Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up, I noticed I was late
Found my coat, and grabbed my hat, made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke, and somebody spoke and I went into a dream..."
Just what it says, an episode that follows the characters around on their normal routine. Make this the focus of an entire series, and you have Slice of Life.
Some stories place a Day in the Life at the very beginning to establish The Protagonist as one of the Normal People the audience can relate to, before things go downhill fast. In such cases, a Day In The Life can be seen as an action-free Batman Cold Open.
Sometimes it is framed as a documentary. Can lead to A Day in the Limelight for minor characters, and is often used for character development for them. Can also be a Breather Episode in particularly serious arcs. May contain a Morning Routine.
Ironically, Day In The Life episodes are highly unusual, generally occurring only once in the life of a long-running series (although if they are sufficiently popular and/or acclaimed they may be elevated to a Once a Season tradition). Also ironically given their mundane and uneventful nature, they are usually among the most well-regarded and best-remembered episodes of their series.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has the anime-original episode "Someday in the Rain". It's so much a Day In The Life that there are long, silent sections of Yuki reading a book in an empty room, with the only breaks being occasional noises outside the door. Apparently, it was intentionally written as such in order to contrast with the traditional Grand Finale episodes in anime. Note that this episode is chronologically the last in the anime. This is also the only episode where Kyon does not narrate, and he spends significant portions out doing errands with no view from his perspective.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex had an episode following the exploits of a rogue Tachikoma, which basically meant helping a little girl find her dog.
- Episode 10 of Akikan!! showed a day in the life of the three Akikan girls at home. Melon tried to deal with the heat, Yell cleaned up the apartment and Budoko played make-believe. No wacky harem antics, and no school scenes.
- Played for drama in Chapter 179 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, which follows Hayasaka through her daily routine and makes it abundantly clear how horrible such a life is.
- Onegai My Melody: One episode follows My Melo's daily life, and another such episode focused on Baku's.
- Done fairly regularly in Astro City, as the series prefers to focus on the everyday occurrences of regular people in a superheroic world.
- "In Dreams," the very first issue, follows a day in the life of Samaritan, that series' Superman Expy.
- "On the Sidelines" covers a relatively typical problem for super-powered civilians.
- "Waltz of the Hours" does this with a transdimensional being passing through town.
- "The Sorcerer's Assistant" follows the Silver Adept's secretary through a normal day.
- Issue 8 of The New Teen Titans featured a story titled "A Day in the Lives" which followed all the Titans except Robin during a normal day. It's widely agreed that it was this issue which helped launch The New Teen Titans to the best-seller list (where it would remain for sixteen years).
- The Noob comic does this for one of the players of the MMORPG in which the story takes place at the beginning of each comic.
- Issue #170 of Wonder Woman (1987), "She's A Wonder!", sees Lois Lane follow Diana for a day as part of an interview.
- The 19th chapter of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Power Girl crossover fic Origin Story is entitled “Things to Do in California When You're On Vacation”. For the most part is all about Alex and Louise Harris going on their honeymoon after being “married' in a Domestic Partnership ceremony.
- The Assistant: The film follows one workday in the life of a Beleaguered Assistant in film production company working for a very Bad Boss. She starts her day before sunrise and ends in the late evening. She doesn't even make it home before the film ends.
- Clerks, Mallrats, and Clerks II are all examples. Kevin Smith apparently likes this trope.
- The innovative 1929 film Man with a Movie Camera is a visual document of a day in the life of city folk in the Soviet Union. There are no characters, story, or plot, just a feature-length collage of regular people going about the business of life. Director Dziga Vertov's wildly experimental use of camera tricks, Montage, and editing, result in a movie that's much more interesting that the preceding description makes it sound.
- Dredd, despite being a non-stop action film, is actually like this. The creators chose to make it a "day in the life of Judge Dredd" type story as opposed to trying to adapt one or more of the big storylines of the comic where the entire city is in peril. This is most emphasized at the end after Dredd has killed hundreds of mooks, nearly died himself, and dismantled an entire drug network, he casually notes it down as a "drug bust".
