Surveillance Station Slacker
In a variety of jobs, a person has to be watching out for something important, poised and waiting for a certain emergency situation. For example, a big satellite dish could be constantly listening for any signal, any sign of life from the stars. Or it could be some sort of asteroid early-warning system, or it could even be an inbound-missile warning system on a space station. And in movies and tv, at the other end of all that surveillance equipment is a tiny shack/room absolutely stacked with computer equipment, one integral computer screen, and the Surveillance Station Slacker
. He's usually one guy (very rarely female) sat watching the readouts for weeks with absolutely nothing happening, in a state of utter boredom. Invariably this guy will be goofing off all day knowing that the screen will never bleep, eating pizza and watching a portable tv or something, and due to this is often portrayed as overweight.
If the computer screen DOES bleep all of a sudden, the alien signal IS picked up or whatever, the Slacker will quite often panic and not know what to do
, maybe even having to refer to an old set of instructions for this eventuality. He might even ignore the signal, putting it down to a faulty system, and just turn back to the tv.
The Slacker sometimes comes with a workmate/companion, someone to tell him to stop lazing about so much, who is often portrayed as a grumpy elderly man.
Often overlaps with Insecurity Camera
/Useless Security Camera
and The Guards Must Be Crazy
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- The long-suffering Maytag Repairman, sitting by the phone waiting for someone to call (the joke, of course, is that Maytag appliances never need repair).
- Two examples from Interstella 5555. At the start, three Blueskin soldiers are too busy watching a concert to notice the Big Bad landing troops, and near the end, the record company guards are too busy watching a soccer game to notice Octave sneaking in and attempting to steal back the group's memory discs.
- In the Image Comics series Chew, the Gardner-Kvashennaya International Telescope in Siberia has a $34 million-a-year budget to basically monitor a single mysterious planet light-years away. But since the telescope only needs $3 million-a-year to actually run, the scientists use the rest of the money to spend on whatever they want, and these things get extensively bigger, weirder, and more hedonistic as the scientists get bored with regular pleasures. Up until the protagonists arrive following an investigation, of course. Then all hell breaks loose.
- Independence Day. The man on duty at the S.E.T.I. Institute is playing Office Golf. A red light starts blinking and he goes over and flips a switch, which causes a series of tones to come out a speaker. He excitedly calls his boss on the phone and asks him to listen to the tones, and when the boss hears them he sits up in bed, bumping his head, then hurries to the lab. The signals turn out to be from an alien ship approaching the Earth.
- Contact, Jodie Foster doesn't really count, she's more like a protagonist version of this, but her 2 fellow scientists at SETI fit this trope perfectly.
- WarGames. Two U.S. Air Force officers are in a missile silo control room carrying out their standard routine - they're fairly bored and not expecting any problems. Suddenly there's an alert message from NORAD telling them to prepare to launch their missiles.
- Sneakers. A security guard who appears to be in his teens is sitting around in a bank late at night watching TV. All of a sudden the fire alarm goes off and he panics, scrambling around trying to find the instruction book and find out who to call.
- Monsters vs. Aliens begins with two technicians at an isolated base in Antartica monitoring for extraterrestial activity. When they detect some, one of them freaks out because he took the job specifically because he wasn't expecting to ever do anything.
- Interestingly, said "extraterrestrial activity" was just a meteor (full of quantonium, but still), so it shouldn't have even registered as a UFO. Those show up later.
- The Day After Tomorrow has that shack full of British guys who watch a football game rather than pay attention to their equipment.
- Subverted in Toy Story 3: the toy watching the cameras never sleeps. Ever.
- In The Avengers, Tony Stark calls out a SHIELD Mission Control op for playing Galaga while on duty.
- "Behind the Glory of the Heroes", a Star Fleet Battles short story in Nexus magazine #6. A female Starfleet officer monitoring a sensor console in a battle station is so bored that she starts daydreaming. She comes out of it when a star winks on her console, indicating that there's a ship approaching. She calls in the Officer of the Deck and together they determine that there are four Romulan ships approaching using their cloaking devices, preparing to attack.
- In the A-to-Z Mysteries book The Jaguar's Jewel, Dink's uncle forgets that his office has a security system even when a thief steals the titular jewel from his office. Leaving it up to our three heroes to find the video and decipher the clues.
Live Action TV
- "Homer," a one-shot character on The X-Files, who was a Simpsons shout-out, down to working a boring job in Sector 7G of a nuclear power plant.
- This was essentially Martin's job, as a graveyard-shift security guard in an office building in Frasier.
