Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 18: 30 Days of TV - Favorite Title Theme

Day 18: Favorite Title Theme

Today's blog is like asking a crack addict to remember their best high. It's always the last one. I love title sequences and theme songs so much that Beth and I had a "TV Theme War" in college where we would download theme songs and play them to one-up each other. She ended up winning with a little green ball of clay.

So instead I'm going to walk you through the best title themes and then end with my favorites with some commentary along the way.

 Mary Tyler Moore's theme (the first season here) dares you to stay in a bad mood. It is simply impossible. The silky voice letting us know that you can find yourself in a big city and make it in a career, you just might make it. And you also might have Oprah also tossing her hat in the air in your emblematic ending, you do know there is a statue in Minneapolis, right? I bet Kamiah's been there.

If you ever watched Today's Special then you know the magic words and you'll hurriedly whisper them along with the mouse. I love every bit of this the puppets, the idea that things come alive at night, magic, and cartoons.

DOING IT OUR WAY! Oh, what a fabulous show. Remember when they spoofed this in Wayne's World? That's how awesome this opening is.

This is the Reading Rainbow theme, I refuse to call the 'new' schlock anything other than schlock. I was very upset when I found out they were trying something new. No! Keep my rainbow butterfly and lovely song. Also Levar Burton rocks.

So I could have put the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme here... but this kid is amazing, just watch the upper left hand corner.

Animaniacs, what smart television. A intro that I would dance around the basement too and wait for that catch right before the end... to see what it said this time. They also had Pinky and the Brain. Oh, what beauty.

Then we started to see television theme songs die out in the 80s replaced with instrumental themes.  I still blame Lost (although it's theme fit so well) for the loss of songs, and extended titles all we seem to get anymore are place cards that remind us of what show we're watching so they can fit in a longer run time or commercial space. There were still some recent ones that stood out as masterful pieces of art and set up for the show to come after the fade out.

Six Feet Under's opening theme was the first theme that had me utterly enchanted with the story being told. It perfectly took you through what this should would be about, not just a funeral home, but the journey we take in death. If you have the chance watch the featurette about the making of the title sequence. 

Dexter's opening theme is along the same lines (and same title sequence company) as Six Feet Under's. If you are not ready to root for the sociopath by the time the ending ting sounds, you should just turn the channel. Or in my case shut off the DVD.

Chuck's use of Cake's Short Skirt, Long Jacket is masterful. It again sets up the story, mood, and complete nerd ride that Chuck is going to take you on.

This is from the UK series Skins, which uses music and typography in a way I hadn't really thought about. Each episode has a different opening and this is a collection of how the themes changed with each season. 

Who knew a theme could be so short, so powerful all in one jabbing motion of a pen? Brilliant.

So the bestest? My favorite?
Yes, this is what I'm deeming as best title sequence. All because of what it spawned on Seinfield. 

George's Answering Machine

A great opening title sequence prepares you for the show you're getting ready to watch. I still prefer songs that are sung instead of the instrumental, but when they're done right they're brilliant. If you're wondering why Captain Planet isn't on here... it's because I found out the theme song I sing all the time is actually played over the end credits. Otherwise this would have been two paragraphs about Captain Planet being completely awesome.

Ceasing Ramble.

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