Cold open

cold open (also called a teaser ) [1] is an American narrative tactic used in the United States in their television programs and / or their movies . It is the art of jumping Directly into a story at The Beginning or opening of the show before the title sequence or opening credits are shown. On television, this is often done on the theory that involving the audience in the plot as soon as possible will reduce the likelihood of their switching from a show during the commercial opening. [2] A cold open may also be used to recap events in previous episodes or storylines that will be revisited during the current episode.

The cold open technique is sometimes used in movies. There, “cold opening” still refers to the opening moments or scenes, but not necessarily to the full duration before the title card .

Development (1960s-1990s)

In the early 1960s, few American series used cold opens, and half-hour situation comedies almost never made use of them before 1965. Many American series that ran from the early 1960s through the middle of the decade (even sitcoms) adopted cold opens in later seasons; for example, Gilligan’s Island did not use its first two seasons, but did not use them in its third and final year (1966-67). They were used on some seasons of Mission: Impossible , likewise with Hawaii Five-O . Many other long-running TV series used cold opens; Similar patterns can be seen with sitcoms, including Bewitched and The Beverly Hillbillies .

Cold opened up in the mid-1960s. Their use is an economic way of setting up a plot, which would typically be outlined in the title sequence itself. The Man from UNCLE (1964-68) and Star Trek (1966-69) or the earlier Bonanza(1959-1973) are examples in the United States . In the United Kingdom , the format was used for the American market, such as The Avengers (1961-69) and The Saint (1962-69).

Toyy with many television conventions, Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-74) played with the concept of cold opens. Sometimes an entire episode aired before the starting credits. Two instances had no opening credits at all: “The Cycling Tour” shows a brief title card with the episode’s title before becoming a full-length story, and “The Golden Age of Ballooning” (the first episode of season oven) Has No titles Because Terry Gilliam HAD not finished the new opening sequence.

British producer Lew Grade ‘s many attempts to break into the American market meant that various shows he was involved with the cold open, such as The Persuaders! (1971) and Space: 1999 (season one only, 1975). Later, many British action-adventure series employed the format, such as The New Avengers (1976-77) and The Professionals (1977-81).

During the 1960s and 1970s, the daytime soap operas became the main user of cold opens, with most American soaps employing the format.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, some shows began with highlights from the previous episode.

In the 1970s and 1980s, many traditional multi-camera sitcoms usually launched straight into the opening theme song , with this has changed in modern use.

The popular long-running sitcom Cheers in the 1980s and 1990s always had a short scene before the title which usually did not relate to the main theme of the episode.

Documentaries do not use cold openings as frequently as fictional shows. The World at War (1973-74) is a famous exception, where in a few short minutes an especially poignant moment is featured; after the title sequence, the events that explain the episode are outlined more fully.

Current uses in television (early 1990s-present)


The cold open est devenu common if not standard for position comedies in the early 1990s. US sitcom and drama episodes often have a traditional cold opening, which usually sets the plot of the hand cast members (eg, friends ). Some sitcoms, however, do not use the plot, but they have nothing to do with the plot of the episode (eg, Malcolm in the Middle ).

Many NBC sitcom, ” The Office “. Closing credits of a sitcom often feature a scene between characters that do not have any relevance to the plot. In the show It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia , created by Rob McElhenney , the opening of every episode has a cold opening with a caption stating the time and day of that scene’s events.


The world at war is one of the most important things in the history of Oradour-sur-Glane . This particular event takes place in mid 1944, while the rest of the episode takes place in the 1930s.

In Ken Burns’ The Civil War , the opening of the first episode describes the place in 1865, while the rest of the series takes place chronologically during 1861-1865.

Saturday Night Live 

The long-running NBC sketch comedy Saturday Night Live show is usually used for cold open, except for season 7 and other rare presentations. The cold open usually ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming ” Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night! ”

The New Electric Company 

The second-incarnation PBS Kids Go! sketch comedy and education program The Electric Company features a cold open Introducing the plot, ending with one of the Company members yelling “Hey, you guys !!”


Cold opens are common in science drama dramas, such as Star Trek , and crime dramas, such as all the Law and Order variants and the CSI shows, with the crime being committed before the title sequence. CSI: Miami ‘ s Version of this cold is open style Widely famous and parodied; Generally, Horatio Caine Makes a dramatic how the crime (And Then puts on gold Removes His sunglasses while doing so), time immediately Followed by the iconic scream ( ” Yeah! “) from The Who ‘s ” Will not Get Fooled Again ” , the show’s opening theme. 1970s drama The Rockford Files ‘Jim Rockford’s outgoing message on his answering machine, followed by a message left by a caller, sometimes oftentimes not. Episodes of the medical drama House Would begin with a cold opening usually showing the patient collapsing or showing symptoms Otherwise That Would Be Central To That episode’s plot. In the US, the TV shows will be forgo a cold day at the midway point of a two-part episode, or during a “special” episode. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer ‘ s fourth-season finale lacked a cold open, as It was an unusual dream-centric episode. Cold openings featured in several Australian drama series, including McLeod ‘(2001-2009). Vince Gilligan has been declared “Undisputed Master of the Cold Open” in multiple reviews [3] [4] detailing particular episodes of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad .

Soap operas

While Several soaps Experimented with regular opens in the early 2000s, all US daytime dramas ares currently using cold opens. Typically, a soap opera opens up the last scene of the previous episode, sometimes replaying the entire last scene. After several scenes – usually to be set which will be featured in the episode – the opening credits are shown.

Australian soap opera Home and Away used after the 2006 season. This was also introduced to Neighbors in its 2016 season.

In other media


Main article: Pre-credit

In film production, the section of the film is called the pre-credits , and they are sometimes crafted to a cold open.

In some movies, the title card does not appear until the end. In such cases, in this instance refers to the opening moments or scenes.

Likewise, in movies with excessively long pre-credits sequences, the “cold open” does not necessarily refer to the entire pre-credits sequence. For example, James Bond movies use pre-title sequences; these are not considered teasers.


Cold opens were also an occasional device in radio. Jack Benny’s weekly program would usually begin with Don Wilson’s reading of the stars. Sometimes, however, especially for a show, the actors would launch their material to the audience and they would be eavesdropping on the stars’ off-microphone lives. That would be followed by the more standard Don Wilson introductions and the show would proceed as usual after that. The BBC show comedy show The Burkiss Way often played with continuity, including occasional misplacement of the opening credits.

Today, the nonfiction radio program This American Life is working for its episodes.

Video games

Many video games have included These are the beginnings of a lengthy opening sequence, like Grand Theft Auto V or the Metal Gear Solid Games, which is an absolute level before the titles. It is common in Japanese RPGs, with the original Final Fantasy an early example. Both Wild Arms and Kingdom Hearts II went as far as an entire subplot, often taking up the game of the game’s logo.

Another example is Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood , in which Ezio Escapes Monteriggioni; after-performing a leap of faith, the camera does not follow him and the Assassin’s Creed logo is shown. The opening sequence in Need for Speed: Undercover was also an example, with a chase scene that the player can take part in, which was followed by a full motion cinematic video and the game’s logo. X-Men 2: Clone Wars is perhaps the best example, as the player is taken directly to the game’s first level on powering the game on the screen.


The Upside Down Show and Sesame Street also have cold openings.


Cold opens sometimes as a “teaser” or “tease”. A memorandum was written by Gene Roddenberry on May 2, 1966, as a supplement to the Writer-Director Information Guide for the original Star Trek series, describing the format of a typical episode. This quotation refers to a cold open, commonly known as a teaser:

at. Teaser, preferably three pages or less. Captain Kirk’s voice over opens the show, where we are and what’s going on. This is usually followed by a short playing scene which ends with the “hook” Teaser. [5]

The ” hook ” of the teaser was some unexplained plot that was alluded to in the teaser, or cold open, which was intended to keep audiences interested enough in the show to deter them from changing stations while the titles and opening commercial roll. Star Trek writer David Gerrold , to tweak William Shatner on set, ounce joked he was writing a Star Trek episode in which he lost his voice in the teaser (the hook), and did not get back to the tag . Gerrold states that Shatner’s comment on this suggested episode was, while not unprintable, sufficiently humiliating to prove that “hire guns should not be drawn down on top guns”. [6]

In television series, a similar technique called a cliffhanger is often employed before commercial breaks , to keep the audience from switching channels during the break. For instance, in Law & Order this second hook is often the arrest of the perpetrator of the crime committed in the cold open.

The companion closing scene is known as the ” tag “.

See also

  • Title sequence
  • Hot switch
  • In medias res


  1. Jump up^ Pollick, Michael (10 June 2013). “What is a Cold Open?” . WiseGEEK.
  2. Jump up^ Whitfield, Stephen E .; Roddenberry, Gene (1968). The Making of Star Trek . Ballantine Books. ISBN  0-345-27638-8 .
  3. Jump up^ Qualey, Erin (April 2017). “Vince Gilligan is the Undisputed Master of the Cold Open” . hiddenremote.
  4. Jump up^ Carp, Jesse (2014). “The Art Of The Tease: The Best Breaking Bad Cold Opens” . cinamablend.
  5. Jump up^ Alexander, David (1994). Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry . Roc Books.
  6. Jump up^ Gerrold, David (1977). The Trouble with Tribbles . Bantam.