"Actually, baggage handlers don't worry about ticking 'cause modern bombs don't tick. But when a suitcase vibrates, then they gotta call the police. Nine times out of ten: it's an electric razor. But... every once in a while... it's a dildo."
It's a bomb! Duck and cover!
Bugs and listening devices
are never covert on TV shows. The same goes for time bombs
or other explosive devices.
On TV they always have blinking lights (red is a popular color), audible beepers and/or a timer
counting down on them. Some bombs have all three. Older depictions have a loudly ticking alarm clock taped to a bundle of dynamite. They also usually sprout wires, expose naked circuit boards, detonating caps or are hooked to visible wrapped sticks of dynamite or neatly stacked piles of a labeled
military explosive like C4 or COMP-B. In short, there's no way you or anyone else could possibly confuse the device with anything other than a bomb. All of which are features that would be completely impractical on a real explosive device that you'd ideally want to keep hidden/disguised from the person or persons whose ship/base/car
you're about to blow up.
This trope has a degree of Truth in Television
; military explosives are always clearly labeled. They spend a lot more time sitting in a warehouse somewhere than they do being used to blow things up, after all, and you wouldn't want some idiot to blow up the warehouse because they mistook a crate of bombs for a crate of MREs. And most explosive weapons are designed to explode immediately upon reaching the target, so it's okay if the target realizes it's a bomb; they won't have much of a chance to do anything about it. Even a bomb intended for use as a trap — a mine, for instance — will probably be concealed under dirt, behind a wall or beneath a tarp or something similar, so the fact they're labeled really doesn't hurt their effectiveness either. Still, the real thing is not nearly as blatant as the page image; it probably looks more like this◊
Civilian explosives, like those used for construction and demolition, are likely to have even more
warnings than military ones since nobody
is supposed to get blown up by them when used correctly.
This trope may also be justified if the Incredibly Obvious Bomb's primary
purpose is to draw your attention away from the real
bomb, or even to lure you into an ideal position for some other attack.
An incredibly obvious bomb will also have incredibly obvious wires to cut
The problem is when The Coconut Effect
makes people think any "suspicious device" or explosive device must be an Incredibly Obvious Bomb
, because most terrorists and the Mad Bomber
go for far better concealment, and mines and old unexploded ordnance, as mentioned above, aren't often obvious until
it's too late.
As in, that big metal thing your shovel just hit in your backyard could be a World War II
era bomb or mine, and a terror bomb is more likely to be an otherwise unnoticeable moving truck or similar which happens to be packed with explosives to cause maximum damage as opposed to a bundle of dynamite with a timer.
This is Older than Television
; if you look at animated cartoons from the early to mid 20th Century, one of the more common mayhem-related props is a bomb—black, bowling-ball-sized, with burning fuse stuck in the top, and possibly the word BOMB on it in big happy white letters.
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Anime and Manga
- Almost any movie involving bomb squads. The bomb is often shown with all kinds of gadgets meant to prevent disarming, but after all the outer layers are defeated what's left is invariably a big box with a red timer ticking down.
- Batman: The Movie had the bowling-ball bomb version with the fuse that never burned down until Batman got rid of it.
- Subverted in the movie The Specialist. Sylvester Stallone's character is an explosives expert blowing up Miami crime bosses. One of them knows that he's on the list, and inspects his car for a bomb. He finds something that looks like the above picture and throws it away. As he's driving off, the real bomb (still in the car) blows up and kills him. As the police are inspecting the scene later, James Woods' character picks up the decoy and says, "Who is that supposed to fool?"
- In the film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen there is a bomb activated by a hidden sonic signal, not set to any kind of timer. Nevertheless, it ticks, because that's the sound a bomb makes.
- The ticking is because the sensor trips a mechanical timer, which is in place because the signal plays during the entire recording from the Big Bad and he wants the heroes to hear his entire monologue. As to why the signal is not simply at the end, he probably didn't want the bombing being thwarted by someone stopping recording early.
- Similar to the previous example, in Transporter 2 Frank sees the bomb's red flashing light reflected in a puddle beneath his car.
- Exactly the same thing happens in Mission:Impossible 2
- Showed up in Touch of Evil. Observe. In this case, it was home-made using dynamite stolen from a quarry.
- Similar to the Moonites example listed at the top, the events in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay are set into motion when Kumar brings an Incredibly Obvious Bong onto the plane, which to anyone not expecting it would easily see it as a bomb.
- Wallace & Gromit had the bowling-ball type, complete with "Bomb" written on the side.
- and a Shout Out to Batman, above. ("Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb...")
- Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978): Inspector Clouseau, being his usual genius self, has a mook put what is very obviously a bomb right into his hands. His reaction?
