In October 1989, TVT Records released Pretty Hate Machine, the debut album by Nine Inch Nails, who at the time, were the only artist signed to their label. But TVT stood for Tee Vee Tunes, and they'd made their money by taking full advantage of Gen-X's childhood nostalgia jones during late '80s/early '90s, releasing CD comps full of theme songs from back in the day. In the spirit of that blast from the past, here's our list, in alphabetical order by TV show:
1. All in the Family
The lyrical content is full of losers (Herbert Hoover, the LaSalle car) and right-wing dogma (“welfare state”) but it’s still a fun tune.
One of the most universally recognized tunes and, in the right hands, pretty rockin’.
3. The Greatest American Hero
Cheesy as all get out and the textbook definition of a guilty pleasure but we're suckers for the chord changes in the “Who could it be?” section.
4. Green Acres
Pure, silly fun.
5. The Andy Griffith Show
A nice tune that just won’t go away.
“I’ll Be Your Man”: The Black Keys in the house!
7. I Dream of Jeannie
8. I Love Lucy
These two shows elevated the theme song to an art form. Each tune still as awesome half a century later. Props to both for having a sweet groove, as well.
Liked the original but really got into this one (“Suicide is Painless”) when we heard it covered by the late, great pianist/composer Bill Evans and his trio on a 1980 posthumous release.
10. Mr. Ed
(See number 4.)
11. The Odd Couple
12. Sanford and Son
In the same class as #s 7 and 8 and very near and dear to our heart, the theme to Oscar and Felix’s adventures (written by Neil Hefti, who also wrote the Batman theme) captures that late ‘60s/early ‘70s vibe. Meanwhile, if Quincy Jones were to be remembered only for “The Streetbeater” aka the Sanford and Son theme song, he should be mighty proud.
13. Sesame Street
From its original bubblegum incarnation to covers ranging from salsa to metal, this one is still awesome.
14. The Simpsons
During the ‘80s and ‘90s shows mostly went for the jingle approach (if you changed the lyrics to, say, to the Cheers, Family Ties, or Who’s The Boss? themes to plug furniture or Campbell’s soup back then, no one would’ve noticed). The Simpsons went for the old school approach and for better or for worse adopted the tune that will immortalize Danny Elfman.
15. Welcome Back, Kotter
Brooklyn! The hijinks of Kaplan, Travolta and co. have long faded from our interest, but this tune by The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian still makes us smile.