main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Kickstarter Message
TV Tropes Needs Your Help
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
View Kickstarter Project
Informed Ability: Live-Action TV

  • According to Jim: Andy is sometimes described as intelligent. He works as an architect and supposedly got top grades in school. However, he also the show's buttmonkey and to this end he is frequently portrayed as an idiot, if not intellectually sub-normal. He is generally very slow on the uptake and is constantly outwitted by Dana, Jim and his small children.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: Pete Hutter has a nasty reputation. It's repeatedly said that "no one touches Pete's piece", in tones of horror that suggest what does happen to someone who touches Pete's gun. In practice, lots of people (or at least, Brisco, repeatedly) touch Pete's piece, and all Pete does about it is sit there, gibbering in shock that someone was mad enough to touch his piece.
  • Agents Of Shield: Seemingly played straight with Agent Ward, who is talked up as a brilliant SHIELD agent with skills and intelligence to rival Black Widow, none of which are ever really evidenced- in fact, the character's blandness was a source of frequent humor with the show's viewers. Eventually, however, it was revealed that Ward was working for Hydra and manipulating the team with his bland, no-nonsense act.
  • The Amazing Race:
    • Two or three teams do this to themselves every season. They talk up their abilities before the race starts, only to fall flat on their faces once they're on the course, such as brain dead lawyer Lance in Season 15.
    • An inversion occurred when a contestant described Boston Rob as "dumb as a rock". The only way this makes sense is if you assume the guy thought rocks were smart. Sure enough, Rob found a way to scheme his way past a food-eating challenge, convince a couple of other teams to forfeit it as well, and won the very next round.
  • Angel: With the character of Drogyn. A mystical, thousand-year-old immortal warrior who Angel says could kill Spike. He proceeds to never do anything but get his ass handed to him over and over, and then die. This is probably because he was created last minute as a replacement for Giles when Anthony Stewart Head couldn't make it for filming. The only time he got into anything resembling a fight on-screen was with Hamilton. He did get badly wounded in an off-screen battle with a mook, but that mook did apparently outclass Spike.
  • The Aquabats! Super Show! has a flashback (one of five contradictory ones by the five different band members over the course of five episodes) in which Jimmy the Robot mentions that he joined The Aquabats! as a saxophone player. Whenever the show features him playing with the band, however, he's on keyboard.
    • What makes this one really odd is his actor/real-life counterpart does play sax (and keyboard) for the band.
    • A better one is shown in the cartoon segments. MC Bat Commander is the one captured because his mind energy is powerful enough to power a laser...except in the show he's the Team Normal of the group and has no powers.
  • Being Human:
    • George is described several times as a genius and claims to have an IQ in the 150s. We never see him exhibit any high level of intelligence or knowledge. The smartest thing we see him do is teach basic English to ESL students. He mentions his ability to speak a number of languages, but never does so on camera. He admits to not knowing any Hebrew and can't remember all six words of the Shema prayer.
  • Big Brother US: Rachel is apparently very good at the game; yet she somehow has to rely on a blatantly contrived twist the second she started to fall behind. She also apparently is likable, yet almost all the time, the editors love to show her constantly crying and having to be calmed down by Brendon.
  • Bones:
    • Brennan is supposed to be a successful novelist who has written a series of best-selling novels famed for their character relations and steamy sex scenes. One wonders how this is possible given she is constantly portrayed as being a No Social Skills and is constantly bewildered by all aspects of normal human interaction.
    • It was eventually revealed that, while Brennan writes the science and crime-solving sides of her books, Angela gives her substantial advice on the social interaction and sex scenes.
    • At the same time, Bones will freely tell you that she is great in bed.
  • Breaking Bad: Skylar is supposedly an amateur writer who hopes to get published. This comes up all of twice in the first two seasons and never in the third and fourth season. No evidence of her writing ability is ever depicted. She does, however, prove to be a Consummate Liar as the series progresses.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Giles expects Buffy to be able to sense vampires with her Slayer instincts. She never does (though she does sometimes show what might be weak clairvoyance in other ways). It was likely just an element of the Myth Arc that was dropped early on. It was, however, seen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, where cramps in her abdomen alerted her about the presence of nearby vampires.
      • Later media showed that certain Slayer abilities took a lot of practice to use effectively, or occasionally didn't show up at all. Far-future Slayer Fray discovers that she lacks the prophetic dreams that were a feature of early Buffy. Eventually she realises this is because she was a twin - her brother Harth received the dreams, which was a problem once he became a vampire...
    • The Anointed One is said, via vague prophecy, to possess immense power, but never shows us any.
  • Castle:
    • Played with. While Richard Castle is a bestselling novelist, which implies some skill, several of the characters make somewhat snarky observations that his novels aren't necessarily among the great works of English literature (the phrase "not exactly Shakespeare" crops up more than once). This means that, on the few occasions his prose does show up, the viewers are primed to not necessarily expect the most awesomely mind-blowing and wonderful prose ever.
    • Quotes from Castle's writing do appear in a few episodes, and in fact several of his Nikki Heat novels were eventually released as tie-in works. So the trope is averted on both counts: we see his ability on the show and it's about as good as advertised. In addition, he does make comments showing correct knowledge of grammar, such as his annoyance at the use of "your" instead of "you're" and his pointing out the correct use of "irony".
