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Bowling for Ratings

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Ah, bowling! The sport of the common man. Generally when TV shows portray someone as an everyday Working-Class Hero, the writers make him a member of a bowling team. Could result in just references to a team, a singular bowling episode or a chance for a character to be Bested at Bowling. Trope name is a parody of Bowling for Dollars, a syndicated American Game Show format of The '70s.

Can often produce drama via a 300 scoring 'perfect game'.

Sometimes, a Canadian series will have that country's distinctive five pin variant: five pins with rubber rings around the wide bottom and smaller balls with no finger holes. But neither Canada nor the United States will ever show any other type of bowling (sorry, candlepin and duckpin lovers).


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Examples:

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    Film 
  • The Dude in The Big Lebowski spends all of his free timenote  at the lanes bowling with his buddies.
  • Strikes and Spares, one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "Pete Smith Specialties" short films, features professional bowler Andy Varipapa showing off his tremendous skills with trick shots.
  • The Incredibles: Bob and Lucius's alibi for going out as Mr. Incredible and Frozone is telling their wives that they're on a bowling team. Lucius is happy as a retired superhero and would prefer that they actually go bowling for once.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 21 Jump Street: Hanson is an avid bowler and a member of a bowling league.
  • 7th Heaven: Eric delays telling the family that he needs an open-heart surgery, so he decides the family should go bowling.
  • The Big Bang Theory: "The Wheaton Recurrence" has the gang in a bowling match against Stuart's team, which includes Sheldon's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Wil Wheaton.
  • Bones: “The Change in the Game” has Booth and Brennan undercover as Buck and Wanda after a mangled body turns up in the pin setter. Brennan’s dad is in the league but he wasn’t the killer this time.
  • Cheers: The Cheers gang takes on Gary's in a bowling match.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). In "Sad Clown A-Go-Go", Jet tries to introduce his friends Spike and Faye to the joys of bowling but they're less than impressed, especially as the game doesn't appear to make Jet very relaxed.
  • CSI: In "Lover's Lanes", a decapitated head comes up the ball return during a bowling tournament. At the end of the episode, the entire team goes out bowling.
  • Dead Like Me: George joins Happy Time Temp Agency's bowling team in one episode. There's also the Plague Division of reapers from the extended pilot, which spends its time lawn bowling and intently watching rodents for signs of another epidemic.
  • Dexter: Dexter joins a bowling team in Season 2. His biological father also became an avid bowler after turning his criminal life around.
  • Eureka: An episode had the show's bowling league playing against that of Area51.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: In the episode "I, Bowl Buster", Carlton decides to join a professional bowling team instead of going to Princeton. Will challenges him to a game in order to get him to change his mind.
  • In the Good Luck Charlie episode, "Alley Oops", the Duncan family get into a bowling competition with the Gogan family, determined to win after having lost to them for five years. When Teddy tells the family that she's unable to participate with them this year, she gets Gabe to take her place. While Gabe is a better bowler than Teddy, he becomes obsessed with trying to win a mystery box from the claw machine in the arcade. When Gabe gets his arm stuck in the claw machine after running out of tokens, it's up to Charlie to make the winning roll, and she succeeds.
  • Hunter. At the end of one episode Dee Dee McCall has ended up in the hospital and her partner turns up with a gift. A bowling ball.
    Hunter: Welcome to the world of bowling.
    McCall: You are very strange.
  • The King of Queens: Doug and Carrie and their friends Deacon and Kelly are on a bowling team.
  • The Office (US): Where Ryan is working when Michael recruits him for The Michael Scott Paper Company.
  • Parks and Recreation has the episode "Bowling for Votes", where Leslie hosts an appearance at the bowling alley as part of her campaign for city council (and to show up someone who criticized her in a focus group). The B-Plot has Ron being embarrassed watching Tom's childish double-handed split leg throw style, but at the end, he gives the style a try and actually bowls a perfect 300 game, but he refuses any honors.
    Owner: Hey, perfect game! What's your name? I'll put it up on the wall!
    Ron: I was never here, and you will never speak of this again.
  • Veronica Mars: Season three features a painful-if-you've-been-in-this-situation "not a date" bowling episode.
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    Video Games 
  • One 1 Vs. 3 mini-game in the Mario Party series is "Bowl Over". One player is armed with a Koopa shell, and the other three players are turned into sentient bowling pins. The goal of the player with the Koopa shell is to knock down the three players-turned-bowling pins, while the goal of the three players-turned-bowling pins is to avoid being knocked down.
  • Quite a rarity, but in The Missing: J.J Macfield and the Island of Memories, the Rabbit Bowl counts as one, in that the protagonist has to put the missing shoes back in their shoe slots for donuts, match the cardboard cutouts of characters (and the basketball shoe) with their sports hobbies, bowl for a lucky strike, and have her head act as a bowling ball in order to progress if she plays the cards right. Oh, and get two Wham Lines along the way.
  • Early in SPY Fox 3: Operation Ozone, the entrance to Mobile Command Center is a rocket shaped like a giant bowling pin at the bowling alley, and to use it the first time, SPY Fox must enter the correct song number at the nearby jukebox, given to him by the Chief. Shortly afterwards, SPY Fox discovers Plato Pushpin being held captive in a bowling lane by Poodles Galore, and in order to rescue him, he must disguise himself as the fourth member of her bowling team and use the spy bowling ball to scoop him up.

