APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE: This week's Quick Question miiiiiiiiight just ruin your day.
Apparently it wasn't enough to create a children's show that young audiences might enjoy and/or learn from. No, many kids' show creators ALSO had to devise theme songs so insidiously catchy that they'd continue popping up in our heads years—decades even!—after we'd outgrown the shows themselves. Seriously, the other day I caught myself singing the words and melody to a show I haven't watched since I was TEN (and didn't even really like much to begin with). "Why am I singing the theme song to Adventures of the Little Koala," I asked myself after I'd Googled the lyrics to find out what I was singing. It turns out some children's TV theme songs aren't just catchy, they're terminal.
Below are the 13 children's show theme songs that stick out in my mind as being total earworms. (Full disclosure: I was born in the early '80s, so these are of mostly that era.) What kids' show themes do YOU recall having that effect on you? Or if you can't think of any, just listen to the ones below and then report back tomorrow to tell us if any of them got stuck!
The two main things most people remember about this long-running Disney series are (1) that tower full of gold coins in which Scrooge McDuck would swim and (2) the theme song. Written by Mark Mueller and sung by Jeff Pescetto, the song was Huey Lewis-esque in an '80s dude-adventure kind of way.
Sesame Street (1969-Present)
"Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street" was written in 1969 by Joe Raposo and sung by a children's choir. Its jaunty, cascading melodies have been stuck in our heads for over 30 years now.
This Nick Jr. show was admittedly heavily inspired by the humans + puppets format of Sesame Street, but had a gentler, more bohemian vibe. Its nimble nursery rhyme of a theme song is credited to George James and was one of the first songs I ever learned the lyrics to. Not embarrassed.
Gummi Bears (1985-1991)
Despite being one of Disney's longest-running animated series, not many people have a ton of nostalgia for this fairly crass candy tie-in... except, of course, for its theme song, which continues to be just incredible. (Thomas Chase and Steve Rucker presided over the Gummi Bears soundtrack.)
Reading Rainbow (1983-2006)
We all remember host and executive producer LeVar Burton gently leading us into the wonderful world of reading, but perhaps even more memorable was the opening title sequence in which children would transform into animated adventurers while they reade. The stunner of a theme song was written by Steve Horelick, Dennis Neil Kleinman, and Janet Weir with POWERFUL vocals by Broadway performer Tina Fabrique.
Adventures of the Little Koala (1984-1985)
Adventures of the Little Koala was one of a handful of Japanese animated shows that Nick Jr. retrofitted for American audiences. While I think we can agree that original translations are generally better, one listen to the Japanese theme song leads me to conclude that the French-Canadians behind the English version (Pierre-Daniel Rhealt, Liz Joyce, Sonja Ball, Shari Chaskin, and Maxie Vauhann) definitely created the catchier (if slightly more dated) version. Look up there, way up high: koalas in balloons!
Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986-1990)
Before it was derailed by real-life scandal, Pee-wee's Playhouse was one of the most inventive, clever, and hilarious shows ever made for children. Its theme song was equally weird and wonderful, composed by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh and sung by no less than Cyndi Lauper.
Eureeka's Castle (1989-1995)
Um, did you know that R.L. Stine co-created this show? I didn't! But it seems to make sense in retrospect: Despite being a lot of harmless fun, there was always an undercurrent of the macabre to this puppet-fronted series. I'll always love the theme song, a Broadway-esque tune that sets the tone for the show in the catchiest possible way.
The Electric Company (1971-1977)
Although this show was technically before my time, it reran plenty during my childhood and its theme song continues to give me chills. Fun fact: credited musician Joe Raposo also co-wrote the Sesame Street theme song.
This bizarre sketch show/breakdancing showcase premiered as part of Nickelodeon's teen-skewing Snick programming block back in 1992, but the theme song is still SO GOOD, sung Up With People-style by the cast (including an a cappella version that would conclude each episode).
Under the Umbrella Tree (1986-1993)
You may have seen this puppet-centric Canadian series when it was imported to the States by the Disney Channel. You also may remember its theme song, a catchy ditty credited to Dave Arthur, Peter Beaudoin, and a few others.
Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show (1984-1988)
Yes, this is that "Skinnamarinki-dinki-dink..." show. To watch clips of this thing today it seems like something straight out of The Mighty Wind, but I liked it just fine as a child! Anyway, the theme song remains bafflingly ridiculous and was credited to composer Joe Hampson but really all credit belongs to the titular trio. What a bunch of middle-aged rascals!
Kids Incorporated (1983-1993)
We all know that Stacy "Black Eyed Peas' Fergie" Ferguson got her start on this Disney Channel series that bore the most on-the-nose title of all time, but this theme song was one for the catchy-theme record books. It makes sense that a show revolving around child musicians should also have a catchy theme song, but the actual pop karaoke covers the characters sang rarely reached the addictive heights of the number that opened each episode.
YOUR TURN! Which children's TV theme songs have been stuck in your head the most?