    • It helps that Castle is a writer, rather than some other specialist that the writers would have to become experts on.
  • Chuck:
    • Chuck's love of music. It's mentioned in the pilot. And in season two. And in season three. Other than that, he doesn't even seem to listen to music.
    • He did show impeccable taste in choosing a Nina Simone record to play for Sarah in "Chuck Versus the Honeymooners".
  • Coupling: Jane is "the one with the breasts." Now the actress Gina Bellman is a very attractive woman but she is not exceptionally buxom. Although it is partly in comparison to the other two female members of the cast, however.
  • CSI:
    • One episode had murders taking place at a comedy club, whose native-son star attracted huge crowds even though he was a Jerk Ass. The few moments of him actually performing were disappointing. Strange, since he was played by the generally funny Jeffrey Ross.
    • CSI also has a character with an informed hair color. The writers are aware of the fact that Marg Helgenberger is a natural redhead; they occasionally seem to forget that her character, Catherine Willows, really isn't, causing her to be referred to in dialogue as "the redhead."
  • Desperate Housewives: Susan Meyer, whom even her actress has called a 'clumsy idiot' and who has certainly never displayed any academic qualities, was casually mentioned as having been valedictorian at her high school.
  • Dexter: Dexter is supposed to be a cautious criminal mastermind, but his never being caught can be attributed to luck and the utter inadequacy of the Miami Police Department in the series. He buys tons of horse tranquilizer under the name Patrick Bateman, a notorious fictional serial killer. He buys tons of plastic for his kills; WAY more than any normal person would have use for. He has an elaborate kill ritual that anyone could walk in on at any time. Worst of all, he frequently looks up potential kills and victims of his prey on his police computer at the police station.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Adric is supposed to be a genius, but of all the TARDIS crew travelling at the time, it is inevitably Adric who will somehow screw up the Doctor's latest plan to defeat the bad guy by doing something stupid, or will be gullible enough to be suckered into helping the villain's evil plan regardless of how transparently evil it is. For a supposedly smart person, the character doesn't come across as being particularly smart; and what makes it worse is that Adric is insufferably arrogant about skills that he is rarely demonstrated to actually possess.
    • Jamie, a piper, rarely, if ever, actually played the bagpipes. Probably for the best.
    • Rose becomes the centre of the universe without actually doing all that much, yet the Doctor and other characters go on and on about her being special. In fact, she only starts kicking arse and taking names after she's been separated from the Doctor. And we barely see Martha using her doctoring skills. All the skills these characters were supposed to have had were mostly ignored in favour of Chickification.
    • The Weeping Angels are always described as being supernaturally fast, to the point where simply taking a fraction of a second to blink is enough for them to sneak up on you and kill you. However, any time we see them, people will turn away for several seconds, and they never seem to move more than a few feet at a time.
    • In Time Heist, the "most secure bank in the universe" apparently cannot afford cameras, regular patrols, or any kind of meaningful security other than the Teller and some intermittently placed breath-based DNA scanners.
  • Friends: Inverted Trope in "The One With The Fake Monica" when Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe end up in a tap-dancing class. While Monica and Phoebe struggle to keep up, without any buildup Rachel is able to perform the routine flawlessly. When the other girls look at her in amazement, Rachel simply shrugs and says that it's easy to keep up — all you have to do is tap when the rest of the class taps. Of course, being played by trained dancer Jennifer Aniston tends to make this sort of thing a lot easier.
  • Full House: Pulls an inversion similar to the Friends example above. Jesse, who is genuinely horrible on ice expresses apprehension to Danny who himself says he feels like he'll probably be rusty too. Then Danny skates expertly out into the rink and performs a triple lutz landing backwards with his leg extended like a figure skater. He's just as rusty as he feared.
  • Gilmore Girls:
    • Rory Gilmore is repeatedly described as a brilliant writing prodigy who can make the most mundane story come to life with scintillating prose and profound insight. In the rare instances her articles and speeches are actually read aloud, they never rise at all above what any high school student could do.
    • Also, she's constantly described as a great success story, having accomplished so much. But all she ever does is get things handed to her. Her grandparents paid for her expensive private school. Then her grandparents paid for Yale, until such a time as her father started paying for Yale instead. Also, she started dating a really rich guy and got to live in a penthouse apartment instead of staying in a dorm. Throughout the entire run of the series, other than being a reasonably good student, Rory doesn't accomplish or earn anything (though, in all fairness, just getting into those expensive schools, which obviously require intelligence, and her long-shown wit in conversation, contribute to this merely being an understated ability, rather than an Informed one).
  • Glee:
    • Casts a cute guy who's never sung before in the role of a cute guy who's never sung before. Good choice, he plays the part well, and has obvious talent and potential. However, the other characters heap praises on him as if he's superior to the other boys in the club, who are played by (and sound like) trained singers with lots of experience.
    • This is a recurring problem with Glee, in that every single performance is so polished that the audience needs to be told things like when a performance is "bad" and who has the best singing voice. For example, the club's flawless performance in "Sectionals" is stated by a judge to be "good" but "not that rehearsed".
