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Awesome But Impractical / Live-Action TV

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"A flashy feature that has limited usability for victory."

  • In Auction Kings, Paul has sold many devices that fit these criteria: Gasoline-powered blender? Gasoline-powered pogo-stick? Motorized (and gasoline-powered) barstool? Paul has sold all three.
  • BattleBots:
    • Flamethrowers. They look really impressive and intimidating, and they'd definitely do damage to humans. But these are robots, which require the flames to stay close for an extended amount of time in order to inflict proper damage, and no sane opponent is going to let you do that to their bots. There have only been two cases of a flamethrower unambiguously destroying an opponent: The first instance, Complete Control, had a huge clamp to immobilize the opponent. The second, Free Shipping, relies on the world-class driving skill of Gary Gin to keep the flamethrower pointed at the foes for long enough while dodging their attacks.
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    • In 2016, drones were allowed to compete. There is no doubt seeing a flying combatant is really cool. However, because they fly, they have to be light by necessity, meaning drones are found only as small assistant bots helping a larger main unit. Also, because the fight is confined to a space more cramped than most drones are used to, drones spend more time trying not to crash into the walls than actually participating in the fight and are destroyed if the opposing bot so much as touches it.
    • Chomp in general. It's one of the most complicated bots in the sport with six insectoid legs, an independently spinning upper half, computer assisted aiming, and a magnetic base. Unfortunately, it has a habit of breaking down in battle, and is very delicate for a fighting bot because of all its moving parts.
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  • The original opening sequence to the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. It was originally meant to show the Armistice Officer arrive at the station several times at different stages in his career, from a lowly lieutenant to his final rank as colonel. They even cast a young actor to play him, putting him through lots of makeup to show him accurately age over the 40 years. Realistically, this would have stretched the opening to maybe 10 minutes.
  • In Better Call Saul, we have Daniel Warmolt's new Hummer H2. It's flashy, and chock-full of features that make it quite comfortable to be in, and the bright-yellow-with-red-flames paint job is great at drawing attention. Which is exactly the opposite of what you want for a vehicle that you will be bringing to a quick and discreet drug deal. Additionally, the fact that it's so expensive immediately makes the cops suspicious when they see it parked in the driveway of his relatively small house. And even the "Awesome" part can be debatable, because other characters see it as gaudy and ugly (Mike calls it a "Mid-Life Crisis Car" , while Nacho calls it a "school bus for six-year old pimps").
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  • Discussed Trope in an episode of Castle where the titular mystery writer and his cop friends are shooting the breeze about what the (working class) cops would do if they won the lottery. One of them claims he'd buy a Ferrari, at which point Castle, a millionaire, says he has one and it's actually not as impressive as you'd think. When the cop points out that they're "hella fast", Castle retorts that a Ferrari is just as fast as any other car on the street when it's stuck in rush-hour traffic.
  • Crusade: The Excalibur had the ability to fire a supercharged shot that could kill any ship it faced. Downside? It almost drained the ship, leaving it vulnerable for a minute. A minute in which the destroyed enemy ship's buddies could use to wail on it. They only try to use it as a last resort. Besides, the ship has top-of-the-line armor which absorbs and dissipates something like 80% of incoming energy.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Doctor Dances", this trope is used to make an implicit comparison between the Doctor and Lovable Rogue conman Captain Jack Harkness. Part of this is the tools that both men use; Jack is equipped with a flashy sonic blaster which does awesome things like cut holes in walls and restore them — against which the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, which takes hours to "resonate concrete" in order to achieve the same effect, looks more than a little naff. This earns some rather snide and dismissive comments on the screwdriver from Jack and Rose, who has fallen under Jack's sway a bit... except it turns out you can only use those cool features on the sonic blaster a handful of times before the battery completely runs out and it basically becomes a glorified paperweight, whereas the humble-yet-trusty sonic screwdriver just keeps going and going. The point is made that while Jack has all the charm and outer trappings of the cooler-than-cool "Han Solo/Captain Kirk" space hero, he's ultimately a bit rubbish and not nearly as good as he thinks he is, while for all his eccentricities and nerdishness the Doctor is the real deal who ultimately gets the job done.
    • "Planet of the Dead": The Cup of Athelstan is guarded by a fancy security system with lasers which does nothing to stop Christina from lowering herself in on cables and replacing it with a Japanese lucky cat figurine. Perhaps they should have gone for a glass case.
