Life + Health

Sitcom theme songs of my childhood.

If you were born in the United States in the 1970s and your family owned a television, chances are you got to see some pretty wonderful sitcoms (many of them produced by the great Norman Lear) when you were a kid. When I was really little I didn’t watch much more than The Muppet Show, but by the time I was six or seven years old, I had discovered the magical world of syndication—mostly notably on WNYW, WWOR, and WPIX, for those of you who grew up in and around New York—and started watching a whole lot of sitcoms after school.

Aside from providing 22 minutes of outrageous plots, slapstick comedy, social commentary, and “very special episodes”, these sitcoms had GREAT theme songs. For some reason, I’ve been getting some really BAD later-era intros (like Webster and Valerie…ugh) stuck in my head lately, and I was driven to YouTube to find relief in the arms of some of my beloved favorites from my childhood.

I know, I might as well just end this list with Three’s Company, considering it was the greatest TV show of all time (by the way, I’m totally up for discussing and debating any and all aspects of the series, as well as its spin-offs, Three’s a Crowd and The Ropers), but I’ll keep going after the jump…

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63 Comments

  • Reply Grumble Girl November 3, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I didn’t even have to watch a single one of these – I know them all by heart. Because I was weaned on television. (Believe it.)

    Three’s a Crowd and The Ropers were both terrible shows.

    Whenever I pat myself on the back, I always say, “I’m super like Schneider…”

    Get out of my head, woman!!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm

      Three’s a Crowd was indeed awful, but The Ropers had some great moments! I can’t get enough of Helen.

      • Reply Adam November 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm

        Helen Roper was one of my favorite characters on Three’s Company! I adored her caftans!

        • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 2:49 pm

          I’m actually totally torn on whether I like the Ropers or Mr. Furley better. I’ve tried many times to make up my mind, but I can’t!

          It might be sacrilege to say this, but I like Terri better than Chrissy. (And nobody likes Cindy.)

      • Reply Josh November 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm

        Anna, You won’t find a bigger Don Knotts fan than me but Mr. Furley vs. The Ropers.. The Ropers win everytime. The look Normal Fell would give after a zinger gets me everytime.

        • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 11:14 pm

          Oh, I know!!! The direct eye contact with the camera KILLS ME.

      • Reply Debbie November 4, 2010 at 10:03 am

        We always loved “The Mr. Roper Look”!

  • Reply Reba November 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    What a perfect mid (oops, not quite) afternoon post!

    The Good Times theme is one of the best “stop wallowing and s*** done” fixes there is or ever was.

  • Reply Cher@NR November 3, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I was going through each video and was thinking, “where’s the Jeffersons?” and you saved the best for last! One of my fav shows!

  • Reply Adam November 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    These shows were such an integral part of my childhood, especially Benson, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, What’s Happening and of course Three’s Company!! Actually, I was pretty much weened on all of them except for Welcome Back Kotter and Taxi, but I’m pretty familiar with them too. I have to add to your list two of my childhood staples, Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life as well. Thank you for making me smile with this post!

  • Reply It Rained on a Friday November 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Oh! All in the Family is by far my faaaaaaaavorite. I can’t believe some of the things Archie Bunker got away with saying on television, but to this day I cry and gasp from laughing so hard. In later seasons Edith’s character is developed to really stand on her own, and Jean Stapleton’s ability to do physical comedy rivaled Lucille Ball’s. Ah….good times!

  • Reply Misa November 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    gosh, i loved that “night court” song. here’s one of my personal favorites: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vbnLYROCj8

    standing tall on the wings of my dreams!!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Perfect Strangers would have been first-run for me, so I didn’t really watch it…my mother was home at night. 🙂 I was limited mostly to stuff that was in syndication when I would get home from school!

  • Reply Kara November 3, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Love hearing these old themes, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. Taxi is probably my favorite vintage sitcom theme. I also love seeing the old fonts used in the titles, especially The Jeffersons and What’s Happening. New York looked so much more gritty in these old shows compared to the gentrified sitcoms of today.

