Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Credits Where Credits Is Due...

Life keeps not only catching up with me but overwhelming me! So in order to keep things rolling around here I'm going to break away a bit from the usual and offer up a rundown of my favorite television show opening credits. These aren't necessarily the ones I say are THE BEST, they are just the ones that are my own favorites for reasons I will likely state as we go along. Apologies in advance if any of these contain pop-up ads or worse yet make you sit through a brief one in order to hear see and hear them.

10. Considering how nutso I am over guest stars, I really have to include the credits sequence from Arthur Hailey's Hotel (1983-1988) even though the lush, elegant music isn't really my usual bag. (I tend to go for more exciting sounds.) Each week after the regular cast was depicted, the animated elevator grids would cough out an array of guests and I couldn't wait to see who they would be each time.
9. Lost in Space (1965-1968) is a series I wasn't into very much at all. While I recognize some of the creativity and chemistry within the relationship, I just never could get fully on board with the Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris), Will Robinson (Billy Mumy) and Robot (Bob May) triumverate that dominated the bulk of the episodes. However, the season three theme music is another story. The first two seasons featured a great little bouncy number with animated figures of the cast. The third season was far more zestful and dramatic, thus I love it. (Both of the themes and all the ones for Irwin Allen's other 1960's series - Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants - were composed by the masterful Johnny Williams, who later became film composer John Williams, possessor of five Oscars.) If I'm being honest, I actually like the season two opening music from Land of the Giants best of all these, but couldn't locate a video of them...
8. As I've mentioned many times here over the years, one thing any show can do to win favor with me is to show the photos of the guest stars within the opening credits. Virtually all of the Quinn Martin produced programs did this, often with the person's name being spoken by an announcer (which earns extra credit!) My favorite of all is the theme for Barnaby Jones (1973-1980), with the shifting puzzle pieces coming together and that week's round up of actors being announced over some jazzy, but ominous, music.
7. The British import Space: 1999 (1975-1977) was always a little difficult to find in the U.S. because it came in syndicated rather than picked up for regular viewing on a network. This meant a wide variety of time slots across the country, many of them horrible. The first season had a grand, foreboding (at times amusingly pretentious - such as when the series' stars are shown) credit sequence that morphed midway into a funky disco ditty as scenes from the current episode were flashed on screen. (This last aspect was a nod to the credits for Mission: Impossible, a show on which Martin Landau and Barbara Bain costarred previously.) For the second season, the show was overhauled and a more action-oriented, faster theme was called for. I like them both, but the second one is my favorite!
6. When the theme song from Hawaii 5-O (1968-1980) came pounding on, 1960's viewers knew they were about to be swept away to a whole new place, one they could only hope to visit someday. (Never mind that there was far more crime depicted on the show than ever truly occurred there at that time!) Innovative editing and a can't-miss piece of music from Lalo Schifren combined to make an arresting opening sequence.
5.  It's been played a thousand times, tweaked here and there and parodied, but it's still tough to beat the wonderful, throbbing opening theme music for Mission: Impossible (1966-1973.) I happen to dislike spoilers, so it's always hard for me to watch these before the episode because I'm afraid they'll give something away (though the plots were often so complex/complicated that one could never truly figure out what was happening from the snippets alone.) The version shown here is what I consider about the best one musically. Below it, I attached a version I like because Peter Graves looks good, Leonard Nimoy and Lesley (Ann) Warren are in it and the hunky Sam Elliott is there, too, but the music has been messed with and isn't as effective,
4.  I enjoyed watching Falcon Crest (1981-1990) for a significant part of its run, but it was never quite as much of an addiction as a few of the other prime-time soaps. It did, however, boast a really great opening theme, complete with the type of posed cast visuals I have cherished ever since I was a little boy. This rendition below is probably my favorite, if perhaps the strings do get just a bit shrill at times. Like many long-running shows, the credits and music would be tweaked and not always in a good way. This grand theme would eventually by season nine be fiddled with and synthesized until it completely lost its luster.
3.  Dallas (1978-1991) was on for a long time and had a truly wonderful theme song (that also endured quite a few permutations along the way.) The early seasons kept the all-important sweep and grandeur as the camera swung across the city and then the iconic three-part cast photos came into view. As the years went on, the music went through periods of twang and disco and the key and tempo were augmented. When the redux came out a couple of years ago, they made the surprising (in this day and age of highly limited credit sequences) to use the theme music (slightly trimmed), but didn't show the cast's faces along with the names. They later, much to my relief, remedied this, creating a great sense of nostalgia for longtime fans of the show.
2.  No series was as important to my childhood than The Big Valley (1965-1969.) I only saw it in reruns (weekdays at 4:00), never in its original run, but the appeal of the upstanding, closely-woven family to a latchkey, only child like myself was staggering. I never got unduly attached to eldest son Jarrod (Richard Long), though I liked him okay, but I admired rough & tumble Nick (Peter Breck), swooned at the sight of Heath (Lee Majors), stood in awe of Audra's (Linda Evans) beauty and downright worshiped Victoria (Miss Barbara Stanwyck.) After two seasons, the intro was revamped and made more visually and aurally appealing. In a strange occurrence, the credits for seasons two and four (my very favorite one) have been removed from view in syndication, with season one and three credits put in their place. The difference between three (seen below) and four is minor indeed, but it's mystifying nonetheless. (Beneath season three's opening I give you RARE season two credits from Germany with visuals that haven't been seen on American TV in decades. I used to think I was crazy for ever thinking I'd seen them as a kid, but I couldn't forget scowling Peter or Linda and Barbara in those different clothes and hairstyles.)
1.  As long as I live I will never forget the night that Dynasty II: The Colbys (soon to be known simply as The Colbys) premiered in the fall of 1985 (lasting until 1987.) I was so curious as to what the opening credits would be like, especially knowing that still considerable stars such as Charlton Heston, Katharine Ross, Ricardo Montalban, Barbara Stanwyck and others were going to be featured in them. As the visuals began, I was immediately horrified because the musical trill was exactly like that of the parent series Dynasty and it looked as if someone had made the heinous decision to use precisely the same music for both shows! However, it swiftly became clear that they had cleverly used only the opening notes and that an all-new, very sweeping theme song had been developed for the spin-off. I loved it then and I still love it now!
And now for a little Bonus Material. I also wanted to share a couple of my favorite TV miniseries themes. Now you know that if I love TV series credits that show the actors' faces, then I'm bound to love miniseries ones in which the parade of stars is typically even longer! Take a look at the run down of celebrities on The Moneychangers (1976), one of my favorite miniseries, and see if your jaw doesn't drop! (EDITOR'S NOTE:  The video I had embedded here turned out to be incorrect and I cannot get the one I want to load in...  Please visit this link for the right opening sequence!)

