoms, but he can't have everything!


The Facts of Life (1979-1988), NBC
The 1980's were big on shows that taught a lesson to the kids (and their parents) watching the program. And this show, which at times was actually quite enjoyable, had an extremely catchy theme song that musically evolved as the decade wore on.


Charles In Charge (1984-1985), CBS & (1987-1990), Syndication
Scott Baio's show about a college student who is also a "manny" to an upper-middle-class family in New Jersey first aired on CBS (and got cancelled after a year). Then a few years later, thanks to fans of Baio, a re-tooled version re-emerged in first-run syndication (these were the years before cable folks!). The fun theme song pretty much stayed the same (except musically revamped '80's style the second time around).

Who's the Boss? (1984-1992), ABC
Taxi star Tony Danza played a Brooklyn ex-baseball player who moves to Connecticut to be a housekeeper to a wealthy (female!) ad exec (played by soap star Judith Light). The show was a typical family show with a twist on the "normal" family unit and it launched the career of a young Alyssa Milano. It was a "Brand New Life" for everyone who watched and enjoyed!

Diff'rent Strokes (1978-1985), NBC

With the recent passing Gary Coleman, fans scrambled all over the internet to find episodes of his iconic show where he uttered his famous line "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" The theme song (written and sung by another '80's TV icon, Alan Thicke) was another fun song that everyone in my school could sing at the drop of a hat.

Silver Spoons (1982-1986), NBC & (1986-1987), Syndication
Like Charles In Charge above, this Rick (or Ricky) Schroder vehicle had a run in Syndication for a year after being cancelled by its original network. The show revolved around Schroder and his relationship with his rich and eccentric father (played by Joel Higgins). Schroder was one of many young actors who defined the Teen Idol scene in the 1980's. The theme song is a great musical marvel, but because of the two-part harmonies, you always need a second person to sing along.

The Golden Girls (1985-1992), NBC

Betty White, who sadly is the last surviving of these dynamic ladies, is currently enjoying a great resurgence in her storied career. This series, in which she co-starred with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty as four elderly women living (and dating!) in Miami, was among the best of her career (and is said to be her personal favorite!). Just hearing the theme song reminds me of the hilarity and the comedy master class one would get in watching these women in their many situations.

Growing Pains (1985-1992), ABC
One of the several "EPIC" theme songs that filled 1980's TV. Just the opnening line, "Show me that smile again" (with it repeated by a female back-up singer), had a quality that so fit the decade. The show starred Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns as parents raising their teenage kids which included Kirk Cameron and Tracey Gold, who were big teen icons thanks to the series.

Perfect Strangers (1986-1993), ABC
Talk about "EPIC!" Listen to the opening strains! And the final notes on harmonica! The series was about a Greek immigrant named Balki Bartokomous (played to perfection by Bronson Pinchot) who lives with his American cousin Larry Appleton (played by Mark Linn-Baker) in Chicago. Balki, having come from a small Greek isle, was socially awkward when it came to American culture. So, of course, hilarity ensued! This is another of my brother's favorite sitcoms!

Family Ties (1982-1989), NBC
The show that launched Michael J. Fox's career (and garnered him 3 Emmys in the process!). This show, about a close knit family with liberal parents (played by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney) and their conservative elder son (Fox), was one of my absolute favorites growing up. I still enjoy watching it every once in a while and I think a big part of it has to do with the touching and heartwarming theme song (sung by Johnny Mathis and Deneice Williams).


Cheers (1982-1993), NBC
Did you really expect any other theme song as #1? This theme
DEFINED the decade. Everyone knew it! Even if they didn't watch the show. The antics of the Boston bar workers and patrons including ex-baseball player Sam Malone (the charismatic Ted Danson), snobbish waitress Diane Chambers (the charming Shelley Long) and the lovable Norm or "NORM!" (the great George Wendt) was a landmark series that helped NBC turn a corner (establishing "Must See TV" Thursdays) and won several well-deserved Emmys. According to my dad, it is the best of ALL the shows represented on this list, which to me is high-praise indeed.

So there you have it. The Best Sitcom Theme Songs from the decade that helped make me who I am today. Next Week: The Best Drama Theme Songs! And there are many to choose from, as it has been pointed out to me by my many friends and family.

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