If you ask anyone with a pulse, 2016 blew chunks. Those same somebodies also claim that 2017 crapped bricks. Now they tell me that 2018 should be generally unpleasant. No wonder 80's nostalgia has hit an all-time high. If only we could have fun again. If only we could Wang Chung again.
But should the 80's deserve this connotation of a Mecca of wonderfulness? After all, the "Me Decade" gave us the Cold War, an assassination attempt, Just Say No, Olympic Boycotts, Chernobyl, the Challenger Explosion, the Iran Contra Affair, the McDLT, New Coke, and the fact that you could hire an entire army from the back pages of the magazine Soldier of Fortune. The rich still got richer, the poor still got poorer, and yet optimism reigned supreme.
So what's different from today and yester-year? Perhaps the constant barrage of social media heightens our social issue defensiveness. Perhaps identity politics reduce us to angry stereotypes warring with our closest friends. Perhaps its a conspiracy from the powerful Frozen Orange Juice Cabal.
Perhaps its the lack of TV theme songs.
You may laugh, but there definitely is an unscientific correlation between the decline in sitcom theme songs and the increase of public curmudgeoness. Even in the beginning, when television theme songs basically explained the show's premise, no problem seemed insurmountable. Even being left for dead in the ocean:
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,; A tale of a fateful trip; That started from this tropic port; Aboard this tiny ship.
.And cultures can come together, regardless of creepy dopplegangers.
But they're cousins; Identical cousins all the way; One pair of matching bookends; Different as night and day...
In the 70's, every sitcom had a theme song, and each was more optimistic than the last.* By now, a simple retelling usually didn't suffice, so they had to talk about moving on toward better days. The show name snuck in, but more was how awesome things were about to get.
Baby, if you've ever wondered; Wondered whatever became of me; I'm living on the air in Cincinnati, Cincinnati, WKRP...
Well, we're movin' on up; To the east side; To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Once the 80's hit, theme songs were now bigger than the show they landed on. The optimism leaked out of the screen and tried to infect our souls. YOUR life will get better, YOUR dreams should be dreamt, YOUR cliché will be clichéd. All you need is love, faith and a few zany friends.
Just imagine yourself coming home after losing your job and finding out that Reagan just ordered 400 new nuclear weapons. Pretty depressing until...
Standing tall, on the wings of my dream; Rise and fall, on the wings of my dream.
Believe it or not; I'm walking on air; I never thought I could feel so free-
And even of things don't go your way, there's still a place...
Where everybody knows your name; and they're always glad you came.
The 90's started off well with Friends, but shortly after, shows needed more advertising time. Shows started to lose the opening theme, and America started to become more cynical. We started wearing flannel and stopped showering, mostly because of Frasier's lack of an opening ear worm. Can you safely say that anything is possible from these six seconds?
Seinfeld followed suit with guitar riffs and many cut out themes all together. A whole generation grew up without a Who's the Boss or a Golden Girls. No wonder that Millennials have been deemed the most pessimistic generation since the Great Depression -- a period of time that has DEPRESSION right in the title.
There's still hope that TV magic can save our country's spirit, but you're going to have to go up the dial a bit. Turn on any tweenage channel and the themes are back, optimistic as ever. You even get to watch bad acting with the same inane plot lines as the 1970's and 80's. Some are even reboots of the same shows!
But if Girl Meets World can boost my daughter's soul, even I can stand a little Ben Savage.
I feel all right, I'm gonna take on the world; Light up the stars, I've got some pages to turn
Jack Grubb writes an incredible blog, Losing the Internets, which is read by at least 37 people and over 2,100 Russian SPAM bots. In his spare time he helps small companies find their marketing voice. Jack currently lives deliberately in Appalachia, Kentucky with his wife, two daughters, Jack Russell and a Lego collection beyond compare.