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[Comments] (6) It's A Race Condition: Lately Sumana has been obsessed with the theme songs to sitcoms. I heard some of these songs when I was a kid but they all merged into one. Understandably so, now that I hear them again from the next room. One thing I didn't pick up on back then was that the lyrics of many of the songs are made of mortared-together cliches. Now, I've written songs out of cliches, but I try to put my own spin on them or juxtapose them in interesting ways, and more importantly my songs don't become cultural touchstones.

A corollary of this is that the theme song to Star Trek: Enterprise would make a good sitcom theme song. I lack the raw materials and skill, but you could get some mileage out of playing the Enterprise theme song over the opening sequence to Perfect Strangers.

Another thing I didn't pick up on until now was that sitcom theme songs never mention the name of the sitcom, [Update: not true, see comments] probably because they were commissioned long before the name of the sitcom was finalized, and probably because they were written long before that and shopped out to multiple sitcoms. Also, a common trope in these songs is to talk about how the world has gone to pot and how the relationship formed by the sitcom's main characters (family/friendship/bar) is the last outpost of civilization. So you could switch a lot of theme songs and it would work fine.

As a test I improvised the worst imaginable theme song, for a sitcom called "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise". It was terrible.

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Comments:

Posted by Ryan at Sun Nov 18 2007 12:12

Can - can we read the lyrics?

Posted by Leonard at Sun Nov 18 2007 12:55

I don't remember it, but it was something like this:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
But look before you leap
Don't bite off more than you can chew
It's a jungle out there

Don't put your eggs in one basket
It just goes to show
Neither a borrower
Nor a lender be
Healthy, wealthy, and wise

Then it went off into a tiny ragtime piano riff. This was before I realized that theme songs never mention the name of the sitcom, but in my defense the name of the sitcom actually came from the song.

Posted by Riana at Sun Nov 18 2007 14:14

Not true! At least, "Three's Company" and "The Facts of Life" both have theme songs that namecheck the sitcom! I think possibly also "Perfect Strangers," but I forget.

Posted by Eric Fischer at Sun Nov 18 2007 15:33

"Silver Spoons" and "Different Strokes" are a couple of others that include the name of the sitcom in the song.

Posted by mikepop at Sun Nov 18 2007 18:16

The "Happy Days" theme switched from "Rock Around The Clock" to faux-50s "Happy Days" along the way. I like the ones that explain the premise of the show as well, like "WKRP in Cincinnati". And of course there is "Ballad of Gilligan's Isle" (although technically the show is known as "Gilligan's Island", so I'm not sure if that would count. I can probably come up with more than I'd like to admit.

Posted by mikepop at Sun Nov 18 2007 18:20

Oh, and here is a song full of cliches:

Up in the morning.
Work like a dog.
Is better than setting
like a bump on a log.

Mind all your manners.
Be quiet as a mouse.
Some day you'll own a home,
that's as big as a house.

I know a fellow.
He eats like a horse.
Knocks his old balls,
round the old golf course.

You ought to see his wife.
She's a cute little dish.
She smokes like a chimney,
and drinks like a fish

There's a big old goofy man
dancing with a big old goofy girl,
Oh baby, it's a big old goofy world.

Elvis had a woman,
with a head like a rock.
I wish I had a woman,
that made my knees knock.

She'd sing like an angel,
and eat like a bird.
And if I wrote a song,
she'd know every single word.

There's a big old goofy man
dancing with a big old goofy girl,
Oh baby, it's a big old goofy world.

Kiss a little baby.
Give the world a smile.
And if you take an inch,
give them back a mile.

Cause if you lie like a rug,
and you don't give a damn,
you're never going to be,
as happy as a clam.

I'm sitting in a hotel,
trying to write a song.
My head is just as empty,
as the day is long.

Why it's clear as a bell,
I should have gone to school.
I'd be wise as an owl,
Instead of stubborn as a mule.

There's a big old goofy man
dancing with a big old goofy girl,
Oh baby, it's a big old goofy world.

Oh baby, it's a big old goofy world.

(John Prine)


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