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Breather Episode / Live-Action TV

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Breather Episodes of live-action TV.


  • All in the Family:
    • The 1977-1978 season is acclaimed for having some of that series' darkest and most memorable episodes: Archie buys Kelsey's Bar and is addicted to amphetamines, Edith's cousin comes out of the closet, Archie has an all-too-close encounter with the Ku Klux Klan, Edith witnesses a murder, Edith is nearly raped, Archie admits to Mike he was abused as a child, Mike gets a job offer in California, Mike and Gloria say goodbye. But, lest we forget, there were a number of lighter episodes – Edith being hired to do a TV commercial, Archie hosting his first Super Bowl party (even if he was robbed that day), Archie wants to go on a fishing trip but must host an impromptu wedding between two old codgers and a few others. Even though themes of ethics and morals came into play for several of the "lighter" episodes, they were considerably easier and more family friendly than the most memorable of the season's episodes.
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    • Speaking of which, each one of the seasons, from the second season on, had episodes that were played more for laughs (in the vein of the traditional sitcom of the 1950s and 1960s) than to break another of TV's taboos or address a controversial topic. One of the first – and perhaps the signature episode of the entire series – was a 1972 episode featuring a beloved singer and dancer named Sammy Davis Jr..
  • The first four seasons of The Amazing Race had a non-elimination leg between the final elimination leg and the finale. Since there were no penalties given out to teams saved by the non-elimination for those seasons, most teams considered this a free leg.
  • In Angel, the first half of Season 3 is a moderately dark arc involving the birth of Angel's son. Then we have "Provider", which includes moments between Wes and Fred, Gunn and Fred, Angel and Cordy, Cordy and Gunn, and especially Wes and Gunn.
    • It's followed immediately by "Waiting in the Wings", where the crew attends a performance by a cursed ballet troupe just before the very dark arc dealing with Holtz's plan to kill Angel and kidnap his son.
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    • In Season 5, Cordelia's and Fred's deaths are separated by "Smile Time", which is this trope writ very large indeed.
    • While less well known than "Smile Time", "The Girl in Question" is also a perfect fit for this trope. The episode was immediately before the show's extremely dark and depressing final two episodes. It featured, among other things, Angel and Spike's "arch nemesis" The Immortal, a decapitated demon's head held for ransom, and more than a few Ho Yay moments between the aforementioned vampires.
  • Atlanta has the Season 2 episode "Champagne Papi" — a Day in the Limelight episode where Van and her friends attend a New Year's Eve party at the mansion of Drake — which is a much needed breather after the events of Surreal Horror that occurred in the previous episode "Teddy Perkins".
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  • Babylon 5 had a mix of Wham Episodes and Breather Episodes earlier on, but even the latter usually advanced some aspect of the overall series Arc, if only in B-plot. By the climax of the arc, they were rarer. They returned some in the fifth season, though they were not necessarily light or fluffy. For example, the fifth-season episode "Day Of The Dead," written by Neil Gaiman, was a completely stand-alone story, and a definite breather after the missteps of the Telepath plotline and before the Centauri War; it was not, however, simple fare.
  • Ronald D. Moore attempted to do this once or twice with Battlestar Galactica.
    • After nearly a dozen hours of the most dramatic and emotionally draining stories that the Sci-Fi Channel had seen, the network pleaded with him to create a lighter, more humorous episode. That episode ended up being "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down". While somewhat more schticky than any previous or following episode, it certainly didn't help the goal that Eddie Olmos himself took the reins as director.
    • The writing team of Battlestar Galactica was notoriously incapable of producing such episodes. The third season episode "Taking a Break From All Your Worries" was another response to a plea from the network for a breather. It was originally intended to be a fun, light stand-alone episode concerning the establishment of a bar on the Galactica. what made it onto the screen was an almost unbearably grimdark episode in which the B-plot involves the suicidally depressing dysfunction of several romantic relationships, while the A-plot covers the force-feeding, mock execution, and drug-induced torture of a major character. Fun!
  • Subverted in Blackadder Goes Forth: The episode "Major Star" is the only episode of the series not directly centered on Edmund's attempts to escape, but instead focuses on him staging a war relief show (with an obvious purpose).
  • Black Mirror is a show that's notorious for spooking viewers with dystopian sci-fi visions of a world in which seemingly cool technology is used to hurt people. Starting in the third season, however, each season has at least one episode that turns this formula on its head in a more optimistic direction. "San Junipero" in season three is a romance in which the technology explored in the episode is used to bring people together. In season four, both "USS Callister" (an Affectionate Parody of Star Trek) and "Black Museum" feature a lot of the series' trademark darkness in how their respective Big Bads operate, but both of them get a righteous comeuppance at the hands of the protagonists, who walk away victorious by turning that technology against the villains. Season five's "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" is an R-rated Affectionate Parody of a Disney Channel Original Movie, complete with its teenage protagonists saving the day through a Zany Scheme.
