Boomer, GenX, or Millennial: Which TV era was best?

Our world seems more fragmented than ever. It’s been popular for several years to talk about our own little bubbles, but we’ve been talking about our generations for much longer. Want proof? The Who were talking ’bout their generation for 55 years.

No matter when you were born, it’s popular to talk about how your generation had the best culture. We don’t hear about it much anymore, but there was a time when folks born in the period from 1910-1925 thought they had the best music. By which, they meant this sort of thing:

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days

The first generation to really dig into nostalgia, though, were those born between 1935 and 1950. Straddling the “good times” and “baby boom” generations, they deluged us with dreams of the 1950s on television, in movies, and in music. Perhaps the ultimate expression of 1950s nostalgia was the long and popular run of Happy Days, a TV show about the 1950s, made in the 1970s, and still in reruns in the 2020s.

The battle for TV show intros

After spending way too much time on YouTube, I came to the conclusion that there’s a subtle battle for supremacy in TV show intros. The TV show intro has always sought to bring us into the world of the show quickly and efficiently. Except for a fairly short period around the turn of the century, they’ve been considered an essential part of the TV watching experience. Today, you can skip them when you binge, but a lot of times you won’t. It’s part of the rhythm of the show. So, whether you’re thinking, “A horse is a horse of course of course,” “So no one told you life was gonna be this way,” or simply humming the “DA dum da da DA dum” of the Game of Thrones into, you’re using the intro as it was designed.

Which generation has the best TV show intros?

Here’s what I figured out. The battle is being fought, right now. The boomers, led by “AtomicUncle,” give us this collection:

It’s just a bunch of TV show intros from the 1950s and 1960s. This is the time when boomers were young and impressionable. As they aged, their TV show intros got more mature. Take a look at “todd rucker’s” collection of 1970s TV show intros:

The optical effects got a lot better to be sure, but the music also did too.

Generation X steps in

You don’t hear much about Generation X, the folks born between 1965 and 1980s. They’re a smaller group with a quieter voice. Yet, they brought us irony and nihilism to a scale never before attempted. They also brought us poppy and fun TV show themes with frenetic visuals.

“Neal E” brings us this collection:

It was in the 1980s and early 1990s that the TV intro became more than a theme song with a couple of photos or cards. It started to become a mini-work of art. But, all that stopped in the late ’90s when “seamless” programming threatened to render the TV intro obsolete. Things took a pause for almost a decade as show intros got shorter and shorter.

Enter the millennial

One hallmark of the generation born from 1980 to 1995 is its desire to change and reclaim everything. This includes TV intros. By the late ’00s, TV intros weren’t just back, they were evolving into fancy, conceptual art pieces. Gone for the most part was a jazzy, poppy song with lyrics and in its place was a constantly shifting, CGI-laden short film. Editing technology made it possible to change the intro every week to add more detail, and suddenly they were must-watch moments in and of themselves.

“Mythril chains” brings us what they think are the “best TV show intros” and every single one of them is from the last decade.

I’ll agree, the production value on these is beyond comparison, and the artistry is out of this world. But which are you more likely to hum — the Westworld theme or the Facts of Life theme? I don’t know about you but I’ll take the good, I’ll take the bad any day.

What do you think?

Has the TV intro gotten better over time? Or has it gotten less accessible? Chances are your answer depends on your age. Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand on this, clearly the most important struggle of our age.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.