Across the interminability of their runs, TV shows are known to digress and regress into diverse forms of badness, but their credit sequences, for better or for worse, remain relatively unchanged. This means that for every five-season show, we’re watching the same “I just figured out iMovie!” stream-of-consciousness splice-fests hundreds of times. Because of this repetition, certain images stick with us — often more than other moments from the shows they belong to (whenever I see a hearse, for example, the gassy reverie of Thomas Newman’s Six Feet Under theme song plays in my head and I envision a lone tree on a hill). The morphing nature of TV shows set against the invariability of their opening credits often exposes a fissure between the tone of the credits and the tone of the show. Sometimes the credits just don’t get it right from the start. This can work to the advantage of bad shows, the disadvantage of good shows, or, you know, just be sort of confusing.
American Horror Story: Coven
I began reexamining this concept when I first started watching American Horror Story: Coven, and wanted to convince a friend that she, too, should get on board. To sway her, I YouTubed and showed her the opening credits, which are gorgeous, artful, suggestive, and terrifying. I intentionally failed to tell this friend that the show itself is none of these things: that it is, rather, campy, cheesy, excessive, and hilarious. The misrepresentation of the show’s tone here worked in my — and in the show’s — favor. Nowhere to be found in the credits’ deluge of beautiful camera work are the slanted frames and fish-eye lenses the actual show overuses to suggest that something’s amiss. Especially apparent is the disparity in the scoring: the opening theme, a minimalist and tasteful series of squelches, drops, and the repetition of an onomatopoeia that sounds remarkably like “Cookizza,” is a far cry from the show’s actual score, which often sounds like the music that would play if a yard of cheetah-print fabric went missing from the workroom on Project Runway.