Another lovely miniseries theme (with a parade of stars sporting some hooty facial hair) comes from 1981's East of Eden. This one came to my attention after the music was used in a figure skating program by Michelle Kwan and it quickly became a favorite. This program, by the way, contains a positively feral performance by Jane Seymour. (I could NOT get this to embed for some reason. So this one is linked, too. Sorry!)

Speaking of Jane Seymour, Queen of the Miniseries, the follow-up to The Winds of War, War and Remembrance (1988), featured what I consider to be the most incredible performance she ever gave. I love the music (the same for both miniseries), but put forth the second program because I just cannot do Ali MacGraw in the first one (whose role was inherited by Seymour for the sequel.) Remembrance was a staggering undertaking, a truly mammoth production, that ended up not performing up to expectation and helped to spell the end of the epic miniseries made for network television, despite being of very high quality.
Back to soaps for a minute, the long-running Knots Landing (1979-1993) always had a rather bouncy, upbeat theme that was fine. But when the show came back for season nine, a crazy new approach was taken in which the music was slowed down and pretentiously dramatic black and white ("oooooh!") disembodied heads of the cast members struck meaningful poses over an arty painted backdrop. The rendition below contains a 30-second preview prior to the credits, but it was the best example I could find. After horrified reactions from the public, the faces were redone in color the following season and then the experiment was over with the theme reverted to an up-tempo one for the rest of the series' run.
Another of my other favorite TV themes was the one for Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), but I didn't include it in my countdown above because they cheated a little by using music made for the feature films rather than something created especially for a weekly television show. In case it isn't clear by now, I tend to prefer rousing music over more sedate themes.
Similarly, when the underwater sci-fi series Seaquest DSV (1993-1996) came about, I was enthusiastic about its credits which borrow some of the ooh-ahh bombast of Trek, but pair that with multiple cast visuals (including the underused Stephanie Beacham in a woefully un-glamorous role.) The show floundered (pun intended) in the ratings and went through a couple of cast and concept overhauls before its demise.
Who remembers this hooty animated program from 1972-1974, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home? I can remember watching it sometimes as a pre-teen and enjoying it. The family dynamic (pudgy husband, short-haired wife, doofus older son, bespectacled daughter, younger son) almost looks as if it could have partially inspired The Family Guy! Even the house is vaguely similar.
An honorable mention when it comes to favorite TV themes of mine is the catchy one for Maude (1972-1978), starring the incomparable Bea Arthur. This is the first season rendition, but I'm including a later version afterwards because some of the visuals of Bea were changed (note how she became more glam as it went along!)
And finally... This is by far the weirdest set of credits in this post. I had just the vaguest, vaguest memory of seeing the Saturday morning kids show Lidsville (1971-1973) as a tyke. Several years ago, I got a DVD set devoted to the works of Sid & Marty Krofft and an episode of the show was on it. Needless to say I went completely nuts over them and watched them over and over (and over!) You just cannot beat crazy stuff like this from the '70s... and they are close to two minutes long! Can you imagine such a thing today?!


