‘Destruction of the most satisfying kind’: in praise of Netflix’s ‘skip intro’ button

The credits for prestige dramas are often turgid monuments to codswallop which is why this tool is the greatest invention of this century

Last year, Kanye West embarked upon a self-aggrandising seven-minute monologue during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show. As this monologue hit full speed, West bellowed the following statement to nobody in particular: Picasso is dead, Walt Disney is dead, Steve Jobs is dead. Name someone living that you can name in the same breath as them.

This question has remained unanswered until now. Because, although I dont know the name of the genius in question, an heir has finally been discovered. The pattern now goes Picasso, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and whoever invented Netflixs skip intro button.

Im increasingly of the persuasion that this tool is the greatest invention of the 21st century so far. Its certainly the most satisfying. If youre yet to experience its magnificent wonders, let me walk you through it, step by glorious step. You turn on Netflix. You choose a show. Its interminable title sequence lurches into action. A little rectangular button pops up in the bottom right of the screen. It says skip intro. You hit it. As if by magic, the title sequence goes away and youre slap-bang into the show itself. Its miraculous.

One little-discussed downside of Peak TV is that 95% of all title sequences are terrible. This is because there are too many prestige dramas and theyre all trying to prove that theyre more prestigious than the others. The fastest way for them to do this is to hurl every last ounce of pretension they can at the opening sequence. The signifiers have almost become rote now: if theres atonal music and tiny writing and you start to lose the will to live about halfway through, you know this must be a really important series.

Prestigious opening titles have become such a lazy trope that lesser shows are starting to misuse them. The intro to Star Trek: Discovery, for instance, is as toweringly self-important as anything since the first series of The Leftovers. It is a monument to codswallop, dripping with references to the Renaissance up to and including Michelangelos fresco of The Creation of Adam, set to the sort of ambient chiming they play in tall lifts to stop people from freaking out.

Worse still, just when you think its done because the words Star Trek Discovery pop up it lumbers on for 13 more agonising seconds. This would be good if Star Trek: Discovery was actually prestigious, but it isnt. Its a workaday spin-off of three or four better predecessors. Show me someone who wouldnt skip the Star Trek: Discovery intro, given the chance, and Ill show you a masochist.

Same with Mindhunter. Its title sequence is novel the first time around hey, a tape recorder really does look like a bit like a dead persons face! but watching all 95 seconds of it 10 times in a row, and listening to the title music, which sounds like someone tuning a railway station piano as slowly as possible, is too much to ask. We just want to see some serial killers. Of course were going to skip the intro.

Netflix has toyed with intro-skipping before. It used to start episodes automatically once the opening titles were finished, but the lack of choice irritated some. Now, though, you need only hit a button and bang the whole thing blows up, never to be seen again. Its destruction of the most satisfying kind. Its the televisual equivalent of being a drone pilot. I cant get enough of it.

In an ideal world, all title sequences would be as short as the one for The Good Place, which is just a momentary white-on-green screen. A sequence like that proves that the show is desperate to tell you as much story as it can before time runs out. It tells you theres no time to waste. Its exciting. But, until that happens, at least weve got this magical button. Its unknown creator should step forward immediately, so we can all throw flowers at them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/nov/08/in-praise-of-netflix-skip-intro-button

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