13 of the Best TV Theme Songs

1. Friends / “I’ll Be There for You” – The Remembrandts

This bouncy, feel-good song was the theme song for Friends during its ten season run from 1994 to 2004.  We can’t help but listen to it and think fondly of the friends hanging out at Central Perk, Monica and Chandler’s – at the time –  secret relationship, Phoebe performing “Smelly Cat,” Joey’s famous pickup line (“How you doin’?”), and maybe even that time Ross and Rachel were on a break.

2. One Tree Hill / “I Don’t Want to Be” – Gavin DeGraw

Move into the late 90s and the early 2000s and you start to see this idea that angsty, rock-influenced pop music goes along pretty well with angsty teen shows.  I have never watched more than a few episodes of One Tree Hill, but my mom started binge-watching it a few years before streaming old shows to binge-watch on Netflix was a thing.  I’m also a fan of Gavin DeGraw.  Back in the days when Chad Michael Murray was pretty much every teen girl’s celebrity crush, “I Don’t Want to Be” was the theme song for kids trying to find their identity.

3. That ’70s Show / “In the Street” – Cheap Trick

So there’s a story here.  “In the Street” appeared on Big Star’s debut album in 1972.  During the first season of That ’70s Show, a cover by Tom Griffin was used, but the better-known Cheap Trick cover was used from the second season on, including the crummy final season in which the main character left the show.  But when looking back, let’s not remember that.  Let’s remember all the crazy hijinx Eric Foreman and his buds got into back in the day.  And let’s remember the well-known opening credits in which the gang is singing enthusiastically to “In the Street” while cruising around town in Eric’s Vista Cruiser.

4. Roswell / “Here With Me” – Dido

As a recent Roswell viewer, I was surprised to see Dido’s “Here With Me” being used as the opening theme song.  I’m more familiar with the 1999 hit from Love Actually, but apparently “Here With Me” caught people’s ears back in 99 when the first season of Roswell aired, and it really took off when the song was played in full during the season finale.  I wasn’t expecting the song to be used at all.  I was expecting a bit of a more rock-sounding song to coincide with the teen angst and alien-on-human action.  But I was also pleasantly surprised to see “Here With Me” work quite well with Roswell, fitting the odd, dramatic, sci-fi feel of the show set in Roswell, New Mexico.

5. Veronica Mars / “We Used to Be Friends” – The Dandy Warhols

Along with my love for Veronica Mars comes love for its awesome theme song.  It’s upbeat, catchy, and works along with Veronica’s dilemma during season one of the show when all of her friends turn her back on her following her best friend’s murder.  The song is so infectious, you’ll be singing along to the chorus while trying to cram the entire series in before the movie is released in March.  Am I right?  The song’s tad more upbeat than most TV themes for teen shows, but it works well.  The remixed version for season three?  Not so much.

6. How I Met Your Mother / “Hey Beautiful” – The Solids

I’m going to admit something.  I have not yet jumped on the How I Met Your Mother bandwagon, and I’m not sure if I will.  I feel like the show’s popularity has risen sharply in the past several years, with people quoting Barney Stinson left and right.  I haven’t seen enough of the show to give a really good judgement, but I will say the theme song, “Hey Beautiful,” has earned its way to being a quite memorable TV theme song.  Okay, so you might just know the “ah ba ba ba”s following the final chorus, but it still sounds nice.

7. Smallville / “Save Me” – Remy Zero

During the end of Smallville‘s run in 2011, having a theme song that was released ten years prior had to feel a little dated, but fortunately, “Save Me” works well enough that it doesn’t.  With ten seasons, Smallville is in the running for one of the longest running sci-fi shows in history, and I’m not sure everyone expected it to make it that long.  Regardless of any criticisms you might have against the show, the theme song is pretty great.

8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer / “Buffy Theme” – Nerf Herder

Who knew Alyson Hannigan had a good taste in music?  The actress famous for playing Willow on Buffy approached show creator Joss Whedon with the band Nerf Herder as an idea for someone to perform the theme song.  I know there aren’t exactly any words here, but the theme is so iconic that it deserves a spot on the list.  The organ at the beginning is reminiscent of old, black-and-white horror films before moving into the sound of a guitar reminiscent of a more modern 90s rock sound.

9. The OC / “California” – Phantom Planet

You may not know Phantom Planet well as a band.  You may not even know The OC very well, but I bet you know at least the opening to Phantom Planet’s “California.”  Not only is the title of the song fitting for the show, but the band’s sound has a very southern California rock type of feel to it.

10. Dawson’s Creek / “I Don’t Want to Wait” – Paula Cole

So “I Don’t Want to Wait” has become a bit of a joke since being used as the theme song for 90s teen hit show Dawson’s Creek.  Nowadays, it just feels like something you’d hear during one of those cutaway pop culture references on Family Guy.  I suppose at the time, though, “I Don’t Want to Wait” was a pretty nice theme to go along with the teen drama.  If anything, it sure screams cheesy 90s love songs.

11. Gilmore Girls / “Where You Lead” – Carole King & Louise Goffin

“Where You Lead” is just a feel-good song all around, which is mostly what Gilmore Girls is about, right?  The loving, close relationship between mother and daughter that spans for seven seasons?  From what I’ve seen, I’d like to think so.

12. Scrubs / “Superman” – Lazlo Bane

My mother is a nurse and she doesn’t like Scrubs.  Maybe for the lightheartedness in which her job is approached?  Who knows.  Anyway, “Superman” is a slightly odd, indie feeling song that makes you feel good in a bit of a different way.  Fitting along with the theme of making references to Superman in your music during the early 2000s, it’s not too different, but stands out in a crowd.

13. Malcolm in the Middle / “Boss of Me” – They Might Be Giants

“Boss of Me” fits perfectly in the craziness that is Malcolm in the Middle.  The show follows Malcolm, the middle child at home, as he and his brothers wreak havoc around the house despite their high strung mother’s best efforts to keep them in line.  Don’t kill me Breaking Bad fans, but I think Bryan Cranston pulls off comedy pretty well here and I think of overly nervous Hal when I picture him acting.  Anyway, this alternative rock song highlights highly intelligent Malcolm’s crazy adventures with his brothers.

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