Television is a blessing. Without it, we’d all be dead in a ditch riddled with disease thanks to horrors like “fresh air” and “exercise.” (Have you ever been outside before? It’s TERRIBLE!) One of the sweetest treasures to tumble out from this magical piece of technology was ABC’s Friday night lineup known the globe over as TGIF.
For those of you who didn’t live through this unique period of TV, it was a magical age to behold. Once a week, North America was in the iron grip of Miller-Boyett Productions and the agreeably crappy family comedy that swirled around its influence. The American Broadcasting Company heroically aired programs that provided laughs, love, and life lessons. Were these shows particularly good? Not really. Has sweet lady nostalgia given us warm memories of these programs? You bet your sweet Urkelbot ass they did! Who among us wouldn’t die in Topanga or Mr Woodchuck’s name? These stupid shows were important, dammit!
In the name of science, we’re going through every single classic era (1988-2000) TGIF theme song and giving these tunes a critical reevaluation. Each song will be graded TGIFantastic or TGIFuckRightOff. It’s the same system the New York Times uses for their Sunday Book Review!
Perfect Strangers (TGIF Run 1988-1991)
The theme song for Perfect Strangers sorta sets the table for what you’ll see throughout this exercise in American nostalgia indulgence. It’s insanely maudlin, vaguely defiant and there’s the sense that the characters are valiantly escaping the executioner’s noose. Does a zany sitcom about a lovable foreigner (“America or Burst?” HA HA HA HA HA HA! LOOK AT THIS GOOFBALL NOT BEING ACCLIMATIZED TO AMERICAN ENGLISH! YOU’RE IN FOR SOME GOOD OL’ FASHIONED CONDESCENDING HAIR TUSSLING!) and his uptight cousin require some cheeseball wailing about rising and falling on the wings of your dreams? Don’t be ridiculous. (Get it? It’s the thing Balki said on the TV!) Make no mistake, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now” is batshit fucking crazy in its bombast, but it works in a “We Built This City” kinda way. Plus there’s a feeling of dread that’s marinated right into this tune which scores bonus points.
Full House (TGIF Run 1988-1991)
“Whatever happened to predicability?” That’s some heavy musing there, Full House. Just like with Perfect Strangers, the theme song to this Tanner brood sitcom has this weird “we’re dancing on the razor’s edge in a scary new world” aura to it. Instead of Jesse & The Rippers bopping around with a repurposed early ’60s jukebox tune, we get a surprising amount of moaning over this nightmare age we’re living in and how we’ve gotta hang in there.
“With clouds as mean as you’ve ever seen
Ain’t a bird who knows your tune.
Then a little voice inside you whispers,
Kid don’t sell your dreams, so soon”
Sure, things bounce back with the “Everywhere You Look” chorus, but half of this saccharine trash water reads like a grandparent’s email forward calling for the return of THE OLD WAY. (Also don’t flash your lights on the highway or cybergangs will get you!) There’s a reason why your brain slashes the gap between the opening line and the chorus. Mind you, it’s better than when Mike Love would pop up on the show.
Mr. Belvedere (TGIF Run 1988-1989)
Only one of Mr. Belvedere‘s six seasons made an appearance as a TGIF era offering, but the theme song is still a vital piece of Friday night goofz-n-spoofz history. This sitcom not only sorted out America’s Christopher Hewett + Bob Uecker sitcom shenanigan drought, it also came equipped with a delightfully ridiculous ragtime theme song by Leon GODDAMNED Redbone. Cheers theme geniuses Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo crafted this daffy gem, doncha know.
Just The Ten Of Us (TGIF Run 1988-1990)
Ah yes, the simpler days when seeing a megasized family on television didn’t make you want to plunge into a bleach dunk tank to get clean. Thanks for changing the shame index, Duggars! (By the way, Michelle Duggar’s hair would have been great in a late 80s sitcom vehicle co-starring Ted McGinley.) Just The Ten Of Us‘s theme song has a bit of lite beer jingle edge to it. Listen to the singer lean pelvis-first into those vocals.
