The Best and Worst Credit Sequences of the 2011 TV Season: Sunday Shows

The opening credits for a TV show are more than just a reminder of what you already know you're watching, they're like a first impression, television's equivalent of the knuckle bump and "How you livin'?" As such, they can leave a good or bad impression on viewers.

A good opening sequence reflects the tone of the show, and an excellent one never inspires viewers to hit the fast-forward button. Imagine if Lost had opened with a goofy theme song or True Blood was introduced by free jazz and pictures of dolls. The openings for both of those shows, two of the best of the last decade, perfectly prepare viewers for crazy plane-crash survivors and horny vampires, respectively, and each one is good for completely different reasons.

Each fall season brings with it fresh opening titles for each new show. Some are short, some are long, some are great, and some are atrocious. Over the course of this week, we'll take a look at the title sequences from each new fall show and critique the heck out of them (just the sequences; the grades are in no way indicative of a show's quality, so please don't cry if I say something bad). We'll go day-by-day, starting with Sunday.



Allen Gregory

If Saul Bass, one of the most famous creators of memorable movie openings, were alive today, he'd be rubbing a bag of flaming dog poop in Jonah Hill's hair. But the blatant rip-off isn't the greatest crime committed by this sequence. What lobotomized man did Fox hire to write the lyrics to this theme "song," and why do I think it might be Sloth from The Goonies' favorite workout track? Allen Gregory is sandwiched between Family Guy and The Simpsons on Sundays, and those shows feature what are arguably two of the best animated series openings of the modern era, and Allen Gregory counters with this. Grade: D-



Hell on Wheels

It's may not be revolutionary, but the Hell on Wheels intro works. Starting with images of fire (which I assume represent the "Hell" part) and gradually bringing everything toward the real world with a final shot of Cullen on the train tracks, there's an artsy story being told here. And that story goes something like this: When Cullen is done scorching the earth, he, his gun, and his big hat will move on to the next target until no train is left standing! This guy is on a mission to kill all the trains that killed his wife, right? Grade: B



Homeland

It's weird that the season's best new show also has the season's worst credit sequence. It's great to see Claire Danes' childhood photos and realize that she's only aged about a week since third grade, but this is an indisputable mess of a montage with old news footage and confusing imagery slam-dancing together to improv'd jazz. It's like your college roommate's bad poetry, visualized. What's up with the animal mask, trumpets, and Bill Clinton? Did American Horror Story, Treme, and Frontline have a three-way, and this is what was left on the sheets? Great show, horrible opening. It's only saving grace is the cursing. (Cursing and nudity should be part of all opening sequences. How great would it be if The Big Bang Theory's theme song went like this: "It all started with a Big Fucking Bang, Motherfucker!") Grade: F



Once Upon a Time

This video includes the exposition bonanza typical of a show's second episode, but what I really want to focus on is the quick graphic at the end, the show's real title sequence. It's no secret that Once Upon a Time piggybacked on Lost's success, and that's made even more apparent by the Once Upon a Time's same short opening, same font, and same ominous feeling as Lost's iconic spinning word. The trees are cool, but the music—half a scale from high to low—and overall tone are way too serious for a show that features the Seven Dwarfs. Grade: C



Pan Am

I'm a sucker for a computer-generated perspective of flying through the clouds, and Pan Am is all about the titular airline, so no complaints here. It's to-the-point almost to a fault, but who cares? We're flying! Wheeeeeeeee! Grade: B



Strike Back

I don't know a thing about Strike Back, but from watching this opening, I get the feeling that it isn't going to be as boring as In Treatment or as slow as Mad Men. This opening tells me it's about two guys who may be in the Army and definitely shoot people and have sex with unhealthily skinny chicks. And that's exactly the kind of intel I want out of a title sequence. Grade: B+


Check back tomorrow for Monday's crop of graphics. Now comes the hard part: Tell us which Sunday opening sequence you think is best!

Comments (100)
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Totally disagree re. Homeland. I liked it. Thought it was really well done. Definitely gets an A+ from me. :)
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I like Homeland's intro. It's obviously about what's going on inside Carrie's head, it uses jazz music because Carrie is a jazz fan (she mentions having an autographed Thelonious Monk record at some point). It works well, IMO.
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The music is the perfect bipolar-tune!
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The fact that the Homeland intro is memorable and has an effect on almost everyone makes it a definite A+!
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I agree with the conclusion that the HOMELAND title sequence is bad. It feels like worth of mention that it is not about content of it, photos, speeches of the presidents or aweful music - the meaning of it. In my opinion the F is for how visually and acoustically bad whole cocktail is. And for that reason the HOMELAND title sequence deserve even worst than F. HOMELAND TV SHOW on the other hand is excellent A++ television.
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I think the opening creds for Hell On Wheels are about how the railroad "ruined" the natural beauty of the land (the burning) while bridging the nation and Mr. Bohannon is added to show he doesn't really care about the land, only his vengeance. All that in 30 seconds?
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W. may not be in it, but Colin Powell is and so is footage from that day, so 9/11 is referenced in Homeland's opening sequence.



I really like how it juxtaposes Carrie's personal development with the political one.

