Hollywood CB

"Uh, 10-4 Pig-Pen, what's yer 20? Omaha?!"
Convoy, C.W. McCall

Anybody who has used a two-way radio, or even a walkie talkie, knows that there are certain rules. You need to wait until the other person is finished talking (thus the reason for the oft-lampooned "Over"). There are range limits. Two people talking at once sounds like garbage. While there are plenty of frequencies, and you need to coordinate which one you'll be on, other people use them too. Sometimes people aren't sitting right next to the radio, or don't have it turned on, so they won't reply immediately.

In Hollywood Science, radios are basically telephones: when you talk into the radio, the radio has at least as much range as you need, the person you want is on the line—and just them, unless the plot requires someone to eavesdrop. You can interrupt conversations, talk over someone else, and everybody hears you just fine. Sometimes two people can be heard at once. Except for a little well-timed Walkie-Talkie Static, everything is perfectly clear.

Named for the most common culprit, the Citizens' Band (CB) radio. This appears to be entering Forgotten Trope territory with the advent of smartphones and the Internet - in particular, Twitter has been touted as the spiritual successor to CB.


  • Die Hard:
    • Averted. McClane gets a bad guy's walkie-talkie, and talks to Al the policeman, and it's made clear that the bad guys can hear everything he's saying, hence why he goes by "Roy" instead of using his real name.
    • Also played straight on several occasions where a character interrupts someone else over the radio. This is quite simply not possible to do.
  • In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane uses the bad guy's CBs to contact the FBI. He knew the correct frequency and had a world-class amateur hacker working for him In a World where hacking can do goddamn everything.
  • Smokey and the Bandit
    • Averted as Bandit and Snowman also were seen to be working out an agile-comms plan (switching from channel to channel) to avoid police monitoring just after the Trans-Am was driven out of Snowman's trailer before they set off towards Texas. "What channel are we on" is asked by Bandit to Frog (Sally Field) before unit-to-unit comms commences. Also note that Sheriff Justice speaks into a different mic when talking other police officers, than when talking to The Bandit.
    • Yet still played straight in many aspects. Snowman and Bandit discuss switching channels to avoid police eavesdropping, which appears to work, but whenever Sheriff Justice or any other random trucker want to get in touch with Bandit, they are always on the channel he is listening to at the moment.
  • Everybody in The Cannonball Run seems to have their CB radio tuned to the same frequency. Possibly the racers had agreed to a specific frequency before the race started, but also they have no trouble communicating with plenty of random truck drivers during the race. Relatively justified since in the CB heyday channel 19 was a de facto standard for truckers on the interstate; there were exceptions for specific routes but they were pretty well known. Maybe they simply stayed on 19, or changed to 19 when they wanted to talk to a trucker.
  • In the first Tremors movie, the people of Perfection use a CB radio to warn the Gummers of impending Bad Things possibly coming their way. Actually justified in this case, since it's made clear that they can't reach anyone outside their valley with their CBs, and it would make sense for everyone to use the same frequency.

Live-Action TV
  • The Dukes of Hazzard — Anybody could pick up his CB and call anyone, and that person was on that frequency.
  • BJ and the Bear
  • The Charlie's Angels episode "Angels Go Truckin'".
  • The walkie talkies on Lost — The signal can travel long distances (even to a nearby island.)
  • Memorably subverted in The Young Ones, in which Neil is instructed to make the static noises himself when using his police walkie talkie.
  • The prisoners of Stalag 13 take advantage of a one-way version of this—when their plot involves "leaking" information to Klink and Schultz, they sometimes wire up the bug in the lamp and talk amongst themselves while letting the information "slip" (sometimes complete with badly written scripts). When they do this, Klink and Schultz are always sitting right next to the radio receiver, listening intently. Hogan refers to this as "calling room service".

Video Games
  • Your radio in BioShock is automatically tuned to Atlas' radio frequency the second you pick it up, and other people (Like Sander Cohen or Andrew Ryan) can easily tune in, jam your connection and talk to you.
  • Dialed Up to Eleven in Metal Gear Solid
    • The "Codec" supposedly puts the sound straight into your earbones so only you hear the person talking to you (with ample opportunity for Fridge Logic, considering the speaker's own voice should still be very audible to their surroundings - this becomes particularly ridiculous in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, where characters standing barely two feet away from one another will decide to switch to nanocommunications for privacy). Plus, despite supposedly being an audio-only device, the HUD displays it almost like a videophone. On top of that, you have a number of people whose frequencies you have to find.
    • The "speaker's own voice" issue could probably be Hand Waved by invoking subvocalization — methods of turning it into audible speech have appeared in science fiction at least as far back as Neuromancer.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty DOES make it clear that switching to nano-communication involves lip-movement only, what they say is inaudible to observers, as demonstrated by Ocelot's surveillance of Raiden and Ames.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater's radio was essentially the same as the above Codec, though it also worked around the "speaker's own voice" issue by having Snake communicating back to Mission Control via a throat mike.
  • Tomb Raider (2013): Characters routinely interrupt each other over their two-way radios. The only consideration for range is when they try to transmit off the island, which Lara does by climbing a radio tower and using the radio built into the top. Also, Lara's party will often tell each other where they are over the radio, despite being surrounded by enemies who are searching for them who might be listening in. Additionally, when Lara's distress call from the tower is answered (interrupting Lara, as usual), the rest of her crew can hear it on their radios, despite almost certainly being on different frequencies.

  • The song "Convoy" and the film it spawned. Two parody songs, "CB Savage" and "Yovnoc," also came out around that time. "CB Savage" (by Rod Hart) was about two truckers who hear a Camp Gay on their radio, and by the end of the song they find it was a Smokey disguising his voice to catch them speeding.

Western Animation
  • Hanna-Barbera's CB Bears were three ursine detectives who operated from a garbage truck and received assignments from "Charlie" via C.B. radio.

"This here's the Rubber Duck on the side—We gone, Bye, Bye..."