I rarely showcase live-action intros in this article series because most of them are kind of dull. Cartoon intros don’t need to show a cast and are more willing to create original footage rather than use clips to show off the show’s cast. There’s little design put into them. At best they have a nice theme song, but this isn’t “My Favorite Theme Songs”, it’s “My Favorite Intros”. Therefore an intro has to have more to them than names and a theme song.
In The Heat Of The Night doesn’t really have a lot of flash. It’s a low-key intro with a low-key theme song. That works because it was a low-key show. Based more off of the movie (and possible the two sequels, They Call Me Mister Tibbs and The Organization) than the original novel by John Ball, the series took place in the fictional town of Sparta, Mississippi. (There is an actual unincorporated community in Mississippi named Sparta but the movie was shot in Sparta, Illinois, while the TV series was filmed in Hammond, Louisiana and later Covington, Georgia. Interestingly the novel was also set in a fictional town with an unincorporated community sharing the name…unless the book is actually set in that community. I haven’t read it.) The series began on NBC but later moved to CBS. Apparently there was a lot of backstage drama as well but that doesn’t matter here. I’m interested in the intro.
The theme song, “In the Heat of the Night,” was recorded by Quincy Jones, and is usually paired with “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs” on albums. Bill Champlin of the band Chicago sang the opening theme song for the television series.
I should also add that it’s the perfect song for the show. It’s a nice jazzy tune, and the score would also use that even before an actual jazz club and singer would factor into later episodes.
While the first season focused more on the crimes the rest of the series was more interested in the characters, be they good or bad. While the underlying theme of racism (of different forms and levels) was as prominent as the rest of the franchise, the series was able to address and heal the wounds as Gillespie went from being a racist in his early years to marrying a black woman in the series’ finale. It was a natural progression mind you, as the characters had time to develop, real-world issues notwithstanding.
While this isn’t showcased in the intro, and I’m not sure how it could be while fitting the show’s tone, you do get some good looks of the town(s) that make up the fictional Sparta. Each character is shown alongside the part of the town that they would be connected with, like the police around the station, a cafe owner who was gone by this intro and her cafe, and the councilwoman and the town hall. I think Althea (Anne-Marie Johnson’s character) should have been near the high school instead of her home, at least after she became the principal but I don’t believe it ever was. Instead of using the actors a rather artistic image was used of the performers which I think looks better than the shots of the actors used near the end.
See, it loses something, and not just the misplaced credit for O’Connor. And yes, that’s Carl Weathers as the new police chief, when Gillespie was made Sheriff of the county.
While I’m not really into cop shows and there isn’t a series I’ve actually watched every episode of my dad enjoys it, if only for background, and I have caught a few episodes. WGN marathons the show in afternoons but for some reason they don’t use the intro. They just use the open title reveal and the last shot with the credit for the show’s TV creator, James Lee Barrett. It’s too bad because as live-action US intros go it’s not bad. It gets you in the right mindset for the tone and feel of the show. I guess when you see it eight times a day it gets old, but M*A*S*H* gets to have it’s intro, so why not this show?