50 children’s TV show theme tunes from my 1980s childhood

Family life

It might be 2017, but a big piece of my heart is still sat firmly in the 1980s. I was born in 1978, so I am a real child of the 80s, beginning it aged one and a half and finishing it aged 11 and a half.

One of the most popular posts I’ve ever written on Cardiff Mummy Says is 22 Films from the 1980s I want my children to watch before they’re 11, which still gets a few thousand page views a month even now, almost two years on.

So I thought it was about time I turned my attention to classic children’s TV shows of the 1980s because, let’s face it, they don’t make them like they used to.

It took me forever to put this post together because I kept getting swept up in waves of nostalgia and watching old episodes of some of my favourites on YouTube…. and even sharing some of them with my own children, who think it’s all a bit old fashioned and odd and don’t understand the appeal.

If you grew up watching Rainbow, Button Moon, Inspector Gadget, Jonny Briggs, The A-Team, Knight Rider, He-Man, Fraggle Rock, Byker Grove and the like, then this post is for you.

There are one or two shows from the early 1990s as well, because they were such an ingrained part of my growing up I just had to include them.

I hope this post brings back some memories for you. Are any of your favourites on the list, or are there any you’d add? Do let me know in the comments section below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy

This post is sponsored by Halfords, who have been getting nostalgic themselves, with a collection of iconic bikes throughout the ages. Do you remember the 1980s Raleigh Vectar, equipped with micro-chip technology? 



Air Wolf

I have a confession to make. I never watched this show – but Cardiff Daddy loved it and told me I had to include it. It’s only first because I’ve done this list alphabetically. The American show ran from 1984 until 1987, centring on a high-tech military helicopter, which was code-named Airwolf.


Alvin and the Chipmonks

“We’re the Chipmonks. Alvin, Simon, Theodore.” The Chipmonks were so much better between 1983 and 1990 than they were before the makers CGId them for the modern incarnation and made them look like weird boys with tails.


The Animals of Farthing Wood

Don’t be fooled by its innocent-sounding name. This early-90s show was brutal, with animals dying all over the place, as they tried to flee the woods being destroyed by humans, and head to a nature reserve where they would be protected.

Art Attack

This didn’t start airing until 1990, so it only just makes my list… but I remember all my friends loving this show, as Neil Buchanan drew and made all manner of crafty creations.


The A-Team

This will forever remind me of Saturday afternoons at my late Nan’s house. I didn’t especially like The A-Team, but my brother and all my boy cousins did. We’d have our cheese sandwiches and Hula Hoops and then the familiar sound of The A-Team would begin as BA Baracas, Howling Mad Murdock, John “Hannibal” Smith and Templeton Peck, wanted by the government after escaping prison for a crime they didn’t commit, survived as “soldiers of fortune”. “If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… the A-Team.”



Oh, this was an odd one! Eric is, in the words of the show’s intro, “a schoolboy who lives an amazing double life”. When he eats a banana, he magically transforms into Bananaman, a muscular superhero clad in yellow and blue and who saves the world from a cast of baddies including Dr Gloom. 40 episiodes were made between 1983 and 1986, with members of The Goodies, including Bill Oddie, voicing the show.



Again, another cheeky one from the early 1990s, but Baywatch was huge at the start of that decade, as lifeguards David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson kept the beaches of Los Angeles in California safe. There’s a new Baywatch film coming out soon, staring Zac Efron.



“A P, please Bob.” Oh that never got boring to an 80s child, did it? Those light-up letters, the clever kids with their mascots trying to answer the questions to get them from side of the board to the other, Bob Holness presented the quiz show from 1983 to 1995 – and I loved it!


Blue Peter

It’s been running since 1958 and is the longest-running children’s TV show in the world. In the 1980s it was all about sticky back plastic, here’s one I made earlier, time capsules, Blue Peter badges, charity appeals, and daring adventures from presenters Sarah Green, Janet Ellis, Simon Groom, Mark Curry, Caron Keating, Yvette Fielding and John Leslie.


