On Opening Credits

Recently I was watching the commentary to one of my favorite shows: 30 Rock.  During the commentary for episode titled: “Deal Breakers Talk Show” in season four Scott Adsit

Right: Tina Fey (Liz Lemon) ; Left: Scott Adsit (Pete Hornberger)

comments on Liz Lemons new talk show’s opening credits. He says it doesn’t really match who the character is, which is part of the joke in that scene.  The intro to a television show can serve as an introduction into the world this show takes place in. It can set standards and rules, but do shows really need them? In this modern don’t most people look up (on a search engine like Google perhaps) the show to see what it’s about, to see if we’ll like it? What purpose does the intro serve?

Well it can serve many purposes and on late night talk shows it serves some unique purposes. For example in that same commentary Scott Adsit cites the opening credits to

Chelsea Lately Intro.

Chelsea Handlers show: Chelsea Lately as an intro that doesn’t fit the host.

Chelsea Lately Intro. (only watch the first few seconds)

The intro gives off a fun feeling. It seems to say that the show you’re going to watch is more like a late night party, not like those other stuffy talk shows. Just look at chelsea’s fun and playful gestures. The intro is kind of a collage comprised of shots of Chelsea having fun in front of a green screen. Quick cuts between medium shots and long shots create a feeling disconnect as it does not adhere to the traditional idea of continuity.

If you know anything about Chelsea Handler, odds are bubbly is not the word for her.  So it creates a disconnect for anyone who is a fan of Chelsea (and pay any attention to the intro credits that it is).

In many ways though, Chelsea Lately is adhering to conventions set by other similar shows. Many shows like hers do similar things with their intros. For example Late Night with Jimmy Fallon uses a mix of graphics and shots of New York City. Conan Obrien’s show Conan uses only graphics. All shows use a voice over in the intro. In chapter five of “Television and American Culture” Mittell states that non fictional shows (such as talk shows and news shows) will use graphics a bit more heavily than other shows because they are trying to convey a more “presentational mode that acknowledges it is a television program.” So many late night talk shows, like Chelsea Lately, need to establish both that they are television show that will present the audience with something and that it will bring in some comedy.

Although it may seem that intros like that of Chelsea Lately don’t really fit the host; they do fit the show, which is the point.



30 Rock Season 4 Episode 7: “Deal Breakers Talk Show.”

30 Rock Show Site

Chelsea Lately Show Site

Mittell, Jason. “Television and American Culture.”

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One Response to On Opening Credits

  1. bboessen says:

    A good point, and well articulated. Do you suppose the credits are built that way in part to try to draw in new viewers looking for a light and fun “party” show?

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