After all, most of us have grown up sitting in front of a screen in our secure appartments, while strange things are happening out there.

And still, this second-hand experience does have an effect on us, haunting our minds, whereas our environment remains inanimate.

Granted, some metaphors are a little too obvious and worn out (labyrinths!), it still is my favourite from Sunday's selection.
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I'm anti-Homeland's opening, as well. It's disgusting that they skipped over President George W. Bush in the opening sequence, as 9/11 seems to be the catalyst the show is based upon. Yet, somehow they deemed it necessary to include obama.
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Bush was an American PR nightmare nobody wans to be associated with that cokesnorting dumbass...

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1.5 years after this ad hominem attack by GeronimoX, Obama has lower approval ratings than Bush did at this point in his second term. For good reason, too. Obama likes to lead from behind because he likes to take it from ... oh well, I won't sink to the same level as GeronimoX -- grin.
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How did Obama get in the mix? Fox News much?
Robertsamuelson a Dutch shower.... Look it up redneck giggidy
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Wow, couldn't disagree more on Homeland's opening sequence. I freakin love it to death. Just something about it gets me thinking so much about life and all it's complications. It's my favourite sequence this year.
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I like that Once Upon A Time's opening sequence changes the shadowy image in the trees each time to hint at the storyline.
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strike back is far better than all the others
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Homeland's opening sequence was really good i thought...the news footage of past presidents talking about terrorism is a good reminder that it's an historically ongoing problem...it fits the show well i think
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The opening sequence for Hell on Wheels is pretty good. The show is starting to get interesting too. Also the theme for strike back is the same one at the end of Faster(starring Dwayne Johnson). Right??
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I gotta saw HoW is the coolest simplest slickest opener I've seen!
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yea Short change hero- The Heavy
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For some reason, Strike Back's opening titles remind of the opening titles for Luther: a pop song over animated still images and a red background. The producers could have probably skipped it and put the cast and episode credits over the actual episode in progress. It felt a little long.
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Id like to add that the opening theme of Hell On wheels is by Oscar winner composer Gustavo Santaolalla... its great imo :)
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It's not exactly a new show, but Boardwalk Empire is one of my favorite Sunday credit openers. Love the music!!! I remember there was an article about the best credits without lyrics, this should be one of them.
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I like the Hell on Wheels opener. Steamy things suggest a train and the rest is just my vision of a modern western theme, all intensified by the music. :)



The Strike Back opener wants me to just look into the first episode, nice one!
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You wrote: "A good opening sequence reflects the tone of the show" and then you write about Strike Back's opening starting with "I don't know a thing about Strike Back".. oh come on.. the show is great and it's not boring or slow, and opening it's perfect for it, how you can write about opening reflecting a show you didn't saw, not even one episode!
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*didn't see or *never saw. :)
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Strike Back Is aired on Friday Nights Not Sunday and it is the best and most well written show on TV. How do You Grade a Shows opening Title and guess what the show is about this is Called Tv.com so you should know when a show actually airs and what the show is about! I Hope you don't get paid for this job wow this web site is pathetic!
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I don't have a problem with Homeland's opening titles. At least I have the time to read the opening credits, unlike Alphas, where I have to hunt down the names of the last three actors. Plus, Homeland's opening credits convey a sense of what Carey's motivations are. The profanity is definitely not the best part; that's like a show throwing in profanity or showing an actress' breasts just to show off that they're not on network TV. Doesn't impress me since I'm older than 12.
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I have to say most opening titles these days are disappointing but Strike Back and Homeland were excellent. Also some fun shows that i hope get a couple of seasons.

Best opening titles ever

1-Buffy the vampire slayer

2-Twilight Zone

3-Firefly

4-Fringe

5-And of course Simpsons
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If you actually take the time to watch and listen to the Homeland opening, it's really cool.
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Strike Back (:Project Dawn) aired on Fridays, not Sundays lol
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Homeland's intro is outstandingly garbage and is definitely a "quick, hit the FF" moment.



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What, Homeland's opening is actually really awesome. It's creepy and confusing and probably supposed to hint at Claire's mental condition, and such is pretty fitting.
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Am I alone in preferring a "traditional opening" to a "talking opening"? I don;'t need a weekly synopsis of a shows main plot, thanks.



that and my lean towards westerns make "Hell on Wheels" the victor.
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5-0 is the best of all of them!

Everyone else is just 2nd place!!!!!
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It's hard to really consider title cards as opening sequences. A proper title sequence puts the viewer in a mood to enjoy the show.
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aparently i'm the only one who likes homeland's opening - i think it sets the tone of the show perfectly
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i agree. the opening is perfect for the show.
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Funny you mention the Homeland opening credits and how bad they are. My gf absolutely hates them and says they are way too long. Me being a bit of a conspiracy theorist thinks there is more to those credits than meets the eye, theres a lot of flashes and weird imagery I wouldn't be surprised if there is a bunch of subliminal stuff in there from the lovely military entertainment complex! Incidently I think the show is wicked, even if it is a massive piece of propaganda lol
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My favourite this season has been the one from American Horror Story, it's just so creepy. From all time probably Fringe or Bones.
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AHS has an excellent opening, which from the very beginning gave us hints as to the creepy origins of the house and it's "occupants." But that will all be in the Wednesday listings. :D
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My favorite among the six listed are: "Pan Am", "Hell on Wheels", and "Strike Back".