20/20 (TGIF Run 1988-Extinction Level Event)
This is a bit of a cheat because 20/20 isn’t exactly under the huggin’ & muggin’ umbrella of the TGIF Universe, but it sure as shit was a staple of Friday night viewing. It was a beautiful newsmagazine afterparty where once the yuks were done, you could move on to Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters whisking into a world of adult problems and panic pieces about teens crushing Ritalin to put in their butts TO FUEL DEBAUCHERY! Sometimes you’d get journalism tackling social issues or important crises plaguing America, but there was also like a lot of dumb shit packed in there too. (“We’ve all heard of manslaughter, but mailmanslaughter? 20/20 investigates…”) For a good chunk of 20/20’s run during the classic TGIF era, you’d get authoritative horns, a vaguely disco groove and all the whooshing futuristic sound effects your grandparents could handle. A more dignified version arrived later which felt like a betrayal although it did include laser-type noises.
Verdict: N/A Did you know that common household verdicts can kill you? Check out our special report from John Stossel.
Family Matters (TGIF Run 1989-1997)
Just like fellow TGIF colossus Full House, the Family Matters theme song rails against the cloud of misery that’s encroaching in on a “simpler” time. Considering how Steve Urkel would roll in and terrorize the Winslows like a third Funny Games villain, that sense of doom was completely valid. (Could Urkel have been responsible for the Tylenol Murders as a child? Family Matters REFUSES to explicitly deny this possibility. CONNECT THE DOTS, SHEEPLE!) Unlike the Full House theme, you’re not stuck in that despair bubble for long. There’s too much pep and REAL LOVE BURSTIN OUT OF EVERY SEAM!
Going Places (TGIF Run 1990-1991)
Achieving the Herculean feat of being the Too Many Cooks-iest of all the TGIF intro offerings, Going Places somehow failed to capitalize on North America’s hunger for Alan Ruck + Heather Locklear’s gutbusting adventures. The theme song for Going Places manages to sound like something from a fringe Christian cult recruiting video and the byproduct of hypercolour cocaine. Tasteful strings and a possible nosebleed ahoy!
Dinosaurs (TGIF Run 1990-1993)
Dinosaurs has held up as a cuckoo bananacakes offering thanks to its desire to tackle hard-hitting issues (racism! drugs! corporate greed!) while also letting you revel in seeing a clearly cuckolded dinosaur puppet dad get wanged in the head by his asshole son. The final episode (spoiler alert!) ends with all these cuddly creatures taking a break from TACKLING SERIOUS DINOSUBJECT MATTER with their comedy stylings to slowly freeze to death. What theme tune do you craft to splash onto this show? Something rumbling and bumbling we suppose. The end result nobly comes in as servicable.
Baby Talk (TGIF Run 1991-1992)
Truly George Clooney’s finest hour, Baby Talk offered up Look Who’s Talking style yuks with Tony Danza playing the role of our trusted infant narrator. BACK UP THE EMMY TRUCK! (George Clooney would be out in season 2 during a cast reshuffling.) The Baby Talk theme is the Newbeats’ 1964 hit “Bread and Butter” given a “modern” reworking to better fit the saga of a sassy Danza-esque baby. “You know she checks his diapers! Keeps ’em Spic n Span!” screeches this theme with a singer that sounds like a shrunken brain-damaged Axl Rose.
Step By Step (TGIF Run 1991-1996)
The sensible thing that Step By Step could have done would be to recycle NKOTB’s beloved “Step By Step.” Instead, we were treated to some SWEET guitar sprinklings and somewhat terrifying child gang vocals in the TGIF sitcom mould, complete with the “things are getting better” crescendo. That kids chorus has a refreshing Children of the Corn vibe to it, eh? Maybe it’s TGIF-related madness settling in, but this teeters on the side of…
Billy (TGIF Run 1992)
If you only watch one Head of the Class spin-off… well, don’t. Billy was a short-lived spin-off featuring Billy Connolly looking to build a new life in America and you’ve already stopped reading this description haven’t you? Anywho, the intro is Billy and co-star Marie Marshall outlining the zany mess they’ve found themselves in. It’s a bit like having someone gently try to stuff a pamphlet into your mouth.
