The 25 Best Television Intros of the Last 25 Years

by 7 years ago

Before we begin, here are some bullet points you should read:

  • Visual aesthetics were weighted slightly more than theme songs. Consider the theme songs the gravy–needed to put the intro over the top, though the only reason why it could go over the top in the first place is because of the great meat.
  • Very short intros with little to no visual accompaniment (i.e, Seinfeld or Breaking Bad) were not included
  • The majority of these shows have been on the air in the past fifteen years. This is a small function of personal bias, but it's a larger function of the fact that technology and creativity within the medium has blossomed since the late 90's. As the years progress, these have gotten more complex and creative. And thus, better. 
  • Given that this is a list on the internet, we don't need to bring in the Men's Warehouse Guy and his cavalcade of guarantees to tell us that you will have bold and caps-locked opinions about what got snubbed. Direct your short-lived anger and important opinions to the comment section. There are only 25 things on here, so a TON of things got snubbed. 
  • This list was composed by males. Nothing on the CW. 
  • Have fun. Get awesome flashbacks. Resolve to start binging on a show. Crack a smile. Go outside today.    



25. Chuck

I've recently come to the conclusion that goofy-ish sitcoms were invented for 29 year-old males. Those who have experienced enough of the world to realize that the majority of it is a terrible place full of repeated moral compromises, and the only way to maintain sanity is to escape from reality.

And given that drugs are no longer cool, sitcoms  are really the only option.

Cake's “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” only accentuates this–they're a band for people who are still young enough to not be a creepy bachelor, yet have a decent amount of disposable income. 


24. Entourage

This should probably be higher on the list. A high-quality intro that really digs into fast car, fast livin' Hollywood, while really driving home that the point of this show isn't necessarily the cars, money, or fame…it's the unbreakable bonds…Bro?

That said, given the content of the show they definitely could've done more here. Why no shots cruising down PCH? Or Lew Ashby Malibu mansions? It's our boys having a great time, but it's not the pinnacle.  They could've went for the pinnacle. 


23. Shameless

The High Strung's “The Luck You Got” is a perfect lead in here. Imagery a little bit in your face “our finances may be down the toilet, but we're just chugging along anyway!”, but that's really cause I sarcastically called it out like a douchebag on the internet. It's good. It's exactly what it should be.  


22. SKINS (UK)

Just trippy enough, and visually it's one of the more luridly appealing 20 seconds you'll ever witness. Perfect for the audience of young people who can't pay attention to shit for more than four seconds. 


21. Friday Night Lights

Texas Forever. 


20. Boardwalk Empire

You get the sense that something's up. Calm before the storm, but the calm is kind of contaminated. They could've ruined it by making it too old-timey, but really coincides with the pacing of the show. 


19. The Office

Exactly what a sitcom intro should be. Doesn't hurt when you have an incredible theme, and even more incredible remixes


18. Six Feet Under

A lot in common with the other Michael C. Hall outfit on this list. For a show that's predicated on making the viewer try to “feel” the world of death, they've pulled off a remarkably difficult task. The emphasis on white fades and the like are rather distinguishable. Standing out is good in a list like this.  


17. Cheers

This theme song may arguably outlive all others on this list. The intro montage is as “classic” as you can get in the last 25 years, but is there really anything amazingly special about an intro I could've easily made in iMovie with rampant usage of the Ken Burns effect? The theme carries this one.  


16. Freaks and Geeks

You could see a lot of ties to the Shameless one here, but the JD Salinger of television series' does a number of things great–the contrast between taking a nice school picture and trying really hard not to give a shit, the cast of now ultra famous characters brimming with youth, and a brash establishment right off the bat–you know what this show is gonna be about. 


15. Jersey Shore

A trainwreck in the best way possible. You can't look away. You have to see what happens. Ratings. Shots. 


14. The Big Bang Theory

If the band behind this sounds familiar, it's because they're none other than the Barenaked Ladies–better known for gems such as One Week and Pinch Me. What this show lacks in making me not groan every time it's on TBS instead of Family Guy, it certainly makes up for with an imaginative theme with an even more imaginative visual progression. For such substantial intellectual topics, the theme–and then the show–does  great job ensuring you don't have to really think.   


13. The Simpsons

As with anything that's existed for almost 25 years, this has gone through a number of changes–but the theme and general sense have managed to remain virtually the same, indirectly becoming timeless. Always exciting to see what will be written on the chalkboard and Springfield billboard every sequence. The version above is one of the few guest-directed versions of the intro, which was created by street artist legend Banksy.  


12. Hey Arnold

Makes you want to be a kid in the big city. One of the best. 


11. Dexter

Meticulousness. Routine. OCD stuff. Other weird idiosyncrasies of a calculated killer. Right off the bat, an amazing sense of what the show's gonna be about. 

10. Mad Men

The folks over at Paste Magazine did a similar list, and had the following to say about the Mad Men intro:

According to Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, the concept of a business man jumping out of the window of his office building was always behind the development of the series. Inspired by advertisements (specifically graphic designers like Saul Bass), the enigmatic title sequence perfectly wrapped up the show’s themes of alcoholism, existential crisis, sexual promiscuity and quiet desperation—all in the faceless caricature of an anonymous business man.



9. True Blood

You're gonna get down and dirty in the oft-forgotten parts of America. Sexual destruction, bloodied fanaticism, and backwater mysteries. 


8. Survivor

With tweaks year to year, but the theme always endures. No one had EVER seen anything like this before on television, and the theme was as loud an anthem as any. Arguably the most recognizable out of any of these. 


7. Louie

A lot of my existence over the past twelve months can be directly tied to $1 pizza. I generally finish the slice, but Louie's remarkable ability to turn aimlessness into a trajectory is captured almost too perfectly. Also, that dude in the background on the phone in the cargo shorts is everywhere.  


6. F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I was never a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. guy. But if there was ever a more in your face example as to why everyone thinks the 90's was a time where hairstyles were somehow not ridiculed, and you could have ambiguous at best jobs and still live in large NYC apartments, and worries simply did not exist, look no further. You really think you could get away with couches and fountains in recession depressed 2013? No sir.  


5. How to Make It in America

The show's fate belied its name, but if we talking musical and visual synergy, tough to beat this. And we all could use a dollar. 


4. Doug

Proof as good as any that sometimes, all you need is a simple idea, a catchy tune, and a dog.


3. Game of Thrones

You can't solely consider this the intro to a television show. It's a pump-up sequence. The sort that should go on the jumbo-tron before the big game. 

This isn't just Dungeons and Dragons come to life–it's Dungeon's and Dragons turned cool. But most of all, it's the Game of Fuckin' Thrones


2. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Fresh Prince first came of the air in 1990. The fact that the theme song (and big Willies styles) are now more popular than ever has little do with what Will Smith and his secret plan to control the masses with his family-run films, and a shit ton to do with this being his first foray into controlling the masses with his uncanny rap and visual sequence. Screams nostalgic longing, but you don't become 50% of 18-30 year-old's ringtone by accident.  


1. The Sopranos

1. The television show of all television shows. What it may have lacked in an ending could not be said about the show's unflappable intro.

2. To address the towers in the rearview…they were cut from the intro starting in Season 4. It's been widely recognized that this has mostly do with simply keeping up with present day. 

3. The song is called “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3

4. The ability to make driving through North Jersey one of the most appealing things a person could possibly do isn't an achievement…it's a divine power.

5. Blast this while driving. You can't not feel like a boss. 

TAGSGame of ThronesMad MenThe Sopranos