10 Television Opening Themes I Never Fast Forward Through

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on October 22, 2012

in Television, The Walking Dead

Television advertisers really have to work to capture our attention today.


Before the days of recording, digital or otherwise, we were captives during our favorite TV shows. Subject to whatever products and services the advertisers had paid to present to us, watching the commercials was an inevitable part of the experience. Whether consciously or not, we were absorbing the paid advertisements that routinely interrupted our shows.

Now, as we clear DVR space it sometimes feels like a race. How many shows can we bang through in one sitting? If we knock out a 30 minute sitcom in 22 minutes, and an hour drama in 45, we have more time for activities! (like watching more shows)

Rarely do we let the commercials play, let alone consciously watch them, as we fast forward through each break to continue watching the show.  It seems TV producers and directors have come to the realization that the opening and closing credits of their shows likely fall under the ‘fast forward’ category as well, shortening the average opening to a few seconds or foregoing it altogether by embedding the credits in the content of the show.

Something I’d fast forward all the way through

That said, there are still a few shows for which I let the opening theme play. In some cases it feels like an integral part of the experience,  in others, it just doesn’t make sense to fast forward because the opening is so short that by the time you press the play button it puts you back at the start of what you just fast forwarded (seriously, what is the deal with that? How annoying. It takes such precision that spot-on-fast-forwarding could be a new Olympic sport).

The shows on this list (past & present) have themes that I always let run their course, for one reason or another.

*Based on the comments, I should be clear – this is not our list of the best TV themes of all time! Those are here: (80s) & (90s).


10. That 70s Show

Performed by Cheap Trick, the theme for this show was so catchy I’d find myself singing it for hours after watching thew show. Now in syndication and running on the late night circuit, I’ve spent many a night falling asleep with this tune in my head. Who can’t relate to “hangin’ out down the street” with their friends, doing “the same old thing we did last week”?


9. How I Met Your Mother

This is one of those themes that falls in the category mentioned above- too quick to fast forward through. If their standard M.O. was to go to commercial after the theme, I’d hit FF and let it ride. The problem is, they return to show content immediately after the theme, so by the time I hit FF, I blow past the first few seconds of show, and then have to do the Austin Powers 23-point-turn to get it back to where I want to be. This process averages about 32 seconds of button mashing and low-grade cursing, whereas the theme itself only lasts about 12.


8. Lost

Barely qualifying as a theme song, at 10 seconds the Lost “opening sound” is not worth speeding through, and contributes to the overall unique feel of the watching the show.


7. Scrubs

Another theme that would be short enough to sit through, but I probably wouldn’t skip anyway. Using just two lines from Lazlo Bane’s “Superman”, the opening was fast-paced (12 seconds), catchy, and of my all time favorites.


6. House

In 2007, I was probably the only guy in South Carolina with Massive Attack’s sleepy “Teardrop” on my iPod’s gym playlist. Not exactly an adrenaline-pumping muscle anthem, it was just something I dug. House was a show I rarely watched live, frequently relegating it to DVR space, but when when I caught up I never skipped the intro.


5. The Walking Dead

This theme falls under the “adds to the experience of watching the show” heading. The way they embed the first few seconds of violin into the end of the cold opening is one of the small details that makes this show great. By the time you’ve heard the opening notes of the song, you’re hooked.


4. Golden Girls

Not much more can be said about my love of the girls golden, and one of the elements of the show that has endeared it to me over the years is the theme song. Beginning and ending with “Thank you for bein’ a friend”, this is easily one of the best TV themes of all time.


3. Friends

The disparity between the earlier and later seasons of Friends is remarkable. A good show from the start, Friends is one of those programs that ended stronger than it began, and a quick survey of the various seasons’ opening themes support that. From season 2 on, the producers began changing the characters’ scenes in the opening theme to keep viewers guessing as to who would do “the clap” (it’s not as dirty as it sounds). The theme became a 30 second run-through of great show moments and sight gags, such as Monica falling or a bird flying at Phoebe’s face.


2. The Simpsons

We always had to see what Bart was writing on the chalkboard and how they arranged themselves on the family couch.


1. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

There were no elements of surprise, no changes, no easter eggs. This is just flat-out one of the most entertaining TV openings ever. While the only recording of this show was done on VHS, as opposed to DVR, I never felt the urge to skip it even once.


Engineernerd October 22, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I used to love the theme to “The Gary Shandling Show”

Howie Decker October 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Absolutely. Great theme!

