Clash of the Titles

So long Lost, FlashForward fizzled out and time’s been called on 24, great shows that will be long remembered, but for me there was always one thing missing, and much of TV these days, a title sequence.

These were the things that used to make a show truly great, not only would you be humming the theme tune (or if you were like me, recording onto a Dixons tape recorder directly from the TV), but it would generally feature the best bits of the series (that you would always be looking out for in the show), or even if it was a terrible episode you always had the joy of the title sequence.

The Incredible Hulk

There’s that great hurried piano, Bill Bixby in that rotating chair and a fantastically serious voiceover establishing the premise. For all the shots of Lou Ferrigno bursting though things the three things that stick in your mind are the moment where David Banner’s eye goes green, where Banner warns “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” and the split screen moment at the end where The Hulk and Banner’s face share the screen at the same moment, after he has visited his own grave in a rather fetching jacket.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOXpKUu6pUg&feature=PlayList&p=D3C68DE1FD1BA409&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=10

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

After Battlestar Galactica had its space rug pulled from under it, Glen A Larson returned with more space tom foolery. Again, we have Mr Voiceover man doing a marvellous job as we see Buck (Gil Gerrard) blasting into space on the final manned space shuttle flight in 1987 before he is frozen in time and awakes in the 25th Century (2491 to be precise). The stand out moment for me was when Buck spins away from the camera through a time tunnel of sorts, something which could have been quite at home in the Quantum Leap titles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBcaTXNLYQw

The A-Team

One of the finest uses of voiceover magic. Of course, due to sustained Saturday tea time viewing we all know the drill, that in 1972 a crack-commando was sent to a maximum security stockade for a crime they did not commit… For me the standout moments were always those bullets searing into The A Team logo and generally just seeing cars and bodies fly through the air. Perhaps my favourite moment, and certainly my first post-modern one, before I even knew what the word meant, was Dirk Benedict’s double take as he sees a Cylon pass him by from Battlestar Galactica, he being the original Starbuck in that programme of course.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIfuaUTH9Y4

Danger Mouse

Cripes, as Penfold might exclaim, a rousing score and fantastic lyrics that we all sang along to every week…and most of us probably made the bomb exploding noise at the end as well. Witty, eccentric and totally British, this was spot on and strangely bonkers kids TV and is hard to believe that this is from the same folk who brought us Cockleshell Bay!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-h25RmS9-Y

The Return of the Saint

For me the music on the title sequence on this show was just something else, and I loved the way that the stick figure emblem of The Saint was the hero of the piece, jumping off bridges, smashing through windows with chairs, getting involved a in some fisticuffs and even getting the girl at the end. It was perfectly tongue in cheek, not to mention probably the only way they could go with the titles after Roger Moore had become so synonymous with the role, but of course was now globetrotting with his Walther PPK. Love it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USoH1iDvK_8

The Equaliser

The dark and moody streets of 80s New York were perfectly captured. Memorable moments include the lone woman on the underground station, the woman stuck in the lift with a man and that poor bloke trying to dial 911 when a car screeches behind him. Interestingly, unlike most of US TV at the time, the titles weren’t made from elements that were set to appear in the series but were specially filmed, complete with Woodward stood next to his jag in billowing dry ice that would put Top of the Pops to shame. The Stewart Copeland score is still awesome (even though it sounds exactly like the music he produced for both Wall Street and See No Evil, Hear No Evil) and yes, is even my Dad’s mobile ringtone, seriously, which we always hear when anyone gives him a (Robert) McCall.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uB1NiNKwueE

Blake’s 7

Sometimes the simple ideas are the best, and this programmes titles with that great music and not a lot of money thrown at it was an understated brilliance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnautWFuEnQ

Thunderbirds

We all counted down with Mr Voiceover Man and spotting our favourite Thunderbird vehicle, mine was Thunderbird 2 for the record. .Embarrassing fact: when near the end, where a power plant is destroyed by explosions, filmed in supermarionation, is emblazed across the screen. I used to think that this is where the programme was filmed when I was little.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u9HV_8Sh1U

Magnum P.I.

Mike Post and Pete Carpenter were the Dons of 80’s American TV titles scoring and Magnum P.I. is one of the best, even though it wasn’t the original score and somehow has found its way onto some make-up ad – huh? Images wise, you’ve got to love him wheel spinning that Ferrari off the grass, those brilliant helicopter shots and everybody, just everybody who has ever watched it has tried that over the shoulder double eyebrow raise in the mirror that cropped up at the end. Hawaiian shirts and moustaches have never looked so great.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CquMO3vJvo

The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest

Little Jonny Quest, think an American Tin Tin, got a revamp in the mid 90s which saw a fantastically bombastic intro and title score and is just pure exhilaration that starts with a sweeping radar and unleashes scenes of mayhem and adventure that really set you up for what is to come. The title score is amazing and would look at home on any live action TV show or even feature film.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFccIOABuRE

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3 thoughts on “Clash of the Titles”

  1. True Blood has a great title sequence – it sums up the whole culture, community and vibe of the Louisiana, where it’s set.

    The editing and visuals are stylish and the mixture of Super 8mm and archive footage lends it some credibility and believability.

    True Blood is also known for having a different song for its end credits and the song is always quite apt to a theme in the epsiode.

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  2. Some very good choices there, and you mentioned one of my favourites, but didn’t include it; Quantum Leap (not the awful Season 5 version).

    Others of serious import (as far as I’m concerned anyway – and composers credited) would be: Mike Post’s Quantim Leap. Barry Gray’s Supercar (2nd season), Fireball XL5, Stingray, and UFO. Edwin Astley’s The Saint, Randall & Hopkirk Deceased. John Barry’s Vendetta, and The Adventurer. Ron Grainers’ Dr. Who, Man In A Suitcase, and The Prisoner. Lalo Schifrin’s Mannix and Mission Impossible. Morton Stevens’ Hawaii 5-0, Oliver Nelson’s Longstreet, Dave Grusin’s It Takes A Thief (all 3 seasons), Francis Steven’s Follyfoot (yes, you read it right), and last but certainly not least, perhaps the greatest theme tune ever written, John Barry’s The Persuaders!

    BTW, if memory serves, as with Starsky and Hutch, Lalo Schifrin wrote a pretty good theme for the first season of Magnum P.I., but as with Starsky and Hutch, no one seems to remember it.

    Like

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