Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Questions

Without further adieu, here are this week’s Friday Questions. What’s yours?

Desperado leads off with:

Back in the day when TV series used to have elaborate opening titles, who decided how these would look (i.e. clips of actors shown with names superimposed, vs. establishing scenes as was the case on M*A*S*H)? The director, producer, or was it outsourced?

Same question for the closing credits. Who decided if there would be just a static image (Cheers), vs. clips or stills from the episode just shown (M*A*S*H)? If the latter, who selected the images? Was there a great deal of effort put into making the selections, or was it just an afterthought?

The showrunners have final say on what their opening and closing credits will be – as long it’s within the time allotted by the network. Today it is rare to see full opening titles on network shows (although there are exceptions like CSI), but in the good old days opening titles were a major part of the series. A tremendous amount of time and effort went into it. 

When we did BIG WAVE DAVE’S we told CBS we really needed an opening title sequence. It was a show set in Hawaii but was multi-camera. We argued that you can’t have a show about Hawaii and not at least for a few seconds SEE Hawaii. They said okay. Instead of 15 seconds we could have 30 seconds. I said that wasn’t enough. We wanted a minute. They came back with 35. We settled on 41. We were literally arguing over seconds.

There used to be a couple of production companies that specialized in opening titles. Castle-Bryant did the CHEERS opening (along with many others). For a number of years these companies had more work than they could handle. Now opening titles are few and far between (on networks).

In the case of MASH, producer Gene Reynolds filmed those opening titles himself.

A lot of shows, especially comedies, would show zany clips of the stars. I always hated those. They felt so cheesy.

Of course everything now has to be so frenetic and attention-grabbing. Yet one of my favorite opening titles (and one I feel was most successful in conveying the tone of the show) was THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Andy and Opie just walking in the woods, Andy toting his fishing pole. So simple yet so classy.
Closing title length also depends on the network. Today it’s a joke because titles are squeezed so the networks can promote their next shows. But back in the day, showrunners chose the style. I always preferred the one static still so the audience could focus on the names on the screen. Why clutter it with quick cuts from the show or some moving image?

What’s your favorite opening title sequence?  Yeah, that's right.  I'm asking YOU a Friday Question.

From Brian regarding a recent post about pilot pitching:

In today's post you mentioned that the networks would start opening up for pilot pitches soon. How does the pilot submission process work? Is it possible for a non-represented writer to get their pilot script in for consideration?

Honestly, no. If you don’t have a track record networks won’t see you. NBC has that online contest though. You might check that out.

But here’s the reality: networks only invite people to pitch they have faith in or want to be in business with. You need either experience or be a hot actor. After you’ve been on staff somewhere for a year or two, then the networks might be interested.

JR asks:

How is writing for shows with commercials different from those without? Is the structure of the script the same? Does the freer form change the process at all?

Commercial placement determines how you tell a story. Will there be one big break in the middle and thus a two act format, or two commercial breaks and a three act format?

You break stories differently if it’s three acts as opposed to two. With two acts, you build to the big crisis at the act break. You need multiple crises in a three act format.

However, when you’re on cable and there are no commercial interruptions you’re not restricted. You definitely want to construct a story that has a good beginning, middle, and end – but where those crisis points come and how many of them, that you can vary from episode to episode. You really can just let the story unfold.

And finally, from Manny:

In the age of binge-watching, it seems shows are becoming more and more serialized. Do you prefer shows, sitcoms, in particular, with lots of continuity and continuing storylines, or do you think doing stand-alones is the way to go? I prefer serialization, but both have their pros and cons.

I think CHEERS sort of began the trend of year-long serialized story arc the first season with Sam & Diane.

I believe that sitcoms can have a serialized element that runs through it, but primarily it should be a stand-alone episode. Especially for syndication purposes. When reruns of a sitcom are on every day, do you watch it every day? Chances are no. You may catch one or two. You don’t want to feel lost because you missed some episodes. You want to sit back, get a few laughs, and move on.

I think part of the problem with the new episodes of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT that ran on Netflix was that they were so interwoven and complicated and required so much attention to detail and continuity that a lot of its most stalwart fans threw their hands up in frustration. I don’t think people want to work that hard with sitcoms.

