Posts Tagged ‘lists’

“Best” Opening Credit Sequences, Part 2

July 25th, 2013 | Jonathan Gray



Continuing from the last post with my listing of some notable credit sequences, I now turn to Best Thematic Rendering. I’ve got a bunch to list, so let’s subcategorize:

  1. Best Showtime Credit Sequences
  2. Best One-Off Viewing
  3. Best Overall Thematic Introduction


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“Best” Opening Credit Sequences, Part 1

July 24th, 2013 | Jonathan Gray



Recently, Salon posted an odd list of the Top 29 HBO credit sequences by Daniel D’Addario. We know it’s odd for several reasons: (1) who does Top 29s?, (2) the rankings are rather absurd, imho, and (3) no, really, who does Top 29s?


I’m not going to re-rank them, in part because that would just seem snippy, in part because I’ve only ever had HBO when a cable company gives it to me for free, or when The Wire was finishing, so my HBO viewing has been spotty, and in part because I’m tired of HBO taking all the credit for credit sequences. But it did get me thinking about best credit sequences. And thus I thought I’d respond by trying to list (though not rank) some of the best credit sequences I know.


Unlike Myles McNutt, whose attack of Salon’s list first brought my attention to it, I don’t believe a list needs a criteria (“I like what I like” seems fair to me), but I do want to lay out some ground rules first:


1. I am not saying these are objectively, unequivocally the best. I am saying I personally like them. So to the inevitable objection of “How could you say X about Y, then not include Z?”, I simply respond, “Cause that’s what I feel.”


2. I am considering these as parts of their texts. While opening credit sequences can definitely be enjoyed in and of themselves, devoid of consideration of the show to which they’re attached, I am considering them as entities that are trying both to capture something important about the show and communicate it to newbies, and serving as a re-entrypoint for returning viewers, beckoning them back in and suggesting why they should do so. Thus, for instance, I think True Blood’s opening credit sequence is pretty lousy, to be honest, for while it’s brilliant in and of itself, it lies to me by suggesting a different tone. Okay, yes, it tells me we’re in the South and that we’re examining Dark Things, but it doesn’t adequately gesture (to my liking) to the tone, address, style, or pitch of the show.


3. Put the above two rules together and we arrive at a third: I can only list and discuss opening credit sequences for shows I’ve actually seen. I read impassioned defense of the Salon-maligned credit sequence for How to Make it in America on Facebook, for instance, but I’ve never seen this show. Also, I only moved to the US ten years ago, so I was at the mercy of what was exported and what wasn’t growing up, which means that I’ve not seen a great deal of older shows.


That said, let’s begin. I’ve broken them into three categories: Best Telling of Backstory, Love the Music But the Rest is Just Meh, and Best Thematic Rendering. The latter category will be in the next post, broken into yet more sub-categories. Read more…

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New Shows, New Paratexts, 1: Online Quizzes and Polls

September 5th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

I really need to blog more often. What better excuse than the imminent start of a new television season, complete with lots of yummy paratexts to analyze and criticize?

So, without further ado, let me start by discussing the websites for the new network shows.

Overall, they’re a pretty boring lot. You have the standard elements – cast information, character profiles, “sneak peaks” and “exclusive” video that actually seems to be everywhere online, and encouragements to “Friend us now on Facebook!” (when, sorry, Last Man Standing, I don’t want to be your friend) or to follow some or other cast member on Twitter. Most of the sites look like they were put together at speed, too, with little interest in doing anything other than saying, “Hi, look, there’s a show. Wanna watch?” So, overall there’s not too much to discuss.

Terra Nova proves the only true exception, and I’ll get to that in a future post. But in the meantime, I’ve been fascinated by the quizzes and polls that a few lone sites have (The Secret Circle, Playboy Club, Whitney, Prime Suspect, and Up All Night) in addition to the other elements. The quizzes and polls interest me, since they’re subtle ways of suggesting what the show is all about, disciplining our understanding and (since they’re quizzes) “knowledge” about the shows before they hit the air. What do they say?

Sub-dividing, Secret Circle has a “Which Type of Witch Are You?” quiz, in which your answers determine which character you’re most like; Playboy Club and Up All Night have quizzes with actual correct or incorrect answers; and Whitney and Prime Suspect have polls on favorite past shows and characters. Let’s take each in turn. Read more…

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The Best of 2008, 2: Web Video and Music

December 31st, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Continuing with my Best Of 2008:

Web Video

10. “Too Drunk to Fuck.” I had my vid watching orgy in late 2007, but one of Luminosity’s 2008 offerings helps explain visually why Family Guy will never rival The Simpsons: Lisa and Marge are just so much better than FG‘s women.

