TV's Best and Worst New Credit Sequences, Part 2: Drama

I'm a total opening credit sequences nerd! After taking a look at some of the best and worst new opening credit sequences of the last year or so in comedy, it's time to give the drama openers their proper due. I've hand selected some of my favorite and least-favorite credit sequences from many new(ish) dramas, and they feature a mix of gorgeous imagery, thematic energy, and emotional musical scores.

Note: If you don't see a sequence on your list that you think belongs here, it's likely because we included it last February. And from here on out we'll, be covering credit sequences a few times a year by season, so look for the best and worst new midseason entries sometime later this spring. 


Sleepy Hollow

If you know what Fox's conglomerate supernatural drama is about, which is roughly everything you could possibly think of—the Revolutionary War! Classic literature! Buddy cops! The apocalypse!—you can just imagine a sense of sheer terror washing over whoever was tasked with creating this credit sequence. Yet they managed to squeeze everything in and look damn good doing it, too. This is a "classic style" credit sequence at its best, with a great opening theme that's both spooky and fun, action and profile shots of the main cast, and imagery that's as macabre as network television will allow. Also, if I didn't tell you how long it was, would you've realized (without looking) that it's only 30 seconds long? It really maximizes its runtime, which means it's doing something right.  GRADE: A-


Almost Human


Ugggggghhhhhhhhhhhh. Reusing episodic footage for an intro sequence is a cardinal sin, and should be outlawed by the Council of Television Elders, with a strict no-tolerance policy that calls for the cancellation of all offenders. And it's especially disappointing that Almost Human chose to pull its opening sequence out of the recycling bin, since the potential for an awesome original intro was so great. Show me some robocops being made on an assembly line! Show me some crooks getting nabbed by machines! Give me some sort of symbolism for the closing gap between mankind and artificial intelligence! Just don't show me footage from the pilot. And maybe it's just me, but does Almost Human really need the ol' premise explanation in its credits? It's about some robot cops! End of story. I do love me a solid J.J. Abrams-composed theme song, though. Pound those ivories, buddy! GRADE: D+


The Fosters


Holy macaroni, ABC Family is all growed up! Initially, I had The Fosters pegged as just another teen drama from the people who brought you The Secret and Totally Ridiculous Life of the American Teenager, and boy was I wrong. This opening sequence feels very mature and comfortable—just like the show it represents. The Fosters is a family drama set in a loving home, and the intro certainly reflects that; it feels warm and lived-in, and it could probably double as one of those "Fabric Of Our Lives" ads for cotton. I dig the logo for the show title, too. Very impressive, ABC Family! Now bring back The Middleman and we can be besties. GRADE: B+


Rectify


Talk about an intro nailing a theme! Sundance's excellent Rectify is all about a man named Daniel, whose life goes on even after he thought it was over. And while I've only been to prison twice (in Monopoly, but it scarred me), I'm pretty sure all those photos are supposed to be on a jail cell wall. So of course they stop at a certain point in Daniel's life, and then they start up again at a different point, with a huge gap between them, perfectly emulating the time Daniel lost while doing time. Also, they're beautiful photos and they don't even use Instagram filters! #nofilter Bonus points for the beautiful tune. GRADE: B+


American Horror Story: Coven


Just like the show itself, AHS's credit sequence changes with each season. And allow me to make a declarative statement here, but Season 3's is THE BEST one to date. Disagree with me and I will fight you! Whereas Season 1's opener featured a somewhat unsettling haunted house or someone's nightmare of cleaning out their basement and Season 2's was set in any old insane asylum, Season 3's was 10,000,000 percent more frightening than both of them combined, because there's nothing scarier than extreme religions. The eerie mix of members of the Order of the Penitents, animals, and voodoo-witch doctors provides a bizarre sense of reality, making that bone-demon cameo at 0:21 seem that much more plausible. But the extra effort really shows in the ghoulish sketches behind the text overlays. And I just love those thorny high heels at 0:24—what a fantastic visual representation of the witches at the center of the season, all elegant and macabre. Anyone know where I can get a pair? They're for a... friend, yeah, a friend. GRADE: A


The Bridge


Remember how The Bridge went super off the rails over the course of its first season? There was one steadying constant while everything else spiraled down into a lame hunt for a serial-killer, convoluted torture traps, and drunk Marco Ruiz: these gorgeous credits, which appeared to understand what the show was about more than the show itself. Set to Ryan Bingham's perfectly moody "Until I'm One With You"—which only heightens the divide between Mexico and U.S. (get it? they will never be one!)—the visuals of the two countries' landscapes jump back and forth to illustrate that they're so different, yet also the same. We're not that unlike our neighbors to the south, yet we are. Deep, man. GRADE: B+


