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Unique Pilot Title Sequence

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Often a pilot episode will have a different title credit sequence than the resulting show. This can be the result of many factors - Sometimes a pilot is presented as a TV movie with movie style credits; sometimes an element that will become common knowledge during the show is kept hidden to keep the surprise; sometimes an actor will be replaced between filming of the pilot and the series.

Shows with unique pilot title sequences:

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    Live-Action TV 
  • The Greatest American Hero shows the murder of Bill's partner by skinheads, then leads into the credits over a number of night shots of (presumably) Los Angeles. The familiar theme tune ("Believe It or Not") is postponed until Ralph flies for the first time.
  • Charlie's Angels started as a T.V. Movie with a different opening, as well as different bumpers showing the three Angels standing side by side.
  • The Flying Nun shows Sister Bertrille walking with her welcoming party back to the convent.
  • The pilot for Family Matters was very different from the standard first season opening. The credit segment for Kellie Shanygne Williams was longer; the IDs for several other cast members were slightly longer than the final cut. There's a shot of Carl greeting a colleague upon his arrival at work. The ID for Rosetta LeNoire saw her wearing a different dress, and after Jaimee Foxworth was cast as Judy, most of the scenes featuring her predecessor, Valerie Jones, were reshot. The title sequence also opens with a clip of Chicago at sunrise, and the whole thing is set to "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong.
    • The original intro for the first 5 episodes had this sequence with all of Valerie Jones’ scenes reshot with Jaimee Foxworth. Some scenes like the family eating at the table kept Valerie in it, while the Winslows riding bikes had a version with and without Valerie, the version without ended up being used in the final version. The DVD set and streaming uses a recut of the season 1 theme for the first episode inserting clips from the pilot as well as the original intro to replace all Jaimee scenes with Valerie.
  • The pilot for Home and Away (essentially a 2 hour TV movie, shown the day before the series proper) omits the slide and caption for Bobby, despite her having a large role in the episode, in order to avoid giving away the fact she is fostered by the Fletchers at the end. (Uniquely, the episode credits the main cast on both opening and closing titles, with Bobby included in the latter.) Instead, there's a unique shot of Sally on her own, which was replaced by one of her and Bobby for the seres.
  • M*A*S*H starts with the title "Korea 1950 - 100 Years Ago" as Hawkeye and Trapper John play golf with "My Blue Heaven" playing in the background. Radar gets tossed a football and stops as he hears the choppers coming, which then leads into the standard opening.
  • Remington Steele has Laura tell a slightly different story since at this point she hasn't met the man who would take over Remington Steele's persona.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" didn't have William Shatner's "Space, the final frontier" voiceover. This was 'corrected' for the HD remastered version of the episode.
    • It could have been worse. The original concept for the titles lacked the typographic appearance now associated with this particular incarnation.
    • The opening of the first pilot is also completely different: the shots are solely the Enterprise on a starfield, Leonard Nimoy's name doesn't appear (although he plays a major part in the episode), the special guest's name does appear, and the credits themselves lack the typographic appearance of the later series.
  • The 2 hour pilot to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine doesn't feature the wormhole opening as it hadn't been introduced in the story yet. The syndicated two part version has no wormhole in the first half and the regular opening for the second.
  • The opening credits of the first 30 Rock episode feature Liz in a That Girl/The Mary Tyler Moore Show-type opening, but this ends up as a Left the Background Music On gag and actually they're singing about the Show Within the Show character "Pam, the Overly-Confident Morbidly Obese Woman". The second episode introduces the regular opening credits. An instrumental version of the song from the pilot is occasionally used as a Leitmotif for Liz in later episodes.
  • The original pilot for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was originally released as a theatrical film. The opening credits featured not only a unique version of the theme music with lyrics, but also Fanservice images of the female leads lounging about in swimsuits! The televised version of the pilot ditches the swimsuits, but retains the vocal version of the theme for the closing credits.
  • The opening credits for the first episode of Downton Abbey follow the news of the Titanic sinking toward the main characters; all the other episodes use a more domestic credit sequence.
  • The two-part pilot of Waking the Dead lacks the distinctive opening titles and music of the series: Instead, the credits are shown on a simple black background accompanied by sombre mood music.
  • The opening credits for Battlestar Galactica (2003) pilot begin with music by Richard Gibbs. The second episode, "33", begins with the now-familiar Bear McCreary theme. It also has the quick cuts of upcoming scenes from the episode after the theme music.
  • The pilot episode of The X-Files has no title or end credits and is the only X-Files episode (including the two movies) not to include the iconic theme song. The episode opens with a title card stating that the plot is based on real events and that's all.
  • The pilot of Seinfeld originally had a very different tune than later episodes and the rest of the series. The pilot was rescored a few weeks later and resyndicated. The pilot in its original form is no longer aired.
