TV Tropes Needs Your Help
View Kickstarter Project
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here
and discuss here
This is a form of heartless Practical Joke
in which Alan thinks he has a date with Bonnie, but in reality it's a trick by Bonnie (or even Charlene) and the expected outcome is anything but a romantic interlude.
In the Romantic Comedy
genre, this will lead to Alan either temporarily breaking off with Bonnie (to make up later
) or meeting Dorothy, who will be the actual romantic interest for the rest of the story.
In other comedies, Hilarity Ensues
. In the horror or mystery genres, this will often result in a Deadly Prank
, with the poor sap being set up either suffering an unexpectedly lethal fate, finding the prank less than amusing and coming back to take obsessive revenge, or both.
Common types of the Prank Date:
- The No-Show - Just not showing up, to see how long the poor sap will wait. Not the same thing as Stood Up, where Bonnie intended to show up and was late or otherwise unable (with Doomed Appointment as a special subtrope if Bonnie died before arriving).
- Setup for Humiliation - Here the "date" is a setup for public humiliation by Bonnie and her friends.
- The "Dogfight" - Like number 2 above, but for a group, in which the objective is for each competitor to bring the least desirable date, so that the unlucky chosen can be humiliated both individually and en masse.
- Bait and Switch - The actual date is with someone else than Alan was led to believe, usually someone much less desirable. "Oh, you thought I was asking for me? No, I was asking for my cousin Melvoid." (Compare Bed Trick.)
- Embarrassing Location - The supposed date location is dangerous or embarrassing for Alan, because, for example, Bonnie wants to meet Alan in a Gay Bar (Gay Bar, Gay Bar).
- Malicious Trap - The "date" is actually a way of luring Alan to an isolated location for the purpose of robbery, murder, or rape (this last one is more likely to happen to Alanna than Alan). This type is rarely ever meant to be a "prank", actually, and not done with humor in mind; there is actual intent to do the victim harm.
Anime and Manga
- Happy Gilmore: Shooter getting Happy (the guy, not the emotion) out on "the ninth green at 9". More of an Embarrassing Location or Malicious Trap, since the point was getting Happy on the green when the sprinklers go off.
- The protagonists do this to Steve Buscemi's character in Ghost World.
- In Casper, a boy asks the main character, Cat, out on a date. It turns out that he only does this to sabotage her Halloween party.
- Happened to Arnold Rimmer in his backstory in one of the Red Dwarf novels. His date was part of a scam escort service and ended up skipping out on dinner after he paid for an expensive dress and gave her extra to pretend they were long-term lovers.
- The eponymous protagonist of The Gospel According to Larry mentions doing this to his guidance counselor, by starting an online courtship with her under a different identity. He regrets this when she actually shows up to a proposed date and waits there for hours before finally leaving; he hadn't realized she'd fallen so hard.
- Happened on Glee as a way of giving Sue a taste of her own medicine. And to Puck—Lauren stood him up to make him want her more.
- In Friends episode "The One With The Blind Dates", Phoebe and Joey scheme to get Rachel and Ross back together by intentionally setting them up on horrible dates so that they will want to get back with each other. However, Joey accidentally sets Ross up with someone who would be perfect for him (but awful to Joey), so he just tells the woman not to come and Ross ends up thinking he was stood up.
- In Married... with Children, Kelly tells how she once pulled this trick on a classmate who she considered a nerd. In the present day, he shows up, now a gorgeous hunk and a millionaire. She tries to hit on him... And he promptly uses the exact same trick on her (and in the process, helps Bud get revenge on a girl who pulled a Setup for Humiliation version of this prank on him).
- In My Name Is Earl, one person on Earl's list is a lonely, depressed man with No Social Skills named Philo, who has attempted suicide multiple times. It turns out, though, that Philo has a crush on Joy (even though she's already married to Darnell) and watches her hang her underwear on the clothesline. Earl goes to talk to her about this, reasoning that if she can give him one nice date, it'll build up Philo's confidence enough that he'll be able to find a woman who's actually available. Joy agrees to this, especially as she wants to try Operation Jealousy on Darnell after he claimed that he doesn't get jealous when other guys check her out. She ends up having sex with Darnell in the men's bathroom. But while Earl worries that Philo will attempt suicide again, it turns out that Philo is OK now that he has Earl and Randy to hang out with...even if they do view him as the The Friend Nobody Likes.