Please leave your question in the comments section.  Thanks!

112 comments:

Jeremiah Avery said...

Regarding title sequences, I like the opening and closing ones for "Hogan's Heroes". The opening establishes the setting and introduces the main characters; with the closing being just an image with the credits rolling.

For current shows, I like the opening to "The Big Bang Theory". It's quick but the song's quirkiness fits the tone of the show rather well.

Hamid said...

Choosing my favorite opening title sequence is easy: Knight Rider! The show that defined my childhood.

The legendary theme music, the Trans-Am in the distance speeding towards the viewer, then the epic voiceover by Richard Basehart: "Knight Rider. A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo8Qls0HnWo

benson said...

I don't know if it's well known or not, but the opening credits for Newhart (the Vermont one) was footage from "On Golden Pond".

And that was Bob saying "meow" at the end. (Sorry, it's been a long week. Happy Friday)

RockGolf said...

Friday question: Who do you consider to be the best COMIC actor on a current DRAMA series? I'd suggest Tim Kang on The Mentalist, whose deadpan 6-year Sgt. Friday imitation slays me.

Lex Avline said...

The Dick Van Dyke Show,
Mary Tyler Moore Show,
The Bob Newhart Show,
My Living Doll...
It's impossible to pick one favorite opening sequence.

Rudy Casillas said...

Always LOVED the Rockford Files open. Classic. Especially the Mike Post music!

VincentS said...

Favorite opening sequence - TV series: SILK STOCKINGS

Favorite opening sequence - Movie:
SUPERMAN (1978)

J. Allison said...

Agree with you, Ken, about the Andy Griffith Show titles. Made me nostalgic for a childhood I never even had! I also loved the Get Smart opening. Perfect tone-setter for the absurdity of the show.

Scooter Schechtman said...

"We were literally arguing over seconds." Here is the true soul of network tv, the sorting-demon accountants with their infernal abacuses. Yes its Friday 13th and there's a Hiatus Moon in the sky.

C. A. Bridges said...

Best opening sequence: "Police Squad."

John said...

A lot of shows, especially comedies, would show zany clips of the stars. I always hated those. They felt so cheesy.

There's 'zany' and there's in character. The opening titles for "The Odd Couple" had Jack Klugman and Tony Randall doing bits, but they were bits tied into their neat and sloppy characters. An opening title that had a character doing something silly in an overly-broad manner that they would never do in the actual show was especially annoying (and even moreso if the zany bit was followed up by a head-turn and a smile into the camera as their name was superimposed underneath. Mixing stupidity with smarminess would only be acceptable if the actor were a supporting player on "The Soupy Sales Show" and the zany bit/toothy smile ended with them getting a pie in the face before they went on to the next person's credit).

Archbishop said...

Best closing sequence was Police Squad, mainly for the gag of the live "freeze shot."

Stephen Robinson said...

I am a big fan of the "love theme" (slower, more somber version of the opening) during the closing credits.

I'm old and nostalgic but thinking of the closing to CHEERS and TAXI makes me misty-eyed.

Richard J. Marcej said...

As a child of the late 60's into the 70's there were so many shows that had catchy, excellent opening titles/themes that it's difficult to choose a favorite. But if forced to pick just one, I'd have to say the opening to "Mission: Impossible" was the best. The combination of the theme (arguably the best TV Drama theme music) by Lalo Schifrin and the quick clips preview of the episode you're about to watch just drew you in. I defy anyone to watch the opening of MI and NOT want to watch the show.

Roger Owen Green said...

Great music helps. Mission: Impossible was one of the best, but so was Cheers, and the Odd Couple. I'm a sucker for Perry Mason. Almost any of the Mike Post themes (especially Hill Street Blues). But if I had to pick two favorites, it would be the Hagen shows, And Griffith and Dick van Dyke shows, great visuals with great music.

Roger Owen Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Bell said...

Favorite opening sequence: Get Smart. Still breaks up my family.
Least favorite: any in which the stars just stand in front of the cameras and dance solo.

David Schwartz said...

