It seems like these days, as our attention spans dwindle, television shows have less and less intro credits sequences. Attention spans aren’t the only part of it. As commercials have to fill more and more space, scripts have to form differently, use their acts in different ways. Also, Television is becoming more open to serialization. Shows actually want to use the whole 45-51 minutes they’re given. So to maximize the storytelling space, the ‘credit intro sequence’ falls by the wayside. A lot of shows these days have intros that last ten seconds tops. You could say that it’s tragic, but most of the time, the intro makes way for better television.
Back in the day, credit sequences were where it’s at! The pull of the show! Gone are the days of the ‘TV theme song,’ the time when Quantum Leap could have an intro that went on & on & on & on and had like, key-changes, and middle-eights, and like, structure. Star Trek shows, where there’d be some charging military march (horn orgy) while we watched a starship hit up comets for two minutes. “Three’s Company!” “Hey Sandy!” “Thank You For Being A Friend!” The list goes on.
Sliders, I feel, is often unremembered (this is an understatement). But, a lot of times, if people have any memory of it, part of it comes from the credits sequence. It’s got a lot going for it, that’s for sure.
Witness here, the beginning:
We see our Earth from space. But then we pull our space-camera out to see another Earth. Then another, and another, and another. Soon there’s a whole spiral of Earths, showing us that indeed, anything is possible. A young man’s voice narrates:
What if you could find brand new Worlds right here on Earth?
Where anything is possible?
Same planet, different dimension.
I found the gateway!
A vortex appears, swallowing the multiverse in its infinite possibilities:
A light overtakes us, and we are RAVING. BAM! BAM BAM BAMBAM! Actually, the theme song for Season One (something that Sliders could never decide on was a theme song. One of its critical weaknesses, surely) is pretty goofy. It’s a pulsing techno beat, screaming to all the 18-39 year old males to RAVE AND ALSO DONT CHANGE THE CHANNEL. Something I have also just noticed is that it pays not a small similarity to this song:
Though, obviously, much less obscene. (PS, Mark Mothersbaugh of popular band DEVO wrote this song, and much of the incidental music for Season One. Which is, of course, AWESOME, but I’ll talk a little more about that next week.)
But that obscenity sort of makes sense when the first face you see is this smarmy face:
The reason I’m going through the intro as if it was a character, btw, is because as the intro changes so dramatically from season to season, it becomes a barometer to what the show is trying to be. In Season One, it’s not quite sure what it wants to be, so it keeps the narration vague. It doesn’t show much in the way of alternate worlds, so it tries to keep our imaginations up. But the music is really pumpin’, so it wants us to believe it’s going to be fun. Also interesting are the choices for the shots of actors. Jerry up there is way in the ‘cute leading man’ vein, but how do the others fare?
Wade is …eating popcorn and looking surprised. Well, sure. I mean, she’s Quinn’s “bud,” right? Buds eat popcorn. Actually I’m realizing that Season One’s credits, were it not for a cyber-font and techno beat, could be for any show. It’s so unspecific to genre, it could just be like, a buddy-buddy-rom-dram or something. Which I guess it sort of is…
Rembrandt looks so cute! He also looks nothing like the sort of broad comic relief kind of character he actually is. Instead, the comic relief throne goes to…
Arturo is eating a chicken leg and looking surprised. What is it with all the food in this show? Now I’m wondering if the show actually is about hamburgers! It might as well be. I always think it’s funny when shows say “and ______ as ‘_____,'” as if we would care about whatever character they were playing before seeing the movie/show.
Anyways, we cut to the Sliders running in silhouette, then black. And THEN:
We pass THROUGH the show’s title, which then explodes a little bit:
During that, we finally get some sort of ‘iconic’ action: the title of the show is whispered. No really, that’s it. That’s as close as any image or moment on Sliders ever got to being “iconic.” It’s the word “Sliders” whispered. It’s more of a joke than anything else. You can use it as a punchline at parties and people will look at you funny. And that’s what people remember more than most anything else about the show. That, or a world where the sky was purple. It’s a lack of a unified vision that kept the show from breaking through into wide appeal. I’m not saying that it needed a huge audience to be good, but it certainly needed a huge audience to not be cancelled, and to keep its budget in a non-laughably small supply. It also could have used a bigger audience as a starter, a way for more people to see what was good about the show. Sliders certainly has a cult audience, but it’s small. It could have been bigger. But it wasn’t. I’m warning you now, this show isn’t going to ever have a moment like Locutus of Borg. Actually, it has one of those, but that’s not for a bit.
In any case, the Season One Intro just isn’t sure of itself. Every single season, whether by necessity or by wild flailing, will try something different. It’s going to be interesting to see (again, for me) if the show finds any sort of confidence in itself via Credits Sequence.
Coming up next: a world without James Brown.