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Breaking Down Great 1980's Sitcom Opening Credits Through The Entire Show's Run

ABC Photo Archives. Getty Images.

Last night, I found myself down a YouTube rabbit hole of watching 1980's TV show opening credits. It's incredibly nostalgic and a lot of the theme songs are pretty decent or wildly corny. That's a win either way. But then I stumbled on every opening credit for the run of the show spliced together and I was fascinated. You see shows progress and then regress all within a five minutes. You see the early seasons with cast members that didn't fit with the show to the desperate late season Hail Mary's of strange casting choices.

I figured if I found these interesting, some other readers around my age (old) might think they were fun watches too. I know a lot of younger readers may not have seen these shows but a lot them have what would become huge stars getting their start. Here's three I liked a lot:

Night Court (1984-1992)

Show Synopsis: Night Court was about a New York City courthouse and the kooky people that worked there. The judge (Harry Anderson) was a magician. The prosecutor (John Larroquette) was always horny. The bailiffs were quirky. Hilarity ensued.

Casting Changes: They always had two bailiffs and one was always played by Richard Moll. But the female bailiff had a number of incarnations. At first it was played by Selma Diamond who was a no nonsense lady who was always smoking. The actress died of lung cancer after season 2. Then they hired another older lady named Florence Halop who also died of cancer the next year. Finally, they got Marsha Warfield who was there for the rest of the run of the show. She's one of few cast members still alive. She may be immortal.

They also went through three different love interests for Harry. You see those changes in the early credits before the show settled on Markie Post (who was great on the show).

Theme Song Rating: 8.1/10. It's wordless but a great theme song. It also never changes throughout the run. 

Things Of Note: I really like in the credits when we get a couple seconds of their personality and then it pauses the action to give us their name. This is the ideal for all 1980's sitcoms.

Why Should We Care In 2023: NBC did a reboot of this show last year (with Larroquette) and it was pretty successful. It's already been picked up for a season two.

Growing Pains (1985-92)

Show Synopsis: Growing Pains was about the The Seavers, a family who lived in Long Island. The Dad (Alan Thicke) was a psychiatrist who worked from home. The focus shifted more to the kids as the show went one especially Kirk Cameron's character Mike Seaver who became a big star before becoming very religious and eventually refusing to do scenes that would paint his character in anything less than an positive light.

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Casting Changes: Like many family focused sitcoms, the Seavers had a baby in the middle of the run. The baby also went from an infant to six years old instantly from one season to the next. This exact trick was used in Family Ties.

Theme Song Rating: 7.2. I don't like the a cappella version in the second to last season.

Things Of Note: I hate the boring first season credits where they don't have the cast. Once the cast was in the credits, one would always stay behind as the rest of the family runs away. I've always wondered who could be taking this picture and why they all run away?

Why Should We Care In 2023: In the last season of the show, the Seavers took in a homeless boy who was played by one of the biggest movie stars in this century.

Gimme A Break (1981-87)

Show Synopsis: Nell Carter plays a brash but loving maid for a widowed police chief and his three daughters. But the show lasted long enough where the daughters got too old to need a housekeeper and eventually Nell moves to New York City with two adopted boys.

Casting Changes: Dolph Sweet, who played the police chief died of stomach cancer after the fourth season. Some old guy named John Hoyt pops in and out of seasons. By the last season, the show is a sad shell of what it was.

Theme Song Rating: 8.5 (for the first two seasons)/6.2 (for the rest of the run). The synth version is nowhere near as good.

Things Of Note: This is honestly my favorite one of these. You see a show grow and then fall apart all in a five minute period. The vacuum in the fish tank is probably the most iconic part of this show.

Why Should We Care In 2023: Not only do you get Joey Lawrence as a little kid but Matthew Lawrence eventually joins the show for the last season. Maybe this isn't that relevant in 2023 but that was a pretty cool footnote in 1998.

I have no idea if people find these as relaxing and fascinating as I do? If this is fun for people, I'll do some more. If not, this idea can die in the same trashcan as this blog I wrote last year: