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Exquisite Montage & Poetic Narration:
Ten Best TV Title Sequences
by J.C. Hartley and Tony Lee
I don't watch television like I used to. I can't commit to drama series and serials that run into late evening, early starts for work mean after 10pm I start to get a bit jumpy. If I do find something I want to watch I'll
stick with it, but very little grabs my imagination like it used to, although I am often intrigued by the rave reviews accompanying some new dramas. Box-sets are probably the answer but again that involves a certain amount
of single-minded commitment, and that 'single-minded' brings its own clauses, in that in my family we often can't agree on a film we all want to watch. I still watch
Doctor Who after 50 years, and a certain amount of BBC 4 factual stuff, but my great days of television-watching are in the past, hence the nostalgic
make-up of this list.
Opening credits that bear the kind of repeat viewing necessitated by a long-running series or serial have to have their own dramatic tension, or humour, or a striking visual style coupled with a catchy theme. I would argue
that a catchy tune on its own is enough; look at the 1964 Franco-German production of Robinson Crusoe, with its image of the tide on a beach, and
the haunting theme by Robert Mellin and Gian-Piero Reverberi, that is so stuck in the consciousness of those of us who remember it. Arguably, the heavy symbolism of that lonely beach spoke volumes for the narrative tone
anyway. I can see the importance of striking montage effects or some sort of exposition so I won't allow myself to be seduced by music alone. I revisited my favourite TV shows of the 1960s and 1970s which were principally
SF and spy-fi but took in some other genres such as comedy as well.
Having refreshed my memory with the help of Wikipedia and YouTube, I considered some of the shows I watched regularly in no particular order, Callan, Department S, Jason King,
The Avengers, Danger Man,
The Prisoner, The Baron, The Saint, Gangsters, The Man From UNCLE, The Girl From UNCLE, The Champions, Mission: Impossible, and The Persuaders. Callan
had a rather stark opening, a swinging naked light-bulb against an interior brick wall, the twanging guitar that so often accompanied spy dramas of this era, a shot of star Edward Woodward looking stressed, and then the
bulb exploding, presumably from a gunshot. Dramatic and effective as this opening is, it tells us little about the show; Callan is captured, interned in the KGB's Lubyanka, and tortured with sleep-deprivation and interrogation
at one point in the series, so this credit presumably refers to that. Some shows incorporated the pre-credits sequence, The Saint, starring Roger Moore, the man who would be James Bond, did this, but more to introduce
the character than to establish the storyline. The sequence was very famous, someone recognises Simon Templar as the titular Saint, Moore glances above his own head and a halo appears, then the sequence morphs into the theme
illustrated by saintly stick-figures. The musical cue for The Saint was by the great Edwin Astley, of whom more later.
The pre-credit sequence was perhaps best utilised by Department S. A baffling mystery was posited, such as a man waking up on an airport runway dressed in his pyjamas, or a barred facsimile of a house interior containing
a demented individual being discovered inside a warehouse. While the twanging guitars play out the theme, a file is shown passing from one criminal investigation bureau to another, until it ends up with the eponymous Department
'S' and its three operatives, the foppish novelist and adventurer Jason King (Peter Wyngarde), so long my style-guru that I still never fasten my shirt-cuffs, the American Stuart Sullivan (Joel Fabiani) - included to guarantee
transatlantic sales, the eye-candy computer expert Annabelle Hurst (Rosemary Nichols), and the refreshingly black department head, Sir Curtis Seretse (Dennis Alaba Peters). Black actors were beginning to be shown in integral
roles and as high-ranking officials, a form of positive discrimination probably at odds with social realities but commendably liberal for all that.
A Department S spin-off took the ludicrously foppish Jason King character
and developed him in his own series. King had adventures in international espionage and then plundered the details for his lucrative career as a best-selling novelist. Jason King the series had a more playful approach than
its progenitor often satirising its own genre, in one episode a plot device from one of King's books is to be used to spirit an agent from behind the Iron Curtain but ultimately, as King complains, a rival novelist's plot
is used, this as footage of a funeral cortege is seen clearly a reference to Len Deighton's Funeral In Berlin. The opening credits were basically a variation of those for Department S, but where the Department
S file and personnel had been rendered as graphic illustrations, images of King and his typewriter were here intercut with footage of the private investigator at work and play. Wyngarde's Jason King later provided inspiration
for both the name and the look of writer Chris Claremont's mutant villain Jason Wyngarde, alias Mastermind, in his scripts for Marvel's X-Men.
