It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Someone does something that puts them, or the people around them in a bad or unpleasant situation. Hindsight reveals that although they had good intentions, their actions were not in their best interests.
If questioned about why they did it, they'll often respond with the reason for everything that has ever been done by anyone at any time and any place: "It seemed like a good idea at the time!".
This is also used sometimes as an explanation for Chaotic Neutral
or Chaotic Stupid
actions. Contrast I Did What I Had to Do
, which does the same as in this case, but for Lawful Neutral
or Lawful Stupid
actions and their moral, rather than strategical, consequences. If the plan somehow still works
— and is stated or implied to work not despite but because of
how ridiculous it seems — that's Refuge in Audacity
Compare the situational trope, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
, as well as Didn't Think This Through
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- In one commercial for Jameson's Irish Whiskey, John Jameson leaps overboard when one of his barrels of whiskey is lost in a storm to retrieve it, and while he's down there narrator says "In hindsight, that probably wasn't a good idea" when he sees a giant octopus start reaching towards him. Viewable here.
- This explanation gets used a lot in Nodwick. Especially by Yeagar, who has the wisdom of a lemming.
Films — Live-Action
- American Outlaws
Jesse James: A war against the railroad... what the hell was I thinking?
Frank: Well, I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.
- Hannibal has this exchange where Mason Verger explains how he ended up in his current state, with some help from some drugs Lecter gave him during one of their "therapy sessions":
Mason Verger: The good doctor approached me with a piece of broken mirror and said...[Flashback: Lecter is holding a shard of broken glass]
Hannibal Lecter: Try peeling off your face...
Mason Verger: ...and feeding it to the dogs. [Flashback: Verger peels his face off.] Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
- Jesse Stone: No Remorse. Jesse Stone suggests Dr. Dix take up fishing.
Dr. Dix: I hate fishin'.
Chief Jesse Stone: So do I.
Dr. Dix: So why'd you suggest it?
Chief Jesse Stone': Seemed like a good idea at the time, doesn't cost me anything.
- The 1975 comedy film called, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, starring Stephanie Powers and John Candy.
- Live Free or Die Hard
Lucy McClane: Daddy, you're out of your mind.
John McClane: What're you talkin' about?
Lucy McClane: You shot yourself!
John McClane: [groaning] It seemed like a good idea at the time.
- The Magnificent Seven:
Calvera: What I don't understand is why a man like you took the job in the first place, hmm? Why, huh?
Chris: I wonder myself.
Calvera: No, come on, come on, tell me why.
Vin: It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, "Why?"
Vin: He said, "It seemed to be a good idea at the time."
- The Mummy
Evelyn: By the way, why did you kiss me?
Rick: I don't know. I was about to be hanged. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
- In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, Crow attempts to escape the Satellite of Love by digging a tunnel through space. When asked why he decided to bore a hole through the hull of the ship, he responds, "I calculated the odds of this working vs the odds that I was doing something incredibly stupid and... I went ahead anyway."
- Without A Paddle. Del Knox has spent 30 years in a cabin after partnering with D.B. Cooper in his famous skyjacking.
Jerry Conlaine: But you could've left! Why'd you stay up here all these years?
Del Knox: Seemed like a good idea at the time. Know what I mean, kid?
Chris Kelvin: Why did you kill yourself?
Gibarian: It seemed like a good idea at the time, now I think I made a mistake.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Everything Zaphod Beeblebrox ever does, except when caught up in a plan related to finding out who really rules the universe in later volumes. Of course, this seems to have been the main reason Zaphod pulled said plan on himself by altering his own memories; even he questions his own judgment on this one.
- In the novel Knight Life by Peter David, Merlin says any question can be answered by one of three statements: "Everybody has to be somewhere," "God told me to do it," and "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
- In Oryx and Crake, where pigs are spliced with human DNA in order to create ultra-large pigs who grow multiple human organs that are used for transplants. Some of them even have some human brain tissue, which makes them viciously intelligent. Of course, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
- Similarly to the Oryx and Crake example, in the Revelation Space universe an intelligent species of "hyperpigs" exists due to genetic manipulations conducted to provide transplant materials. While things are rocky for a long while, a hyperpig ends up being vital to saving all humans and hyperpigs from the Inhibitors.
- Any of Chris's antics during his college career in The Pale King.
- In the Discworld series, Nanny Ogg's primary method of functioning is explicitly described as, "Nanny's philosophy of life was to do what seemed like a good idea at the time, and to do it as hard as possible. It had never let her down."
- A nonfiction book by Bill Fawcett cataloging such events in Real Life uses the trope as its title.
- Harry Dresden cites this word for word when he admits that he may have kinda thrown himself out of a moving car. He had a plan. Sort of.
Live Action Television
- The Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones episode "Demons of Deception" ("Verdun" and "Paris")
Remy Baudouin: I can't believe you actually did that. You could have ended up in front of a firing squad!
Indiana Jones: They'll never figure it out.
Remy Baudouin: But still, you lost your courier's job, and you put yourself back in the mud. You're crazy!
Indiana Jones: It seemed like a good idea at the time. Some men got to live another day.
- The producers of The Amazing Race have been quoted as saying this about the Family Edition.
- On Attack of the Show!, they tested the Sham Wow! and the Zorbees, and used substances such as vomit. Kevin nearly threw up on camera.
- And then they tested the Slap Chop on sheep eyes...
- Comes up in almost each plan by John in Farscape.
- Gossip Girl episode "All About My Brother"
Lily van der Woodsen: Really, Rufus, what were you thinking? You threw her a surprise birthday party and had her face painted on a cake with a tiara?
