Modern technology has changed the way we eat, work and recreate. The act of watching a television show, itself, has become flush with options: We can watch shows streaming off of the internet, we can have our recording devices copy them for watching later, and we can even simply watch entire seasons of shows on DVD. Interesting, then, that we still feel compelled to watch our favorite shows the night that they are first broadcast. "I can't talk now, Steve, I have to get home to watch Heroes." This phenomenon is called Appointment Television. Aversions can take place when a character purposefully misses a show that he had planned to see or normally plans on seeing (perhaps as an alibi). Inversions take place when a character watches TV all the time, and must make appointments to do anything else. A variant of this trope is when someone is using the aforementioned alternate methods of watching a show, and has an appointment to watch the recording. In this case, they are vulnerable to Spoilers. Video Games can invoke this effect by incorporating mechanics that require gamers to Play Every Day, or by having online events at specific times in which players gather together for something special, possibly featuring loot that will never appear again. To avoid cluttering the page with personal anecdotes, please include only examples of this when used in works of media.
- Scud The Disposable Assassin once used this to taunt Voo-Doo Ben, urging him to come out and get killed so Scud could make it home in time for Oprah.
- In PCU, Pigman inverts this trope when he must watch TV 24 hours a day in order to finish his senior thesis, which is that you can find a Michael Caine or Gene Hackman movie on television at any time, all the time. He eventually proves his thesis when A Bridge Too Far comes on, starring both Caine and Hackman. Pigman is then freed from inverted Appointment Television.
- In Matilda, the Wormwoods dislike Miss Honey coming to see them because she interrupted their TV show. (Something similar, although only involving Mrs. Wormwood, happens in the book as well, with the line "I can't talk now, Harry is about to propose to Angelica!")
- In ''What's Alien You?'' Dave Barry speculates that the reason so many shows are so horrifyingly bad is that aliens have "terrible taste", and are addicted to the worst Earth shows. They may threaten to blow up the planet if they don't get their schlock on time.
This is why you and all your friends think television is so awful. It isn't designed to please you: it's designed to please creatures from another galaxy. You know the Wisk commercial, the one with the ring around the collar, the one so spectacularly stupid that it makes you wonder why anybody would dream of buying the product? Well, the aliens love that commercial. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the people who make Wisk. They have not sold a single bottle of Wisk in 14 years, but they have saved the Earth.
- It's a running joke on many shows that men who are suddenly off work will become addicted to Soap Operas. This happened to Chandler in Friends.
- Another common plot is that someone has to miss a show so they record it, and then spend most of the episode desperately trying to avoid spoilers:
- There was a subplot of Scrubs where Dr. Cox is trying all episode to avoid being spoiled on the score of a football game, because he has it recorded to watch later. It's not hard to guess what his sadistic co-workers do (especially the Janitor who Cox had just told It Was His Sled about the years old Sixth Sense)
- Frasier had recorded an episode of a drama to watch later. IIRC, he spent the entire day avoiding spoilers (even having to run through the hallways at work because of everyone wanting to discuss the show with him), and when he finally gets home he keeps getting distracted by his family and arising obligations. Right when he finally has time to settle down and is about to watch the tape... Daphne spoils it for him.
- This isn't even the first time it's happened to him. Back on Cheers, he had taped a television movie with the intention of watching it later. Unfortunately, the other guys at the bar spoiled it for him. He retaliated by spoiling the endings to a few movies. (Said endings had all achieved It Was His Sled status.)
- Averted in the 1970s BBC sitcom Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?: Our heroes spend all day desperately avoiding all news of a soccer score so they can watch recorded highlights of the game on TV. They succeed, but find that the game was abandoned due to flooding.
- How I Met Your Mother: The gang has to miss the Super Bowl to attend the funeral of a bartender from MacLaren's. So, they tape it and try to avoid finding out who won before they can watch it. Only Ted succeeds.
- It happened on Home Improvement too, with Tim taping a sports game and a friend excitedly talking about the game-winning play just as he's about to watch it.
- Dharma and Greg took advantage of the fact that everyone in the city would be watching the Seinfeld finale to have sex in public without getting caught.
- On The Big Bang Theory, a flashback to Leonard moving into the apartment showed that Sheldon put this into the roommate agreement.
Sheldon: Roommates agree that Friday nights shall be reserved for watching Joss Whedon's brilliant new series Firefly.Leonard: Does that really need to be in the agreement?Sheldon: We might as well settle it now. It's gonna be on for years.
- In Futurama, the royalty of a race of aliens a thousand light years from Earth became addicted to Single Female Lawyer, an Ally McBeal Expy. When they learn that the resolution of the series finale was never aired, they angrily travel to Earth with their fleet of warships...
- There is another episode using this trope, where the crew must make sure they watch the episode of All My Circuits with Calculon's wedding.
- In The Simpsons' "Who Shot Mr. Burns" two-parter, this was the reason Smithers was proven to be innocent: He couldn't have been the one to shoot Mr. Burns, since his favorite television show was on at the time of the crime, and he never misses it.
- Selma does this with MacGyver in "Black Widower".
- In the Sushi Pack episode "Taming the Gaming," the villain is defeated because there's an all-day marathon of his favorite show, and he keeps going back to watch it (and uses all his security camera monitors to watch it). In his next appearance, he mentally congratulates himself for thinking to actually tape the show this time.
- In Teen Titans, there was an episode where Beast Boy inverts this trope by being so addicted to a television show that he couldn't remember the last time he went outside.
- Sportscasts typically fall into Appointment Television territory. Many believe that part of the excitement is watching something in real time with other fans, both of your own team and of the opposition. Sometimes elaborate plans involving alcohol, projection screens and bratwurst accompany the appointment to watch the game, and woe betide someone who says he'll just record the game and watch it later.
- Shows that build experiences around social media like Twitter, such as Scandal or Pretty Little Liars where cast and crew members join in the discussion pretty much depend on their viewers being there at the time their shows start because watching on DVR removes the social experience and part of the fun.
- This can still be true for poorer people who can't afford a DVR.
- Any reality show with a public vote is automatically this, since you can't vote after the result has been declared.
- The Oprah Winfrey Show was so huge that daytime television revolved around it, and there was a seismic shift in local programming schedules when it went off the air. Some stations scheduled programs featuring Oprah's friends, like Dr. Oz, to air at the same time that she used to. Others moved stronger programs into her former time slot, relieved that the ratings juggernaut was out of the way. WABC in New York City basically conceded that nothing could replace the show by launching a 4 P.M. newscast.
- According to an anecdote in Stan Freberg's autobiography, he had heard that one time Albert Einstein cut short an important meeting, saying only that it was "Time For Beany."