The Television Talks Back
"The weather man can hear them through the TV? Can the Care Bears hear everything? (leans in) Are you watching me, Care Bears?"It turns out that the people in the television can see and hear you, too, and talk back when you insult them. Usually Played for Laughs, but sometimes used for pure Paranoia Fuel. A variant is when somebody just pretends to be this, or the television turns out to be fake and the other person is in the same room. The prerecorded form of this is The Tape Knew You Would Say That. When children's television tries to do this, it's Fake Interactivity. There may be some overlap with The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You.
— Linkara, Atop the Fourth Wall, "Care Bears #13"
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- An old BUPA advert had a sports presenter telling a man in a pub that he could get treatment from BUPA for his medical condition.
- A Canadian Concerned Children's Advertisers PSA from around the 1990s had a computer-animated TV was talking about how people watch him all day or something like that, and that they should go outside and play. The TV was also annoyed at the end because a cat was sleeping on him. It also got annoyed because someone was flipping through the channels on the TV and it showed a news channel, a nature show and even ReBoot. (The ad was made by Mainframe Entertainment.)
- One commercial had a woman urging her husband to use a particular medicine, but him brushing it off. Cue the commercial-within-a-commercial talking about the medicine, and adding the man's name, Raymond, as an appositive.
Wife: Told you.
- A South African ad for spice had a certain woman's cooking smelling so delicious, that the news anchor on TV started to sniff, went to the camera, and then told said woman he liked that smell. He even went "No, don't" when the woman changed the channel while freaking out. Later on, she started to talk about it to her friends while they were eating the food she made.
- An ad for the Dish Network uses this. Three men are in their kitchen watching a news broadcast on the tablet they got when they signed up for the "Hopper" plan and the newscaster asks "Is your kitchen dangerous?" followed by the men moving to a treehouse and the newscaster announcing the danger of treehouses, then they're under the bed and the newscaster says they're not safe under the bed either.
Anime and Manga
- One of Satou's paranoid visions in Welcome to the N.H.K. includes talking with his TV set.
- In the first episode of Shugo Chara!, TV psychic Nobuko Saeki says that "guardian spirits are everywhere". Amu, watching the TV program with her younger sister Ami, doesn't believe it. The psychic immediately says that "anyone who thinks it's stupid will die". Amu wonders if the psychic was specifically addressing her, to which she says, "That's because I am!"
- In Kinnikuman, there's an instance when the television fights back; Kinnikuman sees a TV report on the new Japanese Choujin, the sumo wrestler Wolfman. Some jabs at Kin are made, and when the Idiot Hero makes an angry dive at the set, Wolfman knocks him away with a sumo slap that goes right through the screen.
- Urusei Yatsura features a story where the TV announcer tells the viewers that there'll be a party at Mendo's place. He yells at the television that he didn't say anything about a party, and the woman on TV cheerfully replies that "Televisions can't talk back to you, fool!"
- In Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, our hero can't figure out where the heroine is being held. He's watching a black-and-white Mad Scientist film, and the Show Within a Show villain says, "I'll just keep her in the lab downtown." Then the villain says, "Like I said, I'll just keep her in the lab downtown." Our hero keeps staring, and the Mad Scientist in the TV turns to face him and snaps, "Are you listening? I said I'll keep her in the lab downtown!" Cue very belated Eureka Moment.
- The Pink Panther has the inspector looking straight at the camera and going, "And I will find you, killer!"
- Pretty much the basis of the low-budget horror film The Video Dead, as it involves a cursed television set that unleashes zombies into the real world. One of the heroes also encounters a succubus-like enemy who tries to tempt him into the television set, followed by a monster hunter who defeats her and then warns the boy through the screen about the zombies who've already escaped from it. Demons 2 follows the same concept: whereas Demons had characters in an inescapable movie theater where the onscreen events came to life, its sequel was set in an inescapable high-rise apartment building, with demons crawling out of the televisions. The two films are similar in nature to zombie movies, as any character who is scratched, bitten, or killed by the demons will transform into one, and Gorn is emphasized.
- This happened in The Kentucky Fried Movie. A couple is watching a newscast. They start making out, and the newsman on the TV notices what they're doing. He calls over other people in the studio to watch, and by the end they're all cheering on the couple.