  • Reply Vanessa November 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Oh my God, I can’t even tell you how much you just made my day. Good Times? The Jeffersons? Thanks!

  • Reply Michelle November 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    yeay for FAMILY TIES! I LOVED LOVED LOVED that show.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm

      Wasn’t it great? The first few seasons were so progressive.

  • Reply Jenna @ sweetfineday November 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    You know I love all of these, but I am particularly pleased to see What’s Happening on your list. I loved this show so so much!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm

      There were a couple of summers in my life where all my brother and I did every single day was play Boggle and watch What’s Happening reruns (pun intended).

      • Reply Jenna @ sweetfineday November 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm

        Oh god I love this show. I have fond summer memories of watching this show too with my brother. He’d always try to recreate the scene in the opening credits where Duane falls off his skateboard. I think it’s in my all time faves of sitcoms. Sitcoms are just not the same anymore!!

  • Reply ModFruGal November 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I watched all of these and loved them…Ropers over Furley for me purely for the Mrs….and I feel old when I walk into a room and say “Hey Hey Hey…” a la What’s Happening and get these blank weird looks.

  • Reply Malaika November 3, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    All of these shows were like Mother’s Milk to me. There was also this show call “It’s A Living” that I used to love. It was about a blonde lady living in Las Vegas and working in a nightclub or restaurant with some other ladies. There was even a sleazy lounge singer that would hit on them. I’m not doing it justice, so here’s a link to the theme song:

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      I think Evan was into that show, but I only vaguely remember it! 🙂

  • Reply Nina November 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Hey Anna! I was born in 1980, but I watched most of these shows when I was younger, thanks to my parents. Getting to stay home sick and watch Three’s Company, What’s Happening, Welcome Back, Kotter, and Taxi with my mom was always the best! And of course, the reruns during the summer were great too. I grew up watching Family Ties, and swore I was going to marry Michael J. Fox. I miss good TV. While there are certainly some shows I enjoy watching now, they’re a scant few. Everyone seems to be into those trashy reality shows (read: Jersey Shore), and the content and quality of most other dramas and/or sitcoms is so…blah. Or yuck.

    Anyway, great post! I enjoyed the flashback! 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca November 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Wow. Just a few nights ago my husband and I had a youtube fest watching all of these! He was trying to stump me, and see how quickly I could guess them. He was shocked not only by how many I knew, but also by the fact that I knew many of them word for word! What can I say? I was a latch-key kid (you don’t hear that term anymore either, do you? I always thought it sounded like a kids’ show or gang or something… tonight on The Latch-key Kids, the kids come home from school, eat any junk they can find in the cupboard, and watch copious amounts of television!)

    • Reply Rebecca November 3, 2010 at 5:25 pm

      Forgot to add that you should look into some of the gameshow themes too! Fun!

      • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 5:27 pm

        I was really into the Price is Right, Password, and Pyramid!!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      Sounds like the Bloodhound Gang 😀

      I think kids aren’t allowed to stay home alone anymore. At least that’s what it seems like!!

  • Reply mari November 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    omg, what is this “too close for comfort”?! i’ve never heard of it, but i love ted knight!

    i was born after all of these were off air (except family ties) and funnily enough, these theme songs remind me of elementary/middle school when nick at nite and tv land had a surge in popularity. my friends and i totally had “watercooler” discussions during recess about these shows. “did you see what happened to jo on ‘the facts of life’ last night? omg!” i miss that.

    and i love that you’re a fellow three’s company enthusiast. :’) it’s tied with “i love lucy” as my favorite tv show of all time. chrissy’s my favorite blonde roommate, though. terri’s a close second. 😉

    anyhoo, awesome post!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 11:22 pm

      Too Close for Comfort was great!! Ted Knight played a cartoonist, and Jm J Bullock was there, and they lived in San Francisco, and and and…y’know, it wasn’t the greatest show, but still. Ted Knight! Jm J. Bullock!

      • Reply Debbie November 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

        i had a roommate in college we nicknamed “Monroe” after that character! I still call her that.