    Web Video 
  • SuperMarioLogan:
    • In "Bowser Junior Goes Bowling!", Junior, Joseph, Cody, and Toad get Chef Pee Pee to take them to the Wacky DeLuna Bowling Lane after seeing a commercial for it on television. Cody turns out to be an expert at bowling despite never having played it before (and scores a perfect game by the end of the video), while Joseph quits after one turn. Chef Pee Pee struggles to get a strike, and has to make a deal with Craig the Devil just to get one.
    • In "Jeffy Goes Bowling!", Mario plans to take Rosalina to the bowling alley for a tournament to win $5,000.00 after seeing a commercial for it on TV. When Jeffy breaks Rosalina's arm, Mario takes Jeffy to the bowling alley, where they compete against Brooklyn T. Guy and his wife, Karen. Mario discovers that Jeffy can make perfect strikes blindfolded, while Brooklyn tries to cheat by hiring a guy behind the pins to knock them over with a broom whenever Karen bowls. The game ends in a tie, meaning that neither team wins the money.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Camp Lazlo episode, "Bowling For Dinosaurs", Scoutmaster Lumpus tricks the campers of Camp Kidney into building him a bowling alley by having them dig for dinosaur bones. While the other campers soon realize they've been hoodwinked, Lazlo, Raj, and Clam continue to dig for dinosaur bones, interfering with Lumpus' bowling game in the process. They eventually manage to find a real (living) dinosaur skeleton under Lumpus' office.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode, "Operation MISSION", Wallabee (Numbuh 4) releases Mr. Boss, Count Spankulot, Soccer Mom, and Stickybeard and tricks them (along with the Toiletnator) into poisoning them with sodas. Then Wallabee thinks that the only way to Find the Cure! for the villains is to compete against his dad's bowling team the Aussie Alley Masters and win the bowling tournament being held at Pinhead Lanes Bowling Alley. Why? He is bored of polishing all the trophies his dad won several years ago.
  • In the Dennis the Menace episode, "Bowling For Dennis", Dennis goes to the bowling alley with his dad and Mr. Wilson, who get into a competition with a rival bowling team. The rival team tries to sabotage Henry and Mr. Wilson's chances of winning by putting bubble gum on the bottom of their bowling pins, giving them a remote-control bowling ball, and later a magnetic bowling ball, but Dennis inadvertently foils their plan.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the B-plot of "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven", Stewie hangs out with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. At one point, he takes them to the bowling alley. While there, Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart don't have their bowling shoes, and Stewie has to explain to them that they can't wear their own shoes on the bowling lane, to which Patrick believes that the people at the bowling alley just want another $1.50 from him. When Stewie enters their names, Brent Spiner wants his name to be "Rock Kickass" and Michael Dorn wants his name to be "Dirk Diggler", much to Stewie's ire. Patrick also suggests that the White actors be put on one team and the Black actors be put on the other.
    • In the episode "Blind Ambition," Mort Goldman bowls a perfect game.
    • In the episode "Total Recall," part of the B-Plot is Lois taking Peter's place on his bowling team after Peter gets badly sick.
  • The Flintstones has bowling as the standard diversion for Fred and Barney. Their prowess is usually quite good while sometimes it can be disastrous.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends has The Big Lablooski. In this episode, Mac and the imaginary friends join Madame Foster's bowling team to help her beat her rival, Jerkins. Mac ends up getting kicked off the team and learning from a bowling expert, while the rival team promises Bloo a paddle ball if he joins them and helps them win.
  • Futurama 1000 years in the future, bowling seems unchanged.
  • Heckle and Jeckle: "Ten Pin Terrors" had the boys' sleep disrupted by the bowling going on in a bowling alley. It certainly doesn't help that their digs are in the cellar below the bowling alley.
  • Hey Arnold!: Arnold and Gerald form a bowling team for a competitive league in "Coach Wittenburg".
  • The Huckleberry Hound Show: The cartoon "Ten Pin Alley" has Huck in a championship tournament against the popular (albeit villainous) Powerful Pierre. Huck wins after Pierre gets hoist on his own petard.
  • Jellystone!: In "My Doggie Dave", Yogi, Boo Boo, and Captain Caveman invite Doggie Daddy to go to an adults-only night at the bowling alley. However, Doggie Daddy is reluctant to leave Augie at home with a babysitter, so he brings her to the bowling alley disguised as a man named Dave. When Augie ends up becoming the most popular member of the group, she gets invited out for numerous other functions, leaving Doggie Daddy completely alone. Doggie Daddy challenges Augie to a game of Hock Mar, which involves bowling through an extreme obstacle course. If he wins, then Augie has to give up her new identity. Doggie Daddy has a big lead, but when his friends call him out for hurting his daughter's new identity, he throws the game so Augie can win.
