If I had a TV show, I’d care deeply about the opening credit sequence. A great show doesn’t necessarily need a sequence. Plenty don’t have them at all. But personally I think there’s no better way to hook an audience and build excitement for the show. The creativity, passion, and budget in the intro are often indicative of the quality of the show. Without further ado, here’s my top ten list of of TV intros.
10. Arrested Development / I love the quick set-up of the show’s premise and the fun graphics. And I’m a sucker for Ron Howard. It’s short and sweet. Perfection.
9. Fresh Prince of Bel Air / If I ever get called onstage and am forced to rap, this will be my song. I love the bright 90s neon esthetic and this reminds me of being a kid. My sisters and I used to sing this together in the living room and mimic Will Smith rolling his head around at the end.
8. The Sopranos / Obviously there’s some Jersey pride with this one and most of my family can pick out personal landmarks in the opening. The gritty highway imagery is beautiful in its ugly reality and is made poignant with glimpses of the Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers. And while the debate about whether Tony Soprano is still alive, sadly, James Gandolfini is not. I love that this opening features just him and no one else in the cast.
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7. BoJack Horseman / This is the newest show on the list and has only been out for a week at the time of writing, but it captured my heart right away. The lounge-y theme song was written by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and the colorful animation is so LA. The Spike Lee-esqe double dolly shot is edgy, just like BoJack himself.
6. Treme / The show was a total love letter to New Orleans, so it’s no surprise that the opening features powerful real-life photos from the city and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The photos changed in each of the four seasons and reflected the progress of the city, becoming a little less dark each season. The fantastic music is by New Orleans jazz musician John Boutté.
5. Cosby Show / By all accounts, having the characters dance in the intro should be cheesy and terrible, but damn it, those lovable Cosby’s pulled it off season after season. We watched the kids transition from little kids to the awkward years, to teenagers doing trendy dances, to adults. Cliff was always a little silly, Claire always classy.
4. Mad Men / The silhouette of Don Draper immediately became the iconic image of the show. The dreamy opening is mysterious and a bit swanky, just like the show. It may be the best 30-second representation of any show without showing any actors. Simply put, it is brilliant.
3. True Blood / The opening is edgy, sexy, a little disturbing, and Gothic southern. The music, the fast cuts, the smears of real blood on the film…it’s so well done. It’s a bit more serious than the campy show. The elements of birth and death were included in an overall theme of evil and redemption, with violence, nudity, and lots of other stuff that make us uncomfortable. In the case of True Blood, the opening was the best part of the show, which exhaled its last tired gasp a couple weeks ago before finally succumbing to its own true death.
2. Northern Exposure / This opening makes me happy in its cheerful simplicity. The moose wanders through the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska and we get to experience an outside glimpse at the businesses where much of the series takes place: the doctor’s office, the bar, the general store, etc.
1. Six Feet Under / It wasn’t hard to land on Six Feet Under as the number one title sequence for my list. I believe this opening to be the most beautiful and meaningful. There’s something comforting in the way that death is represented in the wilting flowers and lone tree (among other images) with artistry and elegance. It’s the real death we all know, not the glamorous movie violent deaths that we can write off so easily. Funeral homes, coffins, grave stones. Things we all have to encounter and never want to think about. The haunting music was written for the show by celebrated composer Thomas Newman and it won two Grammys. Years after the show went off the air, this opening still feels just as powerful and compelling.
So those are my top ten. I have many others that I love that I couldn’t squeeze into such a small list. Which of your favorites did I miss?