Hemlock Grove


Yawwwwwwwn. The first season of Netflix's first horror seriees was a loopy mix of gratuitous gore and accidental comedy, so I had big expectations for these credits. Unfortunately, whoever compiled 'em never received the memo that Hemlock Grove comes from another planet and isn't actually a real horror series, so the result was a typically bland, B-movie-quality time-waster. If you look at American Horror Story's credits, you'll see that spooky sketches can certainly supplement and enhance other imagery, but they're all that Hemlock Grove has. Between those and the dreary music, you'll be lucky if you make it through one this awake. GRADE: D


Hannibal


Game over! This contest is over. We missed this one when we did last year's round-up, but it's so good that I had to throw it in now. Is that some Chianti splashing around? Cranberry juice? A red wine demiglaze? Kool-Aid? *gasp* Blood!?!? We're all just blood, dude. And maybe the favorite meal of a certain gentlemanly psychopath. Short, sweet, and perfect. GRADE: A


The Returned


Okay, maybe the contest isn't over. This was probably my favorite opening credits sequence of 2013, and it all starts with Mogwai's incredible theme. Full of melancholy, wonder, and curiosity, the accompanying visuals are moving and appropriate for a show about the dead coming back to the world of the living. The heavens and the Earth occupy the same image, the dam divides the world between the living and the dead, we see the inverted reflection of the ripples on the lake, two lovers embrace near a pair of graves, and at the very end—as those who've seen the whole first season will recognize—there's that final, haunting shot of Camille wiping away her reflection. I'm usually a blubbering mess by the time I get to that part. This is a masterpiece. Fantastique!  GRADE: A+


Reign


Bravo to The CW and for giving Reign an actual opening credit sequence instead of the seven-second teasers it usually goes with for its sexy teen shows! And this one is a winner even though it has the voiceover that so many shows use to inform new viewers of what they're jumping into. There's nothing complicated here—shattering wine chalices, forcefully blown rose petals, a crown thudding to the ground—but they all symbolize the rocky road ahead for Mary, Queen of Scots as she ascends the throne. And you know what? I respect Reign's restraint in not overtly pushing the show's sexiness. Way to keep it in the pants, CW! GRADE: B


Orphan Black


This is totally bong city, dude. As a man who spent a good portion of his early-20s staring into his iTunes visualizer while listening to the latest downtempo jamz in a dark room, I reallllly appreciate what Orphan Black commissioned here. The whole feeling of the graphics exudes the organic beauty in biosynthesis, and since it's a show about cloning, of course the images are mirror reflections. I also love how the names of the cast and crew split from the middle—very apropos. The theme music by Two Fingers nails the underlying female sensuality and girl power of the show, while still giving it a unisex sci-fi flair, and by the time the two Tatiana Maslanys split from the vertical divide, your mind should be blown. This is an opening I never skip. Beautiful. GRADE: A


Vikings


First, an oversized stein of mead to this credit sequence for using Fever Ray's "If I Had a Heart," a tune that never gets old no matter how many times it pops up on TV (and lately it's been heard on Breaking Bad, Person of InterestThe FollowingThe Originals, and The Walking Dead). Violent images combined with eerie serenity are a perfect embodiment of lead character Ragnar Lodbrok (<3 U Ragnar), and the slow descent of items—coins, Ragnar's handaxe, Ragnar's body—as they sink into the water reminds us that if you live by the sea, you will more than likely also die by the sea. And the final image of the Viking ships from beneath the surface as Ragnar's hammer plummets to the depths of the ocean? Stunning. GRADE: B+


Masters of Sex


This is one of those "love it or hate it" openings, and has been the subject of much discussion in the TV.com e-offices. Of course, I'm Hater Tim, so I'm not a fan of the on-the-nose-and-other-parts-of-the-body symbolism, which includes buttered biscuits, a busy beaver, and a heavily petted pussycat. For a show that is supposed to offer a smart take on sex, these credits are sadly oversimplified. Obvious metaphors worked great for Dexter's opening because everything was anchored by the serial-killing main character, but here they're just fodder for giggly teenagers. But don't worry too much, Masters of Sex credit sequence, because you're still better than Homeland'sGRADE: D


Da Vinci's Demons


This one's a bit tricky. The art style is very cool, even if the alternating color schemes threaten to send me into epileptic fits. But the drawings are gorgeous, and they really pull from the lead character, Mr. Leo Da Vinci, while also hinting at the Indiana Jones-ish adventures the show will embark on. This intro won the 2013 Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design, and I think that victory owes as much to composer Bear McCreary's incredible score as it does to the sequence's visuals. GRADE: B ...especially once you realize that McCreary took inspiration from Da Vinci's ability to write forwards and backwards, and composed a theme that could also be played backwards. WHAT? Yep, he did that. Brain busted, all hail the Bear. GRADE: A 


Which of these opening credits sequences are your favorites? 


