Every police procedural has a different set of rules they follow; some go for all-out action, a few for logic and some are a mixture of both.
However, there have been a few police procedurals (aka US TV Cop Shows) that make you want to remember them, by hook or by crook – and that too, long before the ‘case is solved’! Believe it or not, these five TV shows discussed below know how to greet the opening theme that follows an iconic moment in every episode. That iconic moment can be anything, but it does grab the audience’s attention in a way that no other police procedural does. Read on:
CHiPs (1977 – 1983)
Before and after CHiPs, TV shows especially action-packed ones relied on a trailer of the upcoming episode that was followed by an opening theme that consisted of shots of the lead actors from other episodes. However, CHiPs changed that concept in various ways – not only did it have an especially shot opening sequence where creative camera angles were used instead of shooting inside a studio or using stock footage, but the opening theme also used to succeed the first crime of the episode. It could have been a car snatching gone wrong, a terrible road accident, a hit and run, or even something as simple as a power failure.
Usually, there wasn’t any dialogue in the pre-opening theme scene where the criminals were on the run, and the cops were called in for assistance, and that’s what added value to the whole thing. Just go through the opening sequence and be ready to be mesmerized for John Parker’s work that was updated in the second season by Alan Silvestri is still dated, despite being five decades old!
CSI (2000 – 2015)
‘Who Are You’ by ‘The Who’ only sounded important because of Gil Grissom’s dialogue that used to give them the ‘kick’ they desired. Since CSI’s launch in 2000, every episode had a crime that preceded the opening theme, and it was that crime that was solved by the team but not before Gil Grissom’s words of wisdom that kept the audience involved. It could have been simple words like ‘The Game’s Afoot’, ‘Let’s Get Those Who Did This To Us’ but the way he said it, made it all the more important. Even after he left the show, others tried to recreate the magic but the way Gil Grissom (William Petersen) delivered the line, no one could repeat that. Thank God, he is staging a comeback soon with a new CSI: Vegas where he will surely keep the new members of the cast, as well as the audience involved with his signature dialogue, before it all goes ‘Who, Are You’!
Cold Case (2003 – 2010)
There was more to Cold Case than meets the eye; instead of solving crimes that happened in the present, the Cold Case team led by Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris) used to solve crimes that took place in the past. Most of the time the scene that preceded the opening theme featured someone who was either the victim’s relative, neighbor, or an eye witness who would visit the Cold Case division and give them some piece of information that wasn’t available to them previously. That would throw light on a crime that could have happened five years back, or even fifty! The final dialogue before the opening theme was usually delivered by a member of the team who either knew the case or had some personal connection with the victim. And yes, the team always got their man!
NCIS (2003 – present)
Like CSI, NCIS also followed the ‘Crime First, Opening Theme Later’ format, however, there was a difference. While Gil Grissom did the honors in CSI, it was Mark Harmon’s Agent Gibbs or a member of his team who led the audience into the opening theme. Every episode began with the Crime, but how it was linked to the Navy, that is what was mostly revealed moments before the opening theme. Since the team’s jurisdiction was ‘only Navy personnel’, the audience also waited for the way the team connected the victim with the killers, and that NCIS theme gave them the motivation to stay there and motivate Gibbs and the team to rid the world of one criminal per episode.
SWAT (2017 – present)
When SWAT was aired way back in the 1970s, the Barry De Vorzon opening theme performed by American funk group Rhythm Heritage, reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The series may have been short-lived but it changed the way police procedurals were made, giving it the action element it was missing. Later, when the show was re-launched in 2017, the music theme stayed but came quite late into the episode. One could come up with many reasons such as the crime taking place, the police failing and calling for SWAT, but the most important reason remains that dialogue. Anyone from Hondo’s team could deliver it, but when Hondo (Shemar Moore) does it, it has the same effect on the audience as Gil Grissom did. It is the classic example of ‘Good things come to those who wait’ and if you want to relive the SWAT theme, wait for it!