- "A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)," made most famous by Marty Robbins. A form of it is the main storyline in this, the ultimate song of teen heartbreak and rejection: A handsome but somewhat awkward man scores a prom-night date with the most desirable girl in school and meticulously plans for the big night (with a tuxedo and a carnation corsage for his date) ... only to learn at the very last second – when he goes to her house to pick her up for the big date – that she had gone to the prom with another boy. It is not explicitly stated whether this is a case of the girl later being asked out by a more desirable date or an intent to humiliate the protagonist; all that is stated is that the result is his heartbrokenness.
- The They Might Be Giants song "Four of Two" combines this with Rip Van Winkle.
- In a series of FoxTrot comics, Paige receives letters from a "secret admirer". The letters are actually from her brother Peter, who leaves her out in the rain for hours while she waits for her nonexistent secret admirer to show up.
- Homestar Runner: In his blog, Strong Sad describes getting "joke invitations to online singles sites (which I don't discover are 'joke' invitations until after waiting around the proposed meeting location for 4-8 hours. but hey! you never know when one might turn out to be legit!)."
Setup For Humiliation Examples
- The Simpsons: Bart does this to his teacher, Mrs. Krabappel, in "Bart the Lover," as part of his impersonating a possible love interest. Angry at being punished for damaging the classroom aquarium, Bart decides to get revenge by exploiting her increasingly loneliness and desire for companionship ... by sending her love notes from a man named "Woodrow." Edna sees hope that "Woodrow" is the man she had been seeking all along, and asks to go out on a date. Edna meticulously prepares for the date at a fine restaurant, and Bart cackles evily as he sees her go inside; however, when he returns later to the restaurant, "Woodrow" has never showed, and Edna – unaware that Woodrow doesn't exist – is near tears; only then does Bart feel remorse. (He and his parents – fearing the truth would hurt her more than forcing Bart to confess and accept what surely would be severe consequences – eventually writes a farewell note from "Woodrow.")
- In one Batman comic, the Alpha Bitch of Jonathan Crane's school once suckered him in to one of these so that her Jerk Jock boyfriend could ritually humiliate him. Since Jonathan Crane later grew up to be the Scarecrow, this came back to bite them both on the ass very, very badly.
- Peter is set up by Flash and some classmates this way in an issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, where they trick him into believing he has a date with Liz Allan. This ends up being subverted where, whilst it was still a prank, when Liz learns she's less than amused and decides to go on a date with Peter anyway.
- A mild (and ultimately subverted) example; in the Superman Elseworlds story Secret Identity, in a world where superheroes do not exist (at least at first) but Superman comic books do, Mr. and Mrs. Kent name their son Clark, much to his later chagrin. At one point in Book 2, some friends of his try setting him up on a date with a woman named Lois. Both Clark and Lois are mildly peeved at the gag; Clark later told Lois that since college he had been set up with a number of Lois-es, several Lanas, and one Cat. Lois decides to go out with Clark; at the start of Book 3, they're Happily Married.
- In an early issue of Ultimate X-Men, Hank McCoy admits to Storm that when he was younger, a pretty classmate asked him out, then arranged for all of their other classmates to be waiting to laugh at him, when he showed up for their date. As a result, the thought that the gorgeous Storm is into him takes a bit of time to sink in.
- Carrie (1976), or so she thought. (The date itself was benign, but the two antagonists made sure it went very wrong. So she responded.)
- The Toxic Avenger. It gets worse for Melvin... and then, everybody else who is evil.
- A much less violent and gruesome version happens with the children's cartoon adaptation (yes, really), Toxic Crusaders.
- Josie's real high school prom in Never Been Kissed. The most popular boy in school asks her to prom - and throws eggs at her from the limo with his friends on the night.
- Backstory for the Serial Killer in National Lampoon's Class Reunion, an ex-Butt Monkey who'd been set up for a masked tryst by his high school class. With his twin sister.
- Terror Train opens with bunch of med schoolers setting a date for one of their own. When the subject of the prank finds out that his "date" is really a corpse, he goes crazy and returns after year or two to exact revenge.
