The 6 Best TV Show Title Sequences
Every Sunday night without fail, you’ll find me glued to my couch, immersed in the worlds created by my favorite TV shows. Be warned -- there is no talking in my house when ‘my shows’ are on, and if you make me miss even one second, I will rewind. I don’t want to miss a thing, and that starts with the opening credits.
They say never to judge a book by its cover, but in TV, it’s the opposite. You can always tell a good show by its opening sequence. As a child, I was entranced by the classic intros that never get old even after decades of repeats: Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, and my all-time favorite, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I wanted that life; I wanted to be Mary, and all due to that opening sequence. To this day, I have a strange desire to move to Minneapolis, even though I hate snow.
I could spend another decade enthusing about opening sequences from the past, but I don’t have that kind of time because I’ll miss my shows. So here are the best opening sequences (and coincidentally, best shows) on TV right now.
- Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones was the 2011 Emmy winner for Outstanding Title Design for good reason. The pop-up 3D map of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is almost more entertaining than the show itself, especially now that they’ve killed off all the best characters. Each intro delivers a teaser as we see which locales will be coming into play this week. “You can just fast-forward through this part,” whines my clueless husband. No. No we cannot. The craftsmanship that went into this is just breathtaking - and that score - oh my. It perfectly sets the tone of the show, although thanks to South Park, now I can’t help hearing ‘floppy wieners’ in my head every time.
- The Simpsons
Largely agreed by critics and TV viewers alike to be the best opening sequence of all time, The Simpsons is one you cannot miss, because it’s different every time. What sentence will Bart have to write in detention this week? What will be on the billboard? What bizarre scenario will await the family when they congregate on the couch? This sequence has been the platform for political insight, pop culture references, moving tributes and shameless plugs. It’s been created by such genius minds as Bill Plympton, Guillermo del Toro and Banksy. Even if you don’t watch The Simpsons - what’s wrong with you? - the entertainment value in this opening sequence stands alone.
- The Walking Dead
From the creepy, dizzying shots that make you feel like you're on the run from walkers yourself, to the images of objects with plot significance, to that music which is suspense itself - by the time the opening credits of The Walking Dead have run, you are already immersed in this post-apocalyptic world and ready for action. There are many internet theories that the placement of the cast members’ names next to the objects depicted may foreshadow their fates on the show. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I do know that viewers don’t just watch this show - they almost become a character themselves, deeply involved in the outcome. I know I care more about the characters on this show than most real people I know. Sorry, not sorry.
- Downton Abbey
Although it’s short and at first glance doesn’t seem as significant as some of the others, Downton Abbey’s opening sequence draws us into the show from the first frame. It depicts the elegance of a way of life probably no one alive today has experienced, yet somehow we all long for. The now-defunct everyday objects and ornate décor of a time long past make us nostalgic somehow. I love my modern conveniences of dishwashers, cell phones and of course, television, but I would give it all up in an instant to live in that house and be Lady Mary, and I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t.
- Orphan Black
This trippy intro is just so cool to watch, and although it’s hardly a plot summary, it definitely sets the mood for the show and lets you know this is going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The kaleidoscopic montage is scientifically and visually fascinating, as it appears to show DNA sequences recombining and cells dividing. If you haven’t watched this show, you don’t know what you’re missing. The plot is hang-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrilling; it leaves you open-mouthed with ‘what the heck just happened?’ at the end of every episode. There’s something for everyone here; it’s jam-packed with action, but also hilarious and super-smart; and has the best characters on TV. Tatiana Maslany playing upwards of ten different unique clones interacting with each other is simply amazing to watch.
- Orange Is The New Black
The thing I love best about this opening sequence is the theme song, “You’ve Got Time” by Regina Spektor. Along with the montage of close-ups of female inmates’ faces, it’s possibly the most genius pairing ever. The attitude and lyrics suit the show like nothing else could, and I just can’t get it out of my head. I chose it because it’s my favorite out of the current lineup of shows, but what I really want to talk about is another show with my favorite theme song of all time, an oldie but goody - Gilmore Girls. “Where You Lead” by Carole King is just such a feel-good song for a show that always made me do just that. And often the best part of the episode was in the 30-second intro that led up to the song and credits. RIP, Skippy the hamster.
Theme song honorable mention must also go to a couple of other past stand-outs, Parenthood with its baby picture montage set to Dylan’s classic “Forever Young” and The Wonder Years with Joe Cocker rasping “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
If you’re not already watching the aforementioned shows, you should be. I guarantee hours of viewing pleasure -- that is, if you can make it past the opening sequences without continually rewinding to play them again.
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