Favorite opening: "Mannix!" Also, great theme music. On the comedy side, I'd go with the Addams Family. Sets up the show, and the theme song is more than iconic!

Smurch said...

The "Phyllis" theme still makes me laugh out loud. The hearty men's glee club asking who makes San Francisco achieve perfection - "Who charms the crabs on Fisherman's Wharf right out of their shells? Who light the lamps of Chinatown just by walking in view?" And then the closeup on Cloris Leachman turning from sunny smile to rancid glare as they sing the last lines: "Phyllis! It sure isn't you!" It never gets old.

john said...

Simpsons - sets the tone, and has an embedded bit each week (the fact that the ending changes)
If you were binge watching never been seen before episodes you wouldn't just hit the next chapter button.
And while i agree that cheers was among the first to have a year long arc, soap was earlier and certainly had multiple multi episode arcs going on simultaneously

Michael said...

Roseanne did great closing sequences. Much as I may hate to admit it!

Anonymous said...

The best television music was unquestionably from the first 15 years of television.
Westerns primarily- there was never better theme music than Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, Maverick, The Rebel, Bonanza (discussed in Cheers once).
Throw in a couple more like Peter Gunn, I Married Joan, The Honeymooners and even I Love Lucy -and you watched the credits just to hear the music.

Zappa the Unholy said...

I think the two best openings both for music and setting the tone were The Sopranos, and Twin Peaks.

Chris in Cowtown said...

I was always a fan of WKRP's and The Wonder Years opening titles.

Daniel said...

The best opening credits of all time were on The United States of Tara.

Covarr said...

"What’s your favorite opening title sequence?"

Mine is probably either Two and a Half Men or Batman: The Animated Series. Each does a good job not just telling you what show you're about to watch, but setting the tone for that show.

Daniel said...

And I meant to post a link, but I'm half-asleep this morning here are the opening credits to The United States of Tara:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivFAuqpeaz4

Artie in Sin City said...

For me there is NO doubt..

The original "Hawaii 5-0" sequence was the best...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AepyGm9Me6w

Many have said that the opening alone was worth over a billion in promotion for the islands...

Morton Stevens' theme is tops and the shots still ring true five decades later...

Here is an breakdown of the opening montage: http://archives.starbulletin.com/1996/10/21/features/story1.html

And more than you ever wanted to know about both versions of the show is found right here: http://www.mjq.net/fiveo/

Best opening sequence? It's right here...so "Book 'em Danno!"

Gordon said...

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet...

My favorite opening sequence and music was/is

The Wild, Wild West

Covarr said...

...or Dexter. I can't believe I forgot that one in my previous comment.

MacGlroy said...

The opening that immediately came to mind was "Northern Exposure." Love the moose.

Mike Schryver said...

I agree with nearly all the opening sequences mentioned already, especially both Newhart shows. And MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE and HAWAII FIVE-O are iconic.

Another one of my favorites was CARNIVALE, on HBO about 10 years ago. Had a cool 3D look, good music, and great transitions in and out of period footage.

Roger Owen Green said...

OK - I want to ask the wise followers of Ken's blog if they can think of any closing themes that are different songs than the opening theme. Not just a slower version, or different lyrics.
I'm thinking All in the Family (Those were the Days and Remembering You), and WKRP in Cincinnati

Chris said...

Favorite opening titles, without delving into the comments too much or else I'll get caught up in "Oh yeah, that!"

Dramatic:
Mission Impossible: Because, obviously.
X-Files: I burned out on the show after a couple years, but talk about atmospheric!

Comedic:
The Garry Shandling Show and the Steven Banks Show (short run on PBS!) had the best "Yeah, we know, this is supposed to be a title song song" songs...

And although it was short-lived, I've had the song from the opening credits to the Marshall Chronicles stuck in my head for YEARS! Damned steel drums...

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Larkin said...

If anyone is interested in learning more about title sequences, I recommend watching the Reza Badiyi interview:

http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/reza-badiyi

Badiyi was the Saul Bass of tv opening titles and did the most famous ones (That Girl, Get Smart, Hawaii Five O and Mary Tyler Moore). The interview is worth a listen, if only for how the Hawaii Five O intro came into being.

LouOCNY said...

