We all know that the siren call of the “Skip Intro” button is strong, but some TV shows have opening credits that are so good they’re simply unskippable. A notable subset of this category are shows that change up their intros in interesting ways, either from episode to episode or from season to season. For instance, both Game of Thrones and The Expanse chart the progress made in their fictional worlds in their ever-transforming opening titles, while each season of Outlander employs a new version of the theme song to reflect its changing setting. In that vein, here are six TV shows that have fun switching up their opening titles.
For any eagle-eyed viewers (or maybe “bat-eared” would be more accurate), the catchy intro of Gravity Falls holds a few codes that are needed for cracking cryptograms in the rest of the show. It’s very cool, but these occasionally-changed codes aren’t what I want to talk about, here. That honor goes to the brilliant intro for the series’ grand finale, the three-episode “Weirdmageddon” arc. Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t seen the show (it’s fantastic—go watch it!).
For the first few seconds at the start of each episode, everything seems normal, but then a creepily corrupt rendition of the theme song kicks in and we get a version of the intro with Bill Cipher running the show—his name even replaces Alex Hirsch’s for the “created by” credit. A particular highlight is Bill’s friend 8 Ball taking Dipper’s usual place in the credit sequence—instead of coming across the usual skeleton of a horned monster, he sees Dipper’s skeleton. Hirsch also knew that fans of the show were well-versed in seeking out clues by this point, so Bill (voiced by Hirsch) can be heard saying “I’m watching you nerds” if the intro is played in reverse.
A special shout-out also has to go to the fan-made Gravity Paws intro that aired during Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XII to celebrate the show’s finale. It’s a recreation of the intro using adorable real-life dogs, and it’s a thing of canine beauty.
The opening credits of The X-Files almost always ended with the tagline “The Truth Is Out There,” but there are a handful of episodes that switched it up. The first time it was changed was for the last episode of the first season, “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” which instead used the chilling phrase “Trust No One.” The rarity of the tagline being changed made it all the more exciting when something different did flash up on screen, such as “I Want to Believe, I Want to Lie” and “erehT tuO sI hturT ehT” (read it backwards). A complete list of alternate taglines can be found here.
Cast changes throughout the eleven seasons of The X-Files also led to actors being subbed in and out of the credits and occasionally the imagery was updated. None of these changes are particularly interesting (though if you’re so inclined, you can watch them all here), aside from the intro that’s played halfway through “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” in season eleven. This episode is about the Mandela Effect (involving collective false memories) and alleges that there was actually a third agent working alongside Mulder and Scully this whole time: Reggie Something (played by Brian Huskey). When this is revealed, a fun version of the intro , now featuring Reggie, is played.
Given that each episode of WandaVision is a homage to a different decade of TV sitcoms, it’s only fitting that the episodes would have different theme songs in a matching style, all of which have been compiled here. The songs were composed by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who are best-known for writing the music for Disney’s Frozen. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Anderson-Lopez said they made sure they “weren’t parodying any one show, that the songs we were writing would evoke all of the iconic songs from an entire decade and be their own thing.”
Their influences are pretty easy to spot. Episode two, “Don’t Touch That Dial,” has an animated opening that is reminiscent of Bewitched, along with a catchy ’60s-style jingle (“WandaVision! Wa-WandaVision!”—I’m sorry if that’s now stuck in your head). Episode five, “On a Very Special Episode…,” features a saccharine ’80s ballad, in the vein of Family Ties and Growing Pains, played over images of the cast’s family portrait being painted, inspired by the former, and pictures of the characters growing up, inspired by the latter.
Anyone who has clicked “Skip Intro” on BoJack Horseman has missed out on a ton of fun details. The title sequence is locked onto BoJack’s blank face as he goes about his day, disconnected from what’s going on around him. But a few episodes in, details in the background—and later the background setting itself—start to change, evolving to keep in sync with the continuity of the show.
This first happens after episode three, where the leg of BoJack’s bed is broken and his ottoman is set on fire, with the damage from both visible in the opening credits of episode four. The amount of detail put into these changes in the background is impressive. There are also a couple of episodes with completely different intros: season two’s “Escape from L.A.” has a sitcom parody song called “Kyle and the Kids” and season five’s “The Showstopper” plays the title sequence for the in-world show Philbert.
If you’ve already seen BoJack Horseman and want a spoiler-filled recap of the changes, then check out this video. If you’ve not seen the show, enjoy searching the background to catch sight of different objects and characters coming and going as you catch up!
The title sequence for most Community episodes is the same—“At Least It Was Here” by The 88 plays over an origami-style paper fortune teller decorated with drawings and the cast’s names. There are a few opening credits that slightly diverge from the basic format in order to reflect the content of the episodes: in season two’s “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” the drawings are switched out for fantasy objects and characters, such as a wizard and a phoenix, while Halloween episodes feature appropriately spooky images, such as a zombie hand and a mummy.
But there are also a handful of intros that are totally different. It’s hard to pick favorites from this very fun bunch, but a few of mine include “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” with its stop-motion animation, “Digital Estate Planning” with its 8-bit video game graphics, and “Basic Lupine Urology,” which is a parody of Law & Order. All of these delightfully creative variations can be seen here.
The four seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend all feature different opening theme songs, but the song isn’t updated just for the hell of it. Each song is a story that main character Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) is telling herself, and so, as she changes and grows over the course of the show, the theme song also changes. Season one’s intro is Rebecca singing about moving to California to pursue her one-time crush from summer camp, with the animation indicating that she’s not living in reality. The sun singing “She’s so broken inside!” is a definite highlight (and is voiced by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne, who served as the show’s executive music producer, eventually co-writing over 150 songs with Bloom and others).
Season two’s song sees Rebecca performing with showgirls in a Busby Berkeley-esque musical number as she fully indulges her impulses, but there’s a hint of unease in the lingering shot on her face at the end. Season three’s intro manages to analyze popular culture’s conflicting uses of the word “crazy” in just a few lines, with Rebecca taking on different musical roles, from a Carrie Underwood-esque country singer to an Eminem-esque rapper, as she tries to sort through the mixed messages.
Season four’s song feels a little different from the others. It’s shot in the style of an upbeat sitcom, but Rebecca herself is no longer singing and performing, indicating that she’s moving past this coping mechanism. It still retains its comedic flair though, with the “other Rebecca” at the end saying something different each time—my personal favorite being “I miss the season one theme song.”
Of course, I haven’t covered every great TV show that switches up its opening sequence in the short list above, so drop your favorite examples in the comments below!
Lorna Wallace has a PhD in English Literature and is a lover of all things science fiction and horror. She lives in Scotland with her rescue greyhound, Misty.