    • Kurt's voice is another example. Will calls it unique and tells him he can do things no one else can - but never gives him a solo to sing. After Kurt transfers to Dalton and joins The Warblers, the cast often makes remarks how Warblers "have Kurt now" - but Blaine is the only soloist we ever see and Kurt is just a background singer, alongside about 10-15 other guys.
    • Rachel's dancing also counts. Rachel's supposedly a good dancer, but a quick comparison with not just Brittany and Santana, but also Tina and Quinn, shows that although she can keep a beat and cope with some footwork, she's at best average. And her ballet, shown on-screen in "Laryngitis", is frankly poor - although she's supposedly been having lessons since she was a small child, she can't even get properly up onto her pointes.
  • Gossip Girl:
    • Dan Humphrey is constantly praised for his fantastic talent as a writer, but we are virtually never treated to any examples. In one episode, a story of his is glimpsed briefly, and it's comically bad - no doubt because it was written by the props team.
    • Same goes for Vanessa and her supposed talent for film making and script writing. Some would also say that Jenny's talents as a designer fall under this.
  • Heroes:
    • Mohinder is theoretically a geneticist with some idea of how the superpowers work. But he's constantly having plot points and technobabble explained to him by other characters, such as Bennet and Sylar.
  • Hex: It is repeatedly stated that the ghost Thelma will pass through anything living that she touches and thus can't get physical with Cassie outside of dreams. This is never actually shown at any point in the series, nor do they spend any time talking about the fact that she can handle inanimate objects (as she frequently does) without breaking the rules. An Informed Inability.
  • Highlander: The Series: When one immortal beheads another, the winner gains the loser's power. An immortal's chances of winning a fight depend on how many heads each combatant has taken and how much power the owners of those heads had. At least, this is what they say happens. From what is seen in the fight scenes, none of them is any better at fighting than an ordinary human. They don't go around lifting cars over their heads, and they can't fly or, really, do much of anything superhuman other than come back to life if they die from anything except beheading.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Don, Robin's boyfriend in season 5, also falls into this trope. Marshall and Lily insist to Robin that he's an amazing guy (despite not really knowing anything about him), though all the audience knows is that at first he didn't care about his career, and didn't wear pants, and now he does. Wear pants, that is.
    • Again with Lily, her Chessmaster abilities are very much an informed ability. To the point where actual Chessmaster Barney sings the praises of her abilities. Her every Batman Gambit has either been incredibly simple (all of her breakups of Ted in the past), or backfired badly (her breakups of Ted and Barney with Robin).
    • Her ability was shown once; she thought up the ploy to get The Arcadian Hotel demolished: since the lion's head figure was "iconic", simply remove it, then there's no reason to keep the building. (It wound up in Barney's apartment )
  • iCarly:
    • The quality of the titular web show is greatly exaggerated. The characters on the show eat it up and it has become an internet phenomenon so well known it's been hit up for ideas for TV on the show on two separate occasions.
    • Sam's supposed 'tech' ability. Part of her Brilliant but Lazy character build includes mentions in several character blogs of her ability with computers that she's never used on the show itself.
      • Averted later when Sam gets a job in the Pear store, basically to spite Freddie, who just got one himself. In an improbably short while she is promoted to be his boss. Since the job is a parody of Apple's 'Genius' it's possible she had to show some knowledge of tech to get hired in the first place.
  • Jonathan Creek: Joey is initially introduced as Jonathan's intellectual equal, described on a television show as "someone whose powers of deduction and truly phenomenal flair for solving seemingly impossibly puzzles are beyond cool." Yet apart from ascertaining that the Nightmare Room is inescapable and discovering a clue that Jonathan misses (one which ends up being a false lead), she doesn't solve any part of the mystery, and eventually admits: "I'm out of my depth here."
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Every show has an All There in the Manual description full of powers and features that never even come up shown in the show, for obvious reasons. Fans may never know what happens if they got the chance to cut loose.
    • Some of the claims get truly outsize, as higher levels (such as Ultimate Kuuga) could supposedly destroy the world. A Rider's actual power level is best described as "As strong as it takes to have trouble with but eventually beat the Monster of the Week." And then you have first-appearance beef-ups, where a character or power will be utterly invincible the first time and then never, ever again. Biggest offender here is Double.note  Outside of power levels, there's Kamen Rider OOO's "full combos can drive you nuts" thing, which has never been seen to happen (unless it's Putotyra, the feral, dinosaur-based mode, which is always uncontrollable, but that activates on its own when Eiji's under enough duress) and yet using one is still treated as being so dangerous you'd rather take your chances with a monster who overpowers you than risk using one.
    • However, the Greeed in that series being able to 'devour the Earth' turns out to not be an idle boast.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: All the ADA's who came after Alex Cabot had to endure a bit of time in the Replacement Scrappy box because of how popular she was with fans, but Kim Greylek's contribution to the show was nothing but Informed Ability, to the point that she introduced herself as "The Crusader" and although the audience never saw it, she was also a highly aggressive and competent lawyer from big important D.C. and taking cases in little ol' Manhattan to further her political aspirations (that it said she has). Fans of the show didn't tolerate her very well, and she didn't even last a whole season. This is especially notable when compared to her predecessor, Casey Novak, who, as Cabot's successor, landed into Replacement Scrappy territory just long enough to haul herself out of it by kicking legal ass in magnificent fashion. Which makes Greylek's Informed Ability all the more perplexing; the writers clearly didn't have any problems with writing Novak as a great lawyer, so what happened with Greylek?