Ken Anderson said...

What a clever idea for a post! Although I'm far too ADD for it now, I really enjoyed the days when TV shows had lengthy, exposition-filled intros. I really liked seeing the ones I was unfamiliar with (The Moneychangers, Seaquest, War and Remembrance), but revisiting the ones i grew up on really took me back. The Lidsville one really takes the cake. Those Kroffts always say drugs had nothing to do with how they came up with their ideas, but if you've ever seen them, they look like the guys who ran that Bay Area porn empire (Mitchell Bros?) they look like they're on drugs NOW! The only one i couldn't watch was "Wait Until Your Father Gets Home" and that's only because i KNOW that theme is going to get stuck in my head if I dare.
Thanks for a clever, informative and very well-written post. I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Great intros all of them. It would be difficult for me to choose between Mission:Impossible and Dallas. Funny you mentioned that the intro for Mission:Impossible might include spoilers; for me, it was the opposite; while I was watching the episode, I tried to spot the moments featured at the beginning!
Dark Shadows had one of my all-time favorite intros. I'm a little sad you didn't include it.

Anonymous said...

Who's the young actor in the Marcus Welby picture?

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

If this is the first time you've done this, you have to do it again! There is so much untapped potential.

If someone had a gun to my head and asked me to name the best credits introductions I would surely have put Hawaii 5-0 at the top or Mission Impossible. I mean those themes were so iconic they were played by High School marching bands for another 20 years (and may still be playing them).

I'm hopeful that these are your favorite credit sequences and not necessarily your favorite shows because I could barely get through most of those nighttime soaps when they played. They were too slow going for me.

I think it's interesting that there is very little comedy represented. Maybe that would be a good theme for the next version?

PS The Moneychangers didn't show the credits, just some (relatively boring) Henry Mancini music.

Poseidon3 said...

Ken, I'm glad you liked this! It really was just a quickie as connective tissue until I could get around to a regular type of post. LOL about The Kroffts and especially "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!"

Armando, believe it or not I have never seen "Dark Shadows!" I don't think I've ever seen more than a tiny snippet of a clip here and there on retrospective shows and so on.

Oh, I think you mean "Barnaby Jones" rather than Welby? Anyway, that's Mark Shera, who started out on "S.W.A.T." and was added to "Barnaby" after a few seasons to add some youth appeal to balance out aged, milk-sipping Buddy Ebsen.

Dave - That SUCKS about "The Moneychangers" clip. My apologies! I started this post from home, but finished it up at work where I don't have sound on my pc there. So I didn't realize that the incorrect clip was loaded. I have it linked now (and it is worth seeing!) I was a HUGE fan of "Dynasty", "The Colbys" and "Dallas" and even flash in the pans like "Bare Essence," "Paper Dolls," "Flamingo Road" and others! I've always been drawn more to drama than comedy. But I do still dearly love all the classic comedy intros such as "Gilligan's Island," "The Munsters," "I Dream of Jeannie" and so many others, though. I may revisit this topic again sometime. Thanks much!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I meant Barnaby Jones, Sorry. Thank you for your answer.

Knuckles Girlyskirt said...

Although the "Dynasty" intro sets off a whole chain of memories inside me, I have to admit that "The Colbys" intro is more powerful and indicative of the show's theme.

Like Armando, the "Dark Shadows" theme is definitely a favorite of mine!

Other notable mention in my book: "H.R. Pufnstuf"

NotFelixUnger said...

