At the beginning of many shows — most commonly in Police Procedural or Monster of the Week shows — a nameless generic character or two will wander around some deserted location, frequently either on a date or up to hijinks, and then one of three things will happen:
a) They will come across a horribly mutilated corpse.
b) One or more of them will be brutally killed.
c) They will narrowly avoid being killed.
This only lasts about a minute, or even a matter of seconds, before we cut to the show's characters, who have come in to investigate the death, deaths or deadly threat. The character/s from the teaser have almost no involvement from this point on; they might be asked one or two questions, but they're just as likely to get nothing but a brief mention ("A couple of kids found her three hours ago", etc) and that'll be it for them.
Obviously this doesn't apply to characters who die in some mysterious semi-obscure way in the opening seconds of a show, then go on to be the subject of inquiry, flashbacks and a thorough autopsy.
- Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil has a cold open in which a TV news reporter and her cameraman are murdered by a disfigured slasher. This is never returned to again but the events in the film reveal that it actually happened after them, and it indicates that the film's villain survived his apparent death and became a classic slasher.
- Favored by the Law & Order shows, CSI, The X-Files, Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy actually subverted this trope in its first episode; the opening sequence featured a good-looking teenage girl intruding on school property after hours with a date (making it both a date and hijinks). We think she's a generic soon-dead girl, but then she reveals herself as a vampire and kills and eats her date, who was the real generic victim. She then goes on to be a main Recurring Character throughout the history of BtVS and Angel.
- Neatly parodied in Police Squad!, where every episode had a guest star who was killed while their name was being announced in the credits.
- NCIS does this a lot. As did JAG too.
- Steve Urkel from Family Matters used to be one of these.
- Years later, Jaleel White would appear in a teaser opening of NCIS (example a).
- House has them almost every episode, with the audience spending most of the teasers guessing who will be the patient and who will be this.
- Most of the characters at the begining of most episodes of New York Undercover.
- This happens in almost every episode of Supernatural.
- Nearly ubiquitous in the revived Doctor Who. If the episode isn't part of a multi-part serial, this will happen (and the character almost always dies horribly).
- Almost every episode of Bones starts with this character stumbling over a corpse.
- Game of Thrones: The show's sole Cold Open in the pilot episode features three rangers of the Night's Watch, Will, Gared and Waymar Royce, heading out beyond the great wall of ice that seperates the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from the lands beyond. Two of them are soon killed by undead monsters and the third flees, who is later caught by Eddard Stark's men and executed as a deserter.
- Justice League:
- The episode "Darkheart" opens like this, with a couple of rock climbers scaling a plateau, before finding alien nanobot things. It cuts away immediately. One of them is seen answering General Eiling's questions as the League arrives. As for the other, well; the teaser ends with the aforementioned partner finding their empty boot before the camera reveals the growing nanotech mass, so draw your own conclusions.
- Amusingly played with in an episode of Justice League which begins with a team of workers on an oil rig in the desert, then there's an explosion... and the frame freezes and zooms out, revealed to be a presentation put on by a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
- "Eclipsed" opens with a military unit hunting a warlord named Fessan. They get a few minutes of screentime before one of them gets possessed by the Villain of the Week and kills them all.
- Leland Turbo from Cars 2.
- Used from time to time in episodes of Scooby-Doo, especially in its' later years.