Thursday, October 2, 2008

HBO Series Openers Are Trippy!

By now, most of you are probably aware how much I love HBO's original programming. Although there have been some duds (John From Cincinnati, I'm looking straight at you), the network consistently puts out hit show after hit show. It's uncanny, considering that it's not like it's the same people working on each show. They must have tremendous quality control over there.

Anyway, probably the most fun I have whenever a new series premieres is catching the opening credits sequence. Without question, HBO shows have some of the most provocative, memorable, and straight up trippy title sequences you've ever seen. And the visuals almost always go with catchy, unforgettable, yet equally incongruous theme music to boot!

Case in point, HBO's latest hit series, TRUE BLOOD, which I have mentioned here on some occasion. Check out the opener by clicking on the vid below:



Keep in mind this show is about Vampires trying to live in the open alongside humans and have equal rights like them. And it takes place in the South. If you think about those two things, this opening fits in profound ways. The thing about these openers is that they don't always grab you right out of the box. Because they are often highly artistic and interpretive, the opening sequences usually seem to have little or nothing to do with the actual content of the show itself. That is until you watch a few episodes first. Before long, you realize you've been hooked! Soon you're humming the theme all day long for the entire week between episodes, until you're scratching and twisting for Sunday to roll around so you can get your fix. Yeah, it's that bad. Or, rather, that GOOD! At least for me. And from the way the critics rave about these shows, I don't think I'm alone.

Anyway, here are other memorable openers to some of the best HBO shows in the last decade. I'm listing them from favorite to least favorite, although all of them are good in my book. Check them out, if you have the bandwidth:

CARNIVALE


Dark and foreboding, just like the show. I love the Tarot cards, since it fits with the mystic gypsy aspect of the series and the theme of cyclic fate. The theme was created by Jeff Beal, who also did the opening theme for my next favorite HBO show, Rome.

ROME


This one took a while to grow on me, for some reason. I didn't really get hooked on this opening until the 3rd episode. But when I did, it was HARD. In some ways, I like this opening more than Carnivale's. I like the way actual ancient graffiti was used, which were found at various Roman sites and which illustrate that our forebears had the same banal humor as the filthiest of comedians today. Kewl!

SIX FEET UNDER


Alan Ball created this show, and he also happens to be the creator behind True Blood. He was also the man behind the movie American Beauty, and as with that film Thomas Newman collaborates once again with Ball to create a memorable opening theme piece. If you haven't guessed by now, it's the music I identify with most in these openers, not so much the visuals. :-)

DEADWOOD


This show is like the anti-Western Western. It has cowboys and an unruly miner's town, complete with saloons, brothels, and opium houses, sure. Yet it's more about the human condition rather than shooting duels and five-card. The opening revolves around a pivotal scene in an early episode where a horse runs loose in the new town of Deadwood, but once again it is the music that captivates me.

THE WIRE


I never knew how well this show captured Baltimore until I visited that blighted city one year. It's just like this! Both the good and the bad. The opening does an adequate job of letting you know what the show is about (if you couldn't already guess from the title). One of the most intelligent and realistic police procedurals I've seen on tv. The music is somehow perfect for the series, with the first season's version of the theme song (heard here) performed by The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Cool stuff, especially that solo in the middle.

Again, why aren't you watching HBO?

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