Modern technology has changed the way we eat, work and recreate. The act of watching a television show, itself, has become flush with options: We can watch shows streaming off of the internet, we can have our recording devices copy them for watching later, and we can even simply watch entire seasons of shows on DVD.
Interesting, then, that we still feel compelled to watch our favorite shows the night that they are first broadcast. "I can't talk now, Steve, I have to get home to watch Heroes."
This phenomenon is called Appointment Television.
This is still common with respect to live broadcasts whose results will be all over the news the next day, such as sporting events and awards shows.
Aversions can take place when a character purposefully misses a show that he had planned to see or normally plans on seeing (perhaps as an alibi). Inversions take place when a character watches TV all the time, and must make appointments to do anything else.
A variant of this trope is when someone is using the aforementioned alternate methods of watching a show, and has an appointment to watch the recording. In this case, they are vulnerable to Spoilers.
Video Games can invoke this effect by incorporating mechanics that require gamers to Play Every Day, or by having online events at specific times in which players gather together for something special, possibly featuring loot that will never appear again.
To avoid cluttering the page with personal anecdotes, please include only examples of this when used in works of media.
- In Lucky Star, Konata once complained that extracurricular activities make her miss new anime. (Note that anime in Japan is rarely rerun, to motive people to buy home release.)
- Used in Ano Hana when anaru is at karaoke with her friends and two older guys. One of the guys notices she's not having fun, and uses having to catch a show (Manga/One piece in the dub) to break up the party and leave. of course this was all a pretext to be alone with Anaru. A pretty obvious when given that, as his friend points out, One Piece isn't on that night. The only person not getting it being Anaru leading to some trouble down the line
- Scud the Disposable Assassin once used this to taunt Voo-Doo Ben, urging him to come out and get killed so Scud could make it home in time for Oprah.
- In PCU, Pigman inverts this trope when he must watch TV 24 hours a day in order to finish his senior thesis, which is that you can find a Michael Caine or Gene Hackman movie on television at any time, all the time. He eventually proves his thesis when A Bridge Too Far comes on, starring both Caine and Hackman. Pigman is then free to spend his time as he likes.
- In Matilda, the Wormwoods dislike Miss Honey coming to see them because she interrupted their TV show. (Something similar, although only involving Mrs. Wormwood, happens in the book as well, with the line "I can't talk now, Harry is about to propose to Angelica!")
- In What's Alien You? Dave Barry speculates that the reason so many shows are so horrifyingly bad is that aliens have "terrible taste", and are addicted to the worst Earth shows. They may threaten to blow up the planet if they don't get their schlock on time.
This is why you and all your friends think television is so awful. It isn't designed to please you: it's designed to please creatures from another galaxy. You know the Wisk commercial, the one with the ring around the collar, the one so spectacularly stupid that it makes you wonder why anybody would dream of buying the product? Well, the aliens love that commercial. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the people who make Wisk. They have not sold a single bottle of Wisk in 14 years, but they have saved the Earth.
- It's a running joke on many shows that men who are suddenly off work will become addicted to Soap Operas. This happened to Chandler in Friends.
- Another common plot is that someone has to miss a show so they record it, and then spend most of the episode desperately trying to avoid spoilers:
Viking Guy: I'm going out with your mom next weekend!
- There was a subplot of Scrubs where Dr. Cox is trying all episode to avoid being spoiled on the score of a football game, because he has it recorded to watch later. It's not hard to guess what his sadistic co-workers do (especially the Janitor who Cox had just told It Was His Sled about the years old Sixth Sense).
- Frasier had recorded an episode of a drama to watch later. He spends the entire day avoiding spoilers (even having to run through the hallways at work because of everyone wanting to discuss the show with him), and when he finally gets home he keeps getting distracted by his family and arising obligations. Right when he finally has time to settle down and is about to watch the tape... Daphne spoils it for him.
- This isn't even the first time it's happened to him. Back on Cheers, he had taped a television movie with the intention of watching it later. Unfortunately, the other guys at the bar spoiled it for him. He retaliated by spoiling the endings to a few movies. (Said endings had all achieved It Was His Sled status.)
- Averted in the 1970s BBC sitcom Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?: Our heroes spend all day desperately avoiding all news of a soccer score so they can watch recorded highlights of the game on TV. They succeed, but find that the game was abandoned due to flooding.
- How I Met Your Mother: The gang has to miss the Super Bowl to attend the funeral of a bartender from MacLaren's. So, they tape it and try to avoid finding out who won before they can watch it. Only Ted succeeds.
- It happened on Home Improvement too, with Tim taping a sports game and a friend excitedly talking about the game-winning play just as he's about to watch it.
