30 TV Theme Songs Every 30-Something Knows By Heart
These tunes will be there for you!
Say what you will about millennials, but if you grew up in the 1990s, you bore witness to some of the greatest TV shows ever. From Friends to Frasier to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the sheer amount of definitive shows that were born in the era is nothing short of staggering. What's more, pretty much every one of them came locked and loaded with an unforgettable earworm of a theme song. Don't believe us? Well, read on. We've rounded up the creme de la creme of '90s-era TV theme songs that every 30-something will remember.
The Nanny (1993-1999)
"She's the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan." Few theme songs do a better job of introducing their show's lead than the intro ditty of The Nanny, which tells you everything you need to know about the "flashy girl from Flushing," Fran Fine. Written and performed by Ann Hampton Callaway, "The Nanny Named Fran" is as memorable as the outfits Fran Drescher wore on the series. And for more great tunes from the era, listen to these 20 One-Hit Wonders Every '90s Kid Remembers.
Scrooge McDuck and his grandnephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, had been around for decades when DuckTales premiered, but the Disney animated series ensured that the characters would become just as beloved for a new generation. You'd be hard-pressed to find a 30-something who can't sing along to the catchy theme song—or at least "woo ooh!" at the mere mention of the show.
Step by Step (1991-1998)
Step by Step was the 1990s version of the '70s classic The Brady Bunch: a family sitcom about blended family, contractor Frank Lambert and salon owner Carol Foster, both of whom have three kids of their own. The theme song, "Second Time Around," reflected Frank and Carol trying to find happiness again after giving marriage another shot—and it definitely made you want to go to a carnival.
The Simpsons (1989-Present)
There's only one lyric—the title of the show—but chances are you find yourself singing along to this instrumental theme anyway. While 30-somethings may have grown up with The Simpsons, almost anyone would recognize the show's theme by Danny Elfman. And why not? The longest-running American sitcom is now in its 31st season, making it one of the most generation-spanning programs in history.
The Drew Carey Show (1995-2004)
There were actually three different theme songs used over the course of The Drew Carey Show's nine-season run, but while "Moon Over Parma" and "Five O'Clock World" have their merits, the one you probably remember best is "Cleveland Rocks," performed by The Presidents of the United States of America.
Hey Dude (1989-1991)
Kids who grew up on Nickelodeon in the '90s spent a lot of time at the Bar None Dude Ranch, where the characters of Hey Dude worked every summer. The show may have faded in memory for many, but it would be hard to forget that theme song about making your home out on the range. "Better watch out for those man-eating jackrabbits—and that killer cacti!"
Salute Your Shorts (1991-1992)
Nickelodeon also introduced kids to Camp Anawanna and its campers and counselors. Though Salute Your Shorts didn't run as long as Hey Dude did, the theme song is even more fondly remembered. Anyone who took a school field trip in the '90s probably joined in on a group sing-a-long on the bus. "Think Anawanna-wanna, speak Anawanna-wanna, live Anawanna-wanna! Ug!"
Mad About You (1992-1999)
Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt starred on this sitcom as married couple Paul and Jamie Buchanan. Reiser also co-composed the theme song, "The Final Frontier," which is all about taking that last leap into sharing your life with someone. Mad About You will get a reboot later in 2019, and we can only hope they revive the classic theme along with it.
What is an "opinionation"? Who knows? But it doesn't matter, because the theme song to Blossom is so fun that you don't need to think about it too deeply. The series was originally going to use the Bobby Brown track "My Prerogative" over the opening credits, but producers ended up opting for the original song "My Opinionation," performed by Dr. John, instead.
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991-1995)
You may not remember any of the geography knowledge you were supposed to learn while watching educational game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, but you absolutely know every word to the theme song. A cappella band Rockapella performed the song, along with all the original music on the series (and along with that famous '90s Folgers commercial).
Hangin' With Mr. Cooper (1992-1997)
Hangin' With Mr. Cooper had a few different theme songs, including "Soul Man" and "Cooper, Cooper." But the first season song, "Hangin' With My Man," might be the most iconic, especially since it both talks up the titular Mr. Cooper and drags him down: "He may be cute and all, but that don't pay this month's rent."
That '70s Show (1998-2006)
Nostalgia for the 1970s was big when That '70s Show debuted in the late '90s. And for this sitcom about a group of teens in Wisconsin, "In the Street" made perfect sense as a theme song. First, it was originally recorded by Big Star, the rock band from the '70s, and second, it's about being young and doing pretty much nothing at all—much like the beloved characters on the show.
America's Funniest Home Videos (1990-Present)
Yes, for 29 years, audiences have tuned in to watch people make complete fools of themselves on camera. Long before Vine and TikTok and viral videos, there was America's Funniest Home Videos—and its patriotic theme song, "The Funny Things You Do." Given the nature of the show, however, "America, America, this is you" might inspire mixed feelings.
Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1992)
As you could probably gather from the title, these guys were tiny, toony, and yes, a little looney. But the theme song for Tiny Toon Adventures captured the irreverent tone and surprisingly sophisticated humor of the animated series, which was geared toward kids but had enough adult references and jokes to keep grown-ups entertained. If you grew up with this show, you probably missed most of that.