    • The Writers seemingly attempted to combine Alex and Casey into one character. It backfired spectacularly.
  • LOST: His name is Sayid Jarrah, and he is a torturer. Or so he informs us, and so Kelvin Inman, the US soldier who taught Sayid to torture, informed him. But the only time we are even told that he successfully tortured someone is in a flashback, and it is almost all offscreen. This among numerous failed attempts.
  • Married... with Children:
    • Neatly averted in a third-season episode where Kelly is forced to join the school tap-dancing class, gets some extra coaching from neighbor Steve, and finally does an erotic dance with her would-be boyfriend. As Christina Applegate, David Garrison, and the actor who played the boyfriend were all trained dancers themselves, it wasn't much of a stretch for their characters to do it.
    • Played straight (most of the time) with Jefferson's CIA past. Despite various hints that he was an agent, he's never shown to live up to it. Except in one episode, where he meets with Fidel Castro.
  • Merlin: Excalibur is described constantly as a powerful and dangerous sword that can only be wielded safely by Arthur. Yet not only is it used by both Uther and Merlin in two separate episodes with no drastic consequences, by the time Arthur finally gets his hands on it at the end of series four, nothing particularly exceptional is done with it. He can't even defeat Helios without help. The sword lives up to its reputation of being able to kill the dead, but it's neither as awesome in the right hands or as dangerous in the wrong ones as its maker would have you believe.
  • The Mighty Boosh: Played for Laughs with Kirk, a shaman who looks like a normal boy but is apparently a menacing interdimensional being. We never see him do anything, but the other shamans accuse him of being "a vehicular menace," and "an erotic adventurer of the most deranged kind," which he does not deny. They also say that he also has a far greater capacity for narcotics than the other shamans.
  • The Mindy Project: In one episode, all of the women are surprised to learn that one of the doctors is a good dancer. They have to tell the audience this because none of his moves are the least bit impressive and we only see him dance in tiny snippets with women around him.
  • Monk: In the episode "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece", the audience is repeatedly told that Monk is a terrible artist, which is probably true from an artistic standpoint but not from a technical one. They were essentially 2-D figures made from perfect geometric shapes/lines that took incredible skill and discipline to produce and represented Monk's vision of a perfectly ordered and straight world but were devoid of any individuality or creative genius. Of course, his teacher's preferred entry was blatantly plagiarizing The Scream.
  • Nashville: Rayna Jaymes is ostensibly one of the greatest (though not as big as she was) country stars going while upstart Juliette Barnes hasn't got enough talent to fit inside a thimble and has to fight to prove herself, but Rayna's supposedly authentic act isn't that much (if any) of an artistic advance on Juliette's crossover tracks. It doesn't help that quite a few people believe Hayden Panettiere (Juliette) is a better singer than Connie Britton (Rayna), and some of them are Britton fans. Most tellingly, Panettiere has more songs on the soundtrack album(s)note  than Britton. (The show's constant portrayal of Rayna as a musical legend gets particularly ludicrous when she wins all the CMA Awards she's nominated for in "You're Lookin' At Country.")
  • NCIS: Los Angeles plays with this when the team goes up against a rogue Delta special forces team. The Deltas are described as some of the deadliest soldiers trained by the US military but they seem to be making rookie mistakes like spraying a bathroom with gunfire and not actually checking if they killed their target. However, this is then revealed as a ruse since the guy hiding in the bathroom was the inside man and was supposed to survive. The Delta's combat prowess comes into question again when they assault a house defended by two poorly armed NCIS agents and a group of untrained women. This is the type of operation they were trained for and it should have been a cakewalk for them but instead they let themselves be ambushed and would have been in real trouble if their opponents did not run out of ammo. Then comes the big reveal that explains all of it: the bad guys are are actually just a bunch of thugs pretending to be the Delta team in question. The real Deltas show up and take out the imposters in seconds.
  • The Office: Dwight Shrute is hailed as their number one salesman and apparently has the numbers to back it up. While we occasionally see flashes of a polished hard-sell, he usually comes across as abrasive and threatening when on screen, quickly driving away his potential customers. This is especially obvious in the episode where he quits and goes to work for Staples. He immediately breaks records by selling two printers in his first day (off screen), but when we see him, he's chasing off a customer by insulting her printer paper choice. In contrast Michael, likewise touted as an excellent salesman, has been repeatedly shown winning over customers on-screen.
    • In one episode, Jim and Dwight are shown to make for an extremely competent sales team, in stark contrast to their usual mutual antagonism.
