Welcome to the first installment of Five Things Friday, in which I combine two of my favorite things: a weekly blog feature, and lists! What can I say? I don’t get out much.
Five Things Friday is pretty much what it says on the tin: a list of five things, related in some way to each other. Sometimes it’ll be funny, sometimes it’ll be serious, sometimes I’ll try to be funny and fall flat (c’est la vie). So buckle up and enjoy the ride!
An (unfortunate) trend in today’s TV show is the title card. Many shows–such as Castle, Supernatural or The Vampire Diaries–use a title card, which is essentially a graphic with title of the TV show, often accompanied by a simple animation and a short theme song or… theme “noise,” I suppose. A jingle, if you will. Commercially speaking it makes sense–why spend 60 seconds of precious ad time on what could be taken up in 10 seconds? (With 60 seconds of lower third text during the actual show).
A title card is a clean and simple choice, but sometimes I miss the familiarity that comes with watching a title sequence. For instance, during the first three seasons of Buffy there’s a “scream” in the theme song–a scream my sister and I faithfully imitate, even in the later seasons when it was removed. Even when shows like Psych occasionally switch up the song or the style of the opening credits, it’s fun–like an Easter Egg for devoted fans.
So for the first episode of Five Things Friday, I’d like to present five truly amazing title sequences. And I’d like to say that, for a TV addict like myself, it was incredibly difficult to narrow this list down to five and it took an extreme act of will to branch out from just HBO shows, because their title sequences are awesome.
5. Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011-Present)
Oh HBO. You never fail to create beautiful, artistic title sequences (except for Sex and the City, which was uninspired and boring). The best part about the Game of Thrones theme is that it creates a visual component to an incredibly complicated show. It’s all well and good to associate character names with their faces, but once you start talking about King’s Landing, the Wall, Winterfell or Vaes Dothrak it’s easy to forget who belongs to which land and where everyone is in geographical relation to each other. That’s where the title sequence comes in: You can see how long it will take for Arya Stark to find her way from King’s Landing home to Winterfell. How much land Danerys and her dragons would have to cover to re-claim to the Iron Throne. How lonely and isolated Jon Snow is on top of the Wall.
4. Psych (USA, 2006-Present)
Part of what makes the Psych theme songs so wonderful are the variations. They made a version for Christmas, they’ve sung it a capella, they’ve translated it into Spanish and Hindi. They’ve used the theme to reference Twin Peaks, The Shining and even comic books! In short, Psych makes their theme song necessary to the tone and value of the show. Like Game of Thrones, the show uses the title sequence to its advantage.
3. Firefly (Fox, 2002-2003)
I would be remiss if I didn’t include Firefly on this list, mostly because of the song. Songs are an important choice for a title sequence–if it has lyrics, the lyrics should match the tone or themes of the show (much like Psych). The lyrics for the Firefly theme song (“The Battle of Serenity” by Sonny Rhodes), are a perfect reflection of both the show itself and the characters.
Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me.
2. Veronica Mars (UPN/The CW, 2004-2007)
While nearly every show alters their opening credits from season to season to reflect new cast members and new scenes from previous episodes, very few shows revamp their title sequences entirely. This is exactly what Veronica Mars did for its third (and sadly, final) season. For the first two years, the overall tone of the show was “noir-lite.” Veronica helped put killers behind bars… but she was still a teenager.
However, the third season takes a turn for the dark when Veronica gets tangled up in a case involving a seriously disturbing serial rapist. Instead of letting the cutsie, notebook doodle-y title sequence dictate the tone of the show, the creator changed the credits to reflect the changing themes: in short, he took control of the title sequence instead of letting the title sequence take control of him.
1. Six Feet Under (HBO, 2001-2005)
In my mind, the mark of a really good title sequence is that it will tell you what to expect from a show–either explicitly (see Game of Thrones) or thematically (see Psych). Six Feet Under falls into both camps. On the one hand you can tell right off the bat that this is a show about death (specifically a funeral home). But if you dig into the metaphorical images in the credits you can find themes of loss, decay and isolation–themes that are faithfully explored throughout the five years Six Feet Under was on the air. A good title sequence does more than list the title of the show and the stars–it prepares you for the show you’re about to watch.
The Runners-Up: I told you I had a hard time narrowing it down. Do yourself a favor and check out the opening credits for the following shows: Mad Men, American Dreams, True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (listen for the “scream!”), Angel, Carnivale, and Cowboy Bebop.
Edit: My best friend brought to my attention the fact that I forgot to include Dexter! The opening credits for Dexter are 60% creepy and unsettling, and 40% ordinary, which is quite a feat, so check ’em out!
What do you think? Did I miss any opening credits? Or are you a fan of the cleaner, simpler title cards? Let me know!