Out of Order

A truly strange tendency that some networks have is to air episodes of a television show in an order that disregards the order that they were written in. For some shows, particularly those of the episodic variety, this will make little difference. For a series with continuity, this can confuse the heck out of viewers.

This is occasionally justified, or at least understandable, if a recent event or tragedy might make airing the episode so close to it be Too Soon.

Not to be confused with Anachronic Order, in which the writers intended for it to be this way. Also not to be confused with the common plot device for a Potty Emergency or justification for a Forgotten Superweapon. Often a symptom of being Screwed by the Network.

This trope has nothing to do with the "functional" variety of "out of order"; for tropes to that effect, see Phlebotinum Breakdown, Holodeck Malfunction, Plot-Driven Breakdown and Failsafe Failure.

NOTE: TV Tropes executives have decided that this article should not be presented in its proper order, and instead have shuffled around the example folders.

Examples

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    Comics 
  • The Belgian comic strip Suske en Wiske serializes all its albums in one unchronological mess. The first 66 black-and-white albums are no longer available, so they simply started again from number 67 (!!) and randomly republished the older albums in color again, together with the newer titles. This makes reading the albums in this new order very confusing.
  • Tintin comics were translated into English in somewhat-random order. The translators altered the dialogue occasionally to try to make the "new" order make sense, but of course that just led to further confusion when the comics were re-released in proper order without the dialogue being fixed.
  • Marvel Comics's Star Wars Legends Epic Collections reprint the various comics produced by Dark Horse Comics. One would think this would be a good opportunity for new readers to jump in, but while each volume collects stories that take place at roughly the same point in time, the order of the volumes themselves seems to be chosen at random, not one that would actually made sense for them to be read in. As a result, one of the first volumes to be published deals with the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and the much less prominent Shadows of the Empire; another one takes place right after the formation of the Galactic Empire and opens with the conclusion of Sagoro Autem's story arc that had begun during the Separatist Crisis. In both cases, the previous parts remain out of print for the time being.
  • Rare newspaper example with Pearls Before Swine. The creator often keeps certain strips in back burner, either because he thought they were weak or because the content could cause problems, only to run them years later. This often leads to the art style being inconsistent with modern strips, due to Art Evolution.