- The Day Today spoof about the swimming pool features a night watchman who spends his time doing puzzles and trying on abandoned swimming costumes, leading him to miss 40 people breaking into the pool and eventually one of them drowning. He defends himself saying, "I have been working here for 18 years. In 1975, no one died. In 1976, no one died. In 1977, no one died. In 1978, no one died. In 1979, no one died. In 1980, someone died."
- Lampshaded in Burn Notice when Michael states how surveillance duty is boring and how guards watching sports rather than keeping watch has led to a lot of victories for the enemies.
- In the Clone episode "The Ian Cam", the agents who are supposed to be monitoring the feed from the tiny camera implanted in Ian's eye are watching archived footage of Ian trying to flirt when Ian walks into the surveillance room. Once Ian knows about the surveillance, he proceeds to Bluff The Eavesdropper.
- Final Fantasy VII shows us the security camera guy at Shinra Building only for a few seconds, but we get the message he's bored out of his mind and does absolutely nothing. AVALANCHE sneaks effortlessly past his cameras.
- The Dig opens with a cutscene showing a tracking station in Borneo, whose operator (Steve Blum, playing a Southern Fried Genius) is on the phone to his "darlin'", explaining that the most interesting thing there is a day when it doesn't rain. Until an asteroid on a collision course with Earth shows up on his scope...
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has Jake Marshall who is the security officer in charge of the police department's evidence room. He goes beyond simply being a slacker seeing as how he only checks in at his post once every few weeks. He justifies this with the fact that the room has 24 hour surveillance by security cameras, so their doesn't need to be someone their watching the screens...although one has to wonder how he wasn't fired seeing as how he pretty much skips work more time then he actually GOES IN.
- It's said in dialogue that the security footage is checked every hour and if nothing suspicious is seen on it then that hour's footage is erased. Although it's hinted that the footage is checked electronically by a machine rather then manually. So in some sense Jake's logic makes sense... although not really, seeing as how if anything were to happen in the evidence room there would be no one there to stop it. Which incidentally ended up happening in the form of a murder. Although it's assumed that on this occasion, Jake was preparing to dress as Goodman and steal the SL-9 Evidence. Which ended up itself, resulting in what was first thought to be a "murder" in the evidence room but was actually a fight.
- The Veggie Tales episode "Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space!" has Jimmy and Jerry Gourd as two technicians whose entire job is to monitor the sky, and to turn on the Larry-Signal if they see anything from space approaching the city. In their one scene, Jerry sees the eponymous Fib on his monitor and freezes in panic—while Jimmy, completely oblivious, complains about how boring this job is, and how nothing ever happens.
- Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders has a trio of scientists who man a satellite station watching for evidence of extraterrestrial life. While not slobs, they're cynical about any hope of success and joke about the massive collection of static they've collected. Fortunately, they've found other ways to occupy the time.
- This is how Tommy and Chuckie got lost in the Toy Palace in Rugrats, despite the security system being top-of-the-line.
- Subverted in Stroker and Hoop, where Stroker is caught breaking into a high-security facility when he walks by the surveillance room and is held up by the guard manning it. He saw everything Stroker had done up to that point via the camera feeds. Stroker complains that the guard should have been watching a sports game or reading a skin mag, but it turns out this guy happens to like his job.
- In one episode of the Nick Knatterton animated series the bank of security camera monitors had a softporn video playing in the middle to keep the guard watching the cameras awake. That failed to keep him awake through the graveyard shift.
- Even appears in Thrythlind's New Seeds series; It's downplayed, however, as the characters actually DO act promptly when something goes wrong. A pity they're, essentially, in a horror movie.
- A job which is 90% waiting and 10% action can wear on you. Depending on the importance of watching what you are supposed to be watching, many employers allow employees to read a book or watch TV, provided they also keep an eye on the monitors, etc. Watch a security monitor showing an empty room for eight hours straight. Go ahead. The thing is, if something happens that employee better be on their toes. Usually one of the things being monitored on the monitors is the monitoring station itself, so if something does happen and goes unnoticed the manager can watch the tape and see if the employee was sleeping, engrossed in a book, or had been put out of commission by the ninja who snuck in.
- At least in civilian security posts, there can be a lag in officially updating the list of people to call in case of an emergency, or in updating details on procedures. There's times when names and numbers have been updated by whiting out the old information and writing the revision.
- In 2004, Guards at Caesar's Atlantic City Hotel Casino used their remote cameras to ogle women. The casino was fined $80,000 for the misuse of the system.
- During a Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, a Security Forces airman was caught playing a video game on his cell phone while standing guard over some nuclear weapons. The fact that he was dumb enough to do this during a major wing inspection was the subject of quite a bit of humor and head-shaking in the US military community.