A "cold opening" is TV-industry jargon for an introduction that lacks credits or titles. In other words, the show just starts, and they wait a few minutes to tell you what you're watching.

Lots of shows start this way -- Saturday Night Live is a good example. You're thrust into that introductory sketch without any indication that the show is starting, or that it's SNL that you're watching. Going from memory, I think Mission: Impossible and all the Star Treks have had cold openings as well.

It's not that they're trying to trick you or anything; it's just one option for how to start your show. The alternative is to open with credits, theme song, or announcer -- The Tonight Show and its ilk don't use cold openings, for example, and neither does The Simpsons.

There's probably some disgusting anatomy-related joke to be made here, but it eludes me.

The Cold Open is the part of a television program that occurs after the end of the preceding program and before the title card and/or opening credit sequence. The 'Cold' part comes from the fact that viewers watching them after the end of whatever program they were watching before are coming to the show with absolutely no information about what it is that they're looking at. Those first few seconds more or less determine if the show gets new viewers or not.

On a thematic level, a Cold Open serves to drop viewers straight into the action without having them watch a title sequence. It's an effective way to give a story a running start, and it establishes the pacing for the rest of the program.

Cold Opens used to be less common occurrences than they are now, restricted to hour-long dramas that asked a more substantial investment of a viewer's attention. Nowadays you see them everywhere, and their proliferation has muted their effect somewhat.

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