  • The Boy Meets World episode "Bee True" from season six was the first purely comedic episode after eight straight episodes with at least one dramatic plotline. In those eight episodes, the show dealt with themes such as death, grief, finding oneself, parental abandonment, parental responsibility, and premature birth. "Bee True" involved Cory and Shawn concocting a Zany Scheme to help Mr. Feeny win over Dean Bolander.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The second half of the second season featured one of the show's darker arcs. Comedic episodes such as "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" and "Go Fish" lightened the mood.
    • Season 3 features "Doppelgangland" which comes right after Faith's Face–Heel Turn. It's a light-hearted comedy episode that has a vampire alter ego for Willow walking around causing mistaken identity laughs.
    • "Tabula Rasa", an episode of wacky mind-loss comedy before we plunge headlong into darkness, and don't surface again until the end of the season. May even count as a subversion, as it is the episode where Tara leaves Willow and Giles leaves for England.
    • "I Was Made to Love You" is a fun, light-hearted episode just before Buffy's mother suddenly dies and the gang spends most of the rest of the season running for their lives. Joss loves the subversion involved in ending a breather episode with a harsh return to the darkness of the main plot ... or even ending a happy moment with a cruel twist. Take "Seeing Red," where Willow and Tara are all giddily happy in their newly reignited relationship at the beginning of the episode, something many fans had been waiting for since their breakup, only to have Tara shot to death 40 minutes later.
    • "Intervention". After the previous 2 episodes, the show needed an(other) episode featuring a sex robot.
  • For being a show where almost every episode includes at least one murder, The Closer has had surprisingly many:
    • The relatively light episode "The Round File" immediately follows "Ruby", which features a man who rapes and kills black pre-teen girls.
    • "Dial M for Provenza" is a mostly comedic episode about a woman who tries to put out a hit on her husband but is too stupid to pull it off, and is immediately followed by "Problem Child", about a missing 14-year-old boy who turns out to have been a budding psychopath, who terrorized everyone he knew.
    • "Tapped Out", the episode with the over the top fake cop, the screaming woman and the sleazy victim who kind of had it coming, is definitely a breather episode.
    • "Smells like Murder", the episode with the body in the cooler that's sent to the LAPD by mail, is sandwiched between "Identity Theft", about a man who's on trial for murder and pleads guilty to protect his schizophrenic son, and "Maternal Instincts", about a teenage boy who is shot in a parking lot but doesn't die right away and bonds with Brenda's niece.
  • According to Stephen Colbert, A Colbert Christmas was a breather episode for real life. After the intensity of the 2008 elections, this is quite believable.
  • CSI had the lighthearted Lower Deck/Bottle Episode "You Kill Me", about The Lab Rat Hodges running the other Lab Rats through elaborate (and absurd) murder scenarios as part of a CSI-themed board game he was creating. The previous episode featured the Put on a Bus departure of a main character, while the following episode concerned another main character breaking down after becoming addicted to prescription drugs.
  • Season five of Dexter has the episode "Teenage Wasteland", which takes a break from the Barrel Girls arc to focus on Dexter's reconciliation with his daughter, Astor. If you take out the title character's internal narration, it could almost be taken straight out of a sweet family show.
  • Doctor Who:
  • The third season's last episode of Downton Abbey may qualify, with a Bratty Teenage Daughter as the main problem, after the episodes about Sybil's death, and Thomas' first serious trouble because of his orientation.
  • ER tended to follow its sadder, wrenching episodes with slightly more upbeat ones that made the lingering effects of the tragedy the B-plot of the episode rather than the main focus—"Love's Labor Lost (Greene mishandles a childbirth, resulting in the woman's death), with "Full Moon, Saturday Night" (a very quirky episode that was basically Exactly What It Says on the Tin, with Greene's subsequent Heroic BSoD being in the background), "The Storm 2" (Doug resigns in disgrace, abandoning Carol), with "Middle Of Nowhere" (taking us completely out of the ER, following Benton as he travels to Mississippi), "All In The Family" (Lucy's death), with "Be Patient" (a very run-of-the-mill episode).
  • Farscape had "Revenging Angel", which was mostly done in the style of a Looney Tunes cartoon, wedged between the two episodes dealing with the death of one of the Crichtons.
  • Firefly made it a point to follow some of the more intense episodes with much lighter-hearted ones, such as following the tense, horror-themed episode "Bushwhacked" with the lighter swordfight-y episode "Shindig", or the violent and gunplay-heavy episode "War Stories" with the much more humorous caper episode "Trash".
  • In the third season of The Flash (2014), after the Wham Episode that revealed Savitar's identity to be a future version of Barry himself, the following episode's plot involved a failed attempt to stop him that resulted in Barry getting amnesia, with hilarious results. This was before the very plot-heavy and emotional last two episodes of the season.
    • Episode 7 of the fourth season serves entirely to reveal the Thinker's origin story and advance the plot in the present day. It's almost an entire episode of Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene; Barry scarcely uses his powers and doesn't battle a Meta, save anyone's life or stop any crimes (although he does commit a couple). The high stakes Crisis on Earth X crossover event with the other DC shows followed the week after, and the mid-season finale the week after that.
  • From the Earth to the Moon episode "That's All There Is" depicts Apollo 12, which was almost a Real Life breather episode between the monumental achievement of Apollo 11 and crisis of Apollo 13. With flippant, foul-mouthed Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and New Meat Alan Bean making the trip, it's much more lighthearted and comedic.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The first three seasons adopt a general pattern of the penultimate episode being the season's Wham Episode (Red Wedding, anyone?). The season finale episode is usually a quieter episode that serves to set up the next season. Season 3's finale doesn't even have a true cliffhanger. The pattern holds until season 6 where the finale is a major Wham Episode while the seventh season ends on a massive cliffhanger.
    • The second episode of season 8, "The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms", is a calm and relatively lighthearted episode set the night before what promises to be the most crucial battle yet. There are no action sequences at all, just the characters coming together to find solace and comfort on what might be their last night among the living.
  • Glee:
    • Episode "Dream On" deals with how dreams don't always come true and is by far the darkest episode in the first season, as it brutally forces wheelchair-bound Artie to accept that he'll most likely be paraplegic for the rest of his life. The next episode was a tribute to Lady Gaga and KISS.
    • After the devastating "Choke", where Rachel bombs the most important audition of her life, Puck finds out he's failing and won't graduate even after trying so hard, and Beiste goes back to her abusive husband, we have "Prom-assuarus", a light-hearted episode about a dinosaur-themed prom. Rachel, Puck, and Beiste's issues are continued in the episode after.
    • In between "Glease", an episode dealing with the fallout of the break-ups and "Thanksgiving", in which Marley's eating disorder gets worse than ever and the New Directions lose sectionals, we have the episode "Dynamic Duets", where the characters spend most of the episode running around in superhero costumes.
    • The episode immediately following "The Quarterback", which deals with Finn's (and his actor's) death, and is basically the most emotional episode in the entire series, is called "A Katy or a Gaga", which was a tribute to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street had Season Five's very funny, self-referential "The Documentary" placed between "Blood Wedding" and "Betrayal", two of the most emotionally-wrenching episodes in the show's history.
  • Chapter 8 of House of Cards (US) has Frank Underwood briefly taking a break from politics—yes, he does that occasionally—to visit his old military college in South Carolina, where he attends the dedication ceremony of a new library named after him, and reconnects with his old friends (including his possible ex-lover) with a night of drunken antics. It's the only episode of Season 1 in which Zoe Barnes does not appear, as her story arc is briefly put on hold. Said episode is divided between Frank's time at the Citadel and Peter Russo's subplot.
  • This is a recurring trope in multiple Kamen Rider series. Usually done before some kind of big reveal or another plot twist.
  • Knots Landing: "Birds Do It, Bees Do It", a light-hearted episode about sex, comes immediately after the conclusion of the Crazy Jill storyline which featured several very intense episodes.
  • Lost:
    • Out from the darkness of season 3 with "Tricia Tanaka is Dead". Lampshaded by Hurley in the episode:
      Hurley: Look, I don't know about you, but things have really sucked for me lately, and I could really use a victory. So let's get one, dude! Let's get this car started. Let's look death in the face and say: "Whatever, man!"
    • Season 2 is filled with these, most notably "S.O.S.", an episode centered on Bernard and Rose's backstory.
    • Season 5's "Some Like It Hoth": a Miles flashback episode whose present-day portion features him and Hurley bumming around.
  • In Lost Girl's second season, after a couple of episodes that saw the Big Bad kick everyone's asses, three characters die, and one more be written out, the penultimate episode, "Into the Dark", had the main characters regrouping. Highlights include the Morrigan being forced to dance (badly) in her underwear, Bo turning her seduction powers on the Morrigan and leaving her handcuffed to her own bed, a group of Red Caps mad at Vex because their footballnote  team lost, a MacGuffin that turns out to be "Fae Viagra", and Kenzi coming at the Norn's sacred tree with a chainsaw.
  • The Office had the amusing "Café Disco" episode towards the end of the fifth season to break up the Michael Scott Paper Company storyline and the (assumed) Pam/Jim baby storyline.
  • The Orville went a little more serious in Season Two. "All the World Is Birthday Cake" is the story of a First contact gone horribly wrong, landing Kelly and Bortus in a concentration camp. "Deflectors" is a anvil-nuke about a heterosexual Molocan, which is grounds for life imprisonment in their culture, ending in a Sadistic Choice for the new security chief and a Downer Ending all around. Sandwiched between them is "A Happy Refrain," a lighthearted and fluffy episode about Dr. Finn and Isaac starting a romance.
  • Parks and Recreation is never anything but lighthearted, but the season 4 Valentine's Day episode breaks completely from the season-long city council campaign arc.
  • The popular Power Rangers Wild Force episode "Forever Red", the franchise's 10th-anniversary celebration featuring (almost) all of the series' Red Rangers going on a stand-alone mission, was just after the end of the Animus arc, and is followed by a two-parter that kicks off the final story arc when Master Org returns.
  • The Prisoner (1967): prior to its two-part Wham Episode finale, the short-lived SF series aired "The Girl Who Was Death", a comedic episode that was unlike any episode of the series to date (and was, in fact, based upon an unproduced script for Danger Man).
  • The format of Skins - where each episode focuses on a different character in its ensemble - gives it a lot of room to do this, as it can easily bounce from a character who is dealing with more serious issues to one dealing with more lighthearted ones, without losing its place in either. Examples:
    • JJ's episode in Season 4, seeing as it was sandwiched between Freddie and Effy's episodes dealing with a very dark storyline about mental illness, self-harm, and an Ax-Crazy psychiatrist. JJ's episode, on the other hand, was a cute, lighthearted romp about him pursuing another employee at the grocery store where he worked, and his friendship with Thomas.
    • Season 3: Effy's horror story episode and the finale's resolution of the Triangle Of Doom are separated by Naomi and Emily's Relationship Upgrade.
  • In Smallville, the Darker and Edgier season nine is punctuated by "Warrior", in which a kid gains superpowers by reading a magical comic book.
  • Stargate:
    • In the midst of the dark and grim Ori storyline, Stargate SG-1 had "200", the show's 200th episode, which revisited the Show Within a Show introduced in the 100th episode as a way for the creators to parody themselves and lampshade the hell out of everything without having to break the Fourth Wall. It takes the form of a Vignette Episode in which the eponymous team, SG-1, is meeting with an old acquaintance who is writing a sci-fi action film based (loosely) on them and their experiences. Most of the humor comes from the (often bizarre) ideas that the characters propose, including blatant references to The Wizard of Oz, Farscape, and Star Trek, as well as parodies of related genres. Now sandwich this episode between one involving savage murders and evil aliens who have infiltrated Earth, and one involving genocide and presumed character death. And put the main characters through plenty more situations just as nasty throughout the course of the season.
    • Stargate Universe used "Faith" to give the audience a break after the political tension and space battles of "Space" and "Divided".
      • Earlier, "Earth" was the first episode which did not involve an imminent threat to the survival of the crew. They then got right back on it with "Time".
      • "Cloverdale" provided a mostly-humorous breather in the middle of a darker arc involving Chloe's transformation and Rush's control of the ship.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did this regularly in the later seasons to break up the darkest and most complex storyline in the entire franchise: the Dominion War arc. Comedic episodes featuring the Ferengi were especially prominent. It should be noted, however, that Ferengi episodes were being done before the Dominion War as well.
    • The last episode to air prior to the Dominion conquering Deep Space Nine seemed designed to lighten a mood that was about to get pretty bleak.
    • Other examples that are placed in the middle of a string of arc episodes include the holosuite-centered "Badda Bing Badda Bang" (a heist caper in 1960s Las Vegas) and "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" (a baseball game versus a team of Vulcans).
    • "In The Cards" provides a big change in pace to break the tension before the season finale, with Jake and Nog getting into all kinds of hijinks.
    • "In the Pale Moonlight" - widely recognized as possibly the darkest episode in Trek canon - was immediately followed by "His Way", a romantic comedy episode explicitly written to get Odo and Kira together.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation does this in the episode "Family", immediately after the climactic events of "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2". Picard has been rescued and cured of Borg assimilation, and rather than dive straight back into adventure of the week, he takes shore leave on Earth to recover. The episode is not without dark tones; Picard is forced to face his feelings about his violation by the Borg, and it ain't pretty. Many aspects of the episode (e.g. the comfortable setting) are there to sweeten the pill, especially the optimistic ending.