Comments (158)
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The one I'm surprised has been left out is Banshee, constantly changing and working perfectly with the sound track. Long, but it's the one I never skip (and at times re-watch to make sure I picked up all the story clues.)


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True Detective: a true revelation! best series ever!
Da Vinci's Demons: Amazing, probably the best!
Hannibal: Dark, intelligent and intriguing.
The Blacklist: it will be an "old time classic". Perfect!
Sleepy Hollow: Decent show with nice acting and story.

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I am all about very-very strong opinions with regards to television, after all if you don't have strong feeling for the medium than you shan't ought to share those opinions, for you clearly do not care enough.

That being said I cannot disagree more with your opinion of Almost Human's opening sequence. 'Reusing episodic footage for an intro sequence' is a TRIED & TRUE procedure that some of the greatest programs in the History of Television have used.

If you cannot see it is far from "cardinal sin" than perhaps you should re-think, not only your favorite television of the past but what television program's need to do in a opening sequence.

They need to familiarize new viewers with the premise of the show as well as get them excited to watch an unfamiliar program at the same time as providing long-time viewers a comfortable fire to warm themselves in front of. Though it perhaps you prefer art over content!?

For me Almost Human gets an A++
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My favorites you've listed: Orphan Black and DaVinci's Demons.

I had never realized DaVinci's Demons could be played backwards, that's awesome!
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I forgot to mention one that you missed, Helix. It's as bizarre as the show.
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I think the best opening I've seen/heard in a long time is True Detective. I actually went and got the full song (which is fantastic). I love the visual effects as well; it deserves an all around A+.
I can't wait to see season 2's opening since it'll have different actors and a new case. I wonder if they'll use a new song, too... T Bone Burnett will make it work. He put in a lot of good music throughout the episodes as well.
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I disagree about Hannibal's opening simply because the "music" is so awful. Boring and weird and sometimes screetchy, I just dislike it whole-heartedly. I love the blood in the glass Hannibal head but the music is just awful.
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Black sails has a great intro!!!
So does True Detective and masters of Sex!!
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My personal fave is Shameless.... so simple, just one camera looking into the bathroom with shots of the entire cast doing what they do! LOVE! :)
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Les Revenants without a doubt
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This one is one of my favourites - from Bron/Broen, a Danish/Swedish series now in S02



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Where is Banshee? Wasn't mentioned last year so really should be on this list!
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HBO's True Detective - one of my favourites by far. Beautiful, haunting and I love the song! A+

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Three best new intros are AHS:C and Masters of Sex. I feel like everything has been already said about AHS:C, but Masters of Sex deserves an explenation.

"On-the-nose-and-other-parts-of-the-body symbolism" is one way to view this, but the intro is more: It shows that sex can be found everywhere. Random videos of nature, animalistic behaviour and mechanics can all be percieved as sexual, which shows that the human mind sees sex in litterally everything. A rabbit munching on grass or a train passing a tunnel is seen as sexual by us, something not very erotic when seen out of context.

So bravo for showing it's audience that sex is always on our mind and as important, as Dr. Masters thinks it is.
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Masters of Sex
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Wow, did not realize that Sleepy Hollow's intro was that short. I would have guessed at least a minute.

My favorite though is Rectify's. I marathoned through that show in a day and a half and never got tired of seeing it. Course it was only 6 times, but most title sequences I watch once or twice and never again even if it is good. So any opening credits that can stop me from grabbing the remote immediately must be fantastic.

Other fantastic intros:

Vikings: That song, I love that song and put to those visuals makes me never want to skip this one

The Returned: I've never actually gotten around to checking out this show, but just watching those opening credits alone has me sold.

