Cavemen vs. Astronauts Debate aka: Cavemen Versus Astronauts Debate
Spike: Look, if cavemen and astronauts got into a fight, who would win? Wes: Oh. You've been yelling at each other for forty minutes about this. [Beat] Do the astronauts have weapons? Angel & Spike: NO! —Angel, "A Hole in the World"
It's common, when people are having a long discussion stretching across a number of different topics, that something will come up that they disagree on. Most of the time, they'll discuss this for a little bit, then move on to talking about something else.
Not this time. No, this time the argument becomes truly heated. Voices are raised. Curses are spit out. Friends are insulted. Furniture is thrown across the room in fury. Fights break out. No one involved is willing to back down until they convince the others that they are right rightRIGHT, DAMMIT!!
... all over something as mundane and inconsequential as whether or not peanut butter technically counts as a saucenote for the record, it DOESN'T, and if you say otherwise, I'll KILL you.. It's stupid, pointless, and really shouldn't be worth so much passion, but the characters just. Can't. Let it.Go.
Needless to say, Truth in Television - just see Unpleasable Fanbase, Broken Base, and Base Breaker for a number of media-centric examples. Frequently overlaps with Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.
This is when a Seinfeldian Conversation becomes Serious Business.
Not to be confused with the 1960s Astronauts in Caveman Days comedy It's About Time. Or a Ginger Or Mary Ann debate. Not related to Ancient Astronauts.
Many issues of Marvel Comics' Marvel Team-Up comics line cashed in on these kinds of arguments. Want to know if Hulk or Thor is stronger? There's an issue where they fight each other.
In Starman #13, one of the Mist's goons has a bizarre conversation with the captive Mikaal about who the best big screen Philip Marlowe was. He then admits that he once murdered a man for daring to claim it was George Montgomery.
One Animorphs book informs us that, when they were younger, Jake and Marco would spend entire afternoons arguing about whether or not cheese tastes yellow (Marco thought it tasted sorta green). Now that they're older, they have more serious, adult debates, like Who Would Win: Spider-Man or Batman?
In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, there is a war waging between people who break their hard-boiled egg at the fat end (the "big-endians"), and those who break it at the narrow end. (It's a deliberate analogy to Whigs vs Tories in British party politics of Swift's time.)
Similar to the Gulliver's Travels example above, The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss features an allegory for the Cold War being waged over which side of the bread to butter.
The Angel episode "A Hole in the World" is the Trope Namer. Wesley walks in on Spike and Angel after they've spent 40 minutes shouting at each other about who would win in a fight between cavemen and astronauts. Pretty soon every one in the show is getting in on the act; it's all built up to the episode's Wham Line: "cavemen win,of course the cavemen win", one character's last words.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Life Serial" has The Trio arguing passionately about James Bond movies. Warren favours Sean Connery and loathes Moonraker, Jonathan prefers Roger Moore, while Andrew likes Timothy Dalton.
Andrew: Timothy Dalton should win an Oscar and BEAT SEAN CONNERY OVER THE HEAD WITH IT!!!
On How I Met Your Mother, Ted brings a picture that could either be a rabbit or a duck to make a point about how a date might seem right for someone but turn out to be wrong, and vice versa. Then the gang disagrees over which represented the bad choice, the duck or the rabbit. According to Older Ted, it was the longest, most intense argument they've ever had. It even drags in their regular limo driver and by the end, Marshall is drenched in sweat.
When Barney and Robin date each other, their relationship seems to be full of these sorts of arguments. Barney once dared Robin to stab a knife through his chest over a fight about which of them should clean the dishes.
One episode had the gang argue over which food is the most common in the United States, they looked up the answer and it turned out they were all wrong.
Seinfeld has Elaine and her boyfriend of the week get into a heated argument leading to their breakup about when it's appropriate to use exclamation points.
In another episode, George and another man try to park in the same Parallel Parking spot at the same time. George insists that the other guy needs to give up the spot because he was trying to pull in front first, and the only civilized way to parallel park is by backing up. The other guy disagrees, and they spend the rest of the night with both their cars halfway in the spot, halfway in the street, arguing over the validity of front-first parking. Everyone who passes by has a strongly held opinion on the issue, even the cops who show up to make them move their cars.
Mike: Hey, pal, you're not getting that space. I mean, I'll sleep in my car if I have to. George: I'll die out here.
Hank and Davis of Corner Gas apparently have a long-standing debate over who is cooler - Darth Maul or Darth Vader. Davis supports the Vader side and staunchly believes that everyone just thinks Darth Maul is cool because he has a double lightsaber.
The Spike TV show Deadliest Warrior is ALL ABOUT this trope. The premise of the show is to pit two types of "Warriors" from different time periods against each other to see who would win; it is almost embarrassing to see how seriously some of the experts think their warrior is just the best.
