They did it again with the trailer for the second half of Season 3. Somewhat disappointingly, fans fell for it.
They did something similar with the fifth episode of the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra. The trailer made it seem like it would be about the pro-bending tournament. The episode focused on the series Love Dodecahedron. The internet promptly exploded.
The trailer for the finale of The Legend of Korra had a blatant lie. The trailer showed a clip with Amon saying that he would rid the world of bending forever that night. The actual clip revealed that the trailer left out the word "air", changing the whole meaning of the line.
In addition, the trailer excited the fandom with the close-up shot of Korra towards the end, making it appear that she would enter the Avatar State a lot earlier than she did.
The commercials for upcoming episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force always use actual clips from the episode, but often show them out of context, out of order and with misleading narration.
The preview for the South Park episode "200" was shown to be a simple class-action lawsuit by most of the celebrities who appeared on South Park. It turned out to be much more epic than that.
In Asia, there was a Cartoon Network trailer for The Woody Woodpecker Show which consisted entirely of classic Woody clips, as though CN was going to put more classic toons on, a reverse of the trend which has seen classics dwindle to just Tom and Jerry. It turned out to be the 1999 cartoon. (A change in station graphics package resulted in a more accurate promo using clip from the newer Woody. Incidentally, CN Asia did add another classic a few months later: various incarnations of The Pink Panther Show.)
Some commercials for the Happy Tree Friends DVDs make it look like a harmless happy-go-lucky kids show. Anyone who watches the show or internet shorts will tell you otherwise, the footage usually consisted of the first few minutes/seconds of the cartoons.
The trailer for Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder features a clip of Professor Farnsworth lamenting that Planet Express is closing down, making it seem as if this is a major plot-point. However this scene mostly just exists to lampshade the fact that Fry, Bender, and Leela haven't worked for the entire movie and is directly before the company is hired for a huge job that Farnsworth just has Hermes, Zoidberg, and himself do it instead.
There's also a part in the trailer where Zoidberg declares Fry is dead, and it's played for dramatic value. In the actual movie, this happens in the first ten minutes, and a couple seconds after Zoidberg says it, it's revealed he was only knocked down, albeit in pain.
Granted, the mere fact that the "death" scene is shown in the trailer is a strong hint that it's a bait-and-switch, since, if it were real, it would be far too important a plot point to be spoiled in the trailer.
A Network Ten (Australia) advertisement for the Simpsons episode "Mommy Beerest" (where Marge takes control of Moe's bar) made it look like a Lost parody, cleverly putting scenes together and putting in an image of the Lost logo with Simpsons characters.
Their promo back in the early 90s for the episode Brother from the Same Planet had Bart's line "Tom's a better father than you ever were" over Homer bawling his eyes out, implying a somewhat emotional episode, but anybody who's actually seen it will know Homer in that scene was actually crying about record clubs jacking up prices.
There was also a more recent episode that was hyped as having Metallica as its guest stars. They were only on screen for about thirty seconds.
The previews and TV guide ad for The Simpsons episode "Fear of Flying" all focused on the Cheers "reunion" (Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, Woody Harrelson, George Wendt and John Ratzenberger appeared reprising their roles from Cheers). In actuality, that was an extremely minor throwaway joke that had no bearing on the plot.
The previews for yet another episode hyped up the guest appearance from Glee cast members. They were shown singing and the episode was even called "Elementary School Musical", implying a musical-themed episode. Turned out, the Glee cast members were only around for about a minute or two and just had a few lines. There were only one or two musical numbers.
The TV ad for the episode "Helter Shelter" referred to the Simpson family getting a reality show, then a scene that showed Homer on a toilet that fell through the ceiling and saying "Hey, I'm in here!" while a "RECORDING" icon flashed in the corner as if that was part of the reality show. Instead, the toilet falling through the floor was home damage that the Simpsons joined a reality show to pay for - and rather than a manic dysfunctional-family based show a la The Osbornes (or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for modern viewers), it was a parody of PBS's 1900 House called 1890 House, in which The Simpsons had to live as it it were 1890.
