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Aesop / Live-Action TV

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  • For more than three decades starting in the early 1950s, there were a number of Christian anthology dramas populating the airwaves. Each episode was fairly straightforward in formula: An off-screen narrator or on-camera host (always a clergyman, either real or played by an actor) will introduce a story and a situation/dilemma one or more characters are facing, along with a hint of the Christian doctrine that is about to be illustrated. The story unfolds, with the situation reaching its peak as the characters try various ways to resolve the situation; finally out of options, the characters turn to their Bible or a clergyman for advice, and the situation reaches its resolution. The moral would be told in the final act, with the host reviewing the situation and providing both commentary and appropriate Scripture. The best-known of these shows was "This is the Life," a Missouri Lutheran Synod-underwritten program that dated from 1952 (on the old DuMont network) through syndication in the 1980s; other denominations, including the Catholics, Baptists and Methodists, had their own anthology programs. Save for perhaps rural communities and/or public access stations having old tapes and running them as filler, these Christian anthologies have all but disappeared from the airwaves, with reruns of "This is the Life" last seen in terrestrial syndication in the early 1990s.
    • In the early '60s there were some non-religious shows like these for pre-teens and teenagers.
  • Most of the episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits (1963) were morals about human hubris.

  • The intention of the Afterschool Special, usually coming about in the final act.
  • Alex Rider: "Actions have consequences." Spoken by Ian Rider to Alex after the latter is caught stealing Tom's confiscated phone back. Sure enough, the theme of random acts having unintended, far-reaching consequences makes itself known throughout.
    • A chance remark by Alex sets Ian on the line of investigation that gets him killed.
    • Ian's investigation, and his writing 'Point Blanc' on his desk where Alex finds it later, results in Alex being drawn into the world of espionage.
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    • Alex challenging the cover story and investigating for himself brings him to Blunt's attention and gets him forcibly recruited for the mission.
    • Alex is useful as a spy partly because Ian seems to have been quietly training him for years. While Ian probably envisioned Alex becoming a spy, his being conscripted at fourteen likely wasn't what he had in mind.
    • Alex being forcibly recruited results in Tom being kidnapped and almost murdered. Twice.
    • Tom's video about Alex being a spy is found on his phone when he's taken prisoner by Duplicate!Roscoe. This blows Alex's cover and almost gets him killed.
    • Kyra's pretend escape results in her parents being murdered.
  • The Aquabats! Super Show! has done this twice:
    • At the end of "Mysterious Egg!":
      MC Bat Commander: Maybe you are ready to be a mother, Jimmy. Part of being a parent is knowing when to let your children go.
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    • At the end of "Ladyfingers!":
      Crash McLarson: Those mummies weren't that scary.
      MC Bat Commander: You know, that is why we shouldn't judge people or mummies until we get to know them.
    • Followed by:
      Learning and Growing!
  • Black Mirror: "The National Anthem" has a rare in-universe example. A British princess is kidnapped, and the ransomer releases a YouTube video making a singular demand of the Prime Minister: he must have sex with a pig on live television or the princess will be killed. After doing everything in his power trying and failing to stem the resulting media circus and generally find a way out of the situation, half an hour before the PM is set to do... it, the princess is released without so much as a broken hair on her head, out into the streets of London which are completely deserted because everybody is in their homes preoccupied with watching the Prime Minister fuck a pig. Would probably also count as a Broken Aesop considering the orchestrator kidnapped and threatened a completely innocent princess and used the worst kind of public humiliation and sexual coercion to teach a strange moral lesson.
  • One episode of Boy Meets World plays with the notion of the Aesop: Mister Feeny assigns Corey, Topanga, and Shawn a seemingly impossible task. After trying and failing, the kids come to the conclusion that Mister Feeney was giving them a Secret Test of Character to teach them a lesson about teamwork. Unfortunately, they were wrong: Mister Feeney was actually trying to teach them a lesson about never giving up, and wants them to complete their seemingly impossible task, and so he sends them back out again.
  • Chernobyl: Lies have consequences, especially when done by people in power after disasters strike. When leaders feel the need to lie and play blame games for political purposes, the situation will only continue to spiral.