Also honorable mention to Teen Wolf, I'm pretty sure I'm never going to get tired of that show's opening :)
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It does have a great opening the combination of music and imagery was brilliant. How cool was that dance track version they did during illuminated
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Yup teen wolf. I'm glad that they up the dance track, its paralleled the storyline. I know it's already cancelled but Fringe's opening is one of the best.
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Totally agree on Orphan Black, also on Vikings ( I think these two were the best new series last year)
I missed Black Sails (another Bear McCreary masterpiece) and True Detective, which absolutely gives back the show's mood.
Almost Human definitely needs another opening for next season. That made me sick after the 3rd episode....
Also I kinda missed Helix' opening.
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You forgot to mention "Intelligence" - Ugh, I can't stand this lame voiceover credits, they remind me - oddly enough - of the 80ies classic "The Six Million Dollar Man".

For a long time now I have the (personal) theory that the opening credits of movies are an indicator for the quality of the film, this might actually apply to TV shows as well... Boring intro (font, music, visual effects), boring show... Okay, the 80ies have a heavy burden to carry in this regard - let's forget about our dear childhood memories for a second and try to analyse it without any nostalgia if possible- but the opening credits reflect always the decade, in which they originate from, music- and style-wise. The really good ones never go out of style (Star Trek, Dr. Who, hell - I would even say Knight Rider, Magnum, McGyver or Miami Vice - here they are again the great and cursed 80ies...!).

What I just wanna say, nowaday's shows have so much more they can draw on, the technology is there to create a perfect intro and there is a pool of fantastic music to borrow from... Almost Human's weirdly old-fashioned opening reminds me of the 80ies as well (and not in a good way) and there is just no excuse for that! Praise to the visually striking intro of Hannibal, as I said, the overwhelming good credits mirrow the visually (and thankfully contentwise) striking series... Same goes for Da Vinci's Demons (thanks for the gimmick of the backwards playing score, I did not know that!).
More+
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I really like Bitten's intro... I'm not sure yet whether I actually like the show, but the intro's pretty good. http://youtu.be/_OKnLdaO8_I
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Sleepy Hollow is A+ period. Tim wake up. All you had to see was a horse with a red eye.
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Great post, I absolutely love title sequences but it's hard to find people in real life who actually want to discuss them, haha. AHS: Coven wins this one hands down! Freaky, but incredible. The artwork behind the names is great. And as many have mentioned in the comments, True Detective should win the award for best opening sequence on a new show. The music makes it.
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hte best new open credit sequence goes to TRUE DETECTIVE. it's haunting...
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I disagree about Almost Human's opening. Using clips from previous episodes for your opening shouldn't be a cardinal sin. It's all about if they're stylized and edited in a way that makes it stand out from the episode itself (Smallville's intro is a good example of this). It needs a little bit of work, but I think Almost Human's intro is deserving of a B- in my book.
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The best opening is Supernatural, because it doesn't waste anyone's time. It's like: Yeah, you know what you're watching, let's get back to it, shall we?
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Plus, it changes every year. I think Season 9 might actually be my favorite yet.
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Agree with AHS: Coven, Sleepy Hollow (and the not-listed but much-cited True Detective). And could I just make a plug for my all-time fav opening credit sequence? - Six Feet Under. It's never been surpassed.
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Granted, I don't what the metric for a good opening is, but how can you be so right on the comedy side, and completely fail here. The Bridge opening is the most boring and slow opening that I can barely stand the show afterwards. "Reign" has an historically inaccurate narration but, I thought the "Masters of Sex" opening was incredibly clever because the show itself takes a more 1950's approach to the subject matter. And you gave "The Fosters" opening the same grade as "Recitfy" and "Vikings"? Lastly, I think Hannibal dserves an A+. There is something to be said for simplicity and minimalism.
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True that the Reign narration is historically inaccurate, but then again -- so is the show. I suppose that I would rather be told that they are making up their own facts early on. FWIW.
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Reign and Almost Human both created the same opening sequence sin. Reign got two grades higher. Sup wit that.
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My favs.

american horror story
sleepy hollow
orphan black: (music and imagery obviously inspired by Bjork)
dracula
the americans ( a magnificent opening that shouldnt have been neglected.)
hannibal


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Sleepy Hollow and Dracula. Thanks for noticing how awful the Almost Human one is!
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I came here because I really wanted to watch the opening credits for True Detective again and naturally expected it to be listed, thanks a lot, now I have to find it on youtube to get my fix.
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It has some pretty nice overlay effects and music. I like it. Its there on youtube.
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My no.1 is still Teen Wolf,
2.Sleepy Hollow
3. Hannibal
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Teen Wolf has really, really great opening credits.
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And the fact that it can change according to where story goes, makes it better. And if you like the music too, here's a similar tune from Two Steps from Hell , probably inspired the composer.

