Grading this season's new opening sequences

Shakespeare said all’s well that ends well, but on television, it’s just as important to begin well. An opening-credits sequence can perfectly set the tone for a series (think of Homicide: Life on the Street‘s jarring, shaky imagery) or can send you lunging for your remote (Cybill Shepherd’s off-key belting of ”Nice Work if You Can Get It”). Unfortunately, a lot of prime-time openers are starting to look alike — just try to tell the gritty, tinted credits for C-16, Chicago Hope, and Dellaventura apart. And even those striving for originality produce mixed results. Here’s a peek at a few of the best — and worst — curtain-raisers:

THE DREW CAREY SHOW The ABC sitcom keeps increasing the scope of its musical sequences — the latest, ”Cleveland Rocks,” was shot in Ohio and features a cast of hundreds. But it’s far less charming than the original, smaller-scale ”Five O’Clock World” production number. Bigger isn’t always better, Drew. B-

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND In last season’s opener, Ray Romano introduced his TV family as they passed by him on a conveyor belt. This season, Ray’s parked in a lawn chair, with the family members floating above him like insects (pesky Mom gets a shot of bug spray) — all except for brother Robert, of course. He strolls by, too jealous of Ray to give him the satisfaction. A surreal treat. A

VERONICA’S CLOSET Star Kirstie Alley looks great slinking around in satin, but the grating theme song’s a real bust. Michael Skloff (cowriter of Friends‘ ”I’ll Be There for You”) strikes again. How’d he get the gig? Easy. He’s married to Closet‘s executive producer Marta Kauffman. C-

NEWSRADIO After three seasons of a dull opener featuring generic New York City scenes, the sitcom finally added footage of its stars doing typically witty shtick (funniest: Phil Hartman knocking a cup off a ledge — then cowering in fear). Too bad it’ll have to lose one of the shots soon; Khandi Alexander’s splitting the show. B

SPIN CITY Last season’s sax riff and spinning manhole cover were nothing special, but they’re preferable to the pseudo-psychedelic montage and the bland wheezings of Spin Doctors’ new instrumental theme song. Spin City, Spin Doctors — get it? C+

DHARMA & GREG A brief but affecting glimpse of the attractive odd-couple title characters (Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson) dancing and smooching nicely reflects the show’s swoony romantic spirit. Bonus points for using yin and yang symbols as design elements. B+

BROOKLYN SOUTH Composer Mike Post shamelessly cops from his themes to previous Steven Bochco police dramas Hill Street Blues (plaintive piano chords) and NYPD Blue (pounding drumbeats), while the visuals steal Hill Street‘s indelible image of patrol cars speeding over a hill. Can you get arrested for plagiarizing yourself? C

Brooklyn South
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