TV Intros

As requested by Ben Masters on Facebook, I am following up on my TV themes post and have a look at the visual aspect of TV intros. I don’t know about you, but if an intro is well done, I’m already getting into the mood for a show I want to watch. If the music and visuals match, the better the effect. So when I think about intros without primarily listening to the songs, the shows that have had a lasting effect on me with their introductions are definitely Charlie’s Angels, Bewitched and (you probably guessed it) Perry Mason. Like many other fans (so I’m sure), I’ve always wanted to know what was in that silly script that brought out Raymond Burr’s handsome dimple smile.

Charlie’s Angels, like Hart to Hart or Babylon 5 used narration to add to their pictorial introductions, explaining the background or premise of the show. While Lionel Stander introduced his screen bosses with scenes from the Hart to Hart pilot and only slight textual changes in the five years the show was on TV, Babylon 5 used a different introduction every season. Merging scenes from the show with the voices of lead characters, the season intros offered an outlook on the individual seasons, as well as a quick summary of what you needed to know to follow the plot of this complex show. And since I’m speaking of the 90s, who could forget ER, Home Improvement, Touched by an Angel, The X-Files or Chicago Hope – all equipped with visual intros that made clear what to expect from these specific program. Friends and Mad About You, two sitcom flagships of the era, also put us right into a quirky, urban mood, something Sex and the City would perfect in 1998 by making Manhattan a visual main character.

Looking at the evolution of these TV intros, in the 1980s, Cagney and Lacey and Scarecrow and Mrs. King already used their urban setting (New York City and Washington DC), as well as scenes from episodes to give the audience an idea of the content and nature of each show. The Golden Girls and Who’s the Boss did the same while The Cosby Show, Growing Pains, Roseanne or Valerie primarily introduced us to the type of family we were about to visit for half an hour every week. In the 70s, the intros of Happy Days, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Family set the tone for very different shows while the 60s had already distinguished themselves from the often sponsor-laden intros of the 1950s. As the first era to introduce color TV, the 60s loved to use colorful effects and a contemporary style of music that showed a development away from family-friendly entertainment to more adult-oriented shows. While Hazel still proved to be traditional and rather quiet in the early 60s, Ironside‘s intro made clear the show was going to be filled with action, not unlike Adam-12.

In the new millennium, The West Wing tackled the unthinkable and turned politics into popular TV, the show’s intro already setting the mood and quality of a show that had a good run of seven seasons. The original CSI uses a similar pattern, creating a symbiosis of music and images, teasing the audience without giving too much away while the intro to the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica did not only set the tone for a dark-edged series, but also treated its audience to a glimpse into each new episode. Whether you enjoy the classic style of merging video material with a catchy tune like Trapper John M.D. did in in the late 70s and early 80s, prefer graphics as used in Cheers or are fond of the genuine way The Closer interlaced its credits with an already commencing episode – TV show intros are a like a good business card. Selling your product without being obtrusive while making a lasting impression on your audience.

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The Jetsons

TV classics: The Jetsons

USA 1962-63 and 1985-87, three seasons, 75 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, ABC and syndication, color. Produced by Hanna-Barbera. Voice talents: George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, Don Messick and Jean Vander Pyl.

Plot summary: In the year 2062, the Jetson family lives a normal life in Orbit City with their house-robot Rosey and George’s best friend, Astro the dog.

The JetsonsReview: In 2062, life for the Jetsons is full of conveniences: the household is organized by computers and Rosey the Robot, an outdated housekeeper model whose homey attitude and cheeky remarks fit right in with her human family. George is the soft patriarch and Jane his dutiful wife who both love to push buttons to make their lives as easy as possible. Together, they are raising their two children, fifteen-year-old Judy and little Elroy who’s already six-and-a-half. The world they live in is Utopian and futuristic, their apartment elevated above the ground. In their everyday lives, the Jetson children attend school like children from all decades while father George works with his friend RUDI, a Referential Universal Digital Indexer (aka his work computer), whose personality is as human as Rosey’s or Astro’s. Jane Jetson is primarily a housewife whose favorite pastime is shopping as well as delighting her family with new gadgets and fashion. In 75 episodes, they were supported by many recurring characters including George Jetson’s boss Mr. Spacely and an alien called Orbitty.

Produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, The Jetsons were created in color as a Flintstone family in space. Referring to contemporary trends and styles of the early 60s, the show was targeting a grownup audience in its first 24 episodes, a strategy that was changed in the mid 80s when Hanna-Barbera relaunched the program for another two seasons with decent success. Using all the original characters, the sci-fi cartoon family conquered the hearts of many children between 1985 and 87, a hey day for re-imagining TV classics from Leave it to Beaver to Perry Mason.

For anyone who grew up loving Orbit City and the funny mishaps the Jetson family had with their everyday technology, the show is now available on DVD with only the third season not yet announced for release. If you’re like me, you’ll discover your inner child again by watching this lighthearted show from a bygone time when computers did not yet dictate so much of our daily routine. For those who can’t wait to get the complete boxsets, selected episodes are also available on Youtube, including my favorite Rosey the Robot (a character so fondly based on Hazel, another fantastic 60s show and a favorite of mine only recently presented on this blog by yours truly).

Hazel

TV classics: Hazel

USA 1961-66, five seasons, 154 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, NBC and CBS, black & white and color. Based on a comic strip by Ted Key. Cast: Shirley Booth, Don DeFore, Whitney Blake, Bobby Buntrock, Maudie Prickett, Ray Fulmer, Lynn Borden, Julia Benjamin.

Plot summary: In the Baxter home, Hazel takes the reins over her boss, his darling wife and their precious offspring. But who would mind with her warmth, street smarts and delicious cooking? After all, Hazel is the kind of gem any family would love to call their own.

HazelaReview: Hazel Burke is the kind of woman families dream of: she’s caring, funny and a true original. Her food is the best in the neighborhood and her attitude ranging from cheerful to saucy, her opinion mostly unasked for but always spot on.

For five years, Shirley Booth played Hazel and bewitched the fictional Baxter family as much as her audience, first on NBC and finally on CBS. In 154 episodes, Hazel looked after little Harold (Bobby Buntrock) and his parents Missy (Whitney Blake) and Mr. B (Don DeFore). Based on a comic strip by Ted Key, the show was created as a comedy program and primarily sponsored by the Ford Motor Company (later co-sponsored by Bristol-Myers). An instant hit on NBC, the show was nominated for four Emmys and one Golden Globe, including two consecutive awards for lead actress Shirley Booth. Shot in color for the majority of its run, Hazel was moved to CBS in 1965, introducing new cast members as well as Procter & Gamble and Philip Morris as new sponsors. Despite respectable ratings, the show was not renewed for a sixth season but was frequently rerun in the 1970s through 2000s.

Available on DVD, the show is still as fresh and funny as it used to be when it first aired on Thursday nights at 9:30 pm. With its sweet storylines, Hazel is the perfect gem for anyone who enjoys a mix of tender comedy and innocent family entertainment. As one of those shows circling around a female lead, Hazel has had a lasting effect on generations of children who longed to have a live-in maid whose tongue whipped up sassy remarks as fast as her hands whipped up culinary treats.

Want a taste of Hazel, watch a sample episode here on Youtube.