  • Supernatural:
  • Most of the later Super Sentai series have these kinds of episodes for either Christmas or New Year's Day, though there have been some exceptions - Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters had theirs around episodes 31-32, tying it into a Crossover with Gavan Type-G.
  • After the rather bleak trio of episodes revolving around the death and resurrection of Owen, the Torchwood episode "Something Borrowed" featured Gwen trying to prevent her wedding to Rhys being ruined by an unexpected alien pregnancy. Cue a genuinely funny runaround as the shape-shifting alien's mommy appears at the service looking to retrieve her baby by tearing it out of Gwen's belly.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • "Once upon a Time" shows that Buster Keaton was still as funny as ever in his final years, casting him as a grumpy janitor in 1890 who uses a time travel helmet and finds himself in 1962. The episode came after seven horror episodes in a row.
  • Ultra Series like to throw in a few of these every now and then.
    • Ultraman: After "The Forbidden Words", in which Ultraman and Science Patrol are challenged big-time by a vastly intelligent and powerful alien invader named Mephilas who seeks to conquer Earth by manipulating human weaknesses, we get "Gift from the Sky", a comedic Self-Parody in which Science Patrol uses a series of increasingly wacky plans to get rid of an immovable monster named Skydon.
    • Return of Ultraman: After a Nightmare Fuel-laden story where Goh is tormented by a wicked alien disguised as a Creepy Child) and a major Tear Jerker about prejudiced humans who kill a peaceful alien and unwittingly unleash his enraged kaiju pet, we get a comedic episode about a flatulent cicada kaiju and a Bumbling Dad bonding with his son.
    • Ultraman Leo is known as a dark series among fans, but it did have some comedic stories every now and then. Episode 12's Monster of the Week Bango was simply a fun-loving Non-Malicious Monster, while Episode 23 dealt with a child-like alien and his pet kaiju Renbolar inadvertently making mischief on Earth, and finally, Episode 34 dealt with a Bratty Half-Pint alien named Taishoh turning a kid's life upside-down.
    • Ultraman Max: Episode 15 featured Max and DASH faced with an invincible Ultimate Lifeform called IF that has Complete Immortality and an extreme Adaptive Ability, but Episode 16 instead sees Hilarity Ensue when everyone in Tokyo (even Ultraman Max!) becomes amnesiac due to the presence of alien cat monsters. Both episodes were directed by Takashi Miike.
    • Ultraseven X: One episode has a non-malicious spacefaring alien, the final living member of its species, who attaches itself to Jin's space otaku friend to take him with it into space as a companion. This is the only episode where absolutely no one gets harmed. In fact, Jin only turned into Seven just to give them a proper sendoff into space.
    • Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Geed both did Clip Show episodes in the middle of their run after their intense and extremely plot-significant battles against Maga-Orochi and Pedanium Zetton respectively. Both are also then followed up with more incredibly powerful foes, with Orb facing Galactron and then Zeppandon, while Geed battles Zegan and then finally faces Ultraman Belial in the form of Chimeraberos.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess employed this trope quite often, particularly when Xena and Gabrielle are each forced to kill each other's children in one particular episode.
  • The X-Files:
    • Its fourth season is generally considered the darkest, what with Scully's cancer and all. Towards the end of the season, the mood is thankfully lightened by "Small Potatoes". The more light-hearted monster of the week episodes are definitely welcome breaks in the show given how dark things start getting during the "mythology episodes" (episodes that further the over-arching storyline instead of telling a one-off story).
    • A much lousier one comes in the middle of three excellent season 2 episodes: "Duane Barry"/"Ascension" (Holy shit! Scully's been abducted!) "3" (Hang on...Mulder wants to bang a vampire...) and "One Breath" (Holy shit! Scully's been returned and might die! What was "3" about again?)
    • There were several times in almost every season in which The X-Files would suddenly shift from aliens, demons, ghosts, and civilization-threatening conspiracies to straight-up comedy and back again. "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" is considered one of the best episodes of the entire series, despite being self-parody on every level possible (or maybe even because of it).
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles had two comedic episodes "Barcelona: May 1917" and "Prague: August 1917" that were edited together in the DVD release as "Adventures in Espionage". "Barcelona" was directed by Monty Python's Terry Jones and features young Indy getting caught up with a bunch of bumbling international spies. "Prague" fares worse, the whole episode is Indy's quest to... install a telephone.


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