Five Unskippable Television Intros

Have you met Skip? Skip Intro, that is.

For viewers everywhere, Skip Intro has been a savior. He saves us precious seconds (or sometimes minutes) as we’re careening through our latest streaming obsession. I’ve deployed our pal Skip hundreds of times, spanning multiple rewatches of The Office and a recent Brooklyn Nine-Nine outing.

While there’s many, many times Skip is indispensable, he isn’t always needed. There are shows that completely transcend the need for Skip Intro, begging the viewer to catch every last second of content, from the theme tune on… Before this whole “Skip Intro is a person” bit gets old, why don’t we jump right in? Here are five unskippable TV intros.

 

The Simpsons

You can probably guess where I’m going with this, but let’s start with the basics: The Simpsons intro irresistibly beckons the viewer into Springfield’s wacky, wondrous world, as Danny Elfman’s classic theme song whirls us along. There’s Homer working at the plant, accidentally whisking a radioactive element into the wider world beyond. Bart zips by on a skateboard. Lisa lays down a funky sax solo. Marge and Maggie enjoy a little mom-daughter grocery shopping trip. To watch The Simpsons’ intro is to understand you’re diving into a world overflowing with full-fledged characters and an infinite well of story potential.

But does that make it unskippable? No. Watchable at best, perhaps. The unskippable factor in The Simpsons theme is its everlasting rotation of new gags. Bart’s chalkboard punishments might be reason enough to tune in. Then you have Lisa’s sax solo, often customized and always disturbing to her conformist classmates. And of course, the couch gag. Every episode of The Simpsons sees the eponymous family coming together for TV time in a new and different way. It’s always something zany, thoughtful, artistic, or sidesplitting. Hell, some of the world’s best artists and creators have lent their talents to The Simpsons’ opening sequence: Guillermo Del Toro, Banksy, LEGO designers, and many more. My personal favorite is 2015’s Rick & Morty couch gag appearance.

The couch gag symbolizes The Simpsons’ staying power. What other TV show can keep viewers coming back and tuning in to catch the intro for 30 years? If not for my next pick, I might say The Simpsons intro is the all-time best.

Note: I know The Simpsons often cuts its intro down to a simple opening shot and a couch gag. Either form works, but I still say the full version earns the unskippable label.

 

Cowboy Bebop (Original Anime)

3…2…1…let’s jam. Listen, as far as I’m concerned, this is it. Cowboy Bebop has the quintessential unskippable intro. Why? Because in a world of ho-hum intros, Cowboy Bebop dares to be cool. Let’s break it down.

There’s no episodic change, no unique creative flourish from one episode to another. Instead, Cowboy Bebop doles out the exact same intro for 26 straight episodes. Japanese band Seatbelts performs Yoko Kanno’s “Tank!” behind the visuals, and the song itself has become iconic. Paired with the fast-paced sci-fi noir montage of the intro, it’s just…sweet as hell.

No intro better prepares the viewer for the episode to come than Cowboy Bebop’s opening sequence. It’s brash and slick at the same time, and it isn’t afraid to say “Here’s a sick show about space bounty hunters with a killer score. Enjoy the heck out of it because we had a blast making it.”

An exquisite mix of animation, acting, musical prowess, and writing makes Cowboy Bebop a force to be reckoned with. Its intro is like lightning in a bottle…only you get to see it again and again.

 

Game of Thrones

At first, I overlooked Game of Thrones when compiling this list. Mainly, the bad taste of season eight was still on my tongue and I didn’t want to revisit that drama. But even through that trying time, the Game of Thrones intro held strong.

The intro’s length may deter you, but I urge you to reconsider. The epic theme offers a fantastic backdrop to the unique animation at work here. The locales of the series each feature in equal measure, mechanically rising off the Westeros map as though propelled by the turning of an offscreen crank. The Game of Thrones intro is like the map at the beginning of a fantasy book come to life. It sets the stage, grounds you in the story’s world, and hints at featured locales and events to come.

