The 10 Most Memorable '80s TV Theme Songs

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Oh, how we miss the '80s.

It was a happy time, when life was full of neon spandex, leg-warmers and high-top Reeboks as far as the eye could see. Sure, there were too many dudes sporting man-perms, but they always threw in an accompanying mullet for good measure, and the beloved beard was always an added accessory.

But as much as we admire the creativity of the '80s fashion trends, the questionable attire wasn't the best part of the decade. Nor was the Lite Brite, on which your baby brother nearly choked on the tiny colored bulb, or the Teddy Ruxpin, which quickly became suspected of demonic possession. Those things were all great, but there was something much, much better: the TV theme songs.

You see, in those days, having access to four basic TV channels (and maybe a few more on cable, if you were lucky) meant that all the major networks had to fight to the death for your prime-time attention, which they did by not only bringing you the serial drama -- Dallas, anyone? -- but by rippin' shit up from the opening credits on with the theme song.

Here are the ten most memorable. Thundercats, hoooooo!

10. 21 Jump Street
The 21 Jump Street theme was endearingly cheesy and dramatic in an epically '80s manner, so it was perfect for a cheesy drama about a group of baby-faced undercover cops. The fact that Holly Robinson, who played Judy Hoffs on the show, was the one who busted out those sweet vocals on the song (aptly named "Jump") only made it more of an earworm.


9. The Facts of Life
Surely you know enough of this one to sing along, but don't worry -- you can just hum everything other than the part where you bust out with "the facts of life, the facts of life." What you may not know is that the song was composed by Al Burton, Gloria Loring and Loring's then-husband, Alan Thicke.

Yes, the same Alan Thicke who is responsible for Robin Thicke is partially responsible for this awesome theme song. But you can take that up with him on a different day, because we're willing to forgive that indiscretion today, especially if it means we can show our love for this memorable '80s ditty.


8. Pee-wee's Playhouse
Man, Pee-wee's Playhouse was on some crazy shit back in the '80s, what with the talking chair and the creepy red-headed puppet thing and all. But the show, which excelled at the art of madness, was at its absolute best when it came to the music, and the theme song is no exception.

It starts off all mellow, and everything is really kind of zen and normal, with birds chirping and flowers blooming, and then? Sheer freaking madness. All of the calm tones are overturned, and a crazy Betty Boop-esque voice chimes in, singing about the fun of Pee-wee's playhouse while the possessed furniture dances. Cyndi Lauper, singing under the pseudonym "Ellen Shaw," was the one providing those Boop-like vocals, which somehow makes perfect sense.

(Side note: I remember this song specifically because the adults in my house watched the show with a cult-like devotion. I'm not saying they were stoned, but it's definitely suspect.)


7. Miami Vice
Created and performed by Jan Hammer, it was successful not only as the theme song for Miami Vice, but also as an actual single outside of the television world. As an instrumental single, it landed on the Billboard Hot 100, and eventually found its way to No. 1. It remained the last instrumental song to pull that kind of weight until usurped in 2013 by that shitty Bauuer song, "Harlem Shake." But that can't claim a spot on this '80s list, so whatever.


6. The Greatest American Hero
You may not remember the actual show this song was on, but you'll remember the song. Promise. "Believe It Or Not" enjoyed a really popular run on both the charts and the TV show, and in 1981, it wound up in the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, where it sat alongside other rad '80s tunes by Dianna Ross and Lionel Richie. Not too bad for a show intro, eh?

You may have even been privy to this song in recent years, since it's been used on shows like Seinfeld, where it was the outgoing message on George Costanza's answering machine. The song has used and abused on My Name Is Earl, The Chipmunks, Farenheit 9/11, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Gilmore Girls, and basically everything else ever. So there you have it.


5. Knight Rider
Everybody knows the theme song for Knight Rider. Knight Rider involved David Hasselhoff. It also involved a talking car named Kit, and everybody knows Kit. Kit was awesome. End of story.


List continues on the next page.


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7 comments
FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Ok, first it was K.I.T.T., not "Kit."  Secondly, there were more than 4 stations growing up in the 80's.  There was 2, 8, 11, 13, 20, 26 and 39.  By my count, that's 7...


(And that doesn't count the Spanish Stations or the Home Shopping one, which IIRC, were 51 and 55.)

cd32281
cd32281

Airwolf is not on here why?!

Smedley
Smedley

@FattyFatBastard

Yeah, but as I recall in the 80s, channel 55 was an actual, regular channel before it went all home shopping. I remember seeing The Prisoner for the first time on that channel. 

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