You could say that radio brought us pop songs. Theatre brought us the printed programme. Film brought us the trailer. But it’s really television that brought us the title sequence. Movies often have them but the true main titles belong to TV. They are the clarion call that draws you to the television set and if you’re already watching then they draw you in. They embody and they embue the tone and flavour and verve of the show that follows them.
Or they did. For some years we’ve seen the decline of the title sequence and television drama is the weaker for it. Compare The West Wing with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Both Aaron Sorkin series could have an utterly exquisite pre-titles scene but The West Wing would then smash cut to main titles and that soaring theme, those stirring images. It was strong and bold and confident and fantastic.
In comparison Studio 60 would smash cut to a title card: literally the show’s name and a moment’s motion the way a Ken Burns documentary zooms in closer on a photograph. As much as I admire the beauty of a well-made film trailer, it is the TV main title sequence that gladdens my heart.
So I love that one project I’m doing requires me to think up a title sequence. I have been failing at this for several hours now but along the way have the most brilliant time remembering and occasionally re-enacting famous sequences.
Part of the appeal is the memory: a sequence will run at the start of so many weeks that they get burned into us. It’s probably impossible, then to coldly and objectively analyse a sequence but bollocks to cold and objective. The best title sequences deserve more than cold objectivity, they earn more. And that’s how you’ve already got several in your mind.
Yep. So do I.
Sometimes the sequence is better than the show but also, for me, sometimes a sequence only means so much because the series did. This is a title sequence that breaks me: my age is split in half, I can feel the very start of my career being sparked anew, these are characters who stand beside me today.
They stick in your head to the extent that when I thought of quietly telling you what my project is, I really did then think: “I sure wish the Governor had let a few more people in on our secret.”
None of this is helping me think up a sequence for my project but I’ve had a lovely time talking with you. Thanks for the distraction.