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The Worst TV Theme Songs of the 1960s-1980s

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There have been plenty of great TV themes over the years.  Among my favorites: Mary Tyler Moore, UFO, M*A*S*H*, Cheers, WKRP in Cincinatti, The Rockford Files, Riptide, Dr. Who,… the list goes on.  But this isn’t about those songs.  This is about the worst – the worst of the worst.  Prepare to be amazed in the lamest manner imaginable.  Let the bad theme songs begin…

 

Three’s Company


The show is so beloved and the theme such a part of the fabric of 70s pop culture that to rank it on a “worst list” sounds a lot like blasphemy. Yet, if you can somehow loosen the grip of nostalgia and judge it on its own merit, you’ll find this is one godawful, cheesy mess, not fit for even the smarmiest hotel lounge singer.

 

Family Ties


You’ll have to read our “Top 10 Sappiest Love Songs Ever Recorded” to find them any sappier than this. Johnny Mathis and Denise Williams lay on the schmaltz pretty thick with this one, and the “sha na na na” ending is like a giant dollop of Cheez-Wiz atop an already hopelessly cheesy intro.

Charles in Charge


Just as the lyrics claim, “Charles in Charge of our days and our nights”, this song will plague your every waking minute and haunt your dreams.

 

The Patty Duke Show


Ugh. There’s a fine line between loveably cheesy (ex. The Addams Family) and jarringly abrasive. This theme crosses that line then goes ten steps further into the mentally abusive category.

 

Hello Larry


This one is so bad that I almost didn’t include it to spare you the pain. But then, in a moment of shameless self-pity, I decided to spread the torment. Misery loves company – what can I say?

 

Small Wonder


A theme song befitting one of the most ridiculous, godawful TV train wrecks of all time. It sounds like a contemporary of The Patty Duke Show, yet it’s from the 1980s. Grating, cheesy, and utterly without melody, the Small Wonder theme is likely a punishment from the gods.

 

Joanie Loves Chachi


It’s so bad you half expect a laugh track at the end of it. Surely, this was all a big joke, right?

 

The Ropers


My only explanation for this is that the producers spent their entire theme song budget on cocaine. The Ropers theme is what loose change dredged from the cushions of an El Dorado will get you.

 

It’s a Living


This theme is trying to be Broadway, but ends up sounding like your drunken great-aunt.

 

Batgirl


I thought the screeching All in the Family theme was the most eardrum shattering TV intro of all time… then I remembered Batgirl. Have your migraine medicine ready, folks. (For a similarly grating superhero theme, check out the long-forgotten Captain Nice – but don’t say you weren’t warned.)

 

My Mother the Car


Too often, shows from yesteryear attempted to explain the entire premise in their theme song. Sometimes it worked out okay (Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies), but as with My Mother the Car, it often yielded cringeworthy results.

 

The Hogan Family


Lest you think I’m a hater for all sappy intros, I’ll confess that I’m a sucker for the Hogan Family’s theme – a noxious cloud of schmaltz, but it’s a noxious cloud of schmaltz that I love. Sometimes you just can’t break the chains of nostalgia.

  • Eric Veritas Blair

    “Too Many Cooks” has ruined all these TV show theme songs for me :p

  • vmacek

    “SCTV” did a series of mock show promos using the “Patty Duke” theme altered for ‘Identical Bellhops’, ‘Identical Cheese Hostesses’ and ‘Identical OPEC Oil Ministers’, getting increasingly difficult to sing.

  • timdub70

    Three’s Company and The Ropers theme songs had the same composer. It was Joe Raposo, who had made many songs for Sesame Street and also wrote “Sing (Sing A Song)” for the Carpenters.

  • Freakanatcha

    When you get to pulling together Bad TV themes part II, may I nominate “The Love Boat” and “Angie”? I believe you will find both consistent with your criteria for a bad theme song.

  • Rick Astley

    The Three’s Company theme sucks? No, YOU SUCK!

    The Charles in Charge theme is really about Charles Manson…

  • David

    The Batgirl theme was awesome. Bat-Giiirrrrrrrlllllll, Batgirl!