Created By: blueranger on August 11, 2012 Last Edited By: blueranger on January 17, 2014

Pipe Bomb Storyline

A plot intended to shock, excite and sometimes offend its viewers; usually the

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If you're involved in a long running television series then you want to have a storyline that shocks and amazes viewers, it grips them and has them on the edge of their seats when it's going on. It leaves them waiting at their TV screens, counting the minutes until the show starts so they can continue it. It's exactly the type of story that will be discussed at the water cooler in work the next day. You get the picture. This is the Pipe Bomb Storyline.

A Pipe Bomb Storyline is a plot that's rooted in long running media such as soap operas, long television seasons, Professional Wrestling, comic books, graphic novels etc. For television, it's typically going to be the show's big storyline of the year. It will contain shocking subject matter, some unpredictable twists and turns and possibly some controversy, especially if producers want to get people talking. If the series contains Loads and Loads of Characters, it will often bring the characters together briefly thus emphasizing the importance of the plot. It often becomes a Malignant Plot Tumour that eclipses all other plot points. The Pipe Bomb storyline never comes out of nowhere though. It is sometimes foreshadowed briefly before it happens, other times it's a slow burner before it completely ignites. You can spot a Pipe Bomb Storyline in the works if it starts to attract attention outside its fan circle. Typically the Pipe Bomb Storyline ends up being one of the more remembered plots of its medium. Shows are not limited to just one Pipe Bomb Storyline though it's not a good idea to run two of them so close together. Pipe Bomb Storylines are effective because they are few and far between. Trying to shock the audience too much may result in viewers getting bored too easily.

A Pipe Bomb Storyline can vary in length, though five episodes is usually the shortest it can go. Soap operas may develop it slowly, perhaps giving us the first bit of the story, then shifting the focus for a while before bringing it to the forefront again. How the Pipe Bomb ends happens in one of two ways: it either reaches a spectacular climax and after a couple of episodes dealing with the aftermath the show moves on, or it fizzles out and quietly disappears. Note that a Pipe Bomb is not simply an exciting storyline. It must show obvious evidence of the writers attempting to make it the show's big storyline of the year. The Pipe Bomb is typically one of the most remembered stories amongst the show's fans. The trope name partially comes from the way the story operates. Like a Pipe Bomb, the story is "lit" into life, sizzles for a while before exploding into the setting. Its impact is like a Pipe Bomb in execution. Expect the storyline to contain a Wham Episode or two.


Trope Namer
  • The Trope Name comes from professional wrestler CM Punk. In the summer of 2011, weeks before the Money In The Bank event, Punk announced he was challenging John Cena for the WWE title and his contract expired the day after. The next week, he cut an infamous promo at the end of the episode about being frustrated in his WWE situation and he mentioned other wrestling promotions as well as indie wrestlers (read: they don't do that on WWE TV) before saying some very controversial things about the McMahon family before his mic was muted and the show abruptly went off the air without a closing graphic. At the time it got huge amounts of press outside the wrestling world and Punk was assumed to have gone off script and done what wrestling fans refer to as a shoot. He ended up rejoining the company after the PPV, and to this day fans still debated over whether or not the incident was a Worked Shoot. The name Pipe Bomb of course is what Punk referred to his promo as and he continued to drop them throughout the storyline.

