Theme Song Thursday: ‘Perfect Strangers’ touts a perfect theme song

Much of my childhood, at least on Friday nights, revolved around ABC’s TGIF lineup in the early 1990s. Everyone had a favorite sitcom during the two-hour weekly programming block, whether it was “Full House,” “Family Matters” or “Step by Step.”

Perfect Strangers

Cousin Larry and Cousin Balki

But my favorite, then and now, is “Perfect Strangers,” a perfect sitcom for its odd couple pairing of Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and his previously unknown distant cousin Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot), who hailed from the Mediterranean island of Mypos.

The show revolves around Balki’s failures and successes as he tries to adapt to the American way of life while living in his cousin’s Chicago apartment. When things went right, Balki would bust out his signature “Dance of Joy”; when things went wrong, it usually turned out Balki was more right than his stressed-out, neurotic cousin Larry when it come down to being a good guy and doing the right thing.

“Perfect Strangers” came from the production dream team Miller-Boyett, who also were behind pretty much every other good sitcom at the time, including “Full House,” “Perfect Strangers” spinoff “Family Matters” and “Step by Step.” And these guys really knew the value of having an awesome theme song, which explains why they relied on songwriting duo Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay to write the themdes for all the shows I just mentioned (and that explains why they all have somewhat similar themes).

But for whatever reason, I think it all came together perfectly in the minute or so of awesomeness in “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now,” an optimistic song about not giving up that’s a great intro to each episode of “Perfect Strangers.” The song, performed by David Pomeranz, went through several small edits and cuts through the show’s eight-season run from 1986 to 1993 but always kept the focus on the original theme’s inspiring lyrics:

Standing tall, on the wings of my dream.
Rise and fall, on the wings of my dream.
The rain and thunder
The wind and haze
I’m bound for better days.
It’s my life and my dream,
Nothing’s gonna stop me now.

Don’t get me wrong, “Full House” and “Family Matters” have classic theme songs, and I have always loved the catchy little ditty that kicked off each episode of “Step by Step.” But “Perfect Strangers” was the most solid sitcom ever developed by Miller-Boyett, and the show’s theme also stands above the rest of a pretty amazing pack of shows and songs that stemmed from these television geniuses.

But you don’t have to take my word for it:

And here’s the infamous “Dance of Joy”:

Awesome.

Theme Song Thursday is a weekly look back at memorable, not-so-influential, nostalgia-inducing theme songs by the HeraldÂ’s Melinda Lavine and Ryan Johnson. Click here to read previous entries, and feel free to share!

Theme Song Thursday: The Brady Bunch of the ’90s

“We’ll make it better, the second time around.”

That’s the gist of “Second Time Around,” the awesome theme song to the not-so-awesome 1990s sitcom “Step by Step” about a newly blended family trying to take things “step by step, day by day.”

The Brady Bunch, the second time around

The cast of "Step by Step"

This show could best be described as a 1990s version of “The Brady Bunch” – divorced contractor Frank Lambert (Patrick Duffy) impulsively marries widowed beautician Carol Foster (Suzanne Somers), who return from a Jamaican vacation to tell their three kids (each!) that they now have step-brothers, step-sisters and step-parents.

Besides being on ABC’s TGIF lineup, “Step by Step” – and its theme song – has a lot in common with other classic 1990s family sitcoms.

The series was developed and executive produced by Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett, the TV dream team who also produced “Family Matters,” “Full House” and “Perfect Strangers.”

And “Second Time Around” was performed and co-written by Jesse Frederick, who along with Bennett Salvay wrote the themes for the three Miller-Boyett sitcoms I just mentioned. (In case you’re wondering, this explains why all four theme songs sound like they could be looped into one awesome early ’90s track. I’m still hoping to try that experiment some day).

Here are the lyrics to this classic theme song:

The dream got broken
Seemed like all was lost
What would be the future
Could you pay the cost
You wonder,
Will there ever be
a second time around?

Woah-a, woah-a
When the tears are over
And the moment has come
Say “My lord,
I think I found someone”
And no one would be better
To be putting it together
For the second time around

We got the woman and man
We got the kids in a clan
Only time will tell
If all these dreams fit under one umbrella

Step by step
Day by day
A fresh start over
A different hand to play
The deeper we fall
The stronger we stay
And we’ll be better
The second time around

Step by step
Day by day
{Day by day}
A fresh start over
A different hand to play
Only time will tell
But you know what they say
We’ll make it better
The second time around

I’ll admit that I watched the show from time to time in the early 1990s, but “Step by Step” is not something that I would recommend watching today. I think it’s boring, predictable and loaded with bad acting – that’s not all that different from many other sitcoms of its era, but I’d much rather watch “Perfect Strangers” if I want to get my TGIF fix.

Still, “Second Time Around” is such a great song that it’s always stuck in my head, even if I haven’t heard it in years. The tune has a great early ’90s vibe, plus it’s a rockin’ duet between Jesse Frederick and a Bonnie Tyler-like Theresa James. I can’t defend the show it was featured on, but no one has to defend their love of “Second Time Around.”

Here’s the full version of the theme – I’m sure the amusement park intro will be familiar to anyone who grew up with TGIF:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y42dFQizJ8

Theme Song Thursday is a weekly look back at memorable, not-so-influential, nostalgia-inducing theme songs by the Herald’s Melinda Lavine and Ryan Johnson. Click here to read previous entries, and feel free to share!