Gangsters, a late 1970s drama, originated as a one-off Play For Today, then ran for two seasons as serials. Set in Birmingham, the show confronted multi-cultural involvement in organised crime, firstly among
the Asian community and in the second series the Chinese. The shows starred Maurice Colbourne and Saeed Jaffrey whose career I have followed ever since. The first series, like the original play, was a gritty drama, but by
the second series writer Philip Martin began playing with genre tropes in an increasingly surreal way. The opening credits for series one had scenes of Birmingham street-life overlaid with a stand-up comedian's patter, then
footage of Colbourne running through the city's circulatory system intercut with Bollywood clips; series two had stylised Chinese graphics. The play and series had a brilliant instrumental theme by the progressive rock band
Greenslade, although its enjoyment was somewhat diminished by the later addition of a vocal line by Chris Farlowe.
Danger Man had my favourite theme of all time, Edwin Astley's 'High Wire', which I originally wanted for my funeral as the coffin slides between the curtains of the crematorium, although now I'm leaning towards a
woodland burial. The accompanying images of Patrick McGoohan in negative, and then glimpsed behind geometric shapes again, is dramatic but offers little indication
of the series content. When Danger Man started as a half-hour show, McGoohan's character John Drake was shown getting out of cars in international locations, while his voiceover explained he was an agent of NATO and
contained the emphatic but redundant 'Oh yes..' always an indicator of the verbally facile. Danger Man achieved little in a half-hour, the step up to 60 minutes provided more scope for characterisation and plot-development
and McGoohan's own increasing control of the show. Eventually, as Britain's highest paid TV actor, McGoohan developed his personal circumstances and philosophical attitudes into the flawed masterpiece which was The Prisoner.
The Prisoner provides the great balance of drama and exposition. After a crack of thunder and a lightning strike, McGoohan's unnamed character (is it Danger Man's John Drake?), is seen driving in a little Lotus
7 to his Secret Service HQ, where he hands in his resignation to his boss, actually script editor George Markstein. Returning to his flat, McGoohan is gassed and kidnapped, waking up in the mysterious Village where he is
a prisoner until he provides information about why he resigned. The sequence provides all the set-up, and tone, required to enter this baffling and much-analysed series. Such is the obsession with The Prisoner that
minor variations in the opening and closing sequences themselves have been deconstructed and pored over by fans. For me, it has to be the ultimate in opening credits; I never tire of seeing McGoohan's angry eyebrows crashing
through the doors of his HQ.
My next favourite opening sequence is all about style; it tells you very little about the actual content of the show, but there is enough there to point you in the right direction. For series five of The Avengers, the
first in colour, lush visuals are married to the fantastic theme tune by Laurie Johnson. Dapper British agent John Steed, exquisitely suited as ever, is seen unwrapping the foil from a bottle of champagne, whereupon the cork
is shot out by a bullet from Emma Peel's little automatic. Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee display an easy affection in these credits, an on-screen chemistry which was born out of their actual friendship; Steed uses his sword-stick
to pluck a rose from a vase for Mrs Peel, she affectionately places it in his button-hole. Steed shows his fencing moves, Mrs Peel her judo kicks. I watched series five in its entirety for review and never tired of this
classy and stylish opening.
In 1971, a couple of years before he took over as James Bond, Roger Moore starred in and produced an action and adventure series for Lew Grade's ITC called The Persuaders, in which Moore was paired with Tony Curtis.
Both men's characters were multi-millionaires, Curtis was Danny Wilde a rough tough Bronx-born Wall Street speculator, and Moore was Lord Brett Sinclair, born to high estate but an adventurous race-horse owner and Grand Prix
driver. After an acrimonious start to their relationship, which results in a fist-fight and some property damage, the pair come to the attention of Judge Fulton who offers them the opportunity of crime-fighting as a form of
community service, this set-up provides the basis for future episodes in which the pair combine to right wrongs. The credits sequence featured a powerful score by the late great John Barry and a split-screen following the
careers of the two stars from youth, through schooling, military service, affluent maturity and then in an indulgent montage of international jet-setting locations and heavily-breasted women in bikinis. I was 13 years old in
1971 and I thought this was great. It is still an effective and innovative sequence, designed as much to avoid giving either actor top-billing as to tell the characters' back-story.