Button Moon

Running from 1980-1988, the moon in this show as actually a button and Mr Spoon and his family were made of random kitchen utensils with wooden spoons for arms. Each 10-minute episode always seemed to involve the family looking through the telescope into blanket sky and setting off in their baked bean tea rocket.


Byker Grove

My nephew recently went paint balling for his birthday… and I had to warn him to keep his goggles on at all times because all I could think of was PJ going blind (second clip above). Oh, I loved Byker Grove (said in my best Geordie accent). First aired in 1989 and running until 2006, it was the first teen drama for many 80s kids and we loved following the exploits of PJ and Duncan (Ant and Dec), Spuggie (Lyndyann Barrass), Nicola (Jill Halfpenny), Charlie (Donna Air) and all the other kids who frequented the youth club run by Geoff (Billy Fane). Why wasn’t there a youth club like that where I lived?


Count Duckula

A spin-off from Danger Mouse (see below), Duckula (voiced by David Jason) might dress the part and come from a lineage of vicious vampire ducks – but he in fact hates living In a dark, gloomy castle, has no fangs, is a vegetarian with a penchant for broccoli sandwiches rather than blood. Who could forget the Nanny, the looming large nanny and housekeeper and Igor, the butler? This ran from 1988 to 1993.


Danger Mouse

A parody of British spy fiction, at its peak Danger Mouse hit an incredible 21 million viewers. Secret agent Danger Mouse (voiced again by David Jason), his reluctant sidekick, Penfold (a bespectacled hamster voiced by Terry Scott) and their boss Colonol K (Edward Kelsey) spend their life fighting the villainous Baron Silas Greenback. Running from 1981 to 1992, this has recently been revived with an all-new series. It also lead to the spin-off show Count Duckula, see above.


Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds

I loved the theme song for this: “One for all and all for one, Muskehounds are always ready. One for all and all for one helping everybody.” However, as a child, I had no idea this was based on d’Artagnan and The Three Musketeers, or even what that was. Set in the 17th century, he cartoon follows a young Dogtanian as he travels to Paris to become one of the King Louis XIII of France’s musketeers.


Duck Tales

Scrooge McDuck and his three grandnephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie got their own show in this cartoon which ran from 1987 to 1990. I don’t remember much about the show itself – just the catchy theme song. Incidentally, there’s a new version planned for later this year, with David Tennant in the role of Scrooge McDuck.


Dungeons and Dragons

Running from 1983-1985, this cartoon followed a group of children who go on a fairground ride and find themselves transported into the mysterious realm of dungoens and dragons, where they must fight all manner of strange beasts and villains, in an attempt to get home. I googled the show recently, because despite watching countless episodes, I never did know if the kids made it home. And actually, they didn’t! The show was cancelled before it concluded, although there does exist a final un-produced episode which would have rounded off the series.


The Family Ness

Scottish siblings Angus and Elspeth have the ability to call a group of Loch Ness Monsters, or nessies, out of the water with their thistle whistles whenever they need help. Apparently all manner of nessies live in the loch, each with their own distinct personality, such as Ferocious Ness, Forgetful-Ness, Baby-Ness and so on. Do you remember the song from the closing credits, “You’ll never find a Nessie in the zoo”?


Fraggle Rock

Created by the man behind the Muppets, Jim Henson, this ran from 1983-1987 and followed an underground world inhabited by the all-singing, all-dancing Fraggles, Doozers, Gorgs, and their interaction with the Silly Creatures (aka humans). Key Fraggles include Gobo, Mokey, Red, Wembley and Boober. I couldn’t find any of the UK versions on YouTube… our version replaced the Canadian “silly creature” with its own British light house keeper, The Captain.


