Scores of TV medical dramas invoke this trope when they focus on life-or-death surgeries and rare, fatal diseases. There is much truth in this. The problem is that the shows neglect to depict the daily grunt work of the medical practice. Scrubs subverts this tendency by emphasizing that the characters spend the bulk of their time working on completely mundane and disgusting tasks, and admit that most of their patients are going to die regardless.
The British series Playing for Real featuring the lives of the Real Falkirk Table Football Club, who lived and breathed Subbuteo.
One episode of MacGyver, a Dramatic Hour Long show, had an episode open with a girl talking extensively about the horrors inflicted upon her hobby by store owners. The topic: counterfeit baseball cards. It's a good thing MacGyver is unfailingly polite, lest he tell her to just shut up.
The scary thing is, some baseball cards can be worth thousands of dollars. A single counterfeit baseball card can constitute fraud on par with grand theft auto.
In an episode of Frasier, Spelling Bees are Serious Business, complete with a Shell-Shocked Senior Spell Master and a Young Cub trying to reach the top... of Spelling! The episode was devoid of the usual hijinks and focused the humor on the absurdity of the subject. One of the series' better episodes.
Much of the comedy in Frasier stems from the main character and those around him blowing relatively minor things into full-blown Serious Business, but another notable trope-relevant example comes when we learn that Frasier has been keeping a collection of taped recordings of his show. When he learns that one of them is missing and is unlikely to be able to be replaced, he enters a depression which sends him into his bed for like a week. He later gets over it when he meets his 'biggest fan' who happens to have a copy of the missing show and finds him an obsessive nut who's isolated everything from his life.
When Dick Clark hosted Pyramid, he made sure it was Serious Business. "I remind the audience once again, we need absolute silence, please. GO!" In one episode the contestant was awarded partial credit in the Bonus Round because there wasn't absolute silence; an audience member started a loud Countdown when the clock hit 10 seconds.
iCarly The webcast seems to have only slightly less cultural impact than Dethklok. Sneaker manufacturers beg Carly to endorse their product. Television producers ransack the show for ideas in two separate episodes. It's watercooler discussion material, even amongst adults.
The entire school ridicules Freddie after Sam reveals he hasn't yet had his First Kiss, and he ends up missing school and avoiding his mom as a result of the embarrassment. note Okay, so he probably does that last one a lot anyway.
In iFight Shelby Marx, Carly makes some joking comments about being able to "take down" an MMA fighter. Said fighter appears at her doorstep the next day, proposes an exhibition match for charity that is apparently so popular, it fills a stadium and is sold on pay-per-view. Lampshaded when the MMA announcer introduces her as "Carly Shay, who... has a web show."
In a weird meta-example, the British student quiz show University Challenge made nationalnewsheadlines when the internet decided nobody should be allowed to be that clever. The young lady in question ended up being interviewed about her public image on national primetime breakfast news, simply because some people objected to the way she smiled (was it embarrassment? Or smugness?) when she was told she'd got a question right. University Challenge: Serious Business to everyone except those who actually play it. To make it even worse, the team that young lady was on ended up being disqualified after the winning the final because it was discovered that one of the other team members had graduated partway through the competition, and the rules could therefore be interpreted to state that he was ineligible. Serious Business indeed.
Subverted entirely in "Move Along Home", which has Quark playing a board game brought by some race from the Gamma Quadrant. Eventually he realizes the Seriousness of the Business as his pieces represent members of the crew who have been somehow teleported into the game and are thus in mortal danger through his actions. Although he plays conservatively from then on, he eventually loses a piece; assuming the corresponding crewman to be dead, he is stunned when all the missing crew reappear completely safe at the end—and he learns that he lost. As the alien gamemaster explains, it's only a game.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete loves this trope played for surrealism. Smoothies, Prank Wars, people urinating in pools and the identity of the masked Ice Cream Man Mr. Tasty are all Serious Business. And Artie, the Strongest Man in the World fighting Killer Bees? Normal Background Stuff. In addition, every single adult, be they a shop teacher, an underwear inspector or a postal carrier, treats their profession with a reverence usually reserved for war heroes and cancer researchers.
