This week’s question comes from A.V. Club editor-in-chief Patrick Gomez:
What TV opening credits do you never skip?
Considering that I’ve actually taken the show’s theme song, burnt it to a CD, and played it ad nauseam in my car—because I am an old person with an extremely out-of-date automobile—it would be heresy for me to ever skip the Gravity Falls opening sequence. Not only is Brad Breeck’s theme song for the much-missed Disney show one of the catchiest tunes ever pinned to an animated series, perfectly capturing the show’s energy, weirdness, and subtle sense of longing; but it also accompanies a delightful run through the series’ whole whacked-out premise, introducing you to the Pines family, their Pacific Northwest locale, and the general strangeness of Gravity Falls itself. (Plus, I’m a sucker for placing hidden messages pretty much anywhere, and the Gravity Falls intro is rife with them.)
For me, there’s no opening that better captures the vibe of its show than that of Cowboy Bebop. Also, there might be no better opening period. It’s just a phenomenally cool blast of style, from the music to the visuals to the streaming text in the background that serves as a poetic breakdown of why space is full of bounty hunters who listen to jazz and call themselves “cowboys.” Hell, if this had been released as a stand-alone short or music video, it would still be held up as a masterpiece of sci-fi anime. That’s how good this intro is.
I’d prefer to answer “all of them,” an endorsement of the ever-evolving art of the television title sequence that I think we’ve made pretty plain here at The A.V. Club. But if I have to narrow it down, and I want to keep it relatively recent, I’ll go with the one from What We Do In The Shadows, a century-spanning vampire scrapbook that takes its visual and sonic cues from the FX mockumentary’s big-screen precursor. It’s atmospheric and enticing, a promise of a vivid narrative world that we’ll never entirely know—qualities it shares with the theme song, Norma Tanega’s “You’re Dead,” and exactly what you want from a TV opener. Though what I really, really want is an entire episode set in that subway snapshot of goth-punk Nadja and Laszlo.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is the first anime series I’ve watched, which, according to several of my friends, isn’t unlike a non-swimmer taking their fist dip in the depths of the Pacific. I’m enjoying the hell out of it, but, yes, Hideaki Anno’s deconstructionist take on mecha anime is sometimes a tad overwhelming for my sensibilities. I’ll be damned, though, if Yoko Takahashi’s “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” isn’t exactly the caffeinated jolt I need when reentering its kaleidoscopic world of hulking bio-machines, metaphorical aliens, horny teenagers, and rampant religious allusions. Takahashi’s vibrant J-pop banger occasionally feels at odds with the story’s lonely heart, but, like Evangelion’s oddball humor, it really serves to bridge the gap between the fizzy genre it’s dissecting and the psychological pretzel it turns out to be.
Hot take: The opening credits for Orange Is The New Black are fantastic. When it premiered in summer 2013—years before the “skip intro” button was introduced—it became one of the first bingeable streaming shows, and many were (somewhat understandably) exasperated by the minute-plus sequence after watching 13 episodes in quick succession. In retrospect, the OITNB intro stands on its own as a work of art and a perfect distillation of the show’s themes with Regina Spektor’s expressive vocals on “You’ve Got Time” evoking the swirl of pain, beauty, rage, and catharsis found in each episode. And, by showing the faces of dozens of formerly incarcerated women, the sequence never lets us forget the real-life sociopolitical context of OITNB, anchoring the series in a humanity that its own story arcs could sometimes forget.
I’ll take a moment to say that I watched the She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power opening for all 52 episodes, but today I’m sharing my love of the colorful kaleidoscopic collage that opens mixed-ish. Although the black-ish prequel series is set in the mid-1980s, the theme song is quintessential early ’90s, sung by none other than Mariah Carey. I have to admit that I’m not a Carey superfan, but “In The Mix”—which she co-wrote with Daniel Moore and sings on with her now-9-year-old twins, Moroccan and Monroe—is a great throwback to the airy pop/R&B tracks (and whistle tone) that made her a star in the first place. I dare you to listen to the full version and not instinctually bop your head to the beat.
Come on, sing it with me: “DUN dun dun-dun-DUN dun dun-dun-DUN dun...” Is there anyone who watched Game Of Thrones who didn’t immediately absorb the opening credits into their DNA? Hell, forget Ramin Djawadi’s exhilarating and iconic theme song for a second (yeah, right, good luck with that), and let’s just focus on that fantastic animation sequence. Spanning Westeros and beyond, the journey across George R.R. Martin’s inventive landscape conveys the stunning breadth and scope of the world via some of the coolest damn animated castles and kingdoms ever dreamed up. Rendered like a Rube Goldberg version of a fantasy role-playing map, the heliocentric sphere not only gives you the actors’ names alongside the family crest of their characters, but the beautifully orchestrated locations change season to season—and even episode to episode—based on the places we’re about to see. It’s one of the best title sequences in the history of television. Great, now I have to cue it up again.
Sure, there are only nine episodes, but I never miss the dynamic opening to FX on Hulu’s Mrs. America. The credits use the infectious and dramatic notes of Walter Murphy’s 1976 disco hit “A Fifth Of Beethoven” (based on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony) to score the period-appropriate animation, which kicks off with a disco ball sending out rainbows of color that transform into activists, which then transform into Phyllis Schlafly’s lines of pie-baking anti-ERA warriors. The credits continue to show both sides of the debate, an excited bus full of feminists crossing Equal Rights Amendment battlegrounds like Springfield, Illinois—highlighting iconography like the female symbol, a cross, and a torch—only to morph into showing the ERA itself getting vacuumed up by Schlafly’s army of housewives. And it all happens in exactly a minute, a perfect intro into the hypnotic legislative labyrinth of the show itself.
Throughout its six-season run, BoJack Horseman used its opening credits to exceptionally comedic, often devastating effect. Against the wails of the late Ralph Carney’s saxophone, the credits flashed through scenes from the protagonist’s life, from Diane looking in from the outside to the sets of Secretariat and Philbert, teasing big developments in the latest batch of episodes. So despite whatever cliffhanger, emotional or otherwise, the previous episode or season might have wrapped on, these opening moments were never to be skipped. But it was never just about gleaning new info for what lay ahead—the intro to Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s acclaimed animated series was always its own rumination on BoJack’s dissolute existence, which is why it demands to be watched even on rewatch. BoJack Horseman might also be the only show with must-see end credits.