The end title music of the original Star Trek was interesting, also - much less of a heroic fanfare than the opening music. They used a cue from that at the very end of THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, after Spock has been reintergrated into his body, and remembered who and what he was, and has been reunited with his shipmates. They pull slowly up and out from the reunion, and and use the last four or five bars of it. Makes for quite the moment...

Cat said...

Favorite opening:

Cheers for sheer class

Bosom Buddies for comedy and a fun theme song

Love Boat for pure Saturday Night 1970's cheese.

mrdj said...

Was it a creative decision to go with the instrumental only, or were lyrics added later? Here's Andy singing his theme song...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2Myd0fY1PA

Will Hansen said...

I loved the opening credits to MST3K. It set up the show's premise and had a catchy tune. The closing credits had a slow, sad theme song which added to the disappointment that the fun was over. I have already arranged for my kids to have the closing MST3K theme played at my funeral.
Second choice would be the credits to Andy Ritcher Controls the Universe.

Mike Schryver said...

Different opening and closing themes:

Bosom Buddies
Happy Days' first season

This is my favorite kind of game. I might come up with more.


Corey O'Dell said...

Game of Thrones is the best current opening titles. A map that unfolds and unwinds, showing the unusual settings of the episode underneath a sun-like map compass -- perfect for a fantasy novel adaptation.

My all-time favorites are still X-Files and Twilight Zone, though. Perfect for setting the mood of the shows they were in front of.

Eric J said...

"...you can’t have a show about [Miami] and not at least for a few seconds SEE [Miami]."

The opening to Miami Vice with Jan Hammer's incredible music. I still run it occasionally from youtube.

Mr First Nighter said...

Green Acres is the place to be!

Klee said...

MTM, Phyllis, Rhoda's first season's speech, Lost in Space's 3rd season, Land of Giant's 2nd season, Hawaii 5-0, Rockford Files, Addams Family, Munsters, ER, MST3K, Love Boat, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Cheers, (Hogan Family, Valerie's Family depending on the season), Alice, The Bionic Woman, Bonanza, Knight Rider, Acapulco Heat, It's About Time, Flying Nun and Batman!

Caroline said...

I love so many of the ones mentioned already. I'm going to throw The Return of the Saint (and the original The Saint, but I mention the Return first, because that's the one I'm specifically referring tos) because of the hot wailing sax music, the little cartoon Saint stick figure and the action vignettes. Set just the right tone of sexy adventure and humor.

Pamela said...

"Green Acres" -- perfect in every way.

"Six Feet Under" -- ditto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6WATB9PFdE&feature=kp

"The Nanny" -- great '60s-style animation, wonderful theme (though I didn't like the show).

"Dead Like Me" -- The music!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuVc_EynwyA&feature=kp

Phillip B said...

Always remember the music, and how as a very young child the openings for "The Honeymooners" and "I Love Lucy" made me happy. As did the openings for Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart's shows in the 1970s.

But for simply tattooing the plot of show onto the viewers brain, "Gilligan's Island" has to be among the most effective.

Metal Mickey said...

Like "Mission: Impossible" (already mentioned), the opening credits to the original "Thunderbirds" puppet show utilized clips from the upcoming episode to terrific effect, especially in tandem with Barry Gray's fantastic 'this-is-not-music-for-a-kid's-show' theme tune.

Actually, all of Gerry Anderson's shows had great themes and credit sequences, and "Stingray" even qualifies for having a completely different theme for the closing credits, with the "Aqua Marina" song...

Otherwise, kudos to "Dexter" for it's very clever (and _long_) opening titles, still worth watching right up to the end...

Mike Schryver said...

More different opening and closing themes:

Gidget (Ken's favorite theme)
The Monkees' second season
Remington Steele after the first season
The Judy Garland Show
Captain and Tennille (I'm pretty sure it was "Love will Keep Us Together" at the opening and "A Song of Joy" at the end.)

stonedog said...

Can't believe no one's mentioned 'Mad Men', so... there is is. Also, 'The West Wing' because the opening theme was so emotionally stirring. The animated series 'Archer' has a fun opening title sequence that helps first-time viewers clue in to the show's style and tone.

