32 TV Show Theme Songs That Defined an Era

The Golden Girls Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, Betty White

There's nothing better than sitting down for your favorite TV show and singing along during the opening credits. A catchy theme song can elevate a series into something extraordinary. 

People online are sharing their favorite hits and here are the best examples. Do any bring back memories for you?

1. Dawson's Creek (1998-2003)

Dawson's Creek Katie Holmes
Image Credit: The WB.

Dawson's Creek is quintessential 2000s teen drama, and its theme song, Paula Cole's “I Don't Want to Wait,” is a big part of why it's so iconic. 

2. The O.C. (2003-2007)

The O.C.
Image Credit: Fox.

Phantom Planet's moody 2002 single “California” is a perfect way to begin a TV series about … well, moody teens. Although the track wasn't recorded specifically for The O.C., it's synonymous with the show today. 

3. Taxi (1978-1983)

Taxi
Image Credit: John Charles Walters Productions, Paramount Television.

The ABC sitcom aired for five seasons, from 1978 through 1982. Those who watched will remember Bob James' hit song “Angela.” The ensemble cast featured Judd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, and Andy Kaufman.

4. MASH (1972-1983)

Alan Alda Hawkeye Pierce Mash
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.

One of the most successful sitcoms of all time, MASH aired for 11 seasons. While the television theme was instrumental, it's based on the theme for the MASH feature film, which The Ron Hicklin Singers sang.

5. Perfect Strangers (1986-1993)

Perfect Strangers Melanie Wilson
Image Credit: Miller-Boyett Productions, Lorimar-Telepictures, Lorimar Television.

For eight seasons, viewers were treated to the adventures of Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot).

The theme song, “Nothings Gonna Stop Me Now” has been parodied several times in popular culture, including an episode of The Goldbergs.

6. The Muppet Show (1976-1981)

The Muppet Show (1980) Mark Hamill star wars parodies
Image Credit: ITC Entertainment.

When it was time for The Muppet Show, you weren't always sure what to expect from its cast and guest star.

There was one thing you could count on, though: It was time to play the music, and it was time to light the lights. The theme song was Sam Pottle and Jim Henson.

7. Knight Rider (1982-1986)

1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am - Knight Rider
Image Credit: Universal Television.

Few theme songs nailed the 1980s like Knight Rider.

From Richard Basehart's iconic voice to the catchy 80s synth,  this theme song was, and still is, an absolute vibe.

8. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)

The Andy Griffith Show
Image Credit: Danny Thomas Enterprises, Mayberry Enterprises, CBS Productions.

There may not be a more iconic whistle in television history.

Short, sweet, and incredibly catchy, millions of people have undoubtedly whistled along to The Andy Griffith Show‘s theme song “The Fishin Hole.”

9. The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985)

The Dukes of Hazzard (1979)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

Those good old Duke boys never meanin' no harm.

The theme song for Dukes of Hazzard, “Good Ol' Boys” set the tone perfectly for the show.

10. The Simpsons (1989- )

The Simpsons
Image Credits: Gracie Films, 20th Television, 20th Television Animation.

You're most likely lying to yourself if you've never hummed this theme song.

While the cold opening, mainly what Bart writes on the chalkboard, has changed, the theme song remains the same.

11. The A-Team (1983-1987)

The A-Team
Image Credit: Universal Television, Stephen J. Cannell Productions.

While The A-Team only aired for four seasons in the 1980s, its theme song continues to live on in popular culture.

Its iconic opening is as epic today as when the show debuted.

12. The Sopranos (1999-2007)

the-sopranos
Image Credit: Chase Films, Brad Grey Television, HBO Entertainment.

Alabama 3 performs “Woke Up This Morning,” the theme song for The Sopranos.

This is the first thing many fans think of after hearing the iconic HBO logo introduction.

13. Cheers (1982-1993)

Cheers Kirstie Alley, Woody Harrelson
Image Credit: Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions, Paramount Network Television.

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

That's exactly what television audiences did from 1982 through 1993, where they were greeted with this theme song before the start of the show.

14. Fraiser (1993-2004)

Fraiser
Image Credit: Grub Street Productions, Grammnet Productions, Paramount Network Television, Paramount Domestic Television.

It's only fitting that the Cheers spin-off has a theme song that's just as iconic.

Starring Kelsey Grammer, Jane Leeves, David Hyde Pierce, and John Mahoney, Fraiser aired from 1993 to 2004.

15. WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982)

WKRP in Cincinnati
Image Credit: MTM Enterprises.

As God as my witness, we all thought turkeys could fly. WKRP in Cincinnati aired on CBS.

16. Married With Children (1987-1997)

Married... with Children
Image Credit: Embassy Communications.

The iconic Fox sitcom paved the way for the future of television, airing from 1987 through 1997.

Its theme song is Frank Sinatra's “Love and Marriage.”

