Tag: Alan Ball

Setting the Mood, or The Art of a Title Sequence

A sucker for a good awards show – although they quite often leave me underwhelmed well before the final winner is announced – the Emmys will kick off the season in September with golden bar standard, and personal fave, 30 Rock leading the nominee pack (record-setting 22 for a comedy series – who says women aren’t funny!?) and while anxiously anticipating how many statues Fey & Co walk away with, the real category of intrigue is one that I, admitting with great shame, had no idea was even a part of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – Outstanding Main Title Design.

Perhaps this is one of the “technical” (aka, snooze-worthy-so-let’s-sex-it-up-with-this-year’s-It-starlet-announcing-the-winners) awards they give away prior to a telecast, but please TV Academy let’s give some primetime credit where credit is due to a category with an amazing history of well-deserved winners, most recently last year’s Mad Men.

Its return with the third season premiere on Sunday reminded me how a brilliantly-executed title sequence can immediately capture the mood of show. Here the orchestral, Hitchcockian music and style/color design and most poignantly the use of a faceless man endlessly falling Vertigo-style through era-specific advertisements that feature a bevy of scantily-clad women, tumblers of drinks and a final image of the “perfect” nuclear family that sets the stage for vice-indulging, secret-keeping ’60s family/ladies/ad man Don Draper. Those MADison Avenue men are proud.

Being a research-loving fact-finder, I’ve discovered that the Main Title Design’s category inception was in ’97 and since then the Academy has bestowed wins to a number of shows that top my personal list of favorite opening sequences (yes, such a list does exist along with favorite font — for the record give me something in a serif any day). In 2002 a little network called HBO received its first win in this category with Six Feet Under.

Haunting theme music from Thomas Newman and artful images (love those chiaroscuro hands) that highlight preparation for one’s eternal dirtnap (thank you HBO for showing me the embalming process) encompasses the juxtaposition of beauty and decay found in death, and life, that the series so adeptly captured.

For a series focusing on the cause in addition to the effects of death, Showtime’s Dexter has a title sequence befitting its dark yet playful world — turning the mundane, morning routine of cop and serial killer Dexter Morgan (the amazing Michael C. Hall’s 180 degree turn in character from his David Fisher on Six Feet Under) into a menacing montage.

Finally, jumping back to HBO/Alan Ball collaborations and the jewel of this year’s Title Design noms, True Blood‘s opening sequence is an amalgam of dirty, swampy, sexy, fire-and-brimstone imagery coupled with twangy rockabilly song “Bad Things” (by Jace Everett, a decent alternative to Chris Isaak) that encapsulates the soapy, southern gothic nature of the supernatural saga.

See the complete list of this year’s Emmy nominees here .

Vampires are the New Black

Personally I never lost faith in the phrase “It’s not TV, it’s HBO.” While the loss of seminal shows The Sopranos and Sex and the City in 2006 and 2004, respectively, seemed to create doubt that HBO could keep the “groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed, smash hit” original programming train rolling along, they’ve hit another one out of the park this past year with my, and many other fan(g)s, newest obsession True Blood.

Steering away from the heavy, dramatic themes of his first HBO series Six Feet Under, Alan Ball’s latest is treading neck-high in the blood-soaked waters of the vampire mythos. Pulling from Charlaine Harris’s sudsy, southern gothic series of books and riding the waves of that other supernatural sensation concerning creatures of the night (who walk around during the day — really?) TB is leading the way in making HBO’s Sunday night line-up appointment TV and Monday morning watercooler talk again. In its second season premiere, TB received ratings that had not been seen on HBO since The Sopranos series finale, and continues to keep viewers hungry for more with nail-biting, jaw-dropping cliffhangers every week.

With vampires all the rage it’s not surprising the network that gave us a girl with all the gossip and a rebirth of the most well-known zip code in the country would follow the trend with their own adaptation of a living dead novel series as this fall The CW gives us the toothy(less?) Vampire Diaries.

Not to naysay on themes/storylines I find myself inherently mesmerized by — thank you Joss Whedon for giving me snarky vamps and wry werewolves — but try as they may The CW has not yet turned me to the dark side with its oh my guilty pleasure Gossip Girl or the resurrection of Kelly & Brenda on the new 90210. On this track record and seeing theTwilight re-hash sneak peeks I find myself incredulously investigating what appears less like a delicious spin on blood-sucking fiends and more a cliched weekly appeasement to Twi-hard tweens looking to tide themselves over until said movie series is back at their local multi-plex.

Make every effort to catch up on True Blood if you haven’t already been bitten – season 1 now available on DVD and iTunes, all previously-aired season 2 episodes now playing on HBO On Demand and new episodes every Sunday at 9PM Eastern/8PM Central until September. Jury’s still out on any tune-in worthiness of Vampire Diaries.