Just Eat Gilligan

aka: Just Eat The Mac Guffin
"Gilligan screwed it up! Why don't they just kill him?"
Red Forman, That '70s Show

Idiot Ball on a grand scale. An entire show whose continued existence depends on its castmembers not doing one simple, easy-to-think-of thing that could solve all of their problems and wrap everything up in a neat little package. It's an advanced form of Genre Blindness, used to enforce Failure Is the Only Option. It's any question the viewer may have to which the only sensible answer is: "Because then there'd be no show/movie/novel/game, that's why."

Note that there's no guarantee that doing this one thing would definitely result in the show's resolution, but there's at least enough potential there to make it worth a try. Or maybe several tries, to hammer out all the bugs, if the fundamental concept is particularly rational.

The trope name comes from a question raised by Joel Hodgson during a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode while discussing Gilligan's Island. Another question raised was "Why didn't they just fix the two-foot hole in the boat?"

Not to be confused with Just Eat Him. When a villain falls prey to this trope, it is often Never Recycle Your Schemes, Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?, or Cut Lex Luthor a Check. See also The Millstone, when one character is the cause of this situation, Fawlty Towers Plot, when the source is a lie, Story-Breaker Power, when a character's special abilities should be able to solve the conflict, and Duels Decide Everything, when a fictional universe requires someone to win a sport against someone, even when there's no reason why they have to play, in order to do something of substance. If you were expecting this trope to be literal, i.e. if they did eat Gilligan, that would be an example of there being No Party Like a Donner Party. Contrast with For Want of a Nail, Who Will Bell the Cat?


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  • There was a series of Eggo Waffles commercials where a Bumbling Dad was constantly trying to steal the eponymous waffles from his daughter while she wasn't looking with his attempts always ending in Amusing Injuries. Honestly, why doesn't he just get his own eggos out of the freezer, or better yet, buy himself some Eggo Waffles from the store?
  • Also, the kids from the Lucky Charms commercials; why don't they just buy their own, instead of chasing Lucky for them all the time? This is Double Subverted by one Trix commercial. The Trix Rabbit just buys his own cereal. The kids steal it from him.
  • Invoked in a commercial for Three Musketeers bars. One of the Musketeers wonders why the bandit that was chasing them didn't just go out and buy one of their candy bars.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The anime features several occasions where a bad guy could achieve his goal without an obligatory Duel, but nevertheless does one for some unknown reason. Repeatedly lampshaded in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series.
      Yami Yugi: Did you even consider just asking me for it? I mean, do you have any idea how much time and money you've wasted with this whole facade? People have died because you wanted a necklace! I killed a gay clown, for Ra's sake!
    • And again in the second season...
      Rare Hunter: We are here to take your rarest card.
      Joey: You mean you're gonna kick the crap out of me and steal it?
      Rare Hunter: No. First we will challenge you to a children's card game. Then we will kick the crap out of you and steal it.
      Joey: ... wouldn't it be much easier just to skip the first step?
      Rare Hunter: Yes. Yes, it would. (proceeds with card game)
    • And in one of Marik's Evil Council meetings:
      Marik: We are going to challenge him to a card game! But this will be no ordinary card game. This one will take place... On a boat!
      Bakura: Why a boat?
      Marik: Because, uhm, when he loses the card game, we'll, uh, throw him over the edge. Into the sea. His hair will be soaked, it'll take him hours to dry it!
      Bakura: Why do we even need to play a card game? Why can't we just push him off the boat?
      (long pause)
      Marik: No! The card game is integral to the plot! The EVIL plot! Of which I am the evil mastermind!
    • And from the same Council Meeting:
      Marik: For the last time, we're not killing him! Even if we did, those f*cktards would just censor it!
    • Sometimes it follows a reasonable logic where Yugi's puzzle will only give up it's true powers if someone wins it in a competition which is why we get situations like when Bandit Kieth will actually steal the puzzle and THEN stop to duel Yugi anyway. Of course, this doesn't apply to all the non Yugi duels that go through the card game for no reason, such as the above Joey quote which really is as nonsensical in the anime as it sounds abridged.
    • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX manga, Misawa admits that he could have just asked Judai for Asuka's phone number instead of dueling with him, but that his pride would not allow him to do so, and that he wanted to duel Judai.
    • But it's in the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds series where they really went too far with it. The police have this device that fires a tether between themselves and the vehicle they're pursuing, which can disable the other vehicle... but only if they defeat the other driver in a children's card game. Bonus points because if they lose that children's card game THEIR vehicle gets disabled. You really have to wonder how someone got away with a pitch for standard issue police gear that has a built in function to let criminals get away.
  • In Patlabor, SV2 Division 2 is often derided for the massive collateral damage they cause while fighting crime... and 90% of those are caused by Ohta. Now, his gung-ho, gun-loving attitude is supposed to be played for laughs, and he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold really, but just the same, getting rid of him would've saved much of SV2's troubles. Note that in the manga version, Ohta is shown to be less incompetent than his anime counterparts. Also note that one of the later TV shows, points out that Ohta is very skilled, "He's never hit a cockpit" Gotoh remarks. Besides, the only other suitable pilots were on command track/or slated to go back to the US in a year. This is reinforced in the second movie, where he cooly demonstrates that he's capable of aiming from the hip with their Humongous Mecha and nailing a moving target; the recruits he was drilling at the time couldn't fathom the purpose of the exercise but are impressed nonetheless.
  • In InuYasha, the heroine has the ability to travel back and forth in time to Ancient Japan. Presumably, she and her friends who remain in the past after the defeat of Naraku could arrange to preserve the information on how it was done in such a way that Kagome could easily discover it in the present, take the information back to the past where the as-yet-undefeated Naraku is still wreaking havoc and use it to defeat him. Of course, trying to explain the logistics of such a paradox-based plan would most likely make all of the characters heads' explode, which would itself end the series right there. But of course, that depends on the exact logistics of the time travel, and, judging from the amount of present day school she misses, the amount of time she can go back and forth is fixed.
  • Blue Seed has this as its central concept. If they had just killed Momiji (normally, that is), the monsters will all be gone and peace would be restored. However, the basis of the series is to find a way to get rid of the monsters without killing her. It's directly discussed at one point in the series that earlier Kushinadas had been sacrificed during the Rite of Matsuri throughout history and the effects of their sacrifices in order to put down the Aragami were only temporary. The characters in the series recognize this and actively try to find a long-term solution.
  • Code Geass would have ended much sooner in Lelouch's favor had he abandoned his favoritism and made a much earlier attempt to kill his best friend turned rival Suzaku, or geassing Villetta into forgetting everything that happened during their first encounter. Even sooner if he'd simply made some "Follow all of my orders" commands, which he finally begins throwing around near the end of the second season. There are some (admittedly fairly flimsy) reasons for not doing these things; Lelouch's personal brand of selfishness makes him willing to do anything for the people he cares about at the expense of everyone else (he started his entire war for the sake of his little sister), so it is a recognisable character flaw for him to hold back on Suzaku. He also dislikes taking away people's freedom (it's one of the reasons he hates Brittannia), so he only Geasses innocent people temporarily, and his finally being willing to go that extra mile is a sign of his general breakdown. Yes, there is a lot of ambiguity and hypocrisy in his personal code of ethics (which he's well aware of), but he does actually have a reason for not solving his problems this way. His failure to deal with Viletta properly (either by Geass or by execution) is certainly a stupid oversight, but could be excused by the stress of his first battle and new-found powers causing a What an Idiot moment. Partially justified (at least for Viletta) in that Lelouch did not know the limits of his geass when he used it on her; he only learned his one-use limit during a subsequent episode in which he attempted to geass Kallen twice in a row.
  • Inverted in Houshin Engi. Being the genre savvy guy that he is, Taikobo decides the best course of action in one of the first chapters is to take the fight directly to Dakki. Just find a way in the palace and catch her when he guard is down, get the happy ending. The problem is that Dakki is dangerously genre savvy and also a manipulative bastard. She knows Taikobo's every move before he makes it and nearly kills him in a pit of snakes.
  • Ranma ˝:
    • Not one single character who has gained a curse at the Jusenkyō springs has thought to take a dip in whatever spring would cure them before they leave, despite there being a helpful guide there who happens to know what curse each spring carries. Several episode plots revolve around trying to get back to Jusenkyō, even, and no-one explains why they left to begin with.
    • There is also a storyline which involves a bar of soap that apparently cures the curse. However at the end of the story we discover that the fix is only temporary. However, it didn't seem to occur to the characters that they could have continued immunity to the curse if they used it every day like, say, one does with a bar of soap.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya has an odd example where the possible solution is actively prevented by the cast. Haruhi is, unbeknownst to herself, a Reality Warper, and they don't want her to find out because she might bring about The End of the World as We Know It. But she's come close to discovering her powers numerous times, and she's reset the universe once or twice accidentally, so they're only delaying the inevitable. If they just told her directly, at least it wouldn't happen suddenly and unexpectedly; maybe she could learn to control or suppress her powers consciously. Kyon tries to tell her, but she doesn't believe him, but he later invents what he thinks is a surefire way to convince her. Several novels later, he still hasn't tried it.
  • The fourth season of Sailor Moon has a new group of mysterious enemies show up to assault the people of Tokyo. All their monsters are circus themed, and at the same time, a gigantic, sinister-looking circus tent just shows up in the middle of town without explanation. It's bigger than any building in the city and sticks out like a sore thumb. The Sailor Senshi are among the first to notice it. And then they just go about their lives, refusing to put two and two together and often wondering aloud where all these new enemies could possibly be coming from. Averted in the manga where the Senshi are on to the Dead Moon Circus from almost the beginning of the Arc.
  • Dragon Ball GT:
    • In the first arc, when the Black Star Dragon Balls got scattered throughout the galaxy, the Z Fighters thought it was best to build a space ship and search for them, planet by planet, one at a time. However, fan theories aside, there was absolutely no reason why they couldn't simply use Earth's Dragon Balls to wish the Black Star Dragon Balls into one convenient spot. For all we know, the Black Star Dragon Balls could have been wished back, but the idea never once cross any of the Z Fighter's minds, including Bulma's.
    • Again in episode 7-8 of GT. A monster named Zoonama threatens to destroy a village with earthquakes unless they give him a bride (it later turns out that Zoonama was only bluffing and doesn't actually have the power to cause earthquakes). For some reason the Z Fighters thought it was best to dress Trunks as a women, get Zoonama to marry him, then cut off Zoonama's earthquake-causing whiskers while he was asleep during their honeymoon. At no point do the Z Fighters consider just beating Zoonama up and tearing his wiskers off, or flat out killing him with a ki blast, or at very least attempting a sneak attack.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men:
    • Rogue is a mutant who broods constantly because her mutant power has the potential to kill anyone she makes physical contact with. However, since mutant negation technology is widely available (and has been shown to work on her in the past), it should be no problem to simply make a necklace or something with the embedded technology and just put an on/off switch on the circuit. End of meaningless brooding. Note, however, that this depends on which incarnation is discussed, as well as what the technology does specifically. In Evolution, Nightcrawler's hologram machine is only able to change the appearance, but is still a blue furry humanoid with three fingers on each hand. The animated series had devices that nullified powers on the mutant-hating Genosha, but the controllers would be a hassle to carry everywhere and she would need to hide it so it does not get damaged or turned against her.

