The Best '80s TV Theme Songs (That Didn't Make Our Bracket)

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Ah, the 1980s… a great era for leg warmers, Reaganomics, and TV theme songs. Our Theme Song Thunderdome bracket is already littered with '80s classics like "Cheers," "The Golden Girls," and "Family Ties." But there are still plenty of other theme songs from that decade we love that didn't make the cut. So in honor of National Geographic's new docu-series, "The '80s: The Decade That Made Us" (debuting April 14), we're rolling out 15 more theme songs that make us yearn for the days of Ewings and Huxtables.

"The Cosby Show"

Back in the day, catching the new opening credits to "The Cosby Show" each season was nearly as important as watching the show itself. While the intro sequence was always a blast -- often filled with "The Cos's" kooky dance moves -- and almost ever-changing (Seasons 6 and 7 shared an intro, due to a legal snafu), the music was always based on the same instrumental piece: "Kiss Me," composed by Stu Gardner and Bill Cosby. Over the course of the show, the theme was reimagined by "Don't Worry Be Happy" singer Bobby McFerrin (Season 4), the Oregon Symphony (Season 5), jazz saxophonist Craig Handy (Seasons 6-7), and trumpet player and composer Lester Bowie (Season 8). "Kiss Me" didn't make our bracket, but there's no doubt that it's a classic! — Maya Salam

"Knight Rider"

Yeah, yeah, this show's more than three decades old now… but this song is still pretty damn cool. Driven by a pulsating techno beat, the instrumental "Knight Rider" theme set the stage for the 1982-86 NBC action drama, starring a pre-"Baywatch" David Hasselhoff as enigmatic crime-fighter Michael Knight and his talking supercar, KITT (voiced by Mr. Feeny!). The ominous narration is a bit baffling ("A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist"… WTF?) and we can't remember co-star Patricia McPherson for the life of us -- but we still want a car with a "Turbo Boost" button. — Dave Nemetz


The impact of the usually peppy instrumental "Dallas" theme, which preceded the show's original 1978-91 run, was demonstrated with TNT's makeover on the tune for the special J.R. Ewing/Larry Hagman memorial episode of its "Dallas" sequel this season. When the theme song was slowed down to a more somber version, accompanied by images of Hagman in his trademark Stetson, many fans were sent reaching for a tissue or two. — Kimberly Potts

"Growing Pains"

"Show me that smile again"; the intro theme to "Growing Pains," titled "As Long as We've Got Each Other," epitomized the warm and fuzzy (and funny!) '80s sitcom-family love. Sure, brainiac Carol Seaver (Tracey Gold) and her bad boy brother, Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron), might have mercilessly mocked each other on the series, but we always knew that the Seaver bond was strong. And if you really listen, the lyrics are actually some of the most touching and cheese-free of the decade. Grammy and Emmy Award-winner Steve Dorff composed the music and John Bettis wrote the lyrics. Bettis has also written songs for pop music's biggest stars – including The Carpenters, Diana Ross, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. No wonder those lyrics are legit! — MS

"Perfect Strangers"

"The Odd Couple" with an international twist, this ABC favorite paired uptight journalist Larry with his long-lost rube of a cousin, Balki Bartokomous, who arrived on Larry's Chicago doorstep from the distant land of Mepos and insisted that we all cease being ridiculous. It was equal parts silly slapstick and sappy sentiment, the latter being reinforced by the show's way-over-the-top theme song, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now," complete with achingly earnest vocals and triumphant lyrics about starting a new life. Not that we don't know every single word. (And that final, mournful harmonica bit at the end? Heartbreaking.) And now we do the Dance of Joy! — DN

"Full House"

You know our bracket is competitive when "Full House's" unmistakable intro tune, "Everywhere You Look," doesn't make the cut. The infectious opening song to one of the most family-friendly, syrupy-sweet sitcoms ever was co-written by composer Bennett Salvay, series creator Jeff Franklin, and the raspy-voiced Jesse Fredrick, who also sang the ditty. Fredrick was actually a '80s-'90s sitcom-song master, also performing the opening theme for "Family Matters," "Perfect Strangers," and "Step By Step." Want to give the "Full House" theme a listen? You got it, dude! — MS

"Charles in Charge"

The cast often changed, save star Scott Baio and "Eight Is Enough" alum Willie Aames as his sidekick/BFF Buddy, and even the theme song's tempo went from a mellow tune in Season 1 to more of a rockin' little number (relatively speaking) by the time the series hit syndication. But one thing remained the same: You couldn't get the chorus out of your head for several days after hearing those "Charles in charge, of our days, and our nights" lyrics. — KP

"The A-Team"

