A title sequence. It’s that little bit near the start of every TV show that lets you know exactly what you’re watching, the bit that’s the same week in week out. It can be about six or seven seconds long (a la Breaking Bad) or closer to two whole minutes, but some shows take their openings very seriously. The shows below make their title sequences into an art form, something memorable and imaginative that is just as impressive as anything in the programme itself. This is by no means an extensive list, so let me know where I’m wrong/what I’ve missed out in the comments.
5 – Dexter
Fittingly for a show about a serial killer that kills serial killers, this opening sequence is pretty violent. Or at least, it makes you think it is. Despite only showing the titular blood spatter analyst, played by Michael C. Hall, preparing his breakfast, the act of cooking a fry-up has never looked so bloodthirsty. Oranges are pulverised, eggs torn apart. This intro is the perfect demonstration of the tone of the show: the blend between the macabre and the mundane, the idea of leading a double life. Catchy theme tune too.
4 – The Simpsons
I know, everybody’s seen it a million times. But that doesn’t make it any less iconic. I challenge you to find one person who couldn’t describe at least one section of this sequence to you, or hum Danny Elfman’s instantly recognisable theme. Consider as well the challenge of creating a new joke to go on the blackboard for each episode, or the countless number of couch gags. They’re in their 24th season now, remember, and even if the show itself is just a shade of what it used to be, at least the intro is consistent.
3 – American Horror Story
It says something about the quality of this opening sequence that it is possibly the most unsettling part of the show. Designed by Kyle Cooper, the main behind the equally brilliant and disturbing title credits for the movie Seven, this is a montage of creepy Victorian children, garden shears and foetuses that becomes more relevant the more episodes of the show you watch, set to some truly off-putting music. It’s easier to watch than describe, but maybe leave the lights on.
2 – Six Feet Under
Alan Ball’s masterful drama is another show with a title sequence that demonstrates exactly what the whole series is about in little over a minute. Images of death are juxtaposed with an incredible Thomas Newman-composed theme tune that screams life, an indicator of the lightness of tone and enjoyment married with serious and weighty issues that is the hallmark of the show. Despite being one of the longer sequences on this light, it’s such an uplifting delight that you’ll never be tempted to skip it.
1 – Games of Thrones
HBO’s fantasy epic needed a suitably epic title sequence to match, and it delivers in spades. The camera pans over a stunningly detailed clockwork map, visiting key locations from the forthcoming episode that rise out of the plain and spring into life. All this beautiful imagery is backed up by a theme tune I defy you not to hum along to enthusiastically: composed by Ramin Djawadi, nothing gets you more in the mood to ride down to King’s Landing or man the Wall to protect the North. Or maybe that’s just me.