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9 TV Theme Songs That Work Smart, Not Hard

By Vivian Kane | Lists | October 11, 2015 |

By Vivian Kane | Lists | October 11, 2015 |

During the last episode of You’re the Worst, Jimmy threw some mild criticism at Gretchen for putting in the bare minimum in her girlfriending, to which she responded with this typically Gretchen-esque life advice:

For a show that’s riddled with life advice (some great, some more questionable), this is a pretty good one. And a tip that the show itself follows. Take the theme song, for instance. Five little words (“I’m gonna leave you anyway”), and it’s a quick, kicky tune introducing us to a relationship that’s expecting to fail. That’s a pretty great summation of the show itself.

Cheers, The Brady Bunch, The Addams Family… there are tons of impressive, iconic theme songs that tell a whole story. But here are eight others that work smart and set up the tone and themes of their shows with as few words as possible.

The Simpsons

What’s the show about? I think you know.

Mr. Sunshine

The Matthew Perry show you never watched took a twist on the usual title-only theme song lyrics (The Simpsons, Batman) by adding a less-than-enthusiastic “Yay.” Instant tone.

Two and a Half Men

No one said an effective theme song was an indication of a show’s quality. Yeah, this is about men. Who think they’re pretty manly. Anything else? Nope, I think that’s about the gist of it.


This one is deceptive, because there are a bunch more words, but all you hear is a woman saying “ME” over and over, right?


Okay, so there aren’t actually any words to the opener, but that’s even more fitting. What’s the show about? Weird stuff. Atonal creepiness that deliberately doesn’t gel.


This one also has more lyrics than others on the list, but to perfectly capture that early-aughts Braff optimism and the show’s two major heart-squeezing themes of wanting to make a difference in people’s lives and the importance of friendship, all in only 14 words— well, that’s pretty impressive.

Playing House

Between the beyond enviable real-life friendship of these Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, a stellar use of stock footage, and just a few words, this song melts me every time.


Spoiler: She’s already dead.