Subverted from time to time, though. Occasionally Manipulative Editing is used to make things look more hostile than they actually are, and in a few cases (SWAT vs. GSG9, SEALs vs. Israeli Commandos) the teams acknowledge that they don't REALLY hate each other. Also, it's entirely possible that silly performances by the visiting experts are encouraged by the producers.
There is an episode of Married... with Children in which a riot breaks out amongst the members of NOMAAM over the question of who starred in the first lite beer commercial.
In the Cheers episode "The Triangle," the bar regulars (who frequently debate mundane topics) get into an intense discussion of Roadrunner-Coyote cartoons. The argument escalates from whether the coyote is obsessed or simply hungry, to whether his ability to survive falling off a cliff indicates he's the Antichrist.
In Community Jeff and Britta spend an entire evening arguing with each other over which of two bars is better. This already inconsequential argument infuriates Troy when it turns out that because the bar doesn't have an actual name, they're talking about the same bar, but don't realize because they're referring to it by different distinguishing features.
And again when it comes out that Jeff is the only member of the study group that dislikes the band Barenaked Ladies. Hilariously, they're having this argument at the exact same time they're arguing over something actually important, and treating it with more gravity.
A running joke in Ricky Gervais' Extras. The main character and his best friend would ask each other questions like, "what would you rather be? A penguin, where you are a bird but you can't fly, or a flying fish where you can fly but you're still a fish." Once or twice an episode.
Mythbusters addressed one of these that was going on at their own website; namely "Can a plane take off if it's on a conveyor belt running in the opposite direction?" They tested it, and concluded that yes, it can; forward motion is driven by the propeller and how the wheels interact with the ground is irrelevant.
MythBusters in general plays host to a lot of myths born of such subjects. Particularly trying to test the legitimacy of taking idioms literally.
Supernatural: Sam and Dean Winchester have their own version of this as shown in the episode "Death's Door" with Chuck Norris vs. Jet Li.
Have I Got News for You: Quite often Paul Merton would indulge in this; once having a (seemingly) aggressive shouting match with Arthur Smith over whether or not you should put tomato sauce on baked beans.
In "I Dated a Robot", the gang is walking through cyberspace and pass a Star Trek forum, where two nerds are in the midst of a heated "Kirk vs. Picard" debate.
In an episode of G.I. Joe, the Dreadnoks can be seen in the background having come to blows over whether breath mints or candy mints are better.
In Drakken's debut episode of Kim Possible, he is shocked to find out that Kim is Dr. Possible's daughter, Dr. Possible having been someone he knew in high school and one of the people he is attempting to take revenge upon. When Ron (who is currently Drakken's prisoner) makes fun of him for not making the connection, Drakken defends himself on the basis that "Possible is a very common last name." Drakken ends up leaving the room in order to get a phone book just to back up his argument, causing him to miss the fact that rescuers are breaking into the building.
In one episode of Sealab 2021, the entire crew of Sealab get caught up in an argument about the hypothetical possibility of transferring their minds into robot bodies. So caught up that they don't notice that all of Sealab's safety systems are catastrophically failing.
Who cares, Pod 6 was full of jerks anyway.
In The Simpsons episode 'Homer at the Bat,' Wade Boggs is knocked out cold by Barney after the two argue over who's the best British Prime Minister of all time.
Barney: And I say England's greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston! Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder! Barney: LORD PALMERSTON! Boggs: PITT! THE! ELDER! Barney: Okay, you asked for it, Boggs! [punches out Boggs] Moe: Yeah, that's showin' 'im, Barn! [mockingly] "Pitt the Elder"... Barney: LORD PALMERSTON! [punches out Moe]
Another episode has Ned Flanders say that his denomination of Christianity (The Northwest Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism) split off from the Catholic Church several centuries ago over the right of worshippers to come to church with wet hair. He then sheepishly admits that his denomination has since abolished that right.
Henchmen #21 and #24 seem to have these debates a lot. Another episode showed them arguing over whether or not Smurfs lay eggs.
Not only 21 and 24, but the creative minds behind the show themselves have these kind of debates all the time. In one commentary track Doc references a heated argument they had about what woman was hotter: Fiona Apple or Jewel. Another time on a convention panel, a fan wanted to know their opinions on the Lizzie Borden v. Anne Frank debate but accidently asked their opinions on a Helen Keller v. Anne Frank debate. The results can be seen here at 6:49.
Sponge Bob Square Pants had a more or less literal example of this, when Patchy the Pirate and Potty the Parrot get into an argument of whether "Prehistory" or "The Future" is better.
The episode "The Battle Of Bikini Bottom" begins with two war reenacters explaining to SpongeBob and Patrick the titular battle, which was apparently fought over washing one's hands. This starts the two friends discussing cleanliness (SpongeBob is pro-clean, Patrick is not), and soon engage in a battle of their own.
South Park has an episode where two Star Trek nerds intensely debate as to whether a two-parter counted as one or two episodes, overshadowing their co-invention of a time machine.