The opening credits of any television show have always been important. While they might be more so to some viewers than others, you have to admit that the best ones set the tone of the show through their visual and audial elements, and just generally get you pumped up for the episode you’re about to watch.
In this current age of binge-watching, opening credits have become more important than ever. Or at the very least, you’re going to notice them more. They might be less important if you skip them every time. But we’re willing to bet there are some that you skip every single time and some that you’ll actually sit through every time. This occurs because of a perceived difference in quality. Obvious right?
Maybe, but it sure feels like some designers put a lot more thought into their credits than others. In this “golden age” of television where a lot of serial dramas (and even some comedies) feel like little pieces of film that have the advantage of spreading things like character development and atmosphere across many episodes, many shows seem to more fully understand that the opening credits need to match the overall work in terms of quality.
This list has some newer shows and some older shows, some on the “air” and some not. Some of them fail because they have a god-awful theme song, while some just completely fail to match the tone of the show. Still others are simply fine examples of hilarious and campy moods created because someone thought it was a good idea. Here are the 15 worst TV opening credits of all time.
15. Orange Is the New Black
This one has nothing to do with the quality of the show. But it does have to do with the choice of that terribly grating Regina Spektor song. Music is no doubt an integral part of any opening credits, and they just missed the mark with this one.
Not only that, but the simple images of the faces don’t really capture the soul of the show. They relate to it on the most basic level, in that the show follows incarcerated female characters, but beyond that yields no insight. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker to have a simple, blunt intro that doesn’t really give you any information (emotional/dramatic or factual), but there are plenty that accomplish this task with surprising brevity (i.e. Bojack Horseman, Mad Men).
14. Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction
First thing’s first. A great show. Acting so wooden you’ll scratch your head and just about every other element is so campy you’ll squeal with delight and disbelief. So they do, in fact, play with your belief. When a story that seemed impossible is based on “fact,” that’s the only information you’re given. It’s maddening.
And the intro fits the show perfectly, we must say. But it’s really atrocious. The reason it made it on the list is one particular part of the opening credits, in which words like “destiny,” “mystery,” “love,” “faith,” and “hope” fade onto the screen. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Horribly bad opening, very funny show.
Surprised to see this one on the list? Friends is one of the most successful sitcoms ever created, and chances are you know at least one person who has all the bits memorized.
But this isn’t about the show. It’s about the opening credits. Maybe you’d contend that they match the tone and quality of the show, but many would argue that you’d be insulting the show to say that. There’s really only one culprit for this: The Rembrandt’s “I’ll Be There For You.” It’s certainly not a song that you would listen to on its own (sorry to those that do), and the best thing you can say about it is that it reminds you of that show you really like. But it could have been any song. Even, dare we say, a good one!
Tell us you don’t get sick of it while binge-watching. We get it, we love the 90s, and sometimes nostalgia blinds us, but it’s a very cheesy, annoying piece of “music.” One other thing— is playing around in a fountain a common friend activity? Not sure if we missed it or if our group just wasn’t cool enough.
12. Modern Family
Man, Modern Family is kind of a good show. Granted, its attempts to shed light on different perspectives is a little tired (it’s produced by a big network, and they have to follow rules and all that), it’s certainly not the best show to use the ‘mockumentary’ interview technique, and I don’t think it will stand the test of time. But it’s an alright show. Some good performances and even some jokes.
So these opening credits make the list for a couple of reasons. First, the good: they’re short. Now, the bad: they’re boring. They, in no way, even hint at what the show’s about, or even really support the show’s title. Then the song/theme music is pretty annoying and bland. This all culminates in a very “meh” opening, and this just isn’t good for the show. It could really use a good one.
11. Early Edition
Chances are you’ve never heard of this show. But wait, is that Kyle Chandler? All around good, cool guy of Friday Night Lights fame? It is. He was in this show first, and it’s a joy of a train-wreck. Despite it never entering popular culture in any way, it gained something of a following and cult fans helped keep it on the air for a whopping four seasons.
The premise of the show is that a man (Chandler) receives tomorrow’s Chicago Sun-Times today. We’ll let you connect the rest of the dots, because the complications that ensue have been done to death. Unfortunately, the show ran from 1996 to 2000, a time when CGI and digital overlay effects (think of those perfected today in openings like True Detective), were just making their way into television. The result is an atrociously dated visual sequence. And they went for broke and added some really strange music. You’re going to want to look this one up.
10. One Tree Hill
First of all, we all know what kind of opening this is. There was a time that someone in the television industry decided they were good. For our money, those shows’ intros could comprise this whole list. But that wouldn’t be as interesting, would it?
So why does this one get a spot? Looking back, that quintessential Gavin DeGraw song is possibly the worst of the worst. Whiny, heavy-handed, and just plain comical to look back upon. That song, combined with the imagery we all remember, makes this opening sequence real trash. Put any nostalgia for the show aside, and assess the opening as an individual piece of media. Trash.
Skins was a refreshing teen drama for a lot of people. Most of the credit goes to the fact that it’s a UK series. Believe it or not, there are different lenses through which to view the world! So us kids in America got to see all the rehashed teen drama topics (drugs, sex, who am I, etc.) situated in a different culture.
That’s pretty cool. So what’s up with the intro? At least it’s short, but it’s strange and it doesn’t look good. It shows us the characters, a basic requirement that most intros of this genre fulfill. It’s just that they’re superimposed over meaningless background environments and it just speeds right through that for about 30 seconds. It’s a mess. And the music is also pretty odd and doesn’t seem to connect tonally at all. But maybe we need an English friend to help us understand that part.
