Top TV Opening Title Sequences

I love a good set of opening credits on a TV show. But it seems the opening title sequences are disappearing. Quietly getting shortened to a few seconds for the sake of more time for the show or more likely, advertising time. I remember when I was younger the opening title sequence and music would be the signal to get comfy on the sofa and sit and enjoy the next hour of TV.

Thankfully cable TV’s still got plenty of brilliant TV shows with equally brilliant opening title sequences. Here’s my Top 10 list. In no particular order.

Justified

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ4thirAzhc
This is the geek inside me, but I love the typography they use in these credits. The sizes of the letters don’t all necessarily match up. It looks like it really shouldn’t work, but it does. Still trying to find what the font is, if it’s available. I’ll keep looking, but if you know what it is, I’d love to know!

I like the fact that you’re not shown the actors faces, just some Harlan County-esque imagery. It’s got a real feel to it rather than a vision of what the South is ‘meant’ to look like on TV.

The theme tune’s excellent. The opening theme, On The Run by Gangstagrass featuring T.O.N.E-Z, is one that sticks in my head. It could have been easy for them to go for a typical country song. But just as the show’s more than your average procedural drama, the theme tune’s more than your average country song.

True Blood

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTQzVFZ68z8

The sleazy south has never looked so good, right? Here’s one of the fantastic creations from Digital Kitchen, who filmed not only this set of opening credits in my list but also two others – Dexter and Six Feet Under.

There’s a brilliant mish-mash of southern imagery, from the innocent children with red berry fruit smothered all over their faces to the faith healers in their church services. The theme, Bad Things by Jace Everett really sets the tone for True Blood – so very southern and so very filthy.

According to Blanket Magazine, the font face used in the opening titles was created by Camm Rowland. It was hand crafted and he created a total of 8 type faces for the opening credits! Though if you’re hankering to use the font there is a fan made ‘knock-off’ available to download.

Looking at the opening titles for Justified and True Blood, they have a similar feeling to them both. Well, both TV shows are set in the deep south. But that’s the only real similarity the two shows share.

To find out more about the opening credits here’s the video of the Making of True Blood Main Titles. Also, check out Art of the Title’s look at True Blood’s opening titles for some more information on the people behind the creation.


Six Feet Under

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6WATB9PFdE

Hey look! It’s an opening title sequence for another Alan Ball show. And, hey look! It’s another opening title sequence filmed by Digital Kitchen!

Six Feet Under’s opening theme was probably one of the first I’d seen to really blow me away. It was different to anything I’d seen before. The really delicate sounding music, which is timed so effectively to the imagery, sticks in my head within seconds of watching the title sequence. Round of applause to Thomas Newman for creating that piece of beautiful music.

The imagery not nearly as morbid as perhaps it could have been considering the show’s contents. Just a beautifully simple opening title sequence.

Mad Men

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSY7vdwvPbM

Who doesn’t love the opening title sequence for Mad Men? Created by Imaginary Forces who received the 2008 Emmy Award for Outstanding Title Design. A well deserved award.

It’s the graphic design that draws me into this set of opening titles. That and the fantastic theme tune. Both take you back a few decades and plant your firmly in the era of Mad Men. When you could down a bottle of whiskey at work while driving a lawn mower through your offices.

Back to the opening titles – it’s almost like a little story in itself. A beautifully designed story. I think anyone at Draper Pryce Sterling Cooper would be proud of it.

Chuck

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0nJGRnobXE

Like the opening title sequence for Mad Men, it’s the graphic design aspects of the opening titles for Chuck that I love. Vector graphics alongside vectorized images of the actors in the show, all with the little Buy More dude is heading out on his own little mission.

There’s a little bit of a play on James Bond part way through the sequence re-emphasising the spy genre of the show, but then it’s a stick figure, so a much less serious James Bond!

Cake’s Short Skirt/Long Jacket has to be one of my favourite TV theme tunes. Not just in this sequence, but as an actual song. The opening titles definitely make the most out of the song.

Though I wonder – remember animations of stick figures like this one? Had those never happened, or not been as popular, would the Chuck opening titles have been made this way?

Damages

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIOTeIix-2c

I think it’s the theme tune, When I’m Through With You by The VLA, that I really love about this opening title sequence. Damages was a pretty brutal show at times with some really strong, bull-headed characters. The opening titles managed to capture that pretty well. Stoned faced Glenn Close as a blood stained Patty Hewes with the much more innocent looking Rose Byrne standing alongside her.