And that’s what makes it unskippable. Every Game of Thrones episode tailors the intro to the upcoming plot. If an episode plans to follow Joffrey’s storyline and Rob’s journey from the North, you might see King’s Landing and Winterfell heavily featured. The artistry and the playful nod to the story to come always makes for a special audiovisual treat.

 

Phineas & Ferb

Talk about a feel-good intro. Phineas & Ferb has an opening sequence that flawlessly matches the tone of the show. The opening lyrics usher in an upbeat track (performed by Bowling for Soup) that celebrates the wonders of imagination. Those imaginative marvels fill the long days of summer vacation, when stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb spend their time building rockets, discovering things that don’t exist, fighting mummies, and/or any other number of wacky activities referenced in the song.

The 60-second intro is short and to the point, and it simply says “Here’s what this show is.” For kids who watch, it’s a reason to stay tuned. For adults, it’s a charming and delightful ditty that harkens back to the carefree days of childhood.

Music is in the DNA of Phineas And Ferb, so this playful melody also opens the door for more musical triumphs to come. Each episode has at least one original song, and the vast majority are certified bangers—”Gitchee Gitchee Goo” is my personal favorite.

On repeat listenings, the Phineas And Ferb intro still hits the spot. It tells you exactly what’s in store, doesn’t apologize for its wackiness, and welcomes you into the show’s vibrant, happy-go-lucky world.

 

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Say those four words to an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan, and chances are they can recite most—if not all—of the remaining intro narration from memory.

I’m admitting my bias upfront on this one. Avatar is my single favorite show of all time, so I’m easily swayed into thinking this intro is unskippable. However, I think there are good, objective reasons for it’s inclusion here…

Let’s start at the beginning. “The Boy in the Iceberg” is the show’s first episode, featuring an extended intro that outlines the world’s history and lore. After that, a more truncated intro ushers us into the beginning of every episode. The tidbits of lore and Avatar history contained within this opener make it completely, utterly unskippable.

The more you watch Avatar, the more the intro clicks. Make it through season one, and you’ll notice the silhouetted waterbender looks a lot like Paku. The firebender bears a strong resemblance to a certain maniacal princess. When you reach the Ba Sing Se arc, those rings in the Northeast section of the map make a lot more sense.

The deeper you dive, the more treasure you find. Avatar: The Last Airbender has an intro that rewards dedicated viewing. Watch the series, learn about the world, and revel in the Easter eggs contained within the show’s certified unskippable intro.

 

Runners Up

My list originally started with ten shows, but I whittled it down to showcase the various reasons not to skip them. Though I’ve left a few on the cutting room floor, they still deserve a quick mention.

Fairly Odd Parents is tonally similar to Phineas And Ferb, both in terms of the show’s intro and general vibe. Timmy’s fairy godparents empower his wacky schemes in the same way that Phineas and Ferb’s imaginations fuel their own.

Adventure Time is another I hated to cut, but its intro has echoes of Avatar and Phineas And Ferb. It has a catchy tune and the visuals lay a foundation for the show’s worldbuilding. But the sheer episode count makes it hard to deem Adventure Time’s intro universally unskippable.

Finally, nods go to both Succession and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The former features a fascinating look through the past via video footage and photographs that packs a lot of personal punch before each episode of the satirical family drama. Last Week Tonight, meanwhile, shoves dozens of one-liners and inside jokes into the space of about 30 seconds. Lots of fun, don’t get me wrong…but the final list had some hard-to-beat competition. Let me know what shows make it on your own shortlist for best-ever intros!

Cole Rush writes words. A lot of them. For the most part, you can find those words at The Quill To Live or on Twitter @ColeRush1. He voraciously reads epic fantasy and science-fiction, seeking out stories of gargantuan proportions and devouring them with a bookwormish fervor. His favorite books are: The Divine Cities Series by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.

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