11 Most Artistic Title Sequences on TV

We’re back! It’s been a while since we posted. We’ve got some changes nearing us and we’re super excited, and we’ll tell you later. Until then, we will be posting our traditional cable TV randomness for your enjoyment. We thought we’d bring it back with the theme of Television intros. Fitting, right?

Title sequences used to be of a certain format: an actor’s name was displayed and introduced in sequence with a clip from a scene in the show. This was the format, time and time again. It was linear, it was stale, it was the most basic way one could translate a credit roll into a visual story. It became bland. It became invisible. People wanted to skip through the title intros like people want to skip through advertisements today. Not these shows…

#1 Twin Peaks It seems appropriate that David Lynch, a man of innovative brilliance, would be a forerunner in the topic. Twin Peaks’ title sequence is full of suggestive scenery and perfectly complements the shows surreal undertones. Angelo Badalamenti wrote the score for the opening credit with David Lynch in a mere 20 mintues. The eerie naturescapes and bleak landscape of the Northwest perfectly set the tone for the mysterious events in Twin Peaks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEGGQ958K_s

#2 Dexter The title sequence for Dexter, on cable TV’s Showtime network has to be one of the most recognizable today. I asked a handful of friends what show they would put on this list and Dexter was brought up by all of them. Who can blame them? The sensual overture is near perfect in its juxtapositional foreshadowing of the show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESicykvHUyk

#3 Mad Men I think this is an important lesson in letting people do what they’re good at instead of trying to do it yourself because you think the difference is too slim to be noticed. I’d imagine not a lot of people knew who RJD2 was at the time the show aired. And, many people probably still don’t. RJD2 is the DJ responsible for the music in the title sequence. As good as the animation is, it wouldn’t be as remarkable without the pairing of a keen musical selection. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcRr-Fb5xQo

#4 Six Feet Under I could be wrong about this, but the title sequence for Six Feet Under was really a forerunner in the cinematic intro field. It was what seemingly spawned a succession of carefully orchestrated openings for most all HBO shows to come. HBO is now synonymous for such title sequences. The intro was crafted by creative studio, Design Kitchen, and I believe they say it best, “The title sequence is what you remember most. And if you ever forget that, we’ll kill you.” How fitting. Also noteworthy is that Design Kitchen went on to develop title sequences for Dexter, House, True Blood, Dead Like Me, Queer as Folk, and a slew of others. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6WATB9PFdE

#5 Game of Thrones On the subject of the high standard of HBO, we come to Game of Thrones. I’ll admit, I thought perhaps they had slipped a little bit with this one. I thought it was a little hokey, then I realized that the sequence changes and shows you new territories of Westeros, thus gaining some points in my book. Also, it’s important that Game of Thrones be on this list because The Simpsons repurposed their theme to be like that of Game of Thrones, and we all know that the Simpsons intro is one of the most iconic intros of all time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7L2PVdrb_8

#6 House The creators of House were smart to hire on Digital Kitchen to do their title sequence. In an age of super stale and repetitive broadcast TV intros, House’s artistic and ethereal title sequence makes the show stand apart. It also helps that they use the beat heavy Massive Attack song. It really does mimic the pulsing of a heartbeat in such a gripping way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q-u4GifasE&feature=youtu.be

#7 Grey’s Anatomy I’m going to stick with broadcast tv for this next one. Grey’s Anatomy started off with a run of the mill lame intro and a couple of seasons later they wisened up and came out with a catchy tune by Psapp with visually beautiful images that almost looked like a direct reference from the Six Feet Under sequence. The show ended up ditching the full title sequence for a small succinct title screen. However, as far as basic programming goes, this sequence wins a spot on the list. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eayqqeVAZLg

#8 Boardwalk Empire There’s nothing quite like staring off into the sea. It’s compelling and resonates on such a mysterious level that one has no choice but to be intrigued. Creative agency, Imaginary Forces were behind the show’s title sequence and they’re also the agency responsible for the Mad Men title sequence. The sequence is set out to provoke change, a storm of change. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBTjymxdweA

#9 Portlandia Let’s lighten the mood, shall we? Its dreamy synth-pop tune is by Georgia based DJ, Washed Out. Even though there is a Portland, GA, I doubt it is of the same cultural mindset of its western namesake. The title sequence is pretty and dreamy and hip and awesome, but I feel that it falls flat in setting up the tone of the show. I feel now, after writing this that, perhaps, Portlandia doesn’t belong on this list. Or maybe it’s too cool for this list, and in turn, cooler than me and this is why it has pushed its way onto the list after all. I can’t fight the hip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qzsEzRPgO4

#10 Bored to Death It is just such a natural progression to flow from Portlandia to Bored to Death. Jason Schwartzman might even be a sort of godfather of hipster. And, if that’s the case, Ted Danson is a demi-god of all hipsters. Jason Schwartzman actually came up with the title sequence song in 10 minutes after piecing together a bunch of emails sent to HBO to delay them because he hadn’t yet actually written the song. Oh, how it perfectly follows suit to the show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPSb8yFGZ-E

#11 True Blood I remember the first time I saw the title sequence for True Blood – I felt like I was watching something I wasn’t supposed to, like when I was a kid and I’d stay up late to watch 120 minutes on MTV. The imagery is so perfect, so perverse. The show’s creator, Alan Ball, is also the genius behind Six Feet Under, so it’s no surprise that the intro is so well realized. The song is by Jace Everett, however, I wonder how many people in the world are convinced that it’s Chris Isaak. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxINMuOgAu8

I know there are many more to list, e.g., Carnivale, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Rubicon, etc. So, let’s hear it, which show’s title sequence is your favorite? If you need help, Art of the Title has a really nice selection. Thank you to all the creators of these shows for giving us visual candy in a space where there used to be only garbage.

Danielle is an artist & writer and is new here at CableTV.com. Welcome Danielle!

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Lisa has been watching TV since before she could walk. Not much has changed: she would still rather watch TV than walk nearly 25 years later. When she isn't watching New Girl, Community, or Glee, she loves spending time with her husband.

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