SpongeBob is a well-known example. The previews for the hour-long SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Truth or Square?" featured Spongebob saying "Remember the day Sandy and I got married?" and shows the other characters reacting with shock, making it look like the episode is about Spongebob and Sandy getting married secretly. In reality, the episode is just about the characters getting lost in the Krusty Krab and having random flashbacks about different things. Spongebob and Sandy getting married is just one of those flashbacks, it is only shown for about a minute, and it turns out that Spongebob and Sandy are just getting married in a play.
Technically they are married since the priest didn't know it was a play.
The previews for another special "The Clash of Triton" led us to believe that Neptune locked his son in a magical cage thousands of years ago because he was out of control and caused destruction and chaos throughout the sea. Turns out he was locked in the cage because he was the opposite of that and actually liked mortals. Instead of being Sealed Evil in a Can, Triton became evil because he was sealed away.
Well, a jerk anyway.
It also led us to believe that the episode was about SpongeBob doing battle with Triton to save the sea but it wasn't until half the episode was over until Triton started terrorizing the town. Furthermore, the only heroic thing SpongeBob did was free Neptune so he could stop Triton, and that only took a few minutes.
In general, the creators love making the episode sound far more exciting than it actually will be. It's become extremely predictable that whenever they say the Krabby Patty formula will be revealed, they're not telling the truth.
The promos for "Mystery With A Twistery" made it seem like somebody other than Plankton stole the Krabby Patty formula. Nope, it was Plankton as usual.
The special even dropped the "Mystery" gimmick for the second half of the episode.
All 30-minute so-called "specials" aren't really specials. They're just normal episodes promoted as specials to grab ratings.
"Best Day Ever" is probably the worst offender of this practice. It was hyped up to the point where viewers are expecting something spectacular and even had a 100 EPISODE MARATHON leading up to it. When we finally saw it, it was just a standard-length 11-minute episode with a story that's not even special-worthy. This episode went on to become one of the most disappointing SpongeBob episodes of all time.
Promos for "Atlantis Squarepantis" totally left out the fact that the episode is a musical.
This trailer for The Venture Bros. is intentionally misleading by showing clips from the episodes out of context.
Family Guy tend to do this a lot recently, especially with episodes featuring an A-Plot with Meg or Chris and a B-Plot with Brian and Stewie. The promotional image for "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven" was Stewie with the ST:TNG cast, as well as the summary. six minutes onto the episode, Peter announces that it's going to be a Meg Episode (although in the end it was more about Brian). The Star Trek cast got like one or two lines each. Another similar example is Stew-roids. All the promotional images and summary were about Stewie muscling up note which, by most accounts, would have made a better plot, and implied that the story involving Chris, Meg and Connie was a minor subplot.
Another episode "April In Quahog" had been advertised as a cross over episode dealing with the end of the world and the Griffins interacting and teaming up with the cast of The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and American Dad!, this does not happen. Instead, the end of the world plot turns out to be a hoax set up by Tom and Diane and the rest of the episode deals with Peter attempting to be a better father when he admits that he doesn't like his kids.
The ads showing the episode as a crossover were for an April Fools joke.
A similar situation where a bunch of FOX promos talked about a hurricane that ends up involving the cast of Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad!. While the plot of all three shows does involve the same hurricane, the only crossover moment is the last minute or so of American Dad.
The trailer shows Meg riding a horse wearing a pink bra and panties and another scene with Stewie on the couch in a pink bikini. In the episode, both are naked in these scenes.
The previews for 12 and a Half Angry Men claimed that Brian and Stewie would try to clear Mayor West's name after he's framed for murder. While Brian does do that, the episode was not a Brian & Stewie episode. Instead of Brian doing detective work like previews showed, the episode was a Whole Plot Reference to 12 Angry Men.
The previews for Screams of Silence: The Brenda Q story only showed one of the few comedic moments of the episode (The "Iraq Lobster" cutaway. The episode itself however, is one of the most darkest and serious eps of the series, more of a drama than anything (though admittedly, that would be hard to put in a promo)
The standard preview snippet for Growing Up Creepie shows a misleading scene of Creepie discovering her friends in giant cocoons, horror movie-style. This attention-grabbing moment comes from a campfire story.