  • Trapper John, M.D. opened with a title sequence in the font of The Greatest American Hero style type and Pernell Roberts dreaming via clips of M*A*S*H
  • For its pilot episode "Children of the Gods", Stargate SG-1 used a variation on the title sequence of the movie: A long pan over Ra's mask, then zooming out to show the whole thing, followed by fade-out. The rest of the series uses cut-together clips.
    • Although oddly enough, the DVD versions of seasons 4 and 5 used the "Children of the Gods" title. That's the credits it had in the TV show, at least when those seasons first aired in Australia.
    • The Stargate Universe pilot didn't use what little of a title sequence the show had.
  • Doctor Who's first episode in 1963 features an extended version of the opening theme which runs over the first scene of the episode (normally it gets faded out). The rejected pilot version of the first episode, which was not aired until the 1990s, adds a thunderclap sound effect to the opening credits, which is not heard thereafter.
    • The theme music running over the first scene was copied in the 50th anniversary episode "The Day Of The Doctor".
  • The Six Million Dollar Man had three pilot movies before the weekly series began. The first had no real title sequence, just the credits played out over the opening scenes. The second and third films featured a recounting of Steve's accident (which differed completely from the first pilot!) and a theme song performed by Dusty Springfield. The famous "Steve Austin...astronaut" opening wasn't introduced until the weekly series began.
  • While every episode of Thunderbirds begins with a preview montage, for the pilot episode, "Trapped in the Sky", the sound from those scenes (such as Kyrano's screams or the tire sounds of the elevator cars) are audible too. It also uses a different version of the theme music from the rest of the series.
  • The first episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons features a unique opening monologue by Captain Blue which begins with the phrase "The finger is on the trigger..." and ends by introducing Scarlet with "This will be our hero for fate will make him indestructible."
  • Victorious forgoes the theme song altogether, since Tori has yet to actually perform it.
  • Elementary's pilot uses a splashscreen and a few bars from the theme song. The rest of the series goes with a Rube Goldberg Device that ends with dropping a cage on a figurine. The splashscreen version was occasionally recycled for later episodes, presumably as a way of saving time in longer episodes.
  • House has a much shorter opening for the pilot that is similar to the first few seconds of the usual opening. It also uses a different theme tune.
    • Additionally, there's an unaired version of the pilot that was released on DVD in a very limited form prior to its TV broadcast. It was mailed to some subscribers of certain magazines as a way for Fox to get some early feedback about the show. This version contains two short scenes cut from the broadcast version and a far longer opening title sequence that is drastically different from the one that was eventually used. You can watch it here.
  • The 2004-05 series Jack & Bobby had simple on-screen titles for the pilot, because it wasn't until late in the episode that it was revealed which brother would grow up to be President. Bobby.
  • JAG: The Pilot Movie only has standard text credits and does not feature the Title Sequence with the Instrumental Theme Tune as in all other episodes.
  • Charmed's title sequence for its pilot episode omits the footage of the girls using their powers so as not to spoil it for first time viewers as to what exact abilities each of them has. The pilot was also the only episode in which only the original set of Charmed Ones/Halliwell Sisters appear in the episode opening.
  • The West Wing: The Pilot features a long single-take of Leo arriving at work in the morning, introducing most of the rest of the cast.
  • The pilot episode of Sliders uses a completely different title sequence to the rest of the series, presumably to avoid explaining the premise they spend most of the episode introducing.
  • Farscape left out the opening narration that usually runs over the title sequence, to avoid spoiling the entire plot of the pilot.
  • The original pilot episode of Lois & Clark, aired as a two-hour TV movie, starts with the credits playing on top of a Superman s-shield logo on a black background. There are no shots of the cast or anything from the episode. In syndication, it was split into two parts and featured opening credits that matched the rest of the first season.
  • The OA: The title sequence doesn't start until more than 57 minutes into the pilot. All the other episodes begin with a title sequence.
  • The pilot movie for Cannon had a maze motif for the opening titles, while the series went for circles crisscrossing and filling the screen.
  • The pilot for Smallville had no opening titles sequence, only title captions over the first Present Day scene. These also come in very late, after a long prologue showing the day of Clark's arrival as a baby and the accompanying meteor shower, introducing all of the main characters except Pete and Chloe.
  • The first episode of The Orville doesn't really have much of an opening sequence beyond the title card. Every other one, though, has a title sequence worthy of its Star Trek influence: a bold, bombastic orchestral theme accompanied by multiple exterior shots of the titular Cool Starship.
  • The opening credits of Law & Order had completely different music and graphics when the pilot was shot in 1988. Making this a stranger case is that it was shown out of order, so it's episode 6 of the first season that has the unique opening.
  • The first episode of A Prince Among Men features a longer version of the theme tune than normal which also continues into the first scene of the episode.

