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Most Title Sequences In One Year?


 

One thing I regret most about the disappearance of full-length title sequences is that we can’t use them to track the changes in a show. Every time a show is re-tooled, it needs to change its title sequence to reflect the changes, and even when it hasn’t been changed much, a show that’s in trouble might change the main title to make the premise clearer or create a different atmosphere. We saw a good example of this in the final season of Veronica Mars, where they created a new main title that emphasized the noir detective-show feel and re-mixed the theme song to be less chipper.

But back when shows had minute-long main titles, and those main titles were often right at the beginning of the episode (and were therefore the first thing you saw of the show) they might change not only in successive seasons but successive weeks, as the producers scrambled to find the right approach.

This came home to me watching the recently-released season 1 DVD of My Two Dads, a show I liked at the time and still like now: I had forgotten that it had no less than four different main titles in the first half of the first season (and it had others in later seasons). So here they are, in another one of my “trace the history of a show through its opening titles” posts. First comes the pilot, which is just a 30-second selection of clips with a fairly generic instrumental theme song. What was with the ’80s and saxophones? Did the economy rebound from the 1981-2 recession entirely on the strength of the saxophone industry, and what musical instrument is going to save us now?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOC_cpQT70Y

For the series, they need a new theme song, and they create the famous, insidious “You Can Count On Me” (co-written by star Greg Evigan and creator Michael Jacobs, sung by Evigan), the most maniacally happy and non-specific of all sitcom theme songs. The producers decide that the title sequence should be a combination of live-action and animation in the style of A-Ha’s then-popular video for “Take On Me,” and the sequence illustrates the theme of the show, that you’ve got this girl being raised and influenced by two men from different worlds. This sequence must have cost a lot of money to make, but it only lasted somewhere between one and three episodes before being replaced, and all that money was flushed down the toilet. And did I mention the saxophone was used a lot in this era?

The producers and the network presumably realized that it wasn’t enough to just illustrate the theme of the show; it needed to be explained or nobody would know what the hell was going on here. So they shot a new sequence where Nicole (the adorable Staci Keanan) explains the premise before a shortened version of the theme song kicks in. (Though, presumably due to episodes being aired out of order, this sequence didn’t appear until the “final” sequence had already been seen.) And all that animation has now been replaced with episode clips, which is actually quite normal: many shows have spent a ton of money on elaborate title sequences only to replace them with a clip montage within less than a year.

But I guess this narration still didn’t make the premise quite clear enough, and maybe it also focused too much attention on the kid at the expense of the two guys, so it was replaced with a voice-over narration explaining the premise in even simpler, shorter terms, mixed with stills and clips from previous episodes. Also, Dick Butkus has been added to the cast as the guy who runs the restaurant downstairs, satiating Brandon Tartikoff’s love of ensemble comedy and ex-football players (Butkus, Fred Dryer).

I don’t actually think this is the record for most separate title sequences in one season; there must be other shows that had more than four. (Though I’m not talking here about selecting a few different clips for what is otherwise the same sequence; I mean different main titles with distinctly different approaches or formats.) But it’s a lot.


 

Most Title Sequences In One Year?

  1. Didn’t you do something on this a while ago?

    • I think I had one of the title sequences up a while ago, but not all four. Also I’ve done this “trace a show through its title sequences” bit for other shows.

  2. The sax solo in the first title sequence is lifted from “You’re A Friend of Mine,” a tune that was a bit of a hit for E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons as a solo artist. Weirdly dark lyrics: “The one who always makes you laugh until you cry/ And you can count on me until the day you die.” The big problem with this sequence, it seems to me (and did at the time) is that it’s for a show called “My Two Dads” but there’s no evidence the, er, offspring of the Dads exists.

    • One can definitely pick out the Big Man’s style.

  3. The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica has had a lot of changes to it’s title sequence, though I it definitely fits into your “selecting a few different clips for what is otherwise the same sequence”. In an age of short to non-existent title sequences though, it’s a legit sequence, with frequent changes. What’s great about Galactica (and again, I realize this is different than the wholly re-worked scenario you’re discussing here) is that almost every single week there was at least one change to the title sequence, as the title sequence always begins with setting up the story, and telling you how many survivors of humanity are left (a number which, as I said, changed almost every week… sometimes dramatically so!).

    The BG sequence, to my eye, is basically divided into two sections, the beginning which sets up the premise (including “XX,XXX Survivors”) and a second half which shows clips of what’s going on in the show right now (I’m not sure, but sometimes I think I’ve even seen stuff in the title sequence that hasn’t happened yet, though it’s frenetic editing means you would give anything away from the quick jump clips!).

    Anyway, sorry to go off topic, I just always thought the BG title sequence was cool.

  4. Another example of changing just a clip or two in the title sequence from week to week was “The Addams Family,” something I didn’t notice until watching it on DVD. For the first several episodes they used different clips from that particular episode during “Their house is a museum/When people come to see ’em” (at least I think it was that part of the song) before settling on Gomez and Morticia’s fencing, which they kept for the remainder of the run.

    Also, “Mission: Impossible” did a completely new title sequence every week: the same basic format, but using clips from that episode rather than generic ones.

    Question for Jaime: When did “And [Actor’s Name] as [Character’s Name]” for just the final cast member in the opening credits originate? “Get Smart” used it for Barbara Feldon alone in season one but retained it and added “Edward Platt as ‘Chief'” in later seasons (or maybe later in season one; I’m still working my way through that season on DVD). “The Brady Bunch” used it for Ann B. Davis. Can you think of any earlier examples? And what, exactly, is the purpose of that type of credit anyway? (To be honest, it’s always annoyed me for some reason, but that’s not why I’m asking.)

    • I found that the “And [Actor’s Name] as [Character’s Name]” to be a strange animal.

      Sometimes it denoted what seemd like an afterthought and sometimes it seemd to serve the purpose of elevating the actor to a special prominence, seperate from all the other actors. I guess it depended on who the actor was and what role s/he played in the series.

  5. I can’t stop myself from bringing up House, of course, but as an example of the opposite, which seems even more rare. I remember being surprised when season 2 came around and they hadn’t changed the title sequence at all, especially given that Hugh Laurie had become a breakout star and the credit sequence has no images of him (or of the show itself). It’s a cool sequence and it was nominated for … something … but it hasn’t changed in 5 years. Not even now that Chase and Cameron appear for 5 minutes every 2 episodes, and 3 new cast members are prominent. The new additions are listed post-title sequence, after all the producer credits, before the guest star credits. Seems weird that they haven’t altered the title sequence at all.

    • The Office is another show like that; except for changing a clip or two, they’ve basically stuck with the original title sequence for years, even as it’s become out of date in several ways — most obviously, having Ryan as one of the five most important characters on the show. But I guess it’s a sign of the declining importance of title sequences: they no longer really define a show or the importance of an actor/character, so there’s not a lot of reason to change them.

  6. “The Simpsons” always played with the blackboard and the couch gags, but in the new opening, there are other variables. Well, one, at least: the billboard outside the school.

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