Name for This TV Show Technique?

Is there a term for a piece of a sit-com that introduces the plot BEFORE the theme song and opening credits runs? I don’t mean an opening, spoken statement made again and again at the start of every episode. Rather, it is an intro to the plot that will resume after the theme and opening credits.

Cold open

Nobody was better at cold openings than Star Trek IMHO.

Also known as the Teaser.

Pre-credit sequence (also used to refer to movies that use the technique).

It was being done on Burke’s Law in 1963. I wonder how much farther back it can be traced.

Since no one has said it yet, it’s a teaser, like in Star Trek TOS :dubious:


I always think of it as a cold open. To me a teaser is when they show a *“Next Week on…” *clip at the end of the show (and throughout the week in ads leading up to it airing). Nobody really does those anymore though.

I find that today a show either does a cold open or, if the credits run first they no longer go to a commercial in between them and the start of the show. Same goes for the endings, the lead-in show’s credits end and the next show (either credits or a cold open) begins immediately. Keeps people from changing the channel. It also often annoyingly makes your DVR miss the first or last few seconds (I think they do this on purpose!)

Nope, that’s a preview. The idea behind a “teaser” is to entice the audience with a promise of things to come, so they won’t tune out before the theme music and first commercial are over.

You’re also deprived of a toilet break, like we had in the olden days. Damn! :mad: :frowning:

Definitely on The Untouchables in 1959:

All due respect to TVTropes, I prefer the term cold open to teaser, because cold open doesn’t presuppose the narrative purpose of the scene, it merely describes the structural function. That is to say, there might not be anything “teased,” it could simply be a prologue to the story that fits better before the opening credits.

I always thought the difference between a cold open and a teaser was that the latter was a showing of some “exciting” scene from later in the show to tempt you to watch to see how it’s resolved. A cold open, on the other hand, was the beginning of the story.

Yeah, that’s what I thought too. I was watching an old episode of The Outer Limits (a cheesy Twilight Zone ripoff) and it reminded me that they always did that, showed a scene from later in the story at the beginning before the credits.

Right: Star Trek had cold opens; Hawaii Five-0 had teasers.

Another vote for “cold open”. Teaser would be “Tonight on Super Secret Spies…” with scenes of Super Secret Spy jumping from exploding helicopters and cracking safes.

Get Smart was big on cold opens, too.

Stephen E. Whitfield’s 1968 book The Making of Star Trek supports “teaser.” In fact, that’s where I first encountered the term. I’ve never heard of a “cold open” before just now.

CBS has revived the practice. Most of their shows this season have had preview clips at the end.

Pp 1 and 6:

The most memorable cold opening that I can think of was “Wolverines” on the very first episode of SNL: *

*My apologies if you’re trying to watch this in Canada. :frowning:

Although it’s possible that the terminology has changed over the years. I know that in comic books, before 1990, a “splash” was the panel on which the story title and credits appeared, often (but not always) a full page in size. But since then, the term has come to refer to any full-page panel anywhere in the story.