Camp Wilder (TGIF Run 1992-1993)
An alarming number of TGIF programs sound like they’re something you hallucinated while abusing cough syrup. Camp Wilder definitely ticks that box. This show had a cast that included Jerry O’Connell, Hilary Swank, Jay Mohr (as something called “Dorfman”), Tina Majorino and even a lil’ bit of Jared Leto. Do you recall this existing? Of course you don’t. No one does. Heck, there’s a strong possibility that Camp Wilder was just a parallel universe Jerry O’Connell visited on Sliders and we’re all too polite to pretend it didn’t happen. Finding the theme tune for this series has proved impossible so our ruling is…
Getting By(TGIF Run 1993)
As you may have noticed from all these intros, America was in the pocket of Big Bland Yellow Intro Font in the 1990s. (DAMN YOU, YELLOW FONT LOBBYISTS!) Getting By would later chuck its bland Family Matters/Full House style inspirational theme song and in its place came a “funky” redo complete with remarkably unnecessary guitar squiggling. The NBC version of the title sequence was crazier than a bag of snakes and looked like something Tim & Eric’s Cinco corporation would cook up during a night terror.
Where I Live (TGIF Run 1993)
Arguably the most informative intro sequence in TGIF history (suck it Billy!), the Doug E. Doug sitcom offered up roughly three lyrics: “Yes!” “We all live together!” and “This is where I live!” It’s a fun theme song to bust out whenever you’d like to point out your neighbourhood to someone. Slap on some early 90s mall jazz blasts and you’re all set.
By the way, it is MANDATORY you check out the theme composer’s website. Ray Colcord not only has a fascinating list of credits (including the mysterious 2001 “Untitled Sisqo Project” featuring Sisqo and Bob Newhart) but he also enjoys treating the visitor to his stockpile of quotes.
AMAZING. He composed the 227 theme too, y’know.
Boy Meets World (TGIF Run 1993-2000)
An elite player in the world of TGIF youth-shaping, Boy Meets World somehow never managed to fart out a quality theme tune despite multiple attempts. First up was a stale instrumental offering that could have been ripped from an early 90s IBM sexual harassment training video. Things would shift to a mercifully brief surf rock number a few seasons later which was the peak of BMW themedom. The best known intro tune would arrive after that in the form of a goofy pop-rock number that connected to teens Mr. Turner style with brilliant lyrics like “wandering down this road that we call life.” FUUUUUUUCCCCKKKK YOOOOUUUU! You know who could have turned in an excellent song? Phillip Mack and The Center. If The Family International has taught us anything, it’s that cults can boast incredible songwriting chops.
Verdict: TGIFuckRightOff (You deserved marginally better, Boy Meets World.)
Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper (TGIF Run 1993-2000)
Poor Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. In season one the globe was treated to En Vogue (En Vogue!) lending their talents to an amazing slice of TV enchantment so charming it borders on sorcery. Tragically, that theme was ditched for a cover of “Soul Man” via Shalamar’s Howard Hewett and then an original composition featuring singers with STRONG feelings about Mark Cooper’s wheelings and dealings. The En Vogue version comes from the pre-TGIF era of Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper which is a colossal shame, but its Friday night substitutes are more pass than fail on the TGIF theme curve.
Sister, Sister (TGIF Run 1994-1995)
The Sister, Sister theme is the undisputed heavyweight champ of TGIF jams and anyone that disagree shall be thrown directly into the sun. What argument could you possibly have against the majesty of this tune? Give it up. It’s over.
On Our Own (TGIF Run 1994-1995)
On Our Own‘s theme is nothing to gush over but the opening credit sequence does boast a gaggle of siblings looking overjoyed to be hanging out in front of budget green screen effects. Come for the family bonding, stay for a skateboarding dog named Jinx that will double as your new god.
Muppets Tonight (TGIF Run 1996)
Muppets Tonight was banking heavily on the public falling in love with the show’s host Clifford. “Imagine it! Clifford backpacks! Clifford mugs! Clifford microwaves! Clifford poisons! Clifford antidotes! Clifford sex tarps! Clifford! Clifford! Clifford!” screamed a Muppets producer before throwing an empty vodka bottle at his assistant. Sadly for the Muppets, the public saw Clifford for the Poochie that he was and Muppets Tonight got the axe pretty quickly. (That’s not all Clifford’s fault, mind you.) The Muppets Tonight theme was roughly six metric notches below the original Muppets intro number but how in Jim Henson’s felty Earth could you compete with that? You can’t. Coming in only six notches below “It’s time to play the music/It’s time to light the lights” is still an achievement in our books.
Vaguely Related: Prince’s appearance on Muppets Tonight was one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 90s. If the “Starfish & Coffee” sequence doesn’t hit you in the chest, you’re in desperate need of a soul.
