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.
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-
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+
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+
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
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+
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
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
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+
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
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
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 Interest, The Following, The 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's. GRADE: 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?