- Our Day is an unusually sophisticated home movie from 1938 in which journalist/photographer Wallace Kelly documented a day in the life of his family.
- The Paper is based around one day at a daily tabloid newspaper.
- The whole plot of The Day Thou Gavest in the Village Tales series.
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is about one day in the life of a gulag zeke.
- James Joyce's Ulysses.
- Seinfeld's parking lot episode is probably the best example of taking observational humor into a dramatic format. Seinfeld specialized in taking the logic of a Day in the Life episode to its logical extreme.
- The Brady Bunch: The episode "Tell It Like It Is" saw Carol write about a typical day at the Bradys for the magazine Tomorrow's Woman.
- Sesame Street: The 1973–74 season opener, particularly the opening segment which shows just about everyone in the cast for the coming season. Gordon (the second one, played by Hal Miller) ends this first segment by saying, "Just another day on Sesame Street!"
- Western Publishing issued a series of Sesame Street coloring books in the late 1970s, one of which was titled "A Day On Sesame Street. Pictures and activities depict scenes from the pre-dawn early morning (Herry Monster helping unload newspapers and breaking a newsstand in the process) to late night (everyone going to bed).
- The last episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete is a Day In The Life episode that underscores the goofiness of its milieu. Another series that ended with such an ep was the short-lived WB cartoon Road Rovers.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation did it in "Data's Day".
- In "Lower Decks", the day of four junior crewmen and their interaction with the senior crew is highlighted. One of the crewmen is one of the former Academy cadets that was involved with Wesley's squadron covering up losing a man to an illegal flight maneuver.
- Stargate SG-1 did one in the eighth-season episode "Zero Hour", as we get to see Jack O'Neill getting used to the day-to-day work of running the SGC just after his promotion.
- The episode "Weekend at Bobby's" (S06, E04) revolves around Bobby's general routine over a couple of days. Given the general weirdness of happenings on the show and Bobby's prominent role in the hunter community, this involves answering phones and pretending to be various government officers, hiding bodies from the police, shoving an okami into a woodchipper, and doling out well-researched advice to hunters in the field. Bobby's overarching goal of getting his soul back from Crowley is practically a side-plot.
- The episode Baby showed the minutia of the brothers working a case. Instead of cutting away as they get in the car and then cut back to them arriving, the episode followed them on the drive, showing their random conversations, singing along with the radio, eating as they drive. Instead of cutting away when they're ready to sleep, it showed them settling down in the car and the things they talk about as they drift off. The episode is a fan favorite because it focused on what the brothers do when they're not saving the world.
- For a Mutant Enemy example, go to the Angel episode "Harm's Way". If you see the secondary character Harmony get up in the morning, work, go to Happy Hour, then wake up the next day with a hangover and a dead stranger, you have a Day In The Life. The episode is also A Day in the Limelight.
- Xena: Warrior Princess gently parodied it in the aptly-named episode "A Day in the Life" that followed the mythological hero around on a day when she wasn't getting in adventures.
- M*A*S*H relied on this storyline for multiple episodes, most using "the letter home" Framing Device to demonstrate the characters' lives in Korea, but occasionally other documents (Hawkeye's will, for example).
- The episode "Point of View" showed the life of a typical Army private, from wounding in the field through the treatment at the 4077th and leaving on the evac bus.
- It's a good way to spotlight a minor character, as in the episode of The Tick (2001) where they follow Sewer Urchin around on his underground routine (which is far more fraught and dangerous than they thought). This provides a bit of Retcon and Back Story for the Sewer Urchin. Plus, very funny. This episode is also A Day in the Limelight.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) has an episode entitled "A Day in the Life", although the events taking place in it are something less than typical; a better example might be the episode "Final Cut" (which is also A Day in the Limelight for a few characters).
