The 10 Best TV Show Title Sequences

I am a total sucker for TV show title sequences. In a matter of a minute or two, title sequences teleport us into the world that the show’s creators present for us. They put us in the mood and they evoke everything that the show is about. Here are the 10 best.

Obviously this is subjective. Your results in a top ten may vary.

10. Insomniac with Dave Attell
This is a gutsy choice for the list because it’s rather obscure. If you’re familiar with Attell’s humor at all, then you know that a show about Attell staying up and drinking all night could start no other way. It’s a barrage of strange late-night critters surrounding Attell- it’s a “late night freak show jubilee!”- with a theme song that sounds like it’s right out of the mind of Tom Waits.

9. Carnivale
For a few years there, all of the HBO show title sequences took on the same flavor. The imagery implied the mystic, and there were a lot of obscure instruments playing, like ukuleles and sitars. Six Feet Under, Rome, Deadwood, and Carnivale all fell into this category. However, it was most appropriate for Carnivale given the scope of the show. It only lasted for two seasons but this intro perfectly primed my brain to watch each and every single episode.

8. The Sopranos
86 times, we all saw Tony Soprano fire up a cigar and drive around in the grittiest parts of New York City and New Jersey while A3’s song spoke of waking up and grabbing a gun. 86 times, it made us all want to witness his crew’s highjinx.

7. Cheers
If you grew up in the 80s, odds are good that the life of a bar rat seemed glorious. And that’s 100% because of the weekly antics at Sam Malone’s bar. As an adult, we all know that bar regulars are more likely dark lumps drinking their lives away. The truth has been exposed. But for over a decade, the bar life seemed magical. The show’s intro full of celebrating bar patrons who all know your name played a large role in creating that connotation.

6. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
“Pure genius” is the only way to describe the title sequence of The Fresh Prince. If you want to know what the show is about, watch the intro and you’re ready to go. It earns bonus points because it helped segue Will Smith from “wholesome rapper” to TV star.

5. The Simpsons
There are some things that are as comfortable as a warm blanket. Almost every one of my Sundays for more than 20 years has been filled with a weekly chalkboard and couch gag while the classic Simpsons theme plays. It’s officially part of the zeitgeist. This one is a little more somber, although it’s one of the few decent versions I could find.

4. Dexter
The Dexter title sequence is made great not because of the music, but because of the way it playfully takes everyday events and turns them into grisly events. It’s perfect for the show’s theme.

3. Boardwalk Empire
I love everything about this title sequence. It’s a show produced by Martin Scorsese, and we’re treated to the music of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, a band influenced by Scorsese’s often-used Rolling Stones. The imagery mixes the Atlantic City shoreline, Nucky Thompson (the protagonist), and illegal alcohol banging into the shore. What really takes it to another level for me is that it’s so clearly an homage to René Magritte’s Son of Man.

2. Game of Thrones
If you’re like me, then you’re not really a fantasy nerd. Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft are out of my realm. But if I had associated this intro with that culture, I’d feel differently. It establishes the show’s empire-building atmosphere, shows you the map, and even includes a lot of the show’s iconography.

1. Mad Men
Mad Men’s intro is the King of Title Sequence Mountain, hands down. It’s extremely iconic and highly evocative of the world in which it exists. It even draws inspiration from Saul Bass, a title sequence designer who made his hay during the era that the show depicts. It’s simple, it’s clean, and it says so much while showing so little.

HBOnorable Mention:
I couldn’t really squeeze these two in to the list because they were HBO mini-series. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how great both of these are:

Band of Brothers

John Adams


34 Comments

Filed under Television, TV Shows

34 responses to “The 10 Best TV Show Title Sequences

  1. I think that Six Feet Under and Deadwood should’ve found their way somewhere on your list simply because of their superb music.

  2. I’ll give you a pass since my favorite title sequence is from a show in the 80’s, but how could you leave off the title sequence to “The Equalizer” with that incredible music by Stewart Copeland of the Police, and that frantic editing, and that last silhouetted shot of Edward Woodward?? Best title sequence EVER.