    • The Moment, the Time Lord superweapon which appears in "The Day of the Doctor", turns out to be something like this. It's a sentient super-weapon which is capable of destroying entire galaxies... except the fact that it's sentient means that it's also developed a conscience, and will sit in judgement over you as you use it. Meaning that if you still have a shred of conscience left, you shouldn't be able to use it, and if you somehow are still able to it will inflict a worse punishment on you for doing so, thus rendering any "victory" achieved through using it completely pyrrhic in nature. However, it also turns out that because it's super-sentient, it will also try and work out some way so that you don't have to use it, even if it has to completely tangle up time and space in order to do so.
  • The titular Exo-man. It gives the wearer enhance strength, immunity to bullets and can withstand a car ramming through it. However, it's slow as turtle on meds and has to fully turn his body to look right and left. Its air supply and operation time are also limited. Not to mention its phallic design...
  • Fresh Off the Boat has Shaquille O'Neal sell a line of fancy basketball-shaped vodka bottles. It looks cool and the basketball motif fits Shaq, but the lack of flat sides makes it a pain in the ass to store properly and you can't even set the bottle down after pouring your drink without it rolling off the table. As Shaq himself admits "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time".
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Aegon the Conqueror deliberately had the Iron Throne made so it would be both awe-inspiring and uncomfortable to sit on. No ruler should ever allow themselves to be comfortable on their throne.
    • Harrenhal is the greatest fortress in the Seven Kingdoms. It's also a logistical nightmare, practically impossible to man and govern properly, which is why the Lannister troops abandon it, rather than defend it, when the Northern army arrives. Justified for the original builders, since it had the full resources of a small empire behind it; the lands and incomes associated with it now are a tiny fraction of the minimum requirements. The histories and lore go into more detail, showing that the place was nothing more than a gigantic oven when Aegon The Conqueror sacked it using a dragon.
    • Owning any castle isn't all its cracked up to be as Jaime tells Bronn. They attract lots of attention in war, and most of the taxes the owner collects go into basic maintenance rather than their coffers.
    • Wildfire's awesome destructive power is matched only by the danger of handling it. Bronn immediately points out how dangerous it is to use a weapon that will set fire to your own army the second someone drops one (which is almost guaranteed to happen in a combat situation). Tyrion, however, is smart enough to come up with a way around this.
    • Long Claw, a Valyrian steel hand-and-a-half sword, is usually an efficient weapon in Jon Snow's hands, but it has been shown several times that its longer reach is a liability if Jon doesn't have a lot of space to work with.
    • Jaime lampshades this with his prosthetic hand. Despite its impressive, golden appearance, a hook would serve him much better.
    • The Braavosi fencing style of water dancing is considered this by the Hound, and he has a point since it is flashy and impressive but nearly useless against heavily-armoured opponents.
  • The Great British Bake Off: Flora's skillset in series 6 fell loosely under this; she just couldn't stop overdecorating her creations, often far beyond what was required. This resulted in her overextending her abilities which in turn weakened her overall efforts, producing among other things runny cream horns and an underbaked chocolate tart thanks to elaborate tuille and macaron decorations respectively. In the Class of 2015 special, it was mentioned that the bakers referred to this as "Florafication".
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, activating Decade Complete form involves pressing all 10 K-Touch buttons in the exact same order each time. In the heat of battle, even. It's like a gun lock with a 10-digit combination...
  • Kitchen Nightmares: Perhaps the most generous interpretation of Sebastian's bloated menu, which involved twenty "gourmet flavour combinations"... and took the poor waitresses about as many minutes to explain to their confused customers. Only Sebastian himself thought it was awesome, though.
  • On The Late Late Show, in a week back in London, James Corden shows off a series of impractical things he's dreamed up to spice up the airplane experience, at the end of which the otherwise stunned representative admits that he loves it, but 99% of it is unusable. (They might do something with the donkey.)
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers:
    • Serpentera: Ostensibly powerful enough to destroy a planet, but it kept running out of power when it came time to actually fight the Power Rangers. Despite being the largest Zord ever in the series, it was hardly effective beyond its first few appearances. The behind-the scenes reason for this was the limited footage of Serpentera available from the original Sentai, where it was an envoy of the Powers That Be that told both sides to stop upsetting the cosmic balance with their fighting, not a weapon of the villains'.
    • The Megazord itself became this from time to time, as it often seemed more practical to split the zords up, either to take on multiple monsters or to flank and overpower an single one. Notably, while fighting Commander Crayfish and the mutant Ranger clones, the clones held Crayfish on their shoulders, leading Billy to say he was out of their weapons range. Never did it occur to anyone to disassemble and let the Pterodactyl Zord (which can fly) attack from above. This became even more apparent any season they had bipedal humanoid zords, such as the Super Zeo Zords, Rescue Zords, or the Shogun Zords, since, being realized via stuntmen in costumes same as the combined Megazord, they were utilized more often than animal or vehicle-style individual zords.
    • Later zord combinations got a lot bulkier. Not only did it make them practically immobile but they always looked like they'd topple over.
  • Done often on MythBusters. Driving a car so fast that it can't be caught by a police radar, making a child float by using thousands of balloons, chopping down a tree with a machine gun... the list goes on.
  • The Panthermobile from the live action start of the 70s Pink Panther show. It has absolutely jaw dropping lines, but also no windows, no roof for the driver, and my goodness does it fishtail all over the place!
  • Robot Wars:
    • Hypno-Disc. The original horizontal flywheel, its weapon was capable of inflicting horrific damage. However, the recoil had a tendency to damage Hypno-Disc's internals and made it prone to breakdowns.
      • By the same vein, Full Body Spinners such as Typhoon. Sure the damage from their attacks is tremendous, but thanks to Newton's Third Law the damage to them will be just as great. It was a case of mitigating the recoil that made the likes of Typhoon 2 successful.
    • Razer, prior to Series 5. Like Hypno-Disc, its crushing claw was the first of its kind and could dish out some serious damage, plus the machine itself just looked breathtaking. However, it was even more prone to breakdowns than Hypno-Disc and crashed out in the heats three times in a row. Once they'd ironed out the kinks, however, it became The Ace and reached the Grand Final two years running.
    • Wheely Big Cheese's entire body was one enormous, four-feet-long flipper, capable of flipping up to 800kg (for reference, when Wheely Big Cheese debuted, the weight limit was 80kg). However, it was prone to mechanical problems and only ever worked to its full potential on one memorable occasion. It also had poor manoeuvrability, and two glaring weak spots in the form of its exposed wheels, which had a tendency to get smashed off.
    • One Series 4 contestant, Saw Point, had two 60cm-diameter saw blades for wheels. Not only did it look awesome as hell, it defeated Oblivion 2 in its first fight simply by driving over the top of it. Of course, saw blades are not great means of locomotion, and Saw Point was easily pushed around or pushed over.
  • Silicon Valley nicely showcases how tech companies try to develop stuff that's way out of reach simply to show themselves "ahead of the curve." The problem being, so many of these ideas are decades away from becoming reality and, in fact, shown to not be that useful for regular lives.
    • Gavin pays $20 million for a holographic conferencing tool, assuming it'll make him look amazing. However, the effect is not two-way so while Nelson can see Gavin's hologram, Gavin can't see him. The tool quickly glitches out since Gavin is calling from his holiday home in rural Wyoming and the low bandwidth can’t handle the hologram. So they take to Hooli’s video chat app only to have that crash on them as well. They're thus forced to talk over a bad long-distance phone connection, meaning Gavin wasted $20 million on a fancy light show.
    • Jared tries to take a self-driving car to a house but a computer error ends up sending him onto a cargo ship. When he gets out to its island destination, Jared finds the entire place is automated and he's stuck there.
    • The gang is surprised to hear Peter Gregory's company is failing after his death. They're informed that's because Gregory was financing projects like three companies working on making things invisible and turning genetically engineered fungus into cotton.
    • When his much hyped Nucleus program turns into a public disaster, a desperate Gavin turns to Nelson for help, assuming the man has been busy with new projects. He discovers Nelson has been wasting the last few weeks and company resources building a potato cannon. Nelson does show he has a system that can let people literally type texts with their minds... only it can't be achieved in anything less than 30 years.
  • Snooki & J-Woww: Snooki loves her chunky stiletto pumps, perhaps a bit too much. When she's about to leave her pad (mind you, she's knocked up here) along with J-Woww, she takes a tumble down the steps like she's pounded one too many.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • The staff weapon. It looks great, it fires loud bright bolts of plasma, the wounds look horrific, it doubles as a melee weapon... but it's also really hard to aim, rarely does damage beyond twenty meters, fires only once a second, and the wounds are self-cauterizing, meaning basic medical care makes them easily survivable. Badasses who've trained for years such as Teal'c and Master Bra'tac can hit a human-sized target at range two times out of three, but Teal'c switches to P90s in the later seasons.

        Made explicit in one episode where O'Neill (with two l's) is training some rebel Jaffa to use P-90s. After an impressive demo comparing the firearm's superiority, he explains "This [the staff weapon] is a weapon of terror. Its purpose is to intimidate the enemy. This [the P-90] is a weapon of war. Its purpose is to kill your enemy."
      • The ship-mounted weapons are the more powerful version of staff weapons by several orders of magnitude (their firepower is in the megaton range). They are also much more precise than their handheld cousins. Presumably, the Ha'taks have some sort of a targeting system. Good luck trying to hit anything in space based on visual aiming alone. Then again, their weapons consistently fail to hit small craft.
      • The Death Gliders can fly in space and in atmosphere and their shape is specifically meant to terrify enemies. They're also equipped with more powerful versions of the staff weapons. They also appear to lack any devices present in any modern jet fighter, such as targeting systems and friend-or-foe recognition, or even ejector seats. Now imagine humans taking the useful parts of the Death Glider, such as their drives and inertial dampers, replacing the slow-firing and relatively short-range staff cannons with faster-firing railguns and long-range guided missiles, and adding the above-mentioned systems. Now you got an awesome fighter. Which shows when a single F-302 manages to own a pair of Death Gliders in the space of a second.
      • Initially, the SGC trained its prospective recruits by having them contend with a fake footholdsituation inside the actual Cheyenne Mountain complex. However, this required entire sections of the base to be sealed off every month, disrupting the work of the base staff. General Hammond eventually requested the money to build a dedicated off-world training facility.
    • Stargate Atlantis:
      • The city-ship Atlantis itself is tremendously over-reliant on its Deflector Shield, which takes more power to operate for any length of time than any Earth-built reactor can supply (it's designed to use zero-point energy modules, which are Lost Technology). The city can fly through space but isn't even airtight without the shield on.
      • Discussed in one episode, where the expedition finds an Ancient ship travelling between galaxies at 99.9% of the speed of light. Rodney admits that while it's extremely impressive that the Ancients managed to accelerate a ship that fast, it's also functionally useless when they'd already invented reliable FTL drives, especially given that it's taken the ship over 10,000 years just to get halfway between galaxies at that speed. This example is more justified than most, however, in that the FTL drives they had on board were so badly damaged they couldn’t be repaired, and to stay where they were would have resulted in sure death.
  • Star Trek:
    • The bat'leth, while definitely a Cool Sword, isn't very practical in a realistic swordfight. For one, the normal stance requires the use of both hands and severely limits the reach. If you grip it in one hand, then you have an unbalanced weapon with no hilt and a pointy end facing your gut. Made more jarring by the fact that Klingons do have normal swords, but only one is ever used. Duras uses one in his fight against Worf but loses, as Worf has the advantage of vengeance on his side (Duras having just killed Worf's girlfriend). Also, most fights with the bat'leth show it as a slow, cumbersome weapon that could likely be overcome by a nimble swordsman with a rapier. Additionally, let's not forget that Klingons still use swords in the days of directed-energy weapons. It's even explicitly mentioned that an old lady with a phaser could hold off a dozen Klingon warriors with bat'leths. However, at least one of the novels states that the bat'leth was designed for large close quarters battles in narrow city streets, presumably of similar size to modern starship corridors - so it could be slightly justified.
    • Major Kira described a Starfleet phaser rifle like this (at least in terms of guerrilla warfare). Sure, it's got multiple power settings, gryo-stabilizers, and multiple-target acquisition capabilities - but putting all of that into the weapon means it's much more prone to breakdown in less-than-ideal conditions. She says that the Cardassian disruptor rifle, while simpler and more brutal (with just "stun" and "kill" settings), could be dragged through the mud and still fire.
      • The series had to introduce a new model of phaser rifle that actually looked like a rifle later on when combat became a more common part of the series. There was no way for the actors to aim the earlier TNG ones and the resulting beams firing at odd angles looked ridiculous.
    • On Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise-D's saucer separation abilities proved to be this. It was the reason the Enterprise-D was designed the way it was, and it was anticipated to be used regularly, but it was too expensive to do, and on the show, it was used only three times: the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint", "The Arsenal of Freedom" (also from season 1), and "The Best of Both Worlds part II" (from season 4), before being used for the last time in Star Trek: Generations.'
      • As a meta example, the Enterprise-D's main shooting model was this as the design of the Galaxy-class starship was done without Industrial Light and Magic's help. By the time ILM got involved, they had a six foot tall behemoth of a shooting model that proved utterly cumbersome to film (especially with the aforementioned saucer section, which made it almost impossible to stabilize right-side-up, thus the preponderance of FX shots being done from a low angle, which allowed them to mount it in a much more stable saucer-down position). This is the main reason why Star Trek: Generations had the Enterprise destroyed and replaced with the Enterprise-E for Star Trek: First Contact.
