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Television Opening Musings - RonO's Ramblings

Feb. 13th, 2013 10:37 am Television Opening Musings

Yesterday, it occurred to me that over my lifetime – and mostly over the last 10-15 years – I’ve seen a change in how US (at least) television shows open.

The earliest 60 minute single camera shows I have memories of – mostly mysteries, cop shows, and a few SF titles – generally fell into one of a few styles of opening:

  • A teaser scene followed by an opening sequence and then a commercial.
    • Star Trek is an example that followed this for sure.
  • A “Tonight on …” teaser made up of clips, followed by an opening sequence.  I don’t recall if these then went straight into the show, or had a commercial afterwards.
    • I think Hawaii Five-O followed that, but since the clip teasers aren’t on the Netflix stream, I’m not 100% sure.
  • An opening sequence that incorporated clips for the upcoming episode
    • Mission Impossible is the only example I know of from my early TV viewing.
    • Space: 1999 also did this, but I watched only one or two episodes when it first aired – KOB returned to the regular NBC schedule after just a couple of episodes.

Over time, the teaser scene became more common, eventually becoming universal or nearly universal.

The first departure I recall from any of these would be Hill Street Blues which usually opened with scenes from recent episodes (“Previously on…”), a practice previously only used for two-part episodes, followed by the roll-call scene and sometimes a squad room scene before the opening sequence.  The next departure, sort of, was Quantum Leap, which started running a fixed sequence setting up the series, followed by the teaser and then the opening sequence.

Somewhere between the late 1980′s and now, a new style has appeared and become the most common:

  • A teaser scene – sometimes lasting longer than in earlier shows – followed by nothing more than a title card, or a quick opening that only credits the name of the show, and sometimes the main producers.  The rest of the credits are run over the first scene following the opening.
    • In my current (February 2013) selection of new shows, this is true for Arrow, Once Upon a Time, NCIS: Los Angles, Vegas, and White Collar.
  • A teaser scene followed by a more traditional opening sequence
    • Current shows: Hawaii 5-ONCIS, CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationCSI: New York, and Psych.  Hawaii 5-O and NCIS go immediately from the opening sequence into the first scene, the others go into an ad break.

Person of Interest starts with a Quantum Leap type explanation of the premis which ends with the title card, and then flows into the first scene with most of the credits running over it.

I don’t recall where Continuum falls into this.

30 minute multi-camera shows all started with an opening sequence, and then often an ad break before the opening scene until fairly recently.  A few had teasers early on (WKRP In Cincinnati  and Cheers comes to mind).  The first departure I recall was Murphy Brow which opened directly into the first scene – quite often an dialog-free scene with a Mowtown song playing over it – with the credits run over that scene.  This trend has become pretty common for 30 minute multi-camera shows, even if the only two I’m currently watching (The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons – which pretty much qualifies even though it is animated) still use a more-or-less traditional opening sequence – but neither include any credits other than title, creator and producer over the sequence.

 



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