Sunday, 24 September 2017

M-Squad, The Human Jungle, Highway Patrol, Peter Gunn - the wonderful world of old TV crime series title sequences...

Your starter for 10 - name the 1980s television series whose intro was a parody of the (slightly out-of-sync) title sequence from one of my boyhood favourites - M Squad, starring the great Lee Marvin:

Got it? Well, here's the answer..

As I'm in a nostalgic mood this afternoon, here's a selection of openings from late '50s/early '60s TV series which some of my older readers might remember:

This next one's a bit of a cheat, because (as with Scotland Yard) the Edgar Wallace Mysteries were originally made for the cinema:

Highway Patrol, starring Broderick Crawford, was another of my boyhood favourites:  

Johnny Staccato probably boasted the coolest visuals of the lot, plus superb Elmer Bernstein theme music:

You have to wait a bit for the titles, but it's worth it to hear a snatch of Henry Mancini's wonderful theme music for Peter Gunn:

I don't suggest you watch the whole of the next one - just the opening (I was a trifle baffled when I eventually saw the film of The Third Man, because it seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with the TV series - which it didn't, apart from the name "Harry Lime" and the theme tune):

The Untouchables' unbridled violence,  the urgency of narrator Walter Winchell's distinctive voice, and that weird pulp magazine illustration made the openings rivetting :

I'll end with the daddy of them all - Dragnet:


  1. Answer: Seventy Seven Sunset Strip.
    Here is a message for all restaurant owners:Bring back the booths.

  2. Replies
    1. Ah, Gene Barry - the lounge lizard's lounge lizard. Which reminds me, I saw this morning that Hugh Hefner has headed off to the great silicone-filled jacuzzi in the sky.

    2. That seems to have caught Matt's eye as well.

  3. The thing about these big bands is they do sinister so well, followed by the inevitable crescendo that it's hard not to whisper that most defaming of all words,please say it softly-plagiarism.

    1. Plagiarism? In this case, I'd suggest "borrowing", "being inspired by", or "working within a tradition". No doubt Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini and John Barry were all working like dogs at the time, and grabbing good musical ideas whenever they came across them. As long as it's got that glossy, sleazy brassy, threatening swagger, I'm happy! Back in those days, the title sequence was often a lot more entertaining than what followed.

      I've noticed that American cop show intros now generally last for about ten seconds, which must make it hard for composers to do much more than produce an advertising jingle - which is one of the reasons I was so pleased that David Lynch retained all of Angelo Badalamenti's magnificently moody theme music from Twin Peaks 1 & II when it came to making this year's Tim Peaks: The Return.

  4. I bought American Playboy The Hugh Hefner Story-the three disc set-just two days ago, just for historical reasons of course.
    It's very good.