All this week, we’re taking a look at the past, present, and future of Peak TV, the current, overabundant TV golden age in which we live.
The opening credits are the unsung hero of the television show. The wrong song or the wrong graphics can be a turn off for audiences (looking at you, The Mindy Project). But done correctly, the credits can become an art form of its own. By setting the tone for what the audience is about to consume, a well made credits sequence can provide a moment of reflection before diving back into the action.
Whether they’re getting you pumped or making you sad, these credits sequences from Peak TV are the ones that have truly elevated a 30-second clip into something worth celebrating.
20. The Office
The earworm that highlights the office life of Dunder Mifflin feels like it was chosen by Michael Scott himself. A little zany and off-putting, this bouncy tune has become a part of The Office‘s legacy. With just a few piano bars at the beginning, viewers are ready to jump back into the world of bears, beets, and Battlestar Galactica.
19. Parks and Recreation
A sunny show deserves a sunny intro, and Parks and Recreation‘s optimistic opener perfectly fits the people of Pawnee. It’s like a glimpse into the mind of Leslie Knope: It’s pleasantly frantic, friend-centric, and only sees the beautiful parts of Pawnee living. While they probably should have added a few raccoons to add to the authenticity, the smiling faces are a bit more appealing.
While many forget that iZombie is actually a DC property when it shares the lineup with more well-known entities like The Flash and Arrow, the opening credits perfectly encapsulate what the comic book roots add to the show. Plus, showrunner Rob Thomas knows how to pick an opening song. “We Used to Be Friends” by the Dandy Warhols stuck with Veronica Mars fans and “Stop, I’m Already Dead” by Deadboy and The Elephantmen has the same effect.
17. Orange Is the New Black
Even if you try to resist the strains of Regina Spektor’s song, you’ll find yourself hollering out “Youuuu’ve got tiiiiiiiiime” against your better judgement. While it may feel a bit long at times, the simple conceit of showing viewers a diverse array of women’s faces is the perfect set-up for the variety of stories being told on Orange Is the New Black.
Few shows have nailed the dark undercurrent that plagues suburbia as well as Weeds, and that starts with the opening credits. As Nancy Botwin’s drug empire grows beneath the sheen of the perfect neighborhoods and model households, the little boxes made of ticky tacky are always on the edge of tumbling down.
15. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead traffics in themes of desperation and survival, and that urgency comes through in the opening credits. With the quick cuts and desolate landscape, these opening credits are a glimpse into the minds of Rick Grimes and crew. In case you had forgotten that times are bleak on The Walking Dead, you’ll be reminded by the time this sequence is over.
14. True Blood
True Blood is all supernatural occurrences and sweaty, writhing bodies, and the varieties of superstition and religion that tinge the bayou is perfectly conveyed in the frenetic opening credits. HBO’s supernatural drama may have chosen cheese over everything else more often than not, but the opening credits remain a slimy work of art.
13. Bob’s Burgers
The Bob’s Burgers opener is the Where’s Waldo? of television credits. Watching the Belchers’ beloved burger joint fall into various states of disarray, looking for Easter eggs and learning what new, crazy businesses will be moving in next door every week is the first of many fun parts in every episode.
12. Doctor Who
Doctor Who may not stay the same, but the basic elements of the opening credits always do. The Doctors may come and go, but the “Oooooo-WeeeeeeeeeeooooOOOOOo” is here forever.
The Daredevil credits aren’t exactly subtle. Blood flows through the streets of Hell’s Kitchen and over the pained mask of the Devil himself. But there’s beauty in the sea of red. By giving us a look into the physical and emotional pain that Matt Murdock will no doubt undergo in the episode, it’s a chance to catch our breath before jumping straight into the ninja fights.
10. American Horror Story
Say what you will about the consistency of American Horror Story‘s quality, the opening credits are still effective in evoking a feeling of terror from its viewers. Between the jump scares, the grinding notes and ominous moans, your nightmares start right from the get go.
9. Mad Men
There is a perfect simplicity to the Mad Men opening credits. Don Draper is many things, including, first and foremost, a man who can sell anything. But that ability also nearly destroys him. Falling down the rabbit hole of the very things that he’s built, this animated sequence is further proof that Mad Men really was one of a kind.
8. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
If you’re an Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fan and haven’t muttered “They alive, dammit” under your breath at some point, you’re probably lying.
7. Six Feet Under
Despite the persistent veil of death that lingered on this show (it was about a funeral home, after all), there is a hopefulness to this sequence. The mingling with images of death and the beauty of the natural world reminds viewers about the vibrant and flawed Fisher clan. [Cues up “Breathe Me” by Sia and cries forever.]
6. Jessica Jones
Netflix certainly has a knack for crafting opening credits, and Jessica Jones is no exception. Between the Emmy award-winning score and David Mack’s artistic landscape, fans get a taste of the hardboiled noir before the punches even start flying. Drenched in the purple influence of Kilgrave, the Jessica Jones credit sequence is a marvel on every level.
5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
While many were put off by the title of this CW gem, all of those fears should be put to rest by the opening credits of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Showcasing the skills she first displayed with her extreme love of Ray Bradbury, creator and star Rachel Bloom managed to set the tone, address the haters, and do something fresh and creative, just with a few short verses.
Hannibal disappeared too soon, but it will not soon be forgotten. Sure, Bryan Fuller’s show was full of wings made of someone back, a woman stuffed inside a dead horse, and Gillian Anderson possibly eating her own foot, but it was done so exquisitely that all of the horrors felt like a masterwork. This grim beauty comes through every frame of the opening credits, as we look about the horrible, yet compelling, visage of a cannibal.
3. True Detective
Back before True Detective became synonymous with “disappointment,” we followed Rust Cohle willingly into Carcosa. While things may not have ended on a high note, that first season remains a high mark for recent television greatness (if the finale was a little weak) and the mystery of the Yellow King will haunt many. The dreamy imagery and country cool vibe helped kick off the McConaissance, and that’s earned it such a high spot on this list.
2. Stranger Things
I know. We’re dangerously close to reaching our saturation point on all things Stranger Things. Still, the ’80s synths and maze-like into perfectly sets the tone for the nostalgic magic about to hit your eyeballs.
1. Game of Thrones
There could honestly only be one number one. Like the rest of the show, Game of Thrones‘ opening credits are a vast and intricate masterwork of detail, with the ability to elicit emotion from viewers with a single sigil on a certain building. (Be honest, you got emotional when the Stark wolf was back at Winterfell.) While it has inspired many hilarious parodies, this look into the majesty of Westeros is the catharsis that every fan needs.