Being an 80s kid, I watched a lot of TV. Probably too much, really, though in my defence, my family wasn’t the boardgame-playing type (we did get into Trivial Pursuit for a bit, but I quickly found out I was a fact nerd and tended to win most of the time, which meant no-one wanted to play). My father worked a lot and often wasn’t home until after 7pm, and my mom was usually looking for a quiet moment to watch something.
The 80s had the best TV themes. Yeah, some came from the late 1970s – The Jeffersons, Welcome Back, Kotter, Happy Days and spinoff Laverne & Shirley, and even Three’s Company – but I think the 80s were the pinnacle of theme songs. By the time the 90s rolled around, they were shortening them to increase time for commercials, and by the new millennium, some themes were down to two tones.
For most people, Magnum P.I. was the best theme song. How could you not love that quick guitar and the orchestral hits? And, c’mon, a guy with a killer moustache driving a Ferrari around Hawaii? That was easily my second favourite of them all. The A-Team was in there, of course, mostly for the sweeping military fanfare. (I still use it to drown out earwigs that won’t go away. Try it, it works.) Knight Rider had a neat electronic beat to it, as did Airwolf’s, though neither of them had the driving and instantly recognizable drums of Miami Vice. Not that Night Court’s unmistakable bass intro was any slouch. And although I didn’t watch the show, I can still recognize Hill Street Blues without blinking.
There were more “dramatic” theme songs that I still remember fondly, ones with actual words. Do you remember “The Unknown Stuntman” from The Fall Guy? (You, know, the show that gave us Heather Thomas in a bikini every episode…) Lee Major actually sang that. Then there was “Believe It Or Not” from The Greatest American Hero, which hit #2 on the Billboard charts because it was that good. (The show was great, too, I absolutely loved but barely remember it and hey, Netflix, any chance you could get off your asses and license some of this older stuff??) And then there’s probably the two most famous sung TV theme songs of the 1980s: “Where Everyone Knows Your Name” from Cheers and “Thank You For Being A Friend” from The Golden Girls, songs I periodically hear because both shows are on regular play in the house, as they’re two of Alex’s favourite shows, and reruns are a thing.
Then there’s the dregs of the 80s – the crappy sitcom themes that haunt my memory and no amount of drinking seems able to kill those particular brain cells: Family Ties, Charles In Charge, Silver Spoons, Diff’rent Strokes, and The Facts Of Life, among others.
My favourite, if you haven’t figured it out by now, remains the theme from Simon & Simon. It was also one of my favourite shows, one that my mother and I watched together. Sure, I was barely 10, but I liked the action and the mysteries involved were also appealing to a curious kid (one reason Magnum P.I. was also high on the list). Another show that I really wish Netflix would get on the list.
All that music remains well wedged in my head, coming out at strange times. But not for the wrong reasons. Though I remember none of those TV show plots (let’s face it, most of them were exceedingly forgettable), the happy memories of watching something fun in the evenings, knowing what nights and times a certain show was on, negotiating wiht my mom to let me watch more than my allotted (and never suitably tracked) TV time are a part of my childhood.