      The implicit explanation usually was that power-negating devices belonged to villains and thus were not freely available, or they weren't exactly devices so much as actual living persons (such as Leech of the Morlocks or the power-negating mutant serving with the Genoshan Pressgang). In X-Men vs. Alpha Flight Rogue was briefly given the ability to control her power by Anodyne, a normal human given healing powers by Loki, but Rogue gave up her control when it emerged that the process that had given Anodyne her powers had the side-effect of killing magically-based superheroes like Alpha Flight's Shaman and Snowbird. In one story written by Scott Lobdell, Joseph (later revealed to be Magneto's clone) created a device that allowed Rogue to skin-to-skin contact without negating Rogue's powers. It was not surprisingly promptly forgotten. However, all of this is now moot since Rogue eventually became able to control her power in X-Men Legacy.
    • Back when the Legacy Virus was ravaging Marvel's mutant population, a common fan suggestion was to intentionally infect Wolverine with the virus and use his antibodies to develop a cure. In fact, it's rather remarkable that this was not the way the writers ended up curing it. The cartoon series, however, did cure the virus in this manner.
  • Many fans of Batman have, for a long time, been shouting to Just Kill the Joker. The fact that Batman knows the Joker will eventually kill again arguably makes him complicit in their deaths and suggests that he puts his own pride and moral high ground above innocent lives... which incidentally destroys his moral high ground. He fears that if he crosses that line, there was no turning back. Batman has actually been called out on this multiple times, and Depending on the Writer, is not always depicted as being completely in the right on this stance. The Pop Culture and Philosophy series' Batman and Philosophy examines the issue and determines that, while a compelling argument can be make that Joker should be killed and that his killing is both morally permissible and in fact necessary, it should be done after a trial by jury and a formal death sentence and execution by the state and not by Batman making himself Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
  • In the Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog book, there have been numerous characters that have enough mystical power to defeat Dr. Eggman themselves, yet no-one ever does this. Some of these characters are relatives of Tails and Knuckles, who could honestly say they're protecting their homes and families. Tails and Knuckles themselves have gained power enough to defeat Eggman on two separate occasions each, typically becoming reality warpers of various degrees, yet it never occurs to them to personally take out Eggman, even when they do have non-lethal measures available to them. Interestingly, the comic does come up with an answer: the multiverse would just dump another Dr. Eggman on their laps. As Zonic the Zone Cop tells Sonic, Sonic must fight Robotnik. However, the Mobius: X Years Later suggests that killing Robotnik is what's needed; there would be new threats but Robotnik/Eggman wouldn't return in any form.
  • As a general issue in comic books, there was the question of why the super heroes who were active during World War II seemed to spend the war fighting criminals and saboteurs in America, rather than flying to Berlin and using their powers to overthrow Hitler and end the war. DC eventually came up with an explanation: Hitler had a magic artifact called the Spear of Destiny, which is the lance the pierced the side of Jesus Christ when the son of God was crucified. One of its powers was that any super hero who entered territory that was under Hitler's control would lose his powers or fall under Hitler's control.
  • Runaways required one to believe that absolutely nobody outside of the team could possibly understand their motives for wanting to stick together instead of going into foster care. This finally ended with Avengers Academy, when Nico uses magic to create a mind-meld with the Avengers.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In The LEGO Movie there is a massively popular Show Within a Show called Where Are My Pants? revolving around the single joke of the husband not being able to find his pants. This trope is parodied when Wyldstyle ends up on the set in order to make a broadcast across the universe and she simply chucks a pair of pants at the lead actor, declaring that the series is now over.
  • The third act of Disney's Aladdin happens because Aladdin doesn't free the Genie like he promised and wanted to, because it's only thanks to the Genie magic-ing him into a prince that he's allowed to marry Jasmine. But once the Genie is freed anyway, he keeps all his magical powers, he only stops being compelled to grant wishes. Yet no one considered the option of freeing the Genie and then having the Genie either keep the magic on, or if necessary redo the spell, simply out of gratitude.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bob Denver, a.k.a. Gilligan, hung a lampshade on Gilligan's Island himself in the film Back to the Beach.
    Bartender: Hey, I knew a guy who could build a nuclear reactor out of coconuts but couldn't fix a two-foot hole in a boat.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry:
    • Chuck, you could have just asked to be reassigned to administrative work, you know.
    • They could've pretended to be bisexual instead of gay.
    • Or they could have pointed out that the case against them was based entirely on the fact that they didn't conform to stereotypes.
    • And domestic partnerships don't require the partners be gay.
    • And that loveless marriages of convenience are not illegal.
  • Rosemary's Baby. Call home to Mom, have her buy you a train ticket. Since everyone around is being creepy and lying to you, and the honest ones are dying, just go back to Nebraska or wherever. And since those special witch foods aren't available back home, that should solve the problem of the inconvenient pregnancy. Meanwhile, Rosemary doesn't do this because of her several personality traits, for which she was specifically chosen by the witches. She's the type of good Catholic girl who won't leave her husband, or have an abortion, no matter what. She's also the sort of person to remain in denial about a situation as long as she possibly can, so that she will continue to convince herself everything is just fine long past the point that another woman would go running for help. In fact, that was the mistake the witches made the first time: not being careful enough to select someone who would keep telling herself all the warning signs were just her imagination, and had to help her into suicide.
  • Meanwhile, in The Stepford Wives, the above Rosemary's Baby justification for stupidity is also relevant. Yes, you at least have more reason to stay, as you're tied to your kids, but you're the one who was making so much over wanting a career. You're not even fighting for independence at this point, you've already achieved it; and you've already figured out what's rotten in Denmark, so you're the last woman (actually, she literally is) who should be sticking around for the inevitable.
  • In Enchanted, Giselle is teleported to the real world by coming out from a sewer. It seems that to come back to her original world she just had to go back to said sewer and throw herself in it as it was shown in the ending by Prince Edward and Nancy.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • In Spider-Man 2, a large subplot is the fact that both Peter and Aunt May can't make rent in New York. While Peter might not want to live with May for safety reasons, the characters never even discuss the possibility. Further, Peter's professor Doc Connors complains that he is a great student but has terrible attendance (because he's working the pizza parlor and superheroing), but they never consider working for the university as an option.
    • In the third film, Mary Jane is forced by the New Goblin to ditch Peter Parker, on pain of death. She doesn't even explain to Peter why she is dumping him, which brings up the obvious question: why doesn't she just tell him what the New Goblin is doing since she knows he's Spiderman and therefore the best option there is to stop him? It's not like the New Goblin was even keeping tabs on her to make sure she wouldn't tell, by keeping Peter in the dark all she's doing from her perspective is letting a crazy murderous New Goblin hang around completely unchecked based on his word not to hurt anyone.
  • In Stagecoach, John Ford was once asked why, during the climactic chase scene, the Indians didn't just shoot the horses to stop the stagecoach? "Because the movie would have ended right there", he replied.
  • Under Siege 2: Dark Territory: Steven Seagal spends half the movie keeping the specially encoded CD the villain needs to carry out his evil plot out of the evil villain's hands. He should have just broken the darn thing.
  • The Twilight series. Why doesn't Edward turn Bella into a vampire? It would avert almost all of the conflict after the first movie. At first, it's more justified as Bella asks Edward and he refuses because he doesn't like being a vampire and doesn't want her to be one. But when it becomes clear in later installments that they're going to be together and that everyone agrees that she should become a Vampire with even Edward agreeing to do it, Edward's reluctance needlessly continues to complicate the matter. Furthermore, most of the other Cullens are on board with her becoming a vampire. They abstain from turning Bella themselves out of respect for Edward's wishes but as their lives are continually placed in jeopardy trying to protect her, you'd think eventually one of them would just turn Bella and get it over with.
  • From Ballistic Ecks VS Sever: An early action scene relies on the idea that the Defense Intelligence Agency is not allowed to actually shoot Sever in their attempt at apprehending her. (She's the only person who knows where she stashed a kidnap victim, so they need her alive.) As a result they try to shoot around her to pin her down so they can apprehend her. Needless to say, she escapes with ease. If just one person in the DIA had remembered that tasers exist, or tranquilizer darts, or tear gas, or even had simply aimed for her legs to incapacitate her then the movie would have been over right there. Granted, that would also make The Bad Guy Win...
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones offers a notorious example. During the Battle of Geonosis, Obi-Wan and Anakin spot Dooku escaping, and Anakin orders the gunship's pilot to shoot him down, but he replies that they are out of rockets. Anakin doesn't even think to order the pilot to use the gunship's laser cannons and laser beam turrets to blast Dooku away. If they did, Dooku would've been killed off, he wouldn't have escaped, the Clone War doesn't have to happen, problem solved. Even if the war still begins, the Confederacy probably would've fallen quickly without Dooku's leadership.
    • Episode I isn't much better since (as shown in Episode IV) the easy way to get off Tatooine is to hire a transport, potentially even a smuggler, rather than an overly convoluted plot to bet everything on a pod race. Especially since all they needed to do was send one person to warn everyone about the Trade Federation and then everyone else could have been picked up at their leisure.
    • In Episode III, Yoda loses to Palpatine and escapes. He doesn't even think to try again this time teaming up with Obi-Wan to take on the emperor. If they did, they could've ended the story here and now, rather than just have complete faith that Luke and Leia will be the new hope and wait 19-20 years. While it does work out in the end, what if it didn't? The Empire would've continued ruling the galaxy forever!
  • The Avengers, referencing a deleted scene in the Norton film, has Bruce say that he's tried to eliminate the Hulk by killing himself. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked, Hulk won't let him. Part of the problem in that film is that the military is trying to capture Bruce. Even when hitting him with tank fire in the Ang Lee film, they could barely slow him down. And even without the military's intervention, Bruce often Hulks out anyway.
  • Star Trek: Generations: In the Nexus, Guinan notes to Picard that he can travel to any place and any time he chooses. Picard inexplicably chooses to arrive mere minutes before Soren obliterated the star in the Veridian system to stop him with Kirk's help, rather than any earlier point in the film, such as his first meeting. It was even brought up by The Nostalgia Critic in his review of the movie.
    Picard: All right, I know exactly where I want to go. To the mountaintop on Veridian 3 just before Soren destroyed the star.
    Critic: What? Why there?? Why don't you go to when you first picked him up or when you decided to go out there in the first place? F**k, why don't you go back and save your brother's FAMILY while you're at it?! What is this s**t about being put back in the moment you already know you lost in?! What are you, a moron?! Did everybody's brains just get beamed out of their heads?!
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • In a hotly debated topic, everybody keeps bringing up the eagles. Why don't the Fellowship just use them to fly to someplace near Mordor, and then get to Mount Doom quicker, and then drop the Ring, and end it once and for all.
