The 25 best TV theme songs of all time

The 25 best TV theme songs of all time

There's really nothing better than a good television theme song. Whether it's the memorable lyrics or catchy instrumentals, they just don't make TV theme songs like they used to — or at all, for that matter. That's why we have to look to the past to get our fix. Here's a ranking of the 25 best TV theme songs ever.

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25. "The A-Team"

"The A-Team"
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Composed by two giants of TV scores, Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, the opening song of the popular NBC hit of the 1980s is catchy enough to get stuck in one's head. A brief narration explains the genesis of "The A-Team" premise, and the snare drum foundation makes it bombastic and fun all at once. 

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24. "The Monkees"

"The Monkees"
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The opening song to the popular 1960s show was also a radio smash — on a longer version — for the made-for-television group. Written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart with lead vocals by Micky Dolenz, the song remains a staple of oldies radio. While The Monkees, as a musical group, had other hits, this remains one of the most iconic songs of 1960s television — and beyond. 

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23. "WKRP in Cincinnati"

"WKRP in Cincinnati"
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A comedic sitcom about a radio station should have a great theme song, and WKRP did not disappoint. It actually had two. The opener was composed and written by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson, the show's creator, and performed by Steve Carlisle. It was a light, yet poppy, cut and certainly more well-known compared to the rocking closing number done by Jim Ellis. 

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22. "The Rockford Files"

"The Rockford Files"
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Looking for a great ring tone, give this classic Post/Carpenter creation a "ring." The answering machine introduction, "This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I'll get back to you ...," is genius for the 1970s and was a top 10 Billboard hit. It was back when theme songs were as much a part of the shows as the characters and storylines. Plus, James Garner's Rockford is still one of the coolest P.I.'s around.

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21. "Sanford and Son"

"Sanford and Son"
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Another stellar ringtone option, the popular instrumental theme actually has a title. "The Streetbeater" was composed by the legendary Quincy Jones. For those fans of the 1970s Redd Foxx hit, it's hard not to hum this catchy tune while driving past a junkyard or throwing a wave to the junk truck trolling down the alley. 

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20. "Dallas"

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Like the state of Texas, everything was big about the famed CBS drama — from the Southfork ranch to the storylines (Who shot J.R.?) to the theme song. Composed by U.S.-based Jerrold Immel, the theme embodied power — that's what the Ewing family was all about. Sports fans should have loved the aerial shot of Texas Stadium in the opening credits. 

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19. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show"
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The song "Love is All Around" is the perfect backdrop for Mary Richards' iconic hat toss in the opening credits of this beloved TV sitcom. The track was a hit for singer-songwriter Sonny Curtis, who also penned the rock classic "I Fought the Law." The song about the girl "who can turn the world on with her smile" has been covered over the years by the likes of Hüsker Dü and Joan Jett.

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18. "All in the Family"

"All in the Family"
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This is one of the more unique theme songs in television history, mainly because the shows stars Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton sang it before a live audience. "Those Were the Days" is best known for Edith Bunker's (Stapleton) wailing at the piano. The song actually was a top 30 hit on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart in the early 1970s. 

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17. "The Golden Girls"

"The Golden Girls"
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Before becoming one on TV's most memorable theme songs, "Thank You for Being a Friend" earned some chart success for singer-songwriter Andrew Gold. However, the version associated with Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose was sung by Cindy Fee, who gained a good deal of her musical success singing commercial jingles.

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16. "The Flintstones"

"The Flintstones"
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Is there any more recognizable TV cartoon theme song than "Meet the Flintstones?" The song was composed by show creators Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, along with Hoyt Curtin. The B-52's did a fine cover of the track in the 1990s, and the theme has managed a legacy that only seems to get stronger. "Yabba Dabba Doo!"

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15. "Happy Days"

"Happy Days"
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After a modernized version of Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" was used as the theme song in the show's early run, the more familiar tune simply titled "Happy Days" was played. Written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, it was a top five hit for 1970s one-hit wonders Pratt & McClain and a song that products of the '70s and '80s still probably know by heart.

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14. "M*A*S*H"

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Made popular by the movie version of "M*A*S*H," "Suıcide is Painless" carried over as the opening credits theme for the legendary television series as an instrumental piece. Released in 1970, the song's lyrics were written by Mike Altman, the son of the movie's director, Robert Altman. The music was written by Johnny Mandel, who also song the popular song.  

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13. "The Brady Bunch"

"The Brady Bunch"
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In an instance of how a theme song introduces the basis of the TV Show, there's perhaps no better intro song than "The Brady Bunch" theme. Starting in the second season of the show's run, the children of the Brady family sang the iconic opening number about the story "of a lovely lady" and "a man named Brady."