    Web Animation 
  • GEOWeasel's pilot has a theme song accompanied by Polaroid-style photographs of the main characters and framed pictures of the supporting characters, while the main episodes of the first season have a different theme song accompanied by scenes that never occur in the series itself.

    Western Animation 
  • In the first 5 episodes (which come together into one storyline) of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the song mentioned that G.I. Joe is against Cobra and Destro (The Big Bad and The Dragon of the series). In the episodes after that, they just say "Cobra, the enemy".
  • South Park's unaired pilot had Les Claypool walking across town as he sings a slow-tempo version of the theme song (in fact, the version played during the credits of almost every episode), with the boys popping up from the bottom of the screen long enough to sing their verses. The aired version is the same as the Season 1 opening, but the instrumentation of the music has inferior quality — this version is replaced with the more standard version a few episodes in.
  • The first episode of Iron Man: The Animated Series lacked the green wire bits in the beginning seen in the other episodes of the first season.
  • The intro sequences for the first episode of both Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra have Katara and Tenzin, respectively, give more detailed history about the history of the world (Katara talks about the beginning of the Hundred Year War and Tenzin its aftermath), while all other episodes have them recite the basic lore.
  • The first episode of Inspector Gadget—"Winter Olympics"—had at least three variations, each with its own unique "edit" of the main title sequence. Also, the episode had unique closing credits!
  • If you listen closely in the opening of the pilot of American Dad!, you can hear that the main theme has a flute added during the newspaper Couch Gag that gets dropped in the second episode.
  • During the Five-Episode Pilot of She-Ra: Princess of Power, before Adora does her Heel–Face Turn and becomes the titular herione, a male announcer reads the Opening Narration. After Adora becomes She-Ra, she reads a new version of the narration.
  • The pilot for The Dreamstone doesn't have the "Once more we travel to the Land of Nightmares, etc" opening, as this is the first time the audience is seeing Zordrak and the Urpneys.
  • The first episode of Batman Beyond lists Kevin Conroy as "Bruce Wayne/Batman" and Will Friedle as "Terry McGinnis", since the episode began with Bruce Wayne's final battle as Batman and Terry didn't take up the mantle until the second episode (where the credits permanently change to "Bruce Wayne" and "Terry McGinnis/Batman").
  • The pilot movie for Sofia the First has opening and closing credits not seen in later movies. The pilot movie starts with narration briefly explaining the backstory and ends with a live action music video inter spliced with clips and the end credits. The actual series and future movies use a regular theme song and 30 second end credits. Another change comes in season 4 where the executive producer, writing, story boarding, and directing credits come right after the theme song instead of in the end credits.
  • The first episode of The Owl House has no title sequence at all. The events of the episode play out, the show's title card appears, then end credits.
  • The first episode of Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake has a "Fionna Campbell" intro parodying 90's sitcoms in order to establish the world without magic that Fionna lives in. The regular opening debuts in episode 2.