Live Action TV
  • Here are most of the Pipe Bombs Coronation Street has dropped.
    • The show's first big one came when Valerie Barlow was kept hostage in her home by a convicted rapist. It ended up causing friction in her marriage afterwards.
    • Deirdre Rachid decided to cheat on her husband Ken with Mike Baldwin, in one of the soap's most notorious affair storylines. A famous Throw It In! moment came when Ken's actor grabbed Deirdre by the throat and tried to strangle her.
    • Deirdre got another one when she was sent to prison after being falsely implicated in a bank fraud scheme. Even Tony Blair called for her to be freed from prison.
    • Dev Alahan broke off his relationship with Maya Sharma to marry old flame Sunita. Maya was enraged and on their wedding day got Sunita sent to prison as she had impersonated her and married six different men using her name. The storyline intensified as, after Maya was released from prison on bail, she planted explosives in all of Dev's shops, tied Dev and Sunita up in their flat and set fire to the shop downstairs.
    • Tony Gordan learned that Liam Connor had an affair with his wife Carla and ended up murdering him. Tony being found out was a major plot for the soap as he had begun a relationship with Liam's widow. He was sent to prison and then broke out to hold Carla hostage in the factory and set it on fire. Unfortunately for the producers, these episodes were due to air a few days after a real life killing spree had happened in the UK so they were withheld for one week.
    • Richard Hillman, married to Gail Platt, murdered two people before breaking into the Peacock home and murdering an unsuspecting Maxine. He then also tried to gas Audrey Roberts and the storyline ended with him tying up the Platt children and Gail in his car and driving it into the canal.
    • Tracie Barlow discovered Charlie Stubbs had cheated on her with Maria (noticing a pattern here yet?) and so plotted to fool the neighbours into thinking he'd been abusing her and making them think she had killed him in self defence when she'd simply gotten him drunk and murdered him. The storyline continued with the plot of Tracie's trial and wondering whether she'd be sentenced or not.
    • The show's 50th anniversary planned for a new bar on the street to explode and cause a tram to crash, trapping several residents. This culminated in a special live episode which attracted 14.58 million viewers.
  • Eastenders is no stranger to these and has attracted way more controversies that Coronation Street.
    • Janine Butcher, a drug abuser ended up turning to prostitution. The storyline was the first time a soap had depicted life on the streets in such gritty detail and viewers were hooked.
    • In 2009 Tony started grooming his own step daughter Whitney for sex and it eventually led to Whitney joining the sex-worker industry. Oh and Whitney is also Janine's sister in law. It Runs in the Family then.
    • Mark Fowler contracted HIV in the early 90s, one of the first times a soap had attempted such a storyline. Watching the storyline now can result in even more shocks from viewers as it reflects some of the huge prejudices of the time such as Mark's father refusing to even eat a meal cooked by him.
    • A baby swap storyline featuring Ronnie was deemed too controversial by fans and it had to be quickly cut short. It involved cot death, infant kidnapping and months of deceit on Ronnie's part. Yes, you read that right.
  • Emmerdale has managed to attempt a few in its time.
    • On Christmas, a plane crashed into the town. What made this so controversial was that it aired on the 5th anniversary of the Lockerbie Bombing.
    • An assisted suicide storyline came about when Jackson Walsh, who had been paralysed, had his boyfriend Aaron and his mother Hazel give him a cocktail of lethal drugs.
  • Brookside had an incest storyline between brother and sister Nat and Georgia who were even caught in bed together by their younger brother. The show's producers were forced to ax the family from the soap.
    • The lesbian kiss between Beth and Margaret is now a case of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny considering the Sophie and Sian pairing in Coronation Street but this particular kiss happened pre-watershed in 1994.
  • Hollyoaks had a domestic abuse plot between Ste and his girlfriend Amy that went on for quite a while. The actors even raised money for Charity during a scene where Ste cuts off Amy's hair.
    • Another headline-grabbing story came when two of the characters admitted to killing a toddler when they were twelve, drawing eerie parallels to the real life killing of Jamie Bulger. The episodes had to be delayed from airing after complaints from his mother.
  • Party of Five dropped two Pipe Bombs in its six seasons.
    • Season 3 had Bailey's alcoholism which took a toll on his relationship with Sarah and alienated him from his family. An episode centring around his intervention ended up winning an Emmy and the storyline came to a climax when Bailey ended up seriously injuring Sarah in a drunken car accident.
    • Season 4 had Charlie diagnosed with cancer and nearly half the season was centred around him getting treatment for it. At the time whether or not he would survive had viewers on the edge of their seats. "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny again since knowing the show has six seasons pretty much spoils that he recovers.
  • Charmed season 4 had a plotline with The Source who ended up possessing Cole as he married Phoebe, causing one of the darkest storylines the show had ever done. It even involved Phoebe getting impregnated with a demonic baby that manipulated her.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a hugely controversial season 6 storyline where Buffy suffered from depression (long story) and ended up sleeping with Spike. One infamous scene had them doing it inside a house that was falling down. Spike ended up trying to rape Buffy before leaving town to get his soul back.
    • The lesbian storyline between Willow and Tara was not actually a Pipe Bomb but was made so by fans. It was kept as pretty much just a side story with the real season's arc being The Initiative and since the network was very strict, Willow and Tara getting together could only be implied. The episode where Willow chooses Tara over her ex-boyfriend Oz ended up getting plenty of hate mail directed at Tara's actress Amber Benson.