9. “Talk to Your Parents About Voting Republican.” I’ve already posted about this, in the context of its political message, but I’m also a fan of its parodic attack on the earnestness of Talk to Your Kids videos that assume older people know better.

8. “Piece of Me.” Obsessive24’s vid about Britney Spears is excellent, and a 3m21 essay on celebrity exploitation and obsession.

7. Fox News Calls Ohio. I saw this after the fact, but it’s a sweet moment, as Brit Hume and Karl Rove see the writing on the wall, and Lurch delivers the news to the bald master of evil.

6. “Yes We Can.”’s video defined viral, and though I still laugh at its inclusion of some pretty C rate celebs (“hey look, there’s Ashley from Fresh Prince of Bel Air!”), it laid down a gauntlet to Obama’s contenders that they’d have to deliver online. They didn’t, and they lost.

More after the fold …

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The Best of 2008, 1: Television and Reading

December 30th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Inspired by Mike Newman’s fantastic and highly recommend Faves, 2008 list, and as a pale imitation, here are some media highlights from 2008, in installments.

First, though, a word on categorization – if I saw it in 2008, it’s on this list, even if it came out earlier; and if I saw it on the Internet, it’s web video not television.


10. Chuck. The show is infinitely silly, but that’s the point. Like Pushing Daisies, it kept me sane in hard times. Adam Baldwin, Awesome, Lester – fun stuff.

9. Food Network in HD. I knew when I got my HDTV that I’d love travel shows all the more, and nature shows. But I didn’t count on how much food porn I could stomach on a daily basis, and how that threshold would increase with HD.

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The Alphabet Meme Chronicles

November 27th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

(First, note the new design and look. On Thanksgiving, let us all give thanks to the “silent” member of The Extratextuals, Ivan Askwith, who makes the whole thing possible and recently updated our Word Press. Thanks Ivan)

Caught up in a fervor of alphabetical list making, I decided to follow up on the Alphabet Meme with a list of best television shows. There’s a slight bit of cheating involved at S/Z (ooo — very Barthesian, no?), but I couldn’t bring myself either to nominate Zoey 101 as the only Z show I know, or to choose between the two best shows in TV history, both of which inconveniently begin with S. I also went only for series or continuing shows, not one-offs (sorry, 28 Up). Without further ado:

The Amazing Race

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Cosby Show

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart


Freaks and Geeks

Goodness Gracious Me

Hockey Night in Canada

Iron Chef America

Jack & Bobby (neat idea, not super, but the J’s give little competition)

The Kingdom (the Danish one, not the American atrocity)


The Muppet Show

Northern Exposure

The Office (I’ll go with the American one, though Brit one gets a gold star too)

Pushing Daisies

Quantum Leap


The Simpsons

The Twilight Zone

Ulysses 31 (old school cartoon. Still have the theme song in my head)

V Graham Norton

The Wire (sorry, West Wing. You picked a bad letter to begin with)

The X-Files

Yes, Minister

Zesame Street

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50 Best TV Characters

June 2nd, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

List fever continues, as I now try to sort through the best characters in television history. Inevitably, some make the cut because of superb writing, some need the actor to do all the work, while others find a more perfect union. The complete list after the fold, this time in reverse order, from 50 to 1.

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Top 50 Television Comedies

May 5th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Via Ken Levine’s neat blog, I see that AOL came up with a Top 50 TV Comedies, Ever list. Their top 10 — The Simpsons, Seinfeld, All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, M*A*S*H, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, I Love Lucy, and Friends — are all quite deserving in their own ways. But from there on, there are some seriously dodgy choices. Namely:

  • though the list’s title doesn’t specify sitcoms, there are no non-sitcoms. No Jon Stewart, no Stephen Colbert, no Kermit
  • it’s all American. I’m really tired of this oversight when lists don’t specify nationality. American TV’s good enough that its best shows could flood many a list anyways, so why do they have to play such games to fill all the spots?
  • some whacked-out choices and rankings. Married with Children? Gee, let’s just add Andrew Dice Clay’s standup specials, shall we? Malcolm in the Middle does the dysfunctional family so much better, as do Arrested Development, Family Guy, and The Simpsons.

For further grumbling about the rankings, go to Levine’s blog and read the comments.

I decided, though, to take things into my own hands, and make my own list. More after the fold
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