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12. "The Love Boat"

"The Love Boat"
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This memorable theme song was written by Charles Fox and Paul Williams; maybe that's why the latter was on the show so much. The Jack Jones version was used mostly during the popular show's run, with a Dionne Warwick take played for the final season. We get to see who is on tonight's episode and just love it when Isaac, our bartender, gives us the double point with a big smile.

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11. "The Dukes of Hazzard"

"The Dukes of Hazzard"
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Singing about a pair of "good ol' boys," country music legend Waylon Jennings earned himself a No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the early 1980s with the Dukes' theme. The song appeared on Jennings' 1980 "Music Man" LP but rose to prominence due to the popularity of the sitcom that had young boys sliding across the hoods of cars they wish had no doors.

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10. "Mission: Impossible"

"Mission: Impossible"
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One of the most recognizable theme songs of all time, it began with the hit TV series that premiered in the late 1960s and was part of the film series starting in the late 1990s, which was made popular by Tom Cruise. The iconic theme, penned by Lalo Schifrin from Argentina, also reached No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968.

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9. "Growing Pains"

"Growing Pains"
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A few of music's heavyweights took their cuts at singing the catchy "Growing Pains" theme "As Long As We Got Each Other." B.J. Thomas was the male voice for most of the popular hit's run. Jennifer Warnes and Dusty Springfield also lent their talents as the female presence. There were also various adaptations and versions of the theme, like during Halloween, that the show used.

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8. "Diff'rent Strokes"

"Diff'rent Strokes"
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Alan Thicke starred in "Growing Pains," but he wrote the lyrics and a good chunk of the music, along with his former wife Gloria Loring and Al Burton, for this memorable gem. "It Takes Diff'rent Strokes" might still be stuck in the heads of 1980s children who made watching Arnold and Willis appointment television.

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7. "The Greatest American Hero"

"The Greatest American Hero"
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It can be argued that "Believe It or Not" was more popular than the show itself. Put together by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer, the song, which was performed by pop singer Joey Scarbury, actually reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit the top spot on the Record World Chart. It was also the theme of George Costanza's creative answering machine in an episode of "Seinfeld."

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6. "Welcome Back, Kotter"

"Welcome Back, Kotter"
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Not only was the theme "Welcome Back" synonymous with the ABC smash sitcom, but it also was a No. 1 hit for John Sebastian (Lovin' Spoonful) in 1976. The song, which featured exterior shots of the borough of Brooklyn, the show's setting, tied in wonderfully with the gritty, underdog spirit and loyalty that made "Welcome Back, Kotter" a huge success.

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5. "Cheers"

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The theme to the show about the bar, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" is a tune in which sitcom fans should never forget the words. It's simple, classic and just sounds friendly. If that makes any sense. Written by Gary Portnoy, who also provided the vocals, and Judy Hart Angelo, the song made an appearance on both the U.S. and British charts.

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4. "Hawaii Five-0"

"Hawaii Five-0"
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Another iconic instrumental track, it captured the theme of the Hawaiian-based crime thriller that was just as popular as the TV series. Composed by famed CBS music man Morton Stevens, who won a pair of Emmy Awards for the song, a version of the theme done by The Ventures peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969.

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3. "The Jeffersons"

"The Jeffersons"
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Ja'net DuBois, who enjoyed her own TV success as a member of the cast of "Good Times," co-wrote "Movin' on Up." She also sang one of the most recognizable theme songs of all time, complete with a gospel choir to give the piece more oomph and passion. It's hard not to clap those hands and do a little swaying to this diddy.

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2. "Facts of Life"

"Facts of Life"
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Perhaps this is the most memorable effort from the power theme-song trio of Thicke, Loring and Burton. The show's star, Charlotte Rae, even provided some vocal work on an early version of the sung. Loring's take on lead vocals, however, was the most consistent and probably the best offering. "You take the good, you take the bad ..." and we have one fabulous TV theme song. It's so catchy that we can't stand it. Wait, of course we can.

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1. "Laverne & Shirley"

"Laverne & Shirley"
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Sure, there are plenty of great, iconic theme songs, but it's hard to beat this beauty from one of the funniest and most endearing sitcoms ever. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight
Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated."
 No lines are more memorable to those who cherish '70s and '80s sitcom openers. "Making Our Dreams Come True" was a hit for little-known New Yorker Cyndi Grecco. Grab your glass of milk and Pepsi, put the headphones on and enjoy.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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