- Done in Xanadu, when Kira tries to prove she really is a Muse and uses her power to make a gangster on a tv show ask Sonny if he should off his captive or not.
- Used in the B-Movie Attack of the 50-Foot Woman as a sign of the title character's insanity. A newsreader begins taunting her about her husband's infidelity.
- Used in both Home Alone movies. After watching an old black and white gangster film in an earlier scene, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) uses the knowledge of the film's dialog to his advantage to scare away people who come to his door and can hear the audio. Probably the funniest scenes in the movies which don't involve Booby Traps.
- Not so much 'talking back', but a similar theme of television sentience: In The Ring, Naomi Watts' character walks up to the television whilst there's footage of a fly on screen. She's able to pick the fly up in her hands.
- In Better Off Dead, after Lane comes home from a rather horrible day at school, during which his math teacher asked for his permission to date his ex-girlfriend Beth, he walks past the TV, which is showing an episode of The Flintstones. Cue the camera focusing on the TV and Barney Rubble asking, "Hey, Lane, I was wondering whether you'd mind if I took out Beth."
- In The Game this is how Nicholas van Orton learns that his game has started: a doll in his room hides a camera, while a news broadcast—that was partially pre-recorded—gives him the facts.
- Debbie Harry's character disappears when going to check out Videodrome, then appears to Max in his TV, and asks for a kiss. He does...and then things start to get really bizarre. Brian O'Blivion also starts to converse with Max in this way later on. As with many events in the film, it's difficult to tell if/when this is actually happening.
- The Signal had a version of this that's different enough that it might not be the same trope: a mind-control signal broadcast over television causes viewers to go Ax-Crazy. Although viewers don't report receiving actual messages from the television, they stare at its static for hours at a time, as though hypnotized.
- In the 1967 Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967) is a very surrealist example: Le Chiffre is watching two hit men on a security monitor. One of them marches up until he's filling the screen, then smashes his arm through the monitor and shoots Le Chiffre in the head.
- The Osterman Weekend. A Coincidental Broadcast (actually a video feed) on the illicit use of Swiss bank accounts appears on television as part of the Mind Screw tactics being used against an alleged ring of traitors. At one point the CIA agent in charge uses the video feed to speak directly to the protagonist (who is working for him), only to have an Oh Crap! moment when the link won't turn off when someone else enters the room. The CIA then pretends he's reading a boring news report. Later on when the CIA man turns out to be the villain of the piece, he uses the television to taunt the protagonist, speaking to him and broadcasting live video of his friends deaths.
- The most famous non-comic example is the Telescreens from 1984, which serve as giant video phones. In every home, you must obey the Telescreen, and they can see if you're obeying. And you can't turn them off.
- In American Gods, Shadow gets into conversations with several TV sets. Justified in that one of the "new" Gods is "Media".
- Happens in Evil Star. Matt's weird-ass aunt starts taking orders from the host of Wheel of Fortune or something, eventually leading her to drive a truck full of kerosene into Matt's happy-wappy little school.
- Semi-utilized in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. The television in Purgatory don't actually talk to anyone, but they do have a news program which is specifically related to whoever watches it.
- Played straight in a Photon tie-in novel, In Search of MOM. The Master Programmer is playing a "video" for the Photon Guardians, to let them know how she and the two super-computers for each side of the conflict, came to be while she tracks down what happened to M.O.M. There comes a point where the "recording" mentions the two super-computers and how she named them (Multiple Operations Matrix/Diverse Activities Database, or "M.O.M. and D.A.D.") Parcival mutters to himself about what stupid names they are. The Programmer on-screen looks right at him and asks "Do you think you could do better, four-eyes?"
Live Action TV
- Happens in Eli Stone. Granted, that was a message from God, and therefore perfectly reasonable.
- In the I Love Lucy episode "Vitameatavegamin," Ricky returns home to find that Lucy is on TV, in a Phillip Morris commercial. And she can apparently see and hear him. That's when he realizes that she's literally in the television — she tore out the guts of the TV and is now standing inside it.
- Doctor Who:
- The episode "The Idiot's Lantern" has an evil... spirit-thing called "The Wire" that steals faces and screams at people.
- In the episode "Blink" The Doctor, in 1969, has a conversation with Sally Sparrow, in 2007, through a television and someone sitting next to Sally, writing the script, which is given to the Doctor later.
