Starter jackets. Beanie Babies. Pogs. The ’90s gave us so much, including awesome sitcom theme songs that we can still recite today. The following 15 shows are ranked by the quality of their theme song. In order to qualify for the list, the show had to be aimed at young teens and the majority of the episodes aired in the ’90s. If you’re wondering why Blossom isn’t on this list, it’s because I hated that show.
A Perfect Fit
15. Sweet Valley High
Forgettable show. Forgettable theme song. The show centered around twin girls and the song included the line, “Could there be two different girls who look the same?” This show lasted four full seasons. Fun fact: Every character on Sweet Valley High was genetically engineered in a lab to be beautiful.
14. Home Improvement
There were many different versions, all of which were bland. They all featured the annoying Tim Allen grunt that really can’t be spelled out (“UhhhEhhhh?”) and the equally annoying youngest Taylor son.
13. Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper
Hangin’ also had multiple versions, though they were completely different from each other. In one, Coop dunks on a hoop that was probably borrowed from the Hang Time set (see No. 7). The one I think of, however, includes a cover of the 1967 song “Soul Man.” Side story on Mr. Cooper: I once saw the actor, Mark Curry, in a Vegas sportsbook during the NCAA Tournament. He was on his way to the VIP section of the viewing area carrying a toaster. That’s all.
12. City Guys
“C-I-T-Y you can see why, these guys the new guys, smart and street wise.” Dope lyrics over a sick beat! Plus, the white kid had played Gunner Stahl, who predictably tried to beat Julie “The Cat” Gaffney with a triple deke glove side when Iceland played the U.S. in the 1994 Junior Goodwill Games.
11. Sister Sister
If you’re like me, you remember none of the lyrics outside of “sister SISTER.” The video did include cutting edge animated illustrations. The top comment on the YouTube page for the theme song is “I always thought Tia was prettier than Tamera,” which, like, DUH.
The Sleeper Hit
10. California Dreams
This one gets bonus points because the cast members sang it. And call me crazy, but I think it’s actually a pretty good song. “Don’t wake me up if I’m dreamin’…”
9. Clarissa Explains It All
“Na na na-na-na. Na-na-na na na. Way cool!” Full disclosure: I had a major crush on Clarissa Darling. Give me her or Alex Mack—in human or ooze form—and I would have been one very happy 10 year old. I was totally jealous of that creep Sam for having ladder access directly through Clarissa’s bedroom window, free to come and go as he pleased, at all hours of the night…ah yes, sorry, the theme song. It was good. Clarissa writes her name backwards and spins it all cool-like.
8. Hang Time
Let’s ignore the overly sappy Season One theme song. You remember the revamped opening for Season Two: “Hang Time, running together…part of a team, never alone!” Never mind that the court could be traversed in two dribbles and the rims were no more than 7 feet high. What’s amazing is that the coach, played by former NBA player Reggie Theus, went from fictional Deering High to an actual head coaching job with a Division I college program. Also, sometimes, in my mind, I cheated on Clarissa with Julie, the only girl on the team.
7. Salute Your Shorts
This gets bumped up a few spots because the lyrics included the word “fart.” Plus, I still say, “Get it right or pay the price!” when someone screws up. Camp Anawanna, we held you in our hearts indeed, for all of two seasons.
The Cusp of Greatness
6. Boy Meets World
Like many shows, the BMW intro went through a few iterations. The first had no lyrics and featured paper airplanes and baseballs flying at—but unfortunately not connecting with—Corey’s head. The second was a rock tune, which I liked, though it featured a red convertible we never saw in an actual episode. For the gang’s college years the song included lyrics, and Corey and Topanga partook in the first ever Ice Bucket Challenge. They would nominate Shawn, Eric, and Jack, who completed the challenge the next season.
5. Step by Step
It’s catchy tune, with alternating vocals from a male, female, and group of children that fit the show’s theme: “Only time will tell if all these dreams fit under one umbrella.” (Spoiler alert: They didn’t.) The string build-up before the wave crashes down on Frank and Carol is musical perfection. The accompanying video was 3D TV before it existed, terrifying for someone who never rode a roller coaster and never wants to. Watching the start of a Step by Step episode gave you a feel not just for what it would be like to ride a roller coaster but to get run over by one.
4. Saved by the Bell
The lyrics are kind of strange if you really break them down—and believe me, I have—but you know them by heart. The video, with its animated swirls and squigglies, was 100 percent ’90s, and manages to capture the essence of the main characters in just three quick shots each. The group high five at the end is fun. You could argue this should be higher, but I once heard Big Bopper Belding himself criticize the tune, and for that I had to knock it down a couple of spots.
3. Full House
I am a bit disappointed Jesse and the Rippers didn’t sing this, but it’s still great. The footage is not exactly clips from the show but instead actors smiling for the camera, performing a task that fits their character: musician Jesse plays the guitar; OCD Danny cleans; narcissist D.J. straightens a photo of herself; lonely Stephanie turns to Comet for companionship; adorable Michelle adorably jumps on a bed; beautiful Aunt Becky flirtatiously tosses her hair. Like Boy Meets World, the intro features a mysterious red convertible. Also, am I the only one who thought they said a lion (and not a light) is waiting to carry you home?
2. Family Matters
The iconic whispering stutter open. The catchy, insightful lyrics. The aerial shots of Chicago. Plus grandma reading Rolling Stone. This is one of the all-time greats of any decade. It’s a rare condition, indeed.
1. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The spinning throne. The colorful graffiti. The police officer who might be Carl Winslow’s brother. I pick up something new every so often, like Jazz elbowing one of the defenders in the nose while Will is dribbling around with his head down. When a new episode came on, sometimes I’d switch the channel, keep singing along, then come back 15 seconds later and see if my timing was in sync. No, I didn’t have many friends when I was younger. Why do you ask? The extended version, which rarely airs, explains that Will did not in fact take a cab across the entire country. It’s the theme song that makes you want to whip your head around in glee every time you’re standing on your friend’s front porch.