Come one, come all to another edition of “Unskippable TV Intros!” In the comments on my last post on this topic, our collective love for TV introductions led to a long list of fantastic opening sequences that deserve the “unskippable” label. Thanks to the outpouring of suggestions and input from Tor.com readers, I spent hours upon hours over the past month sifting through various top-notch TV intros to determine which should earn a spot among the “unskippable” ranks of greats like The Simpsons or Cowboy Bebop.
Today marks the culmination of that Herculean task—time to add to the list! For your consideration, here are five more unskippable television intros!
When I first published my Unskippable Intros list, my friends wasted no time in berating me for excluding Spongebob Squarepants. Admittedly, their anger was justified. “Are ya ready kids?!” evokes a visceral, involuntary response among elder millennials like me, much like the chorus of “Sweet Caroline” will always unite karaoke-goers in a shared “Bah-Bah-BAHHH” chant.
In many ways, Spongebob paved the way for a cavalcade of successors like Phineas & Ferb or The Fairly OddParents. The intro song welcomes us into a quirky world of sea-dwelling creatures, giving viewers 45 seconds to suspend disbelief and listen to the singing captain and a gaggle of kids joyfully chant the name of the show exactly eight times (I counted).
Spongebob Squarepants revels in the goofball nature of its protagonist and wider cast. Its opening theme perfectly reflects the upbeat energy and spirit of its eponymous hero while beckoning us to the Krusty Krab, Spongebob’s pineapple abode, and the other silly locales that the show calls home.
Many a commenter noted Arcane’s intro after reading the previous list. I hadn’t seen the series, but those comments and a few recommendations from friends led to my own viewing of Arcane, and I was immediately gobsmacked by the intro.
On first watch, Arcane’s intro mostly makes promises. It shows us characters we’ll come to know over the course of the series. The sequence hints at events to come. Moreover, Arcane’s intro gives us a glimpse into the slick animation style the show uses throughout the season. The entire opening sequence explodes with energy, perhaps reflecting the Hextech at the core of the series’ plot.
Further viewings reveal new storytelling morsels baked into the intro. The combination of storytelling and rewatch value makes Arcane’s sequence unskippable.
Some find that the Imagine Dragons track adds to the feel while others feel it detracts; overall, I enjoyed “Enemy” as a musical cue to sink into Piltover and the stories it contains. And beyond all the intro talk, there’s something to be said for Arcane redefining what it means to be a League of Legends fan. I’ve never played so much as a single minute of the game, but the show has me hooked.
Initially I thought I could slip through these pieces without including Friends. It’s a quintessential sitcom, core to the upbringing of many a ’90s kid. I like Friends, but I don’t love it. Still, I couldn’t escape the sheer pop cultural magnitude of the series’ intro. I watched every iteration of the iconic opening, and it 100% earns its place on this list.
Just as the show’s characters grow and change, so too does the intro. Each season has a new collection of clips intertwined with footage of the cast splish-splashing around the Central Park fountain. Each season’s Friends intro is a snapshot, a subtle reminder of where the characters find themselves in life, love, and work. The timely montage of every episode’s intro makes it harder to skip upon rewatching the series (or picking a random episode to throw on when you need a quick Friends fix) because it grounds you in the moment and prepares you for the episode to come.
Naturally, I can’t go any longer before mentioning the music: “I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts has a place of honor the Sitcom Theme Song Hall of Fame among other classics like Cheers or The Twilight Zone. All those qualities alone make for a good TV opening. Together, they make for an unskippable intro.
Ah, Aziraphale and Crowley, a match made not in hell, not in heaven, but on Earth… which will soon be destroyed, by the way. Full disclosure, I haven’t yet seen Amazon’s adaptation of the classic Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett tome, but I have read the book, and enough people mentioned the Good Omens intro in the previous post to pique my interest.
Hints of the evolutionary March of Progress illustration come to mind in this sequence, though it’s unskippable for many other reasons. The depictions of everyone’s favorite angel/demon buddies set the stage for the battles to come. As the intro carries on, it imbues the show with a massive sense of scale—truly world-ending stuff could appear around the corner at any minute, and the Good Omens intro isn’t afraid to explore that possibility. The book is saturated with wry, dark humor, and the intro captures that feel with pinpoint precision.
With that scale and humor comes a swathe of unimaginable beings and atrocities, all packed tightly into the 90-second opener. You’re bound to miss something when you first watch it. And the second time you watch it. And so on. Unskippable, indeed, unless you’re desperately trying to finish the series before the world goes up in flames.
Rick & Morty
Here’s a masterclass in making your intro unskippable: Change the snippets that appear in the intro every season. Leave some of the old ones in, take others out, and keep viewers wondering if or when we’ll actually see those moments play out in a full episode. Composer Ryan Elder lends the theme a spooky, sci-fi ambiance, slapping viewers with an uneasy, otherworldly feeling. Rick & Morty goes wherever the hell it wants, thanks to the irreverence and wacky storytelling fuelled by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland. The intro encapsulates the essence of show, and its unpredictability: It’s a portal to Earth C-137 and a window into things that might happen onscreen, have already happened, or may never happen at all.
Moving forward, I can’t wait to see what the implications of the season 5 finale will bring to the Rick & Morty intro. Will the central finite curve and Morty’s knowledge of it bring new, darker possibilities to the table? I’m as excited to see what the next season’s intro will bring as I am for the actual episodes.
First, shoutouts to the intros of Black Sails and Daredevil, which have similar tones and could be compared to Arcane’s opener. I didn’t include them because I felt like more than one “slow pan over a series of statues/renderings of characters with epic music behind it” would’ve been overkill. Still great intros, and likely unskippable for many fans.
On the comedic side of things, I wanted to include The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and The Andy Milonakis Show for similar reasons. Both feature ahead-of-their-time comedic songs that remain catchy as hell to this day.
Finally, props to Bojack Horseman, one of my all-time favorite shows. The intro changes subtly over the course of the series, and does much more than simply opening the show if you watch carefully.
As always, thanks for reading; don’t forget to comment with more of your own favorite unskippable 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.