Seen It a Million Times
please add examples as you come by them.
A character is looking into the background of another character. Upon looking into them, someone will say something along the lines of mentioning that they have a spotless record, not even a minor infraction like a speeding or parking ticket. It counts just as much as if they mention that the only thing on their record is a ticket; if that's the worst they have, then it's not that bad.
This has a couple uses. It can show how saintly a character is by essentially "praising them by faint damnation,
" or it can show that they seem to be an unlikely suspect, which means that in a Police Procedural
show, well, that's another roadblock the protagonists will have to come back from. In rarer cases, it can mean that they've changed their identity and their record is so clean because it didn't exist
- Judge Dredd: In one chapter, the Judges do a random sweep of citizens' apartments and become highly suspicious when one person turns out not only to have zero violations in his apartment, but has never broken any of Mega-City One's laws in the past.
- In the The Millennium Series, Lisbeth investigates Michael on behalf of Mr Vanger, as Michael is indicted for libel. As his previous record proves to be clean, Vanger decides to hire him as a detective.
- Used many times in Dexter
- Very frequently used to describe Dexter's Victim of the Week, usually to handwave how the victim was Beneath Suspicion and thus slipped through the cracks.
- Doakes cites something similar to this after looking into Dexter's background. He believes that no one's record is that clean unless they've done some scrubbing.
- Quinn, being Doakes-lite, reaches the same conclusion.
- When looking into the identity of the girl that Dexter found at the home of a victim, he mentions that she doesn't have so much as a speeding ticket.
- In How I Met Your Mother, when Marshall looks into the background of Robin, he mentions that in addition to not being married, she's "not so good at parking legally."
- A late fourth-season episode of The Secret World of Alex Mack used this to describe the man sent by the FDA to review GC-161, a drug that was designed so people could eat as much as they wanted without gaining excess weight, but instead induced Combo Platter Powers. Knowing there was no way the FDA would approve GC-161, Danielle Atron and Lars conspired to inconspicuously drug his coffee and put him in a situation that would publicly humiliate him and ruin his reputation, allowing GC-161 to be pushed onto the market.
- In Red Dwarf, when Rimmer is convicted of mass murder by an automated justice system, he protests: "I've never so much as returned a library book late."
- Played for laughs on one episode of (I think it was) Law & Order: Criminal Intent. A person of interest in the Case of the Week was so squeaky clean "he even does jury duty" (referencing the joke that juries are made up of people too dumb to get out of jury duty).
- In Bones, after Dr. Vincent Nigel-Murray is killed, the cast reminisces about how he was apologizing for the worst things that he had done to them... and realized that none of them were very bad. This makes them realize if that's the worst he's capable of, then he was a really nice person.
- Comes up frequently on Barney Miller: they check a perp for priors and he comes up clean, so Barney tries to talk the injured party into dropping the complaint.
- Shows up often on Castle. One notable example is when investigating the torture and subsequent murder of a surgeon. Ryan and Esposito are discussing how unusual it is for that to happen, given that the surgeon had no criminal record and no connections to any mobs. Ryan goes so far as to mention, "The guy didn't even have any porn on his computer"
- In Nodwick, a pair of bureaucratic devils look up the history of the Lawful Good cleric Piffany and discover that the worst thing she's ever done is squash a bug. And she did a week's penance to make up for that!