So here we are.
Aside and wholly apart from my hard, hard love for NBC’s Community (and holy crap, what a stellar episode last week’s “Pillows and Blankets” was!), I have a big crush on FOX’s New Girl. I did not want to like this show. Truly, I did not. And if my husby did not have an all-too stereotypical crush on Zooey Deschanel, it’s charming tree would have fallen alone in my abandoned forest. I guess I should be thankful for that. Because it has brought me joy.
And I have come to accept its five-word theme song, though it took me half a season to do so. (Okay, sometimes it’s fifteen words.) It’s catchy. It’s short. It’s cute. And it’s happy. It makes me realize that it’s been a long time since there have been shiny happy lyrics in TV theme songs. So many theme songs today don’t have lyrics, and those that do are just snippets of existing songs by alt rock bands (thus the bouncy-bleak we could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year that opens Community every week).
I don’t mind bouncy-bleak; in fact, it’s very much where I live these days as I slip into middle-age. Still, prime time television used to be downright church-like in the positive, inspirational messages found in the theme songs of my 1970s and 80s youth.
And in the spirit of springtime, let me now share some of this sunshine poetry with you:
Things are great when you stand on your own two feet. (Alice)
This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball. (One Day at a Time)
There ain’t no nothin’ we can’t love each other through. (Family Ties)
You’re gonna make it after all. (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
Change their minds and change the world. (Wonder Woman)
Life, we’re gonna breeze right through it. (Angie)
These days are ours. (Happy Days)
As long as we live, it’s you and me, baby, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. (The Jeffersons)
There is nothing we won’t try, never heard the word “impossible,” this time there’s no stoppin’ us. (Laverne & Shirley)
This is it, we’ll hit the heights, and oh what heights we’ll hit. (The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show)
It don’t matter that you got not a lot, so what; they’ll have theirs, you’ll have yours and I’ll have mine... and together we’ll be fine. (Diff’rent Strokes)
C’mon, get happy. (The Partridge Family)
So much syrup. So many dropped g’s. So many apostrophes. And it does reflect a bit of a sea-change: most pre-70s theme songs with lyrics simply described the show, and even included the show’s name (Gilligan’s Island, The Addams Family, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, etc.), but this particular decade saw the theme song evolve into mini-hits that could stand on their own... and indeed, some extended versions of theme songs did get some radio play in the 70s.
But I guess it surprises me that in the decade that saw Vietnam drag on, Watergate, inflation, gas shortages, and malaise gave rise to the perky TV lyric. I suppose that it’s all relative, and perhaps it was a way to force hope that the 70s had to be better than the 60s. Or maybe people were so hopped up on cocaine and disco that they thought everything was swell.
And later, Reagan made sure that “morning in America” extended to the TV theme song as well, with the 80s providing the last great hurrah for the super-positive theme song lyric. No coincidence that they started to fade in the 90s, when everyone started throwing around the word edgy.
I’m not sure that anyone could get away with such unapologetically happy openers in today’s extra-crispy cynical world... except, of course, for New Girl, but even that one is executed with a huge, heavily-mascara’ed wink.
Yes, yes, you can chalk this meaningless musing up to yet another clichéd nostalgia trip of a Generation X’er with time on her hands, but just you wait for that future day when you youngsters are having wistful, loving memories of the 2010s, when we still had pennies and when daytime talk shows only had five hosts. You’ll yearn, kids. You’ll yearn.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.