Start with a Bang: The Underrated Value of TV Intros

Author Jonny Shepherd

With the nation under lockdown, it’s becoming increasingly tough to find new ways of entertaining ourselves while stuck indoors. Luckily in our current Golden Age of television, there is no shortage of shows to choose from, however this does come with its own (perhaps first-world) challenges – in particular, deciding what to spend your time watching. That’s why the first few minutes of episode one is so crucial – audiences need to be hooked instantly, otherwise they can flick to the next ‘must-see’ series without hesitation. Luckily there’s one secret weapon available: a strong intro sequence.

Ever since designer Saul Bass pioneered the ‘animated’ intro in the 1950s, stylized title sequences have played an important role in ‘setting the scene’ at an early stage. With this in mind, we put our heads together at Tanami and shared some of our favourite opening sequences, explaining why they had such an impact on us.

Craig: Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

This choice is definitely the weirdest of our selection, but we’ll bet you’ll love it for that very reason. In-keeping with the cheap ‘80s TV horror aesthetic of the series, the intro kicks off with a Twilight Zone-esque foreword, before launching into an old-school shot montage complete with slow-motion explosion jumps and dodgy prosthetics. The tongue-in-cheek tone makes it clear that the series will be satirical, and is guaranteed to make you laugh before the episode even starts.

Helen: The Wire

Regularly found at the top of ‘The Best TV Shows of All Time’ lists, and for good reason, a great TV show should come with an equally great intro. Changing each season, The Wire’s credits only use cutaways; we don’t see the faces of any main characters. What we do see is a mixture of scene-setting images which mirror the theme of the season in question (the drug trade, the school system etc.), with a few key shots which appear in every intro. The power of this approach is in how the opening titles illustrate one of the key messages of the show – the cycle of poverty and corruption which affects Baltimore residents on both sides of the law. The faces and places (and intro music) may change, but ultimately, the story doesn’t.

Jonny: American Gods

This is a really smart intro sequence, packed full of symbolism and hidden meanings. American Gods tells the story of ‘old gods’ and ‘new gods’ coinciding in a modern setting. There is a litany of captivating shots, including an astronaut on a crucifix, an archangel wearing special-ops night vision goggles and firing guns, and Medusa with fibre optic cables for hair, to name a few. The music is contemporary and menacing and the lighting is dark and intimidating; overall, a terrific job of giving the audience a taste of what’s to come from the show.

Kat: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies presents a sinister glance at the duality of life in America’s west coast, where glamour and apparent serenity is only one side of the coin. The lifestyles of the rich and the famous are often associated with toxic personalities and manipulation, and the Big Little Lies intro encapsulates this in a poetic and melancholic manner. By having the kids and adults looking to camera in the same manner, is this giving a hint that this toxic culture is being inherited by the next generation? The intro leaves the audience asking questions, thereby pulling the audience in and encouraging them to keep watching.

Kirsty: CSI:Miami

Iconic, and not for the right reasons, the intro to CSI:Miami has become a cultural touchstone in its own right. Kicked off by some of David Caruso’s finest sunglasses acting, and Pete Townshend’s opening scream, the titles for CSI:Miami epitomise the heady days of early-2000s TV intros. Stock footage cityscapes, random equations and frankly baffling shot transitions; it may be dated nonsense, but as an introduction to the series, it’s perfect.

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