- Tyrion underwent a particularly tragic version of this in A Song of Ice and Fire: when he was young, his big brother Jamie paid a whore named Tysha and two thugs to stage an Attempted Rape that the two of them could foil and the girl could fling herself at Tyrion in gratitude. Tyrion ended up marrying Tysha in secret, and when his and Jamie's father Tywin found out, he had her gang-raped by a barracks full of soldiers and paid in full "for her services".
- Later subverted when Jamie reveals that Tywin had forced him to lie about the incident: Tysha was not a whore, and genuinely loved him. Naturally, Tyrion doesn't take it well.
- In Carrie, the titular character is asked out by a popular football player named Tommy Ross (whose girlfriend Sue talked him into it as her way of atoning for her part in the shower incident). Chris Hargensen, resident Alpha Bitch and Carrie's chief tormentor, catches wind of it and together with her boyfriend Billy Nolan turn it into this as a way of humiliating her as revenge for being kicked out of the prom for the shower incident. When Carrie gets to the prom, the ballot box is rigged so that Carrie will be voted prom queen, and Chris and Billy dump pig blood on her. It does not end well...
- Note that both Tommy and his girlfriend Sue were completely innocent in regards to the prank, and Tommy had actually started to grow fond of Carrie herself. Not that it mattered in the end: Tommy was killed when the bucket of pig-blood came down on his head, and Sue was the Sole Survivor of Carrie's rampage.
- This happens to Tris sometime between Shatterglass and Will of the Empress, recounted as she discusses how she's never had a successful relationship. The incident involved luring her out for a date and dumping a jar of honey on her, because she's overweight. Tris being probably the most powerful weather mage alive, this is a case of Bullying a Dragon, and it highlights the self-control Tris has had to build.
- Kyle does this to Kendra in Beastly. She doesn't take it well.
- In Ann M. Martin's Slam Book, lead character Anna tricks overweight classmate Cheryl into thinking a guy likes her by faking a note from her friend Paige in the titular book. When Cheryl arrives at Paige's house for what she thinks is going to be a double date, only a drunken Paige is there to belittle her and make her feel like a fool. Cheryl immediately goes home and commits suicide.
- A particularly sick version of this was the plot of J. N. Williamson's "Two Floor Generals and the Sweetheart Dance." Basically, one of the stars of a small-town high school basketball team told an unpopular and unattractive girl that the narrator, a fellow star, would take her to the Sweetheart Dance on Valentine's Day, then handed him a candy box to give her at the dance. When she opened it, it turned out to contain an actual heart which she bit into before discovering the deception. The "prankster" claimed it was human. Whether it actually was was never revealed.
- On Criminal Minds, Reid recounts an incident from his high school years; the prettiest girl in school said she wanted to meet him behind the football stands. Not only was she there, but so was the entire football team and a bunch of other students who just stood and watched as they stripped him, tied him to the goalpost, and taunted him. He got free hours later and made it home, to find that his schizophrenic mother was having an episode and hadn't noticed he was missing.
- Anya on Buffy the Vampire Slayer granted a wish for a girl who had been humiliated this way once. She took it back at the end of the episode though.
- Internet version: An episode of NCIS has as its B-plot the saga of McGee's new online girlfriend—who is actually Tony using a fake screenname. The idea was to get McGee good and attached, then suddenly turn sour and eventually break up with him, so that Tony could have a good laugh at McGee being heartbroken. Only it goes wrong; when Tony turns on the shrew, McGee loves her more than ever, baffling Tony. It eventually turned out that McGee wasn't fooled, but figured he could wind Tony up by playing along.
- In the Alcatraz episode "Johnny McKee", one of these provides the motivation for McKee's mass murder attacks.
- As previously stated, Bud is frequently the victim of this on Married... with Children. Surprisingly, in one episode, Kelly actually punishes the girl who does it to him by tying her up in a school hallway wearing only a towel with Buck's leash tied to the towel (and then calling for Buck as she and the other students enter, at which point the end credits start).
- In an old Irish song, "The Green Garters", Arthur gives green garters to three different women as a supposed love token, gathers them together in a pub, and says "Here's a health to the lass who wore the green garters." He expects that they, each thinking he's referring to them, will get in a Cat Fight for his affections while he sits back and smirks; but instead they gang up on him and give him a good mauling.
