Some of the best shows on television can’t be talked about without mentioning the opening sequences. The opening sequence is at the start of each episode and sometimes contains the credits such as actors, writers, directors and producers. The sequences have become iconic and are often remembered equally as a great story-line or shocking finale. In some cases, sequences that contain an unknown song can rocket the song into a hit because of its use in the opening. Others may use an already popular song, or create a catchy tune of their own that wouldn’t fit on any other show. Visually, some series will keep the same sequence for its entire run with minor changes, while others will have a completely different opening each season. Here is a look at some of the most memorable TV opening Sequences.
7) The Sopranos January 10, 1999 – June 10, 2007
HBO’s The Sopranos would not be complete without it’s iconic opening, which features Mob Boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) driving from New York to his home in New Jersey. The opening features various iconic locations in the series. Most notably one of Tony’s favourite hang outs, “Satriale’s” the pork store. The opening features the song “Woke Up This morning” (The Chosen One Mix) By British Group, Alabama 3 from their 1997 album, Exile On Coldharbour Lane. The song itself became a hit and found a lot of radio airplay.
6) Seinfeld July 5, 1989 – May 14, 1998
The ground breaking sitcom Seinfeld did everything different. It was a show about nothing, had characters who sometimes felt no remorse and didn’t always wrap things up at the end of each episode. The show had many classic moments, such as The Soup Nazi, The Bubble boy and the infamous contest. The series is also often remembered for its unique opening which featured, Jerry Seinfeld performing stand up comedy. This would be the opening for the majority of the first seven seasons. In the final two seasons, the first scene was essentially the opening sequence. However, Jerry performing stand up returned for the series finale. Equally as memorable was the catchy tune that was composed by Jonathan Wolf, and it served as the theme for the show’s entire run.
5) The Cosby Show September 20, 1984 – April 30, 1992
Stand up comedian, Bill Cosby created and starred in the massively successful NBC sitcom, The Cosby Show. The series was also known for it’s opening theme music and opening sequence. Not only was the show based on Bill Cosby’s stand up and on-stage persona, but he also composed the theme, “Kiss Me”, with Stu Gardiner. There were seven versions of the song, with season four being performed by Bobby McFerrin. For the most part, each season had a different opening, with the exception of season seven that was replaced with the season six opening, due to a legal issue concerning the background. The sequences varied from season to season but always had the main stars in it. In season one, the family is shown exiting a van for a family BBQ and in season 5, they perform an elaborate choreographed dance.
4) All in the family January 12, 1971 – April 8, 1979
The Opening theme song was written by Lee Adams with music by Charles Strouse, “Those were the Days” and was performed by Archie Bunker (Carrol O’Connor) and Edith Bunker (Jean Stapelton) at the start of each episode. This opening was very different for the 70’s because it wasn’t elaborate. In fact, the series didn’t have enough money for an expansive opening, so producer Norman Lear took a basic approach to it. The song is simple, it features Archie and Edith sitting at a piano, which Edith plays, and they reminisce past times. It was inter-cut with shots of Manhattan that eventually closes on the Bunker House. The opening is considered iconic and has been parodied several times, including both The Simpsons and Family Guy. The song had a great amount of success as it was released as a single in 1972 and reached 30 on the Billboard 100 list.
3) Weeds August 7, 2005 – September 16, 2012
After the death of her husband, Nancy Botwin (Mary Louies-Parker) begins to sell cannabis in order to maintain her lifestyle and take care of her two young sons. The series became an instant hit and ran for 8 seasons. The series was notable for its anti-hero protagonist, humor and writing. As well, the series utilized variations of a classic song from the late sixties, “Little Boxes” by Malivina Reynolds as its opening theme from seasons 1 to 3 and again, in its final season. Each episode had a different artist singing the opening, including, Elvis Costello, Joan Baez, Linkin Park, Billy Bob Thornton and Pete Seeger. Between those seasons, they used title cards that related to the plot of the story, but the song did make appearances, such as in an episode where a character is heard humming the theme song. The song and the opening are about the suburbs and how all the houses look alike.
2) Game of Thrones April 17, 2011
HBO’s Game of Thrones is a widely acclaimed TV series that is renowned for its writing, acting and directing. The series has been nominated for several awards, including best writing at the Prime time Emmy awards. One of the strongest elements of the show is the very popular and much talked about opening sequence and theme. The theme is composed by Ramin Djawadi and has been covered by various indie bands. The opening features the series’ fictional world on a three dimensional map and as a viewer, the camera takes us through the map with buildings and structures popping up and focuses on locations that will be featured in the episode. Some locations included are Winterfell, King’s Landing and The Wall. The sequence won the 2011 Prime time Emmy Award for Outstanding Main title design, an award that went to Creative Director, Angus Wall, designer Hammed Shaukat, animator Kirk Shintani and art Director, Robert Feng.
1) The Simpsons December 17, 1989
One of the most memorable and iconic opening sequences is from the long running animated sitcom, The Simpsons. It starts with us swooping through the clouds and then down into the City of Springfield, where we catch up with the main characters of the series. Bart is leaving detention, Homer’s done with work, Lisa is kicked out of a musical rehearsal and Marge, with Maggie, comes home from grocery shopping. We follow the characters as they travel home from their respected destinations, passing various characters and landmarks of the city. Finally, they all arrive at home at the same time, nearly avoiding a collision. The lengthy opening was the idea of creator, Matt Groening in order to cut down on the animation necessary for the rest of the episode. Due to this reason, Groening created two gags, apart from the opening sequences, that would actually provide new material each week. The first, “The Chalkboard Gag” has Bart writing a different message on the chalkboard over and over for his detention. Some examples have included, political humor “The First Amendment doesn’t cover burping”and pop culture references, “I’m not the sixth Beatle”. The second, “The Couch Gag” is iconic completely on its own. All the characters run towards the couch, only to find something strange with it. The sequence would have the most drastic changes and variations made to it in 2009. It now includes a “billboard gag”, where a billboard has a different advertisement on it, such as “Krusty: now doing funerals.” Also, ‘The Treehouse of horror’ episodes usually have a different opening, including one directed by Guillermo Del Toro which had references to horror and science fiction.