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Sitcom Theme Music: From The Brady Brides to Joanie Loves Chachi

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on March 11, 2011

Sitcom theme music exists to serve two primary purposes: to establish a mood for the show and to let viewers know that said show is about to start, much like a majordomo announcing to a household that a fine meal of chicken fingers and Sunny D is served. But some sitcom theme songs do much more than that. They provide exposition. They elicit memories. And sometimes they get so lodged into our brains that we find ourselves gently mumbling “Standing tall on the wings of my dream” during subway rides, weddings and job interviews. Welcome to Sitcom Theme Music Review


MP3: The Brady Brides Theme Song
The current television landscape is practically teeming with long-form narratives–multi-episode story arcs popularized with 1987’s Wiseguy and demonized with 2009’s FlashForward. From The Wire to Mad Men to that one season of Dora the Explorer when she infiltrated a Juarez drug cartel only to watch Boots die in her arms, today’s programming requires a true commitment from the viewer. If you miss a single episode–and are not in possession of a DVR, Hulu or a friend–you might as well take up reading or conversing with loved ones because you will never be able to make heads or tails of the shows’ plots. But back in the 70’s and 80’s–back before the prevalence of diligent story editors–you could easily skip one, two, twelve of your favorite show’s broadcasts and still never miss a beat. That’s because back then each episode was its own little world, without any connection to or reflection on future or past developments. Characters never evolved. Motives were never questioned. Premises were left unaltered until late in the series’ run and only then by way of a live-in cousin or new restaurant lease. It was television for people who liked to watch but not necessarily recall television. Sensing this, the producers of the 1981 series The Brady Brides opted to do their contemporaries one better by playing a theme song so rich in exposition that one need not watch the rest of the program. Ever. Yes, over the course of one familiar-sounding tune you got the premise, the set-up of the premise, how the premise unfolded and how said premise would affect each and every character. In fact, the only thing you didn’t get was the eventual time and date of Jan and Marcia’s deaths. Small wonder the series lasted a mere ten epsiodes. They used up the plots of at least 40 shows in the opening title sequence alone.


MP3: Angie Theme Song
Before Doris Roberts played an Italian mother on Everybody Loves Raymond she played an Italian mother on Angie, a sitcom about a waitress (Donna Pescow, hot off her success as the mistreated “Annette” in Saturday Night Fever) who meets and marries a doctor and scion of Philadelphia high society (Robert Hays, hot off the success of Airplane! and only beginning his long, slow descent into “Gee, that’s a shame” professional obscurity). The title tune “Different Worlds” (sung by Maureen McGovern at a time when the phrase “We got Maureen McGovern to sing the title tune!” ensured radio play) cracked the Top 20, alas achieving greater success than the short-lived Angie ever would. In all honestly not only do I remember this program but I remember actually liking both it and–adding to my ever-growing “secret shame” music list–the theme song. However, what I don’t remember is the almost pornographic food fetishism in the opening credit sequence. Popcorn, hot dogs, apples, whipped cream, ice cream, whole turkeys, salt–these people never stop eating! This is true love truly in need of counseling.


MP3: Alice Theme Song
Most sitcom theme songs of yore tried to immediately grab the ever-fickle viewer by being upbeat and uptempo, whether by way of chirpy horns, corny lyrics or copying BJ Thomas. But the theme song to Alice practically dared you to stick it out for the long haul with a slow funk/cabaret groove that didn’t say “merriment” so much as “malaise.” That is until we hit the triumphant call of lyric line five, when suddenly the song embodied the self-esteem and self-stylized feminism of an Enjoli perfume commercial. But just as we were ready to join that EST class and sleep with that swinger the tune once more switched gears and closed out on an almost muted note, not so much born of regret but relief. Highs, lows, nap time. This song had it all! Clearly this was one woman’s story worth getting to know! And clearly viewers agreed. Based on the Academy Award-winning Martin Scorsese movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (which also featured Vic Tayback as crusty Mel), Alice ran a whopping nine seasons, easily outlasting the only other sitcom derived from a Scorsese film–1977’s Taxi Driver, starring Tom Poston and a pre-Love Boat Jill Whelan, which ABC pulled the plug on after only one epsiode.


