30 catchy classic TV theme songs that set the scene & captured our imaginations

Classic TV theme songs that set the scene at ClickAmericana com

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From catchy tunes to clever lyrics, classic TV theme songs like the ones shown below were helped set the scene, serving as the perfect appetizer to the main course of television entertainment. They not only conveyed the mood, but gave viewers a quick snapshot of the show’s plot and characters.

Shows like The Brady Bunch have become iconic, in part, thanks to their memorable theme songs that neatly summarized the entire premise in a minute or less. Some series’ opening credits were a little less on-the-nose, using the tune time to set the tone for the show instead of recapping the story so far.

Two kids watching TV with a Morton's potato chips twin-pak (1969)

Whether it’s the tale of a shipwrecked family in Gilligan’s Island or the futuristic adventures in The Jetsons, their respective theme songs became unforgettable parts of the viewing experience.

Below, we’ve gathered videos of some of our favorite TV theme songs, spanning from the quaint 50s to the neon 90s. As you’ll see, each decade brought its own flavor to the mix, reflecting the changing tastes and styles of storytelling.

1950s TV theme songs that set the scene

Television in the 1950s was a burgeoning medium, setting the stage for what would become an integral part of American culture.

The theme songs from this era were instrumental in drawing viewers into the worlds of comedy, drama, and the supernatural.

The Twilight Zone (1959)

With its unmistakable intro — with the jarring sound effects and Rod Serling’s oft-imitated narration — The Twilight Zone offers a glimpse into a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, inviting viewers into stories of the extraordinary.

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READ MORE: How the original Twilight Zone began, plus see the TV show’s iconic opening (1959-1965)

Leave It to Beaver (1957)

The lighthearted theme of Leave It to Beaver introduces us to the wholesome adventures and misadventures of young Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver and his family.

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READ MORE: How ‘Leave it to Beaver’ began, and gave us an idealized view of the 50s we still hold today

Davy Crockett (1954 miniseries)

The ballad of Davy Crockett recounts the legendary exploits of the American frontiersman, setting the stage for tales of adventure and heroism.

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READ MORE: Classic Walt Disney Home Video VHS movies & short collections from the ’80s & ’90s

1960s TV theme songs that set the scene

The 1960s introduced a wave of television shows that combined humor and family life, each with memorable theme songs that are still cherished today.

The Flintstones (1960)

The iconic theme of The Flintstones transports viewers to the modern Stone Age, promising prehistoric adventures with a modern twist.

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READ MORE: How the Flintstones TV show got its start, plus see the intro & theme song lyrics… Yabba dabba doo!

Mister Ed (1961)

The whimsical song introduces Mister Ed, a talking horse (of course, of course) and his unlikely friendship with his owner, Wilbur Post, leading to old-school comedic situations and misunderstandings.

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READ MORE: About Mister Ed, the vintage TV show with the talking horse – plus the theme song & lyrics (1961-1966)

The Beverly Hillbillies (1962)

This catchy tune narrates the story of a man named Jed — and the rest of the Clampett family — as they moved from the Ozarks to the upscale neighborhood of Beverly Hills. The humor came from the in-your-face culture clash as the out-of-towners tried to make sense of the Los Angeles way of life.

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READ MORE: The Beverly Hillbillies backstory, plus the theme song & lyrics (1962-1971)

The Jetsons (first run: 1962-1963)

The upbeat theme song of The Jetsons gives a peek into the futuristic life of George Jetson and his family — complete with flying cars and robotic aides.

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READ MORE: The first family of the future: The Jetsons (1962)

Addams Family (1964)

With its distinctive snaps and quirky lyrics, the theme of The Addams Family introduces the eccentric and macabre — yet somehow charmingly lovable — family.

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READ MORE: Meet the Addams Family, plus see the classic TV show’s opening credits & theme song lyrics (1964-1966)

Gilligan’s Island (1964)

The story of a fateful trip that led the SS Minnow and its crew to be stranded on an uncharted island is playfully detailed in the show’s theme song.

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READ MORE: About Gilligan’s Island – plus the TV show intro, theme song & lyrics (1964-67)

Green Acres (1965)

The theme of Green Acres humorously contrasts the rural farm life favored by Oliver Wendell Douglas with the urban preferences of his wife, Lisa, setting the stage for comedic conflict. (It was sort of The Beverly Hillbillies in reverse.)

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READ MORE: Green Acres: Meet the stars, plus hear the theme song & get the lyrics (1965-1971)

1970s TV theme songs that set the scene

As television evolved through the 1970s, theme songs became more elaborate, often capturing the essence of a show’s narrative and its characters’ journeys.

The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)

The earworm theme tune of The Brady Bunch introduces the blended family of six children, setting up the premise for stories of sibling dynamics, privileged kids’ life in the 1960s & 1970s, and family unity.

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READ MORE: About The Brady Bunch: Meet the cast, see the opening credits, plus get the theme song lyrics

The Partridge Family (1970-1974)

This oh-so-retro theme song tells the tale of a widowed mother (played by Shirley Jones) and her five children (including Jones’ real-life stepson, David Cassidy) who form a pop band, touring the country in their colorfully iconic school bus. (And let’s not forget Reuben, their harried manager.) The theme “Come On Get Happy” might just actually make you happy.

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READ MORE: Meet the Partridge Family & see the TV show intro – C’mon get happy!

