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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Art Form of TV Opening Credits

posted by Nell Minow

Newsweek’s tribute to the opening credits of the new HBO series “True Blood” reminded me of the good old days when television show theme songs and opening credits were as much fun as the shows. The “Dick Van Dyke” show kept you guessing each week. Would Rob Petrie trip over the ottoman or not?

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“The Simpsons” has a terrific theme by Danny Elfman and a funny kick at the end with Bart writing a different sentence on the blackboard for punishment each week. Theme songs from Welcome Back Kotter and Friends appeared on the pop charts. I’ll bet if I just mention The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, or Cheers the entire song will go through your head — and might get stuck there. Each year’s Cosby Show opens different and all were completely charming. The best part of Valerie Bertinelli’s short-lived sitcom “Sydney” was the theme song written by her then-husband Eddie Van Halen. And I used to turn on the Saturday morning show Mugsy each week just to hear the theme song song by David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears. On PBS, the opening credits for “I Claudius” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” set the tone perfectly. HBO’s “Big Love” and “Six Feet Under” had superb opens.

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But this one may be the all-time best:

  • jestrfyl

    Though they are not opening credits, the location titles that are part of the show “The Fringe” are both creative and subtle. They remind me of the way Will Eisner worker lettering into the panels of “The Spirit”.

  • Nell Minow

    Will Eisner is one of my all-time heroes. I think the upcoming “Spirit” movie will owe more to Frank Miller than to Eisner, but I am still looking forward to it. And I am really glad someone remembers Eisner’s brilliant work.

  • jestrfyl

    Eisner is one of my artistic heroes of the comic genre, along with Walt Kelly. I made my son go to a local college with me when Eisner came to do a presentation. His skill with lighting and perspective is astounding. The stories he told, especially later in life, are exraordinary. My first awareness of him was the old Blackhawks comic books. I became a real devotee of The Spirit and have several of books.(I thought that Dodge missed a real marketing possibility by not tying The Spirit to their car, the Spirt. But then they could have also tied Lamont Cranston to the Dodge Shadow, and didn’t. Fools) The man had an amazing eye and sense of the art of the page. I think Miller studies with him (it certainly looks it) and if the trailers for the film, The Spirit, are any indication, he has captured Eisners artistic ability with mood and drama. I just hope he kept the humor.

  • Toby Clark

    It’s kind of sad that opening title sequences seem to be a dying art form – first Lost and Heroes had just a title graphic, followed by credits listed over the following scenes. Then Greys Anatomy and Desperate Housewives stopped using the sequenecs they started with. And this has spread to Australia as well: one of our most popular soap operas hasn’t used its titles in weeks, and for a couple of years before that they only used them once or twice a week at most. Plus, one of our best cops shows doesn’t use one either.
    My favourite credit sequences would have to be the titles for Law & Order and ER, as well as the Australian shows Blue Heelers and Sea Patrol.

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