Hello, Larry And The Death Of The Sitcom Theme SongJon Fine
A colleague forwarded me the below YouTube clip. He advised me to watch all the way to the end, in order to catch the supporting star who pops up out of nowhere at the end—a classic of celebrity randomness past:
“Watch all the way to the end” is good advice, because by today’s standards this is unbelievably long. Emphasis on “by today’s standards,” that is. Hello, Larry’s theme song—with its multiple verses and bridge, a massive backing band encompassing horns and keyboards and guitars, and increasingly weary titular refrain— in its time was an exemplar of a past TV meme. Before and after Hello Larry’s heyday (if one can term it as such) of 1979-80, sitcoms introduced themselves each week with incredibly involved theme songs. They not only explained what the sitcom was about, they gave ultra-detailed back-story information. Looking at this clip in 2007, I sort of feel like I’ve watched the whole show when I’ve only watched the whole song.
Sitcoms don’t do themes like this anymore. (And when did they stop? Don Smith, can you help us out here?) The made-for-web sitcom The Burg, which takes pretty dead aim at hipsters in a particular neighborhood in Brooklyn, gets its theme and character sketches across in around twenty seconds—and with a song snippet that contains no specific lyrical exposition whatsoever.
But, whatever. Someone needs to bring the long-form sitcom theme song back. And you don’t even need a sitcom to write one. In this era of ultra-bite-sized entertainment, the minute-long sitcom theme song can be the whole show.
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