While preparing for the "all-priest, over-75, indoor football challenge match" against Rugged Island, Ted frantically tears the place apart looking for a bug placed by their opponents. Turns out he's Properly Paranoid when the Rugged Island crew hurriedly drive away in their ice cream van.
The Christmas special in which Ted leads a group of 7 other priests out of the lingerie section of a department store in the style of soldiers making their way back from behind enemy lines.
The theft of a policeman's whistle results in helicopter patrols over Craggy Island, and townsfolk barricading themselves indoors.
The King of the Sheep competition is taken very seriously, attracting the attention of shady types who aim to profit by rigging it.
The Soup Nazi. His soup is so good that people are willing to put up with the authoritarian regime that is his restaurant and rejected patrons become motivated to exact revenge rather than just finding someplace else to eat.
Elaine had a boyfriend who shared a name with a well-known murderer. He decided to change it, but Elaine hated every one of his suggestions because of her associations with those names.
Jerry's Girl of the Week's stepmother not wanting to lose her spot on her stepdaughter's speed dial. Then the girl and her stepmother spend the rest of the episode changing their respective speed dials.
Jerry discovers that his girlfriend was working for one of Jerry's former classmates who has been holding a grudge on him since a sprint in high school. They hold a rematch presided over by their high school gym teacher, and many of their old high school mates are there to watch.
After being banned from the manicure shop, Elaine manically sobs all over Manhattan, to the point where she doesn't know where she's going.
Never make a weird face at a doctor or "be difficult", lest you be instantly blacklisted by your medical professional and be denied medical services for the rest of your life. Even from veterinarians.
Jerry discovers he failed to return a library book in the 1970s, and the library finally retorts by sending a library security cop over to his house. The cop is a direct parody of the detectives on Dragnet and takes this job as seriously as if he were tracking down serial killers in a gritty police drama. When he enters into a monologue about people disrespecting the New York Public Library, it's so over-the-top yet so dead-straight-serious that Jerry (the actor) is clearly struggling not to burst out laughing.
Many reality shows where there are groups of people competing against each other to win things like money, makeover of their house, etc. While everyone does want to win as badly as the next guy, the serious business comes into play when you got some of the competitors get drastic or act dramatic in order to have a shot at winning and act like losing doesn't exist in their dictionary. And then you have the people who say they gave up everything to be on the show (quitting their job, moving away from home, etc), not even thinking about what to do in case they don't win.
Averted by one contestant, who dared to have a sense of perspective when she was kicked off America's Next Top Model by not breaking into tears like she was meant to; as punishment for this, Tyra Banks subsequently went medieval on her ass.
In the other vein of this example, shows about things like fashion tend to be played up way more than necessary. Shows like What Not to Wear, where a person's "bad" clothing (which are rarely worse than average) cause the hosts to treat the woman as if she were dying from some sort of clothes cancer. And to cure this, they ridicule said person's bought possessions while throwing them out. At one point, a person featured on the show hated the hosts' advice, prompting the male host to actually leave the room for several minutes to cool off. Over clothes.
Parodied by Tom Hanks in a sketch of him preparing his daughter for such a contest. At one point, his daughter comments that she thinks he's putting her through all this because he wishes he could be in a beauty contest. At the end, they lose to Ron Howard, who showboats as though he just won the Super Bowl.
According to the ABC Family series Make It Or Break It, gymnastics is incredibly serious business. Yes, they're training for the Olympics, but every single detail of the gymnasts' lives is overblown for the sake of drama.
On various episodes of the CSIs: Bowling, competitive eating, a Scrabble-style word game, historical reenactment, and fashion have been shown to be deadly serious business to the people involved.
Breaking Bad: In the appropriately titled episode "Fly", Walter White encounters a fly buzzing around the meth-cooking laboratory he's working at, and he spends most of the episode hunting it down, deeming it a "contamination" that could ruin his cook. Jesse Pinkman, his partner in crime, is understandably puzzled as to why Walt is making such a fuss over a common housefly.