- Also used in "Silence in the Library", when the Doctor is messing around with some tech, trying to figure out how it works, and ends up on the little girl's television screen. They talk briefly before the connection cuts out.
- And in "The Girl in the Fireplace", the fireplace talks back!
- The Doctor appears as an extra in a Laurel and Hardy film playing on Amy and Rory's television set as they discuss how the Doctor appears to be trying to communicate with them through time. Neither of them notice the Doctor stepping from his place in a dance number to wave at them.
- One of the ways God communicates with Joan of Arcadia is via a television newscaster who speaks directly to her.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
- A man (who has been previously mistaken for someone named Michael Ellis) is watching a TV documentary about ants.
Chris: I didn't know ants had six legs, Marcus!Ant Expert: [speaking from TV] Well I can assure you they do, Mr Ellis.
- This also happens in the penguin sketch:
Newsreader: [on TV] It's just gone eight o'clock, and time for the penguin on top of your television set to explode.[The penguin explodes.]First Pepperpot: [watching the TV] How did he know that was going to happen?Newsreader: It was an inspired guess.
- A man (who has been previously mistaken for someone named Michael Ellis) is watching a TV documentary about ants.
- The Test Card Girl from Life on Mars, and several other TV hosts, including the narrator from Camberwick Green.
- Ashes to Ashes has done this.
- The Young Ones
- When a murderous young woman wanders into the house, this trope gets used with a radio. The newscaster at first announces that a dangerous murderess is on the loose, but as the boys all ignore his warning, he starts yelling at them specifically: "I've been trying to tell you for the last five minutes, that girl over there with her hands over Mike's ears is a murderer!" The radio eventually gets broken when it's used as a weapon in a Vyvyan/Rik squabble, and none of the lads ever notice its warnings.
- In an earlier episode, the television makes an announcement telling the viewers not forget to unplug their sets. Vyvyan asks why, and the television responds, "Because it'll blow up, you silly boy". Vyv waits in anticipation for a few seconds before deciding to play murder in the dark instead.
- And in another episode, when the guys turn on the TV to find it's already closing down for the night:
Rick: Shut up, you fascist Tories! No one tells me what time to go to bed!Royal Guardsman: [Appearing on TV screen] Go to bed, spotty.Rick: Blimey!
- In one episode of Angel there were demonic puppets sucking the life force out of children. They'd talk to children through a TV show and tell them to put their hands on the TV, and then the children would fall into comas.
- In a Mind Screw episode of Forever Knight, Nick Knight sees his vampire 'father' LaCroix on the television quoting from "The Walrus And The Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll, his face following Nick as he walks across the room.
- Jon Stewart is fond of claiming that he can see us too (and usually reminds us to "put some pants on"). In one example after Jon Stewart learned that Anthony Wiener talked about having sex while watching his show, he wondered if his audience were having sex right then and there. He then asks someone off stage to "hit the button that lets me see them" and is shocked at what he sees.
- Max Headroom does this regularly — unsurprisingly, given that televisions contain cameras in that 'verse.
- On Charmed, Cole used a TV psychic to communicate with Phoebe.
- Being Human: Saul keeps getting mysterious messages through newspapers and the TV prodding him to ask Annie out, which turns out to be part of a long-term plot to pull Annie into the afterlife.
- The Benny Hill Show features a sketch in which Benny Hill plays a news anchor who first gets distracted by the beautiful woman watching the news, then does a live report of her getting robbed in her appartment, and finally is injured when the robber fires at the TV.
- A prank in Surprise Sur Prise had a TV show demonstrating video calls through TV. The subject was first primed by having two actors surprised about being contacted by TV, before being contacted through the phone-through-TV. The prank finishes with a commercial that reacts to the subject not paying attention.
- In Oz Augustus Hill never interacts with the other characters while speaking as The Narrator, except for one occasion when Simon Adebisi is in the computer room high on drugs, and is dumbfounded to see Augustus on his monitor discussing the events of the episode.
- The French version of Candid Camera did it once to a prank victim watching Questions Pour Un Champion: Right as the guy found the answer to a question about a show where people are pranked on tape.
