Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Setting the Scene: TV Show Opening Sequences

I was watching Sleepy Hollow the other night, the great new TV series on FOX, and I was super excited to see they have a title sequence. Over the last few years, TV show title sequences have been going the way of the Dodo with the increasing tendency to flash the TV show’s name along with an Inception­-like groan. Whilst I don’t have anything against this method as it allows for precious more minutes to be spent on the actual show, when I saw Sleepy Hollow’s opening sequence I was reminded of how much I enjoyed and missed them.

Title sequences for TV shows are like a book’s cover and blurb: they set the audience’s expectations for tone, genre and mood—an indicator for whether the viewer will enjoy the show. Sleepy Hollow’s opening certainly achieves this with a dark, mysterious and gothic sequence that immediately grabs the audience by the—hopefully not slit—throat and transports them into the creepy small town riddled with secrets called Sleepy Hollow.

I believe a great title sequence can heighten the experience and impression of a TV show. There are many great TV show openings that establish the world of the show within a few short effective minutes, some of my favourites are:

Veronica Mars:

The song, the pace, the snappy cuts, it all helps establish the scene for this hip noir caper set in a modern—2004 modern—day high school.

Game of Thrones:

This gorgeous title sequence introduces the epic fantasy saga with sweeping miniature vistas and rich orchestral music.


Ghostly and spine-tingling – just perfect! There’s no mistaking what this show is about.

Did I leave your favourite TV show title sequence off the list? Or do you prefer the recent trend of flashing the show’s name—quick and to the point? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!


  1. great blog post! i love opening tv (and film) title sequences, and completely agree that if done correctly it can set the tone and mood for the viewer. just to name a few my favourites in TV would be "dexter" "battlestar galactica" "mad men". Stand out one is "American Horror Story" as it changes per season.

    In film one of my all time favourites is "Seven", designed by Kyle Cooper.

    There's a great website called "Art of the Title" that discusses and breaks down many opening sequences. Check it out and lose hours procrastinating: http://www.artofthetitle.com/

  2. Thanks Dan! I'll definitely be losing some time on that website...

    I've never watched an episode of American Horror Story all the way through as I'm a huge chicken, but I love the first season's opening sequence. It is so ridiculously creepy and warned me that I was not the right viewer for this show. Which is exactly what a good title sequence should do by setting viewer expectations. I still appreciate the major creep factor though! The soundtrack is great too.

  3. Hey Dan!
    Have you watched The Returned (Les Revenants)? Fantastic show and opening sequence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b42Seu1sT9E

    I highly recommend it!