TV Opening Titles: Bite-Sized Beauty

Studio 360
The World

A lot of the time they go unnoticed, or we simply fast forward through them like advertisements, another obstruction between us and our favorite TV show. But sometimes, when they're done properly, they are a thing of beauty. They can provide provide skillfully disguised plot indications, and give you valuable character insights, all wrapped up in a stunning sensory parcel that sets the mood for the coming show.

I'm talking about opening credits for TV shows.

Think about some of the coolest, most compelling TV programming you've seen in the last few years. Chances are these shows have some of the coolest, most original opening credits too.

The opening of AMC's Mad Men

The nominations for the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design were announced last week:

The nominations got me thinking about my all time favorite opening sequence and it's got to be... (drum roll please)... HBO's Big Love. Now that's sort of cheating, seeing as they've had two different opening sequences, but as good as the first one was (Beach Boys and ice skating just go so well with polygamy), my favorite is the sequence for Season Four. As each character slowly free-falls through the frame (the ladies are in gorgeous floating dresses) each character expresses their internal struggles in a physical way. It's like a mini-synopsis of the plot: Barb's slow-moving painful confusion, Nicki's tranquil acceptance, Margene's carefree naivet, and the way that none of them quite manage to reach each other.

The sequence does what all great opening openers do: it grabs your attention, lures you in with visually arresting images and cleverly constructed clues, and gives you valuable insight into the story to come.