- The Haunting Hour episode "Sick" is about a kid who's having a fever dream (maybe) and believes that he's being menaced by a terrifying monster that's taken up residence in his house. As he's barricading himself in his room, the talk-show host on the TV flawlessly switches from discussing a random topic to speaking directly to the kid and warning him not to seal himself in. The talk-show host is the good guy, but the result still ends up being pretty creepy.
- In the Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, this is how Joan Rivers makes her guest appearance.note
- There was an entire level in Parappa The Rapper like this. Although it's a subverted as the TV host was literally right next to Parappa. (This fact is only revealed when you're doing badly, when you're in Cool Mode and at the end of the level (for which Parappa lampshades by pointing out how she managed to get out of his TV).)
- There's an entertaining version when playing as a Malkavian in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. The news anchor that comments on plot-relevant events will sometimes address the player character; early on in the game, the anchor describes the scene of a horrible massacre and follows it with, "And we know that it was you that did it" while staring directly into the camera. Later events in the game produce similar broadcasts; after reporting Johansen being kidnapped, the news anchor will dryly remark, in his usual smarmy monotone, "Police officials have gone on record as saying 'Don't worry, that crazy bastard will save him.'" A Malk can even have a full blown conversation with the television in his safe house. The anchor tells you a joke.
- The Television contact in City of Villains plays this straight, with your character getting missions from Bart Simpson, The X-Files, and other TV characters.
- One of the SCP items is a TV that plays a Deadly Game game show with whoever turns it on.
- The Loading Ready Run video Prepared Interview has someone give a taped interview as part of their job application. They talk to the interviewer.
- Zero Punctuation: "And you know who I blame for all this? You. Yes, you, ADRIAN. (That probably isn't your name, but it was worth it to freak out all the Adrians in the world.)"
- In GEOWeasel:
And later… people talking to their TVs and expecting answers. Tonight at eleven.
- In the Road Runner cartoon Roadrunner A-Go-Go (half of the proposed pilot The Adventures Of The Road Runner), Wile E. Coyote stops to talk to two boys who were watching the show and explains exactly why he wants to eat the Road Runner.
- In Garfield Goes Hollywood, the titular cat, Jon and Odie find out about Pet Search watching it on TV. This trope happens twice: one when they learn about the U$1000 prize ("One thousand dollars?" "That's right, one thousand dollars!") and again when they learn about the trip to Hollywood ("I can't believe it!" "Well, believe it.").
- This example involves a radio, but it's the same principle. In The Fairly OddParents, this happens in the episode "Boys in the Band" (Chip Skylark's first appearance) when Chet Ubetcha broadcasts on Timmy's radio.
- This one's pretty old: There's a gag in Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century about Marvin the Martian shooting Daffy through a TV screen, and the old W.C. Fields movie "International House" has Fields shooting Rudy Vallee the same way, after Vallee (on television) tells him "Hold your tongue and sit down!"
- Merrie Melodies
- It's used with a Police Radio in the 1936 short, "I Love to Singa."
- In the short "Cinderella Meets Fella," Cinderella's fairy godmother is late, so she calls the police. An APB is broadcast for the fairy godmother on the radio:
Cinderella: I do hope they find her.Radio officer: Don't worry, lady. We'll search every beer joint in town until we do!
- In the Gravity Falls episode "The Hand that Rocks the Mabel", Mabel is appropriately puzzled when a TV ad for "Gideon" apparently answers her question.
Mabel: What makes him so special?Announcer: He's a psychic!Mabel: Aroo?
- In "Tunnel of Glove" of Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick repeatedly says stuff is bad...only to say something that's food-related. The news reporter yells at Patrick after this happens twice.
- Used in The Angry Beavers, where the host of a show explains how Bears can eat beavers and will be driven to do so at the slightest taste of them. Beary questions if they actually believe that he's going to eat them, and basically everything he tries to do is then mentioned on the TV show as a sign that a bear is going to eat you, culminating in the host of the show appearing in person at their house insisting that he's right.
- On the animated version of Alf, people on the Shumway's tv often talk to the family as well as reach out and grab them from time to time.
- Happens on Jimmy Two-Shoes, often on one of the several Frank's 2000-Inch TVs that are all over Miseryville.
- In one episode of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, a movie monster personally greets Scooby and the gang, much to everyone's surprise. It quickly turns out that it's actually one of the thirteen demons possessing the TV set.