  • One Life to Live: Soap Opera example: Matthew was basically Sam Weir until he was paralyzed in a car accident in March 2009. Since then, his pre-disability athletic exploits have grown to the point where the yearbook shows him on the 9th grade interscholastic team in every fall and winter sport.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "Falling Star", the heroine's music is supposed to have such amazing influence that if she lives and succeeds as a pop star, the future will become a Utopia. The heroine is played (and presumably, her music composed) by Sheena Easton.
  • Outsourced: Todd is regarded in-universe as an Everyman trying his best to handle being in a different culture. Out of universe, he's regarded as a culturally insensitive clod who constantly grabs onto the Idiot Ball in order to ensure Culture Clash hijinks.
  • Power Rangers RPM: The Venjix Virus, the antagonist. This virus took down the entire planet but cannot take down the last city on Earth. Considering this is the most heavily armed city on Earth, this is not a surprise.
  • Power Rangers S.P.D.:
    • In the second half, each episode's alien criminal was said to have committed crimes that were more and more outlandish, until virtually nobody hadn't singlehandedly devastated dozens of planets. Then they come to Earth... alone, with barely effective energy blasts and a Humongous Mecha (typically recently bought from the arms-dealing recurring villain, meaning they didn't have it when they wiped out fifty planets) that's quickly taken out. Especially jarring because earlier in the season, they weren't nearly as ridiculous about this. So the powerful enemy who commanded an army destroyed nine planets... and the powerless enemy with nothing but zappy claws destroyed a hundred. Suuuuuure, we buy that.
    • The original version, Dekaranger, is a little better about it. Usually the only Alienizers that have done any planet-destroying are the ones that practically kill the Dekarangers before they're put down. Most of the rest have often committed quite a few crimes, but they're usually just related to the Alienizer's modus operandi. (Possessing people, stealing stuff, destroying property on a car-to-city scale, putting people on the other side of mirrors, things like that.) The Alienizers also usually arrive in their Kaijuki, rather than buying it from the monstrous sarariman arms dealer, so it's a bit more believable that they pulled off whatever they were doing.
  • The Practice and Boston Legal: Alan Shore is introduced as one of the best anti-trust lawyers in Massachusetts, and that is frequently said to be his real area of expertise. Over the years, he is seen practicing criminal law, tort law, administrative law, constitutional law, procedural law, evidence law and many others. He is never actually seen practicing anti-trust law. Paradoxically, he is introduced as having little-to-no criminal law experience, yet ends up spending most of his time representing criminal defendants.
  • QI: In one episode, Stephen introduces the shoes of a 19th-century entertainer known as "Little Tich", whom he says was one of the greatest comedians of all time, and a huge inspiration on Chaplin. He goes on to say that in 200 years, when the names of Stephen Fry and the panelists on the show are forgotten, Little Tich's name will remain. The panelists point out that his name is already forgotten since no one there except Stephen (including the audience) recognized or had even heard of him. When a video of Little Tich is run, showing him doing a skit with elongated shoes that allow him to lean forward without falling over, the panelists argue that he's not even that funny.
  • Quantum Leap:
    • Sam Beckett. Viewers are informed that he "Has an IQ of 197 and graduated from high school at 16. Completed four years worth of classes at MIT in two years. Has seven doctoral degrees and speaks 11 languages." But precious little of this comes through on the show, where he typically arrives at the solution to the Problem of the Week via his intuition more than anything else (and he certainly never speaks any language other than English — yes the Swiss Cheese effect might explain part but not all of that).
    • He is shown to at least understand foreign languages in one episode where he's in the body of a WWII veteran who brings his Japanese wife home with him. He also speaks a few words of Japanese in that episode.
    • He also speaks Russian in "Lee Harvey Oswald", an episode where he leaped into... yep, you guessed it, Lee Harvey Oswald. That might be due to a bit of Oswald's mind/soul/whatever being still there, though.
    • Plus a greater part of the early series (and particularly episode 1) was focused on the fact that the Quantum Leap machine had given Sam amnesia which is why he doesn't recognize Al or Ziggy despite logically having worked with them. If this condition is even halfway realistic he would never be able to recover fully from it no matter how hard he tried.
    • Al is a Navy Admiral and ex-astronaut who played baseball at Annapolis, was a Golden Gloves boxer, worked in the circus, is enough of a ladies man to have been married five times... basically, it was often revealed he had done whatever Sam needed to do in his current Leap so he could instruct Sam. Outside of his instructions, Al is almost never actually seen doing any of this - although this is justified as almost all of Al's on-screen time is of him as a hologram in the Imaging Chamber.
  • Queer as Folk: Brian, the marketing genius, is really more of a one trick pony; no matter if he's selling booze, a steakhouse or a mayor candidate, he works the sex angle, and only the sex angle.
  • The Red Green Show: Gets a Lampshade Hanging and Played for Laughs when Possum Lodge acquires a collection of tubas. One segment has Red seemingly playing the show's theme song on the tuba, and he's pretty good at it. When he's done and the studio audience applauds, the song starts up again before Red kicks the person who's really playing the tuba.
