Playing With / The Ghost

Basic Trope: A character is who often mentioned or referred to, but never appears.
  • Straight: Alice and Bob mention their childhood friend Charlie at almost every episode, but he is never seen onscreen.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Alice and Bob mention Charlie all the time, mostly about a certain Noodle Incident, his outrageous personality and antics, and some Noodle Implements thrown in. Yet Charlie never shows up at all.
    • The main characters frequently mention several unseen friends of theirs.
    • Unknown Character
  • Downplayed:
    • Alice and Bob just casually mention Charlie several times.
    • Charlie is never seen, but his voice is heard over the telephone.
    • The closest we get to actually seeing Charlie are shots of his shadow and occasional glimpses of his hand.
  • Justified:
    • Charlie just never gets the chance to stop by; he could be holding multiple jobs, or busy with his other (also unseen) friends.
    • Charlie is an anonymous witness.
    • Charlie is on the run.
    • If Charlie is only mentioned in the past tense, then he is possibly deceased.
    • If the characters are children (or act like children), Charlie could be an Imaginary Friend.
  • Inverted: Charlie is seen at almost every episode, but Alice and Bob never mentions anything about him. They had never even mentioned his name; it was said by a waiter at a café.
  • Subverted:
    • Charlie finally appears at one occasion, and may or may not get a line.
    • After three seasons of characters talking about Charlie, it is revealed that he is deceased. However, he is eventually seen as a ghost.
  • Double Subverted: Only for Alice and Bob to say that the person/ghost they saw was Charlie's brother. The real Charlie had important things to do.
  • Parodied:
  • Zig Zagged: Charlie eventually appears, but it turns out it wasn't really Charlie, it was his brother. His identical twin brother that could have been him. But wasn't. Or was he? No. But then he appears again. But it was actually the brother. But the episode that says that isn't canon. But the (canon) supplementary material says it was the brother. But that is then Retconned.
  • Averted: All characters ever mentioned appear at least once.
  • Enforced:
    • The original plan was to have Charlie appear eventually, but the executives decide to make him an off-screen character.
    • It's a biographical work about Alice and/or Bob. Charlie is Bob's best friend, so he has to at least be mentioned, but he could cause network troubles if directly confronted (he's a prostitute, gay, drug addict, etc.) so he is not shown.
    • "You know how your loved ones talk about people you've never seen? Let's have our characters do that for the sake of realism."
  • Lampshaded: "You know, Charlie never seems to have time for us. I wonder what he's up to?"
  • Invoked: Charlie tries to visit Alice and Bob, but "Dylan the Villain" (actually an Anti-Hero) chases him off. All offscreen.
  • Exploited: Dylan wants Alice's friend Elaine to do an unspecified dirty deed. Knowing that Elaine has never met Charlie, Dylan bribes her with a photo of him. (The audience never gets to see the photo.)
  • Defied: Someone finally manages to force Charlie onto the screen.
  • Discussed: "I've never seen Charlie. What's he like?"
  • Conversed: "There they go again, talking about Charlie. If he's so great, why don't we ever get to see him?"
  • Implied: The characters always refer to Charlie using pronouns (as in "I think he was the best friend I ever had,") in situations where no character who is shown would fit.
  • Deconstructed: The audience never seeing Charlie makes his death scene have less of an impact on them.
  • Reconstructed: In the reboot of the show, Charlie is made a fleshed-out character by what other people say about him. When he dies, the audience have got to know him well enough to be upset.
  • Played For Laughs: Any attempt to show Charlie onscreen by the characters will end up ill-fated: He never accepts invitations to anyone's house (maybe he's been called into work), any photos of him will be very blurry, and if he is supposed to appear on television, the set will break down (or the power will go out) just before he appears.
  • Played For Drama: Charlie is the only one with the answer to what is the cause of a series of unfortunate events that has been bothering the main cast.

You know, I don't think I've ever seen the main page.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/PlayingWith/TheGhost