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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My Addiction - Part 5

Credit Sequences.

Many people might watch them once, but only to read the stars' names, and many don't take notice of much more than that. But I study them. The use of imagery, the order in which the actors in the show are given, the way those names are put to faces (or not, as the case may be), the music used, the brevity of each actor's name's "screen time", the font and type size used for the names, whether the show's title appears before any names (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), after all names (Alias - early seasons) or after the "main star's" name, but before the others (Stargate: SG1), etc.

There is much to digest, and I believe it all says a lot about how the producers, creators, writers, production companies and networks feel about their own show. I tend to watch the opening credits and let it gauge the 'feel' of the show for me.

If the people behind the show don't care enough to produce a good quaity, exciting opening credit sequence, it tells me that they either have little respect for their own show, or little respect for their viewers. Either way, I take it as a bad sign.

It's important not to judge the opening episode's credit sequence too harshly, though. Particularly American shows, where the opening episode is often the pilot, which was filmed up to six months ahead of the rest of the season (the pilot is used to 'sell' the show to the network/distributor, and often they won't bother to re-film the pilot unless they re-cast a role or something). This, in turn, means that the opening credit sequence is sometimes vastly different in the first episode than it is in the remaining episodes of season one.

I also find it interesting to note which actor receives top billing (on an "ensemble" or "buddy-buddy" show even more so) and which actor receives the last credit. Generally, the last spot is reserved for the second or third most important character / actor, which I have dubbed 'book-ending' the credit sequence, although I'm sure this isn't the term used in the industry (I wouldn't know). With Buffy, Sarah Michelle gellar obviously had top billing, but for the first five seasons Anthony Stewart Head (Giles) had the final credit ("and Anthony Stewart Head as Giles") All other actors, including SMG, only had their names credited; not their characters as well. When Head left the show at the end of the fifth season, Alyson Hannigan (who played Willow on the show and is better known as 'that redhead from the American Pie movies who says "This one time, at band camp ..."') was moved from her traditional spot as third in credit order to the book-end position as last. She also had "and Alyson Hannigan as Willow" added to her credit. This helped to stengthen the ending of the credit order, as the few in-between actors weren't as major to the show as Buffy, Xander (credit order number 2) and Willow (and Giles, when he was there).

Many shows end their opening credit sequence with "and XXX as XXX" (or at least "and XXX"), so this won't be an alien description for you even if you've never seen an episode of Buffy, I'm sure. Similarly as important to the whole notion of book-ending (or perhaps moreso) is the credit order itself. Often, this is ruled by the important placed on the characters the actors play, not on the strength of the actors' abilities themselves, which I think is a shame, although I acknowledge that it probably makes much more sense this way than the hypothetical alternative to the average viewer. The middle of the credits is generally the weakest spot, depending on the number of characters beign credited.

Take Everybody Loves Raymond, for example. A deal was clearly struck with the real-life parents / agent of daughter Ally (played by Madylin Sweeten), that she would get full a cast credit from the get-go ... even when her character didn't appear in the show. Her real-life younger twin brothers Sawyer and Sullivan (who played her on-screen younger twin brothers Geoffrey and Michael) weren't so lucky - even though by the end of the show's run they were considerably older than their sister was when the show started. Regardless, Madylin received a full opening credit for each episode. This doesn't mean she was listed last, however. The credit sequence went thusly:

Ray Romano (Ray Barone)
Patricia Heaton (Debra Barone)
Brad Garrett (Robert Barone)
Madylin Sweeten (Ally Barone)
with Doris Roberts as Marie (Barone)
and Peter Boyle as Frank (Barone)

(In the last season or so, when Monica Horan (Amy MacDougall-Barone) received an opening credit as well, she was inserted between Brad Garrett and Madylin Sweeten). The twin boys received a full screen closing credit for each episode they appeared in, which read:

"Featuring
Sawyer Sweeten
Sullivan Sweeten"

This meant that they didn't share their credit page with any other guest star, which in itself is respectful to their continued role and was clearly part of their contractual negotiations as well.