  • Revolution:
    • The Resistance is supposedly causing a lot of problems for the Monroe Republic but beside Nora, none of the rebels the protagonists meet seem competent enough to cause that much trouble. It's possible that the resistance groups in other areas of the Republic are much more competent or maybe the strength of the Monroe Republic is also exaggerated. Episode 3 showed that one rebel group only became a serious threat because they actually their hands on a sniper rifle, while the Monroe militia apparently has to rely on numbers to win battles. Episode 5 showed Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson, who is the last remaining member of his rebel group, and he and Nora got into a violent disagreement over whether or not to bomb the one working train that the militia ever had. Episode 9 showed the rebels apparently don't have any effective method to sniff out moles, because one of their number turned out to be a mole for Monroe and he slaughtered most of group without a problem. Episode 11 had at least one rebel camp being slaughtered by the helicopters, but that's justified, because they don't have any heavy weapons to shoot them down with. Episode 14 made this a Subverted Trope, by having the rebels form a coalition with the Georgia Federation, resulting in an army of 100 rebels and 200 trained Georgian troops. Episode 17 ended up turning it into a Double Subversion, when a mole revealed the coalition's location, and 270 men were wiped out in one drone strike. Interestingly enough, the first season finale revealed that the rebels were more like terrorists at first, but Monroe's execution of a rebel and his entire family, in an ill-conceived attempt to make an example out of them, only added legitimacy to their cause.
    • Likewise, the Monroe Militia makes numerous tactical mistakes and neglects technology that would give it an edge even under the constraints the program has imposed (no bayonets for muskets, no body armor, etc.) Truth in Television, as military dictatorships usually don't have very good militaries. That's why Monroe was so obsessed with getting a fleet of helicopters to work, which happened in episode 10...because he was trying to compensate for his poor military.
  • Robin Hood:
    • The character of Kate in the latest series is described on the official website as an "indispensable" member of the team, whose weapon of choice is "her imagination." The former claim is strange enough considering she's entirely useless, but the latter is even more incomprehensible. The heights of her "imagination" involve her secretly palming an arrowhead into Robin's hand and using a sword to pull a key close enough for her to pick it up. Hardly a test of ingenuity.
    • It becomes even less impressive when you realise she's the Replacement Scrappy of a character who once successfully disguised the outlaws' weapons as musical instruments in order to sneak them into the castle.
    • She's also lauded as "compassionate" in the same episode that she a) breaks Much's heart by asking him to help her hook up with Robin, b) demands that Robin leave Isabella to be raped and strangled by her abusive husband, and c) acts like a spoilt six-year old because nobody's paying her enough attention. Honestly, were the writers even watching this show?
  • Saved by the Bell: Violet is a really amazing singer, so much so that the Glee Club never mentioned before or since manages to finish in third in a singing contest by having her sing solo. But the audience can hear that her amazing singing amounts to being able to carry a tune. Apparently Violet was chosen because they went through all the girls and Violet was the only decent singer so she was chosen as the soloist.
  • The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Any talent or vocation of the main cast that doesn't relate to sex or sexual prowess is talked about but never shown. The most obvious one is Amy and Ricky being members of the school marching band. They're never shown practicing and don't possess any instruments at their homes. The closest Amy gets to touching an instrument while in a marching band is a scene from a flashback episode from band camp where she's tripping over herself because of seeing Ricky for the first time.
  • Smallville: Lana got a scholarship to an art school in Paris. None of her artwork has been shown, and that was the only time she's even shown some interest in art. Lana could offer several more examples of this trope. She was often praised by other characters as being brave, intelligent, kind, etc. Suffice it to say that many viewers never noticed her actually exhibiting any of these character traits.
  • Sonny With A Chance:
  • So Weird: Annie is supposed to be a great singer, and they manage to work in a song of hers in nearly every episode of the third season. But the actress who plays her (although she has gotten quite a bit better with age) was above-average at best.
  • Spaced: Played with and subverted in which three characters all work in creative professions, but we are never told if they're particularly good. Brian praises his former partner Vulva as a brilliant performance artist when her work is bizarre and incomprehensible, but exactly what someone like Brian (Wangsty, pretentious) would speak highly of. Daisy is a writer but is mostly too lazy to get any work done, and Tim is a comic book artist. His sketches were done by real-life comic book artist Simon Bisley (after whom Tim is named), and might even count as an inversion; other characters frequently tend to discuss his work dismissively, usually by describing them as 'cartoons' ("It's a bit more complicated than that.") but when we see them they're actually quite good.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Elizabeth Weir is said to be a skilled and experienced diplomat. You wouldn't know it from her time leading the Atlantis Expedition. Her efforts to negotiate peaceful solutions with other races fail more often than they succeed, her command decisions violate basic human rights conventions multiple times (granted, these aren't "humans" in the traditional sense she's dealing with), and she spends the bulk of the first two seasons dealing with dissent from the other scientists and jockeying with Sheppard for leadership of the Expedition. The argument could be made that this is part of the point - that politics in the Pegasus Galaxy are so unlike what she's used to dealing with on Earth that she's forced to rewrite the rules on the fly - but far too many confrontations end with explosions then would be expected from one of Earth's allegedly greatest diplomats.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the "Crossover" episode, Intendant Kira praised the late Mirror!Odo's ability to run an efficient ore processing operation and maintain order among the slaves. The audience saw several examples of Mirror!Odo being cruel, but not efficient or orderly. For example, Mirror!Odo allowed a thorium containment unit to go unrepaired, despite Mirror!O'Brien's warning, resulting in a catastrophic thorium leak. Furthermore, at least three Terran slaves escaped under his watch. Finally, he assigned Bashir to a task for which Bashir was physically unsuited, as Mirror!Odo lampshaded later in the episode.