    • In the third movie, The Return of the King, Denethor thinks Faramir died, Pippin is the only one who figured out that he was KOd from a poisoned arrow and needs medical attention. After Gandalf knocks Denethor out after he yells "Abandon your posts!", no one, not even Pippin himself, takes advantage of the opportunity to get Faramir to the House of Healings, or even get him medicine and have him recover! Instead, they apparently leave him unattended, and he is taken by Denethor to be burned alongside him in the Tomb of the Stewards! If Pippin had taken Faramir, all this would've been avoided!

  • In Journey to the West, almost every story features Xuanzang believing Zhu Bajie's lies about Wukong, taking his bad advice, or taking his side in arguments. He gets captured by demons as a result, and despite this happening dozens of times in the story, he never realizes that Bajie is always wrong. Every single time.
  • Twilight:
    • In the second book, why did Alice not just call someone to check if Bella is dead, since presumably she knows that her visions aren't always set in stone and can be altered? Why did she not wait to tell her family what was going on before she left to confirm what was up? It couldn't have taken more than a day or so to figure out, and it would certainly save Edward the trouble of thinking Bella's dead after leaping to conclusions from calling her father, who happened to be at a funeral.
    • Or if Edward had asked to speak with Bella, rather than Charlie, when he called, thereby avoiding the whole misunderstanding caused by Jacob saying that Charlie was arranging a funeral. Or if Jacob had said whose funeral Charlie was arranging (even something vague like "a friend"). Really, just one of any number of things could have prevented the whole thing from happening.
    • On the subject of Twilight, it would have saved a whole lot of trouble if the Cullens had just banded all seven of themselves together and ripped off the heads of the three vampires threatening Bella. One could argue that the Cullens were trying to be more peaceful than that, but their immediate plan after James and Victoria are out of sight and making plans of their own is to lure the two vampires away and kill them!
    • Eclipse would have been a lot shorter if the Cullens decided to drop on by Seattle and have a quick look in on the newborn who was going on an insane killing spree, if only to keep away the Volturi if not to prevent further human deaths.
    • If Bree Tanner had realized that she could have run away as soon as it became evident that the leaders of the newborns she was with were dangerous (which she figured out very early on), there would have been no plot to the novella at all. Even if Bree didn't want to risk hiding in shade during the day, she still doesn't think to run away when she does learn that direct sunlight is safe!
    • And come to think of it, how much of the crap everyone in the series goes through could have been avoided if just one person in the entire Cullen family had realised just how badly Edward was coping with being a vampire and persuaded him to get some counselling?
    • Let's be honest here, how much of everything that went wrong in the series could have been avoided had Edward simply let the van run Bella over in the first place? There would have been no reason to bring down the wrath of the Volturi, no need for the vampire army, and no danger of anybody breaking the treaty and setting off a war between the vampires and shifters.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Actually averted, despite fan suggestions. The series has time machines, numerous, available to school students if you ask really hard, but despite the comman fandom claim, they are incapable of altering the past, and can only be used to create a Stable Time Loop. The author stepped in to put a further nail in this coffin in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by making a point of having the case all the time-turners that are stored be destroyed, and said in an interview that those were all the time-turners. Of course, the question remains - what makes anyone think that the only time-travel equipment in existence is in the possession of the Ministry of Magic of Great Britain, that no-one else could ever possibly make more time-travel devices, and that no-one would ever want to not make more time-travel devices? Apparently, someone thought that it was worth the bother the first time...
      • That is not truly an aversion since while that prevents one from changing the past, stable time loops are still quite useful. For example being in two places at once, deciding ahead of time to go back in time so as to get help from your future self, etc. Though that may be more a case of Forgotten Phlebotinum that Just Eat Gilligan.
    • The whole plot of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or "Sorcerer's Stone" as it's called in the USA) wouldn't have happened if Dumbledore had just destroyed the stone in the first place like he did at the end. In this case, there was a good reason not to destroy it sooner. It was needed to produce an immortality elixir that its creator, Nicholas Flamel, relied upon to survive. However, after seeing how close Voldemort came to obtaining the stone, Flamel finally agreed to let himself succumb to old age rather than risk letting the stone fall into the wrong hands.
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has the oddest one. Harry gets listed as the fourth competitor in a tournament that has "three wizards" right in its name, wasn't open to students his age, and only allows one student per school (Cedric was already chosen for Hogwarts). Despite being aware of how suspicious this is and how many rules it breaks, the teachers decide to let him compete, because the whims of the Goblet of Fire are the only thing they can agree on. In addition to sabotaging the plot of the book, not letting Harry participate would have delayed or prevented Voldemort's resurrection, and saved Cedric's life. Even if the Goblet really was as magically binding as they claimed it was, he could have just agreed with the other teachers to knowingly violate another rule to get disqualified or even if failing that just say "Cedric is the true representative of Hogwarts so I'm just going to sit on the starting line for each event." There's hardly any shame in doing so since his very presence is basically cheating for the Hogwarts side.
  • Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt has a severe case of this. Beatrice and Seth could have solved all their problems at once, just by talking to each other and admit that they loved each other! But alas... At least Seth later admitted that he had been an idiot...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Named after what is likely the most egregious example: the title character from Gilligan's Island, whose bungling so often sabotaged the rest of the cast's attempts to get back to civilization, that one has to wonder why they simply didn't eat himor at least arrange for some sort of "accident" to happen to him. Or if they didn't want to be killers, they could've just locked him up until they got off the island (which would likely only take a week), then send someone back for him afterwards. Or they simply could have given Gilligan a less critical role in the plan.
    • Lampshaded on an episode of That '70s Show, when Red, watching Gilligan's Island, wonders why the rest of the cast doesn't just kill Gilligan.
    • Jackie wondered the same thing, only she thought the most appropriate victim would be killing "the fat one for food." Her thinking might have been that a fat man like the Skipper would provide the most meat (though the "fat=ugly" aspect of the equation may be relevant), and she certainly has a history of tolerating idiots who are as useless as Gilligan...
    • Rebecca's father on Cheers made the same point:
      "As a man who has thirty years of naval experience, I can say with all confidence that if that crew got together and shot Gilligan, they'd have been off that island in a week. Problem solved."
    • Evidence from the show itself actually helps Gilligan's case. Statistically speaking, out of 98 episodes, only 37 involved a direct possibility of escaping the island. Of those 37, only 17 potential rescues were foiled as a result of Gilligan's actions. Admittedly, that's still a lot of rescues for one man to screw up, but the series also has a large number of episodes where Gilligan's actions save everybody — from death, enslavement, imprisonment, etc.
    • The backstory between Gilligan and The Skipper is that Gilligan saved The Skipper's life by pulling him away from a loose depth charge. This sets up an even more interesting paradox: Gilligan saved the Skipper, and as a result they teamed up to eventually strand themselves and five other people on an island. If Gilligan just let him die, there would have been no series at all.
    • Alternate question: if the professor is such a genius on every subject, how come he doesn't know how to build a new boat? Russell Johnson's (the actor who played The Professor) stock answer: If you were a mega Science Geek trapped on an island with two beautiful girls... would YOU be quick to get rescued?
    • Third question: if the Minnow had, as passengers, one of the world's richest men, and one of Hollywood's favorite actresses, why weren't there more exhaustive rescue attempts? Considering how many people managed to stumble onto the island, it couldn't have been all that far from the mainland, and since the boat was still in one piece, even if it wasn't sea-worthy, it should have been visible from a low-flying plane specifically searching for it. It was probably really all Thurston Howell's fault. Someone had plotted to eliminate him, and when he wasn't killed in the shipwreck, then to keep him on the island, in order to have control of his money. Either his nearest relative, or estate trustee probably knew where he was the whole time. Note that there was an episode dealing with Howell's impostor, who indeed took over all of the real Howell's empire.
  • Just about any show which features Time Travel as a plot device has the potential to suffer from this trope if the heroes are too stupid to figure out a way to use that device to its full potential.
    • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure falls victim to this until almost the very end, when the two not-so-bright heroes finally realize that, duh, they have a time machine, and proceed to arrange it so that, in some future time, they will go back into the past and cause certain events to happen in the present which will allow them to escape from jail and make it to the school in time to deliver their fateful history report. The climax of the sequel features both Bill and Ted and Big Bad Nomolos DeNomolos playing this game, each attempting to get the advantage in a Mexican Standoff... until Ted rightly points out that only one side gets to win, then go back in time and stage everything just right, and they had in fact planted all the items he thought he planted to lull him into a false sense of security. Probably not so much of a concern, because the film is too silly to be taken seriously.
    • A similar stand-off occurs between the Doctor and the Master in the Doctor Who parody film The Curse of Fatal Death. The Doctor wins the fight by arranging for the architects to have built a trap door under where the Master's feet would have been after the race goes extinct.
    • The Doctor Who series proper handwaves this by saying that the Doctor "can't interfere with established events" — which is code for "can't use time travel in any fashion that would make the dilemma of the week too easy to solve."
    • The in-universe explanation for this is that The Doctor and other "time aware" species like the Daleks are aware of fixed points in history that cannot be changed. This is usually indicated by their significance in subsequent history books. It seems that the more an event is ingrained into legend, the less power the Doctor has to alter it. Like the Titanic sinking, the volcano which destroyed Pompeii, the mysterious destruction of the first Mars colony, etc. Attempts to push against these boundaries seem fruitless as Fate keeps making them happen anyway. It is implied that it is possible to beat fate, but only by accepting all the ramifications to the stability of time. Even a Dalek is shown sparing someone's life because it realizes she isn't meant to die yet.
    • Series 6 shows what happens when a "fixed point" is altered irrevocably; it breaks history. The entire history of Earth is altered so it all takes place at once, and it's always the moment when time is broken.
  • In Lost in Space, Dr. Smith is a sanctimonious coward who constantly gets the whole ship in trouble through his greed. A great many potential future problems could have been solved simply by leaving him to get killed in the mess he's caused for himself.
    • A later comic continuation by Innovation Comics partially addresses that by the Robinsons and West finally losing their patience with Smith, throwing him in one of the ship's cryo tubes and keeping him there. At least the movie adaptation gave an explanation as to why he wasn't immediately thrown out the airlock after his first treachery, and they did eventually leave him to die after his betraying them yet again.
    • The third season episode "Time Merchant" establishes that had Dr. Smith not been aboard the Jupiter 2, it would have been destroyed in space by a collision. Dr. Smith's additional mass changed the ship's trajectory enough to avoid the collision but also threw the Robinsons off course. It seems that Dr. Smith is incompetent all around.
    • In the original pilot (and the first few episodes) Dr. Smith was a scarily competent, utterly ruthless spy and saboteur who sneaks aboard the ship, disables (or kills) a guard with his bare hands, reprograms the robot to sabotage the ship, and only stays aboard because he miscalculates the amount of time he has to get off (he may have been set up by his controllers so he wouldn't still be around to answer any embarrassing questions). He was changed into the bumbling, cowardly character we all love to hate because the producers (and Johnathan Harris himself) realized that otherwise, they couldn't possibly justify the rest of the crew not getting rid of him somehow. In fact, Irwin Allen originally planned to kill off the character for exactly that reason, but was convinced it would be better to use him as comic relief.
