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Wrong Genre Savvy: Live-Action TV
  • Alex Drake from Ashes to Ashes is an especially interesting case: having been aware of Sam Tyler's experience, she thinks she's starring in Life On Mars. Of course since Ashes To Ashes is the sequel to Life on Mars some of what she thinks is right, and some isn't.
  • Quite a few instances on Teen Wolf, several of them very different. Stiles seems to think he's in a buddy superhero show, while Scott thinks the universe is simplistic with a clear villain to defeat, that being Derek. We quickly learn that it's a lot more complicated. Lydia seems to think she's the main character of a chick-flick - and doesn't realize she'd be the bad guy in that situation.
    • Stiles does, however, show shades of being Genre Savvy in regards to werewolves, recognizing wolfsbane and signs of lycanthropy.
  • In The Office (US), Michael Scott often attempts to be Genre Savvy about real life, much to the confusion of the rational people around him. He usually goes with comedy or romantic wrong-genre tropes, such as muttering something under his breath so that the microphone picks it up while the other characters don't hear it. They always hear it and call him out on whatever he just muttered. When he has to do anything resembling spy or infiltration movies (such as spying on a competing paper company), he assumes a thinly-veiled variation on his own name such as "Michael Scotch" or his recurring "Agent Michael Scarn" character.
    • Dwight Schrute often treats real life as if it were a different genre of fiction. He treats the threat of layoffs as if he were participating in a competitive reality TV show like Survivor, keeps a variety of weapons in strategic hiding places throughout the office as though violent attacks were imminent, and at one point describes a detailed robbery plan that would be Genre Savvy if he existed in a crime thriller.
    • Also, he calls upon vampire tropes when he thinks Jim was bitten by a bat (sharpened stake, etc). In fact, Jim's pranks use this to their advantage quite often, such as when he recruited Dwight to the CIA.
    Jim: I discovered that Dwight placed a listening bug in the wooden duck he gave me. I think that if I play my cards right, I can have him replay the plot of National Treasure.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Countrycide," the team investigates a series of killings by predatory aliens. They don't know that aliens had nothing to do it. A clan of cannibalistic Serial Killers committed the murders.
  • The passengers in the Doctor Who episode "Midnight" realize that there's a hostile alien on the bus on them, only they think the Doctor is working with the hostile alien, and later that he's possessed by it. So they attempt to murder him.
    • Doctor Who in general has this since its stories can involve most anything; it's not uncommon for characters to misjudge the genre of the story they're in.
      • To the point where getting the genre wrong proves to be a plot point:
    River Song: (in "The Pandorica Opens" after the Doctor tells of a fairy tale involving a Good Wizard imprisoning a monster): "I hate good wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him." (in fact the Doctor was the one being imprisoned)
    • In "The Unicorn and the Wasp", part of The Reveal is that the Monster of the Week has had Wrong Genre Savvy imprinted on his brain due to a freak accident — the entire reason the episode was a Christie-style murder mystery is because he thinks the entire world operates that way.
  • Arthur in Merlin believes that he is the main character, any Monster of the Week can be defeated with his sword, Merlin is just his dumb sidekick, and his Knight Templar father has the right idea overall in trying to eliminate all wizards and witches.
    • He actually gets called out for this in With All My Heart. Merlin disguises himself as an old woman (long story there) and saves Guinevere from a spell. Merlin also takes the opportunity to chide Arthur on this.
    Merlin: Aren't you forgetting the boy?
    Arthur: Oh yeah, thought it went too smoothly back there.
    Merlin: If it weren't for him, your queen would still be enchanted.
    Arthur: No, don't think so.
    *Merlin rolls his eyes*
  • Dr. Drew has stated many of the patients on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew thought they were just doing another celebrity reality show and took a long time to adjust to the fact that they were in an actual rehabilitation center and actually had to do all the things that go along with it.
  • The basic premise of The Joe Schmo Show. The non-actors think they are on some wacky run-of-the-mill reality show contest show, when in fact they ARE the show, everyone else is an actor specifically playing a character to the genre, the game is rigged to them, and the main idea of the show is to see how far they can take it without the Joe finding out.
    • In season two, one contestant subverted this by being Genre Savvy enough to figure out the show was not what it seemed; they ended up doing The Reveal to her early in the show (there was another Joe on the show and another Joe, er Jane, brought in to replace her) and convinced her to keep playing along.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus occasionally features an army colonel who comes so very close to being genuinely Genre Savvy. He knows he's in a comedy sketch show all right. Unfortunately he doesn't realise which one, and so he thinks that sketches should have clearly-defined jokes in them, with vaguely plausible premises, and punchlines. As a result he calls an end to many a sketch which he considers to be far too silly, generally to provide at least some kind of closure to a sketch that is, frankly, totally off the rails by the time he appears with no stopping place in sight.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis," the characters try to figure out a Five-Man Band configuration which, if they stick to it, will lead to their inevitable success. This being Sunny, it obviously fails miserably.
