Intros are to TV shows as facebook pages are to people. Although looks can be deceiving, someone’s facebook profile and a show’s intro can give you a lot of information about them. For example, I started watching the first episode of True Blood, but stopped after a minute because the intro was too gruesome for me. A show’s intro is like its business card. And here are some of my favorite ones.
The West Wing
I love The West Wing. I wish I’d never seen it so I could watch it again for the very first time. I wish I’d never seen it so I would stop holding every other TV show to impossible standards. I love it so much that, like a Pavlovian reaction, the theme fills me with nostalgia and glee and sadness and every other kind of emotion a great TV show gives you, put together in an overwhelming mix. Additional fun fact: the theme’s composer is hilariously named W.G. Snuffy Walden.
If ever a TV show’s into was a work of art in its own right, this would be it. I have never seen an intro that reflects the core themes of the show so brilliantly, subtle and sure and elegant and simple. Of course, Dexter is a serial killer, and Dexter, the show, is about that serial killer. But Dexter is also about masking your true identity, as every serial killer must, and about the gritty life of a Miami blood-spatter analyst and the domestic life of young man, his girlfriend and her kids.
The intro captures all of that. Its music is creepy in a relaxed way, and its montage and cinematography manage to emphasize the horrendous aspects of everyday life. Shaving suddenly looks life-threatening. A blood orange becomes human flesh, a splash of tabasco sauce becomes a spray of blood and the casual walk out the door becomes the approach of a predator. I never thought Michael C. Hall was sexy until he pulls on his shirt (01:35 in the video.) I don’t know why that movement gets to me, but it does.
I mostly love the Doctor Who intro for its iconic status: it is a tune that unites families across generations, one that has filled TV rooms with joy and excitement for over fifty years. And it’s so fun to hum along to!
Let me be real with you for a second: the first time I saw the Gilmore Girls into I considered it more than a little cheesy. Carol King, really? The whole sequence overlaid with autumnal hues, are you serious? But over time it grew on me. I started singing along. I started really feeling it. When I heard Where You Lead, it reminded me of the unwavering way in which my mother has always supported me. I also became increasingly invested in the characters, and found myself rooting for Jared Padalecki’s adorable face every time, because I wanted my episodes to have more Dean. Now I absolutely love this intro, and if you don’t, fight me!
This one is a bit of a cheat because I don’t actually like Friends all that much. (Everyone gasps in horror, mothers cover their children’s ears, one woman comes forward, overcome by emotion, and whispers: “How could you?”) But it’s true. I think Friends is a little cheesy and at least half of the characters are genuinely annoying *cough* Ross *cough* and Chandler being sarcastic and self-depracating doesn’t make up for it.
If there is one thing I do love about Friends, it is the theme song: I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts. And the opening sequence where they dance around the fountain is pretty fun. Luckily for me and my fellow Potter-lovers, the intro of Friends has inspired many a fan video such as the one below. Come cry with me over the tragic fate of the Marauders.
Game Of Thrones
I recently attended a lecture about Game Of Thrones by Dan Hassler-Forest, Doctor of Media & Performance Studies at the University of Utrecht. He talked with comic artist Game Of Thrones about bringing Westeros to life on television, and one of the aspects they emphasized during the afternoon was the importance of world building..The Seven Kingdoms, the different cultures and climates and peoples they house, create the show. In large part, Game Of Thrones owes it success to the meticulous detail George R. R. Martin paid to shaping his fictional world.
The reason I love the GoT intro is that it gives us a detailed yet brief overview of that world, highlighting different areas as they come into play in the political conflict. It’s an excellent way connecting the maps in the books to the visual of television.