Jason @SockofFleagulls October 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I’m up season 4 of rewatching Knight Rider with my two boys…always watch the opening theme, especially now that we are into super pursuit mode. We all recite the “Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous of a man who does not exist.” line as well as the “Michael Knight, a young loner…” line.

Will October 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm

See, I’m probably that one guy who can’t stand the Fresh Prince theme. I will say, however, that there’s one episode in the syndication package ( I used to remember which one. I think it’s where Carlton gets addicted to drugs) where they play the entire thing, with the missing verse about his flight. That’s an episode that I won’t fast forward. Either way, I’m amazed that most people accepted that he took a cab from PA to CA. That verse is ESSENTIAL!

Howie Decker October 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I gotta seek that out. See I always thought the ridiculous notion of the cross country cab ride added to the hilarity and entertainment value of it!

Corey Chapman October 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I never could fast forward through Rescue Me’s awesome theme, nor shows like Dexter, Mad Men, The Sopranos, and Walking Dead!

Classick Material October 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm

*Walks in*
*Doesn’t see “Too Close for Comfort” on the list*

Seriously, great assemblage of some classic and newly classic themes. I dig the up-close anatomy and physiology SFX in the “House, M.D.” opener set to that sweet Massive Attack track.

I don’t catch much TV nowadays, but I will agree that HIMYM is a great, albeit short, theme. If it still aired, I’d say Macgyver. I love the action montages of the 80’s shows, like Mac and of course, Hunter. Fred Dryer on a bicycle!

Howie Decker October 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

There is such a thing as “Too Funky for This List” – no, that’s not Right Said Fred’s long awaited follow up to “I’m Too Sexy”, but a category in which the Too Close For Comfort theme soundly resides.

Kidding aside, you know I love that theme, but I never recorded that show. Caught it when it was on and I was in the mood for some light-hearted man rape.

Sports and Boobs October 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm

No “Night Court”?


Even “Family Guy” paid homage to one of the greatest tv theme songs ever created when they had Bill Clinton on the show(not the real Bill Clinton, of course, but still).

I’m pretty sure there’s enough tricks in Judge Harry’s bag to make you regret not having “Night Court” on your list.

Howie Decker October 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Your reaction is 100% understood and warranted. While Night Court was featured on our Greatest TV Themes of All Time list (because it is), I didn’t include it here because I never recorded it to fast fwd thru. Always watched it live, and loved the song. These themes are more representative of the stuff on my DVR in the last 7 years. (yes, I record late night reruns of Golden Girls on the Hallmark Channel 🙂

Brian Morin October 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Great list. You know I’m a fan of TV themes. I can’t help but sing along with the Scrubs theme every time I hear it.

Tom October 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I haven’t watched in quite some time but I know I’d be singing along with That 70s and Friends, and I agree that if its too short for the commercial skip then never mind. But I think I could add MASH to my list, almost seems irreverent to skip over Suicide is Painless, in the same vein I’d also add Cheers, even though I haven’t watched in years. My wife loves the opening to NCIS so we listen to that DVR’d or not.

Sean October 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm

A-Team, Walking Dead, The Simpsons, Seinfeld (for the pop), Scooby Doo, Friends and Lost. Not 10 but close enough…..

How do you NOT have the A Team in there?!?

Howie Decker October 23, 2012 at 10:12 am

Not the best TV themes of all time, just the ones I dont fast fwd! I never recorded A-Team. I updated the post with links to our Top 80s and 90s TV Themes – THERE you will certainly find your beloved A-Team theme, and rightly so!

Jaina October 23, 2012 at 4:40 am

Nice list. Throw in Mad Men, Dexter, True Blood… actually, here are mine!


Howie Decker October 23, 2012 at 10:10 am

Great list! Although I’m not a Cake fan, I’ve always liked the clip they use for the Chuck opening theme. It really fit the show well!

Howie Decker October 23, 2012 at 10:16 am

Your concerns over the lack of classics on this list are warranted, but allow me to explain:
I updated this post with links to our Greatest TV Themes of All Time lists (80s & 90s edition) – this list is not meant to reflect my favorites of all time, just the ones I never skip in the “recording age”.

Corey Chapman October 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I need to add one: The mini series “Band of Brothers” The opening is 2:21 seconds and I can NEVER fast forward it. Michael Kamen’s score along side shots from the series keep me hooked WITH GOOSEBUMPS each and every time I watch it.


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