Friday, June 22, 2012

First Impressions

By Russel D McLean

This week, I have finally been indulging properly in the first seaosn of Boardwalk Empire, over a year after everyone else managed to see it. But, hey, I've never been one for keeping up with the zeitgeist.

What initially impressed me - before anyone uttered a word - was the incredible opening sequence. There was a feeling for a while that opening titles were going the way of the dodo. And after years of generically bland "introduce the characters" titles, a-la CSI, you could see why. A spot of soft rock. A bunch of shots of the main cast with their name underneath. Job done.

But opening titles, when done well, are masterpieces unto themselves and introduce you completely to the tone of the show. Boardwalk Empire's music is perhaps a little anachronistic, but the great, sweeping shots of all those bottles of booze and Buscemi on that beach are just brilliant

The opening credits of a TV show have to put you in the right frame of mind. In the case of Dexter, the juxtaposition of such odd shots of everyday life put you right into the mind of a central character who doesn't see life in the same way that we do. And of course all that blood (and keptchup) reminds you of the basic tent of the show, with Dexter being a blood spatter analyst moonlighting as a serial killer (or is that the other way round?):

But its not just the most recent shows that had great opening sequences. The opening credits of Crime Story, from the 1980's were quite brilliant, but then that show still has, in many ways, a massive influence on modern TV:

And of course, I won't post them all here, but THE WIRE, went a great stage further with its opening credits, changing them from season to season to highlight the different themes involved. By changing the artists recording the main title track, they managed to ensure that each season felt utterly different from the last and yet somehow connected:

I guess you could say that the opening credits of a TV show are something like the cover of a book: they are the first thing the reader/viewer sees, and they sure as hell have to give an idea of what the books are about. And while many of them are generic, those that are unique or truly inventive, tend to stick in the mind.

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