10. Six Feet Under
Buckeye: After Michael C. Hall’s character and the occasional Richard Jenkins cameo, the opening credits are the best thing about Six Feet Under. As someone with a deathly fear of anything that has to do with death (see what I did there) it takes an incredible feat to make me watch a show about people who work in a funeral home and stuff people in coffins for a gruesome-ass living. Six Feet Under has some artfully done credits that didn’t help me get over my fear of dying but at least made morticians’ work look interesting. Bravo.
kyra: I really enjoy the sequence of this opening, but I’m not a huge fan of the music. It’s calm, kinda boring–elevator music for lack of a better descriptor. This kinda reminds me of the actual show, which I watched 3 seasons of before giving up. As Buckeye said, this was just the beginning of Michael C. Hall’s rise to greatness. Nathan Fisher and his weird-ass girlfriend and crazy-ass brother really drag the show down though.
[We’re sorry, we couldn’t find a good YouTube of the Mad Men credits. We’ll update if we find a copy.]
Buckeye: Louie is one of the best shows on television because it manages to make you laugh at what sometimes is really depressing shit, and in that way the Louie credits are a perfect microcosm of the show. The only star of the credits is Louis C.K. himself, sadly sauntering down the street like the out-of-shape old man he is, stopping for pizza on the way to the Comedy Cellar. Thinking about it some more, it dawned on me that what Louie‘s opening credits show is Louie’s commute to work, and Jesus it’s enough to make you pity the dude. Add in the tailor-made “Brother Louie” as the soundtrack to the comic’s life (“Louie, Louie you’re gonna die…”) and you have yourself a great opening montage.
kyra: I don’t watch this show. No comment.
8. The West Wing
kyra: Like a number of shows on this list, this credit sequence is made by the music. You hear the orchestra come in and you are pumped for some walk-and-talk, 100 pages of dialogue, and a snarky Toby Ziegler.
Buckeye: Now these credits are just presidential, that’s what they are. This is probably the last network drama I watched (meaning it was the last great network drama, okay), and these credits are sooo Network TV. You wouldn’t see any cable show trying to get away with putting the actors’ faces in the opening, but it’s befitting The West Wing. (Oh wait, Luck did that, and Luck‘s credits blew ass. Oh wait, The Newsroom does the same thing, and that show blows ass.) Newsroom aside I am pretty loyal to Sorkin. If only the charaters were shown WALKING AND TALKING in the opening.
7. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
[We’re sorry, we couldn’t find these either.]
kyra: Maybe it’s because I went to Penn, like Dennis and Dee, but I love the It’s Always Sunny credits. It’s simple and low-budget, consisting of images from Philly set to a very catchy song. They show the Linc, Center City, and other places that fill me with a warm nostalgia for the good ol’ days.
Buckeye: OMG I went to Penn too! Let the record reflect that Philly is an incredible town. Don’t forget South Street and 30th Street Station either. Speaking of 30th Street Station I love how they stick the SEPTA trains over in the shit corner. Speaking of It’s Always Sunny, though, I love that Mac spared absolutely no expense in designing these magnificent, elaborate, and effects-heavy credits. It’s not a show I watch as frequently anymore, but there is something so endearing about the cheapness of It’s Always Sunny. DAYMAN.
6. The Wire (Season 2)
Buckeye: I’ll be straight with you. This is just an excuse to shout from the mountaintop about just how fucking good the second season of The Wire is. I can make an argument that Season 2 (or any of the first four seasons for that matter) is the best of the series; it’s the season that tells you just how expansive the scope of the show will be, that it’s about more than cops, dealers, and drugs, but about a city, and America, and labor, and the way the institutions and organizations we’re a part of have no problems fucking us in the back. It was a radical and ballsy move to completely shift the focus of the season away from the pits and to the port, but The Wire isn’t The Wire if it doesn’t do that. One of my favorite idiosyncracies (of about 10,324,461 idiosyncracies) of the series is the five seasons’ five different versions of the same theme song, “Way Down in the Hole,” used during the credit sequence. Extra props to Season 2 for using the original singer of that song, Tom Waits.
kyra: To me, this is the most Treme rendition of the song, but I still think it works well. Of the 5 versions, this one is the most heart-wrenching because it sounds like it’s an old, blind, black man ranting about Jesus and the Devil and saving your soul. It seems fitting for this show, which so beautifully covers the struggle and fine line between right and wrong. It’s all in the game. I got the shotgun and you got the briefcase.
