Today is the last day--a winner will be announced tomorrow morning! Don't forget to enter the Children of the 90s Ultimate Nostalgia-Fest 2010 Giveaway! It's open until Wednesday, February 17. Click here to see rules and enter for your chance to win some fun Goosebumps, BSC, Magic Eye, Lisa Frank, Pete and Pete, and more!I'm not saying our generation watched too much TV, but it's pretty telling that I've yet to witness someone break into, "Innnnn West Philadelphia, born and raised..." without an entire room of 20-somethings clambering to joining in. If I even overhear someone humming what sounds to be the opening bars of Rockapella's iconic Where in the World of Carmen San Diego theme, I'm wont to fill in the mid-range harmony bits from distances of up to 100 feet. True story. It may or may not have happened at the gym.*
It's almost a physiological reaction; we just can't help ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we've collected an arsenal of television theme song lyrics that are laying dormant in the darkest nether regions of our brains. We have an excellent command of the instrumental themes as well, but they fail to command the same involuntary knee-jerk reaction. Singing along to your old favorite TV intros has a way of transporting you right back onto your childhood couch, covered in Pringle crumbs, sipping on a Kool-Aid Burst. It's the magic of memory. Or maybe just a testament to the innumerable hours we all logged in front of the tube during our formative years.
Whether or not you liked the shows was almost irrelevant. Some of them were worth watching on the merit of introductory song alone. For the most part, though, they lived up to the immense promise of their catchy theme tunes. For whatever reason, they were irrepressibly memorable:
Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?
Love it or hate it, you've got to admit Rockapella did their homework. PBS commissioned the Carmen San Diego children's game show in direct response to the abysmal perfomance of American students on geography standards. Rockapella managed to squeeze almost every location on earth into their three-minute theme song, not to mention the wealth of groan-inducing puns they sprinkled throughout.
Some of these puns I'm willing to accept as legitimate jokes. You know, "We never Arkansas her steal" and that kind of thing. But at a certain point, they're really pushing it; I don't care how alluring their multi-part harmonious arrangement is, it's never okay to say, "She stole the beans from Lima." I get it, I get it, but it's not even the correct pronounciation. Rockapella did make up for their grevious pun infractions, though, by breaking it down in a major way at the end of the song. Well done, Rockapella.
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Expository theme songs are great the first time you tune in to a show. If you have no clue of the premise or back story, it'll fill you in pretty much right up until the events of the current episode with aits incredibly informative and detailed lyrics. In some cases, it all gets pretty tiresome after the first few viewings. In a time before DVR, there was no fast-forwarding through the credits.
Luckily, this was not the case with The Fresh Prince's theme song. We just couldn't get enough. Sometimes I'd watch the show just to see the opening credits. This one was a keeper, destined to go down forever in 90s TV theme history. So many of us worked tirelessly on memorizing this one. The furthest I ever got was to, "You're moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air", so I'm achingly jealous of all of you who know all of the verses by heart.
Saved By the Bell
The sheer exposure to this one was more than enough to commit it to memory. Saved By The Bell played in seemingly continuous loop in syndication throughout our youth. For awhile it seemed that we couldn't turn on the TV without flipping by an episode of SbtB. The theme song lyrics rivaled the show's subject matter in cheesiness, but both had a certain alluring quality.
This song takes a lot of liberties in fitting in syllables, working in well-pruned lines like "And the 'larm gives out a warning". Yes, you heard right. The 'larm. Alarm just wouldn't fit. It didn't really matter to us, though. So long as they kept parading attractive teen stars across our screen, we'd listen to whatever they wanted.
Salute Your Shorts
Salute Your Shorts' theme played out like a camp anthem parceled out amongst the main characters. As in any good teen sitcom, we all just assume that there are indeed other campers somewhere on the premises, though none quite as interesting and plotline-worthy as our major players. Sure, there might have been some other kids stationed at Camp Anawanna over the summer, but none quite as enthralling as Budnik or Donkey Lips.
Toilet humor is like comedic gold to children, so it's no wonder we delighted in the line, "Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts/and when we think about you/it makes me wanna fart!" We all knew Ug was just a huge spoilsport for reprimanding the gang. I guess we've got to cut him a break, though. He was the almost only adult we ever saw, save for the mysterious disembodied voice of camp director Dr. Kahn. You'd probably be pretty tightly wound, too, if you were the only grown-up in a sea of teenagers for an entire summer.
Even a few bars of the jazzy "ba-ba-ba-de-ba-bop-bop" at the end is enough to jar us all back into full Full House mode, yearning once again to be raised by a zany, madcap team of ill-equipped and uncompatible male role models. The opening sequence became incredibly well known throughout the show's multi-season run. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who can't complete the line, "What ever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paper boy..." See, you're just itching to fill in the blank, aren't you?
Who would have thought that a western song about working summers on a dude ranch could be so compelling? Hey Dude represented the classic era of Nickelodeon, and its signature theme song did not disappoint. Well, at least not in melody; lyrically it could have used some rethinking. It doesn't really make sense, per se (It's a little wild and a little strange? Really?) but it all adds up to a part of the show's charm. Yippee ki yi ay, lil dogie.
We may not have known it at the time, but even after all these years these themes are as recognizable and catchy as they ever were. The downside, of course, is that they'll be tumbling around in your head on spin cycle for the rest of the day, but it's a fair trade off to get to relive all of those gloriously cheesy 90s TV anthems. Or at least that's how you can justify it when the guy at the next cubicle tells you for the twelfth time to please keep it down.
*Okay, okay, it did happen at the gym. Someone's iPod was blaring it from the bank of treadmills. I couldn't resist.