  3. nimorphi

    What about Fringe. It has a cool song and the title sequence chances depending on what time period and universe that episode is in.

  4. Excellent choice with Mad Men. It’s the best I’ve ever seen, too.

  5. I am going old school with M*A*S*H, The Equalizer and Welcome Back Kotter. And, I can’t leave out my favorite show of all time, The Andy Griffith Show.

  6. Oh, congrats on the win by Missouri over Tennessee. I was at the game but came away on the losing end.

  7. aleksa

    I’d personally have given Game of Thrones number one on this one.

  8. I was always a big fan of the opening sequence to “Get Smart.” Great theme music, and very funny.

  9. I now see breakfast as the most
    violent part of the day, thanks to Dex. Great list!

  10. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    HBO usually does a really good job with the title sequences. Honorable mentions also for Rome and True Blood (which is superior to the show itself). Also, you are a damn fool for not including Mr. Belvedere.

  11. Game of Thrones is absolutely #1. (I’m also a sucker for Xena; Warrior Princess.)

  12. The animation for Game of Thrones is awesome but I really could care less for the song. Site-mate Lindsay and I think it’s pretty boring.

    As far as HBO intros, True Blood’s is amazing. The song choice is fantastic and the imagery is really creepy. Doesn’t exactly go with the current tone of the show, but it’s pretty cool anyways.

  13. Dude. Major props for including Insomniac! Man I love that show. I’m still holding out hope for the entire series to hit DVD.

    • I own a few volumes on DVD, but it’s not the full seasons.

      There was a year or two where I wanted to grow up to be Dave Attell on that show. And I think there’s a hell of a movie that could be made about an Attell-style character’s exploits.

  14. Tom Levier

    Man, do I miss Insomniac.

  15. Arif

    Dude, you forgot “Get A Life” with Chris Elliot. :)

  16. these are some good ones. but i agree that six feet under should have made it here.

  17. I’m a big fan of True Blood’s intro, the song is perfect and it just fits. Game of Thrones is hands down the best in my opinion. Great list!

  18. Mad Men is good agreed. As per Brittani’s comment above, True Blood is a great shout. The music and imagery tell you all you need to know about the show, the tone, the issues tackled. Dirty, sweaty, sexy – typically True Blood.

    • I have to admit, I probably would’ve put True Blood higher if I actually liked the show more. It’s a great title sequence. Unfortunately, I associate it with werepanthers.

  19. Oh, and also The Walking Dead – when the ominous music kicks in I literally get excited and slightly scared every episode. I’ve no shame admitting that, it’s a great show. Check out the opening credits to the current season here: http://youtu.be/rFfU6W6T66E

    • Ok, so here’s my weird reason I liked the S2 Walking Dead title sequence better… Season 2 got to the title- “The Walking Dead”- and they put it up there in a VERY specific sequence. It went “The”, then “Dead”, then “Walking”. I know I’m a nerd for noticing this, but I thought it was so cool because it was so subtle, but so perfect. What’s the show about? The… Dead… Walking.

      I definitely agree with you re: the title sequence in general. They do a great job of embracing the zombie apocalypse in that intro.

  20. True story: I won my elementary school talent show singing an acapella version of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. So, that would have to be my favorite TV theme.

    Great list!

  21. This list would have been void without Carnivale

    • It’s great, isn’t it? Even looking at it from a technical standpoint, those transitions are tremendous. But everything else about it, too- it hits the show’s vibe perfectly.

  22. Pingback: Reading Digest: ‘And Maggie Makes Three’ Echoes Through the Ages Edition « Dead Homer Society

  23. ilovethatfilm

    Excellent list! I think The Pacific and Six Feet Under could be squeezed in here for me!

    • I figured The Pacific and Band of Brothers was a coin flip- both equally excellent. It really was a great title sequence, with the charcoal and the stirring orchestral piece.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s