I will second the nominations for 'Carnivale', 'Game of Thrones', and 'The X-Files'. The first season of 'American Horror Story' had such a bizarre and disturbing title sequence that I had trouble watching it. And the title sequence for 'True Detective' was just really cool.

norm said...

No doubt "Peter Gunn" theme music. Hawaii 5 - oh 2nd place, and Gunsmoke 3rd.
Now you know my age.

Anonymous said...

MIAMI VICE and -- not to give away my age or anything-- DOBIE GILLIS and THE LONE RANGER

MS said...

Current-Era shows: HIMYM really stuck out because it set the tone for the show and provided a true opening (even a short one), which is, as you said, so rare today. Especially for a sitcom.

Mr Hankey said...

Na na na na na na na na BATMAN!!!!

Hank Gillette said...

I was going to mention Mission Impossible and Hawaii Five-O, but they’ve already been listed, so I’ll add Gunsmoke, the original opening showing a gunfight on the street from the viewpoint of right behind Matt. One of the all-time great theme songs also.

In addition to Gilligan’s Island, both Green Acres and The Patty Duke Show did a great job of explaining the show concept in a few seconds.

Largo161 said...

Favorite opening credits? ABC's animated sequence for "Wonder Woman." Loved that disco-ey theme song. Wonder Womaaaaaaan! Heh

gottacook said...

With dialogue: Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner.

Without dialogue (or lyrics):
Mannix - in particular the first season, which has the best arrangement of Lalo Schifrin's theme music among the 8 seasons; that season only, Mannix was the employee of Joe Campanella at "Intertect Ltd." (rather than a private eye). The whole first season is easily found on YouTube.

Lou Grant - music by Patrick Williams. I especially enjoy the saxophone arrangement for the fifth and final season.

Anonymous said...

I've always loved the Title Sequence of Cheers, and I've always wondered about the photos chosen for it. Are those period photos? Or were they staged? The encapsulate the characters so perfectly, so I've always wondered. Any light you can shed on this would be much appreciated.

I especially love the lingering last shot of the smirking gentleman.

-Beth

Jerry Krull said...

Love all these mentioned. And part of a title narration that has become iconic and still used today? "...we can rebuild him. We have the technology." (For those under 15 that's from The Six Million Dollar Man)

Todd Everett said...

Friday question: with so many guilds and even more egos involved*, how do networks manage to get away with virtually eliminating end credits?

I remember one cable show where there was a note at the end to the effect that anybody who wanted to know could log onto the show's website!

* plus the few of us in the audience who want to know who was involved in the production (including supporting cast) of a show

Scooter Schechtman said...

"Bosom Buddies"is one show where the theme song (Billy Joel) had to be replaced because of Rights Issues. I guess that's why "The Wonder Years" can't even be syndicated. The whole damn show was great expensive music.
Any love for the "Nanny & the Professor" song here?

Doug R. said...

Hands down, the old Mission Impossible opening. Of the newer shows: Mad Men and The Walking Dead. All enhanced greatly by their music.

Anonymous said...

I liked NYPD Blue...it reminded me of a gritty ride on the subway.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I loved the MAD ABOUT YOU opening. Even after seven years, still want to cheer THE BIG BANG THEORY song. NEWSRADIO. SEINFELD.

There are popular shows I was never able to stand because I hated the opening theme music.

wg

Eric J said...

And the WORST opening? Seinfeld's first season(s) with his stand up routine. Truly cringeworthy.

skarab said...

There are so many great title sequences, but the titles for "Star Trek: Enterprise" made me tear up every single time. Great message, great images.

Of course, once the episode started, I'd change channels.

john said...

@scooter. I read that syndication works because of the license, but DVD is an absolute no go. They say cold case will never get DVD release. Some movies have to be revised for it too. Fast times ... high has some songs changed on the DVD from what I remember when it played 3 times a day on movie channel

JoeyH said...

Mannix and Hawaii Five-Oh (original)

jcs said...

Growing up in the 80s in the American Sector of Berlin, I have to pick MAGNUM, PI and MIAMI VICE. Vibrant Music and pictures of exotic destinations in the US did it for me back then. A glimpse into the wide world via television. Plus Thomas Magnum and Tubbs/Crockett almost always got the bad guys and the girl.

