If London had its own opening credits, what would they look and sound like? A concoction of Sherlock and EastEnders? Perhaps Peep Show blended with The Avengers? Here’s our pick of London’s greatest TV intros. Tell us your own faves in the comments.
Depending on your vintage, Thames Television’s iconic ident may conjure up memories of Opportunity Knocks, The World at War or Rainbow. Who knew it extended into a 90-second-long Sherman brothers-esque number? The accompanying collage of St Paul’s, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Post Office Tower is disingenuous in more ways than one; Thames Television was based way out west in Teddington.
Opening titles/music to The Avengers went through a number of changes — and that’s before Joanna Lumley signed up for The New Avengers. When series five sauntered onto TV sets, it brought the show’s cocktail of danger and sex appeal into searing colour — Patrick Macnee looking the part in his Savile Row suit and bowler (we can’t find a place that does bayonet umbrellas anywhere), and Diana Rigg getting bottomless brunch off to a classy start with her gold pistol. Laurie Johnson’s luscious theme is the musical equivalent of bathing in Bollinger.
House of Cards
In the days before every Tom, Dick and Harry had a drone, sweeping shots like this one of the Houses of Parliament had real clout. Agreed, House of Card’s military-style theme isn’t a patch on the music for its comedy cousin Yes, Minister, but who can resist these unusual aerial shots over the UK’s centre of power? Ian Richardson’s opening smirk, and that ominous motorcade, add a sense of foreboding.
Terry and June
This variant of the Terry and June opening titles is essentially a glorified advert for Croydon; ‘we have great transport links’, the video screams, ‘a world class shopping centre’, ‘and one of London’s premier concert halls to boot’. Well that’s what it says to us. Accompanied by John Shakespeare’s deliriously playful theme, you can watch these titles over and over. After that, it all goes a bit downhill, but anyway…
Whether or not you watched the show, Grange Hill’s theme tune, and accompanying comic strip opener, will have seeped deep into your brain. You’ll never rinse them out, and why would you want to? The song’s actually called Chicken Man, and was also used to promote a Spanish supermarket chain.
For fans of cartography and Stomp-like percussion, EastEnders is the holy grail of TV credits. It’s been jooshed up a few times since it, but the concept’s stuck. The fact that the opening five notes sound like a nine year old’s first piano lesson is neither here nor there. The ominous thudding drum beat that accompanies some grim revelation or other at the end of every show is 50 times more iconic than any Keith Moon solo.
Only Fools and Horses
OK, the market which features in the opening credits is East Street in Walworth, not Peckham. And OK, we still can’t remember all the lyrics to the theme tune. But you’ve got to hand it to John Sullivan, who not only wrote Only Fools and Horses, but also penned and recorded its theme tune (a la Dennis Waterman in those Little Britain sketches). Many are mistaken in thinking Chas and Dave are behind the track — and that’s what Sullivan had originally intended. But they were unavailable, and the rest is history. Trivia bonus: BBC theme tune legend Ronnie Hazelhurst wrote this instrumental theme, used in series one of Only Fools, but Sullivan was having none of it…
Another fine sitcom. We can’t imagine Hammersmith officials being over the moon (no pun intended) when Bottom barged onto screens in 1991 with this down at heel intro. In time, the theme tune (played by Ade Edmondon’s band, The Bum Notes) and fighty scenes between Eddie and Richie, became iconic. When Rik Mayall died in 2014, this memorial bench was installed in Hammersmith in his honour:
Peep Show (first series)
Yet another marvellous sitcom — and another case of a series one theme that was spiked. Except in this case, it really shouldn’t have been. As one YouTube commenter says of Daniel Pemberton’s Pip Pop Plop, “it is eerie and a little weird and creepy, just like the characters in the show.” We concur — although at least the Croydon setting stayed the same. The theme was replaced by Flagpole Sitta — a solid tune, but somewhat mismatched? Slivers of Pemberton’s soundtrack continued to punctuate scene changes in every other series. Every cloud…
Piccadilly Circus at night? Check. Sped up London Eye? Check. Close-up on a pipette? Er, check. Sherlock’s opening credits combine a tourist information video for London with CSI. Chuck in that stirring theme from David Arnold and Michael Price and you have yourself a contemporary classic. Like Sherlock himself, they clearly knew they were onto something.