In an age when television programming is scattered across what often seems like thousands of channels, the idea of one channel ruling them all is a joke. There was a time when the three networks, NBC, ABC and CBS commanded the airwaves, but those days are tucked away in the annals of TV history.
Viewers are tasked with weeding out the crap, and let's face it, the crap makes up about 99% of all television programming. From the 'Jay Leno Show' to 'Jersey Shore,' recent show offerings have been an assault on the senses. In fact, there's barely one channel that can be relied on for quality programming, except for HBO.
While HBO came to most viewers' attention in the early 1980's for its feature film broadcasts, today's audience most likely associates the channel as the home to such pop culture phenomenon as 'Sex and the City,' 'The Sopranos' and 'Six Feet Under.'
Such Hollywood heavyweights as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks flocked to HBO with their award-winning mini-series 'Band of Brothers,' and the soon-to-air 'The Pacific,' another epic depiction of war. Martin Scorsese recently directed the pilot for an upcoming gangster series, 'Boardwalk Empire.' Not to mention the endless number of comics that have benefited over the years from HBO comedy specials.
However, it wasn't the big names or flashy titles that first drew me into the cult of HBO, although 'Fraggle Rock' might have been the main reason I started watching. What sucked me in was a seemingly simple opening sequence that HBO tacked onto its movies every night. Beginning in 1982, HBO used an introduction to its programming that included shots of a miniature city and its giant logo floating through space.
Those recognizable chrome-plated letters seemed awe-inspirsing to me as kid transfixed to the television set, unaware that I was quite privileged to have HBO piped into our household at a time when most friends merely had basic TV, if that.
Thanks to a post on PhantomLeap.com, anyone that missed that glorious HBO sequence can watch it again while also learning how the whole thing was put together in a making-of featurette. Starting with a miniature 30-foot-long cityscape, complete with working light bulbs in every building and hand-made foliage, the intro was painstakingly created by Liberty Studios in New York. After all these years, it was exciting to discover that a few bums and hookers were scattered throughout that memorable miniature city.
With a score by Ferdinand J. Smith that was meant to give HBO the "biggest, most exciting sound on television," every time the channel would air a film, I distinctly remember rushing to catch that opening sequence. From a branding standpoint, the introduction provided HBO with all that it set out to achieve, excitement and wonderment, at least for this viewer.
Quality programming has kept me tuned into HBO over the years, but the initial impact its sweeping introduction provided is surely what made me a long-time viewer. Perhaps other networks can learn a thing a two from watching it again.
Follow James Sims on Twitter: www.twitter.com/columbiajames