"Special delivery... a bomb... were you expecting one?" (Beat
) "A bomb
- Heck, these bombs started being a problem for Inspector Clouseau two films prior (Return of...).
- Played with in The Naked Gun 2 1/2, where a bomb (identical to the picture above) is planted in a bin in order to kill someone, and the janitor emptying the bin picks it up and takes it to some security guards. They all assume it's an alarm clock, then think that the clock is slow, and set the time on it, blowing them all up.
- In Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Smith just lost Mr. Smith by setting off a bomb in the hotel they were in to distract him. When they all evacuate outside, a bystander tells Mr. Smith that he's ticking, leading to him quickly pulling a bomb his wife had hidden in his jacket and tossing it in a mailbox.
- Exploited in Speed; the bomber realises its a cliche to use a watch as a bomb timer, it's all part of a Batman-Gambit to lure a SWAT team to his home and blow them up.
- In Predator the eponymous alien has one mounted on his wrist, complete with a gradually increasing in frequency beeping sound and an alien digital timer, which is obviously a self-destruct device.
- The Hammer Drones become these in Iron Man 2.
- Parodied in Fight Club, where a member of Airport Security notes that, since modern bombs don't tick, staff are to hold suitcases that vibrate; he then notes that even vibrating is seldom a bomb, as whenever it isn't an electric razor it's probably just a dildo.
- In the novel Big Trouble by Dave Barry, idiotic airport staff allow the villains to pass their mysterious valuable metal suitcase, which is actually a nuclear Time Bomb, through the security checkpoint, only asking them to turn it on first to prove that it is a laptop computer or some other innocuous device. The villains explain that the digital countdown that starts up is sort of like a VCR clock.
- Hilariously invoked and justified in Starship Troopers, where one of the Mobile Infantry's raid weapons is a talking bomb. When dropped it announces, "Hi! I'm a thirty second bomb!" and then recites its countdown before exploding. It's intended to scare the crap out of the enemy and destroy property, rather than efficiently kill anyone.
- Used in combination with Big Bulky Bomb in Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Apocalypse as a distraction for Abeloth who can see the future
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Sound of Drums," The Master uses one of these (three sticks of dynamite bound together with a clicking timer stuck on the back of Martha's TV) in an attempt to do in the Doctor. He discovers it just in the nick of time — just enough time to initiate a joint "get the hell out of there before the explosion" manoeuvre with Martha and Captain Jack.
- To be fair, The Master loves these kind of clichés.
- Especially since such booby traps are planted more to put pressure on the Doctor and endanger his friends than in a serious belief that they'll kill him.
- Also, how often does anyone look behind their TVs?
- Averted in British spy series Spooks: they find a bomb that looks like a big black disk or cylinder, and the only reason anyone recognizes it as a bomb is because they are trained for such things.
- One of Jerry Seinfeld's jokes about airline security has a security officer inspecting a "hairdryer with a scope" and a "bowling ball candle".
- There have been at least two occasions in Home and Away where an incredibly obvious bomb with wires and a digital timer have been seen. On one of those occasions however, the "bomb" was just made to look incredibly obvious, it was a fake. Just a timer with a mass of wires.
- Subverted in an episode of Lois and Clark where a character puts an explosive in a suitcase next to which also contains an acid that will gradually eat away whatever's separating it. The only way anyone knew there was a bomb was thanks to Superman's nose.
- The season 4 finale of LOST featured what was supposed to be enough C4 to blow up the freighter. However, the resulting pile of explosives was unimpressive, so they ended up with at least twice the C4 it would take to do the job. The explosives were wrapped in a maze of wires, and helpfully labeled "EXPLOSIVE!" (yes, with the exclamation point.)
- MacGyver is made of this trope. The early episodes have bombs everywhere. The intro sequence for the first season or so has one with a nice big digital timer. The pilot has a missile with a timer inside it. Just about every explosive device (there are lots of them) has a timer, unless Mac made it himself. Of course, those are usually highly visible, but rarely incredibly obvious. One whole episode revolves around bombs actually well-disguised as electrical panels... which are nevertheless quickly identified as bombs by Mac.
- Subverted in one of the earlier episodes. Mac spends most of the episode disarming the bomb, and when he finally disarms it a set of blinking LEDs switch off and the apparatus falls silent... but the real bomb is underneath the entire rig (which was merely a detonator) and still ticking.
- In an episode of Corner Gas, it's said that Hank ruined the relationship between Dog River and their old twin town in Sweden by sending them a gift that represented various aspects of their town including a bag of fertilizer, a couple of pipe cleaners, and a clock, which the town easily mistook for a bomb. When the question arises as to what gift to send their new twin town in Japan, Hank suggests (and produces) a novelty bowling ball candle.