    Legasov: When the truth offends, we lie and lie, until we can no longer remember it is ever there. But it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.
  • Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life: Cooper ends each episode with a lesson, sometimes as simple as "don't do all the stupid things we did in this episode," but sometimes more complex.
  • Community: The first episode has Prof. Duncan attempting to impart one to Jeff Winger about academic honesty. Jeff, however, feels strongly that community college is not the place to learn anything. Jeff's objection notwithstanding, many episodes end with speeches, tilted-head smiling people, happy music, and reconciliations. In fact, "Wingering" becomes a term for saving the day by giving an inspiring speech about what they learned.
  • Most, if not every episode of The Courtship of Eddie's Fathernote  had Tom (the father) and Eddie talking about one before both the opening and ending credits sequences.
  • Even though the show isn't EI-rated, all post-Episode 1 episodes of Crash & Bernstein have at least one. Episode 2's was to not be scared of anything, Episode 3's was that some things in life are hard, Episode 4's was to follow the rules and to tell the truth, and Episode 5's was that fitting in sometimes isn't the best thing to do.
  • Doctor Who: There are recurring aesops, usually tied to the Doctor or humanity. Sometimes friends leave, and it hurts, but that doesn't make your friendship any less meaningful. Sometimes you need a loved one to keep you in check. Humans, while we're given a short time on Earth and are sometimes cruel, can make a meaningful impact. Etc.
    • "The Two Doctors" is an allegory about meat-eating, hunting, and butchering, ending with the Doctor announcing to Peri that, "from now on it's a healthy vegetarian diet for both of us!" Writer Robert Holmes was a vegetarian.
    • "The End of Time", as an in-joke from Russell T. Davies, includes a scene in the denouement where the Doctor saves Luke Smith from The Sarah Jane Adventures from being hit by a car when he crosses the street without looking. Davies included it because, during the filming of the spinoff, the street was always closed off to traffic so the actors never looked while crossing the road.
    • "Vincent and the Doctor" has some Aesops about internal turmoil. The episode explains that there are differences in how different people deal with depression or anxiety (the Eleventh Doctor is shown to be more resilient than Vincent van Gogh). The Doctor also delivers a particularly touching Aesop at the end, when Amy discovers that their intervention failed to stop Van Gogh from killing himself: "The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things."
    • "Orphan 55" turns out to have a Green Aesop at its core: the title planet is a devastated future Earth, destroyed by a climate catastrophe and ensuing war. As pointed out at the end, if we destroy it beyond repair there's no going back.
  • Every Full House episode ends with a sappy musical score while Bob Saget explains the moral of the story to one of the girls.
  • Not only used in virtually every episode of Hannah Montana, but occasionally played with, too, with Miley once asking her dad if he can't just fix the problem instead of trying to teach her a life-lesson.
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor imparts that to truly know the joy of loving someone in life, is worth the heartbreak of losing them to death.
  • Highway to Heaven, the Christian drama starring Michael Landon and Victor French as itinerant workers who help the people they encounter deal with situations using a (though not explicitly stated) Christian solution. Said moral would come usually toward the end of the episode, after which the person gets a chance to apply what he/she learned and/or any villains are defeated.
  • Home Improvement frequently had these, and they were usually delivered by the character Wilson, who would dispense advice to help the other characters with the issue of the episode.
  • How I Met Your Mother justifies this because a sizable chunk of the premise is Future!Ted lecturing his kids about his mistakes when he was young. However, they're frequently spoof, family-unfriendly, broken, space whale (i.e., "I won't bother telling you not to fight, but don't fight with Uncle Marshall. He's insane."), lost, lampshaded Do Not Do This Cool Thing, or otherwise humorously subverted, usually with Future Ted giving an Aesop, but admitting that in real life, back when the events actually took place, he and his friends didn't learn their lesson right away. However, when one of the characters gives an Aesop in the present, it's more often played straight.
  • Katie Morag usually has one at the end of an episode. Justified in that it is a children's show.
  • Kingdom Adventure: Being a Christian work aimed at kids, aesops are inevitable. There's even an episode that deals with drugs, of all things!
  • The whole concept gets parodied in a Running Gag on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Every episode ends with the "What Did We Learn on the Show Tonight, Craig?" segment, which ranges from a Spoof Aesop to a complete non sequitur with no relation to morals or lessons whatsoever. On at least one occasion, the "lesson" learned is a Spanish vocabulary word.
  • Every episode of My Name Is Earl ever devised concludes with Earl dropping an Aesop on the viewer's head in a voiceover.
  • Being a PBS Kids show, Odd Squad naturally has an educational lesson in every episode, usually catering to mathematics since it's one of the organization's modus operandis and intentionally hidden in such a way that kids wouldn't notice them easily (mileage varies on whether this is an effective strategy or not). Beginning in Season 3, science, technology and engineering were also common lessons. However, there are episodes with lessons that aren't math-based as well — Season 3 in particular had a lot of morals, such as responsibility in "It's Not Easy Being Chill" and Mistakes Are Not the End of the World in "Jeremy".
  • Every episode of Scrubs ends with J.D. reciting the theme of the episode over a musical piece. Often, though not always, an Aesop.
  • Vehemently averted in Seinfeld, where the credo is "No hugging! No lessons! No point!"
    • Subverted in the series finale as the four main characters get sent to prison for violating a Good Samaritan Law.
    • But the moral itself is muddled to no return because all Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer did was make fun of a stranger getting robbed and that is hardly a crime. There is also the hiring of bumbling lawyer Jackie Chiles to defend the four, Jerry deciding not to allow Newman to travel with them to Paris, and Kramer getting water in one ear and leading to him causing the plane to crash while trying to get said water out of the ear.
      • Heck, each episode has multiple plots and the viewer can make up his or her own moral from each of them. For example, the Season 9 episode The Dealership featured the on-again/off again relationship between Elaine and David Puddy, Jerry trying to buy a car from Puddy, a hungry George wanting to eat something and settling on a Twix Bar only for him to not eat it, and Kramer taking the car Jerry intends to buy out for an extended test drive.
  • Sister, Sister is full of these, ranging from the typical (such as stranger danger and the value of wise spending) to the more complex (such as Lisa dealing with her fear that she cannot compare to Ray's dead wife).
  • Oft-times used in the Disney show Smart Guy, one particularly creepy example being "Strangers on the Net" in which ten-year-old T.J. meets up with a man from The Internet who later tries to get him to pose for pictures in his underwear, thus teaching us about Internet safety. In about the squickiest way possible. And this was on Disney.
  • A great many Star Trek episodes end on an Aesop, sometimes even degenerating into a minor Patrick Stewart Speech. In fact, every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series end on an Aesop, as Gene Roddenberry was apparently obsessed with moralizing everything in the most convoluted way.
    • Subverted in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when Garak claims that the moral of The Boy Who Cried Wolf was actually "Never tell the same lie twice."
  • Strangers with Candy bases its entire premise on parodied Aesops: every episode ends with Jerri learning such lessons as the usefulness of illegal steroids.
  • The climax of the plot of Switched centers around what Umine and Ayumi have learned while in each other's bodies.
    • Umine eventually learns that "Beauty is on the inside", as she alienates herself despite her beauty and Ayumi-as-Umine makes many friends despite her "ugliness".
    • Ayumi learns that "Kids are cruel", as she is alienated for her looks in Umine's body. However, this message is tempered by another, namely that "The world is a better place if you have at least one friend."
  • The Weird Al Show's staff were so annoyed by the fact that they had to shove a moral down children's throats every week, they actually started each episode with the lesson to be learned written on parchment and narrated in a fancy voice. It was then torn in half to start the show.
  • Wonder Woman: In "The Bushwhackers" - a Very Special Episode - Jeff Hadley learns an important lesson about family, loyalty, jealousy, and trust. Just because his father, J.P. Hadley - played by Roy Rogers - adopted several war orphans, it doesn't mean that his father loves him less.
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place responsibility and loyalty are fairly common themes.
  • The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss has some of these.


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