    • The series has a Running Gag in which Morn is described by others as talkative, eloquent, humorous, and even an accomplished fighter. And yet, you hardly see him doing anything but sit on the same seat in Quark's Bar, drinking and never speaking. This came to be half by accident. Morn was given lines in a few early episode scripts, but his scenes kept getting cut for time. The people making the show noticed the pattern, and decided to run with it.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise:
    • Johnathan Archer is stated to be a trained diplomat in "A Night in Sickbay." That same episode shows him doing everything a diplomat should never do. He's also supposedly a long-time dog lover, yet somehow he hasn't quite figured out that dogs like to pee on trees.
    • The degree to which incompetent diplomatic staff show up in all incarnations of Star Trek should be a trope in itself. Oh wait, there IS a trope for this.
    • These are the Voyages reveals to us the fact that The Chef basically acted like the ships counsellor; having the ear of the whole crew and trusted best friend to all. The problem is that, not only has this never been brought up once in the last four seasons, but we have literally never seen him unless you count a single shot of his legs as he delivered a plate a food - he is basically the Star Trek equivalent of that lady who owns Tom & Jerry's house. For all this episode tries to make out Chef (and yes he is so close to the crew he is never even given an on-screen name) is the NX-01's version of Guinan or Neelix, he is by all evidence nothing more than the random guy who cooked their dinner.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In the classic series episode "Court Martial", Samuel T. Cogley is, based on his actions in the episode, an idiotic Luddite who would have spectacularly lost Kirk's case without the timely interference of Spock. But everyone spends the whole episode talking about what a brilliant lawyer Cogley is.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Okona from the episode "The Outrageous Okona". Obviously meant to be a Han Solo-pastiche (particularly because he is dressed exactly like Han Solo), the smirking Okona comes across as an overgrown fratboy with a sense of privilege that would stagger a Trump. Riker and Wesley both gush over him, and he got a fair bit of tail on the Enterprise.
    • Guinan probably really was a good listener. They weren't going to bring Whoopi Goldberg in to just nod her head, and for dramatic reasons the countless hours of listening to people's problems was omitted from the series. But for someone who was famous for listening, who even bragged about her powers of listening, mostly what she actually did was talk.
    • Dr. Pulaski was often said by the various characters on the Enterprise that she was caring, considerate, and loving with a terrific bedside manner. This is nowhere to be seen as Pulaski is a pretty extreme example of Dr. Jerk, who often was stand-offish and disrespectful to her fellow crew members. Compounding all of this is a judgemental nature toward Data, often dismissing his abilities, insulting his attempts at trying to become human, and treating him more like a toaster than a teammate.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Played for Laughs is the Killer Robot from the Adventures of Captain Proton holodeck program. All the holodeck characters act like it's a terrifying menace, yet it's just a slow-moving, inept Tin-Can Robot with a speech impediment.
    • The infamous Neelix. Fans are divided on just how many of the skills he claims to have are examples of this trope and how many of them are just lies/exaggerations (something he admits to in the episode Fair Trade) however he does potentially have a lot of them. He is an expert cook whose food makes people ill, a morale officer who deliberately starts fights, an intrepid adventurer who is scared of the dark, an expert climber who fell off and injured his team mate, a survival expert whose survival skills indirectly killed two people, a guide whose information is almost always incorrect or inaccurate... you get the point. This is only a taster of what could be a very substantial wall of text.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Writers Matt Albie and Danny Tripp are brought in by TV exec Jordan McDeere to save the supposedly-tanking Show Within a Show of the same name. Their first sketch after coming back on the air with new material (in the episode following the pilot) is a boring and monotonous parody of The Pirates of Penzance - and the sketches don't get any better from there. This is despite the fact that Matt and Danny are frequently described as brilliant and visionary by everyone around them. It doesn't help matters that, of the few times we get to hear about "Peripheral Vision Man" (which, judging from the pilot, was a cartoon animated in the style of Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse), it's more amusing to hear than anything featured in the so-called "superior" sketches.
  • Super Dave: This trope is the basis for comedian Bob Einstein's character Super Dave Osborne. Super Dave is continually lauded as one of the world's most daring and amazing stuntmen, whose death-defying feats are "astronomically sensational", to quote one such hyperbole. Of course, when we actually see Super Dave performs a stunt, it backfires spectacularly and he's horrifically maimed, twisted, or crushed in some way. See Epic Fail.
  • Supernatural:
    • Does this a few times when it comes to describing people as intelligent. Besides the odd character like Sam and Ash, who demonstrate that they are especially knowledgeable in certain fields, often the writers will just throw in a toss away line that explains that the character in question reads/owns a lot of complicated books so they must be smart, despite often making horribly poor decisions and never doing or saying anything that might demonstrate said intelligence.
