While some series take time to find their footing, others nail it with fantastic openings. Whether they introduce us to the characters, establish the universe we’re in, or give us a glimpse at what’s to come, the best opening sequences in TV history all have something in common: they’re hella memorable.
In this era of peak TV, series have a limited window of time to prove themselves. The best beginnings hook viewers instantly. If a show doesn’t grab your attention from early on, you’re more likely to spend your time binging something else as there’s not a shortage of acclaimed TV content to choose from. Awesome shows with fantastic openings are the most likely to survive.
So what are the main ingredients for a great opening? Some shows go for unforgettable character introductions. Others opt to dazzle viewers with impressive set designs and action-packed prologues. There are those series that bet on cinematic sequences meant to familiarize us with the show’s tone and atmosphere. Whatever it may be, the best TV opening scenes get their series to a shocking, horrific, or hilarious start. We’ve gathered them all below, to be ranked by you!
The first scene: A man wakes up confused in a forest, injured. He sees a Labrador, but otherwise it looks like he's alone. Then, the man starts to run through the forest and hears screams getting louder and louder. He eventually reaches the beach, where Oceanic Flight 815 crashed. The surviving passengers walk around hurt, shocked, and confused.
Why it’s great: Back in the day, this was reported as the most expensive pilot ever, so there was probably a lot of pressure on J.J. Abrams’s shoulders to deliver a hit. He didn’t disappoint. Before the smoke monster and the time travel and the unanswered questions, Lost was a show about a plane crash and its survivors. It was a program that was gripping from the very first scene. The special effects were perfection and the panicked survivors were beautifully portrayed. You were invested in the story from the first 30 seconds, eager to find out what happens next. That’s just good TV.see more on Lost
The first scene: A group of friends hangs out at a coffee shop. Monica tells everyone about the new guy she’s dating. Chandler recalls a strange dream. Ross brings them down when he tells them his wife moved out, prompting Phoebe to try to cleanse his aura. Joey asks Ross how a married man cannot know his wife is a lesbian and recommends they visit a strip club. And then Rachel comes in, wearing a wedding dress. She tells everyone she’s a runaway bride.
Why it’s great: The scene really gives us the inside scoop on each of the characters’ personalities. The dialogue does it all, with no need for prolonged exposition. Phoebe is weird, Chandler is a goof, Joey is laid back, Monica is controlling, Ross is a sad sap, and Rachel is spoiled. Most importantly, they all share amazing chemistry. That why we’re still watching reruns today.see more on Friends
The first scene: In Bon Temps, Louisiana, a woman and her boyfriend stop at a convenience store with a sign advertising Tru Blood, a synthetic drink marketed to vampires. The couple ask the clerk whether he’s ever seen a vampire, but the clerk pretends to be one himself to scare them off. At that moment, another customer interrupts and reveals his fangs, showing us the first real vamp in the series. The couple runs away. The customer buys a case of Tru Blood and warns the clerk about pretending to be one of his kind.
Why it’s great: While True Blood was never consistent in terms of quality, this first scene explored the show’s best attributes – its humor, its sexiness, and its desire to defy expectations. While you might think a vampire would look a certain way or embrace the gothic aesthetic, that’s not always the case. Expect more suspense and social commentary to come.see more on True Blood
The first scene: Will McAvoy participates in a public debate in front of a live audience. He’s called out for his polite responses and thinks he's hallucinating his ex-girlfriend in the distance. When the moderator keeps grilling him for an honest answer, he explodes and goes on a rant about why America isn’t the greatest country in the world anymore. He even has the facts to prove it.
Why it’s great: While Sorkin’s shows have often been criticized for being preachy, this scene is beautifully executed and sets the tone for what's to come. At its core, The Newsroom is a show about a news crew trying to ignore what the public wants to hear and deliver the information the audience actually needs to make better decisions. McAvoy’s rant puts in motion a series of events that make that happen, while familiarizing the public with Sorkin’s characteristic monologues. Plus, the scene is probably the best the series as a whole has to offer, thanks to Jeff Daniels’s brilliant performance.see more on The Newsroom