    • The entire gang does this almost constantly. Dennis thinks of himself as The Ace, a sauve ladies man who succeeds at everything, Mac sees himself as a John McClane style badass action hero, Sweet Dee believes she's a witty, quirky social woman similar to those on Sex In The City, and Charlie thinks he's a lovable down-trodden nice guy. In reality, they're all a group of selfish, morally-bankrupt sociopaths. Frank appears to be the only member of the gang aware of who he really is.
  • Maxwell Smart once did this in an episode of Get Smart. He was kidnapped by KAOS and hypnotised to kill the Chief, put in a cell, and left to escape. Every time the KAOS agents tried to help him, he misinterpreted it as an attempt to kill him.
  • In an episode of Friends, Joey receives a visit from an unhinged, obsessed fan. Anticipating violence, he grabs a frying pan. Chandler suggests that he comes up with a backup plan in case she isn't a cartoon character.
    • They manage to get it right when the fan comes to Joey accusing him of cheating on her, and then expressing confusion as to how he can be in two places at once (since she believes Days Of Our Lives is real, and that Joey is Drake Ramoray) by having the others tell her that Joey is actually Drake's Evil Twin, and citing a number of over the top crimes he has committed to convince her.
      Joey: I'm not Drake.
      Ross: That's right, he's not Drake, he's Hans Remore, Drake's evil twin.
      Erika Ford (Stalker): Is this true?
      Rachel: Yes, yes it is true. And I know this because... because he pretended to be Drake too, to sleep with me.
      [Rachel throws water in his face]
      Monica: And then he told me he would run away with me, and he didn't.
      [Monica throws water in his face]
      [Chandler throws water in his face]
  • Flight of the Conchords had a weird example when Bret tried to woo a woman with techniques he'd seen in a sitcom. Now, Bret is in a sitcom, but he did stuff that never works even in sitcoms. At one point, Jemaine asks whether what Bret is planning on doing worked in the sitcom he saw it in. Bret says that it didn't, but as this is real life, his chances are better.
  • In the last episode of Firefly, Wash gives us this exchange:
    Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
    Zoe: You live in a spaceship, dear.
    Wash: So?
  • LOST: Although Hurley usually fills the role of the Genre Savvy, he sometimes ends up wrong as well. Early on, he feared a body he was burying would rise as a zombie, killing him first because he weighed too much to run quickly. He was wrong. Years later, one of his friends did rise from the dead, and many others visited him as ghosts, but by that time, the show itself has shifted genres.
  • In the short-lived NBC series Something Is Out There, the female alien Ta'Ra is constantly puzzled by her human partner saying things like "Where's the Self-Destruct Mechanism on this spaceship?" and "Can't you set that raygun on stun?"
  • Contestants on Hells Kitchen will use the usual Reality Show tropes such as alliances, sabotage, and backstabbing... while apparently forgetting that the man they're trying to please is Gordon Ramsay, who has repeatedly ignored the "standard" rules and eliminated whoever he felt like despite all the Survivor-style plotting, usually while reprimanding the perpetrators for thinking they're clever.
  • Likewise, in The Apprentice contestants will often try to rig the boardroom in their favor by bringing back the person that they intend to get fired, along with whoever was the strongest person on their team — or even someone who has immunity from being fired — in an attempt to manipulate the boss into firing the other person. This strategy almost never works.
    • In The Celebrity Apprentice 2, Scott Hamilton actually told Donald Trump that he had brought back Tom Green, who he wanted to be fired, and Herschel Walker because he thought that Walker probably wouldn't be fired and would support him in getting rid of Green. Honesty was most definitely not the best policy here though, as this revelation led pretty much directly to Hamilton's firing.
    • This strategy actually did work for Ivana in the second regular season of The Apprentice, albeit in a completely different manner to what she intended. She brought back Stacie, who was her intended victim, along with Bradford and Jennifer, who had been the best two salespeople in the task, thinking that this would result in Stacie's firing. Her original strategy failed, because Trump didn't think Stacie had caused the team to lose, but Ivana was saved by the fact that Bradford had stupidly decided to surrender his immunity (which he claimed he didn't need) earlier in the boardroom, resulting in Trump firing him instead.
  • Speaking of Gordon Ramsay, a lot of the failing restaurants featured in Kitchen Nightmares are failing usually due to bad locations and serving the wrong food to the wrong customers, like the Piccolo Teatro, a vegetarian restaurant in Paris, France, where only 2% of the population are vegetarian. That's just soft stuff, though. You got the people who think that they're better than him and try to upstage him and prove that they're better than him, as if this was some sort of reality show and not something to save their livelihood. Those who don't get it through their head end up shuttered.
  • Castle: While Richard Castle's Genre Savvy skills are often an asset to his crime fighting, he also likes to play with being Wrong Genre Savvy. In one recent example, he acts as though he's in a vampire show instead of a They Fight Crime procedural:
    Castle: Whoa, whoa, whoa!
    Lanie: What is wrong?
    Castle: If he's a vampire and you pull that [stake] out, he comes back to life!
    Lanie: If he does, then we can all go home early.
    • This line was uttered just after a scene in which Nathan Fillion threw out a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference while wearing his Malcolm Reynolds costume. Mindblowing, isn't it?
    • Castle gets this often, especially when seemingly-supernatural events occur (he invokes horror tropes and fantasy tropes about evenly). Another great example, after tracking down a serial killer who supposedly rose from his grave:
    Castle: We're going to a cabin in the woods, in the middle of nowhere?
    Beckett: Yeah, so?
    Castle: So... it's like the coed, checking out the strange noise in a basement in a slasher fic. It's a recipe for disaster.
    Beckett: It's not a slasher fic, it's a murder investigation.
  • When Sisko was trying to catch the rogue officer Eddington in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he realised that Eddington saw himself as a heroic figure for the Maquis, which Eddington pretty much confirmed by likening himself to Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. Sisko ended up having to become genre savvy himself and forced Eddington to become a martyr for his beliefs.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: Edith Keeler thinks she's on a utopian, anti-war science fiction show. Unfortunately, her episode was guest written by Harlan Ellison, and applying Star Trek ideals there doesn't work.
      • The in-universe explanation is that she had the right idea with her utopian, anti-war ideals... but in the wrong time, leading to it all going horribly wrong.
    • DS9 also gave us a Holodeck Malfunction that caused Garak and Dr. Bashir trapped in Bashir's spy world. Garak, having been a spy in the past, attempts to use his knowledge to handle the situation, yet Bashir is able to outperform him at every turn. Garak was thinking of how to be a real spy, not a romantic spy.
  • Ant, a moderately good singer, brought his brother, Seb, an utterly hopeless singer, to the pre-auditions of The X Factor, with Seb's terrible performance ensuring they'd get to the actual judges. The duo hoped that the judges would just put through Ant, as they had often done with groups with only one good singer; unfortunately that year the show started only putting through groups as a whole and not individual members, stopping the plan dead in its tracks.
  • On an episode of The Avengers, a famous bullfighter sees a cart rolling toward him and, assuming that his skills are being tested, whips out his cape. It turns out he's right that the cart was sent against him by the villain but wrong about how it's going to kill him.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Musical Episode "Once More With Feeling". The person who tries to change the town's genre to a happy musical. Turns out people are dancing themselves to death. Oops.
    • Relatedly, when Jonathan turns himself into the main character, actually forcing the show itself to shift from a horror-spoof to an over the top action-spoof at the same time. This means that he actively chose to be Wrong Genre Savvy, then forced the genre to change to suit him. Surprisingly, it works out for most of the episode, before he has to give it up to stop the monster of the week.
    • Anya says to Xander (paraphrased) "If you're ever thinking of leaving me, I want it to be like one of those movies where the bomb is counting down, and at one second to go I cut the wire and you don't leave." Wrong genre savvy since this is a Joss Whedon production, so the 'bomb' goes off at the most tragic possible time.
    • The Trio are an example of this trope; they attempt to be stereotypical comic book supervillains inside a story that's more nuanced and mature than that. The season 7 episode "Storyteller" is about confronting Andrew with this fact.
    • In a conversation with Angel, Spike once mentions "the old Anne Rice routine" — telling a woman you're a vampire, convincing her you're a tortured soul who only wants to overcome your curse and be good, then eating her when she lets her guard down.
    • Dawn had moments in season 7 when she seemed to think she was in CSI.
    Buffy The Vampire Slayer S 7 E 3 Same Time Same Place
    Dawn: I'm sure there's tons of stuff like this. You know, procedures we can use that don't involve magic spells. Just good solid detective work. And we can develop a database of tooth impressions and demon skin samples and I could wear high heels more often.
    Buffy: Wow, that was so close to being empowered.
    Dawn: Everybody loves a slender ankle.
    Buffy The Vampire Slayer S 7 E 4 Help
    Guys, I'm telling you, I'm liking Mike Helgenberg for the perp. Let's collar him before he lawyers up.
  • The eponymous Remington Steele is a classic movie buff, and every case he and Laura Holt solve together reminds him of a classic movie. Often the wrong one...
  • A recurring sketch in The Armstrong And Miller Show features a butler who thinks he's in a Jeeves and Wooster-esque Edwardian comedy of manners, except that his Upper-Class Twit boss is less of a Dogged Nice Guy getting into amusing misunderstandings, and more of a Soap Opera-style Magnificent Bastard who needs someone to hide the bodies.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Bad Guys", SG-1 accidentally take a bunch of hostages in an alien museum, and find themselves having to continue playing the role of terrorists until they can get the Stargate open again. Unfortunately, they also end up convincing the incompetent night watchman that he's just become the hero of a Die Hard on an X movie...
    • Faced with a dragon in "The Quest, Part 2", Cam Mitchell decides to throw a large chunk of C-4 under it since "that's where dragons are weakest". It's not that kind of dragon.
  • On the reality show Chef Academy, the chefs can be "eliminated" if they fail three tests over the course of the academy. It's made clear that it's perfectly possible that the entire class could graduate. Unfortunately, some of the chefs have seen too much reality TV, leading them to inexplicably act like they're on a competitive elimination show (a la Hell's Kitchen). At one point, one of the chefs actually says, "It's like I'm the only one who understands that this is a competition!" It's really not.
  • Abed, usually anything but this trope, but in the Community episode English as a Second Language he thinks Troy's subplot is inspired by Good Will Hunting. It isn't; it's a parody of Good Will Hunting.
    • In "Regional Holiday Music", Abed thinks he's in a Very Special Christmas Episode where, with help from a life-affirming musical mentor, he has to stop his killjoy friends from forgetting The True Meaning of Christmas through the Power of Song. He's actually in a Black Comedy parody of Glee where trying to force his friends to be cheerful is played out like an alien mind control Assimilation Plot where they become soulless Stepford Smilers, and the life-affirming musical mentor is a complete maniac.
    • Abed's genre savviness is very hit-and-miss at times with his attempts to make his life more like TV. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. However, his biggest example of wrong genre savviness is that he thinks he has the right to retool or adjust the flow of the show (ie., the lives of his friends) at will, which almost everyone else sees as insanely controlling and incredibly heartless.
  • Magnum, P.I.: An old enemy of Higgins has a habit of setting up complicated schemes based on classic movies, so Magnum spends most of the episode trying to figure out what movie he's supposed to be in, eventually settling on the 40s serial Perils Of Nyoka. The viewers knew it was Raiders of the Lost Ark from the very first scene. This whole episode was an Actor Allusion to Tom Selleck being Spielberg and Lucas's first choice for playing Indiana Jones, but he had to turn it down because the studio wouldn't let him out of his contract.
    • A clip from Tom Selleck's audition is included in the special features of the Raiders of the Lost Ark boxset, proving that Selleck would have made a damn fine Indiana Jones.
  • On Heroes, Hiro Nakamura lives his life as though he lives in The Silver Age of Comic Books. Unfortunately, the world he lives in is much, much closer to The Dark Age of Comic Books. As a result, the single most powerful character in the show spends much of each season holding the Idiot Ball.
  • Sansa Stark of Game of Thrones. If she really lived in an idealized fairytale romance, she'd be just fine. But she actually lives in a Crapsack World with Black and Grey Morality where Anyone Can Die, and her inability to see that leads to her father's death.
    • Her father Ned is even worse, insisting on acting like he's in a classical fantasy story where good always defeats evil just because. His death serves as the final indication to any audience members who thought the same about the show.
    • Oberyn Martell believes he's the star of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge story, when he's actually a small supporting character in a much farther reaching story, and his refusal to just be satisfied with the death of the first name on his list means he doesn't get to go any further on it.
  • In Primeval a zoo keeper who has secretly raised a Smilodon, thought that the crew from Home Office cloned it and are trying kill it. But they are there to capture the beast, and try to put it back from where it came. She ends getting killed by it when she thought it wouldn't attack her, as it would view her as its mother.
  • Who Wants to Be a Superhero?: Harder to be a superhero than it looks, isn't it?
  • In one episode of Supernatural the Winchesters are protecting a family in a house from a lady called the "Girl in the Wall". At first they assume she's a ghost, but she is in fact an Ax-Crazy deranged human who has spent her entire life living under the house.
    • In season 9, one of the main villains Metatron believes (or at least claims he believes) that he's The Hero. His second-in-command is more likely to have a genuine case of this, believing himself to be The Lancer or The Hero. Until he pulled a Heel-Face Turn.
  • In the Law & Order episode "The Serpent's Tooth," the detectives notice the similarity between the murders they're investigating and the case from which it was Ripped from the Headlines, and focus their investigation on the No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of the real-life killers, only to find out (at the 45-minute mark) that it was actually somebody else who did it.
  • In the fourth season opener to Star Trek: Enterprise, an SS officer tries to strike up a conversation with his American prisoner (who is Captain Archer). He mentions how "in Hollywood movies, Americans always win. Too bad for you; you're not in a movie." However, it's still a Hollywood TV show....
    • There's an interesting twist in one episode where Trip seems to think he's in a different kind of Star Trek episode. He spends time trying to educate a repressed member of an alien sub-species against their cultural norms, and hopes that they will start a cultural revolution, as seen in Star Trek before . This backfires when the alien is so depressed about having to go back to a life where she is not treated equally that she commits suicide.
  • In Lost Girl, Bo at one point encounters a Lich. After being told that he stores his soul in something, she suspects that he did so in a picture of himself ala Dorain Gray. When she destroys the picture, he just laughs at her. Fortunately, she figures out where it actually is later.
  • On The Nanny, C.C. Babcock spends much of the series convinced that she's the Betty to Fran Fine's Veronica with Maxwell Sheffield, but she's not even in the equation, instead coming off as a Stalker with a Crush, with borderline Yandere tendencies. She doesn't realize it until after Max and Fran are already married and Fran is pregnant when Niles, having reached his limit with her, delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that holds nothing back.
    • That would be a reconstructed case, as C.C. gets married to Niles instead.
  • In one episode of Continuum, a sci-fi fanboy finds a powered armor suit from the future, and upon accidentally discovering its powers, decides that it makes him a super-hero. Too bad for him, despite the nigh-invulnerability granted by the suit, he's actually in a fairly realistic sci-fi, and the villains, who are looking for said armor, find him and beat him up quite badly before the actual heroine (who has a suit *and* knows how to use it) shows up.
  • Multiple characters in In The Flesh are confused over that universe's rules on zombies. Bites don't turn you (and people should know this) yet false hope and false imprisonment means that these people are never corrected.
  • In series 9 of The Apprentice, one of the contestants (Jordan Poulton) seemed to think he was on Dragon's Den, with his business plan offering 15% equity in a business co-owned by a partner who didn't actually appear on the show. Unfortunately for him, the rules clearly state that the prize is that you get a £250,000 investment in your new business with Alan Sugar owning 50% of the company. This got him very quickly torn apart and fired in the interview stage. It also didn't help that he didn't actually own any of the business he was wanting the investment in, which in turn probably would have got him thrown out of Dragon's Den as well.
  • Kido Shinji from Kamen Rider Ryuki has a tendency to do this. He assumes that other Kamen Riders would be allies against the Mirror Beasts, but he's in a Darker and Edgier entry in the series where Kamen Riders themselves can not only be antagonists, they can also be outright evil. He makes another assumption after seeing Kamen Rider Zolda, having not seen the Rider henshin, that his true identity is the Badass Battle Butler Gorou, when it's actually his boss Kitaoka.
  • Takatora Kureshima of Kamen Rider Gaim believes he's in a Cosmic Horror Story where the only hope one can obtain is through sacrifice and is willing to make huge sacrifices to obtain hope. While part of that is true (considering who's writing it), the part he's wrong about is that he's also in a story where The Hero is an All-Loving Hero and shows that there is another way... until he too is proven wrong.
  • Used hilariously on Scrubs when J.D. tries to escape the hospital in a body bag and med student Doug wheels him into an elevator.
    J.D.: Can you press Lobby please?
    Doug screams, beats on J.D. with a fire extinguisher until J.D. unzips the bag.
    J.D.: Doug! Why were you hitting me?
    Doug: 'Cause I thought you were a dead guy coming back to life!
    J.D.: *beat* Then why were you hitting me?!
    Doug: Dead people should be dead!
    • Doug himself is an example. He's a horrid doctor, with no business around the living. Which is how he finds out he should be around the dead and switches to pathology.
  • The Quest is a competitive reality show about being the hero of a fantasy story. There's no prize for the winner, meaning that having the qualities of a fantasy hero are the only thing that's important to deciding who stays. One contestant, Christian, kept insisting on trying to act like he was on Survivor, which before long disgusted everyone enough to vote him out.
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