The TV intro, meant to set the stage for the show, and before such story-driven drama was popular, also meant to give the viewer just enough back story to be able to start watching the show two episodes or two years in. Many just skip past these on their DVR’s now, but I have always been a huge fan of TV title sequences, studying them intently and often finding them the most intriguing part of television design. They are meant to carry to tone of the show, give a message, and be there own little theatric piece all in a minute or two.
Here is a run-down of my top ten television show title sequences of all time. Note that this is by no means connected to my own personal opinion of these television shows, but solely a rating of the intro sequence itself.
Also, the prominence of newer television shows is simply based on the fact that intros have gotten to be a lot more interesting and complex over the past few years, and while many past intros are good, they just don’t operate on the same level as intros do now, nor did they try and achieve the same purposes.
Here we go:
10. The Wire – Season 2
Just to prove right away that this list is not based on how well I like these shows, I present to you The Wire Season 2 Intro. I hated The Wire. Absolutely hated it, and it has never mattered how many Wire snobs have tried to tell me how it is simply the best show ever in the history of ever – I find it plain boring, but the intro is fantastic! Matching the tone of the show itself, gritty and realistic, the intro itself was enough to keep me thinking the show was going to pick up with each and every episode for two seasons…before I gave up…and that’s a great intro.
9. Mad Men
Another show I am on the fence with. I have watched everything but the most recent season, and still it is just no where near a show I feel that compelled to watch, but the intro is fantastic in creating the theme of the show and following the “fall” of Don Draper in a world of excess around him.
8. Game of Thrones
With an epic and pounding score, along with showing you the world of Game of Thrones being built up in front of you, fans have enjoyed the little reveals as new cities are added to the map before being revealed in the plot. After you see just a couple episodes, the intro always has you remembering scenes both fond and disturbing, and sets the stage for an evening of entertainment on the edge of your seat.
7. The Sopranos
This one is kind of the grandfather of the modern intro, with an heavy emphasis on the feel of the show through music rather than complex action. We get to see Tony being Tony, and Jersey being Jersey, and it all just clicks so perfectly.
Scenes of gold panning, saloon girls wearily sliding their aching bones into a bath, horses, and great shots of card players and animals being butchered – this intro captures not only the tone of the show but also of the old west it is trying to portray.
5. Boardwalk Empire
Another brilliant view of an era, as we are treated to a full shot of Steve Buscemi watching the uncontrollable tide of prohibition wash over him while being able to stay dry himself. Another HBO intro (not surprisingly based on the show’s pedigree) putting the emphasis on the music rather than changing scenes or action.
4. Six Feet Under
For a long time this was my number one pick, all because of the music. Two hands losing each other’s grasp and pulling apart to the world beyond; this opener made death out to be just like clockwork – and as with the theme of the show, just business. A light-hearted tic-tock mingles through scenes of the funeral director’s day as business as usual. With my best friend being a funeral director it made all the more sense as I experienced more and more of this world first hand.
This short lived HBO drama fits into the stiff competition of the top three, since all are so close to one another in skillful creative power and originality. Carnivale uses Tarot cards to display the realities of the Great Depression and turmoil prior to World War II. Still an intro I can’t help but watch on its own quite frequently, it is a masterpiece.
2. True Blood – Video Below Contains Light Nudity.
Then along came vampires, and the talented Alan Ball makes the list twice after having also spear-headed Six Feet Under. Vampires with a twist, as the intro points to the show’s early focus on tying the distrust and hatred of supernatural beings to the struggle of modern day homosexuals. The iconic “God Hates Fangs” scene is perhaps the most brilliant of the intro. For someone that spent a lot of time in the deep south as a child and also lived on its fringes, the intro is such an accurate picture of the “other world” that is the deep south and the gulf.
In the end no other intro can compare to the genius that is the Dexter intro. It’s titled “Morning Routine,” and introduces us each time to the title character and serial killer with a heart of gold Dexter Morgan. The true brilliance of this intro is that it is able to show how incredibly and unknowingly violent our daily routines are, and we don’t even think about them. Grinding coffee, making fresh juice, and even tying shoes suddenly all looks so very sinister. The show wraps up this summer, but the intro will be long remembered along with its own catchy and light tune as being an indicator of how smart that show really was (for the first two seasons, anyway).
Honorable Mentions: Get Smart, M.A.S.H., Copper, and The Walking Dead.
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