    Anime and Manga 
  • A particularly bad example occurred with Tenchi Muyo!, where episodes from three very similar series were broadcast in the same timeslot in seemingly random order.
  • There was some controversy when the US DVD release of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya undid the Anachronic Order of the broadcast. The company responded by putting the episodes in broadcast order in one disc and chronological order on the other in future releases.
    • Although it does help that the first four episodes, ie a DVD's worth, are the first four episodes.
  • Here's a pretty crazy one: When Tokyo Mew Mew was dubbed into English as Mew Mew Power, not only was episode 12 aired as the premiere, episode 13 was shorn of the references to 12.
  • When Ninja Robots (aka the dubbed version of Ninja Senshi Tobikage) aired in Australia in a block of about half a dozen episodes were televised out of order. This was particularly obvious because it skipped the introduction of a major character. This alternative ordering of the episodes was repeated on the DVD.
  • Kids' WB! reruns of Pokémon were also aired out of order for a while, which may have been one contributing factor to its decline in popularity, since fans lost interest and newcomers were confused.
    • The 15th episode "Battle Aboard the St. Anne" aired first in the U.S. as part of a "sneak peek" due to it being more action-packed and therefore "interesting" to hook viewers. note  When the show was picked up for broadcast, it aired in its proper spot.
      • Good luck trying to figure out the proper order of Pokemon Special by its magazine releases alone. Seeing how being published in two or three different magazines at once is the only reason it's allowed to go beyond a single volume's worth of material unlike other Pokemon manga, expect to be very confused until the volumes do come out.
      • And for that matter, good luck trying to figure out the order of episodes after the Infamous Seizure episode was banned in the dub, especially the two episodes that feature Lickitung.
      • To clarify: Lickitung's first appearance was episode 49 in the Japanese airing; the episode in which it was captured was episode 52. Episode 53 also clearly belongs immediately after episode 52 because Togepi, who hatched in episode 50, is nowhere to be seen in that episode. The KidsWB airing further compounded this by airing these episodes after episodes 54-57 (again, by the Japanese numbering, since there had already been three skipped episodes in the dub by this point, only one of which ever aired), with a four-month break from new episodes immediately preceding it, which could easily lead to a person believing that Team Rocket just acquires all of its Pokémon off-screen as James's Victreebel, which was acquired off-screen, made its dub debut before the episode in which Jessie caught her Lickitung aired in the dub.
  • Mega Man NT Warrior was also aired out of order, moving the "filler" episodes to later, continuity be damned. At first it was thought to be KidsWB's fault, but other countries who got the show from ShoPro also had it out of order; so, all fingers point to ShoPro for this. note 
  • KidsWB trifecta! While Nelvana did dub all 70 episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura (CardCaptors), KidsWB only aired about half of them (the more action packed and/or Shaoran-centered ones), and very much out of order.
  • Speaking of Nelvana, their dub of Medabots at first skipped some Filler episodes to get the first two "arcs" of the series to fit in a 26-episodes season (in the Japanese version, the arcs took 39 episodes). After deciding to dub the rest, such episodes were inserted as the first episodes of "Season 2". Lots of continuity headaches.
  • The English dub of the Dragon Ball franchise was subject to this to a certain extent, particularly with the home releases. Uncut DVDs of the series began in 2000 with episodes 68-74 of DBZ, with the end of the series (around 291) being released in 2003, while episodes in the early 200s were still being released in 2005. DBZ alone wasn't available in it's entirety until 2007, while the first 13 episodes of the original Dragon Ball series weren't released to DVD uncut in the US until 2009.
    • Naturally, when Toonami expanded to Kids' WB! and started showing Dragon Ball Z, the episodes shown were semingly chosen completely at random from the entire series shown on Cartoon Network up to that point, despite every episode having a Previously On segment and a To Be Continued segment. Rarely would the show even be on the same story arc on consecutive days. Since no one who started DBZ from Kids' WB! could understand what's going on, viewership plummeted, and Kids' WB! pulled DBZ out of its schedule shortly afterward.
  • The 80s Astro Boy series' episode order has been completely ignored for all English broadcast and home video releases, with some of the very last episodes airing among the first, and some of the very first episodes airing among the last. Fortunately, the very first and last episodes remained the same.
  • Slayers: The order of the movies and OVAs is not very clear. They all take place before the TV series begins, but in what order? Slayers Excellent takes place first, but since it was written as a prequel, it doesn't give the characters any formal introduction, and it's not recommended to be watched first. The Slayers Premium movie is the only "movie" to take place in the middle of the TV series, but even then... it's not very clear exactly WHERE in the series it takes place...
  • In The '90s dub of Sailor Moon, DiC aired the first episode of the Negamoon arc after the episode Queen Beryl was defeated. They were trying to hold out the 13 Doom Tree episodes to air as a Network exclusive (Sailor Moon aired in syndication back then); other countries that aired the English dub aired the episodes in the proper order. Also for continuity reasons the Doom Tree episodes are numbered after the Beryl episodes.
  • Episodes 3 and 4 of Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters aired online before the others aired.
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise is a case of the Justified Trope given in the description: a lot of the episodes were pulled from their intended airdate after 9/11 for being Too Soon. Unfortunately, these were also mostly the episodes dealing with the main plot arc. Fortunately, there is a known intended order, and the home video release put them in that order.

    Literature 

  • An interesting example is the New Testament — few Christians realise that Paul's epistles, although they describe events after Jesus's death, are actually the oldest Christian writings. 1 Thessalonians was written around AD 51, while by all accounts, Luke and John were written after AD 59 at the earliest.
    • The Old Testament exhibits this kind of thing as well: what most Christians call the Books of History were originally from two different sections of the Jewish Bible, the Nevi'im (which puts Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings alongside the books of the prophets) and the Ketuvim (which has nearly every other Old Testament book), but early Christians reordered the Ketuvim so that all the story-like books were all together and ran (roughly) in chronological order.
  • The Doctor Who Novelisations were released without much concern for broadcast order, resulting in Doctor and companion introductions and departures getting seriously scrambled up. Target's official numbering order wasn't much help; it listed the first 73 novelisations in alphabetical order (that is, all the ones up until the institution of the numbering system) then all subsequent releases in intended release order, which didn't always work out as planned.

    Webcomics 
  • Before Homestuck was a thing that happened, Andrew Hussie made at least three Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff comics as part of a discussion on the Penny Arcade forums; when they went up on the newly-established SBAHJ site months later, they were in a different order from the order in which they were made. The famous stairs comic, the first in the site's order, was the third made; the actual first made was the I Banged Your Mom comic, the second in the site's order.
  • Shiniez was constantly this in the strip's older days; the strips were posted in the order they were completed, not in the order of chronology or even in the order they were thought up. Word of God lampshaded this but rarely gave help.
    • These days this is mostly averted as the comic is updating chronologically and in chapters. Previously standalone stripped have been absorbed by the progressing narrative. Though future strips and pin ups are still released, these are kept in galleries separate from the chapters now making the comic much easier to navigate.

    Music 
  • Funeral for a Friend's concept album Tales Don't Tell Themselves tells a story over each track, but the track order was chosen for flow rather than telling the story in order. The opening track Into Oblivion (Reunion) is clearly the last part of the story, as most of the album is about the perilous time at sea - this one is about how he is now escaped the dangers and is coming home. The narrator says he 'stared into oblivion and found my own reflection there', which indicates he's past the oblivion that other tracks such as 'Out Of Reach' detail.