James Blight said...

Personal favorite opening credits - The Incredible Hulk

ODJennings said...

Wild, Wild, West is on its own level, because the titles not only opened the show, the continued through to the closing credits.

Remember the boxes with the line drawings, and how one by one the generic art in each box would be replaced by artwork specific to that episode at each commercial break? Finally at the closing credits all the generic art was gone, and you were looking at a thumbnail recap of the episode you had just watched.

I don't think anyone else every carried it through like that.

Courtney said...

One more to add to the pile: Rescue Me, with frame-perfect editing augmenting a Von Bondies song ("C'mon C'mon") that complements Dennis Leary's concept precisely.

Cliff Corcoran said...

It has to be Gilligan's Island. Opening sequence told the premise of the show.

Modern, maybe Person of Interest. Again, gives context of the show premise.

Rob said...

Hill Street Blues
Welcome Back, Kotter
What's Happening
Angie
The Waltons
Magnum PI
Boomtown
Friday Night Lights
Malcolm in the Middle
Surviving Jack
King of the Hill
My Three Sons

Kathleen said...

Magnum PI. The super charged music (Mike Post again) was juxtaposed perfectly with the film clips, which featured the different dimensions of each character (action sequences, humorous moments, character relationships). I never get tired of watching it.

WKRP in Cincinnati. The opening sequence captured the essence of Cincinnati during that time. Plus the high rise I live in now is featured for a hot minute!

The original Bob Newhart show set in Chicago. Wonderful clips of the city and Bob makes his way from the office to the train.

Those opening sequences are an art form indeed. Two of my current favorites (Nashville and Scandal) do not feature them, alas.

Mark P. said...

I remember all of the music and almost none of the visuals from the Cannell series that had music by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. I think the producers just chose highlights from whatever episodes or portions thereof had been filmed at the time the first episode was aired, and that's what they used for the entire run of the show. But the theme music lives on.

Grumpy and Dopey said...

So many great answers, don't know how much is left that hasn't already been said. So I'll just say these two things:

1) We've been watching Bosom Buddies with the replaced them song and I don't understand why they felt the need to replace a great theme song with perhaps the most cringe-worthy piece of junk in the history of recorded music.

2) I'll probably suffer some derision for this one, but... "Marshall, Will, and Holly...." Admit it. You're singing it now.

Ralph C. said...

My favorite is the opening credits of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which encapsulated what the show was about musically and concisely. It's also my favorite show of all-time.

Eric Hsu said...

Will Hanson, the MST3K ending song was the Love Theme version of the opening song! Same chords, slightly different melody. It's even labeled as such in the closing credits. I also have lots of emotion attached to those ending credits...

Shawn Rech said...

Favorite title sequence? As a kid it was this: http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/ccManager/clips/lostinspacetitlesbinarykitsch.mp4/view

ScottyB said...

The opening sequence I never got tired of (and still don't because I own the season DVDs) was 'Hill Street Blues.' The Mike Post song had a lot to do with it, but the opening set the scene/mood.

I always liked the opening sequence to 'Love American Style'. I dug the theme song (I was like 8 then) and the fireworks, but you got to see what stars were going to be on the episode. Kinda like 'The Love Boat' did, but with a better theme song IMO.

Anonymous said...

A lifelong Andy Griffith fan (and let's not forget the alternating Dick Van Dyke pratfall/no pratfall) but the best show open that is a perfect union of image and music is Six Feet Under..

RCP said...

My favorite theme song/visuals would be from 'The Avengers' - the circa '67 version where Emma shoots the cork off the champagne bottle - true class, elegance and humor.

Austin said...

Not my favorite, but a short title sequence that would arouse me from any afternoon nap. The Rifleman with Chuck Connors. Ear splitting shards of rapid gunfire. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CozBCIuH6bM

Gary said...

The best opening of a drama has got to be The Fugitive (from the second season on). Great William Conrad narration, exciting music, haunting stills, and a well-written synopsis: "Dr. Richard Kimble ... An innocent victim of blind justice ..."

