The Art of the Anthology Series’ Title Sequence

*Written over the summer, unearthed to discuss today!

Thanks to having all of the time in the world and few external activities to fill it, I’ve taken to watching the back seasons of American Horror Story. I had watched the first season when it aired, and was pretty irked with how the characters and plots fleshed out; I reserved that the show wasn’t for me.

Well flash forward a few years later, and I needed something to get into quickly, and out of just as quickly, and American Horror Story has fit that bill perfectly.

But this post isn’t about that.

This post is about how as an anthology series, American Horror Story has title credits that change with each season. There are unifying elements, but the visual approach is tailored to fit each distinct season. Season 1, Murder House (boy was it EVER), Season 2: Asylum, Season 3: Coven, Season 4: Freak Show, and most recently, Season 5: Hotel– which is the first opening sequence of this show that I can actually watch. It’s more visually intriguing than disgusting.

{If you’re interested in seeing what the other sequences look like, here’s an article I found with the creator of the AHS sequences: Kyle Cooper. A man so great, he’s the one in charge of Seven’s opening sequence– a treatment that gave the entire “opening sequence” design a resurgence.}

What I noticed when I watched the titles (when I wasn’t purposefully avoiding looking at them, because great googly moogly are they freaking GROSS), was the music was the same- a simple minimalistic melody that linked all seasons together.

And about that grossness– it’s effective, if albeit stomach churning. It’s like the Dexter credits without the wit. They truly communicate what the show is going to be about. For this, I say great job. My stomach says it’s too much, but the designer whole of me says it’s fantastico.

ahs anigif_enhanced-3196-1443726663-2

While most people I’ve talked to are more interested in the story than the opening sequence (I mean.. who are they? NOT designers!  All I’m saying.) The neon signage, the beautiful cameo-esque vignettes– I love this sequence. True, probably not as AHS’ style so if you were digging the grossness, I could see how you’d be bummed– but Jenny loves typography, and Jenny LOVES AHS’ new opening sequence, guys. Just MMMMMMmmm good.

Which brings me to compare True Detective’s credits. Season 1 of True Detective introduced a steamy, roiling visual display of juxtapositions and it was glorious in its melancholy sadness. GLORIOUS. I loved seeing how the live video images played inside the still photos. It was eerie, ethereal, and ridiculously beautiful. The music was effective, but the visuals stole the show.

True-detective_season1 true-detective-season1.1

Compared to Season 2, it seems like the designer (or the client, or whoever) wanted to revisit the same treatment (hoping to garner the same effectiveness) of Season 1, but didn’t come close. It’s hotter, denser, and the images vibrate through each other. The ever-optimistic part of me is hoping that the visual tenor of the credits is due to the fact that it’s in Los Angeles, a vibrant and far thicker atmosphere than backwoods Texas and Louisiana, but I can’t lie– they’re nowhere near as effective.

TrueDetective_s2_Patrick_Elastic true-detective-season-2-opening true-detective

I’m going to take this moment to interrupt and say how talented the designer is who created these credits. All opinions aside, I was not in the room to hear the direction, read the brief, or experience the process. The credits for both Season 1 AND Season 2 are stellar, but not when viewed as a collective whole. I would have loved to see Season 2 of True Detective approach the anthology series similarly to AHS, not in its grossness, but in its use of distinct season-focused imagery with a unifying symbol, approach, or element (Like some DELICIOUS neon signage! but I digress). Maybe that’s just me, I do love the variations presented with exploration, but it could have been a much stronger lead in. Maybe they’ll make sense once the season is over. I’ll go with that. See? Forever Optimist.

*An update since finishing True Detective Season 2: No worries, no spoilers– but I think if I had to go back and rethink my reaction to the title sequence, I’d say that the hot vibrancy of the images could also connote the passion and ambition of certain characters, and the hot mark of shame and regret for others. Maybe a mixture of both, but I could see “flare” and “intensity” over the sadness of the first season. I don’t know. I’m still always going to root for the positive, guys. Forever.

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