8. Degrassi: The Next Generation
You don’t want to miss this one. We’ve already been over the general style via One Tree Hill. But this one beats it in cringe-worthiness because of the music.
We know, we spewed a lot of deserved hate for that Gavin DeGraw song. But this is something else altogether. It’s some kind of chorus of children singing an apparent church hymn about “making it through.” Oh, we get it! It’s about making it through adolescence, which is a very challenging stage for a lot of people.
7. Facts of Life
Have you heard this show’s theme song? The only people who don’t immediately agree that it’s terrible are those that haven’t heard it. So if you somehow haven’t, culture yourself and give it one listen, so you can share in the hatred. But don’t listen again. Unless you’re a masochist, in which case do your thing. No judgement here.
The visuals of this opening are certainly nothing that you would ever, ever use as an example to indicate quality. But they’re also fairly safe and boring and common for that time period. So those alone wouldn’t put it on this list. But that song.
6. Two and a Half Men
Yeah, this one’s easy. This show gets a lot of hate, and it deserves it. It’s totally mindless television. But sometimes that’s what the everyday, hard-working American needs, just something to have on in the background while taking that first sip of ice-cold beer. So stop being so uppity!
But that doesn’t mean the intro has to be so bad. While the content of the show is uninteresting, some of the offscreen stuff isn’t. Think of Charlie Sheen being a human that exists and doing the things he does. Or child actor Angus T. Jones famously denouncing the show. But there’s nothing interesting about the opening credits, where for some reason the three leads are dressed in tuxedos singing into an old school microphone. We tried to think of the connection, but just couldn’t come up with anything. Add to that Jones’ irksome voice and lyrics where they just repeat different iterations of the word “men,” and you’ve got a good recipe for garbage.
5. Quantum Leap
This show is unabashedly campy. That’s great. And the concept is even really interesting— a doctor gets thrust through space and time and takes the place of different people in different scenarios in order to alter events. So if you’re someone who’s too young to have caught the show, we’re not saying not to watch it. It’s pretty solid if that’s your type of thing.
But the opening credits are difficult to sit through, and now that you can skip them, we don’t see why you wouldn’t. The images are really silly and they don’t look very good. But it’s late 80s/early 90s, so maybe we could let that slide. But it’s also painfully long, and the instrumental sounds like, we don’t know, upbeat elevator music? It’s a shame because an intro that bad has the potential to turn off new viewers, especially when there’s basically an infinite supply of other content to watch.
This one is super polarizing. You either love this opening or hate it. And no matter how many times we’re told that we need to understand it’s a sci-fi western (which after viewing it you only couldn’t know if… actually, there’s no way not to know, just no way) and that the opening song actually does perfectly fit the tone of the show, we’re never going to like it.
The song sounds silly and cheesy and it’s not endearing in any way. It’s slow and weird; it honestly sounds like mistake. We just don’t understand how it was recorded and okayed. We know not everyone agrees, but just think of it this way— there are a number of people this opening turns off, and unfortunately that really sours the overall experience. Alas, we’re heathens. We have to give a shout-out to this song, though, for being one of the most fun things to parody with different lyrics ever.
3. Star Trek Enterprise
Watch these opening credits. They’re impossibly bad. The show certainly isn’t the most liked entry in the Star Trek universe, but it (and really anything else) is a masterpiece compared to the intro. Fans were quite vocal about their hate for it, which makes sense, because it’s one of the worst things that’s ever been put together.
The song is called “Where My Heart Will Take Me,” a cover of a Rod Stewart song. And yes, the vocalist has a real Rod Stewart vibe. And if you’re thinking that a Rod Stewart vibe wouldn’t work well with Star Trek, you’re absolutely right. Words can’t really describe how bad this is, but rest assured, the visuals are terrible as well. The extremely poor use of the song will demand all of your attention and confusion, though.
2. The Big Bang Theory
What would the worst show on television be without a terrible theme song? The one thing this theme song does right compared to some others is let the viewer know exactly what kind of experience they are in for. A hell-scape where there is no laughter, no fun. A place where a one-word, nonsensical catchphrase somehow elicits a laugh. Perhaps the worst part about it is that it sends the message to young children that if you’re extremely smart (or “nerdy,” and “nerds” just being “nerdy” is so funny, right? Let’s make a whole show about it!), you will be deplorably unfunny. And that’s not fair, because there are a lot of smart people who are very funny.
But anyway, the opening. It really gets under your skin in the worst way, and the only good part about it stupidly speeding up is that it makes it shorter. We must admit, the Barenaked Ladies’ songs always walked a thin line between funny and annoying, but this is certainly their magnum opus.
1. My Mother the Car
We have to say, a lot of these came down to the song. But not this one. No, the strength of this atrocity’s placement is that it was, for one season, a television show that was produced.
The show aired in the mid-60s for just one season, thankfully. Its premise is that a man’s mother dies but her soul is then reincarnated in the form of his car. This is represented with shots of the car and then his mother’s voice. The joke of the entire show is that his wife and others don’t know about his mom BEING A CAR, and so he must hide this fact from them. He understands, but they never would, right?
So you can probably tell by now that this show really couldn’t have a good intro in any universe. They utilize that thing where you can see the lyrics and the bouncing ball goes from one word to the next as it’s sung, because you might not be able to keep up. The lyrics are just incredible. It’s actually really interesting that a show in the 60s supported the idea of reincarnation (not exactly a dominant philosophy in America) so nonchalantly. Oh, you’ll just have to watch it. You already can’t believe this is a show, and you won’t believe the opening credits either.