Everyone knows dating is fraught with tension. As if the usual stress of trying to impress someone special weren't enough, sometimes things go badly. Really badly. That's what happens when you have a Bad Date, which can be played for either comedy or drama.
The Bad Date has long been a staple of the Romantic Comedy. Common elements of the comically bad date include social gaffes, allergic reactions or intolerance to certain foods, tactless comments, interfering friends, poor wardrobe decisions, or any combination of the above. The Rom Com bad date tends to come in two types. The first type is a date suffered by the protagonist, which serves as a trial that the protagonist has to endure to secure his or her desired Love Interest. The second type is a way of weeding out Romantic False Leads or otherwise demonstrating that a couple is not a good match. Either type of date can result from sabotage by another interested party who wants the date to fail.
The dramatic Bad Date is much the same thing, but not played for laughs. The couple may have a fight, with one of them storming out. Or one of them could just be obnoxious and the other one waits patiently for it to be over. Or, as things used to be called, it could end in a "bad date," which once upon a time was code for Date Rape.
Any Bad Date could be played for laughs, for drama, or for both.
Not to be confused with the bad (i.e. poisoned) date that Indiana Jones almost ate.
If the bad date is the result of an online dating service, see Dating Service Disaster. If the bad date is just one in a series of bad dates suffered by the protagonist, it's probably part of a Terrible Interviewees Montage. If the character is trying to date two people at the same time, see Two-Timer Date. Date Peepers is a specific kind of interference that may result in a bad date. See Blind Date, which can also overlap with this trope. If one party intended the date to go bad on purpose, it might be a Prank Date.
- This happens fairly often to Jon in Garfield, until a storyline of comics from 2006 allowed him and Liz to become an official couple.
- The entirety of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic, is built around one of these. Take serious social awkwardness, add very bad advice and minor intoxication, and stir.
- In The First Of Many, Princess Twilight Sparkle is terrified that her first date ever might go like this. Being the Cool Big Bro he is, Shining Armor calms her down by telling his sister the story of his encounter with this trope, which went so horribly wrong that it warped back to being wonderful again.
- Twilight gets one in Hard Reset series story, A Stitch In Time when she accepts a blind date as petty retaliation after having a row with her current girlfriend, Azalea. The date, Algae Bloom, takes her to a shady bar, repeatedly tries to get her drunk, insults Twilight's intelligence, insults Twilight's current girlfriend, and generally acts like a date rapist. Finally Twilight has enough, gives her a solid "The Reason You Suck" Speech, and walks out to reconnect with Azalea. She also informs Cloudkicker (who is promiscuous but has solid dating ethics) about the ordeal and asks her to spread the word so Algae Bloom won't prey on anypony else.
- The Many Dates of Danny Fenton (Danny Phantom Western Animation, TV Series, and Comic Books.): A Running Gag is that each of Tucker's Date wind up being this due to his misleading profile.
- Danny did end going going on a few of them, 3-4, IT seems.
- Monsters, Inc. has the bad date between Celia and Mike. It's played for laughs and implied that it's a blip in an otherwise strong relationship.
- In Look Who's Talking, James sabotages Molly's date with the fellow accountant, telling him not to pay for dinner, open the door for her, etc. Molly's pretty unhappy with both the date and (when she learns of it) James' interference.
- In Along Came Polly, Reuben's date with Polly is ruined because the restaurant she chose triggered his IBS.
- This is pretty much the whole premise of the film Mystery Date. The main character borrows his bother's car for his date and finds a dead body in the trunk.
- Sandy is set up on a Blind Date that turns out to be a disaster in The Rebound.
- In Something New, Kenya and Brian meet on a Blind Date that goes horribly when she realises he is white.
- In Problem Child 2, Junior has a bit of a problem adjusting to his dad trying to get him a new mom, and as a result sabotages two of his dates. This sets up the Cassandra Truth situation later in the movie where Junior is trying to get his dad not to marry Lawanda Dumore, a child-hating Rich Bitch who has it in for him.
- The movie Blind Date is all about Bruce Willis being set up with a woman who shouldn't have alcohol... and yet he lets her drink.
- The aptly-named anthology Dates From Hell by Katherine Salmon is a collection of these. Supposed to be comedic, but sometimes they cross the line: it opens with a (fictional) story in which the protagonist steps on the neck of her boyfriend's mother's dog, snapping it.
- Love Connection: A lot of the entertainment value on this video matchmaking series (that was sort of a Game Show) wasn't always the recaps of good dates where the couple stays together... but the revisiting of dates that were utter disasters, for countless reasons. Sometimes the guy (or gal) was a class-A jerk or had no social graces, while other times it was simply the two had no compatibility or chemistry, but either way the end result of the occurances of this trope was the same: the end of the relationships.
