Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week has a new theme and you can participate however often you choose! This week’s theme is tv-related, in honor of Fall tv.
Since I had pretty much free reign here, I thought I would do something related to music (of course). Music is pretty important in any television show, the right combination of music and storytelling can create incredible scenes. I can think of any number of cinematic moments that hinged around an incredible piece of music. Like Death’s entrance in Supernatural or Moriarty’s trial entrance in Sherlock.
So, I was preparing to do a post about my top 10 favorite music moments in television. However, I realized as I was thinking about this that so much of what makes these scenes so powerful is that the event in the scene is long-awaited and/or our connection with the characters. I looked at various similar posts and many had moments from shows I hadn’t watched and while some were engaging I didn’t have the same emotional connection with the moment as I did with shows I had watched and loved. Additionally, even going back and watching a few that had impacted me extremely emotionally when I first watched it (like the ending of Epitaph One from Dollhouse) but because it was so long ago it no longer held the same power.
So, this got me to thinking about what makes an effective scene without needing any previous experience with the show and which will be both entertaining and mentally stimulating. And of course my thoughts go directly to the theme songs and introductions for shows. I’ve always appreciated a good intro scene and even when I don’t exactly love it I rarely skip over it (even when I binge watch I don’t tend to skip over it). I always believed it to be an introduction to the show, a chance to catch my breath, to think about what’s ahead.
In a ballet or opera they have the same thing. The lights go down, but before the curtains rise, before anything happens on stage the audience sits quietly and listens to the overture. This time and this music is meant to prepare the audience for what they are about to hear and see. Think about going to see The Nutcracker – the Overture sets the tone for the rest of the ballet with its lighthearted air and magical qualities. Meanwhile the Overture for Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is filled with the heavy tragedy that is to come.
The introduction to any work is critical for setting the tone of what is to come. Some shows succeed at this better than others; some nearly skip it entirely, simply giving the show a title tag, while others spend a good three minutes setting up the show. Some are lighthearted, others dark – some tongue in cheek and others serious – some explain the show directly others are primarily symbolic. There is such a variety in television intro sequences and each kind can be good in its own way or within its own genre. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites from serious shows (basically excluding comedies and such).
So without farther ado, here are ten of my favorite tv intro sequences.
- Game of Thrones – The music is – of course – incredible. But what makes this sequence shine is the clockwork map that gives you hints as to what to expect in the episode. Beautifully worked and helpful! Can’t get much better than that!
- Vikings – I have to admit, I’ve stopped watching this show. It wasn’t bad, I was busy when I started watching it and then never got back to it. However, what kept me watching (despite being busy) through most of the first season was this absolutely gorgeous intro. The song itself is so fitting, haunting and cruel it also introduced me to the amazing artist Fever Ray who has continued to be a favorite of mine. The music alongside the images of the stormy water, gold and crows, and drowning people transform the sequence into the perfect exchange of hard medieval reality and somewhat surreal fantasy, like a siren singing sailors to their doom.
- Hannibal – This is much shorter than the previous two, but just as powerful. It firmly plants the show into the catagory of psychological thriller with it’s minimalist music and style. The red against the white is enticingly horrifying and the way the liquid red -is it blood or wine or both? – morphs into the faces of the characters is eerie, hinting at the underlying horror of Hannibal’s cannibalism.
- Daredevil – It’s hard not to notice the similarity between the intro for Hannibal and the intro for Daredevil, both feature minimalist color schemes and blood (liquid of some sort??) that morphs into something. However, Daredevil uses this very differently from the former. The music itself is much more melodic and epic which completely changes the tone of the sequence. Additionally it is much more symbolic, the blood turns into a statue of justice, buildings representing Hell’s Kitchen, and church/religious symbols, showing the shows themes less subtly yet without telling us exactly what it all means.
- Penny Dreadful – This gorgeous introduction first and foremost owes much to the absolutely incredible composer Abel Korzeniowski. His music transforms this intro from beautiful to stunning. But that’s not all that makes this intro shine. It does an incredible job of juxtaposing the luxurious with the grotesque, that perfectly materializes the vision for a show the explores the characters of some of the most famous horror novels ever written.
- American Horror Story – I mean wow! Sometimes the title sequence was more frightening than the show. While I enjoyed this show (especially the first two seasons) there is no doubt that what I like best about it is the absolutely mesmerizing title sequence. The music is terrifying – horrifying – bone-chilling. And while the music stays the same each season has a new intro to reflect the new story, giving you hints as to what is to come and taking themes and tropes of horror and inverting them, making them devious and frightening once more.
- Downton Abbey – I’m not going to lie, every time I hear this song I smile. This show has always been a little guilty pleasure, because of course I mainly watch it for the gorgeous set and costuming. And really that’s what this show is mostly about and this title sequence shows that perfectly, drawing you into the world of lords and ladies.
- Outlander – I started watching this one when I was living in Scotland (cause it takes place in Scotland duh!) However, I soon grew too busy – you know….exploring Scotland – that I stopped watching it for a while and haven’t had access to watch it since I’ve come back home (I will borrow it from the library some day though!). However, this title sequence remains a favorite of mine. The song is absolutely lovely, I could listen to it forever. And of course the shots are stunning – it is Scotland after all. What else can I say? I love it!
- Mad Men – This is another more symbolic intro sequence that I find just fascinating. I love how it’s all animation – it looks like an ad campaign….one that is very quickly failing. Falling into lies, scandal, and greed. How apt.
- Orphan Black – Honestly, this is one that didn’t impress me at first. I thought it was okay. If I was to skip any of these it would be Orphan Black. BUT! The more I watch the show, the more I watch this title sequence, the more I realize how genius it is. The DNA strands and the cells in mitosis intermixed with the kaleidoscopic images subtly show the themes of identity, scientific advancement, and morality that populate this fantastic show (seriously though, watch the show – best thing I’ve watched in a while).
Sherlock – I have to be honest, I’m mostly adding this because the show itself is absolutely fantastic and has a great score to go with it. WATCH IT!
What’s are your favorite television intros and/or music moments in tv?