Sep 22, 2009

The Sitcom Theme Tune

There are two forms of music I seem to be able to recall with almost perfect clarity: radio ad jingles and dodgy sitcom themes.

The reason for the first is no doubt Stockholm Syndrome - over seven years working in commercial radio will see jingles for tile manufacturers and retirement villages stick in your brain like a straw in firm jelly.
The second comes from years of plonking myself down in front of the teev and absorbing everything lame the late 80s and early 90s could throw at me.

It's no surprise that I was hardly a trendy TV viewer. I never watched Australian cult classics like The Big Gig or The Late Show live; I was over in the Fast Forward camp trying to copy Jane Turner's Russian accent, or laughing at zany secretary Betty on Hey Dad! (She used to put white-out on the computer monitor! Ahh, those were some crazy antics.) Possibly my only redeeming feature was that I never watched any soap operas or Hey Hey It's Saturday.
American sitcoms were my real joy - and there's something peculiar about those late 80s/early 90s ones. It was before the Seinfeld/Friends revolution: a time when sitcoms where encouraged - nay, required - to have cheesy dialogue;  family-friendly topics and sentimental "I've learned my lesson" moments in every episode.
The key recognition factor though was their theme songs. These days your average TV comedy simply rolls credits over the opening sequence, or perhaps has a brief title slide. There's a perverse kind of art to TV theme songs and credits - with dollops of cheese a given.
My favourite: Perfect Strangers. Who doesn't remember knockabout cousins Larry and Balki, whose Dance of Joy would find its way into every episode, to the delight of pre-krump-era kids? The opening credit sequence is so wonderfully naff, it's almost inspiring. "Standing taaaaaaaaaall, on the wings of our dreams/Rise and faaaaaallll, on the wings of our dreams!" It almost makes me want to move to Chicago to have wacky adventures with a distant, non-region-specific-accented cousin.
The producers behind Perfect Strangers were a couple of blokes called Miller & Boyett, and they were responsible for a bunch of the sitcoms that peppered my pre-teen TV watching. It's no surprise, then, that they got the same songwriters in to pen the themes, including the dinky tune for Perfect Strangers spin-off Family Matters. Remember Steve Urkel? You'd forgotten, hadn't you? All that hard work and now I've just gone and put Urkel in your head for the entire day. But I tell you, for a while there in the early-90s the peak of comic genius - at least in the schoolyard - was hitching your pants up to under your shoulders and nerdily asking "Did I doooo thaaat?"
Step By Step was one - a heavily-Thighmastered Suzanne Somers and post-Dallas-career-slump Patrick Duffy doing a modern take on The Brady Bunch. Step By Step tried introducing a character they hoped would capture the public imagination like Urkel did: sadly, stoner cousin Cody's catchphrase "Dude!" failed to set the nation alight.

Miller & Boyett also created the king of these dodgy, saccharine sitcoms - Full House. I remember feeling so excited when that title sequence would start, with the jaunty drums and the shot of the whole family in a convertible driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so absolutely pristine plastic perfect - from John Stamos' hair, to the smiles on the Olsen twins (years before they found fashion and drugs and combined the two to adopt what Tony Martin aptly described as their "scagged-out badger" look).

There's so many others in this ouevre:

Who's the Boss?  I know, geddit? Who IS the boss? Because Judith Light runs the household and employs Tony Danza, but remember - he IS the man.

Growing Pains Show me that smile Kirk Cameron, you ka-waaa-zy ka-wistian!

Family Ties Possibly the ickiest theme song ever. I feel dirty just listening to it.

The Golden Girls Possibly the best theme ever. Sing this song aloud sometime - I guarantee you people will join in. I think we all remember The Golden Girls fondly. They had them some sass. And pluck. A bit of gumption thrown in as well.

What sitcoms and theme songs do you remember - lovingly or otherwise?