Aliens In The Family (TGIF Run 1996)
Oh, Aliens In The Family. You were too beautiful for this world or any other world. Equal parts 3rd Rock From The Sun, Meego (NEVER FORGET MEEGO), The Neighbors and the unhinged ravings of your Greyhound seatmate, this short-lived comedy offered up intergalactic laffs as a sitcom dealing with a human male and an alien female trying to raise a family in the oh so crazy 90s. Nightmare puppets were involved and it was psyche damaging. Todd Rundgren crafted a pleasantly kitschy theme song for it and here we are.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch (TGIF Run 1996-2000)
Did things pan out for Libby and Gordon Gano? We hope they did.
In Bill Clinton’s 90s, Americans were spoiled for Sabrina theme song options. The first Sabrina theme (which we assume was titled “Salem’s A Bit Of Prick Suite #1”) was the best of the bunch. A zippy guitar trifle for magic outfit changes? Excellent stuff and it mentally prepared you for the week’s thrilling pun. The quality control dipped in season four when a lesser offering waggled out. The product was half-assed spa electro with a boy band vocal of “SECRET” crammed up its nose. It’s what theme song evaluators would classify as “not good.” Thankfully, Sabrina was on The WB when the show trotted out one of the most embarrassing credit sequences ever. Beware! If you relive it, you will cringe your skeleton will pop out of your skin like a cork. Do you want to spend the rest of your day picking up bone debris? No one does! Anyway, let’s just agree that the first theme is the only valid intro song, okay? Great.
Clueless (TGIF Run 1996-1997)
We’ve reached the crucial “let’s talk about China Forbes” portion of this lookback, so let’s all have a nice pause to reflect on that. Tremendous. Instead of licensing “Rollin’ With My Homies,” “Kids In America” (any version will do) or “Supermodel” as the theme tune, we get blissfully sunny pop-rock number that lands somewhere between The Go-Go’s and that dog. That might be because Charlotte Caffey (decorated Go-Go’s vet) and Anna Waronker (that dog quarterback) both co-crafted the track. Even with lines like “she is literally the Polaroid of perfection” you can’t lose with this chunklet of candy-coated magic.
Teen Angel/You Wish (TGIF Run 1997-1998)
The popularity of Sabrina The Teenage Witch led to not one but two “you kids love this magic shit, right?” family sitcoms. Teen Angel focused on a wisenheimer young’un (some might say a teen) that was killed by an old hamburger and came back to earth in guardian angel form. Instead of accompanying the series with an ABC family style reworking of Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Tha Crosscroads” (MISSED OPPORTUNITY!) the intro was just a squeal of guitar that could only be described as narc-y. You Wish offered yuks from a genie + family = maximum goofz type gimmick. Blessedly, the theme song wasn’t anything super racist (hooray!) instead going with a bland zydeco (???) drizzle.
Two Of A Kind (TGIF Run 1998-1999)
It feels almost sacrilegious to have an Olsen Twins sitcom on ABC without some insane theme song wailing about trying to survive in this misery orgy we call life, doesn’t it? Two Of A Kind (Get it? The title’s because both kids are close personal friends of Richard Kind!) has some limp interstitial music masquerading as a substitute for a proper intro. It’s certainly no “Brother For Sale,” which is the cutest song ever about human trafficking.
Brother’s Keeper (TGIF Run 1998-1999)
Why is there a pristine video embed of the Bucky O’Hare intro in the spot where the Brother’s Keeper theme should be? Well, that’s because we couldn’t find any Brother’s Keeper footage located on the internet. We live in an age where perverts have documented the foot sizes of anyone that’s ever walked within 10 feet of a TV set, but a U.S. network show that produced 23 episodes manages to evaporate into nothingness. Society, right? Anyway, enjoy the Bucky O’Hare intro. It will never let you down. He’s the funky fresh rabbit that can take care of it.
The Hughleys (TGIF Run 1999-2000)
The Hughleys theme is what plays in the background as you watch several divorced dads try to flirt with the waitress at a mid-priced steakhouse. Do not weep for these dads. This is how life unfolds.
Odd Man Out (TGIF Run 1999-2000)
From the portion of the decade that brought you Sister Hazel…
Making The Band (TGIF 2000)
Squeaking in under the TGIF “classic” era wire is the saga of O-Town. Would you trust any other musical outfit to bring “Liquid Dreams” to life? How could you? O-Town were trained for such a herculean feat! The intro music for season one was no “Liquid Dreams.”
That concludes this exhaustive exercise in jackassery. Thanks for enduring. Here’s a tune to send you to the exits.