The Office has Pretzel Day. What's Pretzel Day, you ask?
One day, when Michael is out of the office, every employee spends hours debating over whether or not Hilary Swank is hot. Simple attractiveness and willingness to have sex with her are apparently not necessarily part of the equation, and an organized debate ensues. The real icing on the cake is Oscar creating and presenting a detailed diagram analyzing Swank's facial symmetry.
Alex's own Quinceañero, taken as seriously as suggested in the Real Life sub-page.
According to Antony Bourdain in one of the Japan-centric episodes of No Reservations, Japan's entire culture is devoted to the Art of Serious Business. Anything can be Serious Business in Japan, from Tea Ceremonies to Cherry Blossom Viewings, to Baseball (see below).
Also, when he visited France, he played petanque (much like bocce) with the locals, expecting them to be leisurely about the game. Instead, he discovered that they actually are fiercely competitive about it, especially since they put money on the line. Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hxm_7mCpm7c
Everything about the local agricultural fair in All Creatures Great and Small is Serious Business, right down to the children's pet show. There's some rather nasty rumors of favoritism when James gives the blue ribbon to a goldfish.
Anything that is the subject of an episode of Pushing Daisies is extremely serious business (enough to make people commit murder over it), including but not limited to dog breeding, circus performance, and fried chicken.
And of course, to Monica, anything related to cleaning, cooking, and weddings is extremely serious business. Even when the wedding's not even her own.
Played straight by Fry and Laurie in their 'John and Peter' sketches where they treat running their health sauna in Uttoxeter as if they were running a multi-national corporation. They also inverted this trope with their 'Tony and Control' sketches in which MI-5 agents treat terrorist attacks and defections with as much emotion as they do ordering coffee.
Played with in another episode, where Dean yells at two fans of the Supernatural book series for not taking the job/lives of Sam and Dean seriously. Considering it's his life they're making light of, he is completely correct. They however assume he's merely doing this trope.
Often played straight in Monty Python's Flying Circus (The All-England Summarize Proust Competition) but subverted with 'The Society For Putting Things on Top of Other Things' where one member claims that they haven't put anything on top of another thing because they've decided that the whole thing's a bit silly. The chairman looks as if he's about to go beserk, and then suddenly agrees with him and decides to wind up the society.
Game shows generally use this trope by default, since they tend to take mundane things like auctions, Tic-Tac-Toe, and crossword puzzles and make them high energy and for high stakes. Contestants are even encouraged to act more excited than they are.
On Glee show choir is presented as possibly the main characters' only chance to ever feel good about themselves or do anything other than toiling away in unappreciated obscurity for the rest of their lives. The schools they compete against, though, take it really seriously.
"There is nothing ironic about show choir!"
"You can't quit Cheerios. It's blood in, blood out!"
How I Met Your Mother has the episode "The Best Burger in New York," where it's revealed Marshall has spent the last eight years of his life trying to find the restaurant where he once ate the best burger of his life. Though he actually takes it mildly compared to Special GuestRegis Philbin.
Marshall: It's so much more than "just a burger." I mean ... that first bite ... oh, what heaven that first bite is. The bun like a sesame freckled breast of an angel, resting gently on the ketchup and mustard below, flavors mingling in a seductive pas de deux. And then...a pickle! The most playful little pickle! Then a slice of tomato, a leaf of lettuce and a ... a patty of ground beef so exquisite, swirling in your mouth, breaking apart, and combining again in a fugue of sweets and savor so delightful. This is no mere sandwich of grilled meat and toasted bread, Robin. This is God, speaking to us in food.
Lily: And you got our wedding vows off the Internet.
Doctor Who has an example of this early on, even if it is downplayed: During Marco Polo, The Doctor wins a large chunk of the Mongol Empire from the Khan in games of backgammon.
Riker: "I had no idea you had such a ritual." Troi: "Chocolate is a serious thing."
