A TV show’s opening titles matter.
It may not look that way with the brutally-efficient way most modern TV show do away with their identifying openers as if they are pesky gnats to be swished away at a balmy early evening summer picnic, but they do matter.
Think of The Brady Bunch, Six Feet Under, The Nanny, Games of Thrones, Twin Peaks, The Facts of Life, and a host of other shows – they would have been nowhere near as memorable without their entrancing opening themes, that either told a story, or set the mood, or often did both, in ways so catchy that they are still as revered as the shows they introduce.
Of course, without inspired writing, characters you want to spend time with, and plot lines that enthral, an opening theme matters not, but in most cases, great shows, and even some not so great ones, come with well-thought out, evocative titles, and before a word has been spoken or a character placed in peril, we’re in with every intention of staying in for the duration.
Hell yeah, the introductory theme song and titles matter and here’s three current shows underlining that with the sort of dedication to the art that makes you realise some TV producers still know the power of a blisteringly good introduction.
Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, ID, on a mission to find two missing federal agents. But instead of answers, Ethan’s investigation only turns up more questions. What’s wrong with Wayward Pines? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the life he knew, from the husband and father he was, until he must face the terrifying reality that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive. (synopsis via IMDb via Fox)
What better way to begin a show that is all about things not being quite what they seem than with titles using the sort of Lilliputian model railway people and buildings, all cloaked in shadows and half-light?
Couple the weirdly disturbing graphics by Picture Mill – c’mon it can’t just be me who thinks that small plastic figures staring dully ahead aren’t creepy as hell? Don’t get me started on small plastic clown figures! – with freakily atmospheric original music by Charlie Crouser, and you have the perfect opener to a series that is freakier still at just about every turn.
Throw in allusions to classic theme titles like Six Feet Under, American Horror Story and yes even Nurse Jackie, and you’ll have goosebumps aplenty in no time flat.
While the opening titles, like many of its modern TV brethren doesn’t intimate anything of the story ahead, it certainly sets the scene with aplomb, making it clear a jaunty sitcom or quirky dramedy this is not and you’d better get your freak pants on and then some.
Follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate relationship is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. (synopsis via IMDb via Starz)
Outlander, based on the historically-rich, impossibly romantic is one of the most evocative shows to have ever made it onto the small screen.
Rife with engrossing intrigue, time travel, political machinations, romance and love making, violence all set against the majestic, mist-shrouded landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, this is one show that, episode, after edge-of-your-seat episode, shows not iota of fear about plunging headfirst into a narrative maelstrom.
And yet for all its utterly enthralling, often shocking, storytelling twists ‘n’ turns, it is at heart a series about the great, all-encompassing love of a nurse from 1945, Claire (Catriona Balfe), and a Highland lord and warrior, Jamie (Sam Heughan) from the mid-1700s who end up, through circumstances too fantastical to possibly be true, deeply and passionately in love, and set to change the course of history, quite literally in fact.
It’s history and romance writ large, suffused with all of the romantic emotions you will ever feel in your entire life, and so its opening titles are suitably lush, exquisitely beautiful, both musically (“Skye Boat Song” by Bear McCreary feat. Raya Yarbrough) and visually, and entrancing.
As with the casting, the fearless storytelling and the picture-perfect locations, the theme music captures the spirit and feel of the source material as perfectly as any opening titles can, and before you know it, you are swept up in a story you will want to extract yourself from, even if you are given the chance (as Claire is at one time).
Olivia “Liv” Moore was a rosy-cheeked, disciplined, over-achieving medical resident who had her life path completely mapped out… until the night she attended a party that unexpectedly turned into a zombie feeding frenzy. Now a med student-turned-zombie, she takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity, but with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her medical examiner boss and a police detective, she solves homicide cases in order to quiet the disturbing voices in her head. (synopsis via Pog Design)
It’s obvious from the opening visual of iZombie‘s quirky, fun-filled opening titles, soundtrack supplied by Deadboy & the Elephantmen’s song “Stop, I’m Already Dead” that the show was inspired by a comic series of the same name by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred.
Not only is it rendered in comic book panels, it quickly, efficiently and yet playfully, gives you the basic premise of the TV series, allowing you to slip quickly into the weirdly undead, one liner rich, quip-filled world of Liv Tyler, the latest plucky heroine to spring forth from Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, who also gave us Veronica Mars.
You might not expect a show about an up-and-coming medical superstar who has her entire future killed off, pretty much literally, to be much fun at all, but it is – wry, insightful, damn near cheeky at times, its opening titles reflecting its playfully serious spirit to a tee, getting you in the mood for a zombie show like no other, a police procedural with more pep and fun that you’d ever expect, and characters that sparkle and leap off the screen, much like their comic book equivalents.
It’s bright, in your face, clever and yet remarkable emotionally-nuanced, all of which somehow manages to get folded into the brief but creatively-rich opening titles which I could quite happily watch over and over even if there was no series following.