The science fiction series most prominent in my memory, and again in no particular order, are Doctor Who, Lost In Space, anything from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, Star Trek, The Tomorrow People,
The Guardians, The Time Tunnel, The Invaders, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, and UFO. I was never a huge fan of Blake's 7, or The Survivors, I remember various adaptations
of Day Of The Triffids, and the first series of John Christopher's Tripods saga, but none of these opening credits made a lasting impression.
I watched Doctor Who when it started in 1963, and that music and those weird visuals, almost anticipating H.R. Giger's biomechanical creations, will always give me an especial thrill. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's
Supermarionation was a particular delight, the sheer audacity of presenting the seemingly unpromising prospect of TV puppetry with all the verve of big-budget cinema productions, and their skill in creating a joined-up 21st
century universe to carry their narratives cannot be underestimated.
The Guardians was a dystopic political thriller broadcast in 1971 by LWT, about a right-wing coup in Great Britain, where civil order was kept by a fascistic paramilitary. The opening credits featured footage of the
corps marching under their 'G' banner accompanied by a powerful score by classical composer Wilfred Josephs who also wrote themes for BBC's I Claudius, film music, and incidental music for The Prisoner. The
Time Tunnel had a great opening, an animated hour glass and the spangley portal of the tunnel itself. The credits for UFO were very much in the mould of Gerry Anderson's puppet work, a frenetic montage of images
captioned with teleprinter exposition, and great images of curvy women. The bubble-gum effect of the opening credits, ending with the money-shot of an exploding UFO, took away from what were often effective and thoughtful
story-lines. The pilot show was quite chilling with its mutilation of murdered humans and organ-harvesting, and the over-arching air of conspiracy. The end-credits for the show were very effective with ominous music as the
camera slowly homed in on an alien planet. My favourite credits though come from ABC's Quinn Martin Production of The Invaders, wherein exhausted architect David Vincent played by genre favourite Roy Thinnes, takes
a wrong turning to a deserted diner and witnesses an alien landing. The Americana of the aspirational profession of architect, and the evocative landscape of deserted roads and abandoned diners, spoke to me as a northern
English boy growing up in the rural provinces. I was also pretty obsessed with UFOs at the time.
Finally, a look at comedy. Porridge, possibly because it has never been off our screens, has one of the best-known opening sequences of any TV comedy. Fortunately, familiarity hasn't bred contempt. A sonorous voice is
heard sentencing Norman Stanley Fletcher to penal servitude, against a sequence of images of prison gates and cells, followed by footage of the aforesaid felon in the confines of Slade prison. Ronnie Barker said it was a
mistake that he also recorded the voice of the sentencing Judge, as it was so obviously him, but I think this is just an example of the actor's perfectionism as it in no way detracts from the establishment of the Fletcher
character. The Likely Lads was a sitcom in the 1960s about two likely lads, Bob and Terry, growing up on Tyneside. The series was updated in the 1970s to chart the developments in the lives of the characters. Bob had
become stolidly middle-class with a social-climbing wife and a good job, Terry after a stint in the army in Germany and a failed marriage to a German wife, was shiftless, unemployable, and a drag on Bob's new lifestyle.
The show's opening credits echoed the split-screen time-line of The Persuaders to good effect and it also had a very catchy theme tune.
In 1968, with my Gran, I watched the first episode of a show that I still watch with enjoyment to this day, Dad's Army. In schools, when I was a kid, there used to be maps of the world showing the scope of the British
empire. I defy any Briton who ever saw one of these maps to deny a sense of awed pride. Yes, I know the British empire was established through military might, coercion, extortion, genocide, and blackmail, but the effect on
a child of seeing massive continents painted pink, compared to the tiny islands where the pink flowed out from, has never left me. The animated opening credits of Dad's Army made clever play of this. Union Jack flags
arrow out from the shores of England and surge across Europe, only to met by animated swastikas that coil snake-like in their progress of invasion. Retreating across the channel the British flags make little sneering jabs
at the crooked crosses. The soundtrack is by wartime favourite Bud Flanagan but the song 'Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?' Was written especially for the show by series co-creator Jimmy Perry. The credits, and
indeed the series as a whole, blended national pride with self-mockery to great effect. The closing credits showed the platoon marching along under the caption 'You have been watching' with an introduction to the cast, the
final scene is taken from one of the episodes and shows the platoon under fire while on manoeuvres, this is a reference to the great British film The Way
Ahead where the platoon advance at the end into an uncertain outcome, in the sitcom the Home Guard approach the camera through smoke bombs and dummy ammunition.
