The Stories Behind TV Production Company Closing Logos

The Lists Louisa Mellor
8/11/2015 at 8:54AM

Grr, argh. Sit, Ubo, sit. I made this! What’s the story behind the production company tags added onto our favorite TV shows?

Closing logos have evolved into a TV production company’s tiny stamp of individuality. They’re a single snippet of screen time not at the mercy of network notes, audience feedback or sponsorship concerns. A closing tag doesn’t need to sell a show, tell a story, or lasso an audience back for the next episode. It’s simply a signature, a few seconds entirely belonging to the creatives, to do with what they will.

As such, closing logos are as self-indulgent or esoteric as the production company wants. They’re perhaps the only place in television production where in-jokes, family photos, personal homages (or rants in the case of Chuck Lorre) and kid-drawn scribbles that belong on the fridge door are entirely welcome.

Here’s a selection of end-tags from geek-favourite TV shows, and what went into their creation…

The Curiosity Company

Made famous by: Futurama

Slogan: None.

What’s the story? This one’s a touching family link. In 1964, director and cinematographer Homer Groening created documentary short, A Study In Wet, a decade after he co-created future cartoonist Matt Groening with his wife, Marge (née Wiggum). In 1999, three years after his father’s death, Matt Groening founded The Curiosity Company to produce animated sci-fi comedy, Futurama. For his company logo, the color red reflected in moving water, Groening used the images and sound from his dad’s 1964 short film as a loving tribute.

Ten Thirteen Productions

Made famous by: The X-Files

Slogan: “I made this!”

What’s the story? Presumably to make sure we all knew when to send him a birthday card, The X-Files creator Chris Carter named his production company, Ten Thirteen, for his date of birth, the thirteenth of October, 1956. The company’s closing logo, in which the sound of an old-fashioned movie projector whirrs over a young boy’s voice proudly declaring, “I made this,” is the work of Thierry Couturier, Supervising Sound Editor on The X-Files, Angel, Birdman and more. It was Couturier’s then-9-year-old son who originally spoke the line, making Nathan Couturier essentially the Nevermind baby of TV production company end logos.

Couturier’s line became so well-known it was notably parodied by Stewart Lee and Richard Herring in the end credits of This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Hear their original recording session, by following this link.

R&D TV

Made famous by: Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

Slogan: No slogan as such, but they all start with one writer suggesting an idea to the other that earns him a grisly end.

What’s the story? There’s no story so to speak here, but these are too much fun not to include. Jerry Hultsch, a pal of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica co-creator David Eick, animated and voiced each of the R&D TV skits that play at the end of each BSG episode in which 2D animated versions of Ronald D. Moore and Eick go full Itchy And Scratchy on each other.

The animations are brimming with movie references (just for starters, we counted nods to Westworld, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, The Thing, The Exorcist, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Jason And The Argonauts, A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather, The Fly, and Easy Rider in the compilation video above), as well as some fun BSG nods (Edward James Olmos turns up in one, angrily demanding his check, while the pair come under Cylon attack in another).

Mutant Enemy Productions

Made famous by: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Slogan: “Grr, argh!”

What’s the story? Some people name their cars; Joss Whedon named his typewriter. As he tells it, Mutant Enemy was the moniker of the Buffy creator’s first typewriter, inspired by this somewhat ponderous couplet in the lyrics to "And You And I" by prog-rock band, Yes: “There'll be no mutant enemy we shall certify/Political ends as sad remains will die.”

The company’s logo, drawn and voiced by Whedon, features a hand-drawn 2D-animated paper monster rampaging across the screen. It went through a few different tie-in iterations over the years, from the Santa hat version that aired after Christmas-set episode, Amends to the “I need a hug” version that aired after Becoming (Part II). It also inspired a fun parody version featuring a stop-motion Whedon, this time by Robot Chicken, which you can see here.

Bedford Falls Productions

Made famous by: thirtysomething; My So-Called Life

Slogan: [sung] “And dance by the light of the moon”

What’s the story? It’s a simple homage to a much-loved film. Marshall Herskovitz named the production company he and Edward Zwick used to make thirtysomething (and, among others, produce Winnie Holzman’s My So-Called Life), after the setting of Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. The logo features a drawing of 320 Sycamore, aka the Old Granville Place, in the fictional town of Bedford Falls and two voices singing the last line of Buffalo Gals, the song sung by Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart in the film’s famous “lasso the moon” scene. (The My So-Called Life pilot features a number of nods to It’s a Wonderful Life, from Brian’s George Bailey-alike football sweater, to Angela changing Donna Reed-style in a bush, to the Zuzu’s petals scene playing on Angela’s mother’s bedroom television).

Bad Hat Harry Productions

Made famous by: Movies, mainly, but TV-wise, was used in House.

Slogan: “That’s some bad hat, Harry.”

What’s the story? This animated closing logo is another movie homage, this one to a Steven Spielberg classic. It’s a line from Jaws, spoken by Roy Scheider’s character to a local man in a delightfully askew swimming cap, as comeback for ribbing Brody about never going in the water. Here’s the original movie clip, for reference.

Singer cites Jaws as his favorite film in this Telegraph interview from May, 2003.

