While opening titles have fallen out of fashion in cinema (thanks Star Wars) they’re very much still in vogue in the realm of television. As such, many TV shows deploy these sequences beyond being a mere list of names and occupations, instead trying to creatively convey a theme or a setting. Thereby making the opening title sequence of a TV show a potential doorway into the medium as it can offer access into the world through the screen.
I say can because this is not always the case, or even always the intention. A good example of an opening title sequence being a doorway and another falling short of the mark would be to compare the opening title sequences to House of Cards and Deadwood.
For all its merits, House of Cards has a terribly bland title sequence. A simple tour of Washington D.C by night and day, offering no real look into any of the substance of the show, or its characters on the surface level. A level that a credit sequence should and often does operate on. The city setting is only partial to the overarching themes of the series, so much so that the show could probably be set in any city so long as the characters remained the same (in London for example). A poor doorway is created in this credit sequence, in stark contrast to the similar but crucially different opening titles of Deadwood.
Deadwood’s opening is very much like the one for House of Cards, yet it is far more effective as a doorway. It too shows the setting, the eponymous town of Deadwood in the old west. However instead of long shots of various landmarks and buildings of import, the opening titles of Deadwood invite us in to every aspect of the town, with everything on display. Panning for gold, the saloons, the sex, the whiskey, the trickles of blood evoking the violence of the town and the horse running throughout the sequence, connecting it all together. Breaching the threshold into the old west made very simple indeed.
It strikes me as not entirely fair to compare the two credit sequences as doorways as each has a different intention. House of Cards is set in the modern day in the modern world with modern people, what threshold do we need to cross to fully accept the world we’re being shown? It may not be real (at least that’s the hope) but it’s still less of a distance to travel than back to 1880’s South Dakota, so perhaps in this case its function as a doorway is not so needed. We don’t need a doorway in as we’re already sort of there, speaking physically. Already connected.
Regardless, the opening credits are often the first things shown in a show (barring cold opens) and often seek to act as a doorway into the reality of the show. Game of Thrones gives a detailed map of the entire world it’s set in. Black Sails takes a more thematic look into its world and The Muppets literally lead you in with a song and dance. The screen displays this door first thing in, allowing you to cross the threshold and prepare yourself for whatever show you’re about to watch.
Or, alternatively, go and get a cup of tea before the episode really gets going.