The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

I bet you still know all the words to the theme tune! This was a real must-watch at the start of the 1990s, with street-wise teenager Will Smith sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Bel Air. It’s currently on Netflix, if you want a reminder.


Fun House

First airing in 1989 and running for a decade until 1999, the children’s game show was hosted by the long-haired Pat Sharp, accompanied by twins Melanie and Martina Grant. Kids had to survive the gunge of the messy games, the go karts, and the fun house itself to win prizes.



Contenders – ready! Gladiators – ready! Okay, so this one didn’t start airing until 1992 – but how could I not include it? As us 80s kids got a bit older, this was essential Saturday night viewing back in the day. Presented by Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu, each episode saw two male and two female contestants compete in a number of physical challenges against the Gladiators. Hunter, Saracen, Wolf, Jet, Panther and Lightening to name a few, each with their own theme tune – I had the official soundtrack on cassette!


Going Live

081 811 81 81. Yep. I still know the phone number, and I’m showing my age because it was before it became 0181. Philip Schofield and Sarah Greene made this children’s magazine-style show essential Saturday morning viewing between 1987 and 1993. They were accompanied by Trev and Simon, Gordon the Gopher, agony uncle Philip Hodson… and if you were lucky, your favourite pop star would make an appearance on the show and you could ring up and get the chance to ask them a question. Like, actually speak to them! This day it’d just be a tweet, which doesn’t really compare, does it?

Grange Hill

The show ran for 30 years, from 1978 until 2008. I have no idea when I first started watching Grange Hill – about the time of Ziggy, Gonch, Robbie, Imelda Davies, and the Justine and Tegs and co – but I loved this show about the London comprehensive and was thrilled when BBC2 started showing it from the very beginning on Sunday mornings. The opening credits changed in 1990 to something more modern– but could never compete with that cartoon style intro, and that sausage on the fork!


Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears

I know I used to like this show, which aired debuted in America in 1985 and ran to 1991, but all I really remember is Gummi berry juice, which allowed the furry creatures to bounce away from danger, and the brilliant theme show. Altogether now: “Gummi Bears, bouncing here and there and everywhere! High adventure that’s beyond compare, they are the Gummi Bears!”


Happy Days

Along with The Wonder Years (see below) Happy Days was my introduction to American teen culture in years gone by. I loved this show – Richie Cunningham and his friends Posie and Ralph; the oh-so-cool Fonzie; Joanie and Chachie. Depicting life in mid 1950s to mid 1960s United States, Happy Days ran from 1974 to 1984.



“By the power of Greyskull!”

With the power of his sword Prince Adam of Eternia transformed into He Man – the most powerful man in the universe! – his cowardly pet tiger became Battle Cat, and no one noticed the resemblance! The bad guy came in the form of Skeletor, an evil cloaked sorcerer. Spin-off show She-Ra transformed the same premise to his twin sister.


Inspector Gadget

I recently made a reference to reaching out for something with “Go, go Gadget arms” and people – young people, I should add – looked at me like I was stupid. Oh dear millennials, you really missed out here! Inspector Gadget was the dim-witted detective who might have had all manner of exciting gadgets but who was utterly rubbish at solving mysteries. That was all down to his niece Penny and her dog Brain, yet Gadget always believed it was he who had solved the day.


Jonny Briggs

A whole generation of 80s kids can’t listen to a trombone even to this day without expecting it to launch into the theme tune of Jonny Briggs. The eponymous character was tormented by his older brother “our Albert” and his sister “our Rita” and those awful twins Ginny and Josie. This was another show I was thrilled to find on YouTube. It’s exactly how I remember it.


Knight Rider

Just like the A-Team as mentioned above, this show is forever associated with Saturdays at my Nana’s house, and was much loved by my brothers an boy cousins (yep, total gender stereotyping, but hey. Between 1982 and 1986, David Hasselhoff starred as Michael Knight, assisted in his crime fighting by KITT, an indestructible car with artificial intelligence.