Along with "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Knight Rider," "The A-Team" formed the Holy Trinity of TV shows every boy watched in the early '80s. (We speak from experience here.) And the opening credits definitely deliver the goods: guns, explosions, cars driving through walls… it's basically pornography for eight-year-old boys. The theme is all blaring horns and military drums, as we meet cigar-chomping leader Hannibal, smooth operator Face, nut-job pilot Murdock, and door-busting bad-ass B.A. Baracus. Even the military-style font is awesome. — DN

"Punky Brewster"

"Every time I turn around, I see the girl who turns my world around," and that would be one Penelope "Punky" Brewster, the colorfully mismatched little girl who, along with her dog Brandon, was adopted by a grumpy old photog and sparked this memorable theme song. The tune was upbeat, while also acknowledging Punky's sad early circumstances ("Maybe the world is blind, or just a little unkind"), and like any good TV theme song, it was stuck on a loop in your head after the show aired. "Punky" theme song trivia: The tune, titled "Every Time I Turn Around," was co-written by Gary Portnoy, who also co-wrote the theme for "Cheers." — KP

"Who's the Boss?"

It's the age-old question: Who's the boss? Well, maybe not age-old, but for eight seasons (1984-1992), everyone wanted to know when the sexual tension between Angela Bower (Judith Light) and Tony Micelli (Tony Danza) would break. And with those first few lyrics of the "Who's The Boss" intro -- "There's more to life than what you're livin', so take a chance and face the wind" -- you knew you were in for 30 minutes of '80s sitcom gold. The show's opening, "Brand New Life," was written by Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter, the series' creators and executive producers. Grammy Award-winners Larry Carlton and Robert Kraft composed the music. Over the course of the show, there were three variations of the ditty, sang by Larry Weiss, Jonathan Wolff, and Steve Wariner, respectively. — MS

"Magnum, P.I."

The mustache, the Ferrari, the theme song… the "Magnum, P.I." theme is among the instrumental TV theme gems written by Grammy and Emmy winner Mike Post, who also penned theme songs for "The A-Team," "CHiPs," "Hill Street Blues," "Law & Order," "NYPD Blue," "L.A. Law," "The Rockford Files," "Quantum Leap," "Blossom," "Doogie Howser, M.D.," and "The White Shadow," i.e. 99.9 percent of the series that aired on all networks in the '80s. Okay, we exaggerate… only a bit. — KP

"Gimme a Break"

This Nell Carter sitcom might be best remembered for launching the career of a young Joey Lawrence (now we know who to blame!), but we're still ardent fans of its theme song, sung by Carter, which was probably much better than the show itself. A sassy slice of funky soul, the theme has Carter cooing the show's title over some very '80s synths as we see wacky bits from the show. (Nell vacuums up all the water from a fish tank! Nell strangles her scale!) We can't remember a single episode of this show, or half of the cast, but whenever someone says "gimme a break," we still add "'cuz I sure need one..." — DN

"Night Court"

For nine seasons from 1984-1992 -- before wacky judge Harry Stone presided -- "Night Court" fans grooved to the bass-heavy, jazzy-fabulous instrumental intro. Jack Elliott, who served as the Grammy Awards music director for 30 years straight, composed the theme music. He also co-wrote the theme songs to "Barney Miller" and the original "Charlie's Angels." The sweet sax riffs were performed by Ernie Watts, a Grammy Award-winning instrumentalist who toured with The Rolling Stones in 1981. You may have also heard the "Night Court" theme in the 2007 "Family Guy" episode "Bill & Peter's Bogus Journey," which featured Bill Clinton on the saxophone. — MS

"Silver Spoons"

"To learn all about those things you just can't buy"… that's the reason Ricky Stratton (Ricky Schroder) and his immature, gazillioniare dad Edward (Joel Higgins) came together in this quintessentially '80s family sitcom that boasted not only this memorable, very sing-a-long-able theme, but also many guest appearances by the future Michael Bluth himself, Jason Bateman. "The Ricker," as he was called in Teen Beat and BOP, was the star, of course, though we loved the theme song almost as much as the fact that the now 42-year-old actor is still so cool that he doesn't mind being called Ricky. — KP


A yuppie show deserves a yuppie theme, so the gentle acoustic guitar and soft woodwinds of "thirtysomething's" theme are the perfect intro to the heartfelt dramedy that follows. The 1987-91 ABC series struck a chord with the baby-boomer generation with its portrait of young parents striving to remain cool while raising kids -- and to wear as many pastels and shoulder pads as humanly possible. Like the show, the instrumental theme is wistful without being sappy, and is a welcome change of pace from all the over-glossed artificial synths we had to endure throughout the '80s. — DN