Once upon a time, the TV show opening montage was the norm. Now, much like the musical montages of 80’s movies, TV show opening credits are becoming more and more obsolete. I for one am a little disappointed. Much like the Monday Night Football theme, these opening credits serve a fun and meaningful purpose in TV viewing: to get you really pumped up for the show. No matter how tacky they were, there was a familiar comfort in them. I liked singing the themes to The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island, just as I enjoyed watching Blossom dance around in her flowered hats.
Luckily there are still some shows out there that embrace the opening montage. Here are my favorites from both the past and present:
Freaks and Geeks – What better way to capture the awkwardness of high school than to show school picture day…in the days before digital cameras. Those pictures were a metaphor for high school life. Sometimes it was full of forced smiles, sometimes you just weren’t ready, sometimes you were a goofball, and sometimes you discovered that once you made a bad mistake, there were no “retakes”.
Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IopHL3auzNQ
The Muppet Show – This is the ultimate variety show opening, complete with a large singing chorus, an orchestra and two grumpy old men making wise-ass comments in the balcony.
The Simpsons – The Simpsons opener is fun for a few reasons. First, I like to see what Bart writes on the classroom chalkboard each week. (A sampling of my favorites: Beans are neither fruit nor musical, and No one wants to hear about my sciatica.) Secondly, I like to see how the opening montage will end; that is, what the Simpson family will encounter when they all head to their living room couch. Considering that the show just reached its 500th episode, the creative forces behind their clever opening deserve a lot of credit.
Booker – What, you don’t remember Booker? Booker was cop show spin-off from Fox’s already popular 21 Jumpstreet. The biggest appeal of Booker was its hottie star, Richard Grieco. He had the hair, the dimples, the body and the ultra coolness (complete with a motorcycle and leather jacket, natch). He was Johnny Depp without the idiosynchrosies. Brilliantly obvious in pandering to the core female demographic, Grieco preens and poses in front of the camera, giving us ladies a little smirk while “Hot in the City” plays in the background. Plot? Who cares?
Entourage – From the moment the opening guitar riff of Jane’s Addiction’s Superhero plays, I am hooked. As the cast members cruise the streets ofHollywood in an old school convertible (on their way to the latest hot spot), famous celebrity hangouts are cleverly emblazoned with the cast members’ names. It makes me want to be young, rich and famous.
Weeds – Weeds is one crazy show. During every episode I am torn between laughter and a feeling that can only be described as “holy shit that is totally messed up”. I guess that’s what makes a good black comedy. The earlier years featured a catchy, folksy little diddy called “Little Boxes”. The satirical song bashes suburban conformity and its tract houses made of “ticky tacky” that “all look just the same.” In later episodes, a different singer or band with completely different musical styles would perform the song each week. It’s been covered by Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, and Elvis Costello, among several others. Very cool.
Dynasty – Dynasty’s opener is one of my favorites because it simply exudes everything fantastic about the 80’s: tacky excess, shoulder pads, regal entrances down long staircases and cat fights while donning Bob Mackie.
Twin Peaks – I know that Twin Peaks got a lot of crap for being way too weird and confusing, but I was one of those people who hung in there until the bitter end. I was sad to see it go, and I appreciated every moment of David Lynch’s eerie series. I used to watch it in the dark in order to freak myself out with every glimpse of “Bob”, the devil persona who could supposedly move from body to body. Lynch had a gift for taking the strangest things out of that crazy head of his and translating them onto the screen. I am mesmerized by composer Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting “Laura Palmer’s Theme”. Lynch clearly understood that the right music was essential for show’s dark mood.
The Cosby Show – Okay, year one was pure rubbish. But then someone realized they had to kick it up a notch, and The Cosby Show’s opening montage was a highly anticipated yearly event, akin to Superbowl commercials and in my case, back-to-school shopping. The concept was simple: each year the show’s instrumental theme (called “Kiss Me”) would be tweaked to a different musical style. This was then matched to a complementary backdrop wherein each impeccably dressed cast member would dance for a bit next to Bill Cosby. Each one was so creative and well done that each year America wondered, “What are they going to do this year?” My favorite was the Apollo Theater theme in Season 6.
Buck Rogers – If Dynasty portrayed everything wonderfully tacky about 80’s excess, then Buck Rogers represented everything wonderfully tacky about 80’s sci fi. Gil Gerard and Erin Gray really rocked those futuristic jumpsuits.