For comedy, I'll go with Rob Petrie tripping over the ottoman (or not).

Greg Ehrbar said...

I agree about the color AVENGERS opening -- completely captures the essence of the show, even the chemistry between Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee.

For an animated series, to me the greatest opening of all time is "THE JETSONS. Pure exhilaration.

A little-known sitcom with a different opening and closing theme was FROM A BIRD'S EYE VIEW, the first internationally produced network sitcom, from Sheldon Leonard and Lew Grade.

Here's the open and close, which is as go-go boot groovy as all get out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po8HPiO6rLA&feature=youtu.be

It was a comedy about wacky flight attendants in the mod, mod late '60s/early '70s (basically "Lucy in the Sky With Ethel") and it starred Millicent Martin (Daphne's mum on FRASIER) and Pat Finley (Bob's sister on THE BOB NEWHART SHOW).

Millicent Martin was a pretty big star in England (STOP THE WORLD I WANT TO GET OFF) and Broadway (SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM). What was she like to work with, Ken?

Bec said...

Opening - The Fresh Prince. I bet you there's not a person out there in their late-20’s to mid/late-30’s that does not have that totally memorised.

Jeffrey Mark said...


HOMICIDE:LIFE ON THE STREET had a brilliantly filmed title sequence that was just a killer.

Toby O'B said...

Favorites:
'The Dick Van Dyke Show'
'The Prisoner'
'The Persuaders!'
'St. Elsewhere'

The one I usually use as an example is 'Quantum Leap' because it has so many cultural touchstones to the times I grew up in; and when it gets me thinking to specific moments, it can bring a lump to my throat.

The music in all my examples plays a big part in my enjoyment of those opening credit sequences as well....

Lynn said...

So, basically, for every series that ever aired in the history of television, there's somebody somewhere who just loves its opening titles.

Though I never cared for it, myself, I grew up watching LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE because my Mom liked it. Something that interested me about that show's opening is that they kept the first season titles, with the Ingalls girls as children, throughout the run of the series, long after the girlshad grown up, married, or left the series. The graphics and music never changed, though the overlaid cast credits did.

My favorite "lost" TV titles are those from the original prime time run of I LOVE LUCY, with animated stick figures of Lucy and Desi frolicking around a pack of Philip Morris Cigarettes! The power sponsors carried in those days.

Brian Kelly said...

No Contest. Best Opening: Dexter!

Walker Brown said...

I find The Mary Tyler Moore Show's opening sequence inspiring and empowering. I also like Taxi's laid-back intro and the simplicity of the open on Roseanne (just circling around the family table set to a bluesy theme.)

Ed from South Bend said...

Coolest evah: original 5-0

Most iconic: Brady Bunch, Mission: Impossible, MTM and her beret

Fun site to evoke great memories of most any TV show theme: http://www.televisiontunes.com/

Johnny Walker said...

I'm surprised that CHEERS isn't mentioned more often here. For my money it was the perfect mixture of music and visuals. Beyond iconic.

MuffinMan21571 said...

I gotta question for a later week: Why does Modern Family keep winning the Best Comedy Series Emmy (when there about 10-12 more deserving shows that are funnier & better), and WHY hasn't the media called them (the a**clowns at the TV Academy who keep enabling them) out on it like they should?

Khan said...

My favorite opening sequences are the ones for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Murder, She Wrote." Both captured the mood or spirit of the series and explained succinctly to uninitiated viewers what exactly these shows were about.

Mitchell McLean said...

I love Modern Family. It's well-written and the acting is superb.

To quote Bill Cosby:
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Todd Everett said...

Bec said...

Opening - The Fresh Prince. I bet you there's not a person out there in their late-20’s to mid/late-30’s that does not have that totally memorised.

Don't know how to code clips for this blod (embed doesn't work), but this is worth following the link to.

Janice said...

How about BEWITCHED and I DREAM OF JEANNIE... watching a cartoon before the show, just like at the drive-in.

Rich D said...

Lots of favorites mentioned already - Hogan's Heroes, Hawaii 5-0, MST3K, Miami Vice and Twin Peaks.