- The Law & Order fourth season episode, 'Mayhem', which focuses on the detectives as they investigate several cases over the course of one day as opposed to just one case over the episode; the prosecutors barely appear.
- The Season 13 episode, 'Couples', does the same thing.
- The episode "Aftershock" didn't have a normal investigation or prosecution, instead following the various characters around for a day in the wake of an execution they all witnessed.
- Babylon 5 had the episode "A View From The Gallery" about two maintenance workers' workday.
- House episode 6x14 "5 to 9" follows a day in the life of Lisa Cuddy. As one might expect, 6x10 "Wilson" does so for Wilson as well.
- In the Kung Fu: The Legend Continues episode "May I Ride With You?" Caine tries to get to know his son Peter better by spending a day accompanying him on his rounds as a cop. Peter returns the favor a season later in "May I Walk With You?"
- Night Court had four episodes titled "Day in the Life", "Another Day in the Life," "Yet Another Day in the Life," and "Still Another Day In the Life," all of which involve the gang trying as many cases as possible before a deadline.
- The Season 5 episode of The West Wing "Access" starts out as an In-Universe version of this as an outside camera crew follows C.J. around in what was meant to be a "day in the life of" documentary of the White House Chief of Staff. This framing gets Subverted though when she gets word of a shootout involving terrorists and the FBI which she wants to keep a lid on — as a result the in-universe episode is not aired until after the Bartlet administration is over in exchange of the camera crew being allowed to continue filming what would otherwise be classified information.
- The Beatles' song quoted above, the climax of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, is both an example and the Trope Namer. Things Lennon drew on included the fatal car accident of Beatle friend Tara Browne (heir to the Guinness beer fortune), Lennon's own experience acting in How I Won The War, and a news story Lennon read about potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire. Paul McCartney threw in the bit about waking up in the morning (see page quote above).
- "It Was a Good Day" by Ice Cube describes a good day for a gangster, namely one without violence.
- Everything Else's "Harassing The Conman" tells the story of a day at Valley Fair in which a friend of the band has a run in with the law.
- The Residents album Eskimo is a Day in the Life of an Inuit Clan.
- Kero Kero Bonito has the song "21/04/20", detailing a Slice of Life during lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. It's surprisingly not a downer, and the day is actually quite tranquil, even if everyone is bored and anxious.
- In first chapter of The Longest Journey, April goes about a rather normal day of her life, during which the player can get familiar with the setting. Only a couple of strange things happen, but the first one doesn't break the flow much and the other ones happen in choice-dependent ending cinematics of the chapter.
- In Sinfest, there have been sixteen comics named this, each focusing on different characters. For the purpose of this article, the most famous are:
- Pooch's and Percy's.
- Absinthe, the green succubus, ending with the reveal of her name and her suffering from attacks of conscience.
- Karekore The Half Blood: One episode has Hisame record a video of herself going through her morning routine and going to school.
- A number of the chapters in the Ayla stories in the Whateley Universe are like this: she goes to classes, gets powers testing, tries to get really good food in the cafeteria, chats with side characters...
- The episode "The Tales of Ba Sing Se" from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Toph and Katara bond during girls' day out, Iroh helps people and mourns his dead son, Aang creates a zoo in about two minutes, Sokka stumbles on a poetry club and ends up in a haiku battle, Zuko goes out on a very awkward date, and Momo goes looking for Appa.
- The Simpsons had "22 Short Stories About Springfield" which is about what various characters do over the course of a day.
- Futurama has "300 Big Boys" it focus on the Planet Express crew's various ways of spending a 300 dollar tax refund, which was made possible by a very unnecessary invasion commanded by Zapp Brannigan.
- The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Just Another Manic Mojo" is basically a day in the life of Mojo Jojo, with the girls acting like regular little girls, as three Dennis the Menaces to Mojo's Mr. Wilson.