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.

Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • 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).

    Anime 
  • 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.

    Comics 
  • 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.

    Film 
  • 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 figure 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.
  • In Toy Story 3, a Cymbal-Banging Monkey is checking the daycare security monitors at night, without ever going to sleep.
  • In The Avengers, Tony Stark calls out a SHIELD Mission Control op for playing Galaga while on duty. The guy goes right back to playing the game after Tony leaves.
  • Played with in TRON Legacy: The security guard at the Encom building looks like your typical slacker, and when he notices a security camera glitching he taps the screen and it goes back to normal - when actually its being hacked by Sam Flynn. However, when Sam accidentally triggers a laser tripwire, the guard instantly responds, knowing exactly what to do, and goes so far as to call backup and police to the building.
  • The Art of War (2000). The security guard in the monitor room of UN Headquarters is actually asleep when he gets the call. To add insult to injury, The Dragon Neck Snaps him a few moments later. None of this is really his fault, as the villains worked in the building, so were already inside (they just want the freedom to kill a witness unobserved).

    Literature 
  • "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 shout-out to The Simpsons, 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.
  • Security guards watching TV instead of the security cameras has happened a lot in Leverage too. An egregious example in "The Two Live Crews Job", where several museum security guards are watching a sports game after the museum was locked down after Parker and her counterpart from the other crew steal one too many items from the chief of security. Yes, there are possible thieves about... and all of your guards are too busy to watch the cameras.

    Video Games 
  • 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 there doesn't need to be someone there watching the screens. It's said in dialogue that the security footage is checked electronically by a machine every hour and if nothing suspicious is seen on it then that hour's footage is erased. So in some sense Jake's logic makes sense... although one has to wonder how he wasn't fired seeing as how he pretty much skips work more time than he actually GOES IN, and 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 in itself ended up resulting in what was first thought to be a "murder" in the evidence room but was actually a fight.
  • In Emerald City Confidential, Jinjur, one of the army guards, falls asleep next to the prison entrance where the main character is being held. Jinjur assumes that no one can be quiet enough to get past her, but she doesn't count on the main character escaping when her footsteps are magically muted.
  • The trailer of Overwatch has the security too busy playing Hearthstone to notice the fight going on in the exhibit.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Happens twice in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In "The Blue Spirit", two Fire Nation soldiers are shown in a small hut looking out for the Avatar. They read the description of his abilities, including running at top speeds, and dismiss it as impossible. That is, until Aang is shown running past them at top speed. They then blow the horn to signal that they've found him. In a third season episode, two guards are shown complaining that nothing ever happens, until Aang slides past them. They then send a messenger hawk to alert their superiors, however the assassin Combustion Man takes the message from the hawk before it gets very far.
  • An early Family Guy Cutaway Gag revealed that Peter once worked security at George Harrison's house. He was busy watching Charles in Charge and dismissed the sound of a window breaking as Harrison partying or something... the night a crazed man broke in and stabbed Harrison over 40 times.

    Web Literature 
  • 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.

    Real Life