Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Top five TV titles

A good show needs something good to kick it off. A familiar tune, the cast and crew's names appearing in order, maybe shots of the characters turning round to face the camera. That sort of thing.

5. The Wire Five different versions of one song. Nobody's really sure which one is the best (it's season four though isn't it?). It gives each season a unique identity - the gravelly Tom Waits for the ports, the children for the schools, the, er, jazz for the politicians. Politicians like jazz. And the editors have combed though the episodes to find bits of nothing to put on the screen. It's paper, badges, and cameras, but it works. Nothing so mainstream as having the character's faces on there.

4. The West Wing Presumably this is the sort of thing David Simon was trying to avoid. But why? It's majestic. W. G. "Snuffy" Walden composed a thing of patriotic wonderment. A big waving American flag is imposed on everything, just so you're not confused, and the characters turn up one by one in various thoughtful poses. It got messed around with in the later seasons, but back when everything was in its place it was a nice sturdy way to start the show. I should also mention the closing credits, played to the jaunty theme, a.k.a. The Jaunty Theme. Nothing is more jaunty than The Jaunty Theme.

3. The Simpsons This should probably be number one, but I'm mean like that. Each one is full of individual jokes and references. The music is iconic. You already know this. I think they changed it recently though and nobody was very keen. The version I've got here seems to be the one YouTube wants you to see. It's a bit subversive. I didn't even realise it was all still going. What are the new episodes like? Everything I've seen is from at least ten years ago.

2. The Sopranos This earns points for just being really, really cool. Riding along with Tony Soprano with his big cigars in his big car. He's not committing any crimes but he's still cool. Maybe it would be rubbish without the song. If the Mafia didn't listen to this before, they do now. They have this on repeat in their cars. This and Journey for when they're ordering onion rings. Opening credits are designed to not get old by the hundredth time you've seen them. This gets better.

1. Firefly Joss Whedon's Ballad of Serenity performed by Sonny Rhodes. It's enough to make you want to become a space cowboy, if such a thing were possible.  It's sad and uplifting at the same time. More than any other Whedon show these characters look like a family, flying around in their rusting tub. He's always had malicious fun with his credits, so who knows what characters would have briefly made it into this sequence in the future. 'There's no place, I can be, since I found Serenity'. It makes you want to watch the whole thing again doesn't it? Go on. Do it. It won't take long.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with your list. Firefly is damn near perfect. Its a shame that due to adverts steadily eating away at a shows running time in the US that we don't get many decent opening credits these days. Fringe with its passable X-Files-esque credits atleast throw in a nice nostalgic 80's style one when they have a flashback episode.

  2. Indeed, only rarely do we see a creative sequence like Chuck these days. The macho 80s churned out some of the best openings to date, openings which were usually better than the actual shows. I still say Airwolf is the best TV title ever made. It’s a goddamn helicopter blowing shit up while schematics flash by on a transformers cyberspace grid effect.

    Firefly comes in a close second.

  3. I only randomly catch new episodes of the Simpsons occasionally. They have their moments, but I think the peak (and this seems to be the general consensus of the Simpsons freaks I know!) was around seasons 10, 11 and 12.

  4. my so called brain - I wasn't aware of this attack on the credits. Is the theme tune dying?

    Drake - I just watched the Airwolf intro. That's one fine 'copter, working stuff out on its grids.

    Ruth - It must be really hard for them to write it these days. 'No, no, we did that one before, fifteen seasons ago'.