The Twilight Zone
Star Trek Voyager
An endlessly fascinating montage, or a concisely narrated introduction (one of my favourites is Sapphire And Steel), being the key to this listing, it's no easy task to pick my own favourites from over 40 years worth
of memories. But what exactly is it that makes an introductory sequence memorable on television? Although the standard format of many 'TV titles' is simply a collection of clips and/ or still images from each new season's
episodes (with credits superimposed over those pictures), several creators of title sequences for shows aim higher, and often with a maximum artistic, TV-cultural, impact and some zeitgeist defining combinations of visuals
and music are possible, despite an obvious need for brevity.
There is a tendency for minimalism today (as we saw on James Duff's The Closer, and Tim Kring's Heroes) but, in past decades, and even very recently, there have been a great many scene-setter intros for excellent
TV shows that are worthy of our attention in their own right. There are title sequences that we never tire of watching, repeatedly, and it's not simply because of their theme music. Theme songs are, typically, a thing of the
past but still, occasionally, a TV series comes along with song lyrics that can fit a programme's content quite perfectly: such as the excellent legal drama, Damages (2007-12), which benefits from a title song (by the
VLA) that oozes menace: "When I get through with you, there won't be anything left"; or the anthemic song 'Save Me' by Remy Zero, from the superhero adventure
Smallville (2001-11). Generally, nowadays, I much prefer TV titles with complementary music, instead of theme songs.
It seems to me that the greatest challenge for programme makers is to find the ambitious designers, video artists, and creative visual editors, who are capable of summarising a TV show's content accurately, while also appealing
to its most likely demographic, but without compromising artistic integrity. The result needs to be a TV-title sequence that works, even better than pop/ rock promo videos do, at capturing the increasingly fickle viewers'
attention. There is such an immense variety of TV available for viewers today that we are always spoilt for choice. Any new series needs a 'hook' that will grab channel-surfers attention. That hook is a title sequence that
is different from the look of animated wallpaper (the title sequence for spy-fi comedy Chuck is especially dismal in that regard) which a majority of TV shows have for their intros. My preference is for genre series,
because they are what I tend to watch more of, and my listing here is in chronological order.
Coming from the same era as The A-Team, a updated revival of Mission: Impossible, and various techno shows (like Airwolf, Knight Rider, Street Hawk), The Equalizer (1985-9), starred
stalwart Edward Woodward as the WYSIWYG vigilante hero named Robert McCall. I liked Woodward's character in earlier British TV drama Callan, but I think he really came into his own as this ex-pat agent living in New
York. McCall was not dependent upon the use of paramilitary force, and specialist or unique gadgets, or frequent use of disguises to maintain his anonymity - to either his usually endangered clients or his threatening opponents.
Just as Patrick McGoohan followed his TV show Danger Man with the superior creativity of science fictional TV classic, The Prisoner, so Woodward's heroic protagonist in The Equalizer can be viewed as a
thematic genre continuation of the grimly realistic spy drama in Callan. McCall is a former CIA agent on a new path of redemption for his murky past of dirty tricks and killings. But there I digress...
The title sequence of The Equalizer crackles with acutely urban paranoia. It depicts a world of stalkers and stakeouts, gangland predators and muggers, rapists and serial killers, crooked cops and metropolitan injustice
- the set of weighing scales (like in a pawnbroker's shop) is highly symbolic - in all of its modernist and convoluted forms. With his face kept in shadows (until a brief and jittery close-up of a hard-eyed stare), and the
door of his Jaguar car left open, McCall is rather like the Batman, but without a mask and/ or the relative safety of any secret cave as hideout/ HQ. Like the heroic trio of The Champions, McCall is a kind of plain-clothes/
business-suited superhero that has carved a highly successful niche, in both action drama and more generic tele-fantasy productions. 'Got a problem? Odds against you?' was the tersely pointed text of McCall's newspaper advert
in the security section. It does not appear in the show's title sequence, and it would have been unnecessary, because any such wordage could very probably spoil the startling impact of the montage.
