15 TV Opening Credits As Good As (Or Better Than) The Show

No matter how good the show, some opening credits are the kind you cue up before leaving the room to grab wine (sorry, Homeland). But others, like the Fiona Apple-scored title sequence for The Affair, which returns to Showtime for its second season on October 4, instantly glue you to the couch. (Unless you happen to be mid-binge-watch, in which case, you’re still not budging.)

Like Fiona’s intro, which sent legions of fans down a frantic internet wormhole looking for the full track (it’s called “Container,” and there isn’t one…yet), some opening themes set the tone for a show better than anything that happens afterward. The Affair is decent, though to my taste, somewhat convoluted. It grabs our attention with its haunting credits, sustaining that hold mostly by the grace of the sexy leads. Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch couldn’t do the same for the second round of True Detective, but Leonard Cohen lent more atmosphere to the show, than, well, anyone. And, of course, before there was Leonard, there was Dido — and a little supernatural teen drama called Roswell.

Other magnetic TV intros may repeat the setup you already know, but you’d never dream of hitting fast-forward (unless it’s to learn the Fresh Prince rap at break-neck speed, which, let’s be honest, you perfected years ago). From The Rembrandts to Regina Spektor, these TV theme songs are just as good — and sometimes, better than — the shows they kick off.
1 of 15
The Addams Family (1964 – 1966)
Duh na na na. (Snap, snap.) Duh na na na. (Snap, snap.)
2 of 15
Wonder Woman (1975 – 1979)
Lifting cars, saving lives, spinning 'round, and taking names.
3 of 15
The Simpsons (1989 – present)
I will not call in sick and watch every episode.
I will not call in sick and watch every episode.
I will not call in sick and watch every episode.
I will not call in sick and watch every episode.
4 of 15
The Golden Girls (1985 – 1992)
A song that taught you the meaning of friendship before you even knew to ask. (Thankfully, it involves pie.)
5 of 15
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990 – 1996)
...and a thousand karaoke stars were born.
6 of 15
Friends (1994 – 2004)
Another ditty that taught you about true friendship — in this case, it means dancing in a public fountain together...and peeing on your friend's leg if she's stung by a jellyfish. A dearth of clapping has been the downfall of every song since, TV theme or otherwise.
7 of 15
Roswell (1999 – 2002)
No one whispers into the pretty, angsty souls of WB screen teens quite like Dido. Not even Paula Cole. Also, two notes into this tune, and you know some of these kids are not from this planet (before Jason Behr helpfully points skyward).
8 of 15
Six Feet Under (2001 – 2005)
Alan Ball's HBO drama, about a family of emotional misfits and their funeral home, features an opening sequence as devastating and graceful as its many story lines. It also offers a very practical lesson in how to see dead people, a helpful precursor to what follows.
9 of 15
The O.C. (2003 – 2007)
The song that convinced you there is only one inhabitable state on the planet.
10 of 15
Weeds (2005 – 2012)
Malvina Reynolds' 1962 satirical ode to suburban conformity perfectly tees up the premise of Jenji Kohan's series about a dope-dealing mom. The boxes aren't actually that little, but still.
11 of 15
Mad Men (2007 – 2015)
It's raining men. Fashionable, angry, hard-drinking men.
12 of 15
True Blood (2008 – 2014)
The twang and decay of the opening sequence doubles down on the show's Southern Gothic mix of death and sex on the bayou. Deducted points for the absence of Bill and Eric, though.
13 of 15
Orange Is the New Black (2013 – present)
Regina Spektor's rollicking anthem lends urgency and tenderness to close-up portraits of real inmates. If only it could do the same for Piper's story line.
14 of 15
The Affair (2014 – present)
You'd be wise to assume from Fiona Apple's tone and the breaks in those waves that we've reached the edge of the Earth, and all bets are off. Nothing says beachside adultery-murder drama like sand, sex, and a little light reading.
15 of 15
True Detective Season 2 (2015)
Leonard Cohen's gravel-paved refrain inadvertently sums up everyone's reaction to the show's second season.