MP3: Joanie Loves Chachi Theme Song
For a certain generation Joanie Loves Chachi–like Hello, Larry–defined deplorable television. But while I sadly remember the plot of the latter (pre-Frasier Frasier minus the Noel Cowardesque wit, stellar casting and any possible reason for existence), I couldn’t quite recollect the former’s premise. I knew that the principal characters left Milwalkee. I knew that diner owner Al married Chachi’s mom for reasons necessary for the spin-off. I knew that the show’s portrayal of Italian-Americans made Moonstruck look like a Ken Burns documentary on ethnic heritage by comparison. And I knew that Erin Moran looked like Scott Baio’s aunt.. But I couldn’t call to mind anything else. The theme song–a Christopher Cross knock-off minus the “rawk”–did little to evoke any memories. But then I watched the opening credit sequence and oh my god oh my god oh my god OH MY GOD! Never before has an era and an error been so perfectly captured in under two minutes. Never before has something so earnest been so deserving of the phrase “gloriously tragic.” Never before has a programming mistake been so obvious from the initial frame. To say anything more would spoil the fun. Just click on the video and watch. Watch, reflect and recoil.

For More See: Sitcom Theme Music–Mr. Belvedere

Other Links:
The Original Cats Quote Charlie Sheen
Excerpts from “I Could Pee on This” and Other Poems by Cats
The Worst-Selling Books of the Year (So Far)
Cats Quote Charlie Sheen: The 20/20 Interview
Quotes from Lesser Transformers

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12 Responses

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  1. jzgplj said, on March 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Wow, that was a nasty flashback experience…Thanks Ces

  2. Naked Bunny with a Whip said, on March 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I was very disappointed when Dora the Explorah didn’t start a trend of TV shows where all the dialogue was shouted directly at the viewer.

  3. researchrants said, on March 11, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Holy crap, I totally remember Angie, and I also really liked it. And the theme. What the hell show now has a 1:40 opening song? Insanity!

  4. Wings said, on March 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I liked the Joanie Loves Chachi theme. And show. But I was but a kid then, and it was aimed at my age group I guess, so it holds a fond place in my memory. I remember watching Angie, too, but in reruns.

    And I almost bought your Poston-Whelan-Taxi Driver line. Evil, you are.

  5. sharonheg said, on March 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Man oh man, I watched every one of those shows except the Brady Brides. What a walk down Memory Lane. I don’t think they write TV show themes like that anymore. Pity…I think 😉

  6. Woodrowfan said, on March 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I’m still waiting for “Night Court” and “Barny Miller”

  7. Woodrowfan said, on March 11, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    according to Wikipedia “Angie” lasted two seasons!!?!??

  8. Six_of_One said, on March 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Good LORD, Ces…you didn’t issue a warning that the Brady Brides theme could scar one for LIFE. o.O

  9. SonnyDrysdale said, on March 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I’ve been reading Dr. Martin Seligman (“Learned Optimism”, etc.), and apparently depression correlates strongly with the belief that your actions don’t matter, and that you can have no lasting effect on your life.

    Kind of, as you describe, like a 70s – 80s TV show where everything is exactly the same at the end of the episode as the beginning.

    This explains SO much about me.

  10. Mountain Mama said, on March 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I liked “Angie” too. I thought Robert Hays was cute and I thought that maybe there was hope for me–that a not-conventionally-pretty poor farmer’s daughter could meet and marry a cute sort-of-rich guy.

    Nope. But I still liked the show.

  11. V.E.G. said, on July 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I think the chances of releasing Angie on DVD is doubtful. It is forgotten today because of low ratings.

  12. V.E.G. said, on May 19, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Joanie Loves Chachi does not hold a candle.

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