  • Alexander Fitzhugh on "Land of the Giants" is basically an Expy of Dr. Smith.
  • Power Rangers: Many a fan has wondered why the Big Bad never just sends all the monsters at once instead of doing it one at a time, or simply launched an attack themselves if they were so powerful. Immediately, that is, not at the final episode where the heroes get an inexplicable power boost either. Similarly, more than a few seasons had the Rangers know exactly where the villain's base was located, but it never occurred to them to take three or four Humongous Mecha to the location and stomp on stuff until a final battle was forced.
    • The few times the villains do actually send multiple enemies for the Rangers to fight at once (for example, during the "Green With Evil" story arc which introduced the Green Ranger) the result is usually a decisive victory for the villains. Makes you wonder why they never took the hint and just did that all the time.
    • The monster sending was justified in Power Rangers Time Force as the Big Bad isn't strong enough to control all the Mutants if he released them all at once, as pointed out by Linkara. This reason was also used in Masked Rider.
    • Explained in Shin Kenjushi (New/Heart Gunman) (Née Jushi Sentai [Musketeer Squadron]) France Five, an Affectionate Parody of Super Sentai and French culture. The Eiffel Tower projects a forcefield around planet Earth, meaning that the Big Bad can only send small squadrons of troops to Earth at a time, including a monster, some Panous-panous and his two lieutenants.
    • As per Tony Oliver at Power Morphicon 2007, quoting Haim Saban: "Because if they call 911, then I don't have a TV show."
    • Also makes sense in Power Rangers RPM. The city of Corinth is surrounded by a forcefield, meaning that each monster has to have some way to get around that and into the city. Also, finding out where the enemy's base is is a major plot point.
    • The lead villain in the delightfully self-aware Power Rangers Ninja Storm actually attempts to supersize all of his monsters at once, only for the computer to respond with a memory error and his underling pointing out that he skimped on the memory upgrade that would let him supersize more than one monster at a time.
    • Similarly, "Why don't you just get the Zords from the beginning and stomp the monster?" was discussed (while not done in a way that justifies it for the whole series) when the Rangers were having trouble fighting multiple monsters who managed to break the Conservation of Ninjutsu (oh, and they actually were ninjas, working for the ninja-based villain faction.) Dax suggests sending the Zords even though "we don't normally do this," but they couldn't be launched due to an earlier monster-inflicted computer virus.
    • Natsuki uses this exact tactic in Boukenger. And it's simultaneously horrifying and hilarious.
    • Except once in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, but the result wasn't good, because this monster was specifically designed to hijack the Zords. And in Power Rangers Turbo, because the monster was sun-powered, and the Rangers decided the only way to defeat him was using the Megazord to shadow him.
    • The Zords couldn't be sent "all at once" because the "laws of Good" prevent Good from "escalating" the violence. The bad guys, especially in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers most likely have limits such as the magic taking a heavy toll on the user. In fact Ivan Ooze in The Movie needed to hypnotize people to build the technology so that he could use it.
    • It's also Lampshaded in the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers comic — one of the team asks why they don't just go straight to their Megazords and squish the villain while he's still small. The response is that Zordon has instructed them to only match force for force against their enemies, due to some pseudo-Eastern mystic from space logic about fair play... of course this means that the enemy will cause more suffering, death, destruction and damage than if they'd fought "un"fairly...
    • "Why don't villains just blow up the Rangers' houses at night?" has also been dealt with, once again, by Ninja Storm. The Dragon suggests attacking them at the sports shop they work at, but Lothor says that a Ranger's power can only truly be destroyed while the Ranger is morphed. (Mind you, we've seen that prove untrue more than once in the past, but hey, they tried.)
    • This is more clearly explained in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue and Power Rangers Samurai. In Lightspeed Rescue the demons locate the base, but since it's underwater they can't destroy it as water is their kryptonite. In Samurai it's explained that a shield protects it from monster attacks.
  • Of course, Kamen Rider usually avoids this trope by not using the same "Big Bad sends a minion to defeat the hero each week" format as Super Sentai, but there are exceptions. More recent series (notably Den-O and Kiva) have the villains start using mass produced MotWs as Mooks, but by that point the hero's gotten his Super Mode and they're no challenge (as seen when Kiva takes out six with a single Finishing Move). Meanwhile, in Kamen Rider Double, the villains of the week don't actually work for the Big Bad, whose plan just requires observing the thugs he's sold powers to, and he is perfectly happy to have Kamen Riders fighting them and getting them to show their true strength.
    • If the Guild of Calamitous Intent has taught us anything it's that provoking massively powerful superbeings with private armies is a bad idea. The good guys are five teenagers who are invariably placed against nigh-impossible odds. Escalating the war would cause the villain to actually get off their duff and start actively trying to destroy shit. Sure a few buildings are destroyed along the way but it's better than the alternative.
    • In another terrible Power Rangers rip-off, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills, the bumbling sidekick of the Big Bad gets a chance to be in charge while the villain is away, and implements an ingenious Genre Savvy tactic of sending down a monster, recalling it when it was close to death, and sending a new one, repeated until the heroes were worn down and defeated. On the verge of success, the Big Bad returns from his trip and proves that he had a firm grip on the Villain Ball by demanding that things be returned to the proven-to-fail "one monster each week" strategy.
  • Almost invariably in the early seasons, the Monster of the Week would be trashing the Power Rangers, and Rita would declare, "If you think you're having it rough now, wait until you see this!" before making the monster grow to a preposterous size. At this point the Power Rangers would use their cool toys and destroy the monster, every single time. If only Rita had left the monster at its original size, she could have won easily. For that matter, why didn't the Power Rangers just use their giant mechas on the "human-sized" monster? Another thing: every villain in Power Rangers ever has had the ability to teleport at will, anywhere, through walls, and even bring along passengers or cargo. Picture the cataclysmic implications if they were to use this power intelligently. In the Alien Rangers arc of MMPR, Goldar and Rito did just that, only with a bomb of the usual villains' making.
  • In Beetleborgs, a new villain showed off his Genre Savvyness by waiting until the heroes' base rose out of the ground and then having the monster-planes bomb it while the vehicles were still inside. Though the heroes eventually got new, cooler, vehicles, it was a devastating blow. It also made you wonder why absolutely no-one's ever thought of that before. Which is really strange, because in the rest of the many-parts episode, this monster didn't use Genre Savvyness. On the contrary, at this point he destroyed all the other weapons playing by the rules, just to show he could do it. And when the heroes get new weapons and match him, he won't be Genre Savvy anymore.
  • In the third, fourth, and fifth seasons of Degrassi The Next Generation, more than half of the plots could have been resolved in ten seconds if the characters had chosen not to associate with Jay Hogart. He started off with a bad reputation, yet nobody even gives a second thought above how "cool" they'd look being his friend. What did his victims do when they finally realized he was manipulating them? They glared at him really angrily, and sometimes even spoke harsh words. Some of these kids have beaten each other up because of his tricks, but when they find out the brawl was his fault, they don't even throw a punch at him. However, he does become a semi-helpful member of the cast in the sixth and seventh seasons.
    • He still manages to do the wrong things on several occasions there as well.
    • You'd think after Jay was expelled for being one of the leading causes of the school shooting that people would stop hanging around him, but Alex, Amy, Emma and J.T. still thought he was cool, and just look at what happened to all of them.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. If the crew had simply tossed the Lawful Stupid Captain Janeway out the airlock after her silly Starfleet rules prevented them from getting home the first time, they'd have gotten home by the next week.
    • At one stage Q hints that Voyager would get back home a lot quicker if Janeway "mated" with him. The Captain certainly can't be blamed for refusing to use her body as a bargaining chip, but in later episodes so much emphasis was placed on how much she is willing to sacrifice to get her crew home, fans couldn't help wondering why she didn't just sleep with him when she had the chance.
    • SF Debris (who, ironically enough, is a vocal critic of the Janeway character) neatly solved this conundrum by pointing out that it wasn't just sex, it was having a child. This is fundamentally life-altering and adds many more factors to the decision. Besides, this is a Chaotic Neutral Energy Being who is "worshiped" as the God of Lies on at least one planet; it's doubtful at best that he'd keep his end of the bargain.
    • SF Debris also (falsely) noted that judicious use of a Time Bomb in the pilot would have turned the series into little more than a TV movie. The Sadistic Choice at the end of "Caretaker" was, should Voyager destroy the Caretaker Array and leave themselves with hoofing it home, or use the Array to get home and let the Kazon enslave the Ocampas? Janeway chose to blow the Array. Chuck Sonnenburg's solution was to set a time bomb aboard the Array, set to go off just after it chucked Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant. Unfortunately, there was an easily-missed line where Tuvok notes that without the Caretaker, it would take several hours to activate the Array and that's assuming that it doesn't get even more damaged in a multi-hour firefight. It's understandable, since even the writers seemed to forget that bit of information.
    • Since it's Star Trek, the diplomatic option bears consideration. Janeway could have tried negotiating a deal with the Kazon (whether or not it would have worked is another matter). Don't shoot, and let Voyager use the Array to get home. The Kazon have waited long enough, so a few extra hours while taking notes over Janeway's shoulder would have been an acceptable trade for her not destroying their prize.
    • Of course, the possibly best solution would have been to simply stall for time for Voyager to return home as noted above, only for the Kazon to discover that Janeway had left them a little homewarming gift when they finally board the array, in the form of tri-cobalt devices rigged to explode on a timer. A morally questionable act worthy of Kirk's era, but one that would ultimately have been for the greater good of both her crew, the Ocampa and the Delta Quadrant.
    • For more information on Janeway's questionable actions and possible justifications, check out Trek Nation's The Court Martial of Captain Janeway.
    • Then there's Neelix. Like Doctor Smith of Lost in Space, Neelix originally was a competent character. He owned and operated a single-ship, knew the territory, was just ruthless enough to survive, and made his living as a grifter, a pirate, and a salvager. A few episodes later and suddenly he's a useless, obnoxious, egocentric buffoon with the intellect and emotional capacity of a toddler. At his worst, he's gotten several crew members killed and endangered the entire ship on multiple occasions. In one Very Special Episode, he went beyond reckless endangerment and committed bona fide, premeditated treason. Not only does he never earn anything worse than a stern reprimand for the multiple fatalities he causes, he actually gets put in charge of people. Despite not being an officer, or even a member of Starfleet, nor having any noteworthy abilities beyond the sheer gall to appoint himself "morale officer". To top it off while he is in charge his leadership is directly the cause of one death while marooned on an alien planet. All because he has no concept of the buddy system. The bastard child of Spock and Marvin the Paranoid Android would be better for morale than Neelix.
