There are many banes of my Netflix viewing experience: the autoplaying trailers, the autoplaying films when you click on them for more info, the automatic credits pushback the moment any film or TV show finishes so you can’t properly wind-down or see who made this art cos you got five seconds to hit the “Watch Credits” button before being forcibly yanked into the next episode/crappy trailer – the list goes on.
But perhaps the biggest of all is the little mandatory “Skip Intro” icon that now crops up in the bottom-right of every single TV show title sequence. Sure, I get why it’s a thing – my mother, to my knowledge, has never willingly sat through a title sequence even once since she got a Sky+ – and you don’t have to click it, but still… it’s there! All the time! Taking up eye-catching, immersion-breaking space! And you can’t turn that notification off, the little shit!
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I love TV show intros. Long ones, short ones, plain ones, fancy ones, EXTRA ones. Every single time, I will sit through them, even the bad ones, cos they’re an often-integral part of the show’s formatting. They bring you into the show’s world, set the tone, put you in the right headspace.
They can foreshadow. They can introduce the characters. If they arrive after a cold open, as is increasingly the case, then that cut to credits can serve as the perfect punctuation mark to whatever just happened. Or they can just be cool as fuck or have a banger of an opening theme song. Point is, they are art, both in their own rights and as part of the larger art of the show, and deserve some respect being put on their name by not badgering viewers to skip them outright or only playing them in full once per disc on the Daria DVD collection, PARAMOUNT HOME VIDEO!
Below are some of our personal favourite TV intros from across the decades. What are yours? Let us know! – Callie Petch
There are many who believe that modern day television began with James Gandolfini’s mob boss Tony Soprano sitting in the waiting room of his soon-to-be therapist’s office waiting to be seen for the first time. I prefer to believe it began at the first appearance of the modern classic show’s now iconic title sequence.
Following Tony on his journey from New York to his home in New Jersey and complemented by the unmistakable ‘Woke Up This Morning’ from Alabama 3, the air of authority surrounding the man and his truck is unmistakable. In just over a minute and a half, with New York literally in his rear view and with a ‘master of all he surveys’ attitude towards his home state, Tony is the all-powerful star of the next hour of television. And you better not forget it. – Andrew Brooker
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The Tomorrow People
The opening rumble of the growing drumroll is an ominous portent of what’s to come. A line in the first story describes becoming one of the Tomorrow People as like imagining your mind is a tightly clenched fist, slowly unfolding and opening like a flower; this is the first thing we see.
Crash zoom after crash zoom follows, showing us flashes of different images: a foetus, a galaxy, an eye, a flower, geometric patterns, the open hand, and more. All accompanied by Dudley Simpson’s haunting synthesiser theme tune, creating something truly alien and disconcerting. – Lee Thacker
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
You can’t call yourself a 90s kid if you don’t know the rap from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! It’s a rite of passage, a true test of pop culture knowledge with lyrics you could say out loud in the presence of your mother without her worrying about profanity!
But seriously, a great theme sets the mood and tone, and Fresh Prince was no different. Sitting on his golden throne, Will Smith (in a fictionalised version of himself) tells you everything you need to know through his lyrical storytelling. Spanning between West Philadelphia where he was “born and raised” and Bel-Air, it invitingly sets up a culture clash between the Black working class and Black wealth and privilege – a different take from most sit-coms on the air at the time that portrayed Black families.
And by taking notable cues from ‘Parents Don’t Just Understand’ and ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble’, you watched (repeatedly) a stylised mini music video. For 1 min and 50 seconds, you witnessed Will Smith’s natural charm and expressive humour, proving how – even 30 years since his debut on the show – he’s still one of the most underrated MCs out there. And just his alias, this theme is TV royalty. – Kelechi Ehenulo
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The 80s had no shortage of iconic theme tunes and intro sequences to pick from. Transformers (“Robots in Disguise!”), Thundercats (“Thunder, thunder, thunder, THUNDERCATS!”) or even MASK (“Masked Crusaders! Working overtime!”). But the one that’s stuck with me ever since I was a kid was the glorious Ulysses 31 intro.
A blend of fantastical imagery and science-fiction sets the scene, the plot of the series summed up in a mere 40 seconds, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the mythology-inspired visuals and ship designs. One of the catchiest songs of the 80s, great visuals and a tantalising synopsis of the story combine to make the audience want to watch this show. – Shaun Rodger
The Powerpuff Girls
FACT: late-90s and early-00s Cartoon Network had the best opening title sequences. So many classics! Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy torturing a generation of parents through their kids’ failing attempts at whistling; the surf-rock throwbacks of Cow and Chicken and Johnny Bravo; the gateway goth freakiness of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.
None, however, are quite as perfect as the one for The Powerpuff Girls. Craig McCracken’s first creation expeditiously communicates the show’s entire appeal in 60 iconic seconds – that crossbreeding of early Japanese anime, golden age superhero comics, and traditionally feminine iconography into a unique, enticing and cross-gender stew that you’ve gotta have more more MORE of after just the opening taste.
Tom Kenny’s hammy narrator blowing through the origin story of our heroes in six simple lines, that pan-shot of the delightfully freakish rogues gallery, and even the late 90s big beat instrumental theme song. It all still works and it all still kills whether you’re seeing it for the first or four-hundredth time. – Callie Petch