Music by Stewart Copeland (drummer with the Police) cements image and sound like few other title sequences I have seen. It builds up considerable energy for a stunning and exciting appearance of the hero, so it's as if he
has been always there, hidden in the background, watching over the potential victims and simply waiting to offer help and protection. A big screen remake of The Equalizer - starring Denzel Washington, and directed by
Antoine Fuqua - is in pre-production, scheduled for release in 2014.
Primarily important because of its conceptual breakthroughs for genre TV drama in the anthology format, the title sequence for Rod Serling's original The
Twilight Zone (1959-64) featured an unforgettable voiceover introduction, and a tinkly theme tune, 'Dramatic Twilight' by Gregor F. Narholz, that was suspenseful/ eerie almost beyond measure. However, times changed,
the TV industry adopted wholly different - if not always, or often, higher - standards, and so, for me, it was the first TV revival of The Twilight Zone (1985-9) which proved to have a title sequence that was actually
far more chillingly mysterious, and a clearly sophisticated affair, than its comparatively crudely-animated predecessor.
In the wake of big-screen tribute anthology Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), CBS produced a new show that boasted a brand new theme, composed by Jerry Garcia, and recorded by iconic rock band the Grateful Dead. The
programme makers were obviously mindful of honouring Serling's legacy and quite respectful of upholding the traditions of the original series. The montage of creepy images that accompanied the new theme music centred on a
window portal, paid tribute to Serling with a flickering portrait of the presenter, and managed to cram numerous disquieting (a large spider, a black-eyed doll's face), and disturbing (a bottled foetus, a nuclear mushroom cloud),
moving images into its short runtime, partly shot with fish-eye lens distortion, as if it was projected onto a floating sphere (that also included the turning Earth and a Solar eclipse), hovering, centre-stage, in a somewhat
grimly decorated box-room.
This sequence collected many of the social and political anxieties of the period for a brief phobia-inducing nightmare-sequence, composed of pure SF horrors. The new Twilight Zone logo, set against a drifting
star-field, again a tribute to the 1960s show, was animated from a leering skull and something resembling a storm-trooper helmet. It's a magnificent updating of the original's title sequence that embellishes, reinvents, and
contemporises the appeal of both the Twilight Zone as a franchise, and anthology TV as a genre brand. Another revival series, made in 2002 and presented by the actor Forest Whitaker was, rather sadly, and unfortunately
for serious fans of show, not as successful.
Without a doubt, I think, Chris Carter's The X-Files (1993-2002) was the show that redefined genre TV in the 1990s. It gave us a short-lived spin-off,
The Lone Gunmen (2001), and a crossover episode with Carter's Millennium (1996-9). Its title sequence of uncanny images and creepy music establishes a wholly scientific yet supernaturally haunting appeal, suggesting
that perceptions are, at best, always questionable, while avoiding the dogmas of Fortean whimsy. Smoke and spotlights form the programme's logo with a fading flare, which might indicate that 'grey areas' are the subject matter.
The phrase 'paranormal activity' (recently used as the title for a series of movies), and the couple of abstract figures (a man, alien, or ghost?), that appear on-screen have, in fact, even less genre specificity than the
flying saucer, Kirlian photography, and some mysterious noir symbolism that help to exaggerate the echoey, and decidedly spooky, theme music by Mark Snow.
The text 'government denies knowledge' appears to rubberstamp conspiracy theories, while the clip of our heroic agents going through a dark doorway together is distorted footage from season one's third episode, Squeeze.
That one particular shot is a perfect example of some frequently used imagery from this TV series, as, with torches, the investigative duo shine a light into the darkness of the unknown. The 'surprised eye' opens before the
show's mantra - 'the truth is out there' - establishes its overarching search for evidence of a profound otherness, or something quite like it; even though it seems to admit the unreliability of any human observer, reminding
us that, while science does not have all the answers, we do not have all the science, yet. The X-Files was clearly and in more ways than one, a big influence upon the later sci-fi TV series
Fringe, which also has a fascinating title sequence of symbolic technofear images and SF mystery buzz-words.
