Funk’s Top 10: Television Opening Credits

To say that TV producers put a lot of time into the opening sequences for a television show is an understatement. This isn’t just a station ID or a buffer between scenes, but a hook to convince people to plant their butts and watch the show. It needs to set the tone, introduce the characters and draw viewers in within the space of a few seconds. Some of them, such as The Big Bang Theory are destined to be skipped on the DVD. Let’s ignore those and look at the ten that could be considered the closest these vignettes come to being art.

10. Futurama

The Simpsons was initially considered for this spot, being a classic as all, but the opening sequence for Futurama which follows a similar vein is much richer in detail and is packed with little sight gags. Prefaced with the text gag it’s a well paced and colourful sequence that brings the show to life.

9. Rome

Rome is a brilliant show that never quite broke into the mainstream in spite of the similarities of current hits such as Game of Thrones. Based on historical records and with casting that nails each role to a tee, the one hundred million dollar seasons were epic is scope and had an intro to match. Like the show if covered a wide cross section of the ancient Roman society. Blurring the people and the streets the focus is put on the graffiti and art which animates and moves around the walls.

8. X-Men

The 1990s gave us plenty of great Saturday morning entertainment, including Batman the Animated Series and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each with their own over-the-top, seizure inducing titles sequence. Nothing represents this era more than the completely barmy introduction to the animated version of X-Men. This credit sequence alone was responsible for turning the characters into household names. The sense one gets is that the animators came back every day and laid down another layer of bright colours on what was already there.

7. Veronica Mars (Season 3)

Veronica Mars is one of the best television shows of the past decade. It’s also one of many great shows unfairly cancelled during their peak (in this case, in favour of the wretched Who Wants to be a Pussycat Doll). The first two seasons have a perfectly serviceable intro sequence backed by the Dandy Warhols, but the third season did away with the high-school themed design and went neo-noir with classic detective film locations behind a sepia filter. Remixing the theme music and adding some nifty transitions and it’s a great intro for a great series.

For those wondering what we missed out on:

6. Dexter

First thing I tell my film students? Use. Close. Ups. Most first time film-makers seem allergic to them. I like to use this clip to illustrate the strength of close-ups when used effectively. The images combined with the music speaks volumes, with simple acts shot in a way to imply acts of violence creating the overall picture of a dark soul.

5. Angel (and Buffy)

Warning: Crap Quality Video

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a catchy, crazy and over-the-top opening sequence crafted from snippets of the show, and it was effective and popular. When the decent spin-off, Angel, made it’s debut it recreated the theme music on the strings with a distinct gothic vibe. The cinematography is a wee bit better, with a wider range of clips already available and, most importantly, you don’t want to skip it on the DVD.

4. Twin Peaks

Watch the above sequence in 1080dpi. If you are not completely entranced you’ve got something wrong with you. Beautiful film work, hypnotic imagery and that sense of implacable menace.

3. The Sopranos

Like many awesome opening credit sequences this is simple and memorable. The very cool soundtrack backs the basic concept of the protagonist driving home. The shifts in the scenery and well shot and edited with sneaking looks at Tony at the wheel. Some shots, such as his smoke clouded eyes glancing in the rear-view mirror have become instantly familiar to viewers.

2. The X-Files

Warning: Crap Quality Video

Haunting and enticing, this dark and mysterious opening steps away from the loud and brash openings used to get peoples attention and instead works on their sense of curiosity and intrigue. Almost like a modern day current affairs montage the loosely connected images and bold text create a sense of unease while hinting at the paranormal. Brilliant work.

1. Doctor Who

It already speaks volumes that this introduction and theme music has been in use for almost fifty years and remained largely unaltered. The simple presentation – a star swirl – has been tweaked and updated with new logos and occasionally the TARDIS of the Doctor’s face but remained consistent, as has the iconic music. The tune itself has been the subject of many a remix, and is instantly familiar to almost everyone even if they haven’t seen the show. A timeless classic.

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