A Lead In
is a mini story which occurs before the main plot. It is used to warm up the audience and set up the events which lead to the main story. Aside from being a catalyst, it usually has very little relevance to the rest of the episode. It may also be used to stretch the script to a sufficient length.
A Lead In
differs from The Teaser
- It does not occur before the credits (and is therefore not intended to grab the audience before a channel change).
- The Teaser does not have to be a separate set up, it can be an intrinsic part of the main plot.
A lead-in and a teaser are similar in that they both serve to bring the audience into the story.
- Six Feet Under begins with a Lead In showing a person's death. The remainder of the show is sometimes related to that person, and sometimes not.
- MacGyver employed a variation on this in several episodes. An extended pre-credits sequence called the "Opening Gambit" was used several times, perhaps as a time-filler. It would be a short, self-contained adventure with an entirely different writer, production team, and supporting cast, and was often radically different in style from the rest of the episode (The titular character hardly ever employed any Bamboo Technology in the Opening Gambit), and featured its own credits. After the gambit, the titles would roll, and the story proper would begin. The only link between the gambit and the main story of the episode would be a voice over to the tune of "No sooner had I gotten back from that mission when they sent me on this one," designed to convey nothing more than that MacGyver leads a very action-packed life.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000's Lead In is usually its own self-contained comedy sketch, unrelated to the rest of the episode except for brief reference after the commercials.
- Sliders, mostly in early seasons, always started with the main characters in a random world ready to slide into the world that would be the setting for the episode. These lead-in stories rarely contribute to the main adventure itself (with some exceptions, like "The Breeder")
- Law & Order explores the activities of the people who discover the body in the minute or so before it is discovered.
- Many newspaper comic strips do this for Sunday installments. The first two panels will feature a small gag which is loosely related to the main one. This is done because the top row of a Sunday strip (which usually consists of two panels and the title) are often cut out by newspapers, so the main content of the strip can't begin before the second row of panels without alienating some readers.
- Calvin and Hobbes famously averted this in its later years; once the strip became popular enough that he had some clout, creator Bill Waterson insisted that newspapers either run the Sunday strip unchanged, or not run it at all.
As in the expression "lead in audience".
A lot of TV viewers will watch a programme, then decide to watch the thing that is on next.
Therefore, having the right show before you can make a huge difference in your ratings
- often over a million viewers (LOST
in the UK shed 1.3 million viewers between premiere and its next showing; Big Brother
wasn't on for the second week).
Stations compete to get good lead-ins for their local news broadcasts. At 5 or 6, it's usually a syndicated show, at 11 it's usually a network show. So, the NBC affiliate would often win the 11 o'clock ratings battle back when ER
was on top at 10, and whoever gets Oprah will
win at 5.
This is important, since all the local news broadcasts are more or less interchangeable in the mind of the viewer, and it's also usually the only ad revenue the station doesn't have to share with the network or syndicate. This was one of the reasons The Jay Leno Show
, which was demonstrably hurting the 10/11 p.m. newscasts of NBC affiliates, was cancelled.