Combining the typical format for Star Trek 'bridge crew' adventures with the scenario of Lost In Space - three years before that 1960s TV series was remade as a big-budget movie, Star Trek Voyager (1995-2001)
soon became, for me, the ultimate Trek TV series. Of course, 'Voyager' is a calculated riff upon various aspects of Trek lore, from the original series' narration: "these are the voyages", and the
"continuing voyages..." of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94), and even Robert Wise's SF classic Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) - my all-time favourite Trek movie - which featured a
fictional space probe 'Voyager 6' that returns to Earth as the alien-AI named V'ger.
The fully-CGI title sequence of Star Trek Voyager won an Emmy award and it's easy to see why. The show's logo emerges from a solar flare as if newly forged by the stars, and so it's powerfully symbolic of the phoenix
firebird, just as the marvellous theme music by Jerry Goldsmith soars into a most effective intro. We see the new starship on its journey, passing three different planets, each one iconic of speculative fiction or astronomical
art, while they all vaguely resemble the familiar worlds of our own Solar system, and perhaps they represent the three previous Star Trek TV series. The space tourism ends when the Voyager ship, another variant design
based on the Enterprise, accelerates to warp and speeds on its way - heading homewards, as we discover in the show's storyline, but having travelled much further around the galaxy than any other federation vessel. The title
sequence has a sense of actually going somewhere (home to Earth, as we soon find out) instead of exploring or mission assignments. In that, it reflects upon the ideas of a space odyssey, which is a link to my all-time favourite
Daniel Knauf's Carnivàle (2003-5) reeks of mystery and period atmosphere. It has a title sequence that draws us into a world of the past where disease and corruption are strong, while honesty and grace seem all
but extinct. The series features a dwarf actor (Michael J. Anderson) playing a prominent character, years before Game Of Thrones made a hero of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion... and, incidentally, I have been wondering if
the animated map of that TV series' title sequence matches any maps printed in the fantasy books by novelist George R.R. Martin?
The title sequence for Carnivàle is more artistically valid and it feels more relevant to its milieu than all the contemporary vampire sleaze and hicks-ville nostalgia of the TV titles for genre comedy-drama
True Blood (2008-13). Knauf's show depicts an eternal conflict between good and evil, often symbolically, as right and wrong are explored in terms of artistically, and profoundly psychological, religious themes of
a false prophet (the 'Usher') versus a young saviour (the healer). The carny scene is like a microcosm of troubled society on the brink of collapse, sustained only by its dysfunctional family business, often led astray from
redemption, or shepherded onto a path of progress by the mysterious and reclusive 'Management'.
All this is cleverly suggested by the Emmy-award winning title sequence of a journey into history that hints broadly at notions of supernatural control (benign or sinister?), as it begins with a scattering of cards from a
tarot deck. The montage is launched with a progressive zoom into the painting on 'The World' card, as if swooping down from busily populated heavens. The viewpoint spies on events in archive 1930s footage of queues for the
cheap labour market in an industrialised America that is caught up in environmental disaster of the 'Dust Bowl' drought - a failure of intensive farming that contributed to the Great Depression. The virtual camera zooms out
of a different card - the 'Ace of Swords', switching windows on this milieu, as it dives into a 'Death' card, expanding the political scope of the narrative's backdrop, wherein Ku Klux Klansmen rejoice in victory over civil
rights, while, after images of Mussolini and Stalin, freedom from dictatorship seems like a dream, hovering beyond reach.
The tumultuous images continue, with an exit from a 'King of Swords' card, and move across the fallen cards to 'Temperance', charting the culture of leisure with music and sport, before a painting of dancing angels dissolves
from 'The Magician', and changes focus for 'The Tower', sweeping over ancient battlefield hordes and the modern street crowds towards the Capitol building in Washington, DC. It appears positioned on the horizon of imagination,
where Roosevelt at a political rally is portrayed as 'Judgement', the final card, beneath 'Sun' and 'Moon' (depicted as God and Satan), while the wind of change clears away all of the cards and reveals the series' logo, uncovered
from a layer of dust like the proverbial shifting sands of time. All of this is set to wonderfully atmospheric, eerie theme music composed by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (once the pop duo Wendy & Lisa), mixing various ethnic
styles including haunting Arabian music. Carnivàle's cleverly designed title sequence suggests a weird melodrama that is distinguished by brilliant fantasy twists depicting a dark and secret history, one where
David Lynch meets John Steinbeck.