      • The original model of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation was effectively retired in Season 3, as a new, smaller and more practical model was introduced. However, this model was also not capable of separating. The cost of dragging out the old model, refurbishing it and using in the Season 4 opener was prohibitive, effectively meaning it couldn't be done again without a feature film budget.
      • It should also be noted that one of the uses of separation was in direct opposition to its intended purpose of getting civilians to safety. In "The Best of Both Worlds" it was actually used to provide the Borg with a second target.
      • In-universe, it seldom made sense to separate the ship, especially since the saucer section had no warp drive, and would have little chance of defending itself from a serious threat if it was caught away from the stardrive section. Events tended to move too fast, and the Enterprise often found itself in battles unexpectedly.
      • The Enterprise of the original series was also supposed to be able to do this. From "The Making of Star Trek" (published mid 1960s), chapter 2 "Designed to operate separately from the rest of the ship, the saucer therefore contains all elements necessary for independent operation". It's not clear if this was more than an emergency escape measure, i.e if reattachment outside of a repair dock was possible. The book had Gene Roddenberry's approval. It was never done on the show. One episode "The Apple" possibly refers to it. Kirk says to Scotty "Discard the warp drive nacelles if you have to, and crack out of there with the main section, but get that ship out of there!"
    • Oberth-class ships have primary hulls and secondary hulls that are only connected by the nacelle pylons, so the only way people can go between them is by using transporters or shuttles.
    • The titular Cool Starship of Star Trek: Discovery is equipped with an experimental Displacement-Activated Spore Hub Drive, or "spore drive", which allows Discovery to effectively teleport across large distances through a spatial network of fungal mycelia. This proves quite useful for Hit-and-Run Tactics throughout the Klingon War — and gets taken Up to Eleven when Discovery uses it for a Teleport Spam attack that takes down the Klingon flagship. That said, one of its major drawbacks is that it requires a sentient, organic navigator to function, and only two have been utilized — a giant tardigrade and an enhanced human, both of whom were pushed beyond the limits of their endurance and almost killed. In addition, it's discovered that improper use of the mycelial energy has deleterious effects on the entire network, which would not only render the spore drive useless but also bring destruction to the entire multiverse. It is therefore no surprise that once the Klingon War ends, Starfleet effectively decommissions the spore drive.
  • Top Gear:
    • Supercars! They are hard to see out of, hard to park, break easily, incur mind-bogglingly high maintenance bills, guzzle fuel like beer, burn through tires quickly, depreciate in resale value right off a cliff (especially if you don't take any optional extras and you don't pick a popular colour), and they might get you killed by catching fire and/or wrapping around a tree. But at least they look cool and go fast.
    • Clarkson's Ford GT 40. He fell in love with the car on first sight and was giddy when it arrived in the UK, but the other two presenters pointed out a major problem with it: the fuel economy. It manages a paltry 4 miles per gallon and has a 17.5 gallon fuel tank, giving it a rough range of 75 miles before it needs refuelling. Jeremy's house is 76 miles away from the Top Gear studio.
    • A lot of the presenter's solutions to the engineering challenges look great on paper but encounter horrendous problems when actually used for the first time. A prime example of this is the Campervan Challenge:
      • James took a Lotus Excel and fitted a small aluminium roof box to the top which was (just) barely big enough to accomodate a single adult lying down inside. Somehow he actually managed to fit a potty and a grill in the thing. Naturally, when challenged to change into a wetsuit inside (and any surfer can attest they require a lot of squirming to get into), James ran into problem.
      • Richard used an old Land Rover to serve as a base for a folding chalet that boasted rooms including a games room, a library and a master and child's bedroom. It took hours to assemble and just as long to fold away, it couldn't be moved while deployed, and it provided about as much protection from the elements as you would expect from a house made from flimsy plastic panels - it was freezing cold and rattled in the fierce wind, good luck getting any sleep in it. It also caught fire when Richard tried to cook a meal in it.
      • Jeremy built a three-storey apartment on the back of a Citreon estate car. It was far too tall to comfortably pass under most bridges or enter petrol stations, downright terrifying to drive on anything remotely resembling motorway speeds, and it was blown over on its side when it was parked up at night.
  • A large number of wrestling moves are not only ridiculous, but literally impossible if the receiver doesn't put as much work in as the giver. But they look so cool. Particular examples are:
    • Triple H's Pedigree
    • Trish Stratus' Springboard Bulldog, the Stratus-faction.
    • The Canadian Destroyer
    • The Powerbomb
    • The Missile Dropkick
    • The Cross Body Block


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