The Littlest Hobo

I think I liked the theme tune to this even more than the show! “Maybe tomorrow, I’ll wanna settle down; until tomorrow I’ll just keep moving on.” The Canadian show first aired from 1963 to 1965, but was revived between 1979 and 1985. The stray dog wanders from town to town, always saving the day, but never staying in one place for long.


Muppet Babies

I loved this show! I once wrote a whole story book about them and even recorded it onto a tape, read-a-long style. Yes, I was that sad back in the 80s, but how adorable were baby Kermit, baby Miss Piggy, Baby Gonzo and all the gang?! There are 65 episodes over on YouTube, if you’re feeling nostalgic.


Mysterious Cities of Gold

Who could forget the orphan Esteban, rescued at sea, and his gold medallion, as he travelled the seas in the 16th century, looking for his father? Did he find him? I honestly can’t remember!




Fronted by the brilliant John Craven from 1972-1989, this was the daily news highlights, broken down for kids. It really sparked the young me’s interest in becoming a journalist, although I never quite became a member of his Press Pack of young reporters. The show still runs daily on CBBC.



The first soap opera I ever watched. I was obsessed with Neighbours in the late 80s. The Aussie show marked my first celeb crush in the guise of Jason Donovan, and my adoration of Kylie. I don’t know anyone who still watches it now but late 80s and early 90s Neighbours was awesome – Scott and Charlene, Plain Jane Superbrain and handsome Mike, Daphne dying in the arms of Des, Mrs Mangel, Bouncer the dog. Happy memories indeed. This link is not only the theme tune but also the whole Scott and Charlene wedding. Can you watch it without crying?!


Press Gang

I remember having a conversation with some journalist friends of mine and almost all of us said Press Gang had inspired our choice of future careers. Running from 1989-1993, this starred a young Dexter Fletcher and Julia Sawalha as journalists on their school newspaper. I always wished my school had a newspaper like The Junior Gazette.



Geoffrey, Bungle the bear, George the hippo and Zippy, whatever he was…. Perfect lunch time viewing for pre-schoolers when I was a kid. “Paint the whole world with a rainbow!”


The Really Wild Show

From exotic animals to garden wildlife and everything in between, this was the place for 80s kids to come if they wanted to know anything about animals. Originally presented by Terry Nutkins, Nick Davies and Chris Packham, the show ran for 20 years, from 1986 to 2006.



Completely and utterly bonkers, this show about a company which rented out spooks and spirits for various tasks, was one of my favourite childhood shows. Who could forget the mischievous jester, Timothy Claypole, Hazel the McWitch, Nadia Popov who teleports every time she sneezes, and Dobbin, the horse. It ran from 1976-1984. Like I said, bonkers… but brilliant!


Round The Twist

The spooky Australian series was essential viewing from 1989 into the early 90s – if you were brave enough! It followed a widowed father and his two children who lived in a haunted lighthouse, with all manner of strange and scary goings on.


Saved by the Bell

Zack, Screech, AC Slater, Jessie, Kelly, Lisa and, of course, Mr Belding, all in the American sunshine. Didn’t we all want to go to school at Bayside in the early 90s?


Scooby Doo

Let me tell you a secret, Cardiff Daddy used to be terrified of this when he was a child and would either hide behind the sofa when it was on, or offer to help make the tea. If only he’d realised every episode was the same – bad guy/girl dresses as monster and would have got away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids. I just had a flash back to singing “Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you? On the toilet, doing a poo.” Did all 80s kids sing that?!


The Sooty Show

Sooty has been on the TV in one shape or form since the 1950s, originally accompanied by Harry Corbett. 80s kids will remember his son Matthew Corbett taking over the yellow bear glove puppet, along with Sweep, Soo and little cousin Scamp. With his magic wand, Sooty was performd tricks, accompanied of course by the words Izzy wizzy, let’s get busy!


