A cold open is the opening scene of a television show, typically presented as a teaser before any commercial breaks.

The use of the term “cold open” in TV comes from radio and stage where it refers to an opening that does not include music or sound effects.

In television, the term may be used to refer to the beginning of a program (or sometimes a scene within a program) that does not feature or reference the title of the program.

What Is a cold open

What Is a cold open in TV?

A cold open is the portion of a TV show or episode that takes place before the opening credits.

Usually, it occurs at the beginning of an episode to further establish the plot and tone of the program. These scenes are often played out by major characters or ones that will play a big role in the episode.

The cold open is a storytelling technique that writers use to hook the audience into wanting to watch more.

In a TV show, the sequence at the beginning of an episode that leads into the opening credits is referred to as a cold open.

The name comes from the fact that these scenes are not preceded by any opening credits or title sequence, unlike most other shows.



TV shows have cold opens to give you a taste of what’s to come, as well as to get you hooked on watching. It has been proven that without these scenes, viewers tend not to stay tuned into a tv show.

That being said, there are some cases where a cold open is not necessary. For instance, if the show’s plot is pretty straightforward and easy to follow, it may not be necessary to have one.

A cold open serves as an introduction to what’s going on and why we should continue watching.

Cold opens are usually fun and upbeat, but sometimes they’re serious and dark if that’s what the plot calls for.

They can also be used for comedy relief in some instances or just to grab your attention so you’ll get hooked on watching.

What Is A Cold Open In TV?

Cold opens are used in sitcoms and dramas, but they’re also used in non-scripted shows such as news and reality shows.

Cold opens can be contrasted with warm opens, which are used as introductions to shows or in shows that do not have title sequences at all (such as some reality shows). 

A short scene near the end of an episode is sometimes referred to as a tag, though the distinction between this and other forms of cold opens is not always clear cut.

Cold opens were once common in American sitcoms, but their use has declined in recent times.

In film, a cold open or prologue is an opening that occurs before the opening credits.

What Is A Cold Open Used For?

A cold open is the first scene of a show that doesn’t have to do with the plot. 

For example, in Friends, you’ll notice that the first 30 seconds or so isn’t about what’s going on. It’s usually just a funny clip of one of the characters doing something unrelated to the main plot, but it gets us laughing and interested in what’s going to happen next.

A cold open is used for a couple of different reasons. One reason is because you can use it as an interesting way to draw your audience back into your show after commercials. 

After those commercials air, a cold open can be used to help get everyone back into the mood of what they were watching before they had to deal with those pesky commercials.

Another reason why shows use cold opens is because they can be used as a way to tell little side stories that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the rest of the episode. It can set up a plot line for later on in an episode, or even help build some comedy that might be used later on.

In dramas, this often takes place at the beginning of the episode.

For example, a character could be seen running through a forest and being chased by an assailant before the title credits roll. 

Some shows use different types of cold opens throughout their episodes, alternating between longer ones at the beginning and shorter ones at the end.

This type of beginning is sometimes used to bring back characters that haven’t been onscreen for a while or to help viewers catch up with how long something has been going on.

Why Would I Use One?

The purpose of a cold open is to get the audience engaged with the show’s premise. It should be attention-grabbing so that viewers want to learn more.

Using one can also help save time and money because it establishes the characters quickly.  A cold open is especially useful when you’re creating a pilot episode or introducing new characters or concepts to an existing series.

The Purpose Of Cold Openings In TV

Every show has a different way of presenting their cold open, but there are certain things that are almost always constant with every cold opening, which is music.

Music is an essential part of any cold open. It plays a big role in setting up the tone and feel of the show. The music also helps with pacing, as well as rhythm within the scene itself. 

Humor is another essential element to any cold open. It helps keep things light on what can be some pretty heavy situations.

Cold Openings In Sitcoms

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an opening and a cold opening in sitcoms? I did. 

I’ve made a list of famous sitcoms and their opening song/montage and answered that question.

For example:

  • Arrested Development: The one with the blue background andthe out-of-sync singing.
  • How I Met Your Mother: The one with the yellow background.
  • In Living Color: The one with the white background.
  • King of Queens: The one with the red background.
  • Seinfeld: The one with no background, just shots of each cast member coming out individually.
  • Friends: The one with the beach and people jumping around in slow motion.
  • I Love Lucy: The one with the train at night that’s distorted and is moving quickly.
  • Daria: The one where they’re all very serious and talking about how dreary high school.