- Family Matters: The Season 1 episode "The Big Fix," which depicts Laura and Urkel's first date, is nothing short of a comical disaster, and it only gets worse as the nerd tries his darndest to impress Laura and make it a perfect date. From the bad music he dedicates to her to gobbling up frogs legs in front of her to talking about his medical maladies to being a complete klutz — he trips a waiter, setting into motion a series of domino-effect accidents that ruin others' evenings out — to just being himself ... and (even better) this was what was supposed to be (according to Laura) a "non-date"! In short, this was one "non-date" Laura wanted to forget ... but she and everyone else would simply laugh about this "non-date" years later as, by the end of the series, she and Urkel were engaged to marry.
- On How I Met Your Mother, Ted often goes on dates that go badly. Barney is the quintessential Bad Date.
- Most of the entertainment value of Millionaire Matchmaker comes from this trope.
- On Donna and Eric's first date in That '70s Show, Donna orders an iced tea and is mistakenly served a Long Island iced tea. Not only is the date spent trying to keep Donna from making an idiot of herself, but Hyde later shows up to profess his feelings for Donna.
- There's a one-off episode of Rik Mayall Presents in which Mayall's character manages to give his blind-date the impression that he's a serial rapist and killer, and her panic escalates to the point where she locks him in her burning flat.
- On the Reality TV show Blind Date, dates that went particularly badly were featured as "Dates From Hell".
- Ryan plans a romantic date on Oddities. Dinner and then a meeting with a bone artist and his flesh eating beetles. What could possibly go wrong?
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Averted in "For The Cause". The entire B-plot of the episode consists of a build-up that looks like it's going to be a disaster. Shortly after Ziyal first arrives on the station, she and resident spymaster Garak take notice of each other and she ends up asking him out on a date. Bashir points out she's the daughter of Garak's Arch-Enemy, Dukat. Kira threatens Garak's life if he does anything to hurt her. Garak himself is convinced that Ziyal invited him out to kill him on her father's behalf. Quark makes things worse by making Garak believe Kira's in on the plot as well. Cue the date: Garak takes a gun to the date, Ziyal gives him "The Reason You Suck" Speech.... which clears the air, allowing them to have a good time and get on well with each other.
- Played straight in the "Life Support" B-plot. Jake is overjoyed when the girl of his dreams asks him out on a date. Nog invites himself along and even convinces Jake to convince his date to bring a date along for Nog. Nog trying to treat his date as if she's a Ferengi female. Jake's attempt to keep the peace makes his date think he's siding with Nog. Not only is the date a disaster but it almost ruins Jake and Nog's friendship as well... and it turns out Nog was actually holding back on his behaviour out of consideration for the fact his date wasn't Ferengi; he didn't insist she engage in the full range of activities a Ferengi female would be expected to perform (such as softening his food by chewing it, he thought merely insisting she cut his food for him was a huge compromise).
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Someone To Watch Over Me", Raised by Orcs Ice Queen Seven of Nine decides to try romantic interactions, but her first date leaves a lot to be desired. She and the hapless Lt. Chapman are both nervous, leading to a string of dinnertime disasters — Seven splitting a lobster with such ferocity that she splats Chapman in the face with it, and ballroom dancing with enough fervor to break his arm.
- JAG: Bud shows up too late at his date with Harriet in "Washington Holiday" because his car had a flat tire.
- On New Girl, Jess asks Nick to give her number to the cute guy she met at his bar. She meant Andy. She ended up with Bear Claw... Andy's chubby, incredibly awkward, doofy co-worker who can't wait to see her meatbar (Damn you, autocorrect).
- The first season of Scrubs had Dr. Cox have unrequited romantic feelings for Carla. A later episode has both Dr. Cox and Carla, separately, talk about the worst date they have ever had. Turk overhears both of them talking and is horrified to learn that they are talking a date they went on with each other years before.
- The Wild House has Natalie's first date begin disastrously when her brother and his friend, who are having a water gun fight in the hallway, spray her and ruin her outfit and makeup.
- In all of Jonathan Rand's Check Please short plays, most of the comedy is derived from the hilariously terrible blind dates that the two leads, named in the scripts as Guy and Girl, go on before Guy proposes to Girl at the end of Check Please, Take 3.
- The "Trouble Date" episode of Dick Figures is about Blue's date going terribly wrong, thanks to interference from Red.
- Moist has one in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
Dr. Horrible: Hey, didn't you ah... didn't you go on a date last night? Conflict Diamond told me you were doubling with Bait and Switch.
Dr. Horrible: Yeah?
Moist: It was alright... I kinda thought I was supposed to end up with Bait, but...
Dr. Horrible: I hear ya.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has a sketch called "Dating Solutions". They also have "Date Wars," which is a bad date summarized in an actiony death-ray battle.
- Statistical Fact: Early signs of a bad date occur when this couple encounters a sidewalk loogie.
- Bob's Burgers: In "The Trouble With Doubles", Bob and Linda go on a double date with some new friends, but Nicholas and Ruth-Anne prove to be insufferable, dragging Nick's poorly-trained "emotional support" dog along to dinner, insisting on communal dining, and dragging Bob and Linda into a crappy escape room venue. Things get awkward when Linda accidentally texts Ruth-Anne when complaining about her date to the kids, and then the couples get stuck in their room with a live rat and have to escape on their own when the attendant falls asleep on the job.
