Opening Times: 10 Title Sequences That Promised More
"Hello, is that Trading Standards?"
A good set of opening titles can rope in viewers and set the mood for a TV show perfectly. That's providing, however, that they actually bear some relation to the show they're attached to. Over the years there've been many that gave a misleading impression of the contents, looked as though they belonged to something else entirely, or, in some extreme cases, made great play of something that never so much as appeared in the show itself. We're talking edgy satire introduced by some bloke carrying curry past a tramp, promises of rural backwoods horror undermined by endless scenes of attractive youngsters having 'issues', and the discovery that, at least in animated form, Stan Laurel can fly by flapping his arms. Here are ten of the most fraudulent, ill-fitting and just plain bewildering, and that's not even getting started on the likes of Spaced and Lost that just didn't bother having one at all...
Odd One Out
Guess-centric, low-level-prize, Paul Daniels-fronted game show introduced by onomatopoeic Ronnie Hazlehurst theme music, not-particularly-computery 'computer' graphics, and a procession of montages of premise-explaining still photos showing the host puzzled, then halfway there, then finally identifying the odd one out. You may like the opening titles; you may like the show
itself, not a lot.
Pebble Mill At One
Jaw-dropping, ITC-rivalling, anything-can-happen-in-a-lunchtime-chat-show, quick-cut montage of presenters haring around in sports cars, people jumping from windows, rollerskaters bursting through reception and Spike Milligan being 'zany', all of it set to the most inappropriately blockbusting music of all time. Except whenever you were off school, it always seemed to be laid-back thesps plugging the latest BBC costume drama and Roger Whittaker doing New World In The Morning.
Ask The Family
Sitar-underscored, psychedelic migrane-inducement with stylised fractal-design playing cards rendered against Modern Jazz raga, looking and sounding as though it should be the 'cartoon bit' in a big-screen freak-out, but actually giving way to Robert Robinson sedately quizzing 'father and youngest child only' about what the time would be if you took off in Moscow and landed in Tokyo after a brief stopover in Helsinki. And an extra point for being so weird!
Prehistoric, animated tweeness and cause of widespread viewer bafflement over fact that throughout the opening AND closing credits Fred and company are accompanied by a Dino-cahooting, sabre-tooth tiger, unpreturbed by the car being upended by that giant rib but famously taking umbrage at being put out for the night. It's even namechecked in the theme song, yet
rarely - if ever - sighted in the show itself.
Return Of The Saint
Secret agent revivalism heralded by a marvel of pre-CGI visual trickery, wherein Simon Templar's 'Pin Man' emblem takes on animated form in a live-action setting (complete with shadow), walloping tracksuited henchmen and jumping onto moving lorries before finally relieving some foxy chick of her feather boa. Cue mass younger viewer switchoff when it then gave way to Ian Ogilvy doing 'espionage'.
Animated feline anti-socialism from perennial second-stringers, Ruby Spears, originally packaged with somewhat more ectoplasmic supporting feature, Dingbat And The Creeps. The BBC purchased it in humdrum cat form only, but nobody thought to amend the end credits, leading to widespread younger viewer confusion over why that vampire dog, walking jack-o-lantern and skeleton with a sink plunger on its head never appeared in the show.
Once Upon A Time... Man
Speaker-rattling Bach overload and audacious animated gambit showing evolution of man - from creation of the universe (with baffling cameo by seventies puppet bear Barnaby) to the moment the earth went 'fut' - terrifies unsuspecting school holiday viewers out of their wits. Unasked-for something-got-lost-in-translation history lesson from meddlesome chimp/bloke with long white beard/robot calendar thing doesn't.
Stop, Look, Listen
Tarrant-narrated, fly-on-the-wall 'look at life', schools TV double-whammy; to the accompaniment of a sub-Focus zapping synth and 'angry' flute workout, you'd get either the show logo with a strobing zoom effect straight out of late seventies disco, or a starkly-animated self-drawing face in zany rainbow shades. Neither of which quite reflected the 'social science'-tinged musings on someone who repaired telegraph poles that followed.
Much-copied - usually by 'straight' news shows - satire-fanfaring assemblage of swirly current affairs graphics, clips from the show itself, and Liam Gallagher flicking a v-sign, only with a little-noticed hidden bit. Watch closely, and you'll see a hefty amount of extracts from what appears to be an unused sketch, featuring Morris bothering John Major at an anti-drugs rally, then chasing a man along a rooftop waving some 'cake' around. Whatever was going on, it was probably more exciting than that 'Drug Office' drudgery.
Pre-school, Hamble-equipped opening voiceover clearly refers to 'windows one, two, three, four', visually reinforced by all known incarnations of the accompanying stylised house, but in the show itself - no matter what That Bloke In Work Who's Good At Pub Quizzes might insist - there were only ever three; Round, Arched and Square. This might well have changed with the notorious early eighties makeover, but frankly nobody could be bothered checking.
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