I love this post! Yes, more please. Maybe some beefcake snippets from YouTube, too, for the future.

My favorite is and always will be "Maude." I prefer the longer version myself. Not included in the list but also great is the opening to "Wonder Woman" season 1.

I will go with Armando and Knuckles on "Dark Shadows" and echo Knuckles on "H.R. Pufnsuff" which was also great.

Other notable favorites: "Harper Valley PTA," "Munsters," "Adams Family," "The Muppet Show," "Beverly Hill Billies," "Golden Girls," and, finally,"Buck Rogers."

What makes a great opening theme? No clue. However, the fact I can sing and/or hum these songs is testament to their infectious nature.

Poseidon3 said...

NotFelix, I was thisclose to including "Wonder Woman!" I love that opening from season one (augmented due to the time period change for seasons two and three.) Another one I really like, but left it out because I couldn't get a decent looking/sounding video of it is the first season only of "Starsky & Hutch." Love that theme and wish they'd have kept it.

When I get home tonight, I'll have to look up "Dark Shadows" since you Armando and now Knuckles like it so well!

NotFelixUnger said...

This is like a disease. I keep thinking of other opening themes and can't get the tunes or the lyrics out of my head~

Currently playing between my ears are snippets of:

"Mary Tyler Moore Show"
"Carol Burnett Show"

and (saddest of all)

"I'm Just a Bill" from School House Rock (How that one got in there I'll never know)

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

The Big Valley was watched by some friends of mine but I think it was on during the day while I was at school so I only had a passing acquaintance with it.

The era of the Western was winding down when I reached "TV consciousness." I know that Bonanza and Gunsmoke were on TV when I was a kid but I would say that Here Comes The Brides is the only Western I recall with any familiarity.

Deciding between Jason, Joshua, and Jeremy (did I get those right?) was almost the same as deciding between Ginger and Mary Ann! :-)

But I have vivid memories of That Girl, Bewitched, and Mary Tyler Moore. I'd love to revisit some comedy shows that were sort of hits but have died in syndication like Room 222, Family Affair, My Three Sons, etc.

joel65913 said...

This was so much fun to work my way through!

My top faves are the Hawaii 5-0 theme and Mission Impossible but so many were great to see. Bonanza is also
terrific, but it's not quite as florid as many but hugely recognizable.

What I love is when the theme music really fits the tenor of the show as those three do and isn't just a cool intro to a mediocre show. The Big Valley is a another illustration of a memorable intro to an excellent show.

Two others that you didn't include but I've always thought really fit the show they introduced were "It Takes a Thief" with its jazz tinged, jet setting flavor over the graphics of Robert Wagner in various exotic locations or involved in some sort of chicanery.

The other, which Dave mentioned, is "Here Come the Brides" with it's harpsichord heavy jaunty tune over the period appropriate drawings and then the cast pictures. The second year they added a song to the music, I preferred just the music but the song was so catchy that I'll probably have it stuck in my head all day now! Dave was also right about the difficult decision of picking between Jason, Joshua and Jeremy. All were dishy in their own way but I think I always found Jeremy (Bobby Sherman!) the most endearing.

For some inexplicable reason I loved Barnaby Jones when I was a teen, even more when they added that adorable Mark Shera as Jedediah (J.R) a couple of seasons in, and of course I loved Lee Meriwether so it's fun to see it included here.

That is wonderful music over the credits of East of Eden. I love that mini-series and have always thought that Jane Seymour gave the most amazing performance in it. I consider it her best work but didn't watch War and Remembrance when it was on since Ali MacGraw was so terrible in The Winds of War and I didn't realize until the mini was half over than she had been replaced by Jane. I'll have to check it out if I can find it if in fact she's better than she was in Eden. I have a hard time believing that though since she was mesmerizing in it, an excellent actress who ended up mired in a lot of TV junk.

All the acting in East of Eden was very good, even a surprisingly wicked Bruce Boxleitner and Lloyd Bridges almost matches Jane work, with the exception of the Bottoms brothers who both together and apart stopped the dramatic tension whenever they were on screen. Still they're easy to ignore when Jane starts her treacherous machinations.

Loved the post , hope you do another one like is again sometime.

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

"The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle." Huh? I thought it was always grey there. Oh well. I think I have Bobby Sherman singing Seattle on my ipod, though it was actually a hit for some other singer who was vaguely out of it at the time. Perry Como? Or Jack Jones? or someone like that. Since I was born in Seattle, I also liked the song and setting for Here Come The Brides.

