So since I had fun with this idea a week ago, let’s do another ten sitcoms before moving into other genre’s. Same as last time, no order or theme just ten sitcom episodes and my thoughts.
Les mentioned this one last time and it is worth a mention. It perfectly captires the show and yet it’s so simple. And yes I don’t consider MASH a “sitcom” but let’s discuss it anyway. The music perfect and somber. “Suicide is Painless” works a lot better without the lyrics. We only get two faces which normally annoys me but considering the extensice cast turnaround I can accept. I said it about Roseanne last time, and I’ll say it this time. One of the best marriages of theme and show out there.
What, want to go even simpler? Hey here’s an idea, I need to create an opening for a show about a taxi cab. What should the intro be? How about looping an endless shot of the cab going over the Queensboro bridge? Not bad but the music better be really great. Well anyway that’s how I imagine this theme was created. No faces, no clips from anything, just a cab driving down a bridge. Thank goddness the music blends in so perfectly.
Well, those two were ok but we need something more upbeat for this one. I like the idea of not showing any characters, but can we show something besides a still shot of a car driving? Hey, here’s an idea! This show is about a bar let use some old pictures (from the actual bar the show is based on) from the good old day as a way to symbolically introduce our characters. We need an upbeat song though. Hey what happened to that guy who did the Punky Brewster theme?
Ok Ok I am just joking around but this theme is and song is wonderful. One of the greatest openeings ever made. And yes I know Gary Portnoy did Punky Brewster after this.
What I love about this one is the fake out. It opens like it’s going to be a Jurassic Park-esque show, with an unseen monster stomping through the woods to menacing music. Pushing everything out of his way, as the terrified animals watch. Until the music stops and we pan up to reveal…Fred Flinstone as a dinosaur. Then the music is light and bouncy and the clips show us what this is really about. This theme does what a good thing to a unsuual idea should. It gets out attention, and makes us want to see more.
One curious trend is animated openings to live action shows. There were a few in the 60’s like Dennis the Menace (which made sense), My Three Son’s (which never made sense since all it showed was three pairs of feet!), and Batman. And of course this show about witches-but the witch is a suburban housewife. And the classy opening does a great job explaining things. Highlighted by that beautiful music. Why was it animated? I never understood why, although in 1967 it was probably easier to do it that way. The part I never got was at the end, when the Samantha is in Darrin’s arms the pan boils over and covers everything with black. Was this meant to convey she was a clutz or something? Or just a lazy way to get Agnes Moorehead’s name on there? I’ll never know. And yes I Dream of Jeannie had the same animated concept. Were animated openings just confined to the 60’s……
Yep here’s another animated one from decades later. This theme for The Nanny is also a fantastic theme for this show. Not only does it tell who the characters are, but it explains the basic premise for the series. Even the fact that Fran doesn’t get along with CC. The song is also sung really well, and that can make a difference. Check out my next example. The theme is from the 90’s, a time when theme’s were started to fade, and stands as a good reminder of what a good theme can do for your show. The funny thing where you cane make an argument for Bewitched and Jeannie, this did NOT need to be animated. And yet the style works so we let it go.
Charles in Charge
I don’t mind those classic 80’s themes where the characters are smiling to the camera. For the most part. It has to work to bother me (unlike those who cant stamd them at all which is fine). Small Wonder was way to cornball, as I discussed last time. Charles in Charge is just bad. And the reason why comes down to a simple thing. The song. That god awful, miserable song. I want Charles in Charge of me? What??? Ok maybe if they had a little kid singing, or the whole family like Brady Bunch or Step by Step, you could ignore it. But the woman singing adds an unintended overtone to the thing. She sings it fine, and if this was a romantic sitcom it’d be better. But for a family sitcom? Who’s The Boss, which had the same premise for the most part, had a great theme by focusing on the fact that our main character’s life was changing and taking them on a path to love. Charles in Charge…is wrong on many levels. AND NO RAISING THE TEMPO IN LATER SEASONS DID NPOT HELP.
Maybe it’s a rule Scott Baio shows have to be awful. To bad he can’t sing, he could have sung a better version of the theme. Oh wait….
Saved By The Bell
I said that Roseanne’s theme was perfect for showing the somber tone of a show about middle class family. MASH was even better putting sus in the mood for how sad that show could be. But a theme can go the other way. And have you seen any other theme more 90’s than this one? It’s been copied by others but no theme has been so in your face 90’s as thus one. And the theme is the perfect compliment. It’s also clear this is a show aimed a teens.
3rd Rock from the Sun
This theme should not work. It’s like the poor man’s Star Trek theme with nothing but silly graphics. However, did you know the first few episodes had a voiceover by James Earl Jones which descibed the premise? That voiceover was dropped very fast. It’s to bad because it does make the theme more complete. It sums up the series and introduces the characters. Though, we don’t need this regurgitated every week either. But even without that voiceover, this theme still works because the music is so bouncy and fun. It gets the point across very nicely. By the way in the original voiceover, I love how Harry isn’t given a purpose yet, I guess his role as the transmitter hadn’t been conceived (and I loved that the show finally gave him a reason to be there!)
Often themes are condensed to allow for more ad breakds. In 3rd Rock’s case, trimming that voiceover out didn’t really hurt this intro. Sometimes though it can take something away from an opening. Here’s a prime example that I have mentioned before, but is worth repeating.
Watch this theme from Head of The Class…
It’s not awful but notice how the music is rushing? And we only see the kids in that last frame, even though they are the focus of the show?
Check out the long version:
ISN’T THAT SO MUCH BETTER?? The music is smoother, goes along with the action, and the shots of the kids intermixed help to give a better idea of who they are as characters. We even see Dr.Samuels and Bernadette who were in every episode! But nope we need another thirty seconds of cmmercials! UGH
Another example of this is from the show Benson, here is the abbreicated version:
It goes faster and throws the names at us. And the music is clearly sped up.
The longer version takes its time more giving us a chance to see these characters for a second to get a beter feel for them:
I almost hate to top here, but that will do for today. Let me know in the comments what you think.