Dexter

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej8-Rqo-VT4

Say hello to Digital Kitchen‘s third entry on my list. This might actually be my favourite opening title sequence ever. Dexter Morgan in the morning just fits the show. Every little action during Dexter’s morning routine’s got something murderous behind it. The close crops and then the wider views of what’s actually going on. It just fits Dexter to a T.

Then there’s the theme tune which is beautifully sinister with a little bit of Miami in it. A bit like the Mad Men theme, in terms of, as soon as you hear the opening bars you know what you’re watching. There’s nothing else like it on TV at the moment.

While the opening titles haven’t changed at all since the show started, I loved the alternate opening titles they did for an episode during season 4.

There’s a great interview with the creative director of Digital Kitchen, Eric Anderson, over at Art of the Title giving you a little bit of insight into the process they went through in creating the opening credits.

Dead Like Me

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUU1z0_zujU

Grim Reapers! In plain sight. Playing basketball! At the office! Doing laundry! What’s not to like?

For some reason my memory failed me on this opening sequence and I had it in my mind that it was very similar to Six Feet Under’s. It’s a little bit different. Well a lot. It’s fun. From the theme tune to watching the grim reapers go on with their daily routines. Death is around every corner. Even on the bus.

The one thing I don’t like so much? The font face chosen for the cast names. Maybe because I’ve seen it overused in other places, but just don’t like it. It’s ugly and looks cheap. I don’t think you need to use such fancy font faces for opening sequences.

Battlestar Galactica

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd4_G0Uky5U

Like Damages, my love of this opening title sequence is mostly down to Bear McCreary’s fantastic theme tune, sung beautifully by Raya Yarborough. The title sequence itself is like your typical TV opening credits – a mash of clips from various episodes overlaid with some sort of explanation as to what’s going on. It’s so brilliantly edited with the theme tune that it’s hard for me not to love this.

The opening sequence does give you some introduction to the show, a small recap of what’s been going on if you haven’t been watching. But I can’t imagine anyone would be watching the odd episode of Battlestar without having previously tuned in.

Rubicon

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHSfSQ6xcXs

Would you be surprised to find out that Rubicon’s opening title sequence was created by the same guys who did Mad Men’s? Yep – this is another graphic design masterpiece by Imaginary Forces.

Like the show, it looks like the opening titles is just a jumble of information with nothing linked to anything else in it. But slowly you get to see the bigger picture. Like Mad Men and Chuck’s opening titles, it’s the graphic design aspect I love about this sequence. It’s just so eye-catching and different to the majority of title sequences. Well, apart from Mad Men and Chuck… ahem.

The theme by Pete Nashel really adds a sense of mystery without being overbearing. His score work on the whole first season was brilliant. So subtle, but just there helping the scenes along.

It’s such a stunning and stylish opener, makes me really sad that the show only got one season.


The Rest

I must have a special place on this list for Psych. It’s got a great opening sequence. It’s a typical TV opening title sequence, but what I love about Psych is all of their variations which they make the effort to make! Bollywood, Accapella by Boyz II Men, Twin Peaks-esque for Dual Spires and in Spanish. You can’t not watch those without a smile slapped across your face.

Along with Psych, there’s a special place for Community on my list for their variation in their opening titles for their D&D inspired episode – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Bless the Fans

Finally I’ve left a little section of this post for the fan made opening credits. While I was looking for various opening titles on youtube I came across a few fan made ones and was genuinely surprised with how good some of them were. Here are some of my favourites:

Supernatural as Psych: Here’s a show I’d like to watch!
True Blood as Psych: Well, the title even matches the show in this case. I didn’t think there were as many funny moments in True Blood as can be seen here. I think I’d like to see all of my TV shows with an alternate opening sequence a la Psych.
Supernatural as Chuck: I was just so impressed with the effort that’s gone into this one. Kudos to the creator!
Fan made The Walked Dead: This fan made opening sequence for The Walking Dead did the rounds before the show started and I loved it. I think I knew that the actual opening title sequence for the show would never match up, and it doesn’t. I’ll hold on to this one.


9 comments

  1. I was wondering if you knew where I can find a tutorial on creating the opening sequence from Chuck.

  2. I think HBO’s The Pacific should be on here. The music alone makes it one of the best.

    • The music is really beautiful, Hans Zimmer did a great job on that. I did consider it, but others just beat it out. By a fraction.

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