We Interrupt This Program

Our hero is plonked in front of his or her favourite show when the show is suddenly interrupted, whether by inside or outside forces, to deliver a (usually) shocking and/or plot-relevant announcement.

See also This Just In, where it's a news program that interrupts itself for this purpose. See Emergency Broadcast for a common way this happens in Real Life.


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  • In Apollo 13 this happens, but Ken Mattingly just misses it— he turns the TV off to go to bed and only finds out when NASA sends someone to his house (he'd also taken his phone off the hook).
  • In Without Warning (1994), this is pulled on the viewer: The beginning is a murder mystery, itself titled Without Warning, which turns out to be a Fake-Out Opening and is quickly interrupted by a special report (the main plot presented as a Phony Newscast).

    Live Action TV 
  • In The Young Ones, a BBC radio broadcast gets interrupted to deliver the guys some vitally important news. Naturally, they don't notice.
  • In Mission: Impossible episode "Ultimatum," this trope was invoked by the IMF in conjunction with Coincidental Broadcast. The target of the sting was not Genre Savvy enough to question the coincidence that his music program would be repeatedly interrupted with information directly relevant to his own situation.
  • Recently used in Saturday Night Live in skits where their version of the founder of Wikileaks statics out someone else's broadcast to send his message.
  • Before The Cape was released, radio ads for it were released which started with music and interrupted it with a fake news broadcast in this fashion.
  • Svengoolie's show starts with an announcement: "Calling all stations! Clear the airlanes, clear all airlanes for the big broadcast!"
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus did this as a gag in one episode where a regular program is interrupted with "We interrupt this program to annoy you and makes things generally irritating for you." and later with "Good evening. We interrupt this program again, A, to irritate you, and B, to provide work for one of our announcers." which then is followed by a a very nervous new announcer doing his job, get a pep talk from his colleagues and having a congratulatory cocktail afterward.
  • Happens inThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air while Phil and his law partners are watching a football game a new program interrupts. Helps Phil find out that Will and Carlton were arbitrarily arrested and jailed.

  • Doctor Steel's song, "Greedy", starts out with a news bulletin about three escaped prisoners of an insane asylum (one of them, we gather, is Dr. Steel).
  • Weird Al's "Why Does This Always Happen to Me?" begins with a news report of a devastating earthquake which interrupts the show our narrator is watching. He sighs about the cruelty of fate — because he was recording it and everything.

  • Orson Welles' 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast begins with a weather report, then a music show featuring "Ramon Raquello and His Orchestra", and transitioned in this fashion to the news bulletins that started the main story.

    Theme Parks 
  • In The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, the Sinister Syndicate cuts off all the TV signals in the city to broadcast their demands for New York to surrender, with Hobgoblin even saying, "We interrupt this program to give you a special report!..."

  • The first episode of They Hunger had the radio station interrupt to inform about "unknown atmospheric phenomena". As the player learns, it turns out to be lightning that creates (some) of the zombies of the game, when it strikes the graveyard at the nearby church.
  • In Liberal Crime Squad, you can liberally sneak into the conservative AM Radio Station or Cable News Studio, and liberally discuss a randomly chosen conservative issue, liberally helping it getting more liberal. You can also do the same by liberally gunning your way through the conservative security.

    Web Original 
  • The short film Batman: Dead End starts with this sort of a news broadcast about the escaped Joker.
  • The Strong Bad Email "senior prom" from Homestar Runner begins with this. "Let the King have some!"
    • "The King of Town's Very Own, Quite Popular Cartoon Show" eventually became an actual episode. "For reals this time!"
  • The popular PowerThirst skit had, "We interrupt this advertisement to BLOW YOUR MIND."
    • Bonus points in that it was interrupting itself.

    Western Animation 
  • In Courage the Cowardly Dog, the intro starts as one of these.
  • MAD has this as a Couch Gag.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures had a short where Buster's video game was interrupted for a announcement.
  • In Freakazoid!, during the scene in "The Chip" where Dexter presses the Delete key and inadvertently starts the process that turns him into Freakazoid, right when the music ramps up, right before his finger touches the key... "We interrupt this program to increase dramatic tension. (beat) Now, back to our program!"
  • The Secret Show begins by interrupting The Fluffy Bunny Show and taking its timeslot.

    Real Life 
  • CBS famously interrupted As the World Turns to report on the shooting and eventual death of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. You can watch the whole thing unfold here.
  • In series 38, episode 7 of Have I Got News for You, a crew member walked up to Ian Hislop and whispered in his ear. Ian then announced that cabinet minister James Purnell had just resigned, just as the panel were discussing the various cabinet resignations that had occurred during that week.
  • The live broadcast of Quatermass 2005 had an on-screen graphic displayed twice, advising viewers that a major news story (the death of Pope John Paul II) was being covered on BBC News 24.
  • This also happens whenever Royals die in the UK; Normal programming is either interrupted by the picture of the Union Jack and sombre music, or a message telling viewers to change to a news channel. Such events are also likely to disrupt regular programming for the rest of the day. Although it wasn't expected, a good example of both this trope and This Just In is how British Channels responded to the death of Princess Diana.
    • Which is very annoying because after the first hour they had absolutely no new news whatsoever, and because EVERY SINGLE OTHER CHANNEL was telling you to turn to the news channels, you couldn't escape.
  • Obviously happened on September 11, 2001. You can find plenty of footage on YouTube and it's especially eerie to see how "normally" the day started. Some regular programs took days to come back on the air.
  • "Turnabout Intruder", the last episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, was pre-empted by the death of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It didn't air until two months later.
  • During a live broadcast of Monday Night Football in 1980, John Lennon's assassination was announced on-air by commentator Howard Cosell.
  • It isn't to say that a children's movie is important, but outrage ensued from angry parents on social media when NBC interrupted their airing of an American Girl film in favour of a news report on the Trayvon Martin case.
  • Cable news channels have become infamous for overusing and inverting this trope - MSNBC uses a "Breaking News" graphic for the top-stories update at :38 after the hour in prime time, Fox News once broke in on a live-on-camera interview with a U.S. Senator to show Justin Bieber being perp-walked after a routine court hearing.
    • On this or a similar occasion, Shepard Smith called out on air the ridiculousness of devoting the breaking news graphic for celebrity news.
  • In Russia, both today and during the Soviet-era, classical music being played on all official channels has become recognizable as shorthand for "something terrible has happened." When Chernobyl happened, all radio played classical music for two days until the official announcement was prepared.
  • The second-to-last episode of the Japanese series Ressha Sentai ToQger was interrupted by a newscast about the death of a Japanese journalist at the hands of the terrorist group ISIS.