- Used deliberately in Burn Notice when Michael sends a fake bomb to his handler to get his attention.
- Subverted in Night Court. When someone is apparently trying to kill Harry, he finds a device much like the one shown in the picture above, but as the bomb-squad member sent to take care of it informs him it was just an alarm clock attached by wires to some road flares.
- Babylon 5:
- Played straight in the episode "The Fall of Night", in the attempt to assassinate Captain Sheridan. The fact that the bomb is incredibly obvious allows him to notice it, and is the reason he jumps from the shuttle.
- Averted in a later episode when a bomber goes on a rampage through the station. We never see what the bombs look like (except the final one attached to the station's fusion reactor), but the first one is found by a bunch of lurkers who find it interesting enough to get right next to it just before it goes off. Otherwise we just see explosions occur, taking everyone in the vicinity completely by surprise.
- Stargate Verse:
- The teams like putting big blocks of C4 in the middle of the walls on hallways on enemy ships. It's only been a few times they've bothered to put it under things or tucked away in a corner, in part taking advantage of ignorance of plastic explosives by their opponents.
- The gold naquadah bombs are, when you take the lid off, obviously a kitchen timer with those red goa'uld glyphs counting down.
- Used very often in Chuck when he has to disarm bombs. In the fifth season, your average car bomb is huge, with beeping and blinking blue lights that can be spotted a mile away (though nobody ever does.) Chuck, of course, loves to poke fun at spy movies, so it's definitely intentional and you're supposed to laugh. However, the first bomb in the series looked like a perfectly normal cell phone.
- In Primeval, a bomb with a flashing red display is placed under a car. A flashing red display that is so bright that the characters first notice it by seeing where the display lights up the floor below.
- In the Leverage episode "The Two Live Crew Job," the bomb sent to Sophie is very subtle, as it's motion sensitive and hidden in the bottom of a vase. No timer, no wires, just the bomb.
- In Black Adder III, an anarchist throws a Cartoon Bomb at Prince George who assumes that it's nothing more than a novelty sparkler. Why did he not duck and hide? Consider that the anarchist shouted, "Death to the stupid prince!" during the assassination attempt.
- Well, "stupid prince" does rather succinctly describe George.
- In The Aquabats! Super Show! episode "EagleClaw!", Eaglebones Falconhawk is given one of these by his "biggest fan", Eagleclaw in disguise, who describes it as a "clock...shaped like a bird" with "a bird backpack". Eaglebones throws it in the nearby dumpster, where it promptly explodes (without killing the person inside).
- The Mad Bomber in the "Firestorm" table of Balls of Steel is shown holding a cluster of dynamite sticks in one hand, cackling maniacally.
- Subverted in Metal Gear Solid 2, where a portion of the game has you running around, deactivating bombs. The bombs in question are large, bulky yellow boxes with a blinking red light and the implied scent of cologne. However, after you deactivate all the bombs you find out that they were just decoys to distract you from all the real, much better hidden explosives. The C4 the players use aren't labelled either, and the claymores are actually well-disguised.
- Played straight with the semtex bombs in a few areas (mainly the one walkway and that one room) — with the explosives labelled as such. This series is a little schizophrenic with this trope.
- Somewhat justified in that the explosives weren't meant to blow up the bridge, but rather act as a personnel deterrent (in other words, "You don't go through here unless you want to be blown up").
- In Command & Conquer: Generals , an entire division of the Chinese Army attempts to cross a suspension bridge and not one soldier notices the beeping, blinking, bank-vault sized explosive device attached to the bridge's side. As soon as the span is loaded with men and vehicles, the bomb goes off, wiping out all but a handful of your force.
- To be fair it's on the side that we look at; given that the troops are marching in formation and probably not looking over the handrailless side it's kind of hard to see. Also it's the kind of stealth thing that makes them ignore neon-green clothed riflemen standing right in front of them, in the desert if they have the right upgrade.
- Also, the Chrono Bombs in Red Alert 3.
- Team Fortress 2: On payload maps, the BLU team must escort a minecart with an enormous nuclear warhead in it that causes the cart to visibly crack open near the front. It obviously doesn't go unnoticed, considering the entire point of the map for the RED team is to intercept it.
- The Demoman's grenade launcher also shoots obvious grenades, that flash his team color for a few seconds before exploding. The sticky bombs don't flash, but they're still somewhat obvious.
- The Spy's sapper also counts - a large, grey rectangle placed on an Engineers building. To blow them up. Almost impossible not to notice a building that has been "sapped"
- When planting the bomb (oddly enough, as either side) in the Modern Warfare games, you get a brief look at it - a suitcase with stacked bricks of plastic explosive attached to a cell phone with "BOOM" taped over the screen.
