Television has long been a source of entertainment, captivating audiences with its storytelling, characters, and visuals. Our entertainment experience jumped exponentially when it transitioned from the radio to the small screen. One crucial element that sets the stage for a show's experience is its introduction sequence. These sequences, often referred to as "intros" or "openings," have the power to encapsulate the essence of a series, leaving a lasting impression on viewers. Sadly the intro died a bit as commercialization took over and studios realized they could add more advertisements with shorter opening sequences. BUT with the advent of streaming and cable shows, we saw a resurgence of fantastic new and entertaining was to introduce us to our favorite shows. From nostalgic tunes to mesmerizing visuals, let's take a journey through some of the best television introduction sequences of all time. In no particular order, here are today's top five!
As a child of the late 70s and early 80s, I remember hearing this song come on and dreading the next half hour of television. I wasn't aware of television scheduling, typically in the form of the TV Guide, so this was my cue that I was going to be bored. As with just about every household I know of, my father picked the primetime viewing option, and he loved M.A.S.H. It didn't take long, my teenage years, when the show was constantly on reruns to change my opinion as the antics of Hawkeye (Alan Alda), Trapper John (Wayne Rogers), B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell), Hot Lips Houlihan (Loretta Swit), Radar (Gary Burghoff), Klinger (Jamie Farr), Ferret Face (Larry Linville), Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan), and of course Charles Emerson Winchester, III (David Ogden Stiers), entertained me more than I thought possible. I still watch the show even though I know every episode. No matter where I am, or what I'm doing, if I hear the intro to the show with Jonny Mandel and Michael Altman's classic song "Suicide is Painless", I know I'm going to be watching the boob tube. As a side note, the song has amazing lyrics which obviously aren't included on the show, but are in the movie version. Check it out!
The Greatest American Hero
Directly inverse, in just about every way to M.A.S.H., I loved The Greatest American Hero! I lived for my weekly dose of Ralph Hinkley (William Katt), Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp), and of course Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca). Sadly, this show did not age well in storytelling or production value. But, believe it or not, the song became a hit all its own!
The Fall Guy
I honestly don't remember specific episodes of this show. But I will never forget the awesome opening song, sung by none other than the star himself, Lee Majors! The show was an ode to stuntman everywhere wrapped in a weekly caper that involved Colt Seavers (Lee Majors), his sidekick Howie Munson (Douglas Barr) and of course beautiful women in the form of Jody Banks (Heather Thomas) and Terri Michaels (Markie Post). As a typical action show of the time, there were fights, car chases, and explosions. But it will always be the song that opened that show that got me hooked.
Clearly my viewing needs as a child were top notch! I LOVED The A-Team. The weekly adventures of Hannibal Smith (George Peppard), Murdock (Dwight Schultz), Face (Dirk Benedict), and the iconic B.A. Baracus (Mr. T) kept a young kids attention for the full thirty minutes. My parents must have been thrilled to utilize the visual babysitter! You never knew what was going to blow up next! Of course the storylines were ridiculous and the acting was over the top. It was perfect! The opening sequence told us everything we needed to expect for the next half hour. As a side note, I loved the movie adaptation as well and feel cheated we never got a sequel.
Welcome Back, Kotter
Once again, it's really the song that carries this iconic opening sequences. Frankly, I don't really remember the visuals. The show itself was and still is quite hilarious. If you've never seen it, you should definitely check in on the antics of high school teacher Mr. Gabe Kotter (Gabe Kaplan), his wife Julie (Marcia Strassman) and his misfit students nicknamed the Sweat Hogs, Horshack (Ron Palilo), Epstein (Robert Hegyes), Boom Boom Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) and of course Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta). They introduced us to a slew of catches phrases and over the top high-jinx like, Barbarino's quip "up your nose with a rubber hose," or Boom Boom's exaggerated greeting, "Hey, Mr. Kot-tair!" to Horshack's annoying need for added attention when he raised his hand, "OOOOOOHHHHH! OOOOOOHHHHH! OOOOOOHHHHH!" The opening sequence eased us into a hilarious thirty minutes of entertainment.
These five television shows are by no means the end of my favorites of all time. Stay tuned as I continue to revisit my childhood, as well as explore more modern fare. Let me know which shows I'm missing and maybe I'll include them in future articles.