This is when Chekhov's Gun
has been fired enough to turn into a cliche. Basically something will happen in a show, and a Genre Savvy
viewer knows what is going to happen next.
Let's say some woman buys a new dress. If it's fancy enough, and she gushes over it, that dress is getting wrecked
. Or say a guy has a fear of flying even if that is never shown before
. Odds are he is going to get over it by the end (except when you're being ironic
in the Alanis Morissette sense
This is especially common in Strictly Formula
fiction, but it doesn't necessarily hurt the story
. That of course depends on the skill of the writer.
Note this is strictly when the clue is in the fiction itself. If the clue is meta to the story, it's another trope.
Let's say Sgt. Bilko in The Phil Silvers Show
has a Get Rich Quick Scheme
. Even if we know it's not going to work, it doesn't count because it's what always happens on the show
. Now if he had a certain part of his plan that made it clear exactly how the plan would fail, that would be this trope.
Or let's say Dr. House
thinks he's solved the latest disease mystery. If the only clue that he hasn't solved it yet is the fact that the episode is only half over, that is not this trope. That is Spoiled by the Format
Or if you're watching anything from Joss Whedon
and you just know
that the characters will be throwing Buffy Speak
left and right, the Happily Married
couple will implode or that the most likeable Mauve Shirt
in the bunch will be Killed Off for Real
in a horrible fashion. Or playing a BioWare
game and can spot your future party member three levels before they actually join, or things are going so well at Act 2 that you're just waiting on The Reveal
to throw everything straight to hell? Nope, that's Signature Style
Also note that if the characters are aware of what is going to happen, that is Lampshade Hanging
. When the supposedly telegraphed trope fails to appear, that's a Subverted Trope
is a subtrope of this, and covers characters saying something that dares the universe into making things miserable for them, with the universe happily complying.
Finally, examples shouldn't be specific, so much as be just about the clue, and what is going to happen next.
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- A sporting event is coming up on a teen sitcom. The good guys will win at the last minute, usually with help from the last person anyone expects, leading to An Aesop about friendship and teamwork and so on.
- Unless it's the one-off about being a good loser or something. If that's the case, then the episode will usually begin with the loss rather than having it at the end.
- A character has two similar-looking items, but mixing them up would lead to a major Fee Fi Faux Pas or worse. He WILL get them mixed up.
- A good guy and a bad guy are synchronized. There will be a Heroic Sacrifice before the end.
- Swords over a fireplace, where any characters have any sword experience whatsoever, or even if they don't, as in How I Met Your Mother. There will be a sword fight, almost certainly with lots and lots of Flynning
- Although it is Just for Fun, the page on How to Survive a War Movie has a good number of examples as well.
- Hot chicks are swarming the music star. At least one will be underage and lying about it and/or will sue for paternity within the next nine months.
- The guy being interviewed in the heart-wrenching human interest piece about drugs will overdose.
- It's early in the show and a potential disaster looms. It's going to happen.
- Two people are having sex. They are unmarried and really enjoying it. One or both will die. If it's one, the survivor will be accused of the other's death.
- If a Wild Teen Party is being thrown at a house with a pool, someone is going to be involuntarily thrown in with their clothes on before the end of the night. 50/50 chance between the lead and the Alpha Bitch.
- If a wedding ring appears at ANY TIME before They Do, that sucker is going on an adventure.
- A pure girl is ill. Her illness is constantly brought up. And she isn't an action heroine or anything. Surprise surprise, she's going to die.
- You know something's up when a Monster of the Week is defeated early into an episode.
- The Disney Ducks Comic Universe practically has its own private set of Undead Horse Tropes, elements that have been used to death and back again during the trillions of stories so far. For example:
Donald Duck: "Hey, I have this problem."
Gyro Gearloose: "You're in luck, I just invented something that will help you with that."
"That's cool, can I borrow this?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever."
- Lampshaded like hell in Last Action Hero, where in-universe action movie plot is Strictly Formula to its Genre Savvy young viewer. This continues to be brought up during his visit within the movie's universe.
- In Urban Legend, familiarity with the urban legends involved can spoil the experience. The "Aren't You Glad You Didn't Turn on the Light?" sequence is particularly foreshadowed.
