Holy Moley. I tried to come up with a Top 10 list, but so many possibilities made it impossible to limit myself. To rank them, I used the following criteria:
1) Does the song stay in your head? The '70's were a great time for TV themes. After Seinfeld, we get lucky if a song has a 10-second riff to introduce it, let alone a song. And, honestly, of the current shows with themes, how many are even remotely memorable?
2) Does the song capture the spirit of the show? Good songs can be adapted to incidental music throughout the show, capturing all sorts of moods. To make this list, the song and show have to have become intertwined in my memory.
And so, the list:
10) The Six Million Dollar Man. A song to inspire a generation of nerdlings. The preamble will live with the themes to "Star Trek" and "Battlestar Galatica" as one of the great all time sci-fi introductions.
9) Taxi. Melancholy and bittersweet, just like the humor in this character-driven sitcom.
8) Good Times. OK, Norman Lear sitcoms are going to have a prominent place on this list. Few theme songs have aged as well as this uplifting soul anthem.
7) Happy Days. A tip of the hat to the use of Bill Haley 's "Rock Around the Clock," in the first season. The original song used to replace it did a great job of capturing the innocent doo-wop spirit of the show.
6) Welcome Back, Kotter. Right. I'm a teacher who is working at the same high school from which he graduated, so this show has a special place in my heart. But even when I was a student, this song was the epitome of cool, with the snappy beat and laid-back swing.
5) The Jeffersons. How many people still know all of the lyrics to this song? Honestly, it still makes me want to get up and dance.
(redubbed soundtrack, so don't say I didn't warn you, thanks to youtube's antipiracy policy)
4) Sanford and Son. How many shows today would be brave enough to use Quincy Jones' funk as a theme? The music was a great counterpoint to the grizzled obnoxious funnyman Redd Foxx.
OK, not the Quincy Jones version, but a remix that starts a few bars in. Damn you, Youtube!
3) MASH. In the movie, this song, with its ironic key change, is one of the better jokes in Robert Altman's classic. The soft somber tones that the TV show uses for its theme set an entirely different tone. It took several seasons for that tone to be fully realized by the show itself. And the tune was versatile enough to serve as a comic sting when the need was there.
2) All in the Family. All you needed to know about Archie and Edith was there in the opening duet. And they performed it themselves. How cool is that?
1) The Rockford Files. If ever there was music that would make me want to become a seedy private eye who lived in a trailer, this is it. I mean, James Garner is cool enough, but with this song behind him, he became a legend.
A montage. Sorry, it's the best I could do.
Runners Up (in no particular order): Three's Company, Love Boat, Barney Miller, WKRP In Cincinnati, Bray Bunch, Laverne and Shirley, SWAT, Charlies Angels