Anyway, to return to the point, whenever an opening (or closing, for that matter) credit sequence adds words like "and", "with", "as", "featuring" (and so on), it indicates more importance to the following name/s than for some of the names that have gone before. In this way, the unstated reality of this particular show's opening credits was to place Ray, Debra and Robert as very important, and then put Marie and Frank on a distinct and honorable pedestal of important all of their own (in recognition of their respective pre-existing long-term acting careers when they got the gig on the show, I have no doubt), with Ally bringing up the rear, for all intents and purposes (and fair enough, too - she's just a kid). But I trust you will see that the beginning and the end of the credited cast members are the more important ones, so it's very interesting to see who holds those positions in any given show.

The music holds major importance too. Is it a funky, fun-sounding rocky song? Is it grunge or rap or whatever the kids are listening to nowadays? Is it soft, slow and sappy like some chick-flick drivel, seemingly designed to put you to sleep? :) Does it make you smile, does it raise your interest? Does it excite or entice you to watch? Does it, in effect, embody the spirit of the show? Some examples of TV shows' theme music that I think have worked very well include, in rough order:

Angel
Cheers
The Amazing Race
Muppet Babies
Last Man Standing
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Will & Grace
Arrested Development
Frontline
The Muppet Show
Kath & Kim
Growing Pains
(a show I sadly forgot from my first post on this subject)
Scrubs
Family Ties
Duck Tales
The Late Show
Friends
Australian Idol / American Idol
Hey Hey, It's Saturday!
The Practice
Rove Live
The Bill
The Apprentice
Frasier
It's A Knockout!
Charles in Charge
Quantum Leap
Seinfeld
Survivor


If you're familiar with any of the above shows (and their theme songs), you'll hopefully see the point I'm trying make here. Some theme songs I really don't like or find totally irritating / irrelevant to the content matter are:

Nightline (evening news program on Channel 9 in Australia)
Felicity (later seasons)
Charmed (I like the original song, but I don't think what they've done to it does it or the show justice)
Star Trek: Enterprise
McLeod's Daughters
The Alice
All Saints


I'm going to stop this here and pick the same subject matter up in my next post. This is turning out to be a long monologue on credits. The next part will discuss the notion of seeing an actor's face next to or above their name in an opening credit sequence, guest cast members' names being given in super-imposed form once the actual credit sequence has finished, credits that are re-edited together every now and then (such as for each new season), closing credits, fun credits, and non-actors' names being included in the opening credit sequence (plus anything else I think of as I'm putting it together).

14 Comments:

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 7:44:00 pm, Blogger Clokeeeey! said...

Ok, now, The Credits?
I take a passing interest but I won't study them. Maybe if I want to know "who was that 3rd guy on the left leaning on the shovel?"*
The current trend is to shrink the credits on screen an play a TV promo on the right and maybe a text advert along the bottom. What do you think of this trend? It must be killing you, especially with a voice over too.

 
At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 8:19:00 pm, Blogger MelbourneGirl said...

oh. my. god. you are outdoing even yourself. i do admire you.

my main question is:

did you take some notes on the credits that you have cited here? how did you prepare this post? please tell me it was not just off the top of your head. please... though esteem will be high if you did.

 
At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 8:23:00 pm, Blogger Clokeeeey! said...

* third guy on shovel was not Bryan Brown.

 
At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 11:03:00 pm, Blogger BEVIS said...

Clokeeeey, you've struck on something I was going to mention in the next part (when I touched on the closing credits point), but for now I'll just say: "YES! It drives me flippin' BATTY!!" On movies, too, when they're screened on TV. I hate it, and in Australia Channel 10 is the worst by far (although all commercial stations are guilty of the same thing - and sometimes the ABC as well).

I understand what you mean, though - about the 3rd guy leaning on the shovel thing* - but generally I like to read the whole cast list (in TV shows and movies) at the very least ... this has a lot to do with how my knowledge of celebrities is so vast.

