Film and TV

Worst Television Theme Songs

Television shows have always had theme songs. When they're good, they add to the show in subtle but important ways. They can set a mood, like M.A.S.H.'s theme song "Suicide is Painless." They can set up the basics of the plot, like the classic opening to Gilligan's Island or The Brady Bunch. And, sometimes, they can utterly fail in trying to do either or both. Here, a list of six of the most memorable TV theme song failures:

Charles in Charge Ah, what better place to start a "Worst of" list than with Scott Baio? I could probably fill this list with Baio-moments: Joanie Loves Chachi, the waning years of Happy Days, Diagnosis Murder, even Scott Baio is 45 and Single. But doesn't Charles in Charge hold a special place in TV history, not to mention our collective American hearts? (At least that part of the collective American heart that pertains to syndicated '80s TV?) Of course it does. And this theme song proves it—don't we all want Charles in Charge of our days? Our nights? Our wrongs, our rights? Don't we all, in the end, want "Charles in Charge of me"? Or at least that Nicole Eggert be involved, somehow?

Hello, Larry This is the show for which McLean Stevenson left M.A.S.H. (And in revenge, the writers killed Col. Henry Blake off, just so he couldn't make a return trip.) Which is too bad, because Hello Larry sort of sucked. And really, anyone could have guessed that it would just from its theme song. "Well, Hello Larry," the bad '70s crooner says, "you talk to people all day long for a living." And hello to you, lounge singer person who's completely too focused on exposition. The song's first verse concludes with the tag "Portland is a long way from L.A.," which I suppose is metaphorically true, if completely unconnected to anything that's come before in the song, and not at all actually true, since Portland's only about 800 miles from L.A., which is totally drivable. It would have been more pertinent for the line to say "this show is a long way from Korea," but that might just have been unnecessarily cruel.

The Fall Guy Seriously, this isn't a theme song. This is just a thinly-veiled list of the star-quality bedpost notches of Lee Majors. (Besides, was anyone watching this show for any other reason but to see Heather Thomas in that blue bikini? Just me? Okay.) And really, "I'm the unknown stuntman that made Redford such a star"? Really? Because that makes sense—Robert Redford totally owes his entire career to spectacular big-screen special effect flicks, after all. That Out of Africa movie was nothing but chase scenes, explosions, and Meryl Streep.

The Love Boat Love. Exciting and new. (Except for the guest stars, who represent pretty much the opposite of "exciting and new" in the world of entertainment, or else they wouldn't be on this show.) Come aboard…we're expecting you. (Did this sound as ominous to everyone as much as it did to me?) And love…life's sweetest reward. Let it flow. It floats back to you. (I can't think of a thing that I want to "float back to" me. I can't think of one single thing. I'm not anti-floating, but generally, the things I see floating on the beach, I don't want back, thanks.) This theme song goes on for what seems like five minutes, so I'll end here—except to point out that the weird squiggle around the title during the intro? That's totally the outline of a fat Betty Rubble's head. Just saying.

Star Trek: Enterprise The first time I heard this theme song, I swear I thought that my audio was screwed up and I was getting the feed from WTBS airing some sort of Full House spinoff. This was Star Trek. Star Trek openings are all about French horns with solemn voiceovers. And who's singing this, anyway? Bryan Adams? "Summer of 2069"? No.

Diff'rent Strokes/Facts of Life Yeah, I'm lumping these two together because one was the spinoff of the other, and they were both written by Alan Thicke (whose show Growing Pains almost made this list…). They're also both basically the same song, or at least the same song strategy: take a near-dead aphorism, relate it specifically to the characters in the series, and make it upbeat and hollowly inspirational. And can anyone listen to the Diff'rent Strokes theme anymore, with its line about "…they've got nothing but their jeans, but they've got Diff'rent Strokes…" and not think prison term, early demise, and a career in contract security? Those "diff'rent strokes" ain't ruling the world, chief.

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Sean Cronin