    • Note that one of the viewpoint characters is a high-school dropout and the other's primary regret in life is not finishing college, so falsely conflating education with intelligence or cleverness is not unexpected. This is even lampshaded a few times when Sam has to reassure Dean that he isn't necessarily "the dumb muscle".
    • In a highly unexpected Subverted Trope - notable for how rarely a show successfully pulls it off, the season 2 episode "Crossroad Blues" features a man who sells his soul in order to become a great artist. They do actually show a number of his artworks, all of which are interesting and emotive. How great they actually are still remains a matter of opinion, of course, and the writers acknowledge this by having the character create artworks that he pours his heart into, but never actually manages to sell.
    • Sam and Dean are sometime praised as "great" hunters which can be laughable at times considering that, once per episode, one of the brothers will be put in harm way after making a stupid decision, and only get out of it through dumb luck. Often the Monster of the Week is gloating long enough so the other boy can save him just in time.
    • Played straight with Gordon Walker, a hunter who specializes in vampires. He's supposed to be among the best at tracking and killing them, but two of the three vampires we see him fight manage to get the upper hand. The first time he's bailed out by Sam and Dean, the second he's not so lucky.
    • The Leviathans, main enemies of season 7, are supposed to be even more powerful than angels, and demonstrated when Edgar easily dispatches two angel mooks. The problem is there is little outside this scene to indicate this is actually the case. Angels are super strong, able to teleport, Nigh Invulnerable, capable of healing major injuries and resurrecting the dead, can kill most monsters and demons just by touching them, and can even Time Travel and alter reality. In fact, they're so powerful that in three seasons Sam and Dean only ever managed to outright kill one angel -And even then, only because Dean took him by surprise. Leviathans are also Nigh Invulnerable and can shapeshift, but have little else going for them, and have actually had trouble fighting demons, witches, ghosts, and even normal humans, all of which were previously established as being much weaker than angels. So rather than actually making the Leviathans seem frightening, the scene just comes off as a desperate attempt to establish the leviathans as a credible threat by invoking The Worf Effect.
      • It's probably more that supernatural rules in the series are much more old-school than usual. Where in other modern supernatural fiction there's a simple ascending power ladder in the vein of a video game or superhero cartoon, Supernatural's creepies have the sort of powers and weaknesses more common in fairy tales and stories from the 1700s and earlier. Yes, leviathans lack the swiss-army powers of the angels, but they're also immune to the angel power kit (more or less indestructible, old enough to be immune to time travel, etc) and their one major ability— the ability to hold something in place long enough to eat it— overrides the primary defense of the angels (divinely-granted immunity to death). This is fairly consistent with how the show operates— the few times that Sam and Dean actually defeat an enemy by increasing their power levels, it ends poorly. For the most part they find a way to blunt their enemy's primary attack and then attack that enemy's weak point, like with salt and cremation respectively for ghosts, which are otherwise much more powerful than they.
  • Thats So Raven: The Musical Episode has everyone act as though Raven put on the best musical performance of anyone. While Raven is a good singer, Annelise Van Der Pol is a Broadway powerhouse whose voice outshines the entire cast without any electronic enhancement, yet her talent isn't even acknowledged. It's also an odd Continuity Drift as a season 1 episode has Raven failing to get the lead in the school musical, being relegated to a character with no lines. Certainly something that wouldn't happen to someone with the aforementioned praise.
  • Ugly Betty: Betty's dream is to be the editor of her own magazine. However, you are repeatedly shown her unprofessional behaviour in meetings and when she is given chances to write something, it is always rejected as unsuitable. This is played as "Evil Mode does not appreciate Betty's fabulousness", but in reality, a talented writer should be able to adopt the correct "voice" to fit into the style of the publication she's writing for. Despite never having a single piece pass muster, it doesn't stop her getting promoted to associate editor in the final season, even though her main competition is someone who has demonstrated far better fashion knowledge/creativity, to the point that he's also offered a job at Vogue, and therefore should have blown Betty away. By contrast, Wilhelmina is a devious, scheming, conniving backstabber, who is always up to no good, but has never been shown to drop the ball with clients/designers and the other characters repeatedly admit her ideas are the best. She also genuinely wants the best for Mode, and will use a good idea even if she hates the person who thought of it (usually Daniel or Betty). That's why she never gets fired (for long).
  • The West Wing: Josh is supposed to be a political savant. He certainly comes off as absurdly smart, if thoroughly arrogant. But in terms of actually playing politics and running campaigns, he screws up. Frequently. His crowning moment as a political operative is taking Jimmy Smits and making him president, but that's more a result of Smits' character taking steps that fly in the face of Josh's advice.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Leslie Winkle is supposedly more intelligent than Sheldon (and, by transitivity, the rest of the cast) but never does or says anything to demonstrate this. Her supposed superiority is only demonstrated by her calling Sheldon "dumb-ass" at every opportunity. Word of God states that this is one of several reasons her character was written out.
    • She does demonstrate this at one point, however. While sleeping over at Leonard's, she spots a mathematical error on Sheldon's board (which had stumped his work for some time) and takes the liberty of correcting it herself. Naturally this outraged Sheldon.

LiteratureInformed AbilityVideo Games

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy