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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Introductions

It has been a fairly exhausting last few days. Travelling can really take it out of you, especially if one is travelling alone to a place without previous acquaintances. However, I don't want to take my time this evening to write the long, reflective piece on travel and German culture that has been fomenting in my head for the last few days. So, in my attempt to relax but still get out some thoughts in unrepentent English, I will wax philosophical for a few minutes about telivision. Specifically, I would like to talk about the introductions of television shows.

Introductions at first glance do not really seem that important. After all, if one power watches television shows like a lot of young people do these days (wait for a good portion of the show to have already aired and then download and watch the show in large chunks of several episodes one after the other), often the introduction ends up just being skipped anyway to save those precious few minutes. However, a good introduction can do a lot for a show. Take, for an idle example, the introductions to Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Collectively, they are all really just a bunch of shots of planets and other spacey things interspliced with spaceships making fancy noises before leaping off into the distance with a flash of light and credits with an overlay of some sort of musical score. However, what Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation have is that epicly cheesy voice-over of their respective captains declaring space as the final frontier, and those opening words have been burned into the collective conscience of popular culture almost as deeply as the words, "Luke, I am your father". While I do not necessarily understand the entrenched effect of the original series (after all, there really wasn't a lot that was epic about that series... it was all just Kirk hooking up with alien women in between scenes of fisticuffs and torn shirts in random alien gladiatorial rings), the cheesy seriousness of the voice-over fit the cheesy philosophy for the laymen that was Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show aspired to make people think, and, even if it often did so in obvious, elementary, and predictable ways, the soothingly authoritative voice of Patrick Stewart helps to set the contemplative mood in a monumental way.

I was going to go on to pass a few words of judgement on Star Trek: Enterprise, but I seem to have gone for a good deal longer with the subject of science fiction shows than I originally intended. What originally inspired me to write this post was to point out some of the very best examples of introductory television sequences I have seen in the last few years. Like with most television in general, the best examples come from Showtime and HBO. In the runner-up position is Showtime's Dexter. For those who have not seen it, give it a gander:



For those who have not seen or heard of the show, it is about a sociopath named Dexter Morgan who has the uncontrollable urge to kill people. Raised as an orphan by a police officer, his stepfather recognized the early warning signs and molded his psyche into a strict code of ethics such that he would only murder murderers who had somehow cheated the legal system. While the premise is a little creepy, the show is quite well done with a lot of interesting psychological development (at least for the first two seasons, I stopped watching after that because it was simply too stressful). The reason why I like the introduction so much is because it is so exceedingly fitting to the mood of the show... it is all about ridiculously careful precision with every last detail of even the most mundane of tasks (starting the morning), all the while carrying with it the foreboding visceral imagery of sizzling flesh, drops of blood, a grinder, and squirting juice from a blood orange.

Still, I think the introduction to HBO's True Blood may be even more well done than the introduction to Dexter. Briefly, the show is set in a world where vampires have recently 'come out of the coffin' following the invention of synthetic blood by Japanese researchers. There is still a lot of tension between vampires and people, and the main character, a waitress at a bar in a small southern town who can read minds, finds herself drawn into those tensions when she becomes involved with the a vampire intent on 'going mainstream' who moves into the town. Watch the introduction here:



The disturbing montage of erotica, religious imagery, Americana, racism, and wildlife, all set to a threateningly forward country song, seems to perfectly encapsulate the desired ambience of the American south. This is done with enough rawness to help drive back one's cognitive faculties and make the show more about turgid emotional reactions than logical thought (which is a good state of mind for a show about vampires). Also, the amazing pun of "God Hates Fangs" is highly enjoyable.

Anyway, this has been a longer ramble about exceedingly trivial matters than I had originally intended it to be, so I'm going to end my discourse here. As always, feel free to leave a comment or two with your own opinion on the matter.

Note: I am exhausted and I cannot seem to get my spellchecker to switch to English (it is currently stuck on German... damn IP address), so please forgive what I expect is an unusually high concentration of errors in this post.

2 comments:

Regan said...

Dude, Dexter is such an excellent show. It rarely requires one to suspend disbelief *too* much in order for the show to function. The second season is brilliantly stressful. Watching it felt like exercise, they made it seem like he could plausibly get caught every episode. They did my all time favorite thing in a show ever too. They actually killed off Lila. I was so worried there for a while that she would be one of those characters that shows up 7 seasons later for sweeps week.

Also Star Trek Next Generation is AWESOME. Just the fact that Patrick Stewart is in it is enough for me

-regan

Mozglubov said...

Oh, I agree with you. Dexter is an excellent show, I just had to qualify that my opinion only really counted for the first two seasons because I stopped watching after that (it could have gone, like many shows, off the rails despite a promising start, and I would have no idea). I never thought of phrasing it that way, but you are completely correct. Watching the second season was like exercise.

As for Star Trek: The Next Generation, it is awesome (and, as I think I have also pointed out before, a large part of that awesome is owed to Patrick Stewart). However, it is also cheesy and very often simplistic in its philosophical analysis (something I never got as a kid, when my adoration of the show was cemented), and I stand by that evaluation. The cheesiness, after all, is part of its charm.