July/August 2010

The Six Saddest TV Theme Songs of the ’70s

The shows themselves weren’t actually that sad.

by Kailyn McCord

Television theme songs are usually upbeat, often to the point of nauseous sweetness, but as our research indicates, in the 1970s, television theme songs took a uniquely depressing and melancholic turn. The six saddest are featured below. (Cheers, which premiered in 1982, is included on this list as a representative from “the long 70s.”) Today, TV theme songs are generally more uplifting.

I. Taxi (1978–83)

  • THEME-SONG TITLE: “Angela”
  • WRITTEN BY: Bob James
  • HOW SAD: quite sad
  • THEMES: lonely taxi, bridge
  • REPRESENTATIVE LYRICS: The song is an instrumental.
  • NOTA BENE: Tony Danza drove the taxi in the opening-credits sequence.

II. MASH (1972–83)

  • THEME-SONG TITLE: “Suicide Is Painless” 
  • WRITTEN BY: Johnny Mandel (music) and Mike Altman (lyrics)
  • HOW SAD: very sad
  • THEMES: suicide, melancholy, hopelessness, depression
  • REPRESENTATIVE LYRICS: “Suicide is painless / It brings on many changes / and I can take or leave it if I please.”

III. Cheers (1982–93)

  • THEME-SONG TITLE: “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”
  • WRITTEN BY: Judy Hart Angelo and Gary Portnoy
  • HOW SAD: incredibly sad
  • THEMES: alcoholism, life disasters, death, divorce
  • REPRESENTATIVE LYRICS: “Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee’s dead; / The morning’s looking bright; / And your shrink ran off to Europe, / And didn’t even write; / And your husband wants to be a girl; / Be glad there’s one place in the world / Where everybody knows your name”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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