    • He's not just put in charge of morale, but also of cooking, of all things. His food is so awful that in one episode he actually poisons the ship with his cooking fumes. Not the ship's crew, but the actual ship itself. While it's possible he's a competent chef by Talaxian standards (but that is really stretching), he rarely bothers adapting to the fact that the rest of the crew are non-Talaxians. There is at least one wiki page documenting his failures.
      • The justification for this seems to be that as a native of that region of space, he knows what food is edible and what isn't (this is pointed out at least once in the early episodes). Why he isn't just assigned as hunter-gatherer and someone else put in charge of cooking, however, is another question.
    • In "Investigations" Neelix conducts a rogue investigation, makes an accusation using weak evidence, and violates the privacy of fellow crew members.
    • A youtube clip on how Neelix should have been handled in the series.
    • In the episode "Memorial" Neelix is more overbearing than usual. He insists that a memorial that transmits painful memories into others be left active. The only person who supports him is Janeway.
    • What makes the above example even more ridiculous is that his reaction to experiencing those traumatizing memories was to hallucinate, pick up a phaser and hold Naomi hostage in the Mess Hall, believing he was protecting children in a combat-zone. It took a while for Tuvok to talk him down. And that is one of the memories you want someone else to remember? The poor sod who next undergoes that could easily kill half of his crew, blow a hole in the side of the ship or get himself shot!
    • Also, is asking someone who witnessed the destruction of his homeworld, and has demonstrated long-lasting psychological scars from that event on more than one occasion, really the best person to give advice on subjecting people's mental health to images of a massacre? You'd think, given his background, he'd be against this?!
      • On top of that, and not to sound like a dick but it was 82 people. That's not exactly a significant event on a large scale. Really not the type of thing that deserves a huge monument. Pick any random date, that many people were probably killed by something.
    • On the other hand, B'Elanna Torres shows a problem with her looks (she is half Klingon), a problem that apparently she carries since she was a little girl. It is never explained why she could not have plastic surgery or a genetic treatment in the very medically advanced 24th century. In the same series, Seska was a Cardassian but was surgically disguised as a Bajoran (an alien species almost identical to humans). So if a treatment is available that can turn a Cardassian into a Bajoran (or human for that matter), why did Torres never bother to change her Klingon forehead? Something that could probably have been done easily at any point of her life.
  • In Arrested Development,
    • GOB routinely screws up Michael's plans to save the company, week after week after week, even to the point of undoing what good Michael has achieved. Given how often this occurs, it is surprising that Michael always has a change of heart right after he decides to finally get rid of GOB for good. Indeed, the humor of the series mainly stems from the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that Michael should stop caring about his family, but he is unable to.
    • If only Michael had moved away from his incompetent, irresponsible and immoral family, he wouldn't have to deal with their shenanigans. To his credit, he did try to leave in the beginning of season two. But the SEC was extra suspicious at that point.
    • The Fox run of the show actually ends with the SEC coming after the Bluths again and Michael finally going, "Y'know what? Fuck this." One of the first things in the order of business of the Netflix season was getting Michael back into his family's life.
    • On the other hand, Michael can be just as bad and self-centered as the rest of the Bluths and one of the reasons as to why he hangs around is because he genuinely gets off on his own feeling of self-importance and needing to be relied on by the rest of the family. Him leaving the family to fend for themsleves in order to spend time with his son he previously spent the entire series neglecting is arguably positive character development in the context.
  • Played hilariously straight twice in Robin Hood with the obligatory female Kate, though both times it happened without the writers noticing what they'd done. That this girl is a liability to the team is undeniable; she's constantly getting kidnapped, injured and sabotaging outlaw plans thanks to her reckless stupid behaviour. Therefore, it's rather amusing in the episode "Too Hot to Handle" that Kate is kidnapped (again) while the outlaws are on route to the River Trent. Instead of organising a rescue, they just continue on their way without any attempt made to go after her. Later in "Something Worth Fighting For" she marches off in a huff after being tricked into believing that Robin is cheating on her. Despite the amount of shilling that goes on, nobody seems to care about or even really notice her absence — though luckily she arrives back just in time to completely ruin their successful attempt at a peaceful sit-in protest.
  • LOST thrived on this, which is not surprising considering the connections to Gilligan's Island.
    • All the survivors of 815 had to do was to hold a big meeting and compare notes about this VERY odd island to keep their cool and work more as a cohesive group. This is what the survivors tried to do initially. Except there were people trying to act in the best interests of the group, such as Sayid and co. keeping the French transmission a secret. And then people acting in their own interests, like Kate trying to keep her past a secret or Sawyer making everyone hate him because he's a Jerkass Woobie. And then there's Locke, who... is Locke. Arguably, part of the show's point is that when left to their own devices, people are prone to conflict and self-destruction
      They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.
    • Part of the show's point is also that people only come to work together when all threatened by the same thing (Smokey, Others, No-Food/Water/Meds, wtf) but when they ain't, it's ''every man for himself''.
    • As a specific example, you could rename this trope to Just Eat Ben and it would still work. This man who has frankly random people kidnapped and murdered for his own desires, manipulates the protagonists continually, and is a flat out bastard with only a few sympathetic traits (which he is quick to exploit for his own means) is constantly put into scenarios where the protagonists can kill him... and they don't. Every time this happens it comes to bite them in the ass later.
      • Although by season six they do stop going along with any plan of Ben's. Anyone who was ever thinking 'Stop listening to Ben!' had to laugh when Sun knocked him unconscious and stole the boat he had lead her to, and the last season continued in that vein, with all other characters completely ignoring anything Ben said or wanted to do.
  • Farscape gave Rygel a great many opportunities to prove himself a life-endangering nuisance in the first season: at one point, trying to fool a gang of mercenaries into believing that he still holds a position of authority, he "borrows" a critical part of Moya's circuitry to decorate his sceptre- and almost gets the entire crew killed when the mercenaries kidnap him, sceptre and all. And after almost erasing Moya's data banks in an attempt to get home, releasing a virus on the crew, he eventually goes on to sell out his shipmates to Scorpius... only for the crew to begrudgingly accept his return when the attempted betrayal goes sour. Even the second season took a while to actually transform him into a useful character, revealing that they kept him around solely because while a useless, greedy, selfish idiot under normal circumstances, put him in a situation where intrigue and/or bartering are necessary and he suddenly turns into Prince Kheldar, which is quite handy when your budget closely resembles a shoestring.
  • For some reason, the characters in Keeping Up Appearances never just refuse to do whatever Hyacinth says. When Hyacinth ignores a "No", the characters appear resigned to obey her. It gets turned into a running gag when Emmet tries to coach Liz into refusing coffee with Hyacinthe. She's just. that. SCARY.
  • Merlin:
    • You could make a case for it, but the title character's steadfast refusal to tell anyone about the fact that he has magic has caused more problems than it's solved. In particular, his treatment of Morgana led at least partially to her Face-Heel Turn. Particularly as she likewise discovers she has magic in the second series. Her neck is on the line just as much as his, as it doesn't seem like that Uther would have been merciful.
    • As of Series 5, this has turned into "just kill Morgana". Sure, he can't track her down, but he has so many opportunities to just snap her neck with magic and yet he doesn't. Why? Just... why? She's way beyond redemption by now, and is probably too insane to even be bargained with. And yet in Another's Sorrow, he doesn't even kill her when she's strangling him, even though his life is in danger and it would be painfully easy for him to explode her head. I guess you could say that he still feels sorry for her, but he doesn't seem to have any problem with attempting to kill Mordred, who is an In-Universe Designated Villain.
      • Merlin is screwed either way. No matter if he decides to ignore fate and help Morgana or Mordred or if he tries to avoid it and by killing either one of them, the result is always the worst possible outcome. The real useless character is the dragon, because Merlin fares way better whenever he makes his decisions without being influenced by him or any other kind of prophecy. As soon as he knows what will come, he is doomed.
      • Killing Morgana might actually be explained in the finale as it's established there (and no earlier), that Morgana is really hard to kill.
  • Revenge revolves around Emily Thorne's quest to take down the Grayson family and exonerate her framed father. This is something she easily could have accomplished in the first season as Emily effortlessly bugs Grayson manor and quickly collects a dossier of incriminating video evidence. But instead of simply turning this over to the police or public, Emily throws the laptop full of evidence into the ocean claiming that it was a "distraction". She then proceeds to execute an elaborate 3-year-long plan where she seduces Daniel Grayson, marries into his family and attempts to frame Victoria for her faked murder. Over the course of this plan she loses her best friend, her lover's brother, her fiance and her ability to bear children, all at the hands of the Graysons. Her eventual takedown of the Graysons only takes one episode and involves a fairly simple Engineered Public Confession, raising the question of why she didn't just do this to begin with.
  • Mission: Impossible actually has this inverted. Whenever there seems to be an easier, alternate way to accomplish the goal for the episode, one of the characters will bring it up in the pre-mission briefing and then an explanation as to why that can't work is given. (In "Trial By Fury," where the mission is to re-establish a convict's good name in a prison so he can continue to serve as liaison for another prisoner who's the face of his country's democracy movement, Barney asks why they can't just free them both; Phelps replies that they both know they're of far more value where they are.) In fact, the standing reason why the Impossible Mission Force can't just assassinate targets (which is obviously much easier than the convoluted schemes on the show) is because of a "policy decision" on behalf of the higher-ups in the United States.
  • Dennis the Menace. Mr. Wilson's life would be much better if the Mitchells would move away. The worst part is that the man is Genre Savvy enough to know this, and his warnings to the other characters are tragically ignored. An episode of the animated series dealt with this. Dennis breaks Mr. Wilson's window and he boards it up, and tells Dennis to just pretend that he has moved away from now on, in an attempt to get some peace. A pair of movers show up, having gotten lost while on their way to move an entire house, and ask Dennis if he knows anyone who is moving. Dennis points them toward Mr. Wilson's house, and they take the boarded up window as a sign that he is right. They lift the entire home onto a truck and take it away, with Mr. Wilson trying desperately to stop them. Eventually his house ends up in a nice coastal area, and he realizes that not only is his new location better, but no Dennis. But the movers figure out their mistake and take the house back over his protests.
  • In Survivor, several seasons had people shouting, "Just vote out x!" at their TVs. Especially recent seasons, wherein players seemed to have become afraid to rock the boat and try taking control of their alliances and vote out the designated "leader".
    • Redemption Island would have had a very different outcome if the Ometepes realized Rob was too dangerous to be allowed to run the game. Especially jarring considering the very first tribal council, Kristina reveals she has the idol meaning that Rob doesn't, and has a very big sign reading, "Vote me out" on his face. Unsurprisingly, he wound up winning.
    • South Pacific. Did it simply never occur to the Savaiis that they probably should have voted out Cochran? Especially after all they did to him?
    • One World. Viewers very quickly began to expect that everyone would just let Colton walk all over everybody. He did- until he was medevaced.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Season Four has a particularly annoying example. Xander hands Buffy a flare gun, and she replies "We're fighting vampires, not signalling ships at sea". The characters haven't had a problem with using flaming arrows to great effect on vampires, so why wouldn't a flare gun be just as effective? She uses it later which obscures the vision of her enemies, but seriously, a flare gun would be a great weapon against any vampire. A big incendiary projectile.