- Used twice in the same episode in Code Lyoko. Ulrich sends a text to Sissi, asking to meet her at the garden shed, where she is instead jumped on and licked by Kiwi (a dog) while Ulrich and Odd taunt her. In revenge, Sissi reports Kiwi to the school authorities. Post-RTTP, having learned not to put Odd's dog in danger, Ulrich, Odd, Jeremie, and Yumi prank-date and humiliate Sissi AND Herb, who is an unlucky enough geek as it is and is now left with Sissi's wrath after getting his hopes up. These are the heroes of the story doing this.
- In Eight Crazy Nights, the former Alpha Bitch of Whitey’s high school class confesses (in song!) that she told Whitey to meet her at the prom, and he showed up only for her, her real date and all of his classmates to laugh at him, saying they couldn’t believe he thought she was serious. She’s not proud of it.
- The Simpsons: "Bart the Lover" – see above for plot explanation; Bart sets Edna up with "Woodrow's" love notes hoping to humiliate her and get revenge for being punished.
- This happened to Mary Cavanaugh in the 1950s on Sym-Bionic Titan. She was invited to the school dance by the popular boy, only for him and some Alpha Bitches to dump (presumably) molasses and feathers on her. Might fall under the Malicious Trap example, as she was never heard from again although she didn't die.
- This was meant to be a Dogfight and ended up a straight up Setup for Humiliation in an Archie Comics bit in which Veronica went with a rich guy to his estate only to find out that she was the last item on the scavenger hunt list, the thing no one else had managed to get: a "townie." Archie and the gang got back at them for that one.
Bait and Switch Examples
- Married... with Children: Kelly Bundy undergoes this; the criterion is "unintelligent."
- Cold Case: Several fat girls were brought to a fraternity house party, and then publicly weighed and mocked by guys with pig masks. One of them had been friends with a fraternity brother (who felt guilty), but the other brothers beat him up and attempted to rape her. The other girls, enraged, set the house on fire for revenge. The girl who had gone back inside wound up locked in a side room while her friend heard her last wishes before she died.
- Wizards of Waverly Place had a non-romantic example when Harper was invited to have tea with Gigi and her friends, when really it was a Loser Tea to see who could bring the biggest loser. This ultimately backfires as Harper discovers the truth in the middle of the tea and Gigi ends up wearing the Loser Crown.
- In a rare case of this having a happy ending, on WKRP in Cincinnati, Mr. Carlson learns, years after the fact, that his wife and her friend only accepted their first dates with him and his friend as part of a sorority pledge "bring a drip to the party" prank. Both couples fell in love and married but when Mr. Carlson learned things had started as a joke, he felt humiliated. His wife reminds him that they didn't actually go to the party, and she quit the sorority shortly afterwards.
- In The Smurfs "Romeo And Smurfette", a Smurf is given a date invitation by who he thinks is Smurfette, so he gets all washed up, perfumed, and carrying a big bouquet of flowers out into the forest where the invitation said she would be. It turned out to be a prank played on him by Jokey who dressed himself up as Smurfette. And that Smurf was none too happy about it!
- Used in the Scottish film Gregory's Girl, where Gregory asks out a girl he has been crushing on, only to find himself passed between three other girls instead. However, the last one actually loves him as well, so it all works out.
- Happened to Jacob in Genesis when he works 7 years to marry Rachel, and gets Leah instead, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
- In Fool, Pocket sets up dates for Goneril and Regan with Edmund of Gloucester as part of his plot. He substitutes Drool, his developmentally disabled (and exceedingly well-hung) apprentice.
- The Brady Bunch: "Cindy Brady, Lady," an episode that saw Cindy go through a fit of wanting to act older than her age had a key plotline where Bobby – wanting to help his sister – poses as a "secret admirer," who is impressed by her maturity and tastes in what older kids do. Cindy takes the bait and wants to meet this mysterious boy, but Mike immediately figures out what's going on and tells Bobby to confess his trick to Cindy. Bobby bluffs his way out of his father's request long enough to get a classmate, Tommy, to pose as the "secret admirer." When Tommy wants to act his age and is disappointed at Cindy's apparent "mature" tastes, he tries to walk off ... only for Cindy to immediately admit she still wants to be a kid.
- May also be done for both datees, to push them toward each other. Nick did that to Jerry Steiner and Shelly in Parker Lewis Can't Lose.