Super Gran

I must admit, I didn’t like this show at all – but one of my friends absolutely loved it, so in the interest of impartiality, I’m including it here. Granny Smith (Gudrun Ure) is an unlikely superhero, protecting the residents of Chiselton from a whole host of villains.



Made right here in Wales, the intro says it all really: “This is a story about an ordinary teddy bear. When he was made they found something wrong with him and threw him away, like a piece of rubbish, into an old dark store room. Then from outer-space a spotty man brought him to life with his cosmic dust. He took him to a magic cloud where Mother Nature gave him special powers. That bear became… SuperTed!” Creator Mike Young has spoken about creating a new version of the show… but it’s yet to materialise.



I absolutely loved this show about a mean witch called Talullah Bag (later replaced by her sister Tabatha) whose magic powers came from drinking tea (brewed by young assistant T-Bag). Each series saw a young girl come to the rescue to stop them, by travelling over space and time to collect various components to stop the witch. Completely random but completely brilliant too! As one commenter wrote on YouTube, “Only in the United Kingdom could they have a children’s programme based around tea”. Indeed.


The Trap Door

This was a weird but very loveable show following a group of monsters who live in a castle, tormented by strange creatures emerging from beneath the trap door. I loved trying to make the monsters out of Play-Doh, and we even had the computer game for our Spectrum. First aired in 1984, it’s a real cult classic these days.



I bumped into one of my brother’s old school friends a few years back. She told me her overriding memory of my brother was playing Thundercats in the school yard with him. Apparently she was always Wily Kit to his Wily Kat. 80s playground romance right there, folks.


The Wide Awake Club / Wacaday

You weren’t a child of the 80s unless you did the Wacawave out of the window of your car, waiting excitedly for those “in the know” to give you the wave back. The Wide Awake Club was a Saturday morning show presented by Michaela Strachen, James Baker, Arabella Warner, Tommy Boyd and, of course the flamboyant Timmy Mallet, with Wacaday being the daily school holiday offshoot. You weren’t a child of the 80s unless played Mallet’s Mallet, the word association game

I played this game so much with the kids in my neighbourhood (outside in the streets, because that’s what we 80s kids did) that I don’t think I will ever forget the words.

“Mallet’s Mallet is a word association game where you mustn’t pause or hesitate, repeat a word or say a word I don’t like, otherwise you get a bash on the head like this…  or like this.. . And it’s the one with the most bruises who loses. Look at each other and go Blaaaaaah!”

I’m totally teaching this one to my kids.


Willo The Wisp

Mavis Cruet the fairy, Arthur the caterpillar, Evil Edna – awitch in the form of a walking, talking television set, plus the blue floating Willo himself. All were voiced by Kenneth Williams in this simple series of five-minute cartoon episodes, which ran from 1981


Why Don’t You?

“Why don’t you switch off the TV and do something less boring instead?” Oh, the irony, considering how little TV and technology we kids had compared to the children of the 2010s. This clip features the Cardiff gang from 1985. Totally worth watching for the vintage look at the city centre, old-style Cardiff buses and the castle.


The Wonder Years

I adored this show! I remember it being on Channel 4 at 6.30pm every Sunday. Oh, how I longed to be like Winnie, with her perfect teeth and glossy dark hair, and have a boy next door like Kevin. The storytelling is what really made this show; the action was set in the late 1960s but the narration was looking back from the present day. While writing this article, I discovered that all the episodes are on YouTube and obviously had to watch a few to refresh my memory as to whether it was as good as I remembered. And yes, it is! Yay!

I hope this post brings back some memories for you. Are any of your favourites on the list, or are there any you’d add? Do let me know in the comments section below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy


2 Comments to 50 children’s TV show theme tunes from my 1980s childhood

  1. My daughter and I actually watched another 2 episodes of Dungeons and Dragons yesterday! It was one of my favorites as a kid, so I ordered the DVD collection and also Thundarr The Barbarian from the late 70s. She loves them

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