Reading Ahead in the Script

"I didn't look too far into it since I don't like spoilers, y'know, ruins the fun in the story."

The actors have to read the script in order to know what to act. That's just a given. This, however, is when the characters read the script so that they know what's going to happen next.

Usually a comedy trope, and a part of behind the scenes comedy. But sometimes this trope can be played straight with something else standing in for the script, such as when a children's show is doing a Reading Is Cool Aesop story which rips off from one of the classics, and the children in the show are outright reading the classic book in question to see what comes next in their plot.

A type of Medium Awareness (and, by extension, often a sign of No Fourth Wall in the comedy varation). Closely related to Noticing The Fourth Wall; also compare Genre Savvy, This Is the Part Where..., and Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud. Contrast both Reality Ensues and This Is Reality. Can overlap with Animated Actors.

Comedic examples:

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  • In Bloom County, Opus was once lost without direction in a desert, and finally got a script, and edited it so that the inbred psycho who's picked him up hitchhiking turns into Zsa Zsa Gabor. Then when Zsa Zsa drops him off in Vegas, he leaves the script in the car, and is stuck back in the desert again.

    Fan Works 
  • Thinking In Little Green Boxes ends the Philosopher's Stone arc when Harry reads ahead in the book to find that Quirrel was Voldemort. Disappointed by this, Deadpool, Harry's father, punishes Harry by banning him from Breaking the Fourth Wall for five whole chapters. Harry kept to it... mostly.
  • Turnabout Storm: Pinkie doesn't waste any time; she already had a good part of the script read beforehand, thus she already knew what one of Phoenix's next destinations was, and that "something strange" was going to happen there. At least she had the courtesy of not reading too far into it to avoid spoilers.
  • The Infinite Loops takes this trope and does the tango. Looping universes are backed up on the Hub universe, our reality, which causes the natives to write fiction about the backed up worlds and results in a lot of Mutually Fictional scenarios. Genre Savvy loopers gather as much fiction as they can, so they can quickly acquaint themselves with any other world they end up in; some loopers even keep their own scripts on hand to offer to newcomers.

    Film - Live Action 
  • In The Muppet Movie, the Electric Mayhem come to rescue Kermit and the others when they get stranded in the desert. How did they knew they were there? They read it in the script Kermit had given them earlier. Although, even with the script, it's still fairly far-fetched that Dr. Teeth managed to locate them.
    Kermit: How did you know where to find us?
    Dr. Teeth: We just read the script. (Holds up script) "EXT. DESERT - NIGHT." We knew right where you were.
  • In the movie Spaceballs, the Spaceballs watch the VHS of the movie to find out where the heroes have escaped to. This causes great weirdness when they first get to the part of the video that's currently going on.
  • Played for Laughs in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, when Lucky Lucha bests Robin, during Prince John's archery contest, by splitting his arrow. Robin literally pulls out the movie's script and quickly flips through it, 'til he finds where it says he gets another shot. Prince John and the Sheriff of Rottingham, along with the rest of the cast, consult their own copies and see that he's right. Cue Robin's "Patriot Arrow".
  • In Monsters Crash the Pajama Party, Miss Petrie calls up Professor Williams to tell him that she's sure that something is wrong, adding, "I read ahead in the script!"

  • In one of the Xanth novels, the main characters come across a character whose talent is to read the chapter name. Unfortunately for them, this occurs in a chapter titled "X". Partially justified in that the novels are occasionally said to be copies of historical texts created by Muses, who update them in real-time, so the character could just be checking the title of the chapter the Muse is working on. Also, Rule of Funny.

    Live Action TV 
  • Strangely, the entire story of Heroes, a sci-fi drama based on comic books, exists in-universe as... a comic book. This is an important plot point early on— a character finds their own comic and reads ahead a little, effectively consulting the oracle before their quest.
    • Later, this same character is so confused that he hunts down a comic book store to find out what happens next, only for a couple of comic book geeks to recognize him from a scene they just read. They answer some of his questions about plot details and share some fan theories, which may or may not have been based on actual fan theories from people watching the TV show.
  • Happens in the Red Dwarf miniseries Back to Earth. The characters then start writing the script to make each other do humiliating slapstick routines.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look features fly-on-the-wall style sections with the actors having chats as themselves on the set. In one of them, David Mitchell points out that these are as scripted as the rest of the show, and shows Robert Webb the script for the sketch they're in, which includes the direction "Cut to a close-up of the script. It reads: cut to a close-up of the script. It reads:..."
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In several episodes characters would read the script to find out what was going on or what they (or another character) were supposed to do.
  • In an episode of Raumschiff GameStar, Captain Langer figures out the villains' Evil Plan by reading it from the script of the episode.
  • In the series finale of Small Wonder, Vanessa (posing as Vicki) does this, to the chagrin of the film director.

  • Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back has a weird variation - the characters from RENT read ahead in the script for La Bohème to see what they should do next. Of course, since the plot of Rent is only very loosely based on La Bohème, it's not a reliable guide.
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has the song Go, go, go Joseph with the line "Go, go, go Joseph, fight till you drop/We've read the book, and you come out on top."

    Video Games 
  • Played with in The Simpsons Game twice. Early in the game, the manual for the game itself falls in front of Bart which helps move the plot forward. Later, Bart looks up the walkthrough for the game online to find out what they have to do next. Subverted in that he gets cut off before he actually says what they need to do by aliens attacking the house, and the rest of the plot evolves from there.

  • Played with in DM of the Rings #29 where the DM reads a script he was supposed to read later. When he realizes his mistake he tells the players to forget what they just heard. But given the players' dislike of the Wall of Text backstory and NPC monologues, they weren't listening anyway.
  • L's Empire has one character become an author, so they can read the comic's buffer to counteract any plan set in motion against them. The other authors manage to get around this by deliberately posting the page that details the character's downfall late.
  • In El Goonish Shive, during a Fourth Wall Mail Slot storyline, Tedd reads what he thinks is the script for the upcoming stories only for it to be subverted when he is informed what he was actually reading was the author's sketchbook.
  • A variant is common in Final Fantasy VII: The Sevening. Rather than read ahead, the characters are usually checking the script to make sure that the impossible thing, plot-hole, or out-of-character dialogue they just experienced was not some kind of mistake on their part. At times they're reduced to tears.
    Cloud (to a copy of the script): You monster!!
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • The 04/08/01 strip has Captain Tagon tell the Interactive Narrator to start reading the script again after everybody got distracted trying to figure out what the heck happened in the last six strips. (There was a weird segue in mid-story where Tagon and Brad got captured by aliens, interrogated, and disintegrated.) Then he cuts the narrator off on account of they'd reached the last panel; the narrator says he's going to go have a word with the author.
    • Here Breya guesses that the terrorists they captured in the last story arc were trying to stop the wormgate aliens, meaning they're on the same side as the mercenaries.
      Tagon: Breya, I know you're smart, but that's quite an intuitive leap.
      Narrator: I bet she's been reading the author's back-story notes.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Wind-Blown Hare", The Big Bad Wolf reads a copy of Three Little Pigs to know what to do. When Bugs Bunny pretends to be Little Red Riding Hood, he gives the wolf a copy of that book to catch up.
    • In "Ain't That Ducky", Daffy Duck interrupts a chase scene to point out that someone forgot to put a barrel on the scene for him to hide in, and pulls out his copy of the script as proof.
  • In the Drawn Together movie, when trapped in a slowly-filling underwater carriage and at a loss for what to do next, the housemates listen to the DVD commentary.
  • Disney's Aladdin: The Genie pulls out a copy of the movie's script and tries to feed Aladdin his next lines, which will have him use his third wish to free the Genie.
  • Inverted in the Taz-Mania episode "Retakes Not Included". Bull and Axl realise that they have digressed too long and that the plot has moved on without them. They flip backwards through the script in order to catch up and prevent Taz from eating a cute fluffy bunny.
  • In the Tex Avery cartoon King Size Canary, a mouse cautions an alley cat against eating him, explaining he'd seen the picture before and that he'd save the cat's life before it was through.

Serious examples:

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  • This kind of happens in the novel Lanark, when the title character meets the author and learns about some of the things that are in store for him.
  • In The Neverending Story, the Childlike Empress seeks out the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, who writes the book that contains all of Fantastica. She asks if he can look ahead in the book to see what will happen, and gets the reply, "Empty pages". There's nothing ahead in the book, because it hasn't happened yet.

    Live-Action TV