- In the X-Men episode, "Mojovision," Scott and Jean are at the mall trying to buy a new TV. Mojo then appears in one of the TVs, warning them not to change the channel. When the store manager attempts to do so:
Mojo: Hey, I warned you! (zaps him)
- Pac-Man features an instance of this with a radio in "A Bad Case of the Chomps":
Radio announcer: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this special bulletin!
Inky: Hey! We weren't listening to no broadcast!
Radio announcer: In that case, I'm interrupting you, so shut up!
- One episode of Phineas and Ferb has Major Monogram contact Perry the Platypus through the Flynn-Fletcher family's TV set. However, just after Agent P leaves, Lawrence comes in to wonder who Monogram is, forcing the Major to bluff that the 'show' is a telethon for finding the cure for Antidisestablishmentarianism. (And yes, the Fridge Logic is lampshaded) Not once does Lawrence wonder why the TV is talking back to him.
- Family Guy
Bruce: This is a strange episode.
- In one episode, the director of Quahog's theater troupe dies unexpectedly. During the TV report, Lois gets a phone call offering her the job, and the anchor waits expectantly for her to accept before reporting that she would be the new director. (It's possible that the person calling Lois to offer the job was in the newsroom, but with the anchor apparently looking at Lois, this trope seems more likely.)
- In a more straight playing of the trope, one episode had Peter have an argument with a character in the show True Blood. Lampshaded when the scene cuts to Bruce, watching the same episode at home.
- Happens in Darkwing Duck. When NegaDuck marches into a theater to watch an action movie, he gets annoyed when he realizes it's a Tastes Like Diabetes animated film about talking rabbits (one wonders how he missed the giant sign outside stating just that). He gets into an argument with the rabbits on the screen before dispersing them and the audience with a rifle. Then he proceeds to jump into the screen and roll out in a tank.
- Taz-Mania: In "Ticket Taker Taz", Molly's radio appears to be directly answering the questions she puts to it.
- This trope is how Captain Caveman sometimes talks to The Flintstone Kids.
- Zig-zagged in the Mighty Mouse cartoon "Cat Alarm." In a ruse the cats have conjured up to lure the mice out of Cheeseville, a cat with a mouse reporter puppet goes into Mighty Mouse's TV and issues an emergency:
Cat/Mouse reporter: We interrupt Mighty Mouse's vacation to bring him this urgent news flash. The Cheeseville Dam has burst!Mighty Mouse: The Cheeseville Dam?Cat/Mouse reporter: Yes, the Cheeseville Dam has burst, and millions of gallons of water are rushing towards the doomed city!
- This from the Heckle and Jeckle cartoon "The Rainmakers" when a TV reporter covers the drought precipitated when Jeckle wished it would stop raining forever:
Jeckle: I say...do you think I was the cause of all this?Reporter: (coming out of the TV at Jeckle) Yes! And what are you going to do about it??!
- Happens in the Popeye short "Spinach Packin' Popeye", when Olive hears the results of Popeye's boxing match on the radio.
Announcer: What an upset, ladies and gentlemen! Popeye the Sailor knocked out!Olive: HUH!?Announcer: I said Popeye the Sailor was knocked out!
- In "Cartoons Ain't Human," Popeye's nephews boo the villain in their uncle's homemade cartoon. The villain's face fills the screen and hisses back at them.
- From VeggieTales in the House:
Bob: I'm gonna see what else is on.
Announcer: Don't see what else is on! There is nothing else on!
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at one point April winks after thanking her saviors. The Turtles argue which of them she was winking at, when she clarifies that she was winking at Splinter.
Splinter: I must stop having those late-night sushi snacks.
- She winks at Splinter again in "Turtles Turtles Everywhere", after Splinter thanks her for inspiring them to clean up the lair.
- The Gandy Goose cartoon "The Exterminator" has Sourpuss listening to a radio commercial for P.D.Q. Exterminators (operated by Gandy himself):
Radio: Is your home free of mice?
Sourpuss: Why, sointenly!
Radio: Oh, yeah? Well, just look around, bub. (Sourpuss sees a mouse on top of the lamp)
- One of Penn & Teller's magic shows included a setup for this. They told how to force a card on the mark. Then Penn did a fake news video meant to be recorded and played back after the trick "fails". Penn stopped in the middle of the news, held the playing card to the camera and asked, "Is ''that'' your card?"