I was talking elsewhere about the credits to Homeland. I don’t dislike them. They are controversial, though, and some people find that they are the one false note in an excellent show. It’s a disorienting sequence, but it also sometimes seems a bit on-the-nose in its description of what the show is about, which may give an impression that we’re about to watch a much less subtle show. Still, I feel like it does the job of setting up the show’s premise, its tone and its place of residence (inside Carrie’s mind) efficiently enough. Its unsubtle style may help free the show up to be more subtle elsewhere.
The Homeland sequence is a minute and 22 seconds, which further cements the place of pay cable as the last haven for long title sequences. (You sometimes find them going up to a minute on kids’ TV, though.) As you know, title sequences on broadcast TV probably hit their peak length in the late ’70s and ’80s, tapering off as networks started adding more commercials – and as networks became reluctant to start a show with the opening titles. (A long title sequence is sometimes redundant if you have a scene before it. The point of a long main title on commercial TV is that it is intended to stand alone and lead into the first commercial; a short sequence makes you feel unsatisfied when the commercial arrives.) I actually started wondering what the longest one was, and whether there was one that broke two minutes.
The closest I found was this one, from the 1984 soap Paper Dolls – and man, were there ever a lot of prime-time soaps – which clocks in at almost exactly two minutes. Between the length, the Mark Snow theme song, the names in the credits, the hair, the fashions, and the uncertain nods to MTV style, this is arguably the most ’80s of all credit sequences, even if it isn’t the longest. The fact that the episode that follows is directed by “Alan Smithee” is also perfect. Plus, “Dack Rambo,” which I think would be a better fake name than “Alan Smithee.”