Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: What is the best new opening title sequence for the 2016-2017 TV season?
Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
I’m kind of into the way “The Handmaid’s Tale” starts every episode with ambient sound and those big, block letters in the title. And I’d be lying if I said the week “The Leftovers” was randomly scored to the “Perfect Strangers” theme song wasn’t an absolute delight. Also, I’m digging the new “Twin Peaks” credits. But for great new title sequences, the one for “Stranger Things” has to take the cake. That music! That neon! That minimalism! I had my quibbles with “Stranger Things” (and I especially have my quibbles with the way Netflix is always trying to skip right past the opening credits), but every hour, those titles got me excited to see what was going to happen next. I also loved the title sequences for: “American Gods,” “Feud,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Westworld.”
Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx
I will assume that a lot of other people will choose the Saul Bass-style opening titles to “Feud,” and they’ll be right to do so. They’re the best, they’re the deserving winner, and they are really my pick. But since I’m guessing others will mention it (though look where that got all of us the week nobody picked “Hush” for best concept episode), I want to shine a little light on poor, unloved “Powerless,” which had a really lovely title sequence. Smartly capturing the show’s main theme about what it’s like to be an ordinary human in a superhuman world, the episode inserted drawings of Vanessa Hudgens, Danny Pudi, and the rest of the cast into the backgrounds of classic DC Comics covers where Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and others were tussling with supervillains and monsters. The credits and the theme music promised a more wistful show than the finished product, but it’s far from the first show to be outclassed by its title sequence.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
Shout-out to “Feud: Bette and Joan” for its beautiful Saul Bass-inspired art, as well as “Dear White People” for its innovative way of opening each episode in a distinct, but non-repetitive fashion. But this spring, the one opening sequence I never found myself tempted to skip (and believe me, I like skipping an opening credits sequence) was the one which introduced each episode of “Big Little Lies.” From the addictive theme song — Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart” — to the beautiful Monterey scenery to the powerful blend of imagery that made it clear danger was in the mix, “Big Little Lies” was a totally watchable slam dunk. Never forget both halves of the cast, child and adult, striding up to the camera playing fashion model. It still sticks with me.
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
“Feud.” Nothing else is really all that close. Runner-up, “The Young Pope.” Honorable mention points to “Powerless” and “Luke Cage” and “Big Little Lies.”
June Thomas (@junethomas), Slate
I usually bristle when people try to praise TV shows by comparing them to movies or novels, as if the medium should be flattered by being grouped with its worthier rivals. Puh-lease! However, given the show’s subject matter, it was wonderfully appropriate that the title sequence for FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” should pay homage to the opening of a classic golden-age movie. The sequence evoked the era, commented on the manipulations the characters were subject to, and it was clever and gorgeous. I paid it the ultimate compliment and never fast-forwarded.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
FX and BBC series “Taboo,” based on a story written by Tom Hardy. I really loved it as did my fellow M&C UK staff of editors. The montage opening sequence with the floating bodies and a mix of African and American Indian faces and disturbing imagery combined with the music all added up to a precursor tease to a yarn about a fascinating and turbulent time in England.
“Taboo” is one mixed race Englishman’s embracing of his American Indian blood, his spiritual gifts as the corrupt English empire (that he was well placed in) was crumbling under its own weight and sins. It became an action filled in-your-face look at how those living in the margins, indigenous people and people no longer wanting to be in a European class system rising up. They are now betting on America.
The evocative title sequence, created by Method Studios, captured the angst of the time, and the grim and grimy Old World and New World schism. It also expertly unnerves the viewer and telegraphs these covert, criminal nuanced actions of James Delaney (Tom Hardy) and his band of misfits who he enlists in his mission, perfectly underscored with creepy music. Bravo to Method Studios and to Tom Hardy!
Sonia Saraiya (@soniasaraiya), Variety
I didn’t get too far into “The Young Pope,” but oh my god, the show’s opening credits are fantastic. That high-culture low-culture fourth-wall-breaking stroll down a hallway of paintings would be my top choice. But I love a good title sequence and I kind of collect them. There’s the short-lived “Powerless”‘ lovely opening credits (sadly, better quality and more poignant than the show could manage)and I definitely loved “Big Little Lies”‘ well-edited montage of rearview mirror shots, set to “Cold Little Heart.”
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), TVGuide.com
“Feud: Bette and Joan’s” Saul Bass-inspired animated credits managed to evoke two of my favorite things: Old Hollywood and a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s wonderfully minimalistic but still literally tells you what the whole show is about while capturing the series’ playful yet somber tone through the jazzy music and striking images (Rats! Marionettes! Cigarette ashes that turn into Oscars!). The crashing waves and wailing seagulls at the end are also a nice, haunting touch. P.S. Shout-out to “The Leftovers” for its perfect(ly strange) credits this season.
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
NBC’s “Powerless” wasn’t the greatest show, but by golly it had a fantastic title sequence! Living in the Peak Superhero era as we are (both on TV and in movies), having the opening titles zoom past the big names and focus instead on the innocent bystanders was both a refreshing and funny visual. But what made it perfect was the way the music synced up with those visuals (fanfare for the heroes versus a humble, melodic whistle for the laymen).
As for those heroes, the action-packed comic book scenes that are shown not only highlight the high-profile members of the Justice League, they also were originally drawn by some of the most beloved artists for each character. So all in all, a wonderfully crafted sequence that the show, sadly, did not live up to.
Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine
“Feud.” And if anyone says otherwise, I will beef with them harder than Joan Crawford and Bette Davis ever imagined.
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers) IndieWire.com
Well, I just read Damian’s above response, so I’m going to go with “Feud,” for I fear a fight as much as Ryan Murphy craves one (and also those opening credits are great). That being said, “The Young Pope” made it a fairly tight race, and nothing tops “The Leftovers” in terms of new opening sequences week-to-week. But the latter only changes songs, so I’ll happily stick with Damian’s assertive choice.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: “The Leftovers” (six votes)
Other contenders: “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Twin Peaks” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (one vote each)
*In the case of streaming, the show must have premiered in the past month.