Friday, January 13, 2012

The Lost Art of TV Intros



Today's TV intros are so truncated that that there's almost no point to having them.  They don't really  introduce the cast, and the theme songs aren't memorable.

It's like the shows are saying just go to IMDB to look up who's on the show if you really care that much because we don't want to waste the time.

The opening of "Mad Men" may be an exception as many people would argue that's the most exciting part of the show (I wouldn't).

Most likely this is because shows need to squeeze in as much ad time and story into the half hour or hour, but it makes me long for old TV intros of the 80s and 90s.

There was a certain art to them as they tried to draw you into the world of the show.  Even though they could come off as cheesy, shows were at least making the effort.

A couple of key elements usually composed a good intro.  First was an effective theme song.

There were a lot of iconic theme songs because shows actually cared about having a good one.

Themes were made especially for shows with lyrics that described them.

For instance, the producers of "Cheers" became personally involved in the development of the show's theme and helped tweak it until they thought it sounded right.

The producers of "Friends" took it one step further and co-wrote its theme song "I'll Be There For You."

The best example of a great theme song has to be the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".  Not only does everybody know the song's lyrics, but it details the whole premise of the show in a little over a minute.

And you can't forget composers Jessie Frederick and Bennett Salvay who seemed to have the magic touch during the 80s and 90s as they wrote memorable themes for "Perfect Strangers," " Full House," "Family Matters," and "Step by Step."

The next element for a great intro was an elaborate opening sequence.  These usually featured special footage of the cast doing things just for the opening credits, actual clips from the show or footage of where the show takes place.

The opening sequence of "Friends" with the cast splashing in the water fountain and then sitting on a couch in front it will never make any sense.

But it's a prime example of a choreographed cast opening that helps distinguish a show.

My favorite openings have to be the ones where a member of the cast is "doing something" such as writing or playing basketball then looks at the camera and smiles as if to say, "oh I didn't see you there because I was too busy doing this."

Those were recognizable from the beginnings of "Full House," "Family Matters" and "Step by Step."  Not to mention "90210," which may have the best beginning as the whole cast shamelessly mugs for the camera.



Granted there's not really anything artistic about that, but it's funny.

It's comedy gold from Brian Austin Green's lame dancing, to Tori Spelling trying to have sex with the camera and failing miserably, and then James Eckhouse's psychotic look that dares you to find out what he'll do if you change the channel.

Granted there are still shows like "Parks and Recreation" and "How I Met Your Mother" that still do a little bit of an old school intro, but for the most part that style is dead.

I'm not looking for a complete throwback to some of the over the top show intros of the 80s and 90s just some creativity in current ones.  Especially on network TV.

There's a lot of bad TV shows out there so the least they can do is have somewhat entertaining and memorable opening credits.

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