Friday, September 7, 2018

The Five Worst Comfort TV Opening Credits Sequences

Remember “Too Many Cooks?” It was a parody of the sweet but corny opening credits sequences found on countless TV shows from the 1970s and ‘80s. 

Like much in this age of fleeting fads it was everywhere for a while and then cast into the pop culture scrap heap. 

I thought they pushed it too far, but before it progressed to twisted extremes it definitely nailed the look and feel of those vintage introductions. You could have inserted the season two credits for Angie into the mix and no one would have been the wiser. 

I’ve always had a particular fondness for credit sequences, because with each new show and sometimes each new season you never knew what you were going to get. It’s an exercise in creative marketing that I compared to movie posters back when I used to collect them.

There is no correlation between the quality of a film and the quality of the poster that promoted its exhibition. Some of the most beautiful and sought-after one-sheets advertised forgettable films, while several classics inspired unimaginative images.

It’s the same with the opening credit sequences. Some matched the quality of the series they introduced. Others did not, but were granted a pass from fans because of their proximity to beloved shows.

No such passes will be given here. In choosing the five worst Comfort TV opening credits sequences, it would be easy to cherry-pick terrible examples from forgotten shows like Sirota’s Court and Misfits of Science. But let’s go after some bigger game. 

This is a show about a smart and free-spirited Southern California beach girl in 1965. Surf rock dominated radio that year, with the Beach Boys releasing “Help Me Rhonda” and “California Girls.” As Chandler Bing might say, “Could there be a more natural tie-in?”

But instead of reverb guitars and odes to Wilson brother harmonies, the theme song by Johnny Tillotson sounds like the kind of 1950s pop you’d expect to introduce My Little Margie ten years earlier. If they had to go in that direction, they should have kept the cocktail pop song used in the 1959 Gidget film, sung by James Darren. Even that one has more oomph. 

It’s not just the music that disappoints. The sequence consists of a succession of still photos, not taken from the series, that accomplish something almost impossible – they make Sally Field look less than adorable. 

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
The jazz theme is more appropriate to Dobie’s sidekick Maynard G. Krebs, though by the end of the first season TV’s original beatnik had already begun his transition into Gilligan with a goatee. And the crude animation depicting Dobie as a sinister-looking peeping tom also doesn’t match the girl-crazy but mild-mannered character played by Duane Hickman. 

Here we have the opening credit sequence as a 55-second joke, from set-up to punch line. Maybe you think the idea is funny, but is it still funny by episode 17? 

And even though in 1975 we were not yet the hypersensitive nation we’ve since become, I’m surprised more people were not taken aback by an intro that opens with a line of minstrel show performers in blackface. 

The Ropers
This one almost reaches the point where it’s so bad it almost comes around to being good again. Certainly the music has an earworm quality, but just having the cast stand one by one before different colored backdrops and do silly bits of business makes the whole sequence looks like something that was conceived and shot in about 20 minutes. And why is Patricia McCormack playing tennis?

The Lucy Show
I grew up watching this series in syndication, when every episode opened with the Kaleidoscope-style credits that debuted in season four. But in its original run, The Lucy Show tried and discarded other credit sequences that were unworthy of a TV icon.

The show’s third season was introduced with a seemingly random assemblage of episode clips, both black and white and color, that play to overly whimsical music snippets. According to The Lucy Book the visual discrepancy didn’t matter as the series was still being telecast in black and white – but now it just looks sloppy. However, even that attempt was preferable to the one introduced in season five, which had Lucy’s head popping out of an animated jack-in-the-box, while multicolored balls bounced around the screen, with appropriately cheesy musical accompaniment. 

It was used only on one episode before the show reverted back to the previous season’s credits, but has been preserved for posterity on the season five DVD set.


  1. LOL- Good choices! I always thought the Gidget one was cheesy. And The Lucy Show was weird, but I thought it was just Lucy trying to be 60s hip. :)

  2. A great selection. The production values of TV shows from the late seventies through the early eighties were so dismal it doesn't surprise me that so many of these shows made your list. I recall reading that Lucy herself hated the "It's A Good Life"-styled opening credit of her show and had it scrapped. What's odd is that it was followed up later on by a really creepy stop-motion Lucy. How about a list of great opening credits? I nominate "HANK"...

    1. That will certainly be a fun topic to explore one of these days. The "Hank" credits always reminded me of one of those 1960s Disney movies starring Dean Jones.

  3. Mr. Hofstede, why do YOU think the "Phyllis" intro opens with a line of perfomers in blackface? You might want to go to the following URL:

  4. You make a compelling case, David! I forgot how awful THE ROPERS was, though it isn't very different than HAPPY DAYS with the cast individually spotlighted and stuck standing there to awkwardly mug for the camera. GIDGET reminded me of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW first season titles with someone laying down still photographs? GIDGET looks almost dynamic next to that.

    I winced to see one of my favorite sitcoms, DOBIE GILLIS, among the worst! But yeah, Dobie looks downright diabolical and Maynard is MIA. These animated titles were dropped a season or two into the series. Bob Denver never did get front credit, even though by the final season Maynard was carrying the show with Bobby "FURY" Diamond while Dwayne Hickman phoned in his narration from a pre-NIGHT GALLERY-style stage.

    My personal nominees for worst titles would be the first season of MEDICAL CENTER with the beating heart sound and overlapping paging calls for Dr. Gannon. That fell far short of the funky-themed one to come. And a personal "worst title" is--shockingly--MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. I love the music and the lighted fuse, BUT...they never fail to reveal important plot points! I watch the titles on ones I've seen, but studiously avoid them on the ones I haven't.

    1. I used to do that with M:I as well! I hate that, as much as the shows that open with clips from the episode you're about to watch.