A case whre the trailer was more misinterpreted than outright lying, from Winx Club Season 4: The trailer for ep 24 showed Sky slumped on the ground in disappointment. Many viewers interpreted it as that Bloom would be mortally injured by the Black Circle wizards, but would then be saved by the Black Gift (the Chekhov's Gift that they had gotten in ep 23), and/or there would be some sort of dilemma between using it on her or Duman. Wrong on all counts: It was Nabu who got injured, Duman was destroyed long before the Black Gift came into play, and the remaining wizards took it away.
One episode of Drawn Together claimed that two characters would be caught on tape making out, with scenes of Spanky and Clara kissing. This was technically true...in the sense that everything that happens on the show is "caught on tape." The same trailer claimed that "Somebody dies," which is accomplished in the last thirty seconds when a bunch of aliens randomly bursts in and vaporizes everybody, only for them to turn up alive the next episode, as usually happens on this show.
The season two opener also claimed a major character would be Killed Off for Real, with images of the rest of the cast at their grave (which also turned into a case of Trailers Dropping Major Hints, since everybody but Wooldorf and Tootie were there). On the episode Wooldorf seems to die, but halfway through the episode turns out to be Not Quite Dead. Then another character dies, but she had been introduced that episode.
Wakfu suffers from this, presumably because its erratic airing schedule justifies trying to make each next episode look as Crazy Awesome as possible. A specific example is the trailer for episode 16, which included frames of a character surrounded by flames, wielding his demonic sword and screaming with black tendrils growing up his arms, which led fans to believe that he would finally lose control of his demon in a much more dramatic way than previously shown. In the actual episode that scene only served to make him look cool.
A promo in December 2010 for The Cleveland Show pulled this. Not only was it promoted as a special hour-long episode (it wasn't, it was just two back-to-back new episodes) but the trailer promoted the appearances of Peter, Quagmire & Joe, who only appeared in the second of the two episodes, and for maybe five minutes, having no bearing on the real plot.
An advertisement for a different episode of the show hyped up that the actors from Glee were guest-starring and made it seem like they would be a major part of the plot. Turn out, each actor only got one short line, and they only showed up in a brief scene where Cleveland was watching TV.
Transformers: The Movie (1986) had a 4 minute trailer which was 100% footage that was either cut or changed in the actual movie.
The Season 2 finale did this entirely intentionally. The "Royal Wedding" episodes were very heavily hyped in much the same way that a celebrity wedding might be hyped up, with lots of clips of wedding preparations, reception photos, and that sort of thing. Hardly any of the preview material even hinted that the bride has been kidnapped and replaced by an imposter whose army descends on Canterlot during the ceremony, complete with copious amounts of action and horror. Most of the preview clips were taken from the last five minutes of the episode, after the actual plot had been resolved. One preview screenshot even turned out to be different from the actual episode, with the groom looking happy and not having Mind-Control Eyes.
The Series 3 promo video had a big one. It showed a clip of a clone Pinkie saying "Becha can't make a face crazier than THIS!" and making a face like a G3 pony, with Rarity and Fluttershy gasping in horror. In the actual episode the Pinkie makes the face to another Pinkie clone, before they both get blasted out of existence by Twilight's magic. So there's still a bit of Self-Deprecation, but not as blatant as was made out to be.
Promos for the season 4 premiere featured a clip of Twilight Sparkle looking on in horror as Luna shouts "There can only be one princess of Equestria!", implying that Luna was angry at Twilight for having ascended to princesshood. In the context of the episode, Luna was speaking to Celestia; as the scene was a flashback to Celestia using the Elements of Harmony to imprison her sister, Twilight was actually reacting to Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon.
The Season 4 episode Bats! was built up to be about a vampire fruit-bat infestation which caused tension between Applejack and Fluttershy over how to get rid of them. This lasts for not even half the episode, and then Fluttershy is turned into a a vampire fruit pony.