5. The Wire (Season 5)
kyra: Steve Earle gives the single best delivery of any singer in the Season 5 rendition of “Way Down in the Hole,” when he says “he’s got the fire and the fury…pause…at his command.” For some reason that line gets me, despite the fact Season 5 is clearly the worst season of The Wire. To me, David Simon is the one who has these features at his command, and he used them to create the greatest TV show of all time.
Buckeye: Analyzing The Wire‘s five opening credits objectively, which I guess is the whole point of this exercise, Season 5 probably as the best one, and it features a cast member (Steve Earle, who plays Bubbs’ NA buddy) on vocals, so NEAT-O. It’s also Season 5’s most redeeming quality.
4. The Americans
kyra: I think this opening is phenomenally visual. Each image, which flashes only for a brief moment, shows a parallel of something American to something Russian. There’s the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima side by side with a Russian statue holding the Communist hammer and sickle. There’s side by side comparisons of the two space programs. There’s an American exercise video followed by russian kick-dancing! I think the opening perfectly encapsulates the show, which also follows the parallel storylines of the Jennings and the Beemans. It goes by so fast it’s hard to compare to the longer premium channel shows, but it’s still a great opening.
Buckeye: Short but sweet and gets you ready for a solid hour of TV. For a show that makes pretty good use of popular music from the time period, whatever orchestra was hired to play this little diddy also helps set the mood.
3. Mad Men
[WE’RE SORRY, DAMN IT.]
kyra: Generally during Mad Men’s credits I am getting ready for the show by making a snack or something, and am not necessarily watching the screen. However, it doesn’t matter, because the show’s signature ‘dah duh, dah duh, duh duh, duh duh, duhhhhhhhhh, dummmmmm de dummmmmm’ is so memorable. I hum/sing along to it every time and it gets be primed for an hour of philandering, alcoholism, and Roger Sterling. God I love the 60’s.
Buckeye: I’ve got to imagine whoever designed these credits felt no shame about shamelessly ripping off Saul Bass. That’s okay, because Saul Bass is probably the only credit-sequence designer I or anybody can name without looking anyone up. I refer you to the Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho title sequences and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
2. The Sopranos
Buckeye: I am from the great state of New Jersey and totally coincidentally wearing a blackish suit today but am still sincerely doing my best to honor the great James Gandolfini. I have actually downloaded this song and let me tell you, you feel like a fucking BOSS if you are driving while this song comes on. One time I was driving from New York to New Jersey through the Holland Tunnel like Tony WHEN THIS SONG CAME ON. Great moment in driving history. Great opening credits. (I could make a great argument for this to be in the top slot.)
kyra: I want to echo that this is one of the few songs I have also actually downloaded and listened to. Like any middle-class caucasian I thoroughly enjoy gangster rap, and was a big fan of Nas’ Got Yourself a Gun well before I ever watched The Sopranos, and so the first time I heard the opening I thought ‘oh nice this show is badass.’ Great choice Mr. Chase.
1. Game of Thrones
Buckeye: DUH DUH DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH DUH-DUH-DUHHHHHHH. I never played with Legos or K’Nex or any of that cool building shit when I was little because I was too busy parsing Slaughterhouse Five so this is as close as I’m gonna get. I like maps a lot, too. But really, it’s the music that counts.
kyra: First of all, this is the cutest thing ever. Secondly, Buckeye, the credits are so much more than just the music, which I agree is awesome. This is the only credit sequence I know of which can change between episodes. Yes, The Wire changed who sang the song every season and what was in the montage, but this is the same credits sequence with alterations. As everyone who watches the show knows, there is that moment in the first season when watching the opening when you think, ‘hey wait a minute, did they just add a new location to the opening?’ You don’t believe it because you’ve never seen it before, but you’re right! I love how now that we’re in Season 3 Winterfell is burning–it’s not just new locations, it’s updates of old ones too! I don’t know if this would work for every show, but it’s perfect for Game of Thrones. It’s unique, entertaining, and I would never dare to skip, which is why it gets my vote for #1.