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The best TV show intros ever

Netflix’s skip intro button is often a blessed relief. Thankfully with some TV shows it isn’t required. Introductions can be so good that you actually look forward to them. Here are five of the very best:  

 

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5. Freaks and Geeks:

A pitch-perfect introduction for an underrated show. It has a lot of popularity in North America, but fans of Freaks and Geeks are much harder to come by on this side of the Atlantic. Within seconds of starting an episode of the show, you know you’re in good hands. In order to prepare you for the understated comedy and surprising emotion of this American, early ’80s high school life story, the show’s intro depicts each of its main characters sitting in turn for their class photo as Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’ thunders away. In sitting for the photo, each character’s mannerisms tell us everything that we need to know about them. One is overly enthusiastic, another is unprepared, one is putting on a brave face. The most characteristic of all is the face pulled by Seth Rogen’s character Ken, who looks like he’s silently planning the gruesome murder of the cameraman. Brilliantly simple yet powerfully evocative stuff for a wonderful, overlooked show. 

 

4. Malcolm in the Middle:

Every time I watch an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, I eagerly await the titles. The brilliant pop-punk theme, the repetition of the iconic mantra of teenage angst (“You’re not the boss of me now!”) and the inspired collection of clips make this intro thrillingly apt for such a wonderfully alternative sitcom. The clips in question range from scenes from the show itself to old sci-fi B-movies, creepy looking anime and what looks like a man skiing whilst on fire. As a boy, that grew up with three older brothers, this show spoke to my soul, and its intro managed to effectively convey all of the angst, comradeship and adoration of the bizarre that comes with growing up in a large, lower middle-class family. God-tier stuff. 

 

3. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace:

Another obscure one. This show is easily the most overlooked bit of British TV from the 21st century. It’s a spoof of godawful 80s horror and it boasts a superlative cast including the reigning kings of cool alternative TV: Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade. Its introduction is a thing of genius. A disembodied eye, Richard Ayoade holding a shotgun, a ribcage floating in space, a quintessentially 80s synth theme and to top it all off, our bespectacled hero Rick Dagless saving a baby from an exploding ambulance. It’s so over the top, so naff and so cheap that it manages to be surprisingly thrilling. You won’t believe it ‘til you see it.

 

2. Stranger Things: 

How on Earth the title sequence designer managed to generate so much excitement, mystery, suspense and flair all from simply scanning over the letters of the show’s title as they slowly form together is beyond me, but Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s utterly absorbing theme might have something to do with it. Without any clips from the show, images of the actors, or any background save for a black void, this introduction captures the enigmatic, adventurous, conspiratorial spirit of the show better than any of the production team could’ve hoped. For squeezing so much undefinable edge-of-your seat magic out of a bunch of red letters on black, this introduction proves the old adage that less is more. Pressing the skip intro button on this one probably violates someone’s human rights somewhere in the world. It just feels that wrong to miss out on it. 

 

1. Doctor Who

Could it ever be anything else? Just reading the words makes you hear the theme in your head (dum de dum, dum de dum). An inspired piece of rocking, psychedelic sci-fi bliss, Doctor Who’s intro is one of Britain’s greatest ever gifts to the world. There have been all sorts of variations on the theme itself and the imagery that accompanies it, but the same tune and the same concept remain. An unforgettable wailing accompanying mesmerising patterns, perfectly evoking the out-of-body experience of a journey through space and time. Ron Grainer wrote the music but it’s Delia Derbyshire’s visionary arrangement that cemented the theme as a pop cultural staple. Deep mystery, a hint of fear and an irrepressible sense of excitement punctuate every second of it. From the classic glowing black and white void of the 1960s titles to the more familiar space tunnel pattern (inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey) there has never been a more perfect combination of imagery and music in the introduction to any TV show. Watching this introduction is an honour. Rest in Peace Delia Derbyshire, your work will live forever.

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