Rufus Humphrey: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Lily van der Woodsen: So did flannel and acid wash-jeans, but they weren't flattering either.
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman episode "Tempus Fugitive"
Clark Kent: Glasses, secret identity... seemed like a good idea at the time.
- On an episode of Night Court, Macís bigoted grandfather canít accept that his grandson has married an Asian woman. So Harry orders his grandfather arrested and locks him up in the same cell with Macís wife, so the two of them can get to know each other better. Mac is aghast when he finds out, and a crestfallen Harry gives the trope name word-for-word as his defense. Mac responds, ďWell, sir, Iím sure human sacrifice seemed like a good idea at the time!Ē
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, Spock's father, Sarek, gives this as the reason why he married Spock's human mother:
Spock: (about his mother) "Emotional, isn't she?"
Sarek: "She has always been that way."
Spock: "Indeed. Why did you marry her?"
Sarek: "At the time it seemed the logical thing to do."
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Emperor's New Cloak".
Quark: I still don't understand why you'd want to come here in the first place.
Zek: Simple, really. I came to find new financial opportunities for the Ferengi people.
Zek: Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
- The Stock Phrase is also used in "The Way Of The Warrior Part I", when Sisko is rather surprised to find Dukat on the side of the Cardassian Civilian Government instead of Cardassian Military. Facing a revolution, Dukat had to consider what was best for... well, Dukat.
Sisko: In other words, you saw which way the wind was blowing and switched sides.
Dukat: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
- Terry and the Pirates episode "Deadly Species" (1952)
Terry Lee: Good timing, Major.
Major Ellis: Oh, it was quite simple. All I had to do was follow the baskets you chaps so thoughtfully pushed off the truck.
Terry Lee: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
- Trailer Park Boys episode "Propane, Propane"
Bubbles: You're not really marrying Lahey's ex-wife are ya? [snip]
Ricky: Look Julian, I was baked out of my mind, it seemed like a good idea at the time alright?
- One stand-up comedian says that this is the reason why men do so many stupid and idiotic things, because guys aren't thinking about the past or the future and are only concerned with having a good time right now. He uses Bill Clinton as an example, and claims Bill would have gotten off scott free if he had just told the truth.
"Mr. President, are we to understand that she just walked right into your office and started...well, you know."
"Seemed like a good idea at the time!"
- iCarly episode "iSell Penny Tees":
Unnamed child: You already pre-paid us. For the whole month. (holds a wad of cash up to Carly and Freddie)
Carly: (to Freddie, who looks at her weirded out) ...It seemed like a good idea at the time.
- On Parks and Recreation a young grade-school girl visits the office on a class assignment to learn about government, and finds Ron Swanson to talk with. He happily shares his disapproving views on the government and taxation, and gives her a going-away present of a Claymore mine, telling her "Protect what's yours." Her mother later visits, furious at her daughter being given ordnance, and Ron utters the trope phrase.
- Air Crash Investigation: The root cause of some of the disasters caused by pilot error. "Kid in the Cockpit" concerned a famous Russian case where a senior airline pilot allowed his teenaged son to take the controls of a brand new Airbus A310. The teen inadvertently disabled the plane's autopilot and the flight crew, unfamiliar with the state-of-the-art aircraft, failed to bring it back under control. Tragic hilarity ensued. An especially needless tragedy given that the investigators found that everything would have been fine if they had just let go of the control column.
- True to its tendency of turning sayings into titles, This American Life has done an episode (#306) that's flat out titled "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time."
- In the Chakona Space 'verse, chakats are mentioned to be highly susceptible to this.
- Red vs. Blue, in episode 52 Have We Met?:
One of the many Churches: So, what did you do?
Yellow Armor Church: Aw, man, it seemed like such a good idea at the time!
- This is a running gag in Prequel, where it's referred to as a "BEST IDEA." Highlights include dismantling a swinging pendulum to use it as a weapon.
- What the Fuck Is Wrong with You? is full of these moments.
- In Portal 2 you're given the opportunity to remove Big Bad GLaDOS' control over the facility and replace her with Wheatley, a cheery, kindhearted robot that's done nothing but help you. Seems like a great idea, right? Turns out whoever is put in charge of the facility is driven insane, good job turning your only friend into a homicidal maniac.
- Most of history can be fit under this, especially the really catastrophic parts. So can the really funny parts too.
- Case in point: the colonization of New England. Most of the British colonies in North America were set up either as trading posts or as cash cows for profitable crops. New England, on the other hand, was Britain's dumping ground for social misfits and religious dissidents - basically anyone they didn't know what to do with. Massachusetts in particular was a hotbed of political radicals and religious whackjobs for most of the 18th century. Less than a century after its initial colonization, New England became the center of a secessionist movement that would eventually become The American Revolution. Maybe putting all the crazy people in one place wasn't such a great idea...
- "Hey y'all, watch this!"
- "Hold my beer."
- Any youtube video that starts with "Are you recording this?"
- This was the reason given for the production of The Day the Clown Cried, a movie about a Holocaust-era clown which would have been Jerry Lewis' directorial debut.
- On Aeroflot Flight 593, the plane's captain took his two children into the cockpit to let them sit at the controls of the brand-new and impressive Airbus A310. The captain's teenaged son, who had no idea how the plane really worked, inadvertently disabled the autopilot. The flight crew, unfamiliar with the state-of-the-art autopilot, were unable to regain control of the aircraft. Flight 593 crashed, killing all 75 people on board.
- Eating large quantities of food, e.g. as part of a contest, may seem like a fun thing to do...until the food coma and wooziness kick in less than an hour later.