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.
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-
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
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
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
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
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!