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Brian Lowry on TV’s Best Opening Titles: ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘The Walking Dead’

Game of Thrones returns April 6, bringing with it what is arguably TV’s finest current opening-title sequence. What makes a great main title? A topnotch show helps, obviously – or at least, does on this list. Here, aside from Ramin Djawadi’s hummable, stirring and muscular score, there’s that handy visual guide to help put audiences in the mood for another trip to George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world.

As for other contenders for the throne, here are five:

The Big Bang Theory: Yes, it’s over in a flash, but the Barenaked Ladies’ theme song helpfully covers several billion years of history in playfully introducing CBS’ mega-hit comedy. (This video is an illustrated version.)

Downton Abbey: John Lunn’s score coupled with the great estate are integral characters in PBS’ lustrous period melodrama.

Louie: What could be more appropriate than using the song “Brother Louie” to set the tone for Louis C.K.’s melancholy gem? Just don’t try to make sense of the lyrics.

Da Vinci’s Demons: This Starz series not only features a strong Bear McCreary score but cleverly incorporates Da Vinci’s drawings into the animated opening credits.

The Walking Dead: Bear McCreary again, here with a score that perfectly captures the sense of dread and urgency the show seeks to conjure. Indeed, for fans, those few repeated notes are almost like, well, ringing the dinner bell.

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