When you’re feeling down and out, most people are satisfied being placated by a hug, a fattening meal, or escaping into a book. When I’m at my lowest point, however, the only thing that can pull me out of the pit of despair is a classic television theme song.
There’s something about their wholesome, saccharine vibe that puts all my fears at ease and reminds me that there’s still some good left in the world. They’re catchy enough to sing along to and short enough to survive mass syndication without becoming nauseating.
In recent years, the TV theme song has gone the way of the dinosaur, but the 90s knew how to do it right. If you wanted to pitch a sitcom to a network, you had to have a song that would be stuck in everyone’s head after only a few episodes.
Many of you may nitpick some of my choices, suggest others, or tell me that these shows are more a part of the 80s than the 90s. To you, I say “phooey.” All of these sitcoms ran into the early 90s at the very least and their reruns ran well into the 2000s and beyond. They’re absolutely still a part of any 90s kid’s memories.
Easily one of the most recognizable television theme songs of all time, the Cheers theme takes any listener’s lonely soul to a world of familiar faces and a cozy place to drown your problems in a favorite alcoholic beverage.
A jazzy piano tune, creeping bass line, and soulful vocals blend effortlessly to accurately represent Chicago’s hardworking spirit and never die attitude. The lyrics tout the timeless joys of family togetherness in the face of harsh realities and help convey the overall theme of the show. Family Matters is far more than just an excuse for Jaleel White to hike up his pants and break things.
Golden Girls is all about friendships surviving throughout the years and the theme song helps deliver the same message about the importance of loved ones. The gracious attitude of the singer makes me all warm and fuzzy inside and I truly believe she’s grateful for the companionship of a lifelong friend. If I threw a party and invited everyone I knew, I would be thrilled to learn the biggest gift was from my best friend.
It’s only proper that a show that defines manliness have the manliest damn theme song on television. Unlike most of this list, Home Improvement opts for an instrumental theme song with catchy guitar riffs, grunts, breaking glass, and the sound of power tools. I can’t possibly think of any song that encapsulates the male population more succinctly.
Like the neon colors, squiggly lines and flying animated shapes of the video, the Saved by the Bell theme is absolutely radical. It screams 90s with its shredding guitar licks, lyrics about being late for school, and self-indulgent guitar solos. Every time I hear this song it reminds me of coming home from school every day and watching the reruns on TBS. Back then, it was called the Superstation and lived up to its name by hosting multi-episode blocks of Saved by the Bell every morning and afternoon.
No one can deny the charisma of Will Smith and nowhere is it more apparent than in the theme song for his own TV show. It’s the only case I can think of where the star of the sitcom raps his own opening theme, but it works on every level. The bass and drum heavy backbeats are the perfect canvas for the Fresh Prince’s storytelling rhymes. What’s even better is that Will Smith takes the time to perform this song for adoring fans at his shows to this day.
A legendary rock n roll masterpiece before the Wonder Years was even on the air, Joe Cocker’s cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends” is one of the greatest covers of all time. His tortured, heartfelt Woodstock performance plastered this song into popular consciousness and it’s been a part of rock history ever since. The Wonder Years is my favorite sitcom of all time and its poignant musical choices are a large part of that obsession.
As probably the most family-friendly show ever produced, Full House’s theme song had to warm hearts and remind people everywhere that families didn’t have to be traditional to be loving and supportive. The general feeling of the song is hopeful and optimistic and the singer reassures everyone that “a light is waiting to carry you home, everywhere you look.” On a more personal level, Full House has always been a favorite show of mine and one that I turn to when I’m feeling crappy. No one can be sad when they’re gazing upon Uncle Jesse’s mullet or listening to the delightful puns of a certain Mr. Woodchuck.
Growing Pains is the quintessential family sitcom. A strong contender for the number one spot, the theme song is a ballad sung in duet. The two vocalists sound like a man and woman in love speaking of days past and days to come, never giving up their dreams along the way. The Growing Pains theme song always puts me in a good mood and makes me nostalgic for the simple pleasures of childhood. It borders on happy and sad the same way the show does and doesn’t hide the fact that growing up isn’t always easy.
When I think of the most perfect, appropriate TV theme song, Perfect Strangers is always the one that comes to mind. Its lyrics set up the fish out of water scenario perfectly while explaining that despite life’s obstacles, you can always find a way to fly “on the wings of [your] dreams.” The final phrase “nothing’s gonna stop me now” is a nice vote of confidence for people struggling in their lives. Much like how Larry’s troubles dealing with Balki turn into a meaningful friendship, life’s obstacles can turn out to be cherished experiences all their own.