  • Reply kim November 3, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    For cryin out loud Anna!! It brings back lots of memories, but geez it also makes me feel old. And we’re not old! So why does it make me feel old?
    When you post things like this I get the sense that you feel nostalgic but not old, am I right?

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 11:22 pm

      Definitely NOT old, Kim. 😉

  • Reply DemMom November 3, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    This is great! My favorite theme song was probably Welcome Back Kotter. I have a lot of lines memorized from that show! And the Three’s Company theme evokes a certain memory… whatever time it came on was the exact time that my mom would start telling me to take a shower and get ready for bed. So I always imagine my mom telling me to “Get in the shower!” when I hear it. My 6 year old has recently discovered “Family Matters” and “Full House.” I don’t know how or why. But I just realized that the theme songs are almost identical! They must be written/performed by the same person.

  • Reply kim November 3, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    SERIOUSLY!!!!! I argue with people all the time about Three’s Company being THE best show ever made!!!!! I own the entire series! Even though it was one of the later episodes (season 7 i believe)…one of my all time favorite memories is when Jack was sick and went with Janet to a dinner with her creepy boss. He got drunk from taking cold medicine and drinking….
    This seriously brings back memories every.single.time i watch it! Everyone thinks I’m nuts. They think the show is corny! NO WAY! Glad to know there are others out there that share my love!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      John Ritter (may he rest in peace, gone far too soon…) was one of the great physical comedians of the century—right up there with Lucille Ball (who was a big fan), Keaton, Lloyd and Chaplin. He’s really under-appreciated. I hope someday Three’s Company gets acknowledged for being a truly great, groundbreaking show.

      I think my favorite episode ever is the one where Janet is taking dance classes, and her teacher lies to her and tells her she could be a professional. Jack has to break the truth to her, and they wind up sharing a dance together in the studio—it’s incredibly touching. Terri’s debut episode is also a favorite.

      • Reply kim November 4, 2010 at 6:17 pm

        agree and agree! john ritter’s death was devastating to me. everyone i knew called me to make sure i was ok. very upsetting.

        ahhhh, the dance episode. so sweet.

        terri’s first episode…jack and larry playing nasty tricks on her. great! great!

  • Reply Lori E. November 3, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I totally forgot about WKRP! Loved that show. I remember telling my mom I thought she was “as pretty as Loni Anderson”.

    And what about “Little House on the Prairie”? My brother and I used to fight over “That’s Incredible” and Little House. It was quite the battle as they were on the same night of the week AND at the same time. I am quite sure he got his way more often than I did. And I am positive he would feel just the opposite. 🙂

    And it still makes me sad that John Ritter is gone…

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 11:28 pm

      I know, I miss John Ritter too. 🙁

      I didn’t watch Little House, really. My sisters did, but it was too “serious” for me!

  • Reply tara November 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Oh goodness, I watched most of these. All in syndication in the afternoons on Channel 12 (Portland, Oregon). The thing that always strikes me about these shows is the film quality or maybe it was the lighting. They seemed so dark and the colors depressing. Or maybe that just happens when you use light blue paint like LaVerne and Shirley had in their living room. I know, I’m strange.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 3, 2010 at 11:29 pm

      I almost included Laverne & Shirley in this post (I LOVE that show!!), but I don’t think I really started watching it until the late ’80s when it was run on Nick at Nite. Same goes for Happy Days and Mary Tyler Moore.

  • Reply Christopher November 4, 2010 at 2:48 am

    I just played as many as possible at the same time. Avoid including The Jeffersons, it’s much louder than the rest. Most of these are pre Alan Thicke, but probably not toomany composers represented. Never thought about the Ropers being in competition with Furley, but they were sure annoying.

  • Reply Monica November 4, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Oh, this post will be with me for the next few days. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Jill S. November 4, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Just found your blog–LOVE it.

    What about The Banana Splits?! (full disclosure: i didn’t like the actual show and would turn it off after the song). “Flipping like a pancake, popping like a cork” is a routine phrase in my present life. Tra la la, la la la la!

    Otherwise, it’s a tie between The Jeffersons and Good Times.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

      That’s before my time! I was born in ’75.

