Top Ten TV Openings
They get overlooked far too often, but opening titles are an important element of a TV show’s connection with viewers. They set an expectation and mood for a show and since they appear in every episode, they form much of a show’s ‘branding’.
So let’s talk about who is doing it up right. There are way too many great TV intros to list them all, so, since we’re discussing modern filmmaking techniques, preference was given to more contemporary shows (and even still there were many great intros that didn’t make the list). Openings were judged based on concept, execution, and how well they fit the show.
#10- Rescue Me
Short-form editors will recognize many of the techniques used in the Rescue Me intro as common sizzle cut techniques used with exceptional skill. The high energy but weighty intro lends a certain gravitas to the dramedy.
#9- Mad Men
Like the show itself, the Mad Men opening is cerebral but accessible. In a transparent but not un-clever metaphor, the opening establishes Don’s struggles and obsessions.
In a world of driving music, flash cuts, and frantic energy the Outlander intro stands out because it’s so very different. Understated atmosphere footage lays over an enchanting song, establishing the ineffable mood of the series.
#7- American Horror Story
Like nearly everything about the show, the American Horror Story opening titles are unique. They change each season along with the story and cast, but are always nightmare inducingly creepy.
The Dexter intro is so clever they actually make references to it in multiple episodes. An impressively dexterous nod to Dexter’s double life, the intro plays as the show does- morbid but darkly humorous.
#5- Bering Sea Gold
I’m not sure what the name of this style is, or if it even has a name, but I use it and see it used often and the Bering Sea Gold intro executes it on a whole new level. It builds excitement effectively, which is important for a reality series that relies on suspense and drama.
Full Disclosure: I’ve worked on this series
#4- Game of Thrones
It’s no surprise that Game of Thrones made this list. Viewer’s infatuation with the intro has spawn dozens, if not hundreds, of parodies and homages. It’s not hard to see why- the intro displays some remarkable 3d animation and explores Westros in a way that is engaging for fans of the both the show and books.
The intro to Hannibal is a masterfully concise. Even in all its brevity, the opening manages to set up the show extraordinarily well. Elegant, yet disturbing. Repulsive, but at the same time possessing a haunting beauty.
#2- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Aside from the extremely catchy theme song, Kimmy Schmidt’s opening is impressive because of how clever it is. In a devastating attack of meta, they’ve created their own viral news-story-music-video that not only gives a lightning fast story exposition and highlights a current idiosyncrasy in a show that makes light of modern absurdities, but is a very convincing parody of the real thing.
Quietly hiding under the current Westworld obsession are phenomenal opening titles. They are poetry in motion and could be a short film in their own right. And, for a show that plays with the line separating the synthetic with the organic, the intro works extremely well contextually- with subtly, but not opaque.