Now I want to see the East of Eden miniseries. It is my favorite Steinbeck novel (sorry Grapes Of Wrath) and I quite like the James Dean performance and movie. There should be a miniseries cable channel or something!

rico said...

All the opening credits suggestions brought back memories! I remember as a kid how exciting it was to see and hear the opening theme and credits to my favorite shows...

Mine should have been a tip-off to my future as a gay guy and hers as a gay icon: I used to be glued to the tube watching the animated credits accompanied by a jazzed up version of "The Beat Goes On,"followed by a drum roll and the announcer's introduction: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Sonny and Cher!" I loved seeing Cher's slinky silhouette, followed by the lights up, and a gander at the Dark Lady's glad rags ; )

Poseidon3 said...

I agree with you Rico. I used to watch that show as well. I especially loved it later when Cher had her own show and it always began with her standing in a huge elaborate cover up, which she would then remove and toss aside to strut down the stage in a slinky outfit!

A said...

Poseidon, what a great post!

Loved Dynasty and the Colbys. I have to add Cannon and Mannix for the next one.

Thank you so much!

Poseidon3 said...

Joel, didn't mean to ignore your typically thorough observations.

I enjoy Bonanza's credits okay, though as a kid I was terrified of the fire that burnt through the title. (I was afraid of everything as a tyke! Sort of still am....)

It would take untold hours, but "War and Remembrance" appears to be on youtube.com (I think) in its entirety. I don't know if I could watch it again it was so harrowing in parts. Jane campaigned for her role and gave it everything she could, including losing weight she could ill afford. She was even prepared to cut off her trademark hair, but because the miniseries was shot out of sequence, she wasn't able to do so feasibly.

As for "East of Eden" - I agree that Jane was stunning and that the Bottoms boys weren't, but it was Soon-Tek Oh who worked my nerves on that one. But, man, was Bruce Boxleitner sexy in it!

"It Takes a Thief" was before my time and I always confuse it with Wagner's later series "Switch." I'll have to look it up!!

joel65913 said...


Depending on your cable provider "It Takes a Thief" is actually in reruns on one of the stations that specializes in older shows. On mine they run two episodes back to back every Saturday. It's a fun breezy show that because of the time it ran has some colossal guest stars. Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester and on and on.

Susan Saint James had a semi recurring role as a fellow thief named Charlie Brown and Fred Astaire would appear occasionally as Wagner's father, also a master thief.

My all time favorite episode, A Sour Note, has Suzanne Pleshette guest starring as a bitchy opera singer?!?! She looked amazing with some incredible 60's outfits, a new hairdo in every scene and of course that smoky growl of a voice coupled with the signature Pleshette attitude.

Narciso Duran said...

You're always a delight and a surprise Poseidon; were this the "old days" and had you worked in the features department of a newspaper, you would have put any staff member to shame with your endless story ideas. Plus, you're a warm and meticulous writer that respects both the audience and the subject matter. But I've told you this before.

Poseidon3 said...

Narciso, you're too kind, though I deeply appreciate it! We've talked about it before, but I like to provide a fun haven from all the negativity and depressive aspects of our daily life. I get a teensy bit serious every now and again as anyone dramatic would, but more often try to stick to the light side. This place might not appeal to everyone, but as Maggie Smith said in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," "For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like..." Ha! I'm glad that you and others like it! :-) Thank you!

vinniepop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vinniepop said...

Poseidon! I can't believe that I somehow managed to miss both of your TV credits posts - but I'm SO glad they caught my eye while I was glancing at your archive list. Y'see, I've always been a fan of opening credits, and I actually did a post about them last year on my own, humble blog (http://popcultureprobs.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/resurgence-requested-tv-opening-credits/) wherein I pointed out that one of my most favourite credits of all time belonged to The Colbys...so imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw your posts and realised that I wasn't the only one who felt that way!

Always enjoy the treats you bring us - keep up the great work!

(Apologies for the comment jumble above - was trying to edit my comment and ended up deleting it instead...yes, it's been a long night)

Poseidon3 said...

Vinnie, I thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with your post about the need for opening credits. Makes a world of sense to me!! An unfamiliar viewer might very well be drawn in by a good credits sequence and song or music. I know I could be swayed by such a thing because I have in the past!

vinniepop said...

Exactly! (And thanks for the kind words - glad you enjoyed my post!)