Latest posts by James McCormick (see all)
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The art of the theme song. For TV, there was a time when a theme song was the proper introduction to a series. You’d be flipping channels. There were less channels back then. But then you’d hit 8 p.m. And all of a sudden a show would pop on and you’d be watching an intro, sometimes with lyrics (which many times would tell you a story about the series, almost like a refresher for anyone watching for the first time). Or for someone like me, you watch these theme songs over and over, when they were on for the first time and years later, listening to the words and wondering why many of them, even for some really bad shows, worked so well.
It’s a lost art. Don’t get me wrong. I love a lot of theme music for TV shows that are out now. Shows such as Stranger Things, Westworld, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr. Robot, etc, have great songs and soundtracks that work amazingly in the context of today’s viewer. But if you’re like me, there’s something about a story being told before you even watch the show that is a wonder to behold. (Also, a show that has been brought up to me and now I’ve watched the two different themes, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, seems to harken back to the days when a story was told via song so I will be checking it out very soon).
What I want to bring to the reader is a peek into theme songs that stuck with me from childhood until now, and even some for older shows that wowed me for the first time, just like I felt when I’d find something in the TV Guide (remember that?) or channel surfed but for a shorter amount of time due to the fact that I only had about 15 channels. It still took me roughly hours to finally land on something, but when you finally did, it was all worth it.
August 13, 1982. That’s when Where Everybody Knows Your Name was recorded. Just writing and reading those words brings back memories of watching Cheers, when it was on NBC, and being too young to get many of the sexual jokes (or many of the jokes as it was), yet loving to spend time with this group of wonderful weirdos in a bar that I wish I could go to. I couldn’t drink yet, but I knew when I could go to a bar, it would be like this. Sadly it never was this cool, but the show and the theme are timeless, one that I can’t help but sing as loud as I can. And there’s something about the old timey drawings while the theme plays for a minute that brings a smile to my face.
The theme was written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo,with Portnoy singing the iconic lyrics. Portnoy is someone who wrote a few themes I love, like the Punky Brewster one and Mr. Belvedere (one I will be discussing at a later date). This was the third attempt at the theme, the first two being rejected (“My Kind of People” and “Another Day”). But finally, the Charles Brothers loved this one with the catchy refrain (with lyrics that had to be re-written a bit), and a bit of history was made. What makes the song even cooler is that Portnoy was asked at the last minute to do the vocals, and instead of hiring a group of singers, did all the vocals himself, recording himself 6 times on top of each other for a more chorus sound.
The song has been given accolades throughout the years, voted as the best theme of all time by the editors of TV Guide (seriously, remember them?). And it’s well deserved. It’s a song that just puts you in the right mindset for what the show is about to bring you. What’s even more insane is that there is a longer version that Portnoy recorded which is about 2 and a half minutes (of course too long for an actual theme song), and tells a more darkly comical tale of depression. Such things as your lights going out and the check is in the mail. Your third fiance didn’t show. Your shrink ran off to Europe and didn’t even write. And one of the strangest lines: And your husband wants to be a girl.
It’s such a weird song when you sit and listen to the words and appreciate just how much this person needs to go to Cheers and get a few drinks in them to alleviate some of the pain. Maybe it’s showing alcoholism is a fine way to do so, but I don’t look at it like that. Sometimes friends you only see at a magical bar is all you need to get through your life. And that’s kind of sadly beautiful. Why else would the show be one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, with 11 seasons and 270 episodes to its credit. Try to binge watch that one. Top all that off with one of the best spin-offs of all time, Frasier, and the show is a milestone on the highest pedestal.
Making your way in the world today
takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries
sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?