17. Magnum PI (1980-1988)

Magnum P.I.
Image Credit: Belisarius Productions, Inc., Glen A. Larson Productions, T.W.S. Productions, Inc., Universal Television.

Starring Tom Selleck, the CBS crime drama was a fan favorite.

Its guitar riff and solo remain iconic today, as they set the tone for the beloved television series.

18. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

The Jeffersons
Image Credit: T.A.T. Communications Company.

Admit it: you know all the lyrics to “Movin' On Up.” Ja'net DuBois performs the theme for The Jeffersons.

19. The Facts of Life (1979-1988)

The Facts of Life Cloris Leachman, Nancy McKeon, Kim Fields, Mackenzie Astin, Mindy Cohn, Lisa Whelchel
Image Credit: T.A.T. Communications Company.

A spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life features an ensemble cast. “You take the good, you take the bad… the facts of life, the facts of life” will forever ring in the minds of those who watched the show in the late 70s and 80s.

20. The Golden Girls (1985-1992)

The Golden Girls
Image Credit: Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, Touchstone Television.

I have one thing to say to Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia: Thank you for being a friend, which is also the name of the hit theme song.

21. Laverne and Shirley (1976-1983)

Laverne and Shirley
Image Credit: Henderson Productions, Miller-Milkis Productions, Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions, Paramount Television.

A spin-off of Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley aired for eight seasons from 1976 through 1983.

Its theme is as beloved as the show it spun off from.

22. Good Times (1974-1979)

Good Times John Amos, Esther Rolle
Image Credit: Tandem Productions.

The CBS sitcom aired for six seasons with the opening gospel ringing out “Good times!”

The show originated from characters appearing in the sitcom Maude. Florida was a housekeeper for Maude Findlay.

23. The Beverley Hillbillies (1962-1971)

The Beverley Hillbillies
Image Credit: Filmways, CBS Television Network.

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed.

The theme for The Beverley Hillbillies perfectly captures the theme and essence of the show.

24. Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980 / 2010-2020)

Hawaii Five-O
Image Credit: Leonard Freeman Productions, CBS Productions.

A theme song so nice, they used it twice.

The original run of Hawaii Five-O lasted from 1968 through 1980 on CBS. The Hawaii Five-0 remake updated the iconic theme song when it aired from 2010 through 2020.

25. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)

The Brady Bunch
Image Credit: Redwood Productions, Paramount Television.

Here's the story of a lovely lady.

Like it or not, The Brady Bunch theme song is an ear worm that will easily get stuck in your head.

26. All in the Family (1971-1979)

All in the Family
Image Credit: Tandem Productions.

For nine seasons, All in the Family aired on CBS. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest television sitcoms ever.

The show's theme, “Those Were the Days,” was performed by the show's stars, Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton.

27. Happy Days (1974-1984)

Happy Days 1
Image Credit: Miller-Milkis Productions, Henderson Production Company, Inc., Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions, Paramount Television.

Over 250 episodes of Happy Days aired for 11 seasons, making it one of the most successful sitcoms of the 1970s.

Happy Days used two theme songs: “Rock Around the Clock” from 1974 through 1975. The more well-known “Happy Days” was used from 1975 through 1984.

28. King of the Hill (1997-2010)

King of the Hill
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

The animated sitcom from Mike Judge aired on Fox for 13 seasons and featured 259 episodes.

Rock band The Refreshments performs the theme song, “Yahoos and Triangles.”

29. Law & Order (1990- )

Law and Order
Image Credit: NBC Universal Television Studio, Universal Media Studios, Universal Television.

The longest live-action scripted American primetime television series are Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the original Law & Order.

Along with the Law & Order: Criminal Intent spin-off, they all use variations of the same iconic theme song.

30. Twin Peaks (1990-1991)

Twin Peaks Sheryl Lee
Image Credit: Lynch/Frost Productions.

David Lynch's mystery serial drama aired on ABC for two seasons in 1990 and 1991. Its iconic instrumental theme was composed by the legendary Angelo Badalamenti.

The same theme was used when Showtime revived the series for Twin Peaks: The Return.

31. Sesame Street (1969- )

Sesame Street
Image Credit: Sesame Workshop.

Airing for 53 seasons and featuring over 4,600 episodes, a lot has changed over the years on Sesame Street.

One thing has remained the same, though: its theme song. “Sun-ny day, sweeping the clouds a-way.”

32. Peacemaker (2022- )

Peacemaker
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

James Gunn, the creator of the HBO series, set out to make an opening credits scene that no one would skip.

Thanks to the absurdist dance number and Wig Yam's “Do Ya Wanna Taste It,” he succeeded.

Author: Jake Valentine

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Video Games, Pop Culture, Entertainment

Bio:

Jake Valentine is a journalist and editor who has been covering the video game and entertainment industries for over two decades. At Wealth of Geeks, he is the company's Operations Manager and helps oversee the content published on a daily basis. He is best known for his knowledge and expertise in World of Warcraft, as well as his love for food, beer, and pop culture.