  1. I saw Bob Saget (the dad from Full House) on Comedy Central doing standup a month or so ago. It was seriously the most profane thing I've ever heard. Talking about how he wanted to bang his costars (including Stamos) and saturation bombing the place with KRude's favourite F-bombs. Astonishing. And almost funny.

  2. I will thank you to NOT dog the Family Ties theme song, it is quite tremendous. Sha-la-la-laaa.

    There was a time when I regarded Full House as my most favourite program - but I now realise they were dark, sad times.

    And finally - tile manufacturers? Is there any chance you are referring to "CEEEE TEEE EEEH-EEEEMMM...CER-AAAAMIC TILE MAR-KET"? I will die singing that jingle.

  3. Hmm a bit more modern but i love both the Tru Blood theme and the one from The Hollowmen

  4. Always liked 'Mad about you!'.

    "They say nobody's perfect, but that's really true this time."

  5. Don’t talk to me about Stockholm syndrome; try working in Traffic having to spend all day scheduling the ads and jingles and listening to said commercial radio for quality control purposes.

    I’ll find myself on occasion, say cutting up some veges for the evening’s dinner, and will suddenly, in a fit of almost Tourette's afflicted psychosis, burst out “MUSHrooms, the great allroundeeeeeeeeeeer....FUCK!”

  6. Been watching A LOT of Magnum P.I. lately and felt slightly ripped off the first time when I remembered that the theme song is just an instrumental piece.

    Does Magnum qualify as a sitcom?

  7. Dr Yobbo - Yeah, it turns out Saget was totally cast for his boyish good looks, not for his savage stand-up. Have you seen "The Aristocrats"? A top view, but make sure the kiddies are far away when you watch it. ;)

    Jasper - ARGH! You just put CTM in my head FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. I guess I did bring up Urkel.

    Beeso - Hollowmen is good. Tru Blood is one of these series that it seems everyone in the world is watching except me. Somehow it's passed me.

    Dan - never watched "Mad About You"!

    And Anonymous - MUSHrooms! MUSHrooms! That is such a good example. Why is it the radio jingles get into your head so?!?!?

  8. In answer to your question: I believe the rational argument is that because they are forged in the vilest pits of Hades, put through an intense vetting process of Evil mendacity which charts the intensity of the four Cs of Doom.; catchiness, cheesiness, and commonplace consistency, and finally spat out through the anus of the Goat Lord of Darkness Cthnakrull in a pandemonium of bloodied monkey feet and soiled virgins, all leads them to be stuck in our heads until our dying die.

    This is why, seemingly inexplicably, the parting words of many our of fellow human beings are often, “there’s never been a better time......!! *ugh*”

  9. One of my FAVOURITE things to do before an impro show is jam with folks doing 80's and 90's tv show themes. I'm sure we hit a bunch of the classics last time - including Perfect Strangers and the Family Ties theme (which I find gloriously horrible and fun). It's fun to watching a bunch of improvisers realise they all had the same dorky tv watching habits :)

    NPH lamented the loss of good TV show themes on the Emmys this year.

    My favourite TV show themes (sadly) are usually instrumentals: Magnum PI, The A-Team (unless the voiceover bit at the start counts), Simon and Simon, the old Battlestar Galactica. The theme to Hardcastle & McCormick was very Magnum PI-ish but with lyrics.

  10. Ooh, almost forgot. There was an awesome Brisbane band Miles from Nowhere (no longer with us) that used to drop commercials in between songs.

    I can remember them doing the classic 7-2-7 convenience store ad ("I forgot the coffee/I'm all out of shampoo/We're gonna have a party/And I've gotta clean my sandshoes" ... "There's onearoundthecorner from you").

    They also did the old Alma Park Zoo ad (that I can't remember now, but it was way better than their current one).

  11. I quite enjoy this parody:

  12. I still remember holding my double tape deck up to the tv speakers and recording the song to Cheers. And then playing it over and over again. Liked this :)