Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Favorite TV Show Openings

There’s not much that goes into TV show openings. Their basic function is to let you know the show is starting. The best ones, though, set a definitive tone for what’s going to happen, and stick in the memory on their own right, which is the best kind of free advertising, but also helps cement a show in the annals of entertainment history.

Here’s a list of my favorite show openings and title sequences from my decades of tube-watching:

Star Trek
An obvious choice, and for obvious reasons (to me, anyway). Deceptively simple yet full of dramatic possibilities. Just say the words “Space. The Final Frontier.” and people who watch TV will know exactly what you’re talking about.

The Twilight Zone
Cool and disturbing (try watching it at night with all the lights off), the opening music and dialogue are the pinnacle of television’s ability to present more than chewing gum for the mind.

The Andy Griffith Show
I never watched an episode of this show all the way through, listen to that whistling and you know already know everything you need to know about Mayberry and the people in it. I can’t think of any other show where that can be said.

Barney Miller
The opening bassline sets it all up. I can still hear it coming from the living room when I was in my bed going to sleep (this was an “adult” sitcom that came on too late for us kids).

Masterpiece Theater
The stories I tried to watch when I was a youngster either sailed over my head or put me to sleep, but that opening was fantastic – so urbane and sophisticated as the camera languishes over worn copies of the Great Books and photos of people that look like they have their own stories to tell, it made me want to contribute to public TV right then if I had had any money.

China Beach
A pitch-perfect use of a fantastic song (The Supremes’ “Reflections”) to introduce a series based in the same era.

ABC Weekend Specials (1977-1997)
This animated anthology show came on right around 11 or 12 o’clock. When I heard that trippy but wistful ‘70s synth-and-violins theme, I knew the block of Saturday morning cartoons were almost over and it was time to get some breakfast, maybe go outside for a bit or do something other than stare at the tube for another three hours.

The Drew Carey Show
One of my all-time favorites, set to the music of The Vogues (“5 O’Clock World”), it looks like it was a lot of fun to make. It mixes the Dilbert-esque sad comedy of the workplace with Carey’s love of music, which he would revisit often during his series run.

[Click Here to View]

Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
In what may be the most radical re-imagining of a previous work of fiction in any medium, the opening is its own short story. The eerie instrument sounds and vocals moan with despair as the visuals provide the gist of the narrative – the war is over, and we lost.

[Click Here to View]

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