Commercial Break Cliffhanger
We've been falling for quite a long time, haven't we? Doofenshmirtz
Oh, right, joke about the commercial break, why don't you.
—Spoken after a commercial break placed in the middle of the two characters plummeting to their doom in Phineas and Ferb
A Cliff Hanger
that is set just before a commercial break, to ratchet up the suspense within the given episode. It's used to keep viewers' attention on the screen — preferably all through the commercial break — lest they miss the crucial moment of resolution. Some reality shows do this as well, normally right before big announcements of winners or people getting kicked off.
If done well and used with discretion, it can really draw out the suspense. However, there are also quite a few ways it can go awry:
- When American shows are broadcast in countries where the frequency of commercials is lower, or when a show goes out on The BBC or is released on DVD, with no commercial breaks at all. This results in dramatic cliffhangers which fade out... then fade back in right away, sometimes repeating the last line said before the break which if you're any bit familiar with the Saturday Morning Cartoon during an age such a thing existed on network TV, this was prevalent to the point of ubiquity.
- Coversely, the BBC as often as not now makes shows with an eye to the export market, and deliberately introduces Commercial Break Cliffhangers to make the show more palatable to overseas commercial channels. Which just looks completely jarring and ridiculous when screened for domestic consumption on the BBC.
- When a show does this too often, especially if it also tends to return from the break and review what just happened before the break before the resolution. Viewers will catch on and see it coming a mile away, which may cause them to preemptively lose attention and change the channel. Particularly frequent in game and reality shows, which has caused this trope to become somewhat of a Discredited Trope in those genres.
- When the Eye Catch or Ad Bumpers causes accidental Mood Whiplash, completely killing the tense mood.
is a specialized version of this trope. Compare Charge Into Combat Cut
, when the show cuts to an unrelated scene at the beginning of a fight.
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- Believe it or not, this is actually done with a Gushers commercial! This is the full commercial, and the cliffhanger usually takes place halfway through.
- A 2014 ad campaign for Stanley Steemer (a professional cleaning company specializing in carpets) comes in two parts, one airing toward the beginning of the commercial break and the other toward the end. One example: a young couple (dressed in casual clothing) is shown rearranging the furniture in their living room only to be bemused by the contrast between the very clean cream-colored carpet areas where the furniture used to be and the ashen carpet that had been exposed at the same time. That commercial ends. The second half shows a Stanley Steemer employee steam-cleaning the carpet, then the couple (now dressed professionally) looking at their sparkling clean living room with great satisfaction.
Anime and Manga
- While often combined in anime with the Eyecatch, this can occasionally backfire. An example is the dramatic cliffhanger reveal of Rau Le Creuset as a clone in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the rather dramatic conclusion of his long expository rant revealing several significant bits of backstory to the series' universe. The characters that are witness to this reveal are shocked...only to suddenly cut to a completely unrelated and relatively cheery eyecatch of another character playing in a meadow, thus providing the audience with the dramatic equivalent of a face-first, high speed collision with a brick wall.
- Slayers Next usually uses these quite well. One memorable instance occurs when dramatic tension mounts until Gaav is about to attack the gang, Martina appears and the main characters scream "MARTINA!" in comical fashion. Cue cheerful Eye Catch, followed by Martina making a complete fool of herself to her signature comical tune. They don't always work very well though - the cliffhanger/eyecatch combination jarringly backfires when Lina casts the perfected Ragna Blade and Gaav looks worried for the first time, almost afraid. The dramatic mood is sliced to bits by the cheerful Eye Catch.
- Fruits Basket also made good use of eyecatches, creating different ones to fit the episode (even having two separate ones for either side of the commercial break. For the latter darker episodes, fitting plain black eyecatches were used.
- Pokémon does this sometimes. Usually, it's only once an episode or so, though.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey was originally shown in theaters with an intermission. The scene immediately before the intermission? Dave and Frank talking in the pod, thinking HAL can't hear them...and HAL reading their lips.
- Parodied in Animorphs after Ax, the only alien on the team, has been watching too much Earth TV. He says something dramatic, then freezes in place. When the others ask him what he's doing, he responds that he has to remain silent until they get to "These Messages", at which point the others realise he's doing a "soap take".
- News programs exploit this with irritating frequency. Advertisements for the day's news promise information on some dangerous thing that "you must watch out for" (especially if you have children), and during the news program itself, refrain from showing until almost the very end, but continually remind you before they cut to commercials that it's "coming up next". Of course, this means that the segment doesn't play until it's time to put the child(ren) to bed, making the report miss its target audience.
- This is spoofed on a sbemail in Homestar Runner where Strong Bad runs a local news program that constantly alludes to a "World in Crisis" story coming up. At the end of the news show, he says to tune in next time for the "World in Crisis" story.
- And by George Carlin back in the 60's: "The sun did not come up today, huge cracks are appearing in the earth's surface and big rocks are falling from the sky. Details at 5."
- Believe it or not, WWE programs do this on a frequent basis. Whenever a wrestler gets tossed outside the ring, expect the announcer to cue up the oncoming commercial break by asking if the aforementioned wrestler can make a comeback when the show returns. However, due to the nature of the program, the match will pick up from the break, still in progress. Any action during the break is shown via split-screen.
- Here's some Fridge Brilliance: What happens when you get really shocking overwhelming news? You may pass out. What does it look like when you pass out? Fade to Black and then you come to 3 minutes later.