If that's anything to boast about! ... :)

MelbourneGirl, I feel as though this is a trick question. You admire me for a sickening knowledge of trivial TV credits and the like? Methinks you jest. Also, you ask if it was off the top of my head as if a 'yes' would cast me in some sadder-than-sad super-freak kind of light, and yet you claim that your esteem of me will be greater that way than if it's a 'no'.

Colour me confused! I guess that's a sure way to get the truth out of someone, though. Surround them with riddles so they don't know which answer will be more beneficial, leaving them to just tell you the truth.

Which leads me to my truthful, honest answer. It all pretty-much came to me as I typed it out. I confess that I had to look up how to spell Madylin Sweeten's first name (I knew it was a tricky spelling but didn't know if it was a Y or an E in the middle there), and I had to do a Google search because I couldn't for the life of me recall a show whose credited cast members' names all preceded the show's title (I knew I'd seen some, but they were escaping me as I typed) ... otherwise it was all me, baby.

Does that make me pathetic and an absolute nutbag?

Yes it does. (And I'm fine with that.) :)

My real-life friends would vouch for this - I know WAY too much about TV and stuff like that for someone who isn't even in the industry or anything. And I have a LOT to say on the subject. (Wifey could vouch for that one.)

But thanks for reading! (Or skimming, at least.)




* It was a young Jack Thompson.

 
At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 11:30:00 pm, Blogger Clokeeeey! said...

Bev, you are a nutbag, it wasn't Jack Thompson, it was Chuck Faulkner in his younger days.

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 8:14:00 am, Anonymous Tommy Greenwood said...

Yes... I can vouch for the fact that he's a fruitcake!

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 8:36:00 am, Blogger Riss said...

I agree about the whole credits thing. I also wish that the free-to-air television channels didn't shrink/squeeze the credit sequence.

I was also taught that you should watch the end credits at the cinema. I think of it as giving respect to the unseen and vast team who worked on making the film. Sometimes, if you're lucky, there are bloopers or extra bits tacked on the end as well - how are you going to know about them if you don't stay to the end?

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 9:04:00 am, Anonymous Mr. Kahfarknuckle said...

I want them to bring 'birds of a feather' back to television. I think that was simply delightful.
Why oh why oh why won't you bring it back Aunty?
I'd like to see this blog site stand up with me to lobby Aunty to bring it back.

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 9:34:00 am, Blogger BEVIS said...

BRING BACK BIRDS OF A FEATHER, AUNTY!!



Clokeeeey, I stand corrected. You are da man.

Tommy Greenwood, good to hear from you again. We should catch up for coffee sometime. Are your details still listed on the School Reunion website?

Riss, that's right, although most people wouldn't care about waiting, it seems. But yes, I stay to the end of the credits in the cinemas (unless we're in a hurry or I've been bursting for the past two hours - but in those instances I'll still stay until the cast list has scrolled past).

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 9:39:00 am, Blogger MelbourneGirl said...

bevis, thanks for your honesty. it wasn't a real trick question. it just came out like that. and to be honest in return, what i said was true, it would be a high-esteem thing if you did do it off the top of your head, but at the same time a bit freaky. my memory is pretty crap about what i did yesterday, let alone that capacity for detail... but you know what? i love it that people stand up for their skills and passions. so you haven't freaked me out in a bad way. it's all good.

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 9:51:00 am, Blogger BEVIS said...

Thanks, MG. Freaking people out in a good way is what I'm here for.

:)

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 1:16:00 pm, Anonymous Mr. Kahfarknuckle said...

Who likes Elvira?

 
At Thursday, November 24, 2005 1:18:00 pm, Blogger BEVIS said...

Your Mum.

 
At Tuesday, November 29, 2005 3:23:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly my father (a former media studies teacher) used to MAKE my sister and I watch the credits of all films so that everyone involved in the production got our full attention. I didn't appreciate it then, but I do now. Credits totally rock...especially when you find out that indeed that WAS Perry Farrell singing 'Silent Night'*






* I may have dreamed this.

 

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