    • Season Seven would have had far less complications ensue in the second half of the season had the main characters invented some kind of mandatory "touch" system where they would have to make regular physical contact with each other to see if everyone present was corporeal. The First Evil caused so many problems by imitating other characters (but is incorporeal) that it seems odd that no system is invented to regularly verify that everyone there is really who they say they are.
    • Slayers rarely ever use fire when hunting vampires, despite it proving one of their greatest weaknesses, even to the oldest and strongest vampires? Particularly noticable with the introduction of the Turok-Han, the uber-vampires from Season Seven who prove more resistant to stakes and holy water, are not affected by crucifixes and do not need invitations to enter homes. Yet at no point does anyone suggest the possibility of testing their resistance to fire?
    • The Buffyverse explains that guns don't do very much good against vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness (except that one time with the rocket launcher). Of course, it has also been shown on several occasions that guns work just fine on the slayer and her compatriots. There's really nothing preventing an average mook vampire from buying a gun, waiting for Buffy to deliver a snappy one liner, then whipping it out and shooting her in the face.
      • Two possible reasons for this: Most vampires in the series seem to have a deep sense of tradition, see the practices of the Order and their practice of taking Halloween off being taken very seriously, so they may consider guns and modern weapons to be beneath them. Note that Spike, one of the least traditional vampires, DID try to use a gun against Buffy (but his chip still prevented him). Also, shooting a person usually tends to make them lose a lot of blood; most vampires likely don't want to just kill the Slayer but eat her, and don't want to see all that yummy Slayer blood wasted. Weak reasoning maybe, but you get the idea.
      • On why the bad guys don't use guns, they just never thought of it due to their super strength (the only exception, apart from Spike, is Darla, who was well known as someone who did actually think through, and while sure she would manage to force Angel to kill Buffy she had a couple guns just in case). On why the good guys don't use them, it's just a problem of availability of the right ammunition: incendiary rounds for small arms do theoretically exist, but the military tend to not stockpile those smaller than 12.7mm NATO caliber and they are quite expensive on black market.
      • Warren's attempt to shoot Buffy demonstrated that a Slayer will probably survive a shooting unless you manage to kill them immediately. Adam attacked Buffy with a freaking machine gun and she dodged every bullet even before Willow's merger spell kicked in. These two facts combined would suggest that guns are not the super anti-Slayer weapons some have suggested.
    • In Season 9, Andrew had set up a Deus ex Machina to deal with Simone: it involved creating another Buffybot, getting the real Buffy stoned, putting Buffy's mind in the bot (and make her think she's pregnant), then set up the real Buffy with the bot's brain to think it lives a different life and lives in a suburban home Andrew had set up so when the assassin strikes bot!Buffy might be ready for it, maybe, possibly. Andrew being Andrew he was being far too clever for his own good, a much simpler solution would have been to use the bot to lure out Simone.
  • Sort of a meta example for Growing Pains, but after Kirk Cameron became a born-again Christian, everyone else in the cast suffered for it (see #2 in this article). The simple solution would've been to write off (or more cathartically, kill off) Cameron's character or replace the actor with a less religiously zealous one. But that thought apparently never occurred to anyone when other cast members were kicked off because Cameron thought they were too "sinful". Well, as the Cracked article states: Cameron was the teenage heartthrob whose face was on the cover of Tiger Beat. Kirk Cameron made ABC money.
  • Last Resort:
    • Sainte Marina's resident gang leader, Serrat, causes so much trouble for the Colorado sailors (particularly through manipulative actions, such as in the episode "Big Chicken Dinner" where he successfully gets a sailor correctly accused of rape found not guilty so the islanders will get angry and riot in protest against the sailors) that one has to wonder how he hasn't been summarily executed by now. Then again, the sailors (especially Captain Chaplin) seem to be trying to keep up a reputation of honor and justice - also particularly noticeable in "Big Chicken Dinner."
    • That's not even the half of it. He kidnapped three sailors and used them as hostages to get the Colorado to run a blockade. When they are late, he murders one of the sailors and it is implied that he rapes another (she later disclaims this, but the rest of the crew doesn't know that). He participates in the CIA strike team raid, helping them poison everyone, which leads to two more sailors' deaths. He then straps a bomb vest to another sailor, which King barely defuses, then halfheartedly offers up a scapegoat. Then he starts selling drugs to the sailors, and tortures the COB when he tries to intervene. It would be justified if the islanders loved him, but they don't, they know he's an exploitative thug. It could also be justified if he was well-protected , but he isn't, King and another SEAL sneak right into his living room without difficulty. He's just wearing Plot Armor.
  • Just about any series (Family Matters, Three's Company, etc.) with an "Annoying Next Door Neighbor." If said neighbor's constant presence bothers the family, then why don't they just lock their doors and/or get a restraining order?
  • Early in Breaking Bad, Walter White is offered a job with excellent health insurance by a wealthy friend. Of course, his Fatal Flaw is pride, so he rejects this "charity" out of hand, but if he'd simply accepted with good grace, it would have been a very short show. His Pride continues to be a crippling problem for the rest of the series.
    • It's implied that a similar incedent made him abandon his reaserch and become a low-paid science teacher in the first place. Hesenberg's Meth trade may be new, but Walt's anger issues have always been there.
  • In Arrow, the police can just charge Oliver with the crimes he's committed because he was caught on CCTV knowing exactly where to find his vigilante gear (and no doubt placing it there earlier). But they let him go because the investigator had a personal grudge against him, because apparently there wasn't a second investigator to look over the very definitive evidence, and because a hooded archer showed up when Oliver was under house arrest, which only proves he has an accomplice when you consider the footage they already have.
  • Earth: Final Conflict has the alien Zo'or as the primary antagonist, meaning their death would end much of the show's conflict and as a result, numerous opportunities that would allow Zo'or's death or assassination by the resistance are prevented by Contrived Coincidences and Idiot Balls.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Eric Young spent weeks trying to convince Joseph Park that he and his masked brother Abyss were the same person. He could have just got him to remove his shirt, revealing the distinctive mix of tattoos and scars that cover Abyss's arms. It is a case of Fridge Logic that Park apparently never noticed or thought about the tattoos himself.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Gilligan-specific question is justified in the comic strip Monty (formerly Robotman, then Robotman And Monty), when the main character is trapped on the island from Lost. He discovers that the mysterious other inhabitants of the island are commanded by Gilligan, now oddly reminiscent of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Gilligan reveals that he was only feigning incompetence to ensure that no-one ever escaped the island, being actually an evil mastermind. Killing Gilligan would still have been the better solution, but it would have been harder than not.

  • The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show manages to apply this to the bard himself, in the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet, when the Prince breaks up a brawl between the Capulets and Montagues:
    Prince: Desist! Desist, I say!
    Sampson: But then there'd be no play.
    Prince: Oh. Carry on, then.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Just about any game in which the hero acts as a MacGuffin Delivery Service. It's been said that the quickest way to "win" The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is to obtain the first Plot Coupon and then turn the game off. If a villain needs three MacGuffins to make their evil plan work and the hero has obtained one, there's usually no real reason to go after the others and every reason not to.
    • Granted, if Link isn't doing anything, Ganondorf can easily kill him and take the stone. That's not to mention the whole "destiny" thing.
  • Villainous example: In Mega Man Battle Network, it takes the villains until the second-to-last non-postgame cut scene in the series to realize that three adults taking on Kid Hero Lan in real life is a better idea than taking on MegaMan in cyberspace. Only BubbleMan uses a dangerous machine with no access ports. This prevents anyone from getting their Navis in and hacking the machine to stop. BubbleMan's plan failed because defeating him also shuts down the machines. But the clear point remains, the ONLY way the majority of the cast can combat the bad guys is by sending Navis into their machines, so if the villains just used machines with no access ports, or used more real world obstacles, the heroes would be powerless to stop them. Lan isn't even armed, defeating him in person is literally as easy as walking over and subduing a school kid.
  • In Persona 3, why the hell didn't the good guys actively try to get their hands on Takaya and Strega in general? During the dark hour they have their personas and the ability to locate stuff during the day, by, uh, involving the police? The Kirijo Group manages to make a policeman sell friggin' weapons to teenagers (including firearms), and they have their own crewmen who could look for them, maybe even helped by Aigis who with or without persona would certainly be able to overpower the thin, sickly, looking Takaya, gun or no gun.
  • Team Fortress 2: If RED stopped building railway tracks leading from their base to the BLU base, it would be harder to blow up their base. Their reasoning is that they want to send a cart of their own to blow up the BLU base. Further parodied in the "Mann vs. Machine" update, where waves of robots are able to blow up Mann Co.'s bases due to giant bomb holes in the ground. The update comics says they're rethinking that particular policy.
  • The plots of Grand Theft Auto IV and its expansion The Ballad of Gay Tony would be enormously shorter if the main characters were allowed to use the massive amounts of money they earn to just pay off the debts of the characters they are protecting. By about the middle of IV specifically, Niko can easily be sitting on over a quarter million dollars but you'll still be doing missions for loan sharks that Roman owes money to without the option of just paying them off. This wouldn't solve all the problems but it would make them much more manageable.
    • Similarly, the plot of Grand Theft Auto V would be much shorter if the player characters were allowed to just kill all the various antagonists that blackmail them right away, instead of being forced to wait until the final mission.
    • Ditto for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. CJ could have solved a lot of problems for himself and Grove Street if he just capped Tenpenny and the rest of C.R.A.S.H. at the first chance he got (like what he can do to all the other cops in normal gameplay) rather than let them blackmail him with a cop killing he didn't do.
  • The plot of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, although the cast can be forgiven for not realizing it under the circumstances. It takes them 6 full stories of them slaughtering eachother to finally halfway through the 7th episode realize that none of that would happen if they'd just trust eachother for once. When they start the 8th story with this information and work together from the start, it becomes no more than a Curb-Stomp Battle against the true enemies.
  • In the first Spyro the Dragon game, you rescue around eighty full-grown dragons. Most of them give you some helpful advice, sure, but why don't any of them help you fight Gnasty? Because the dragons you rescue in Gnasty's World are dragons you freed previously, there is an implication that if the dragons helped fight him, they'd just be encased in crystal again, but nothing is outright stated. The sequels at least give reasons for it, e.g in Gateway to Glimmer/Ripto's Rage, Spyro's the only dragon available. In Year of the Dragon, he's the only dragon who can fit through the hole left by the intruders.
  • In the HD remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater this is lampshaded; killing Ocelot gets you the "Problem Solved, Series Over" trophy.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword deserves some kind of reward for the stupid decision that doesn't just help this game's villain, but makes about 85% of all misery in Hyrule ever possible. You spend about a third of the game trying to open a Gate of Time so you can find Zelda, where you learn nothing that Impa or Fi couldn't have just told you. Opening the Gate of Time is mandatory to acquire the Triforce to obliterate the villain in the present by elevating the Master Sword to its full power, but rather than ask the old lady (actually a future version of Impa) to dismiss the gate when you were done with it, the protagonists give Ghirahim the opportunity to haul Zelda through it and revive his master. Had the gate been dismissed on time, the Big Bad would have been obliterated without undue drama and Ganondorf wouldn't be tearing Hyrule a new asshole time and again.
