The New Credits Canon: 20 Recent Tv Title Sequences as Brilliant as Their Shows

In the past few years, we've seen a mini-revival in the art of the title sequence, which has been heartening after a long stretch where networks were doing away with them altogether. All of the following are on par with the programs they represent—which makes them, in and of themselves, exceptional TV.
  1. The Leftovers season two
    One of the first signs that the show’s second season would be an overall improvement came when HBO released the haunting new opener, which makes great use of Iris DeMent’s plaintive folk song “Let The Mystery Be,” making it the soundtrack to a slideshow for ordinary people’s snapshots—each with one or more figures missing.
  2. Better Call Saul
    Each title sequence features a jittery snapshot of the Goodman lifestyle, rendered in hypersaturated color and overlaid with the sort of grungy video effects you might see in one of Saul’s cable TV ads. The color scheme sets the vibrant Saul Goodman era of the character’s life apart from the post-Breaking Bad glimpses we’ve seen, which are rendered in black and white, and from the show’s earth tone-heavy main timeline.
  3. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
    Over the ever-evolving strains of “Humanism” by house band Jon Batiste And Stay Human, filmmaker Fernando Livschitz takes a bird’s eye view of the Big Apple that’s simultaneously epic and intimate. The Late Show intro is an elegant contraption, with tilt-shifted and time-lapsed photography packing a stunning range of activity into the frame.
  4. Broad City
    Each of Broad City’s animated openers is brief, wisely minimizing the amount of time we spend without Abbi and Ilana, those lovable NYC stoners, gracing the screen. Still, visual designer Mike Perry, who animates all of the intros, makes the most of each eight-second window he’s given. It’s clear that Perry works with the same sense of whimsical adventure that pervades this effervescent show.
  5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
    If the title of Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s musical dramedy rubs people the wrong way, than they obviously haven’t seen the title sequence, which makes fun of the name by referring to it as “a sexist term” and defensively saying, “The situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.” The credits also explain the premise—that the clinically depressed Rebecca Bunch has moved from New York to California for a fresh start—and gives a sense of the heroine’s self-delusion.
  6. Review
    The title sequence of the ever-meta Review creates the illusion of a TV show within a TV show by featuring clips from host Forrest MacNeil’s past “life reviews”—segments we’ve never seen. The opening is especially sharp in revealing who Forrest is and how he relates to the world.
  7. Halt And Catch Fire
    The opening minutes of Halt And Catch Fire are infused with the almost overwhelming speed and energy of the ’80s PC revolution thanks to a visual sequence by the design studio Elastic and music by Trentemøller.
  8. Transparent
    Not since the heyday of Taxi has the commencement of a show been so winningly placid, with typographical swashes and grainy home movies that call back to that mellower period in TV’s visual design. There’s also a wistfulness at play here, captured in Dustin O’Halloran’s Emmy-winning theme and the grainy footage of functional families at family functions.
  9. Rick And Morty
    Doctor Who-like science fiction music and images give way to scenes of the mad scientist hero Rick leaving his family members to die whenever there’s real danger to escape. Rick And Morty’s credits establish the show’s genre bona fides and its dark wit. Anyone who finds them funny is tuned in to the right channel.
  10. Man Seeking Woman
    The romantic trials and tribulations of Man Seeking Woman take root in everyday anxieties and escalate to magical-realist extremes. That’s also true of the animated grid depicted in the show’s opening title, which starts with a stylized male profile and ends with a grave, a wolf, a bug’s head, a carnivorous fish, and, most terrifying of all, some sort of smartphone dating app.
  11. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
    The most celebrational intro this side of the original Muppet Show, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song gives the Indiana Mole Women their own post-bunker praise chorus, a collaboration between series composer Jeff Richmond and Songify The News creators The Gregory Brothers.
  12. Playing House
    There’s not a lot to this 20-second intro: just images of two best friends, from girlhood to now, set to Say Hi’s dreamy alt-rock song “Back Before We Were Brittle.” But the earnestness of the music underscores that even though Playing House is fast-paced and funny, the show’s primarily about the bond between these women.
  13. True Detective season one
    It has essentially become the default for crime shows’ credit sequences to plunge the viewer into a wilderness of overlaid semi-transparent images (one recent example: Making A Murderer). But few series execute this aesthetic as gracefully as the first season of True Detective, which featured a gorgeous opener with musical accompaniment by The Handsome Family (specifically, their song “Far From Any Road”).
  14. Bob’s Burgers
    While no Fox cartoon will ever top The Simpsons’ blackboard or couch gags, Bob’s Burgers comes closest with its two regular bits of schtick: the ever-changing business right next to Bob’s restaurant (everything from the “Meth I Can Methadone Clinic” to “Attempted Crepe French Cooking School”) and the pest-control van that arrives each episode (with names like “Chester The De-Pester” and “Hit The Rodent, Jack”).
  15. Kroll Show
    The Kroll Show intro is a short and sweet example of theme sequence as statement of purpose. By mapping its title onto a quick-cut succession of well-known logos, packaging, and landmarks, the series establishes its pop-culture-addled, channel-surfing approach to sketch comedy.
  16. You’re The Worst
    Behind shots of the cast posing self-consciously in a portrait studio, Slothrust’s song “7:30 AM” warns, over and over, “I’m gonna leave you anyway.” You’re The Worst started out as a raunchy sitcom and has become increasingly dramatic over the course of its two seasons. This shouldn’t have come as a shock. The heaviness was always there, literally from the beginning.
  17. The Americans
    A frantic collage of Soviet-era propaganda and Reagan-administration Americana, The Americans pits its clashing cultures against one another in it opener. This is the true source of tension within The Americans, illustrated in a compare-and-contrast fashion that reminds how “U.S.” and “U.S.S.R.” are separated by just two letters.
  18. iZombie
    Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright’s CW adaptation of Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s Vertigo comic takes so many liberties with its source material that viewers may not even know where the show originated. That’s one reason why the iZombie opening matters so much: It features Allred’s one-of-a-kind artwork, along with cartoon captions that give new viewers all of the “story so far” they might need.
  19. Orange Is The New Black
    Although its minute-plus length has compelled countless binge watchers to hit the fast-forward button, the stark, beautiful opening of Orange Is The New Black is still effective in reinforcing the show’s humane perspective. The tightly framed faces—all belonging to real-life former inmates—literally manifests OITNB’s desire to put a face on the convicts who society typically ignores.
  20. Mozart In The Jungle season two
    In abstract flourishes owing debts to Fantasia and the midcentury malcontents of the UPA animation studio, the show visualizes multiple orchestrations of “Lisztomania,” Phoenix’s ode to the original “pop star” of classical music, Franz Liszt. The winsome sequence draws parallels between Liszt and the cultishly adored modern maestro at the center of Mozart In The Jungle, all the while representing the creative muses that seduce and elude the show’s cast of characters.