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)

The uplifting theme of The Mary Tyler Moore Show encapsulates Mary Richards’ journey as a single woman pursuing her career in the city… and she was going to make it after all. (Throws hat in the air)

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READ MORE: The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Meet the real Mary, plus get the TV theme song & lyrics (1970-1977)

Maude (1972)

Maude‘s theme song introduces the outspoken and independent Maude Findlay (played by Bea Arthur), touching on themes of feminism and social justice.

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READ MORE: Maude, starring Bea Arthur, is the bold feminist icon you didn’t know you needed (1970s)

The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)

The theme of The Six Million Dollar Man highlights the superhuman abilities of Steve Austin, a former astronaut with bionic implants. Just $6,000,000 for all of that seems like a bargain today. 

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READ MORE: The Six Million Dollar Man: Lee Majors was stronger, faster, better in this classic 70s TV show

Land of the Lost (1974)

The adventurous theme of Land of the Lost follows the Marshall family as they travel back in time (during a routine expedition!) and are forced to navigate a world filled with dinosaurs and mysterious creatures. The “special” effects of these credits are worth the minute or so it will take to check these opening credits out. 😂

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READ MORE: ‘Land of the Lost’ was a 1970s television treasure that delights to this day

The Jeffersons (1975)

The theme of The Jeffersons celebrates George and Weezie Jefferson’s “movin’ on up” to the East Side, promising humor and social commentary.

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READ MORE: ‘The Jeffersons’ were movin’ on up in the ’70s: About the vintage TV show, plus the opening credits

Welcome back, Kotter (1975)

The theme of Welcome back, Kotter welcomes back Gabe Kotter to his alma mater as a teacher, where he mentors a group of lovable misfits.

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READ MORE: 70s show ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ had Vinnie Barbarino (Travolta), a relatable concept & an amazing theme song

Charlie’s Angels (1976)

The iconic theme of Charlie’s Angels signals the high-octane adventures of three skilled female detectives working for a mysterious benefactor.

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READ MORE: Charlie’s Angels: The classic TV series from the ’70s & ’80

The Incredible Hulk (1978)

The somber theme of The Incredible Hulk reflects the dual life of Dr. David Banner, on the run while struggling with his alter ego, the Hulk.

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READ MORE: Remember ‘The Incredible Hulk’ TV series? Plus see the show’s intro (1978-1982)

Diff’rent Strokes (1978)

The upbeat theme of Diff’rent Strokes introduces the story of two brothers from Harlem adopted by a wealthy Manhattan businessman, highlighting themes of family and social disparity.

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READ MORE: Diff’rent Strokes: Find out about the popular TV show & hear that theme song (1978-1986)

1980s TV theme songs that set the scene

The 1980s were a golden age for TV theme songs, with memorable tunes that perfectly captured the spirit of their respective shows, from action-packed adventures to heartfelt family sitcoms.

The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985)

The rousing theme of The Dukes of Hazzard narrates the adventures of the Duke family in their efforts to outwit the corrupt authorities of Hazzard County.

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READ MORE: The Dukes of Hazzard TV series drove people wild back in the ’70s & ’80s

The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983)

The theme of The Greatest American Hero tells the story of an unlikely hero who receives a suit with superpowers, with humorous results.

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READ MORE: ‘The Greatest American Hero’ swooped in to save America with laughs – and a catchy theme song (1981)

Cheers (1982)

The comforting theme of Cheers invites viewers into a Boston bar where “everybody knows your name,” focusing on the lives of the staff and patrons.

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READ MORE: Cheers TV show theme song & lyrics (1982-1993)

Silver Spoons (1982)

Silver Spoons introduces the life of a young boy who moves in with his wealthy father, exploring themes of family bonding and societal differences.

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READ MORE: About Silver Spoons, the ’80s sitcom that made Ricky Schroder a pre-teen idol – plus the TV show opening credits & theme song

The A-Team (1983)

The action-packed theme of The A-Team sets the tone for the adventures of a group of ex-Special Forces soldiers on the run from the military.

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READ MORE: How ‘The A Team’ was a surprising hit TV series in the ’80s

Knight Rider (1982-1986)

The electronic theme of Knight Rider signals the high-tech exploits of Michael Knight and his artificially intelligent car, KITT, fighting crime and injustice.

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READ MORE: Dynamite magazine had 1970s & 1980s celebrities GenX kids loved: See 60 classic covers here!

1990s TV theme songs that set the scene

The 1990s continued the tradition of iconic TV theme songs. From comedy to drama, each with a tune that instantly reminds us of the show’s characters and storylines.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)

The rap theme of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air narrates the life-changing move of Will Smith from Philadelphia to the upscale Bel-Air, promising comedy and culture clash.

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READ MORE: These 16 best TV show theme songs beat the odds and became popular hit songs

Sister, Sister (1994-1999)

Sister, Sister was a sitcom about twin sisters, separated at birth and reunited as teenagers. The upbeat theme song highlighted the show’s focus on family, identity, and the bond between the twins, showcasing the humorous and heartwarming tone of the series.

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READ MORE: Old HBO was revolutionary television – here’s what it was like! (1970s-1990s)

The Nanny (1993-1999)

The Nanny followed Fran Fine, a fashion-forward woman from Queens who becomes the nanny for a wealthy New York family. The catchy theme song narrates Fran’s backstory and the show’s premise, setting up the comedic clash of cultures and personalities that drives the show.

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READ MORE: ABC Afterschool Special episodes, from the 70s to the 90s: The ultimate guide!

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