- In any movie featuring a monster, natural disaster, terrorist attack, supervillain or other flamboyant menace disrupting a public celebration, whoever is in charge of a community (usually the mayor) will refuse to listen to any warnings, either because cancelling the event will make him/her look weak and/or get bad press, or because cancelling it will be bad for the local economy. Of course, the predicted catastrophe will occur, and if the authority figure doesn't repent immediately, he/she is due for a Karmic Death at the hands of whatever he/she had dismissed. This trope becomes more enforceable the lower the prestige of the film, and ironclad if it's a TV movie.
Live Action TV
- Oh look, the Cranes are throwing a party. Cue A Simple Plan, with the occasional Fawlty Towers Plot.
- For at least the first few seasons, if an attractive woman showed up on Two and a Half Men for one or two episodes, if Charlie wasn't sleeping with her, Alan would be.
- A big-name guest star is on one of the Law & Order shows (Particularly The Mothership or SVU). If this star isn't the victim or the defense lawyer, (s)he's the perp. Criminal Intent likes to disrupt the curve by offering up multiple guest stars.
- If there's a courthouse Perp Walk, there's a 50/50 shot of a Vigilante Execution. If it's at the halfway point of the episode or 55-minute mark, the only question is who's going to pull the trigger.
- If, on nearly any episode of Monk, something is given somewhat significant notice, it will be used to solve the crime.
- Oh, look, the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers are showing interest in a topic or issue that they usually don't. I wonder if the Big Bad in the moon will find some way to turn it into or summon an appropriate monster, inadvertently teaching them a valuable life lesson on the issue in the process.
- One of the girls on Sister Sister just got two hot dates. Everyone knows there'll be a Twin Switch coming.
- The First 48: The police have a suspect in interrogation. Is his face blurred? If the answer is "yes", he's not getting arrested.
- Dr. House has a new patient with a mysterious ailment. Said patient has a minor symptom that is mentioned, dismissed as irrelevant, and not mentioned for the next 30-40 minutes. Bet you ten bucks House's brilliant final diagnosis is based mostly on that one symptom.
- Spoofed in That Mitchell and Webb Look's "Get Me Hennimore!" sketches, parodying old A Simple Plan sitcoms. Bumbling assistant is given two incredibly easy-to-confuse tasks by his oblivious boss, who has to leave the office for some contrived reason - Gilligan Cut to the inevitable chaos that the boss comes back to.
- Exploited by Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger. The protagonist's vast knowledge of Super Sentai tropes allows him to notice when something happens during a battle that leads to the heroes winning, cuing the team to start turning the tables.
- Subverted in season 2's episode 11: Malshina has performed a Hostile Show Takeover on the Super Sentai series and altered the real world to one in which evil wins and all these "flags" are reversed, resulting in Delu-Knight winning a battle after doing a bunch of things that would make him lose. Later, Nobuo exploits this fact by doing the same thing.
- On Perry Mason, in the period at the beginning of the episode where the murder hasn't happened yet, if someone says anything along the lines of "I'll kill you" to another person, the second person will end up dead pretty soon and the first person will be the prime suspect (and hence Perry's client). In court, if Perry asks to reserve the right to recall a witness, it's likely that said witness is the killer.
- The Polish drama show Trudne Sprawy (and its almost-identical twin, Dlaczego Ja). Is one of the characters alone in their house, with nothing threatening going on right now, and suddenly there's a knock on the door (helpfully pointed out by the narrator)? With 99% probability it's a policeman (or two), arriving to relay the news that one of the protagonists' family members has been accused of a crime.
- The love interest girl or Unlucky Childhood Friend or just a childhood friend in an Eastern RPG is a playable character. If she doesn't eventually leave permanently, there will be a two-hour stretch where she isn't playable, either by kidnapping or for some other reason.
- You just got a really cool new party member in an RPG. But what's this? You can't change their equipment or customize their abilities? You've just met a Guest Star Party Member, and there's about a 90% chance they'll be Killed Off for Real soon.
- You suddenly find a whole bunch of health and ammo, or a Save Point, at the end of a long coridoor. You check your map and notice the next room is large and empty-looking. Surprise! There's a Boss Battle coming!
- You get into a boss fight after a very dramatic build-up, and your attacks only do Scratch Damage. It's a Hopeless Boss Fight, and you have to lose in order to progress the story.
- You've arrived at the end of a really ominous-looking dungeon, the characters give a Rousing Speech about this being the final battle and you're about to enter the apparent Big Bad's lair... but there are still places on the map you haven't explored, and your completion percentage isn't anywhere near 100 despite making an effort to collect everything and do every sidequest so far. Is it no surprise you're up against a Disk One Final Boss?