    • Though, to be fair, Link needed to meet with Zelda in order for her to give the final blessing to the Master Sword, so it would be capable of defeating Demise.
    • However, this supposed curse of the Big Bad was already set in place the moment he and his spawn, the demon race ("Mazoku" 魔族translation ) started to hate the gods and their creations. This hatred and grudge has become a concept and a life insurance for the demons. Even if the entire Mazoku were to be annihilated, their strong negative emotions would manifest into new demons as incarnations of the concept they created. Destroying both with the Triforce would only create a power vacuum for a new concept to take its place. The logical conclusion is to either making emotions unable to form concepts or to removing the capability of having negative emotions from all living beings in the first place. For those, who haven't read the Japanese retranslation of the Big Bad's quotes yet. Here you can read it.
  • Deconstructing this trope is is the entire premise of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Lorule had faced its share of war and strife over its Triforce, just like Hyrule. It grew to such a fever pitch that, in desperation, the Lorulean royal family used their wish to have their Triforce annihilated. The deconstruction? Doing so did stop the wars, but Lorule literally started to crumble in response, reducing it to the miserable state seen during the events of the game. Princess Hilda and Yuga conspired to claim Hyrule's Triforce for their own, but while Hilda sought to restore Lorule, Yuga had other plans. Ravio defected because the two of them had succumbed to the ill desire that had doomed their world in the first place, and had supported Link through his item loaning business to this end. After returning to Hyrule, Zelda realized just how pitiable Lorule had become without its Triforce, and wished upon theirs alongside Link to have it restored.
  • Pikmin 3's plot revolves around astronauts using the Pikmin to gather food for their starving planet. The Pikmin grow almost instantly in any environment, require almost no sustenance, and follow even suicidal commands. Awkward Zombie wonders why they didn't just start farming Pikmin.
  • Valkyria Chronicles' Faldio: he could have just asked nicely.
  • A lot of the problems that occurred in Dead Island could have been avoided if Jin was just left at the church. For context there was no real reason to bring her along, she would have been a lot safer, and she would not have snapped and made things worse.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, the characters all live in a world of Floating Continents where falling off of an airship is as good as death. Even assuming the Moon Crystals are indestructible, tossing them overboard would make them impossible for anyone to acquire. Although it is eventually revealed that they were originally hidden in dungeons in case the Silvites wanted to use them again, not because of their destructive potential, no such excuse exists for the protagonists, who are only interested in preventing anyone from using them.
    • Even after the protagonists learn The Empire actually has technology that allows them to reach the the planet surface beneath the clouds, leaving them to search the entire world's worth of muddy sea floor equivalent would still mean the Big Bad would die of old age long before finding them.
    • At one point during the game, Enrique even mentions that he considered destroying the crystals (exactly how is never explained, other than dropping them into Deep Sky), but decided to give them back to our heroes for sake of the plot. If only he had know what would happen later, he probably should have.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Justified in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, where one of the partners suggests that they might not want to gather the Crystal Stars (which sealed away the Shadow Queen), in case they got them together only to have the villains steal them to use them to open the door and take over the world, but Frankly says that as the seal on the Thousand-Year Door is weakening over time, they need to use the Crystal Stars in order to seal the Shadow Queen up for good, which would also preclude destroying the stars.
    • Inverted in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team; when the Pi'illos used the Dark Stone to seal Antasma in the Dream World, Antasma crushed it as he was imprisoned, turning the Pi'illos to stone. Subverted later on when Dreambert tells Peach and Starlow to do the same to the Dream Stone to keep Bowser from wishing on it; they successfully shatter the Dream Stone, but Bowser simply inhales the fragments and goes One-Winged Angel as a result.
  • Subverted in Five Nights at Freddy's. According to the former employee leaving you voice mail messages, the killer animatrons in the game will attack you because they don't know what humans are - they think you're an animatronic endoskeleton without your costume, and will try to force a costume onto you, killing you in the process. At one point he suggests the obvious answer of playing dead, so they think you're an empty costume instead. He quickly thinks better of it, saying that if they think you're an empty costume they'll try to shove a metal endoskeleton inside you, which would be even worse.note 
    • Also invoked and subverted again, with Night 7, the Custom Night. Specifically, if the animatrons are run by an AI, why not just hack them and make them less aggressive? Turns out you can do that and it works, more or less. Still subverted, though, as even setting their AI levels to 0 still doesn't make them harmless, not to mention hacking the bots gets you fired.
    • For that matter, though, if the animatrons are trying to get you because they think you're an endoskeleton without your costume, why not just make a fake costume (or at least a mask) and wear it to trick them? In keeping with the game's tendency to subvert this trope, this becomes a gameplay mechanic in the sequel. The downside is, there are two animatronics the mask doesn't protect you from, and you can't do the things necessary to ward them off if you have the head on.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry 2, most of the plot of the game is driven by how Larry has inadvertently acquired a microfilm inside a rare Peruvian Onklunk. While it could be argued that Larry doesn't have any particular reason to ditch the instrument, the player may get frustrated that all these random characters are trying to kill him for a useless item that, in the end, just gets ditched in a jungle without any player input.

    Web Comics 
  • In Bob and George, this strip tweaks the way that Megaman can teleport, but never goes straight to the robots' lair. He notes in the commentary that this could be justified by something to prevent teleportation, but never is.
  • Red String had Reika think she was pregnant after she and Eiji have sex for the first time (with protection). She never says why she thinks she is, for all we know Reika might just think that sex = babies no matter what. Instead of people telling her to go get a pregnancy test or getting one herself, a majority of Chapter 51 is spent with Reika, Eiji and Miharu thinking that she's pregnant and the consequences there of. We find out that no, she wasn't pregnant at all. Had Reika just sucked up and took a test, all the very unnecessary angst and worry would have been avoided.

    Web Original 
  • Has happened more than a few times in movies that Film Brain has reviewed, leading to his catchphrase, "Why don't they just (insert smarter course of action here)? Oh right, because we wouldn't have a movie!"
  • The series How It Should Have Ended is pretty much dedicated to pointing these out. Examples are The Lord of the Rings (blindfold the eagles and fly them straight from Rivendell into Mordor), Predator (if the Predator doesn't attack unarmed people because it's not good sport, just ditch all the weapons) and Star Wars (don't wait until the Death Star has gone all the way around the planet that the rebel base orbits, just blow up the planet and you'll have a clear shot at the base).
  • This gets lampshaded for an off-screnn plotline that happened between Noob and Noob: Le conseil des trois factions. Long time enemies Tenshirock the hacker and Judge Dead the Game Master have decided that if the latter catches the former in-game, both of them retire. A third party made aware of the situation points out that Tenshirock could simply let himself get caught.

    Western Animation 
  • On Arthur, if the Read family gave D.W. any form of consistent discipline, at least 25% of Arthur's problems would be diminished. Admittedly, this happened in one episode, but since then it's been sporadic.
  • In the 1990s The Incredible Hulk animated series, the military would invariably show up and ruin everything at the exact moment Bruce Banner was undergoing a procedure that would eliminate the Hulk once and for all. If they wanted to get rid of the Hulk so badly, they could have left him alone. Or simply put a bullet into Banner's brain from a mile away while he's still human. Sniper rifles were invented to kill people that it would be too dangerous to approach directly, Banner probably qualifies.
  • There is not an episode of The Fairly OddParents which couldn't have been solved or averted by creating the standing wish of "always warn me before any wish that might take away my power to make wishes" and then just flat undoing anything left. Of course, both protagonist Timmy and fairy godparent Cosmo are supposed to be idiots (the former because he's ten years old, the latter because it's funny). One episode actually commented on this concept as well as the Trope Namer: the time Timmy wishes that he loses his emotions and after that, has nothing to do but think, he comes to the conclusion that "the reason they couldn't build a boat on Gilligan's Island is because it would end the series...", which is somewhat similar to his situation. And sort of inverted during the Magic Muffin thing:
    Cosmo: I don't get it, why don't you just wish you had the muffin back?
    Timmy: Good idea, Cosmo! I wish I had the muffin back!
    Wanda: We can't do it. You know as well as I do that the muffin is more powerful than we are.
    Cosmo: Yeah, I just wanted to know why he hadn't tried. Explanation 
  • Wile E. Coyote seems to have the ability and resources available to send away for any sort of gizmo he desires, and have it arrive immediately to aid him in his quest to catch the roadrunner. It never occurs to him to simply order some food.
    • Creator Chuck Jones liked to quote George Santayana's observation, "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." Meaning, to Wile E., eating the Road Runner is largely not the point anymore. Indeed, as Cliff Claven pointed out on Cheers, "What he wants is to eat that particular Roadrunner. Very existential."
    • Lampshaded in Night Court of all places, with Judge Stone presiding over Wile E. Coyote and telling him that next time he's hungry he should just go to a restaurant or supermarket.
    • In the shorts where Wile E. is pitted against Bugs Bunny, it's made clear that he's in it for the intellectual challenge as much as for a meal. One would assume this is probably the case in the Road Runner shorts as well. Not to mention that, due to his being an Insufferable Geniusnote , being unable to capture a bird would be a blow to his pride, so he refuses to give up.
    • Lampshaded in one of his shorts. Wile E. explains that the reason he compulsively chases the roadrunner is because roadrunners are the most friggin' delicious things on Earth, including a meat chart with all the flavors of a roadrunner's various cuts laid out.
    • A Looney Tunes comic book does actually establish that Wile E. gets his food via mail order, and that catching Roadrunner is just his hobby.
    • This is hilariously lampshaded in a short in which Wile E. is successful in his attempts to capture the Roadrunner. Of course, he's now a comically puny size thanks to Rule of Funny so the Roadrunner is much...much bigger than him. Wile E. then points out to the audience that he's absolutely clueless as to what to do next.
    • There's at least one other short where he catches the Roadrunner, in a bit of a Take That to people who over-think cartoons. Two chubby bespectacled kids speaking in big words watching the cartoon note that with his greater intellect, the Coyote should succeed, and explain exactly how in a very simple plan — and the Coyote is listening, and then catches the Roadrunner! He's then informed by the director that he's now fired, as there can't be any more show. He surreptitiously lets the Roadrunner go, and says, "Oh, no, he's escaped!", and is hired again on the spot. The kids are then seen again, saying, "Oh, THAT'S why he never catches the Roadrunner."
    • The heights of Wile E.'s obsession is underscored by the large number of his plans that, had they succeeded, would have destroyed the Road Runner, or at least rendered its carcass inedible.
    • Really one of his main problems is that he keeps buying shoddy products from ACME. Which one episode reveals as being owned and operated by the Road Runner!
