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David Hines [userpic]

MEME: kick-ass opening titles

February 5th, 2007 (12:17 pm)

One curse of our modern age is the relative lack of opening title sequences on TV shows. Or at least cool opening title sequences. They just aren't around as much any more. Sometimes this has to do with the lack of running time, especially on cable or smaller networks, but not always. Look at the UK, where lengthy running time and concomitant show-padding abound, and what do you see? DOCTOR WHO has an awesome opening theme, sure -- but TORCHWOOD doesn't. (Unless you count five seconds of people whispering "Torchwood!" as a theme. I don't, and am annoyed by it because it's just long enough to be irritating but not long enough to fast-forward through.)

I love opening titles on TV shows. I grew up with 'em. And there's nothing that catches your attention -- or your memories -- like a great TV theme. When it works with the show, there's nothing better.

So here are some of my favorites. What are yours?

HAWAII FIVE-O isn't just a great theme, it's a great piece of editing. They played around with the music and the titles a bit in later years, but the essence stayed the same, and when I was a kid I watched the reruns just for the opening titles.

Oh, yeah. MAGNUM P.I. That's a theme that *perfectly* suits its show: it's a thrilling little piece of music, and makes you feel a little bit like you're driving that Ferrari, or flying in the helicopter. It's just delightful. Much better than the original theme.

(What? You didn't know there was an original theme? Oh, yes, there was. Mike Post's kick-ass theme didn't come along until about halfway through the first season. The show's original theme was very different. And, um, *horrifyingly* bad.

How bad? Well:

Amazing, isn't it? It starts out sounding like a seventies porno and ends up sounding like somebody noodling around with his new copy of GarageBand. And somewhere, somehow, somebody said, "Good, I like it! Let's go with it!")

Y'know what? That original theme for MAGNUM was *really* bad. I need another shot of Mike Post, stat.

Ohh, yeah. That did the trick.

Moving on: Sylvester LeVay. Sometimes you can watch cable TV and get the impression that he scored, or themed, every single program ever made. The great thing about his TV career was that he would give you a great theme, even if your show *totally sucked.* If you had a great show? Well, he could do that, too. Case in point (skip the "in this episode" promo and hit the titles when there's about a minute left in the clip):

AIRWOLF. Ernest Borgnine in a supercopter. Incidentally, I watched some episodes of AIRWOLF a while back, and I just want to say: THAT SHOW WAS TOTALLY AWESOME. Although there are some discomfiting scenes, the worst being one in which Jan-Michael Vincent has one line -- and it's terrifyingly slurred. You get a cold chill watching it, because you realize *that was the best take,* and you know what's ahead for him. Vincent's addictions made the show unfilmable, and limping along trying to cover for the star must have been sheer hell for the crew and the rest of the cast.

From the sublime to the awful: here's a terrific Levay theme for a horrible, horrible show.

I *loved* MANIMAL as a kid. I still love the theme. The show... um, yeah, enough about that.

And in the "obscure" category, here's one I just love, because the tune and the images make me smile every single damn time (the opening titles start 28 seconds in, if you want to skip): PROBE. Parker Stevenson stars as Austin James, a brilliant scientist who runs around solving high-tech mysteries with the aid of his assistant Micki, who is completely nontechnical but, like Dr. Watson, has a knack for asking the right questions and for reminding the brilliant partner to be human every once in a while. Not the best show, but I still have a soft spot for it.

Those are some of my favorite opening titles. What are yours?

Oh, and I almost forgot. If somebody were looking to whip up an opening title sequence for SUPERNATURAL, what would I recommend they rip off use as a model?


(If that great theme does not put a smile on your face, you have no soul.)


Posted by: Mara (marag)
Posted at: February 5th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
Geek chic

Somebody else who remembers Probe! I thought only my father and I remembered that show. We loved it. Oh, it wasn't perfect, but it was great fun to watch.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 6th, 2007 02:14 am (UTC)
sledge hammer!

I thought only my father and I remembered that show.

Hah! I remember WHIZ KIDS, fer cryin' out loud. (Which, in one of the weirder instances of show pollination ever, did a SIMON & SIMON cross-over.)

PROBE was a lot of fun. The show actually had one of my favorite scenes in any eighties television; I don't recall the circumstances exactly, but I think Austin and Micki were locked in somewhere and forced to make conversation, and Micki manages to get Austin to talk about his childhood. And he tells her that when he was a boy, he built an imaginary castle. All in his head, every detail; he dug every foundation, placed every stone, designed every keep and tower. He built a great chapel there, and hand-carved the imaginary pews. It took him two years.

And then he laid seige to it. He imagined armies coming across the moat, over the walls, smashing the portcullis and destroying every defensive bastion. The windows were shattered, the works of art despoiled, the pews used for firewood.

Micki asks, "What happened to the people?"

And Austin says, oh, there weren't any people in the castle. He hadn't put any there. Because he didn't want them to get hurt.

I dunno why, but that little scene has resonated with me for the last twenty-odd years.

Posted by: Mara (marag)
Posted at: February 6th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC)
Geek boys

It was a very Asimov show, I thought. ::sigh:: But the masses don't like that kind of thing, I suppose.

Posted by: Smitty (smittywing)
Posted at: February 5th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)

Dude! Reading outside the cut-tag, I was going to say, "Hawaii 5-0, hands down, with all the dizzying camera angles." And then you beat me to it and put in Magnum and Airwolf, too. (I have the first season of Airwolf and I'm sorry but that entire painful thing with the cello and the eagle just gives me fits.)

Okay, so what you don't have here:

MacGyver: The buildup with the fuses and the explosion that kicks off the peppy part of the theme? Clear winner. (Note that I prefer the later credis with the mid-air explosion instead of the one where it blows out the window.)

I was flipping through the channels this weekend and ran into an episode of M*A*S*H. I probably wouldn't have said that the credits get me before, but this last time they did. If music can be wry, here is it. I especially like the shots of the women running and of Hawkeye directing everyone to run low in his Hawaiian shirt.

Possibly I am a giant girl about this, but I've always liked The Wonder Years' credits. Not an original theme - the Beatles - but I love the old home movie effect and the overlying nostalgis which was the theme of the show.

Okay, this was more fun than it had any right to be. I'm going to use my dorky Steve McGarrett icon and watch the Hawaii 5-0 credits again.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 6th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC)

I always liked the end of the MACGYVER credits, where it goes back to the light piano/synth notes for a bit as several quick cuts show Mac dodging, dashing, and scraping by narrowly. Very good meshing of action and music, there.

It always seemed odd to me that THE WONDER YEARS used Joe Cocker's cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends," considering that it was a show about the sixties and the Beatles would've been more apropos. But I guess Cocker was cheaper to option. *grin*

Posted by: Betty (brown_betty)
Posted at: February 5th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)

One of the few themes that I could actually watch happily repeatedly is Cowboy Bebop's. Awesome.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 6th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)

Good choice. The music is very good (though I prefer the end credits tune, "The Real Folk Blues), and the visuals are just fabulously beautiful.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 6th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
sledge hammer!

*dun-dun-dun-dun-DUN-dun, dun dun-dun dun dun*

(THE A-TEAM is my Mike Post chaser, above. It's insane how good the guy is; THE A-TEAM and MAGNUM, P.I. are only two of the themes he scored, and having composed either *one* would be enough to make me die happy.)

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