The Second Day of Crossmas

In this seasonal series, the good people of Crossfader detail what they want pop culture to get them for Crossmas this year. This time around it’s…

Better TV Opening Sequences

crossmas tv opening sequences

I watch a lot of shows, so many that I sometimes forget that I’m the editor on this site for games and not television. New, old, animated, or live, it doesn’t matter, as long as I get to plop my fat ass down and zone out to those delicious cathode rays. But sometimes I’d like a show for my show, y’know? Something to get me in the mood. Much like smaller acts opening for big time bands or comedians, TV shows have to excite the crowd. Enter the opening sequence: it’s what separates the celebration of starting a new episode from the chore of slogging through yet another week’s installment. But some shows do it better than others, and that’s because most do it really badly.

There’s a lot of great TV out there, but even the best shows make me want to give up before the action even starts. Take TWIN PEAKS for example. David Lynch and Mark Frost’s classic will forever reign supreme on my pantheon of serialized dramas. But before one may pass into the promised land that is each episode, there is first the gatekeeper.

 

The Gatekeeper

Look, I love you, TWIN PEAKS, but there’s only so many times (three, give or take) that I can stomach that slow, dreamy slideshow of B-roll. Before the episode even begins, one must first survive the unforgiving blades of Packard Sawmill, and after that, brave the treacherous falls outside town. It’s a lethargic affair that knocks the wind out of my sails, making the drag that is the middle of season two that much harder to handle. That being said, it’s hardly the worst offender.

 

Bad is right

While some series go for long, drawn out affairs, others seem content with shitting out an ounce of nothing for their intros. BREAKING BAD may be a modern marvel in televised storytelling, but its 18 second long wet fart opener is a crime on the senses. Zero visual stimuli and a tune that isn’t catchy to begin with (and will certainly wear out its welcome five seasons in) means I’m tuning out faster than my rodent-like attention span can even register it. At least with TWIN PEAKS I was looking at something; here, I’m in limbo. That just-too-long hold on the title (six seconds) feels like an eternity, and I’m left screaming at Vince Gilligan’s name to get off the screen and let the rest of the show commence. They say less is more, and in BREAKING BAD’s case, this brief opener is more miserable than anything else out there.

While American television has long opted for the lazy route, Japan has long produced elaborate opening sequences for anime series. Regardless of the quality of the show itself, you can bet that its opening will you get you pumped for what is to follow. More often than not, it’s the opening itself that I look forward to seeing. Once I’ve been satisfied, there’s a show that follows as a bonus, and I’m already in the mood to watch more. This is how an intro should be done:

 

See??? Already hooked

More and more American shows these days seem to be adopting similarly entertaining openers, with HBO in particular leading the charge. GAME OF THRONES’ intro works not only because of its neat visuals and thundering theme, but because it refreshes the viewer on all the disparate locations that the plot travels to. Both seasons of TRUE DETECTIVE, as well as the second season of THE LEFTOVERS, use entrancing visuals and music to draw the audience in, while still informing the viewer on the tone. That all of these shows change their intros from season to season is also to be commended in a field where most series are content to hang onto a montage from six seasons ago.

The opener is a small part of a show’s runtime, but a huge part in getting me invested in the experience. As more studios put greater effort into these segments, audience engagement can only improve. I’m ecstatic to see an upswing in the quantity (and quality) of these intros, and for this Crossmas, I wish that we see much more of them from the next television season.

Ed Dutcher

Ed Dutcher is the Video Games Editor here at Crossfader. The last time Ed had a meal that wasn't microwaved, George W. Bush was president. He only learned to read so that he could play Pokemon.

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