Most opening sequences for television shows are just a quick way to tell you who the stars are, but there are a handful of opening sequences that take it to a higher plane of true artistry, and that embody myriad motifs of the show as a whole. Most of these opening sequences are from my favorite shows, but personal bias aside, I think they can stand alone as brilliant and artistically robust short videos that just happen to complement the shows they belong to.
The song and the opening sequence go together perfectly, hilariously poking fun at the cookie-cutter upper-middle class conformist lifestyle that Nancy Botwin tries to maintain through non-conformist means, aka dealing weed in the ‘burbs.
2. Mad Men
[NOTE: I couldn’t find a video for this opening sequence that I could embed, but you can click on the video and find a link to watch it on YouTube.]
I think this opening sequence captures so well the aesthetic of the time period, as well as the mystery and the sensation of losing control that, as Don Draper has shown us, is such a big part of the advertising world.
3. True Blood
A perfect visual marriage of the fierce religiosity and darker underbelly (sex, racism, etc.) of the South, a paradox that is a cornerstone of the show. And I love the clever subtle nods to vampires, especially the “God Hates Fangs” sign and the little boy with strawberry juice all over his face.
4. Flight of the Conchords
Just plain funny, and encapsulates the quirkiness of the show perfectly.
5. Big Love (Seasons 1-3)
The Mormon imagery (passing through the veil, a planet for the celestial family) is so captivating and ethereal, and I love that such an All-American song as The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” is paired with such an unconventional American family.
6. Big Love (Season 4-Present)
Even though I’ve written on this sequence before, I had to include both sequences because they each have their own merits and distinctness. This sequence is just a perfect visual metaphor for the spiralling out of control that comes with leading a double life like the Henricksons try to do, and the cinematography is simply stunning.
One of the WB’s late greats, Felicity’s opening sequence takes the newness and exuberance of the just-starting-college lifestyle and translates it into a slideshow of gorgeous, moody black and white photos.
I’ve also written on this sequence before, but I never get tired of the visual tricks that get played on the viewer into thinking they see violence when really all they’re seeing is a daily routine. It humanizes a person that most would jump to categorize as inhuman.
9. Six Feet Under
I could probably watch this opening sequence one hundred times in a row and not get sick of it. Such incredible cinematography that shows physical decay and death and the formality of the rituals we abide by when dealing with and finalizing the death of the dead. This is as close to perfection as an opening sequence can get.