*Allen Gregory - I like the animation style and the music is okay, but the lyrics/vocals are odd. I can't really understand what's being said, if anything.
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I really like The Amazing Race's opening. The music is awesome, and it's matched with plenty of panoramic scenes of the world.
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these are ok, but I prefer The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Can I take you back in time to a show you might recall.. Deadwood? now that's a kick-ass opening sequence.

In defense of OUAT, they show the new magical creature that will be featured in the episode kind of hiding in the trees. that counts for something.
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Love Strike backs opening. I think the best of them all. Even though a different and shorted version was aired in the UK!! Similar though.
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Suburgatory's theme sequence needs to be longer. I get the sense there's much more to this song we aren't hearing besides the first and last two seconds. There's not even enough space to discern what kind of song it IS.
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Where is American Horror Story?
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not on sundays... read the title
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Most theme songs are gone and you get about 10 notes and that is it.
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Homeland's opening credit sequence is the worst. It sucks that my two favorite new shows, Homeland and Person of Interest, both have opening credits that are so long and boring that they make me want to shoot myself in the head. Maybe that's actually the point of Homeland's sequence, but intentional or not, making me want to kill myself should probably be seen as unfavorable.



1) Hell on Wheels

2) Strike Back

3) Pan Am

4) Once Upon a Time

5) Allen Gregory

6) Homeland
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About Persons of Interest, I don't understand how can we still get in 2011 opening credit sequence with the voice of the main character explaining the reason of the show. I get that it's great for new viewers but for people who are actually since the beginning, it's just annoying ! So I'm with you !
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I only watch Ouat & Homeland. But I viewed all the openings.



1. Hell on Wheels

2. OUAT

3. Strike Back

4. Pan Am

5. Homeland

6. Allen Gregory
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Couldn't have said it better myself.
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I like Strike Back, but it is just a bit to long, and I like the Once Upon the Time opening because the voice reminds me of Xena
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STRIKE BACK for the win, its all about The Heavy and the awesome tune, "Short Change Hero".
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New Shows:

1. Hell on Wheels (poignant symbolism)

2. Once Upon a Time (I disagree with it being too serious. I think the tone strikes just the right chord)

3. Strike Back (the music and graphics give you a good feel for the show)

4. Pan Am (simple but effective)

5. Homeland (I understand the mood they're trying to create, but I still hate it)

6. Allen Gregory (no words)



Old shows:

1. Dexter

2. The Walking Dead

3. Game of Thrones

4. BReaking BAd

5. True Blood

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I looked at yours properly now. Hadn't seen the new shows before. Oh, wow. We have the same exact opinions about them!
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Haha! Yes we do. And may I just say, you have exquisite taste in opening credits.
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These old shows openings are some of the best in tv history! Two thumbs up!
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yeah. but the best old show opening still goes to Six Feet Under
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OK, completely forgot about the simpsons opening. I like how they change it every episode, that is a great way to open for an episode
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The thread is dealing with NEW shows, but you're right about the Simpsons -- simply amazing.
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I can't wait 'til you critique the opening sequences of Wednesday's shows. I bet one of those shows is going to get rave reviews. (You know which I mean.)
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Hawaii 5-0, still and always, The Best!!!! Nuff said!
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Hawaii Five-0 is actually a Monday show, and a bad one at that. Although the opening, which takes the original theme song, isn't bad.
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B%llSh*t!!
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I'm one of the few on this site that actually likes Allen Gregory, and the opening theme is ok too. I do agree that the Homeland opening is terrible while my vote for the best goes to Strike Back. Right away, I thought Cee-Lo Green was singing (really an indie band called The Heavy).
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Typical Tim Surette douchebaggery: an F for the Homeland opening? That's just dumb. It's one of the best openings this season, chilling and haunting with a mysterious and unsetteling tone just like the show.
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I get having a complete different opinion but how is it 'douchebaggery' for not liking an intro at least 90% of people on here seem to hate? Again, read the beginning, the show is brilliant, the best new show by far....but it has the worst intro.
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Well, I get not liking something but you don't have to be a douchbag about it - and Tim Surette always, always is. That is douchebaggery for me.
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Not at all -- it is possibly the worst opening sequence for any show since we entered the 21st century.
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Terra Nova surely deserves a mention as worst titles. I realise it's not a Sunday show but nearly.
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I know it's not new. Third season and all. But the Good Wife's opening is perfect. Short and sweet. They should all be like that.
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Been thinking that Hell on Wheels definitely has the best new opening sequence, even better than most established shows. Very stylish, really cool and kinda badass. I agree on Homeland, love the show, it is the best new show for sure but that intro is awful. Feels more like American Horror Story. I actually like the Once Upon a Time opening though. Short and neat. Too bad this is only for new shows because an intro I really like is Boardwalk Empire's opening.
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