  • King of the Hill: In one episode Peggy is afraid to go bowling since her embarrassing shoe size would be displayed on the heel.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: Daffy has a bowling team consisting with his old gang of high school losers Porky (who was the school jock and Daffy's bully), Marvin the Martian, and Pete Puma. Bugs joins despite Daffy's dismay as well.
  • The Mr. Men Show: The episode "Games" had a segment where Mr. Grumpy and Mr. Stubborn went bowling.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The Cutie Mark Crusaders attempt to get bowling cutie marks at the start of "The Cutie Pox". Their success ranges from gutterballs to everyone ducking for cover with ricocheting balls flying about. Walter, The Dude, and Jesus Quintana have cameos as background ponies.
  • Popeye: "Strikes, Spares 'N' Spinach" (1960) had Brutus trying to sabotage Popeye and Olive's bowling date.
  • Regular Show: Skips Strikes. In typical RS fashion, the game's stakes are taken ridiculously high thanks to Rigby betting the team's souls in a bowling match against Death and his accomplices. All for a soul-filled bowling ball to rub in people's faces. Everyone gets a chance to beat on him for it.
  • Rocko's Modern Life has the episode "Gutter Balls", in which Ed Bighead invites Rocko and his pals to a bowling tournament in order to win the trophy he missed his chance of earning after an unfortunate incident in his last tournament long ago.
  • The Roman Holidays had an episode where Gus was torn between bowling in a tournament and attending his daughter Precocia's recital.
  • In the Rugrats episode, "King Ten Pin", Grandpa Lou enters a bowling championship and competes against Billy "Strike" Maxwell, who beat him in a game fifteen years before the episode's events. When the babies wander off to look for a "Champion Chip", which they believe is a giant chocolate chip cookie, they inadvertently expose Maxwell as a cheater.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Life on the Fast Lane", Homer gets Marge a bowling ball with his name engraved in it for her birthday. Marge decides to take up bowling lessons out of spite, and encounters Jacques, a French bowler who tries to seduce her.
    • Show Within a Show example; In "Brother From the Same Planet", the episode of The Itchy & Scratchy Show that Homer and Pepi watch, entitled "Kitty-Kitty Bang-Bang" involves Itchy and Scratchy at the bowling alley. Itchy jams Scratchy's tongue in the ball return, then lights a bomb and bowls with it, making a strike. Scratchy tries desperately to saw off his tongue before the bomb can get to him, but the bomb makes it to him and explodes, leaving only his internal organs, which Itchy sells to hungry dogs at the snack bar.
    • In a flashback scene in "And Maggie Makes Three", Homer finally makes enough money to pay off his bills, so he quits his job at the Nuclear Power Plant to pursue his dream job at Barney's Bowlarama. When Marge becomes pregnant with Maggie, Homer is forced to give up his dream job and get his old job back to support Maggie.
    • In "Team Homer", Homer gets an anesthetized Mr. Burns to sign a $500.00 check so he can register a bowling team with Apu, Moe, and Otto, called the "Pin Pals". When Burns recovers from his stupor and discovers the check he wrote to Homer, he replaces Otto in the team as revenge, but since Burns is a horrible bowler, the team is convinced they will lose the championship.
    • At the beginning of "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder", Lenny and Carl invite Homer to go bowling with them. Homer bowls a 300 game, and briefly becomes a celebrity, letting the fame go to his head. At the end of the episode, Homer treats Maggie to a game of bowling, and she nearly scored a 300 game if she hadn't stepped over the line.
    • In "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs" (the first episode after the movie), a life coach played by Stephen Colbert notes that Homer is more confident while he's bowling than he is doing anything else, and advises him to wear his bowling shoes everywhere he goes. This results in Homer getting plenty of job offers, including one where he can fly in a company plane, which is Homer's passion of the week.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Lightning Bowler Society", after 80 consecutive defeats from Team Sonic, the Lightning Bolt Society takes up bowling, and competes against Team Sonic, who become the "Pin Dashers". After beating the Pin Dashers in a game, the Lightning Bolt Society become instant celebrities.
  • Taz-Mania: In "Yet Another Road to Taz-Mania", Taz is stuck on a road trip with Hugh and Uncle Drew. This time, they are going bowling, and the spies are after their new bowling ball.
  • Tom and Jerry had two bowling episodes. "Bowling Alley Cat" (1942 theatrical cartoon) was a standard T&J confrontation in a bowling alley, while "Super Bowler" (1975 made for TV episode) had the two competing against each other in a tournament (some of Tom's bowling movements were rotoscoped from "Bowling Alley Cat").

Alternative Title(s): Bowling Episode

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