In the Adventure TimeChristmas Episode, the trailers portrayed it as some sort of Clip Show with cool sweaters. Most of the actual episode is focused on Finn and Jake trying to interpret the actual tapes. The sweater scene doesn't occur until the end, after Finn and Jake discover the Ice King was a former human.
The trailer for "Princess Monster Wife" presented it as some sort of mystery episode in which Finn and Jake are on a quest to find the princesses' missing parts, and made it seem like it would focus more on Finn, Jake and the Princesses than on the Ice King and Princess Monster Wife. "Blatant Lies" could have never been more of an understatement.
The trailer for "Burning Low" plays out like a soap opera Love Triangle where Princess Bubblegum is getting concerned about Finn and Flame Princess getting together, especially the part when Princess Bubblegum gasps "No!" as Finn and Flame Princess are about to kiss. Turns out the reason she was concerned about them was actually because Flame Princess could potentially destroy the world if Finn kisses her.
Somewhat inverted with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003). The show had an advertisement for the last part of the two-parter "Exodus" which said that one of the characters wouldn't be seen again after said episode. And they were both right and wrong about that: Ch'rell, the Utrom Shredder, wasn't seen again after said episode until Turtles Forever came along.
Additionally, the trailers for "Exodus" claimed that the 2-parter would be a huge 3-way battle between the Turtles, Shredder, and Bishop. Although his part is vital, Bishop overall only briefly appears in the entirety of the episode.
Similarly, Chaotic had a promo for part 1 of another two-parter, "Castle Bohdran or Bust". The trailer also said that one of the characters would never be seen again. Of course, said trailer ended up being wrong on all accounts.
Parodied in Phineas and Ferb. One episode ends with an action-packed trailer for an episode called "Meapless in Seattle". Once the episode finally aired, it began with the narrator telling the audience that the trailer was actually just a joke, but the fanbase took it seriously, so they were forced to make an episode incorporating all those seemingly unrelated moments from the trailer. The episode satirizes the trope big time by featuring contrived moments. As a result, when scenes from the trailer appear, they're almost always taken out of context or immediately followed with a joke that deflates the whole thing. For example:
The episode ends with another trailer for an episode they have no intention of making, which hasn't stopped some fans from hoping to see "Meap Me in St. Louis".
Commercials and promos for Garfield and Friends rarely show footage of the B show, U.S. Acres, and focus instead on the Garfield parts. Out of all of these promos on the internet,two actually showed US Acres clips in them: this promo for Nickelodeon's broadcasts (Booker writing on the title screen from the opening), this commercial for the DVDs (Orson, Roy, Wade, Booker and Shelldon landing on the ground from the opening), this promo for CITV's broadcasts (self-explanatory) and this promo for The Children's Channel's broadcasts (same thing as the Nick promo).
Announcer: Sheep in the Big City—A new cartoon series nothing like this trailer..
One promo for Littlest Pet Shop had a shot of the two evil twins in the series dressed as cats. After one of them says "We're undercover, remember?", Blythe stares at them. Blythe wasn't in the shot in the actual episode the scene was taken from.
Planes: Trailers suggested a plane dropping outhouses made a commentator describe it as disgusting. The commentator was describing a previous scene where a plane spits on the floor.
Some home videos containing episodes of Disney's Doug open with promos for 101 Dalmatians: The Series and Recess, both of which show footage that doesn't appear in a single episode of either series.
This trailer for Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School from 2002 shows very little footage from the actual TV movie, instead throwing in clips from the first three direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies by Warner Bros. Animation (such as Zombie Island and Witch's Ghost), to make it look like the whole gang goes to Miss Grimwood's Finishing School for Girl Ghouls, instead of just Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy-Doo (and the trailer only contains one very brief shot of Scrappy, very small.)
The promos Nickelodeon ran for Rugrats during the early 90's made the babies seem like juvenile delinquents who defied authority at every turn. In the actual show, however, they were fundamentally good (if a bit mischievous) kids who genuinely cared about their families and each other.