Noteworthy show title sequences

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Today's one-hour dramas run just over 40 minutes when viewed sans commercials. Half-hour comedies are 22 minutes. So when a show actually forfeits an additional 30-40 seconds of dramatic real estate for a title sequence, one can rest assured it's not there simply to introduce the cast.

The opening sequence of Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica" starts with the "precap" -- an up-to-the-season explanation of the show -- followed by a recap of the previous episode and a traditional title sequence. It then concludes with what producers call the "donut hole," a rapid-fire tease of shots from this week's episode. "This is a serialized show," explains executive producer David Eick. "People might tune in and feel like they're lost a little bit because they didn't see last week."

The opening titles of NBC's "Friday Night Lights" present a more elliptical, Super-8-style montage emphasizing its Texas setting. "We wanted to look for a thread of the place that we're going to be, and then show the coach and his relationship with his wife, and then go into the players and the rest of cast," says Thomas Cobb, creative director/designer at the TCG Studio, which created the sequence.

The opening sequence of Showtime's "Weeds" -- created by Cobb and Robert Bradley -- makes an explicit statement of its underlying theme of suburban conformity. Computer-generated clones conduct their routines in a master-planned community. The soundtrack underscores the point with Malvina Reynolds' folk song "Little Boxes," which, since Season 2, has been performed by a different artist each week, ranging from Elvis Costello to Engelbert Humperdinck. "We never thought we would get the kind of interest that we did from (musicians)," "Weeds'" supervising producer Mark A. Burley marvels. "I mean, Engelbert Humperdinck -- he's an icon!"
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