    • Spoofed in this strip from the webcomic Sandra and Woo, with Woo the talking raccoon standing in for Wile E Coyote. Woo, upon failing to catch the road-runner, does the logical thing.
    • Looney Tunes: Back in Action seemed to justify this by revealing that he's some sort of "quality control" product tester/ACME agent.
  • Every episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! has Mystery Inc. looking for clues in order to deduce who the villain is, then they catch him in a trap and unmask him. However, they don't actually reveal who the villain is until after they're unmasked. This means that they could avoid doing an episode's worth of detective work and just build the trap at the episode's beginning to catch the villain.
    • In What's New, Scooby-Doo? they try this for the exact stated reason, and it works! The villain is locked in a jail cell to wait for the police. Then the villain attacks again, and when they check again he's right back in his cell ... because, of course, the mastermind was actually a set of twins and they only caught one. This does not, of course, explain why they never try it again.
  • Over the course of ThunderCats Mumm-Ra was revealed to have an incredible array of powers and resources at his disposal. If he had used several of these at once instead of one per episode, he could have won. Possibly justified by the risk of over-using powers and rendering himself weakened and easily defeated in the next episode. Also, he's ever-living. If he had been willing to just wait the ThunderCats out, they would have gone extinct in a generation (there's nowhere near enough for a breeding population). Any progress they could have made in freeing the world from his tyranny could easily be undone afterward.
  • Speaking of ThunderCats, every animation where we see heroes wielding swords, guns or every obviously dangerous weapons, shows which also include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, etc. Every kid who watched those shows has asked at least once in their lives "why don't they simply use their weapons to kill the bad guys?"
  • Why doesn't Bluto just eat spinach to beat Popeye? There was one cartoon in which they were trying to be hospitalized, and Bluto did indeed eat spinach and beat up Popeye. However, Bluto didn't so much "eat" the spinach as have it forced down his throat by Popeye. At a guess, Bluto hates spinach even more than he hates Popeye, underscored by one cartoon where Bluto invents a powerful herbicide to destroy all of the world's spinach to incapacitate Popeye. Popeye pleads to the audience, and some kid with a grocery bag throws it into the screen. Popeye beats Bluto, and cures all the spinach. The movie at least Hand Waves this by implying that it was not that spinach itself had magical power-up properties, but that Popeye's family had long drawn strength from a diet of spinach.
    • Bluto DOES eat the spinach willingly in in an attempt to beat Popeye at baseball in "The Twisker Pitcher".
  • Entire episodes of TaleSpin are often driven by Baloo's incompetence, laziness or audacity, or Rebecca's hardheadedness, blind ambition or naivete.
    • What could be solved simply with some logical thinking often snowballs into a very big problem. Sometimes Kit or Molly's recklessness or need for adventure complicates matters, too, though not as often as Baloo and Rebecca's character flaws do.
    • Played with in one episode, where Rebecca wins a contest and needs to get her winning entry to a radio station on time to get a large sum, but she's too busy to get it mailed herself. She knows that Baloo is lazy except when something doesn't matter, so she tries to use Reverse Psychology, telling him that she'd appreciate it if he could take care of mailing it out for her, but that it wasn't important. Unfortunately for her, Baloo, already experienced with how much trouble arises from her hardheadedness and blind ambition, figures that her laissez-faire attitude means it really isn't important, so he spends the fare for the letter on himself (after Rebecca said he could keep the change) and sends it via the cheapest possible postage. Cue scramble when both parties realize what they had done.
  • Ulysses Feral from SWAT Kats invokes this for the title heroes' origin; despite clearly being told they had a target lock, his stubborn obsession to be the only one allowed to bring Dark Kat down not only caused the Enforcers to lose the villain (which the aforementioned target lock would've likely prevented), but also forced Jake and Chance into the crash that ended their Enforcer career and began their career as the titular gang. True, there would be no cartoon, but at least they would've been able to bring a dangerous criminal to justice. Even after the incident, Feral insists on fighting against the SWAT Kats and bringing them to "justice", even though it's been shown time and time again the supervillains they deal with are more than the Enforcers can handle, on their own, and other, more reasonable members of his force (like his niece Felina) can see the benefit of allying themselves with them.
  • The Transformers:
    • Good thing the Decepticons never thought of getting rid of Starscream. He's the only reason the Autobots kept surviving, or even woke up in the first place. One time he even saved the cornered Autobots just for the sake of ruining Megatron's plans. Right in front of him, complete with a smug one-liner. However, one could argue Starscream had the right idea. If they just blew up the Ark (or at least slagged the Autobots in their stasis lock), they could have conquered Earth without Autobot interference. In fact, he wanted to blow them up before they even crashed, but Megatron insisted on following them instead, giving the Autobots a chance to mount a defense.
    • There are also several times where Starscream points out glaring flaws in Megatron's plans (i.e. the dangerous instability of their latest energy source). Megatron will invariably respond by mocking and insulting him and ignoring his advice, only to be surprised when the plan blows up in his face in exactly the way Starscream predicted. The real solution would be for them to just work together rather than constantly try to one-up eachother, then worry about fighting for control after the Autobots are out of the way.
    • Sometimes, Megatron does sum up the intellect to kill Starscream. He does so in the movie after one nearly successful attempt, and in at least one reboot, Megatron practically makes it a habit.
  • Anyone who grew up with Jem will most likely be astounded on revisiting the show and realizing that the rival band of Jem and the Holograms (The Misfits) would often indulge in felonies such as kidnapping, blackmail, sabotage and slander in order to boost their own sales and discredit their opponents. A simple phone call to the police would have seen them locked up for a very long time. Made worse by the fact that Jerrica owns Starlight Music and could probably do a lot more to ensure that Eric Raymond would stop causing trouble as a record executive than a pop idol.
    • Raymond had his own army of lawyers and mega corp resources, plus Pizzazz's wealthy father and all his connections. The pilot episode also stated the reason for the Jem persona in the first place was due to some first-rate legal and financial blackmail Raymond was laying on Starlight Records (he had a stake in the company as Benton's business partner and was trying to screw Jerica and Kimber out of their shares). Worse, most of the Holograms' royalties got folded back into the business and orphanage. Raymond wasn't bothering with side ventures.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987, almost every time Shredder and Krang fail it is because of Bebop and Rocksteady's bumbling. Simply getting rid of the two or at least locking them up would result in far less humilation for Shredd-Head and Krang.
    • Partially justified in one episode, in which Krang points out that Shredder firing them is a bad idea, as they don't have a lot of options in the help department for their schemes. Their attempt to solve this problem blows up in their faces.
    • This gets taken to the logical conclusion in the Grand Finale of both the original and 2003 cartoons, in which Utrom Shredder, AKA a villain that was besting three separate generations of Turtles as well as fairly powerful allies, has already destroyed entire universes, and is scarily competent... is defeated by their screwing up.
    • Building the universe-conquering superweapon with a working power source would have done it. Given some of the stuff they used to get it temporarily working, it probably could have run at full power on a diesel engine.
  • Nicely subverted in the Squidbillies episode "A Sober Sunday." Early Cuyler spends the episode trying to lift the banning of liquor sales on Sunday, but is unable to do so. At the end of the episode Granny asks why he doesn't just buy his Sunday liquor on Saturday. He throws her in a fire and claims that it's too inconvenient.
  • In Pinky and the Brain, considering how many times he screws them up, if Brain got rid of Pinky or at least kept him as far away from his plans as he could manage, he'd rule the world within a week, if that.
    • It would seem so - but in "That Smarts," Pinky becomes as intelligent as Brain, to the delight of the latter... until a) Pinky starts indicating flaws in every single planet-conquering scheme and b) Brain realizes that the only way any of his plans will succeed is if one of them is an idiot. So he makes himself as "smart" (i.e. as stupid) as Pinky normally is... unfortunately, Pinky's seen how miserable Brain is now that the balance of power has shifted, and he makes himself as stupid as he was before! Needless to say, this doesn't stick for the rest of the series.
    • It's been established in several episodes that Brain's plans are precisely what keeps them from succeeding. Pinky has come extremely close several times just by doing all the random things that come naturally to him, only for Brain to ruin it when he tries to use their position of power to his advantage for one of his schemes. Then there's the time they took a night off, and unknowingly ended up with a large group of people who wanted to find Brain and put him in charge. Basically, they'd rule the world already if they didn't keep trying to force it.
  • The subplot in one Kim Possible episode involved the characters being assigned lab partners for a school science project (and Mr. Barkin wouldn't allow them to switch). Kim is paired with a genius scientist who neither needs nor wants her help, and as a result Kim is left bored and unsatisfied because she has nothing to do. Kim's friend Monique is paired with Ron, and she is over-stressed because Ron just doesn't care and leaves her to do all the work herself. Kim and Monique could have simply worked together on Monique's project unofficially (most of the project seemed to take place outside of school) and that way all four parties would have got a decent grade and a workload that suited them.
    • Of course if Mr. Barkin ever found out, this would likely result in 4 F's given the stern way he implied that any requests for a new partner would be turned down.
  • The Justice League episode "A Knight of Shadows" has the heroes trying to keep the Philosopher's Stone away from Morgan Le Fay. When they acquire it, they lock it in the Watchtower—and it ends up being stolen. The story concludes with the stone being crushed to dust—which raises the question of why they bothered to lock it in the Watchtower in the first place.
    • Similarly in "Paradise Lost", where the League are forced to retrieve three artifacts that combine into the key that can free the Sealed Evil in a Can. In this case, the League can't destroy the key before the end of the episode, because there are lives at stake, but why didn't the people who locked him up in the first place destroy the key instead of just breaking it into three easily-recombinable pieces?
    • Also in the Static Shock JL crossover, with the League keeping the last piece of Brainiac in the Watchtower. Batman even lampshades the fact that they'd be better off with it destroyed, but why it's kept intact goes unexplained. Naturally, it gets loose mere minutes later.
      • It might have something to do with the DC heroes' code against killing; Brainiac, being a sentient being, is still protected by that code and therefore they can't just destroy him.
  • In Josie and the Pussycats you have to wonder why do they even put up with Alexandra who is nothing more but The Millstone to the group. In their Outer Space series they could have gotten home if they had just pushed her out the airlock or leave her in the next planet they landed.
  • One of the criticisms from Bronycon 2013 while watching the first of the My Little Pony TV Specials is a case of this. Tirek's plan is to use his Rainbow of Darkness to turn ponies into demonic dragons to drive his Chariot of Darkness to cause The Night That Never Ends, even though the Rainbow of Darkness can also turn non-sentient animals such as butterflies and birds into dragons that appear more than capable of driving the chariot. There was no particular reason why Tirek needs ponies-turned-dragons to drive his chariot; if he stuck to the dragons resulting from other animals, he wouldn't have to deal with the surviving ponies at his doorstep who wound up killing him during the rescue of their friends.
  • Parodied in an episode of Family Guy with Tom choosing to eliminate Jerry by simply hiring an exterminator to kill him instead of futilely chasing him.

Alternative Title(s):

Idiot Premise, Just Eat The Mac Guffin