The top 10 TV sitcom theme songs from the 1980s
What happens inside your brain when you read the following words?
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
It’s time to get a drink with Norm and the gang, that’s what. That and an overwhelming desire to sing the chorus.
The importance of a theme song really can’t be overstated. 40 years later, we’re still humming these tunes to ourselves, remembering fondly the TV shows that accompanied those songs, and eventually coughing up however much money it takes to rewatch them online.
The best TV theme songs are really those which can stand on their own. Half the time, the lyrics (if there are any) have very little or nothing to do with the actual show. They just give you a general vibe. A vibe that could make or break careers.
These songs are the cremé de la cremé of TV themes from the 1980s. These are the songs you’ll still throw on a playlist, that you’ll hear in passing and then just start weeping with joy (maybe that’s just me).
For the purposes of sanity, we’re sticking here only to live-action TV shows, and we've narrowed it down to sitcoms only. Cartoons (and other genres) will get their full due, don’t you worry your pretty little head.
We’re also not pulling any of this crap where the show barely aired for two months in 1989. These are shows that were fully embedded in and products of the ‘80s. I’m also looking for songs that were either made specifically for a show or were recorded in the ‘80s and didn’t do anything until the show picked it up.
With that in mind, here are the best TV theme songs from sitcoms of the 1980s:
Kind of an obvious pick here, especially since I brought it up in the opening paragraph. But hell, who doesn’t want to just start shouting when the chorus kicks in:
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
For many, Cheers acted as a proverbial bar where all their worries could be left behind. I’m not sure how many worries I really had as a young child in the early ‘80s, but even I could feel the weight of the world lift when this song started to play.
The only weird part is when you hear the full song, which gets oddly specific about the person you are — for example, you’ve apparently had three fiancés and your therapist hates you.
"Theme from Cheers (Where Everybody Knows Your Name)" was written by Gary Portnoy, who was already a successful songwriter for artists like Dolly Parton and Air Supply. The longer version actually came after the initial success of the theme song and served as a relative hit in its own right.
The Greatest American Hero
While this was not the greatest show, it did churn out one of the greatest theme songs of all time.
This is quintessential ‘80s theme song. A little intro that eases you into it before the singer belts his heart out.
The Greatest American Hero was sort of like an early-80s Shazam!, where a random dude is gifted a suit that grants superpowers, but immediately loses the instructions. Honestly, the song really has basically nothing to do with the show and it could have been used for countless sitcoms.
Just as long as it was recorded and shared with the world, that’s all that really matters.
If there’s a single song that could be used as the theme song for the 1980s in general, this is it.
Just a classic instrumental, feel-good vibe with enough eclectic piano that you quickly know which decade you’re in.
But get this, the song was composed by a dude who was actually named Alf. Alf Clausen, to be exact, who also worked on The Simpsons and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Show me that smile again. And again and again and again, because this is one of the most inspirational songs ever penned.
Once again, this song could really be used for any number of sitcoms, but they picked a very appropriate one in this case.
Contrary to popular belief, Seaver patriarch Alan Thicke (R.I.P.) did not write “As Long As We Got Each Other”, but man it would be cool if he had!
More importantly, Growing Pains remains the only sitcom to this day with a character named “Boner”.
Need a song that simultaneously tells you you’re in gritty New York City but also in for a whacky good time? This is that f***ing song.
Ernie Watts, who played saxophone for Marvin Gaye among others, just absolutely crushes Jack Elliot’s composition. That slappy bass also clearly paved the way for the Seinfeld theme — so the next time you’re playfully pretending to make Seinfeld-esque bass noises, show a little gratitude.
The ‘80s were a time of unabashed optimism in America. So much so, that even a guy from a made-up island (“Mypos”) can just show up at his cousin’s doorstep in Chicago and have a chance at making it.
And that’s reflected in the TV show’s theme song aptly titled, “Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now".
Stand tall ya’ll. Stand tall.
Charles in Charge
For once we have a theme song that actually references the show it’s made for. Apparently sung from the perspective of one of the kids Charles is, indeed, in charge of, this is a catchy tune that is breathlessly pure ‘80s.
In fact, Charles (whose last name is never revealed) is so good at being a live-in babysitter/wiseguy knucklehead, he’s allowed to be in charge of two families. After the show was put on hiatus following the first season, they brought it back in 1987 but had to put a new family in place to accommodate casting changes.
The Golden Girls
If you haven’t drunkenly sung this song to your friend at 3 a.m. outside a Denny’s, then you haven’t truly lived.
To be fair, I’m stretching my own criteria here a little. This song was originally a modest hit in the late ‘70s before it was ever attached to Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy. But there was a cover version recorded for the show, so, screw it, I’m including it.
The Facts of Life
Alan Thicke didn’t write the Growing Pains theme, but guess what? He co-wrote this bad boy.
"You take the good, you take the bad” is my new motto. It’s my new back tattoo. It’s so damn perfect, and somehow this song is joyous and soulful with a hint of sadness.
Recognize that voice on “Every Time I Turn Around”? That’s right, it’s our boy Gary Portnoy.
I guess ol’ Gary was eager to replicate the success of his Cheers anthem. But even with Punky, those heights were simply unattainable to replicate. Still, this is one of the better ‘80s sitcom theme songs.
It’s not drab and boring like the theme for Family Ties, nor is it overly dramatic like the theme to Murder She Wrote. Nor is it from a fake '80s show that belongs in the '90s, like Full House.
It’s not the best song on this list, but it's a song that’s worthy of making the list.
Which song did we leave off and why do you think it should be on here? Let us know and we’ll tell you why you’re wrong…