The opening intro to a TV series is an important element of any show—particularly when it first airs—because it helps set the tone and showcases the general atmosphere to come.
This is why the openings to shows like Friends and Seinfeld have remained within the public consciousness to this day.
When the Seinfeld riff plays, you half expect Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer to pop up somewhere behind you. Or when you hear “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts, you can’t help but think of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey.
But which openings are the best in sitcom TV history? Which ones capture the essence of their shows perfectly, hyping up audiences for what lies ahead? Here are our picks!
8. Arrested Development
The opening to the acclaimed series Arrested Development chart the show’s premise, literally introducing every main character in the series and who they are in relation to Michael Bluth.
Visually, the opening makes the Bluth family appear divided—as the titles keep the characters apart in their presentation—which works well because of the distrust between them throughout.
The catchy theme behind Ron Howard’s voice-over gives the show a fun and bouncy introduction that sustains the humor through the rest of the episode, often juxtaposing it with its darker elements.
7. Malcolm in the Middle
Looking back at Malcolm in the Middle, the show had many grunge/alternative elements even after the era of grunge and alternative music had long grown passé. It’s a stylistic choice that thematically permeated the series’ early seasons.
That decision was reflected in the opening. Set to “Boss of Me” by They Might Be Giants, Malcolm in the Middle showcased some of the family’s most embarrassing moments during the fast-moving opening credits, which reflected the nature of growing up as a teenage boy.
6. Peep Show
“I’m not sick, but I’m not well.” The lyrics to Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” felt tailor-made for Peep Show and the world around its leading characters.
A British series that followed the lives of two mismatched friends who live in a dingy apartment, Peep Show is a series that revels in the natural self-deprecating humor commonly shared by those from the UK.
Entirely shot using a POV angle, which moved between characters, the opening felt in stark contrast with the show’s vibe. However, on reflection, it’s perfect for the leading characters who are screaming messes within.
5. The Office (UK)
The original UK series of The Office had an introduction that perfected the depressing tone of the world that David Brent inhabited.
Set to “Handbags and Gladrags”—though not by Rod Stewart because the production couldn’t afford it—the series visually showcased the local area in which the show took place. (Slough, for those in the know.)
The gray dreariness of the opening made the show more enjoyable, as it brought light and fun to a world that felt it had little to offer the people who worked there. The US version of the show would copy many elements of the opening, though it had its own jingle.
A unique idea for a show to introduce itself every week: Jerry Seinfeld would do a minute of stand-up comedy to a room full of people while the jingle to Seinfeld played over him.
The fun of the title rested in whatever Jerry would discuss, thus setting the tone and premise of that episode in one way or another.
The jingle itself, while simple, later became famous—if not for the fact that it represented the nothingness of everyday occurrences. It perfectly fit a show often described as “being about nothing.”
It’s hard to think of a song that could better encompass Friends. As “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts played over the introduction, the audience watching at home knew that everything would be OK.
The opening had a warmth to it that many others lacked. More than that, it made the audience feel safe. It provided that feeling of knowing a friendship bond within a group that couldn’t break.
It’s an opening that, when paired with the principal cast trying to sit on a couch and play in a fountain, later became iconic worldwide.
Cheers may not have invented the concept of opening titles, but it became the first modern TV sitcom to understand that its theme had to set the mood for what comes next.
The song created for the series has been parodied many times throughout history since, yet it remains fresh whenever you hear it.
Cheers notably chose not to show any of its cast during its opening, instead focusing on old pictures of people drinking in a bar, showing that some have always sought refuge where everybody knows their name.
Looking back, it was just that wholesome, warm introduction which gave the audience a feeling of being home when watching Cheers.
1. The Simpsons
What better represents the audience watching than showing a family coming home from work, grocery shopping, and school to be together and watch TV?
That’s why the opening to The Simpsons works so well: there’s something in it for everybody, no matter who you are. The theme tune of the show is a simple melody that evokes a joyous feeling as we watch Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie get home at the end of a day.
It may be animated, but the introduction to its characters couldn’t have been clearer as we see the family in their routine. We knew them before they reached the house, and that’s how The Simpsons started a new era in sitcom TV history.