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’s the best opening title sequence for a show premiering in 2017? (And yes, this is an update of the earlier midseason survey.)
Tim Surette (@timsurette), TV.com
I’ll go with “Mindhunter.” There’s a cool juxtaposition of recording equipment used by weirdo FBI profiler Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and the corpse of a murdered woman, which just goes to show that Ford kind of looks at both as objects for his own research, instead of, you know, an ex-person who still has actual importance to people. It’s an effective way to get right into his somewhat sociopathic head and is a real treat for people who love pareidolia. However, like most Netflix intro sequences, it’s a long one, and after a few watches you’ll be hitting that “Skip Intro” button.
Caroline Framke (@carolineframke), Vox
If Netflix had actually let “GLOW” keep its neon opening credits sequence beyond its pilot episode, it would be a shoo-in. But they didn’t, so it’s not. So while a part of me wants to give this one to Hulu’s “Runaways” with its urgent shots of high school minutiae, or “The Good Fight” with its melodramatic gavel smashing, I’m giving this one to another Netflix credits sequence I would never dare skip because dammit, Netflix needs to know they’ve got something here. “Big Mouth” was one of the year’s best surprises for me, its filthiness matched only by its sweetness. Its credits, depicting growth spurts to the tune of Charles Bradley’s “Changes,” are pitch perfect, not least because they manage to make surprise period blood and kids getting lost in a forest of their own armpit hair delightful. (Seriously, bless this weirdo show.)
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), TVGuide.com
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” full Swimfan/Fatal Attraction credits were inspired, but as far as a real main title sequence, my vote remains the same from six months ago: “Feud: Bette and Joan.” The only difference now is that I’m still pissed off “Stranger Things” beat it for the Emmy.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
Ryan Murphy’s FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” made by Kyle Cooper from studio Prologue. The entire main title sequence colorfully pulled you right into the premise and energetically hearkened the feel of many movie openers and marketing posters visually for those times and artfully showed the actors were puppet-like commodities of studios where especially women were pitted against one another.
The opening main title lured you right into the story of Bette and Joan beautifully.
Mind you, Ryan Murphy’s show “American Horror Story Cult” main title was so repulsively pieced together it made me cringe and look away every time it was on.
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
We did an exercise that was close to this back in the spring and as of May, the correct answer to this question was “Feud.” It remains the correct answer for the year at large, but let’s pretend we’re now being asked for the best credit sequence SINCE May. In that case, the standouts were a pair of New York-set shows capturing their worlds in documentary montage. I’m thinking of “The Deuce,” with its depiction of ’70s Manhattan set to Curtis Mayfield, and “She’s Gotta Have It,” showing the evolution and gentrification of Fort Greene set to Bill Lee’s Nola Darling theme, especially the long version that played with the first episode.
And let’s be sure to also salute the worst credit sequence of the year, the loving treatment of rifles coming together into a skull for “The Punisher.” If the show were actually making the argument that rifles equal death as a 2017 gun control message, that might be provocative, but it’s meant to be straight-up masturbatory when it comes to firearms. Plus, Frank Castle barely uses rifles in “The Punisher.” He beats the crap out of people with EVERYTHING. So what’s even the point? Anyway, my answer to this question is the long-form opening credits to “She’s Gotta Have It” from the Netflix premiere.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
In an effort to try to pick something no one else would pick, I’ll pick a show which technically aired two whole seasons in 2017 on Netflix (though technically it premiered in Canada in 2016): The Jason Momoa-starring “Frontier” has an unexpectedly baller opening credits, featuring a rousing theme song and some clever animation. The only way it could be better is if it actually featured Momoa in the flesh, but I can forgive it that lapse in judgement.
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
I know that there have been complaints about the art of the opening title sequence being loss, especially in this era of Netflix’s “skip intro” option, but I am not one of those people. I don’t miss it when a show just flashes the title and then gets right down to business. An intro has to be pretty stellar for me to not skip past it, or use that time to go and get a snack. There is one this year, though, that I watched fully every time and delighted in listening to over and over again: “Big Little Lies.” The lush visuals paired with Michael Kiwanuka’s relaxed but soulful “Cold Little Heart” fit the show so perfectly, and easily swept me away into a paradise of aspirational coastal living.
Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx
Since the last time we talked about opening credits, an odd thing happened: Netflix, which for a while had seemed like the savior of the title sequence, seemed to back away from the idea, introducing its “skip intro” button for the benefit of bingers, and even in certain cases having shows like “GLOW” abandon their (nifty) title sequence after the season premiere.
Still, there’s been a lot of fine work being done in this area, whether on Netflix itself (“Big Mouth’s” mix of suggestive animation and anguished soul music about changes) or in other areas. My favorite one of recent vintage is “The Deuce,” which takes grainy period footage that captures all the sizzle, sleaze, and filth of 42nd Street in the early ’70s and marries it with Curtis Mayfield’s glorious “If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go.” It’s so vivid, I can practically smell vintage Times Square by the end of it.
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
I don’t think anything topped the “Feud” credits this year, but I’ll always have a soft spot for “The Young Pope” as well as a new addition since our midseason poll: “Big Mouth.” Though I love every single song from the first season of Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin’s animated Netflix series, its main title music stands out. “Changes” is all-encompassing for a series about puberty, and though these writers have proven themselves capable of creating new addictive numbers, I hope they don’t change the opening number. “Changes” captures the candid charms of the series and sucks you into its soothing melody every time. It’s proven itself a good punctuation mark on a pre-credits joke and a moving transition to heavier topics. That, and there’s the personal delight brought to me by IndieWire’s Special Projects Editor Steve Greene randomly walking into my office and crooning, “Going through chaaaaaaaaaaaanges.” I don’t want to lose that either.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (two votes)
Other contenders: “The A Word,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “The Crown,” “Dark,” “Easy,” “The Good Doctor,” “The Rundown with Robin Thede” (one vote each)
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.