The Twilight Zone (original 1959-1964) aka Through the Scary Door

‘…you’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance…’

Ominous, foreboding and instantly recognisable, the original Twilight Zone theme by prevalent Hitchcock composer, Bernard Herrmann, combined with creator Rod Serling’s dulcet tones, sets up the series perfectly. The fact that people still mimic the tune when something unexplained happens in everyday life highlights the impact of this TV opener. Not only is the intro for The Twilight Zone brilliant, the show itself is very well-written and imaginative, encompassing sci-fi, horror and suspense. When I first watched it I couldn’t believe how many episodes of The Simpsons were directly influenced by it.

Charlie Chalk (1987)

‘…he can get you out of trouble, he can teach you how to juggle…’

Psychedelic punk rock intro for a children’s cult classic. Although the intro is in cartoon format, the show itself is stop-motion animation. If you haven’t heard of it, Charlie Chalk is about a clown who ends up marooned on an island with a motley crew of characters, including a clumsy pink elephant and a frustrated duck. Wonderfully wacky – a bit like Charlie himself. Music and lyrics by Mike Redway.

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

‘…born under a bad sign with a blue moon in your eyes…’

A fairly long intro with a slow build. Mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) makes his way from New York City to his home in Elizabeth, NJ, by way of the New Jersey Turnpike. You get a real feel for the location in the intro, which is mirrored in the show. The song is ‘Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One)’ by British outfit Alabama 3, and the lyrics fit very well, for example, Soprano being ‘chosen’ to take over ‘the family’ and his struggle with the blues (depression that is, but also the feds!). The camera also pans to a graveyard, which stresses the fact that danger is around every corner when you’re in the mafia.

Hung (2009-2011)

‘Times get tough, oh they get tougher’

Thomas Jane strips and struts his way through a downtrodden Detroit to the (excellent) tune of ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ by The Black Keys. The shedding of clothes highlights main character Ray (Jane) stripping (literally and metaphorically) away a part of himself in order to provide for his family – and to comfort lonely women – which makes the song very apt. The show was a bit hit and miss at times but had some genuinely funny moments, such as Ray singing Happy Birthday to one of his clients in an, shall we say, alternative style.

The Simpsons (1989 – present)

Possibly Danny Elfman’s most famous theme; it fits the humour and vibe of The Simpsons perfectly. You get to know something about each of the characters, such as Lisa’s love of the sax, without the need for lyrics. Everyone enjoys looking out for Bart’s chalkboard message, as well as the family’s antics on the couch at the end of the opening credits. A classic.