- On Malcolm in the Middle a group of girls set Reese up with a date who was a pig as a joke. He became so depressed afterwards that Lois went after the girls...
- This happened to Blossom once. For some reason Blossom was portrayed as the villain for making a polite excuse to get out of going on the date with the guy who'd deliberately tricked her.
- On Pramface, Beth sets Mike up on a double date with her date's friend, who appears to be an incredibly attractive woman. However later on it's revealed that she's just hanging out until the actual date, a gay man, arrives. Mike then attempts to salvage the situation by saying that he's bisexual and leans toward straight.
- The Sam Cooke song "Another Saturday Night" mentions a guy who sets the narrator up with his sister, "who looked so fine/but instead of bein' my deliverance/she had a strange resemblance/ to a cat named Frankenstein"
- In Blaster Nation, Ashley's mother dragged her out to "hang out at the mall" to set her up with Matt.
Embarrassing Location Examples
Malicious Trap Examples
Anime and Manga
- Happened to Moist in Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog. He and another character had a double date with Bait and Switch. Moist thought he was supposed to be paired up with Bait, but... yeah.
- In Hot Gimmick, Hatsumi is invited over to Azusa's apartment. Turns out he and his friends want to gang-rape her. Luckily she's rescued.
- Chloë attempts this with Ray in the movie In Bruges. Doesn't quite go according to plan.
- Lord Barkis Bittern successfully does this once to Emily in the Tim Burton stop-motion musical Corpse Bride, and it is at the very least implied he is also trying to do this to Victoria.
- In Red State, a woman who is a member of an extremely conservative church accepts propositions from horny teenagers via a website for that purpose. When they go to meet her, accomplices capture them, kill one and nearly kill another.
- Albert is propositioned by a peasant girl at the Carnival in Rome in The Count of Monte Cristo. She turns out to be a young boy working for an infamous bandit who kidnaps him.
- She only traded places with Peppino at the last meeting; she was a she for the entire Carnival leading up to the kidnapping, where they switched her out so she'd not be in any danger if Albert proved to be troublesome.
- In addition to the A Song of Ice and Fire example above, there is another, more violent, version later in the story. Robb Stark, having broken his pledge to marry a Frey woman, tries to arrange a marriage between his Uncle and a different Frey to broker peace. Walder Frey accepts... and then uses the wedding to ambush the Starks, murdering Robb and Catelyn, desecrating their bodies, and capturing their Uncle to deliver to the Lannisters. The massacre, known as the "Red Wedding", is an In-Universe Moral Event Horizon for the Freys.
- In The General, James Adams gets hit with this by a trio of female Army Intelligence Agents who want to find out The Plan, using torture if necessary. They learn You Are Too Late, so they rush off and leave him with a grenade in his pants.
- On Criminal Minds Garcia got the full romantic date treatment before her date brought her back home, almost kissed her, then turned to go... and turned back, said "I've been dreaming of this moment all night," and shot her.
- A CSI episode had a plot that involved luring a boy into a trap of all of the three examples (the bait lured him to a construction site with the prospect of having sex, then her friends proceeded to beat him to death with hammers before taking his wallet and splitting the money four ways.) The boy had originally been friends with the rest of the teenagers, who were all emo punks, but when he stopped hanging out with them, got a job and started doing better in school, the other teenagers were angry at him for "ditching" them, figuring that he thought he was better than them.
- Well, if they were willing to murder him and then rob him, he probably was better than them.
- Happens to Lex in season 4 of The Wire. He's told to meet a girl in an Abandoned Playground. When he gets there, it's Snoop. Uh-oh.
- Xander has had this happen to him a couple of times.
- This happens to Montblanc from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, who received a letter from Mogumi, a townsgirl. She asked him to go to Materiwood. As he gets there, it was actually Reaker, the leader of Clan Rose who are going to attack him.
- A trio of female bandits try this on a male PC in Oblivion. If the PC is female, they instead lure her out to invite her to join the con. When said female PC turns them down, they try to mug her the same way as they would a male PC.
- In Code Lyoko, this is used as part of a XANA attack. Odd is sent a text from an anonymous girl asking him to meet her in the woods and Odd goes gladly, only to be knocked out and trapped in a sewer thing slowly filling with water.