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My favorites are Banshee, The Returned, and The Walking Dead
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walking dead mightve made this list. but it was probably listed last time.
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Banshee, Vikings, Black Sails, Reign. <---- Only Intros I dont skip
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oh and Da Vinci...
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Da Vinci's is nice. Great song on Vikings
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Doesn't Teen Woolf get any love???
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Sure, why not?


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HAHAHAHAHAHA!
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I think they're only doing shows that are (mostly) new. As TW has been on for a few years, I don't think in qualifies.

But let's all agree that it would get an A, right? (If they didn't have Tyler Posey floating like a weirdo, it'd be an A+.)
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I love Sleepy Hollow's intro! I think Teen Wolf has a great intro too, mostly because of the music though, not the imagery...I love AHS:C too. Hannibal is also good. The Bridge's intro is only good because of the music. I also like Longmire's intro a lot.

I do not agree on Hemlock Grove here... I think it is a good intro. People today get bored too easily, they have short attention span.

I also disagree on Orphan Black. The show was awful and so is the intro. It is very overhyped on this site I see.
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Orphan Black? Awful? I think you misspelled awesome.
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I like Sleepy Hollow (the show) but don't love the intro. I like the Orphan Black intro music but am indifferent on the graphics.

As an aside, OP is not overhyped IMO. Its one of the best new shows on TV. I'd probably accuse you of being a fan of some lesser shows.

But ain't opinions grand?
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I like best Banshee, but it´s not here. The photos of the intro are very nice dark, violent photography that reflex what we see episode after episode in Banshee, and some photos change according to each episode, also the combination of the safe. The music, made by Methodic Doubt, is good, easy to follow progress good and finish just there, exactly.
Anna winking her eyes at the end makes it worth watching the whole thing. For me Grade A :)
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I am unashamed to admit that I have played Orphan Black's opening theme on Youtube on repeat over and over... and over. It's equal parts trippy and haunting, and if the OB team ever make a full length track or a soundtrack, I will be all over that.
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Is it bad that when I see the image of the horse's eye accompanying this article on the home page, the first thing that comes to mind is Bob Costas?
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Love Almost Human (especially the JJ Abrams theme song) and Hannibal !
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Da Vinci's Demons is GENIUS... :D
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I think you've missed an important new show, with opening credits that I found stunning: True Detective. The part where we see Woody Harrelson's face superposed on an interchange is particularly well made. It is but one example of the great, in my opinion, photography of these credits. i also love the AHS, Sleepy Hollow and Hannibal credits. Well deserved grades.
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Thank you for mentioning True Detective. I thought I was taking crazy pills when I didn't see it listed
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D for Masters of Sex credits? Unbelievable...
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You read my mind! :-)
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I watch Hannibal, but really an A ?? I like The Walking Dead credits. It's scary.
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Black Sails anyone?
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i love the music and the figurines sinking is kinda old style and kinda creepy so it fits the show pretty well :D
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American Horror Story: Coven. The best ever.
It is the only credit sequence I have never skipped over.
It is just as mezerizing after 20 times as it was the first time.
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GoT and Teen Wolf (my no 1)
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My favorites are:

1- Hannibal
2- The Returned
3- American Horror Story: Coven
4- Sleepy Hollow
6- The Bridge
7- Orphan Black
8- Reign
And yes I also hate the opening credits of Master Sex they are just aggg
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I love the opening credit sequences of Reign. The score, the deep voiced voice-over and the visuals play very well together and just always get me in exactly the right mood to watch Reign and I think that's what an opening credit sequence should actually do.
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shameless US and hannibal
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Nothing can top 'The Luck You Got' by the High Strung playing over the Gallagher toilet on 'Shameless' that gives you just a little bit of information about the entire bunch. That is a great one.
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My favorites are:

1. Les Revenants
2. Sleepy Hollow

3. Game of Thrones

I love the American Horror Story opening. The visuals change from season to season, but always fit the music. Speaking of music, The Walking Dead opening music is great. It reminds me of The Twilight Zone music. And plays in my head a lot.
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Oh and i have to add, that even though the show is shat, i have always loved the True Blood opening.
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Doesn't anybody miss credits that actually identified the actors? And weren't just names fading in and out of graphics (if that). I thought the credits for 'Dracula' were great, short, fluid and the faces matched the names. And I always look forward to the 'Elementary' credits, but probably more because they remind me of my failed attempts to set up 'Mouse Trap' as a kid...

And, I've never seen most of the shows listed, but going by credits alone I would much rather watch 'Masters of Sex' than 'The Returned' Talk about grade 'A' boring... I couldn't even make through the first 30 seconds of that opening sequence.
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