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Subways Suck
Betty Ross: [Looking at a subway map] The subway is probably quickest.
Bruce Banner: Me in a metal tube, deep underground with hundreds of people in the most aggressive city in the world?
Betty Ross: Right. Let's get a cab.
[Cuts to them sitting in the back of a cab being driven by a very reckless Eastern European driver]
The Incredible Hulk

The message that many Sitcoms seem to send: subways (a.k.a. the Metro, the Underground) are always more trouble than they're worth. They're always breaking down and trapping characters inside for wacky, wacky antics or heart-felt learning and personal growth — in other words, you're Locked in a Room that just happens to have wheels, or trapped in a huge sideways elevator full of strangers. That's public transportation for you.

Combine this with the myriad problems with cars and you almost want to resort to going everywhere on foot, or on a bicycle. And don't even get us started on the Sinister Subway!

Could have something to do with where the entertainment is made —New York's subway is one of the oldest in the world and at various times has been so filthy as to get the nickname "The Electric Sewer", while L.A's subway (while the largest system in Southern Californianote ) is either ignored or abused by media as a setting for geological disasters (though this seems to be turning around).

Not to be confused as a Take That to the sandwich chain Subway.

Real Life subways that don't suck include (but are not limited to) The London Underground, New York Subway,note  Le Métro de Montréal, Le Métropolitain (in Paris), Washington Metronote  and pretty much every subway system in Japan. See World Subways for details.

Examples:

Comics
  • Tony Stark had to take subways while trying to lead a normal average-Joe type of life.
    Tony: I gave up limos for this?

Film
  • The Midnight Meat Train seems to be built around this trope. A killer is roaming the subways.
  • In The Warriors, it seems like they would be able to just take the subway home but every time they try they get jumped by another gang.
  • The Incident is about being stuck in a subway car with two punks who will do anything they can to insult and antagonize you, just because they can, made even worse by the fact that no other passenger will do anything to help.

Live-Action TV
  • The Odd Couple: In the episode, "The Subway Story", Oscar and Felix are trapped in the subway with a model, a pregnant dog, and a guy who cynically pretends to be blind to make extra money selling pencils. At the end, the not!blind guy gives Felix a puppy that he names Yawbus ('Subway' backwards.)
  • Seinfeld: "The Subway" Though all four characters ride the subway during this episode, Elaine is the only one unlucky enough to be on one that stalls, delaying her arrival at a lesbian wedding.
  • Boy Meets World "Train of Fools" The train breaks down on New Year's Eve ruining everyone's exciting plans.
  • Full House had "Subterranean Graduation Blues," where Jesse misses his high school graduation because he and the others got stuck on a subway, where he manages to convince another drop-out that it's never too late to go back.
  • Family Matters, with a L-train in a Christmas episode. Steve eventually teaches the grumpy passengers the true meaning of the holidays and they make a make-shift tree.
  • The Single Guy Jonathan eventually prys open the doors and braves the filthy underground tunnels trying to make it to freedom.
  • An episode of Ugly Betty involved Justin and his parents getting caught on a broken subway on the way to see the Broadway musical "Hairspray."
  • An episode of Becker featured Becker trying to help a lost woman on the subway, thus causing him to miss his appointments. Luckily though, the subway did NOT break down in this case.
  • Third Watch is an interesting case. The premiere of Season 3 was supposed to involve Faith and Fred Yokas stuck on a subway, with Fred having a heart attack. However this plot was shelved due to 9/11, and the decision to write that into the storylines. The plot resurfaced at the end of Season 3, except in a powerless apartment building instead of a subway.
  • A My Family Christmas Episode had the characters stuck on The London Underground when the train broke down.
  • On How I Met Your Mother Barney rides the subway immediately after finishing a marathon. Because he didn't do any training for the marathon, his legs go completely limp the instant he sits down and he's physically incapable of leaving his seat on the train.
    Barney: I've ridden the subway twice, end to end; I've seen where it turns around. Ted, you don't ever wanna see where the subway turns around.
    • In another episode (titled "Subway Wars") announcements made by a subway conductor are completely unintelligible over the garbled intercom. Lily claims that, because she's a native New Yorker, she can "speak conductor", but her interpretation of what the conductor said is always dead wrong; after hearing the train will be down for 20 minutes due to track maintenance she gets off, and it immediately peels out.
  • Sesame Street had a song regarding this trope, appropriately titled "Subway."

Music
  • "The Man Who Never Returned" (or just the "MTA" song) is a song about a man who is forced to live on the subway train when he can't afford to pay an exit fare on the Boston underground. His wife didn't seem to want him out though, since she passes him a bag lunch through the window every day, but can't she slip him a couple bucks to cover the added cost?
    • This was originally written as a campaign song by a candidate (Walter O'Brien) to point out the flaws in the system, so it's actually Truth in Television (exaggerated for effect).

Theatre
  • Averted in Linie 1, a German musical from 1989, set in the Berlin subway.

Webcomics
  • Greg runs into a bunch of foul tempered subway riders during his morning commute. They give him a widely used single fingered salute in this instance as seen here.
  • Least I Could Do devotes an arc to Rayne being forced to take the subway while his car is in the shop.

Western Animation
  • Even the animated show Hey Arnold! did this.
    Helga: There is no way I'm taking the subway!
    [Smash Cut to the Subway]
    Helga: I can't believe I'm taking the subway!
  • One episode of MTV's Downtown featured a battle-of-the-sexes train race of Chaka and Mecca versus Mat and Fruity to get to Coney Island. Chaka acts impulsively and takes random trains while Mecca is too spineless to stop her. Mat looks at the maps, makes a plan and firmly sticks to it despite Fruity's complaints, but all for nothing when their train line ends abruptly due to construction. Chaka and Mecca get there first, but only by cheating and taking a cab.
  • Rocko's Modern Life, "Commuted Sentence": Rocko's car has been impounded, and he must take public transportation to get to work. Since every day is a bad day for Rocko, this does not go well, and that includes the subway. He gets trampled by a bunch of business lizards, a laid-off postal worker goes crazy in the subway car (or at least feigns insanity so he can get some "swinging room"), and the subway is stopped for police activity. (Which is "Arts and Crafts"!)
  • A strange example is on a airplane in the episode Holidays of Future Passed in The Simpsons. In the future teleporters become the normal yet Maggie is stopped from using one at an airport as she is pregnant, so she has to use the plane. The plane is falling to pieces and piloted by an Axe Crazy man. Otherwise the plane fits negative stereotypes of subways: the interior is identical to a subway, with people cramped and standing, filthy and noisy, full of hobos, weirdos and people to poor to afford other transportation.
    • A more typical example occurs in "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" where Bart attempts to scam a bunch of indifferent New Yorkers while riding the subway. After licking a pole, he admits defeat.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King": Temple Fugate has his first encounter with Mayor Hill in the Gotham subway. Seven years later, he will invoke the Sinister Subway with a Trainwreck Episode.


Steam Never DiesRailroad Index'Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder
Subverted Rhyme Every OccasionComedy TropesSuch a Phony
Subtitles Are SuperfluousAdded Alliterative AppealSuccess Symbiosis

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