- One of these (complete with flashing red digital countdown) takes out the Concordia flight deck towards the beginning of Wing Commander II.
- Justified in Left 4 Dead. The pipe bomb in the game has a bright blinking red light and a loud beep, thanks to a smoke detector taped to it. The zombies in the game are attracted to light and sound, so making it incredibly obvious means that they'll actually try to get into the blast radius.
- The infamous dam level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES had you swimming around deactivating devices that are obviously bombs. Justified in that, well, they're underwater; who's going to be swimming around in there with whirling traps, electric zappers (that thankfully only zap you if you're between the electrodes, rather than electrifying the waters), seaweed that stings, and seaweed that captures you outright, just to get close enough to see what they are?? Who, indeed...
- No One Lives Forever follows this trope in the second game with the high explosives used at various points in the game. The explosives closely resemble the image above, except the analog timer is directly on top of the explosives themselves, and they're armed with a safety key and a couple switches, and they're set up in a brick of six sticks of dynamite.
- Every now and then in Startopia, a saboteur will sneak aboard your station and leave a bomb. It's lucky they're incredibly obvious, as the station's AI detects their presence, but you have to look for it manually. Once the station gets beyond a certain size, you probably won't find it in time, but at worst it will destroy a building and kill a number of inhabitants.
- The dynamite bombs thrown by terrorists in Target Terror.
- Both the player's and enemy's explosives in Medal of Honor are the "clock on a bundle of dynamite" type. Likewise for Call of Duty.
- Planted bombs in Counter-Strike loudly beep with volume based on how short the timer is, and frequency based on how long is left until it explodes. The countdown timer on the bomb probably doesn't help.
- Human frag grenades in the Resistance series make a lot of smoke and noise before exploding, though both how and why is justified: the grenade's fuse is exposed, and the resulting smoke, sparks, and whatnot are a deterrent against enemies picking it up and tossing it back.
- Terrorist bombs in the Rainbow Six series are usually big, cylindrical, and have the obligatory beeping timers and flashing lights. Averted with explosives used by the player teams.
- The bomb in the opening cut scene of Discworld 2: Missing Presumed.... It's a small barrel, presumably containing black powder note connected to which are three vials of glowing liquid (which serve as Clock Punk analogues to both blinky lights and easily-cut wires) connected to which are a mechanical clock and an hourglass.
- Free-Play maps in the Emergency! series have these. They're not super-obvious from your top-down perspective, but have blinking lights and are left out in the open for your Engineer to disarm.
- The Burna Bomb in Dawn of War is an orky weapon made of a missile warhead with as many grenades, mines and other explosives the orks can strap on it. It twitches and has blinking lights and makes an extremely loud countdown until it explodes. Rest assured that if you didn't see it, you'll know where it was from the mushroom cloud and big hole where your troops used to be.
- In Super Tux Kart, if you hit a Banana Peel, you kart might pick up a bundle of red sticks with a ticking clock. Not a good thing. Bump another kart to pass the bomb. Before it blows up!
- In the pilot episode of Transformers Animated, Starscream attaches a bomb to Megatron's back. It's about the size a softball would be in a human's hands, it's dominated by a red flashing light, and it emits a beeping sound which increases in intensity towards detonation. How Megatron failed to notice it is a mystery up there with "Where does Optimus Prime's trailer go?"
- There was an Inspector Gadget episode where the bad guys are trying to blow up a space shuttle ... using a bomb clearly labeled as such ... and its design is included in the blueprints for the shuttle. The plucky sidekick simply finds the right page in the Big Book Of Blueprints and yanks out the right wire.
- Averted in the carnival episode, where the bomb is hidden in a prize toy.
- Played straight in the arctic episode, where a MAD agent rigs Gadget's car with "rockets to advance even in snow" and "special snow tires" that are bright red with the MAD logo.
- In The Tick, The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight (yeah, baby!) uses round beeping metal devices with blinking red lights clearly labeled "BOMB". Then again, the Midnight Bomber is as Ax-Crazy as they come.... draw your own conclusion.
- Whilst most real-life bombers avoid this trope for obvious reasons, some deliberately invoke it to get headlines or make a political point. The various IRA franchises in particular were keen on this during the latter half of 90’s (particularly after the Omagh bombing ) when actually setting off bombs would have resulted in a Zero Per Cent Approval Rating, some domestic terrorist groups would set deliberately obvious bombs and then tip-off the police or army as to where, just to remind them that they could still launch a major bombing campaign if they wanted to.