Heck I loved WKRP so much that when I was in Cincinnati I actually took some time to go to Fountain Square just because of it being featured in the opening.

Surprised no one has mentioned another iconic Mike Post theme - SWAT!

Also, the British series The Prisoner had one intense, pulsating opening theme. Sometimes when I'm late for work, I play it back in my head to get me moving!

Andy Ihnatko said...

"Bob Newhart Show" and I don't even care that it's shown up so many times in comments already. One of the greatest themes ever, and a beautiful mini-movie that gets to the heart of the show: coming home to Emily. I also love the idea of Bob Newhart walking through real Chicago streets and boarding a real commuter train with real people, while a camera fitted with a long lens kept a discreet distance.

"Bob's Burgers" is pitch-perfect. This simple theme matches the "weird but well-grounded" nature of the show and I'm often laughing out loud at the weekly gags.

"The Prisoner" keeps the viewer off balance. Every episode feels like the pilot; you never grasp how long Number 6 has been in The Village.

"Love, Sidney" is my deep-catalogue pick. It was a sweet show and I've never forgotten the opening theme, sung by Tony Randall, Swoosie Kurtz, and the little girl. Genuine voices, as opposed to professional singers.

John Jackson Miller said...

I can remember a number of openings that were better than the shows themselves. I'd put the 1979 BUCK ROGERS opening in that category, with its time-travel ticker and fanfare -- it gave the impression that a much more serious show was about to follow than actually did. (Of course, there was also the vocal version of the theme, which appeared in the movie release and was sort of a James Bond-movie opening with Erin Gray, Pamela Hensley, and other women posing on the Buck Rogers logo.)

I think a number of sci-fi shows are in that group, maybe because there's so much pressure on the openings to explain the concept. Hard to forget the Six Million Dollar Man opening. "A man barely alive..."

Mike Doran said...

My choice, which no one's mentioned yet:
Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
I can't think of another one like it: Darren McGavin just walking into the newsroom, sitting down and typing, while the foreboding music builds, the minimal lighting shifts, and the cuts between McGavin and the typewriter speed up, all the way to the freeze/blackout.
Closing credits - even better: McGavin pulling the paper from the typewriter, looking at it - then crumpling it up and tossing it, then getting up and leaving.
The show might have been a ratings flop, but I've never forgotten those credits - just perfect.

jbryant said...

FREAKS AND GEEKS - speeded-up shots of the cast posing for their yearbook pictures while Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" blasts on the soundtrack.

Grant said...

It's a children's puppet show, but FRAGGLE ROCK has an incredible opening theme. In the space of one minute, you're not only introduced to all the main characters, but you're also shown how the various worlds of the show are interconnected.

Lou said...

Here you go. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb4C7vSByMM Opening titles for The Greatest American Hero. One minute and 45 seconds of Post/Carpenter/Scarbury goodness accompanied by scenes from the early shows that look like they were shot in 16mm.

Jeffro said...

Yet another reason why HBO shows rule as the best on TV. Most still have the elaborate opening title sequence. Some would say the Game of Thrones with the clockwork map is the best. But for me the best I've seen in recent memory was the opening for True Detective. For every episode I've never fast-forwarded through it. With Game of Thrones, I'll fast-forward once I've seen it in each season premier, since they alter it every year to include the fictional locations that are used throughout that particular season. Another HBO show with an opening sequence that I liked was the one for Deadwood. And yet one more I liked: Tremé. They also updated it each season to reflect how long since Katrina it has been in each season's storyline.

bj said...

Seriously... no love for the Man from U.N.C.L.E.? They tweated it every year, but it was always terrific.

Space 1999 and UFO both had great credits, but the shows themselves were weak

Parrish said...

So I gather from these comments that every opening credits sequence and accompanying theme music ever created in the history of television is brilliant and wonderful.

Anonymous said...

The last great opening credit sequence.

James said...

A Friday question: I was watching Matt Weiner's interview over at emmytvlegends.org, and he mentioned something about working on a problem sitcom, and that there were 7 Things That Can Go Wrong on a Sitcom and this show probably had all seven. The only one he mentioned specifically was the writers fighting with each other.

I was wondering if you had a similar list, and if so, what would the list be?