For decades, intro sequences were vital in establishing the premise of a television show. However, such sequences are being phased out due to the binge-watching mindset of the modern TV audience.
Nonetheless, these introductions are not useless. They serve a meaningful purpose. Typically set to a musical theme, the title sequence is used to introduce the characters, setting, and set the tone of the show as a whole. We can all remember that catchy jingle from our favorite program growing up.
In the early 60’s, it was The Twilight Zone. The eerie theme song, the floating door, and Rod Serling’s bone-chilling warning — “You’ve just crossed over…”. It brings you into this bizarre, new world and, without an introduction, viewers would be very confused.
In the early 70’s, it was The Brady Bunch. The quintessential blended family, wonderfully explained in the show’s classic introduction. “That’s the way they became The Brady Bunch!”
Even recently, intro sequences have left an impression on audiences everywhere. Of course, everyone can sing along with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Also, you have the Friends dancing in the fountain, Tony coasting down the Jersey Turnpike in The Sopranos, and most recently Westworld‘s robot creation introduction.
Apart from Game of Thrones and the aforementioned Westworld, modern series rarely include an elaborate title sequence. Netflix’s “Skip Intro” feature has made it convenient for users to cut right to the chase.
Some shows are before their time in that regard. For instance, Seinfeld always opened with a different stand-up act from Jerry. This served the purpose of setting the tone for each episode, but did so in a fresh, new way.
More recently, shows have cut down on the length of their title sequences. A prime example being ABC’s The Goldbergs.
13 seconds flat. Then boom, it’s over. Just short enough not to skip over and just long enough to get the job done.
In the age of six-second Vine videos, maybe this is the proper solution to our shortening attention spans. Rather than eliminating the intro altogether, shows could simply shorten it.
All things considered, the extinction of TV show introductions remains a very real possibility. Still, throughout history, they are one of the most memorable aspects of any show. They serve as a doorway in transitioning us from the worries of our daily lives to the adventures of made-up characters in a fictional world.
This idea is explained perfectly by Alan Williams, a producer of countless opening sequences:
“You sit down and you’ve got dirty dishes that you need to wash, or all the stress from work, or whatever is going on… and here is this moment, a curtains-rising-and-lights-dimming type of moment, that sucks you in to be told a story.”
“And I think we need that. We need that preparation to escape and separate ourselves from all the busyness of life…A successful title sequence does that. It’s gets you out of reality and pulls you into the eyes of the storyteller.”
What’s your favorite TV show intro? Comment below!
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