Before the 2018 CW reboot, there was the WB original. Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, and later Rose McGowan starred as the Charmed Ones. The theme song was the Love Spit Love cover of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" which had always sounded a bit spooky, but in the context of the series, it gained true witchy vibes.
Saved by the Bell (1989-1993)
Who could forget the sound of that school bell? No, not the real one—the one that meant Saved by the Bell was about to start? The series followed a group of students at Bayside High School, and despite the occasional storyline about caffeine addiction, the drama was pretty low-key. The theme followed suit, with a focus on mundane high school problems like just missing the bus or the dog eating your homework. (Sure it did, Zack. Sure it did.)
Party of Five (1994-2000)
Though ostensibly a teen show, Party of Five tackled some very adult subject matter and themes. And that was kind of the point, since the series was about young people forced to grow up very quickly in the wake of sudden parental deaths. The theme song, "Closer to Free" by BoDeans, reminded us that, despite responsibilities, "Everybody wants to live like they want to live."
Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990-1996)
You know who was fighting climate change nearly 30 years ago? Captain Planet, the leader of the Planeteers, and a force for environmental good. The animated series was designed to teach kids about the dangers of littering and waste, and the theme song promised that Captain Planet would "take pollution down to zero." 'Cause saving our planet is the thing to do!
Kelsey Grammer, who starred as radio psychiatrist Frasier Crane, sang the show's theme song, "Tossed Salads & Scrambled Eggs." Frasier was a spin-off of Cheers, and, while the theme couldn't quite match the instantly iconic "Where Everybody Knows Your Name," it's still well-remembered. Now, what do tossed salads and scrambled eggs have to do with anything? We may never know.
South Park (1997-Present)
It hasn't been on the air quite as long as The Simpsons, but South Park is still going strong, and that 22-season run is nothing to scoff at. The theme song (written and performed by Primus) has changed over time, as the series and its characters have evolved. But the core riff has stayed mostly the same, and true fans can sing all of the original lyrics, including Kenny's mumbled lines. (Fair warning: They're filthy.)
All That (1994-2000)
Nickelodeon's sketch comedy series for kids had a major impact on a generation that grew up watching the channel's Saturday night programming block, SNICK. TLC performed the theme song, which has been stuck in the heads of millennials for decades. There's still something exciting about hearing that intro: "Fresh out the box, stop, look, and watch. Ready yet? Get set. It's Aaaaallll That!"
Living Single (1993-1998)
Of course Living Single, which starred Queen Latifah as Khadijah James, had a theme song written and performed by the hip hop royal herself. The series offered important representation of black women and the powerful bond of their friendships. The themes are timeless, even if the theme song itself is a little dated ("And in a '90s kind of world, I'm glad I got my girls").
Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
There are so many reasons why Gilmore Girls enchanted viewers: the heartfelt mother-daughter story, the snappy dialogue, Rory's (occasionally misguided) boyfriends. But surely the theme song deserves some credit as well. Carole King's "Where You Lead" is a moving, memorable tune that captured the show's undeniable warmth.
Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993-1998)
While older generations might have grown up with Mr. Wizard, 30-somethings learned about science from Bill Nye. The theme song to Bill Nye the Science Guy is easy enough to sing along to—you just have to be willing to shout "Bill! Bill! Bill!" over and over again. And if you grew up with Nye's quirky brand of education, it's hard not to join in.
Family Guy (1999-Present)
Along with South Park and The Simpsons, Family Guy is another irreverent animated sitcom that has shown impressive staying power. It also might have the best theme song of the bunch, a modern update on All in the Family's classic "Those Were the Days."
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Before he was a major movie star, Will Smith was playing a fictionalized version of himself on the fish-out-of-water comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show's theme song, "Yo Home to Bel-Air," was written and performed by Smith's hip hop duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince—and it might be better remembered than the show itself. (We know you know every word.)
Dawson's Creek (1998-2003)
It's hard to overstate the influence that Dawson's Creek had on a whole bunch of young people who came of age in the '90s—not to mention teen dramas on TV. The series perfectly captured how intense and serious life can feel when you're a teenager. Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait" made the perfect theme song for a show about kids with very adult concerns.
Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006)
Malcolm wasn't like other kids his age: He was kind of a genius, and that made getting along with his not-so-intellectual family even more difficult than it is for the average tween. The theme song, "Boss of Me" by They Might Be Giants, succinctly captured how that struggle feels in three simple words: "Life is unfair."
Full House (1987-1995)
What did ever happen to predictability? Full House may not have been the most surprising series, but it certainly did portray an unconventional family. The important thing wasn't how the Tanner family and those around them were related, however, so much as the love they shared. Everywhere you look, there's a face of somebody who needs you!
With a 10-season run and consistently high ratings, Friends had a tremendous cultural impact that's still being felt—and young people continue to discover the series. That's why The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You" has been unavoidable for the last 25 years. Play the song and watch everyone around you start singing, complete with perfectly timed claps. And if you loved the most quintessentially '90s sitcom, revisit the show by learning about the 30 Celebrities You Forgot Appeared on Friends.
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