Classic TV Intros – part I

A heavy Saturday night in (drowning my Arsenal sorrows. Damn you Adebayor!) and a slow Sunday awakening to the little box in the corner. Actually, it’s a pretty big box and it’s not in the corner, but that’s neither here nor there.

So there I was zapping away when I came across 1960s sitcom I Dream Of Jeannie on digital channel Living. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a massive fan of US soap Dallas. When it was good, it was superlative and when it was bad, Larry Hagman (JR Ewing), Linda Gray (Swellin’ Ewing) and Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) made it bearable.

I Dream of Jeannie was an early starring role for Larry Hagman. He played astronaut Tony Nelson who finds a genie (Jeannie – geddit? – portrayed by the gorgeous Barbara Eden) in a bottle. In short, she was obsessively in love with him and made his life hell every time she tried to please him. Living’s currently in the first season which has a completely different theme tune to the iconic one familiar to couch potatoes the world over. What better moment to list some of my favourite TV intros?

I Dream Of Jeannie – Loved the first two seasons of this madcap sitcom with its ridiculously infectious theme tune. Larry Hagman was soooo handsome in the 60s!
Grange Hill (select this link to play video) – Flippin’ ‘eck Tucker! We are not worthy of the comic-book title sequence! All hail the iconic flying sausage-on-a-fork, the playground fights and missing the bus. What says school more than that? By the way, the theme tune is Chicken Man by Alan Hawkshaw; it was used for the first 12 years of the BBC’s classic children’s drama. 
The Sopranos (select this link to play video) – Dysfunctional families (in every sense of the word)? Gotta love it. I still miss this show. Here’s a little known fact (as Cheers’ Cliff Clavin often said); the opening theme is by a British band who were founded in Brixton, sarf London. My manor (well, near it anyway). Woke Up This Morning’s written and performed by Alabama 3; I nearly choked on my coffee when I made that discovery. But what a great intro – I love Tony Soprano’s drive to his New Jersey house and the un-touristy snapshots of the city that we get along the way (the cemetery is pretty apt). This intro includes the World Trade Center – RIP everyone (except the hijackers). 
Hill Street Blues – Achingly beautiful, poignant and plaintive. Mike Post’s theme has stayed with me since I first heard it way back in 1981 on ITV. Check out how perfectly it blends with the visuals; urban streets shrouded in greys and browns. If you’ve never seen this show, I urge you to check it out on 4oD. It’s beyond brilliant. A true television landmark. No Hill Street Blues? No CSI, no ER, no Without A Trace, no 24 – you name it.  
Cheers – Does everybody still know its name though? That’s the question. Cheers is on digital channel FX at the moment so find out why it’s comedy gold. I can’t be the only person that sings and sways along to Where Everybody Knows Your Name by Gary Portnoy?  🙂  Here’s a little know fact (heh, heh!); Cheers’ intro was a little unusual for its time because it did not feature its stars… can’t remember where I came across that piece of trivia. However, I swear the pictures in the opening sequence are damn near close approximations. Or is it just me? 
The Professionals – I’ve seen every episode and I’m still tuning into the ITV4 reruns because I can’t resist CI5 agents Bodie (Lewis Collins) and Doyle (Martin Shaw). I love watching them screech around in their Capris as they shoot up the villains. Isn’t the car smashing the glass at the beginning just perfect? Talk about a marker for high octane entertainment! And don’t get me started on Laurie Johnson’s adrenaline rush of a theme tune with its fantastic wah-wah guitar. We just don’t make ’em like this anymore. A pity.
Starsky and Hutch – Classic cop series that roared onto the small screen way back in 1975. The cast (including David Soul as Hutch, Paul Michael Glaser as Starsky and Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear) had brilliant chemistry and the show featured full-throttle car chases, offbeat humour and a hip vibe. It will never get old.
Difficult choice as far as the intro goes because there’s a different theme tune for each season. The first season’s theme was written by Lalo Schifrin. This was replaced with Tom Scott’s iconic Gotcha (covered by many musicians, including the James Taylor Quartet). The third season‘s theme was written by Mark Snow . However, I’ve chosen season’s four’s revamp of Gotcha because of the beefed-up horn and piano vibe.
The Wire – Critics rave about it (Charlie Brooker says: "It’s so good, it could fart in my face and I’d still love it"). For once, the hype is totally justified. Told from the point of view of Baltimore’s police and criminals, this gritty cop series will take your breath away. Like Starsky and Hutch – the music differs with each season. However, unlike the aforementioned, the theme song Way Down In The Hole remains constant. It’s just that each season, it’s sung by a different artist (select links to watch). 
Season one – The Blind Boys of Alabama
season two – Tom Waits (writer of Down In The Hole)
season three – The Neville Brothers 
season five – Steve Earle.

For this feature, I’m going with the version by DoMaJe because season four is my favourite.

Dallas – Premiering on US television way back in 1978, this tale of the fussin’, fightin’, feudin’ Ewings and Barneses was set against the backdrop of oil, power, wealth, sex and glorious extravagance. Brilliant opening credits; the sweeping visuals, the three-way split interspersing scenes of Dallas and the fantastic cast, all set to epic, heart-thumping music. Even after all these years, it’s still the daddy.
Steptoe and Son – This classic Brit sitcom expertly trod the thin line between comedy and tragedy. It made stars of Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell as they depicted the often toxic relationship between a father and son in the rag and bone trade. Every time I hear the theme tune, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Part two to follow soon….

Today I am mostly lovin’ –
Hugh Laurie dancing to Public Enemy’s Fight The Power on House has to be seen to be believed. He deserves the Emmy for that alone – hilarious! Already one of my favourite 2009 TV moments.  

Today I am mostly hatin’ – Adebayor. But on the TV front, the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing scheduling clash is a real pain.

MSN Editor Coops
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7 Responses to Classic TV Intros – part I

  1. Nicky says:

    Gotta love the theme to Soprano\’s! Love A3 too, they\’re even nicer in person! Check out their song \’How can I protect you?\’ another classic of theirs

  2. Gareth says:

    Another great blog entry Coops. Some good choices there, particularly Hill Street Blues and Dallas.Other favourite TV openings of mine:The Twilight Zone – The elements moved around but the essentials, Rod Serling\’s narration, the odd images and that doom-laden music made one of the most atmospheric moments on TV. Actually the eighties version was pretty good too, with its Grateful Dead reworking of the melody.Space 1999 – The first season\’s mixture of orchestral and electric guitar was epic and the fast cutting montage "This episode…" was thrilling.The Box of Delights – Lovely lilting music and an eerie collection of faces. Very Christmassy.The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest – The original was drumtastic but the ninties reboot, combined with the CGI opening was urgent and inspired.

  3. Coops - says:

    Gazhack, ta for the compliment. 🙂 You\’ve given me some great ideas for part two. The Twilight Zone will definitely be there and I won\’t forget Sesame Street,The Muppets or Trumpton/Camberwick Green either. Then there\’s Play School and Playaway… decisions, decisions!

  4. Craig says:

    Coops, don\’t be forgetting The Equalizer! Best intro of the 80s, surely!

  5. Coops - says:

    Hello Craig – The Equalizer! Wow, that takes me back. We were obsessed with that programme back in the day. Good shout. 🙂

  6. Susan says:

    Good shout with Dallas and Hill Street Blues! What about Thunderbirds?

  7. David says:

    I thought the intro music for the Australian series Water Rats pretty good , any one else agree ?

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