Professional Wrestling
  • Exactly one year after his famous Pipe Bomb, CM Punk was involved in another one though this time only as a supporting player. He was feuding with Daniel Bryan who had recently dumped his girlfriend AJ saying he wished she'd never been born. AJ snapped and went crazy, inserting herself in the feud between the two. Highlights included AJ making out with Kane for a solid two minutes, sending Punk and Bryan crashing through a table and proposing to Punk and in turn getting a proposal from Bryan. The story ended with a bang as AJ ended up being named the new Raw General Manager. Oh and there was lots of skipping too.
  • The nWO was a group that popped up in late 90s WCW and really gave them an edge when they were trying to compete with WWE. One of the storyline's most shocking moments was Hulk Hogan doing a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Alongside the Pipe Bomb that got the trope named, WWE did another one with its women's division. Beth Phoenix and Natalya turned heel and formed their "Divas of Doom" stable vowing to rid WWE of all its model-turned-wrestlers which had been a huge source of argument amongst fans for years. The storyline was planned out for quite a while and was even going to have Kaitlyn turning on AJ and joining the stable but Vince ultimately decided he didn't like the way the story was heading and quietly broke up the Divas of Doom.
Community Feedback Replies: 9
  • August 11, 2012
    Even reading the explanation on the Trope Namer, I fail to see how Pipe Bombs figure in all of this.
  • August 11, 2012
    Yes, that's a horrid name. Maybe Sweeps Week?
  • August 11, 2012
    Added an explanation in the opening description.
  • August 11, 2012
    How does this differ from Wham Episode? (which was originally about plot twists, but currently about viewer shock)
  • August 12, 2012
    This is an entire storyline. A Wham Episode is just a one-off. This is a storyline that is tailored to get attention and shock viewers. It may contain more than one Wham Episode.
  • August 12, 2012
    So reading the analogy. Why "Pipe" bombs specifically? Lit, sizzle and then exploding is the life cycle of any bomb without an electric trigger (And most pipe bomb I know of use an electric trigger, so they don't sizzle)

    Still confused by the name.
  • August 12, 2013
    I think the name would work MUCH better, especially in light of the examples given above, like this:

    A "Pipe-bomb" storyline is short storyline (1-2 episodes) created for the express purpose of inducing sudden and violent conflict upon a long-running series in an effort to "shake up" the existing storylines and draw new/returning viewers to the series(esp. shows running 5 or more seasons, soap operas, or anything JJ Abrams is connected to).

    In practice, a "pipe bomb" storyline is a "Wham Episode" used expressly to start a story arc - usually in a violent or destructive way - that may or may not be connected to previous story events.

    In many cases this takes the form of an ACTUAL BOMB going off but can also work with sudden revelations of infidelity, pregnancy scares, murder, suicide, or other "external" sources of conflict that unbalance (or end) the relationships of various characters, promoting further long-term consequences. Be on the lookout for the "Green Ranger".

    The primary purpose of the "Pipe Bomb" episode, though is to destabilize an otherwise static plot:

    "And then (a bomb went off) and now everyone has to deal with the aftermath (again).

    I think a number of other tropes touch on this idea.

    I suggest re-purposing this title as the "More Dakka" counterpart to the "Wham Episode"
  • August 12, 2013
    So this The Same But More version of the Wham Episode? We don't do that.
  • January 17, 2014
    Not seeing the difference from this and Wham Episode, and it's been over a year since it was proposed with no real attention to it. Discarding.