- This was the B-plot for the Bizaardvark episode "Promposal Problems" where Dirk does not like it when Ameila and Viking Guy spoil the finale of Cali Beach High before he can even watch it with his brother that weekend. When he finally does watch it and was ready to dish, Amelia and Viking Guy end up spoiling the next show that replaced it- Zombie Beach High, making Dirk give up in frustration. The moment Dirk said to them that they can say any spoiler to him, it ends with this:
* Amelia and Horse Face Guy gasp, and Dirk runs away screaming*
- Dharma & Greg took advantage of the fact that everyone in the city would be watching the Seinfeld finale to have sex in public without getting caught.
- On The Big Bang Theory, a flashback to Leonard moving into the apartment showed that Sheldon put this into the roommate agreement.
- Married... with Children: In one episode, Al goes for a vacation at a mountain cabin and is forced by Peggy and Marcy to take them with him. He comments that the only time they stayed quiet other than when he asked who misplaced his baggage was during Oprah's show in spite of the place having no TV for them to watch it on.
- The royalty of a race of aliens a thousand light years from Earth became addicted to Single Female Lawyer, an Ally McBeal Expy. When they learn that the resolution of the series finale was never aired, they angrily travel to Earth with their fleet of warships. This forces the Planet Express crew to badly improvise a new ending, which the aliens found to be passable, but not great. They then leave, telling Earth they need to get back home to catch a thousand-year old Jay Leno monologue.
- There is another episode using this trope, where the crew must make sure they watch the episode of All My Circuits with Calculon's wedding. However, Bender's antenna keeps interfering with the television's reception (in addition to various problems in the apartment building), so he was forced to be evicted.
- The Simpsons:
- Selma religiously watching MacGyver becomes a major plot point in "Black Widower", as it allowed Bob to set up her assassination by planned gas leak.
- In "Who Shot Mr. Burns" two-parter, Smithers thinks he may have shot Mr. Burns while he was drunk, but realizes why he couldn't have: his favorite television show was on at the time of the crime, and he never misses it.
- In the Sushi Pack episode "Taming the Gaming," the villain is defeated because there's an all-day marathon of his favorite show, and he keeps going back to watch it (and uses all his security camera monitors to watch it). In his next appearance, he mentally congratulates himself for thinking to actually tape the show this time.
- In Teen Titans, there was an episode where Beast Boy inverts this trope by being so addicted to a television show that he couldn't remember the last time he went outside.
- Ben 10: Alien Force "Can't we skip the threats and get with the fight part? There's a Sumo Slammers marathon at 8:00 and I forgot to set the DVR."
- Sportscasts typically fall into Appointment Television territory. Many believe that part of the excitement is watching something in real time with other fans, both of your own team and of the opposition. Sometimes elaborate plans involving alcohol, projection screens and bratwurst accompany the appointment to watch the game, and woe betide someone who says he'll just record the game and watch it later.
- Shows that build experiences around social media like Twitter, such as Scandal or Pretty Little Liars where cast and crew members join in the discussion pretty much depend on their viewers being there at the time their shows start because watching on DVR removes the social experience and part of the fun. Some shows even do separate sessions based on what time zone it airs on- one in the East Coast and one on the West Coast. (Most of the cast will say to the lines of "Thanks for joining us East Coast- West Coast, you're next!" in such cases when it happens)
- This can still be true for poorer people who can't afford a DVR.
- Any reality or talent show with a public vote is automatically this, since you can't vote after the result has been declared.
- The Oprah Winfrey Show was so huge that daytime television revolved around it, and there was a seismic shift in local programming schedules when it went off the air. Some stations scheduled programs featuring Oprah's friends, like Dr. Oz, to air at the same time that she used to (and before then, they were contractually disallowed from airing against Oprah). Others moved stronger programs into her former time slot, relieved that the ratings juggernaut was out of the way (thus Ellen has now become this in the current age). WABC in New York City basically conceded that nothing could replace the show by launching a 4 P.M. newscast.
- According to an anecdote in Stan Freberg's autobiography, he had heard that one time Albert Einstein cut short an important meeting, saying only that it was "Time For Beany."
- In a case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984, the TV and movie industries sued manufactures of VCRs on the grounds that recording their programming was copyright infringement. Enter Fred Rogers, who testified on behalf of home recording, saying he didn't mind if people recorded his shows and that it was a very good thing for families to be able to watch programs together whenever they wanted to, rather than being controlled by an arbitrary network. The court specifically cited his testimony in their decision. So in other words if you like not being tied down to Appointment Television, you can thank Mr. Rogers.
"I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the 'Neighborhood' off-the-air ... they then become much more active in the programming of their familys television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions ... I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important."
- Along with sportscasts, news programming still falls into this, since the whole point is to show current events.
- Netflix defies this trope all together by releasing entire seasons of their original programming all at once, encouraging Binge Watching instead of Appointment Television.