In that episode, though, some real Serious Business comes about because nearly everyone on the ship gets obsessed with a video game-ish contraption... that rewards wins directly at the pleasure center of the brain, creating an addiction.
Are You Being Served?: Everything from what sort of pen you keep in your pocket, to how you fold your handkerchief, to what sort of hat you wear on your way into the store are matters of dire consequence at Grace Brothers.
Firefly, "Our Mrs. Reynolds": Shepard Book suggests you do not talk at the theater unless you want to end in a very SPECIAL level of hell, one also reserved for child molesters.
In Family Ties, the Keaton family, especially Alex, gets this way about contests and competitions of any sort.
One episode has Alex and Steven become so obsessed with beating each other at Scrabble that, at the end, they sneak downstairs at night in their pajamas for "one more game. The winner gets the deed to the house."
In "Walking on Air," Alex, Elyse, Jennifer and Andy team up for a "Find Colonel Crackle" cereal contest. Alex soon takes charge, posting a giant map of Cleveland with potential "Colonel" sightings pinned, having his friend Skippy check the Colonel's dental records and do a hair analysis, and commandeering a newscaster's desk at Steven's TV station to call the "Crackle hotline" seconds before airtime (resulting in his being dragged off).
Wesley: You've been yelling about this for forty minutes... do the astronauts have weapons?
Matt and Danny on Studio 60 work on a sketch show which is a SNL ripoff, yet they try to play it as being of the utmost importance and a platform for social change. This is a big problem for the series as a whole since Aaron Sorkin's trademark style of political filibustering is embarrassingly misplaced in a comedy series. Though many fans think the show would be shallow and soulless without that extra dimension.
Losing a pen is serious business in Annie's book. And the entire study group's, at that.
Paintball is such serious business to the students that both times the college tries to have a friendly game it ends up causing thousands of dollars in property damage.
One professor devoted his academic careers studying old sitcoms and wrote a detailed book analyzing Who's the Boss?. He is devastated when Abed disproves his main theory in front of the class. Tellingly, it did not seem to be serious business to Abed.
In one episode of Kenan & Kel, Ron Harper shows in Rigby's and everyone is excited to see him, especially the titular characters. However, he ended up slipping on a puddle of orange soda, injuring his knee. Thanks to that, all of Chicago are after Kenan and Kel.
Just imagine if they do that to Michael Jordan - they're dead meat.
On The Wire, the annual basketball game between the East Side and West Side drug crews is such serious business that the entire neighborhood in which it is held shuts down for the day, and the leader of one of the crews thinks nothing of paying $20,000 to hire a ringer for his team.
On The Cosby Show, Cliff takes petanque with Dr. Harmon very seriously.
The Hogan's Heroes episode, "Go Light on the Heavy Water" had the heroes wondering why German troops are seemingly playing this trope with a barrel of water in a truck they are determined to keep secure. They find out that there is an extremely good reason why they're doing that: the water in question is heavy water, used for experiments for nuclear weapons and they are ordered to stop that delivery at all costs.
Just about any sitcom episode focused on an upcoming dance will portray it as Serious Business. Expect the main character to be practicing day and night for the event, and for the sake of conflict, expect to see some boastful Jerkass in direct competition with him to claim the name of "Best Dancer." Even if the dance in question is just a simple charity event for the main character's workplace.
Just about any Kid Com episode focused on an upcoming Student Council election will treat it this way. Expect the candidates (except, of course, for the show's main character) to all have these ridiculously elaborate campaigns that would put even a U.S. Presidential Campaign to shame. Expect one of these competing candidates to be a Jerkass or Alpha Bitch plotting to blackmail the main character (for whatever reason). And expect the election results to be practically nationally televised. See also: Absurdly Powerful Student Council.
On an episode of Smallville, this is taken Up to Eleven. The editor of the school paper grills the candidates on their positions on administration policies ranging from the dress code to anti-drug locker sweeps before settling on an endorsement, while one of the candidates plots to assassinate her rivals to clear the field. Though in that candidate's defense, she wasn't thatmentally stable.