Braniff Productions

Made famous by: South Park

Slogan: Braniff. Believe It!

What’s the story? Before it was renamed as Parker-Stone Studios in 2007, the production company responsible for South Park was known as Braniff Productions, sharing its name with an international airline that went out of business in 1982. As the story goes, when South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone needed a closing logo for early episodes of their animated comedy show, so mocked one up using a clip from an old Braniff ad played over the theme from Parker’s college movie, Cannibal! The Musical. They then struck up a deal allowing them to continue to use the Braniff clip as their company logo.

Stoopid Monkey Productions

Made famous by: Robot Chicken

Slogan: “Stupid monkey”

What’s the story? According to Robot Chicken co-creator Seth Green, the origin of the company name and logos was all something of a rush-job, decided upon under duress. Adult Swim needed a closing credits card for the first episodes of Robot Chicken and, as Green tells it, “Matt and I had talked about doing some kind of variety of entity cards like "Worldwide Pants" or "Where's Lunch" or any of the fun stuff we had seen.

Matt said "alright, we'll each give a word and that will be the name of our company" and I said "This is stupid" and he said "and I like monkeys. So then, it became Matt doing his best monkey impersonation, while I chastise him for being so stupid, and we spent several seasons of our show with artist Adam Talbot doing an original "Stoopid Monkey" animation for every episode.

Little Stranger Productions

Made famous by: 30 Rock

Slogan: [The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt version] ”Goodnight everybody”

What’s the story? Just some family sweetness here. The kid in that peacock costume (surely an NBC nod) is one Alice Richmond, Tina Fey’s eldest daughter, who made a cameo on 30 Rock playing Liz Lemon as a child in season seven episode, Mazel Tov, Dummies! The Little Stranger title card used for 30 Rock’s finale featured not one but two tiny peacock children, Alice and her younger sister, Penelope.

Gracie Films

Made famous by: The Simpsons

Slogan: “Shush”

What’s the story? It’s known that producer James L. Brooks named Gracie Films after comedian Gracie Allen, but the exact origins of the darkened cinema logo in which a woman shushes the audience are less clear. Multiple variations on the logo have appeared in The Simpsons, as detailed here, including the yearly Treehouse Of Horror episodes in which the “shush” is replaced by a scream.

Chuck Lorre Productions

Made famous by: Two And A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory

Slogan: None. These are mini-essays.

What’s the story? You’ll likely be familiar with the text-heavy vanity cards of mega comedy producer Chuck Lorre, which are designed to be read while the TV’s on pause (or in this handy website version). Lorre is unusual in taking the opportunity presented by the closing logo to express himself on a number of topics, from behind-the-scenes shenanigans (particularly when it came to Charlie Sheen’s well-publicised departure from Two And A Half Men) to reflections on a wide variety of issues.

Ubu Productions

Made famous by: Family Ties, Brooklyn Bridge, and Spin City.

Slogan: “Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog.”

What’s the story? Producer Gary David Goldberg’s black Labrador had what was quite possibly the fanciest namesake of any pet in history: ‘Ubu Roi’ was named for a nineteenth century play by French Symbolist, Alfred Jarry. It’s fitting then that the photograph of Ubu the Lab with a Frisbee in his mouth used as Goldberg’s production company’s closing logo was taken in the equally posh Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. A fancy location for a fancy dog.

This closing logo fell quickly into popular culture, and has been much-referenced and parodied by the likes of Family Guy, Robot Chicken, Animaniacs and more.

Steven Bochco Productions

Made famous by: NYPD Blue

Slogan: No slogan, just the company name.

What’s the story? Another touching family link. The violinist playing a furious version of Vivaldi’s Summer from The Four Seasons is Steven Bochco’s father, Rudolph, who was a concert violinist. The logo is animated using an old photograph, and pays homage to the producer’s father’s career achievements in much the same way as Matt Groening’s Curiosity Company clip (see above).

Deedle Dee Productions

Made famous by: This version, by The Office; Parks And Recreation

Slogan: Deedle Dee Productions

What’s the story? This one’s another simple family link. Replacing the old King Of The Hill closing logo (and the episode audio clips that used to come with it) for Greg Daniels’ Deedle Dee Productions is this more recent one drawn in colourful felt tip pen against a pale blue background. The artist behind it? That would be Daniels’ young son.

Greg Daniels and Tina Fey aren’t alone in putting their progeny on screen in these snippets. Bruce Helford’s Mohawk Productions’ logo features an ultrasound image of a baby superimposed by the sound of giggling. According to Helford, it’s his son Aven in that ultrasound.

Stephen J. Cannell Productions

Made famous by: So much. The Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street

Slogan: None. Just the company name.

What’s the story? This one should bring back memories. Hugely prolific TV writer/producer Stephen J. Cannell is typing alone in his study, pulls out a sheet of paper from his typewriter (kids, ask your parents) and flings it into the air, where it transforms into a 2D animated leaf of paper and forms the ‘C’ of Cannell’s company logo. Of particular interest in the compilation video above are the changes between the various versions, see Cannell’s pipe disappear when he stopped smoking, and watch the awards begin to pile up on his shelves.

When he passed away in 2010, this touching tribute was made to Cannell by the creators of Castle.