- Garfield and Friends: Carrying on the storyline from the comic strips, Jon and his luck keeping women past the first date, thanks to his overenthusiastic or clueless personality. At times — especially if he'd show up to his date's home wearing a buffoonish costume or ridiculously loud suit — he was lucky if the "bad date" lasted even one nano-second! (Made worse when Garfield would make a sarcastic comment about the situation.)
- The main focus of the Clarence episode "Neighborhood Grill" involves Ms. Baker going on one with a bizarre man named Larry.
- The Simpsons: "I Love Lisa," declares Ralph Wiggum as he takes a (very) reluctant Lisa on a date to the "Krusty the Klown's 29th Anniversary Spectacular." (Thanks to him procuring tickets through his dad, Chief Wiggum.) Ralph is himself as he tries gamely to impress Lisa, but things go south when — interviewed by Krusty on live television — he declares that he and Lisa are a couple and are going to be married someday. Lisa snaps and — forgetting they are on live TV — screams and berates him. Needless to say, that ends the evening for both of them.
- RWBY: Scars: Blake and Weiss go on a date, but Weiss inadvertently takes Blake to areas known for their anti-Faunus bias. Weiss didn't notice but Blake still calls her out for it, setting off Weiss' Trauma Button. Blake instantly regrets her reaction, because Weiss didn't know any better, and ends up running off. The next few days are awkward for Weiss and Blake but they eventually recover from the incident.
- Gaia's first date in Fearless ends with her date trying to kill her. She notes that among the worst first date stories she's ever heard, it ranks by and large as the worst she can imagine.
- In Crossing Kevin's Crossing, on Carly Hawkins and Matthew Myers's date to celebrate their two month anniversary Carly dies from anaphylactic shock after eating a a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Both Comedy and Drama:
- My Daddy Long Legs has three-couple group date that goes wrong in so many ways in episode 31. The interactions between Bob and Sally are played purely for comedy, but the tension between Jimmie, Judy, and Jervis is pretty dramatic, and it has considerable significance with regard to the emerging Romance Arc.
- In volume 2 of Jughead in Archie Comics (2015), Jughead accidentally agrees to go on a date with Sabrina, having just thought they would be hanging out. Him being canonically asexual (and, though not stated, clearly aromantic), he's...very uncertain about this, though his friends encourage him to try it anyway. It goes bad. Very bad. To the extent that Sabrina gets so frustrated she tries to cast a love spell on him halfway through, only for it to No-Sell on Jughead, infecting seemingly everyone else instead. There's plenty of farce about it all, but both Sabrina's genuine hurt and confusion, and Jughead's guilt and worry over how to explain himself, make it a serious affair as well.
- In Hitch, he goes on a jet ski date and accidentally kicks her in the face, then accidentally forces her to confront the reality of her genocidal ancestor, and on another date has a bad reaction to food and looks like an ass and... these are funny, but they also demonstrate that he's not actually any good at dating, in spite of his alleged expertise.
- In When Harry Met Sally..., the titular characters bond over bad dating experiences. These are usually comedic, but venture into the dramatic when Harry talks about dates being ruined when he is reminded of his ex-wife and becomes overcome with regret over her.
- In the Teenage Worrier series, Letty attends a party that's supposed to be a date (she'd agreed to meet a guy there) but everything that can possibly go wrong does, including him not showing up. Although it's played for comedy, the dramatic element comes in when through a combination of circumstances she suspects (wrongly) that she may have been drugged and raped at the party.
- Happens in Burn Notice: occasionally Fiona pushes Michael to treat their relationship like a personal relationship rather than a professional spy relationship with sex involved. One time he promises her a romantic dinner. Unfortunately, after a job goes south, they don't have the money for a nice place, so they end up back at The Carlito, their usual hangout. They play it for laughs and show the rocky nature of Michael and Fi's relationship.
Fiona: I distinctly recall you saying someplace nice. We're at the Carlito; we eat half our meals here. Have you forgotten what a date is?
Michael: I said that when I thought we were gonna be five grand richer!
Waitress: Would you like anything else?
Fiona: Yes, your most expensive dessert, please.
A little shop talk, and then Sam sits down.
Sam: Well, you two look as good as I feel.
Fiona: You invited him?
Sam: I need an invite to Carlito's now?
[a little more shop talk, then Fi's dessert shows up]
Sam: Okay, wait a second, is this a date?
Michael: Yes. [and at the same time]
Fiona: No. This is officially not a date.
Sam: Alrighty, can you bring us another spoon?
- On an episode of Friends, Joey and Phoebe purposely set up Ross and Rachel on these to try and get them back together.
- Kamen Rider Kiva has Riki (a monster in human form) go on a group date where he soon gets bored with the girl he was paired with and decides she'd make a tasty snack. It's later played for laughs when he says, entirely seriously, that he ate her and the rest of the party get the wrong impression.