  • Reply Jill S. November 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

    well, OK–Banana Splits wasn’t a sitcom. Carry on!

  • Reply Debbie November 4, 2010 at 10:10 am

    OK- great choices, but Lavern and Shirley was hands down the funniest sitcom ever! Lenny and Squiggy were the most hilarious characters.When they were on the Dating Game— OMG, I’m laughing now.
    I had a 45 record of the Welcome Back Kotter theme. how funny!
    And I can’t get the Maude song out of my head now.
    I am a little older than all of you all so my syndicated sitcoms I watched were Gilligans Island, and Leave it to Beaver. Still none as funny as Lavern & Shirley.

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 4, 2010 at 10:57 am

      I do LOVE Laverne & Shirley, but they came to me a little later in life. Same goes for Maude!!

      • Reply Adam November 7, 2010 at 8:06 pm

        Maude is an amazing show, as is everything with the late Bea Arthur!

  • Reply Carlo November 4, 2010 at 11:39 am

    All I want to say is “thank you” for brightening my day. These are brilliant.

  • Reply cajeta November 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    My fav 70’s shows are The Rockford Files, Wonder Woman, Columbo, & The Bionic Woman.
    I wish the Bionic Woman would have done a crossover episode on the Rockford Files (since Lindsay Wagner did play Rockford’s girlfriend in season 1). Wonder Woman will always be the shit.

  • Reply Liz November 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    This is great – thank you! I recently started watching Family Ties again on that new (at least it is to me) network HUB… Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Happy Days… I just wish Diff’rent Strokes and Three’s Company were also on there. Thank you, Anna!

  • Reply Kelly November 5, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Ah! So many memories, from just the comments. Esp. Jim J. Bullock and Too Close for Comfort. Totally forgot about that show! And somebody mentioned It’s A Living..which starred that blonde actress Ann, and actually was supposed to take place at the Bonaventure Hotel in L.A.

    I am old enough to have seen most of these first-run on network channels. The Mary Tyler Moore & Bob Newhart themes can bring me to tears, almost. Lots of way-back childhood memories. And what about “Alice”? “Kiss mah grits, Mel!”

    Finally: Three’s Company. That swinging kitchen door was pure comic genius. My favorite episode (of any comedy, ever) is when Terri brings home a psychiatrist who is stressed from all his weird patients and goes out to dinner with him…meanwhile, Jack & Janet think that’s HE’s the crazy one.

  • Reply erin@designcrisis November 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I feel so warm and fuzzy after reading this post — it brings back good memories of latchkey afternoons spent with my brother singing, “come and knock on my door…”

    Thank you.

  • Reply anna November 5, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    that’s a great list. i also was addicted to watching Facts of Life (which also has a spin-off) & of course Brady Bunch, but three’s co. was an awesome show! 🙂

  • Reply nicole November 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Perfect!

  • Reply kris November 6, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Man, I’ve had the crappiest day ever and this made me smile. I love that rush you get when something so important from your childhood comes rushing back to you. Those moments are less and less as I approach 34.

    Sigh.

    Thank you.

  • Reply jodi November 7, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    this is SO great. i’m glad i finally had time to watch them with the sound turned on. =)

  • Reply lsaspacey November 8, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Sha la la laaaaa….

  • Reply julia wheeler November 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    i love every single one of these! when i have a sleepless night, i still rely on three’s company to keep me company! i own all of the dvds… up until chrissy left. then it just got stupid;)

  • Reply JennyO November 11, 2010 at 12:16 am

    I’m in graduate school and for a fun project we had to do a presentation on what influenced our development. Most everyone presented on a favorite memory with a sibling or grandparent, a best friend, vacations they went on, etc. I spoke about Three’s Company and it’s influence on me. I got an A!

  • Reply Liane November 20, 2010 at 7:21 am

    yah, i felt pretty sad when john ritter died. three’s company was genius. although i haven’t watched it since those days i definitely have the urge now.
    i also loved laverne and shirley. i think it was on thursday nights?? funny the things you remember. thanks for the flashback and RIP john.

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