So, it looks like it's just going to be another one of those normal regular old days when, all of a sudden, something exciting happens! One character does something unusual enough that there's a sudden media spotlight on them- there's all this attention headed their way and they can't get enough of it!
...Until, inevitably, the media gets bored and moves onto some other bizarre story. Ah well. At least you had your fifteen minutes. Has a high chance of leading to An Aesop about being satisfied with what you have, and not to be too bummed when everybody gets bored by your one-note gag.
Note that what activity, exactly, causes the fame differs depending on the portrayal. More dramatic works will use a somewhat plausible act of heroism to get the point across, such as rescuing someone from a fire or from drowning. This will be done to get a point across via Character Development. In comedy, the act will be something unusual but ultimately ridiculous. Like eating a thousand scoops of ice cream, or shaking the hand of a celebrity. Here, the point will often be to make jokes at the expense of the media.
A character trying to keep a low profile will often let another soak in the fifteen minutes, for fear of being discovered.
See A Day in the Limelight for this trope in the meta-sense. Often leads to Acquired Situational Narcissism. Compare A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted, where it is money rather than popularity that comes and goes.
- Volume #11 of School Rumble. Lala Gonzales accidentally adopts a new, very distinctive temporary look, then displays her fighting ability in Shibuya. She becomes "Queen of Shibuya", with girls aping her odd style, and for a week becomes a poster girl for cosmetics and the like. But when her CD single flops, Lala returns to her normal exchange student life.
- One of the stories in the movie The Ten had a guy get stuck in the ground after a skydiving accident and wrest fifteen minutes of fame and a short-lived sitcom out of it ... until the media got bored with the story.
- In Chicago, the fleeting attention of the media is a major frustration for Velma; she's hoping to use the publicity of her murder trial to re-launch her career, only to be upstaged by Roxie's own murder trial. She manages to exploit Roxie's fame by becoming a material witness in Roxie's trial, but immediately after Roxie is acquitted the media has already moved on to a different murderer.
- The aptly-named 15 Minutes (a Robert De Niro movie) had this as the motivation for one of the murderers.
- The movie Hero (1992) is about a man who rescues people from a crashed aircraft and gets 15 minutes of fame, only he doesn't want it. Through a case of Mistaken Identity another passenger is identified as the rescuer and claims credit and the media spotlight that the real Hero has shunned.
- Gladys Glover gets her fifteen in It Should Happen to You by posting her name on billboards all around New York City. But begins to hate it when she has to be in an “crooked” ad.
- Happens in Audrey, Wait! when Audrey's ex-boyfriend writes a hit song about his break-up with her.
- So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson is about people who get their 15 minutes for the wrong reasons.
- In The Secret World of Alex Mack, Alex and one of her friends runs across a kid trapped under a giant pipe. Her friend tries to lift it and Alex uses her powers to make it seem like he does in order to save the kid. The kid turns out to be the governor's son- which promptly puts the spotlight (and, consequently, suspicion from the main villain) on this kid who somehow manages to lift a pipe that weighs hundreds of kilograms.
- In Heroes, after Claire rescues a man from a fire early on, she lets Jackie lie about being the one who did it (all anyone saw was that the rescuer was wearing a cheerleader uniform), since she herself is mortified about the existence of her superpowers.
- This happens to Sally on 3rd Rock From The Sun after she punches out Mark Hamill in a restaurant. When Mary tells a jealous Dick that this is Sally's "fifteen minutes of fame", he interprets it literally and is maddened by her "fifteen minutes" lasting considerably longer than that. It ends after a few days, however, causing Sally to start acting like a White-Dwarf Starlet.
- Natalie on Monk gets a ridiculous amount of fame from a brief stint as a lottery girl.
- The crew in Leverage does this to their mark deliberately in the aptly named episode "The Fifteen Minutes Job".
- Married... with Children: Jefferson made a commercial and his wife didn't like the attention he got from that, his friends tried to assure her it'd be just his fifteen minutes of fame.
- In the Wings episode "Just Call Me Angel", Brian becomes a media sensation when he lands a commercial flight (on which he and Joe had been passengers) when the pilots fall ill. His celebrity vanishes almost instantly when everyone becomes obsessed instead with a cat who saved her owners from a house fire. Brian is extremely depressed over this, but Joe pulls him out of it by reminding him that while the rest of the world may no longer care, everyone who was on that flight will always remember his heroism.
- In Anyone Can Whistle, the mayoress of a town and her cronies set up a "miracle" to attract pilgrims and boost the town's economy. Their plan works at first, but is complicated by a number of things. The mayoress gets it straightened out just in time to see all the pilgrims (and a couple of her cronies) rushing off to the next town over, where a new "miracle" has occurred.
- Also used in how quickly the people in the town turn from Hapgood, whose praises they were literally singing, once they heard that he was responsible for the "miracle" running dry.
- Dead Rising 2: Off the Record shows that Frank West was celebrated as a hero and even shook hands with the President after the events of the first game. He lived off the riches and fame he got until it dried up, and now people consider him a washed up D-lister. Saving the day again in this story presumably reignited his popularity.
- A common plot device on The Simpsons. To wit:
- Homer bowls a perfect game. The excitement the townspeople have over this is lampshaded when Brockman notes how pathetic the town must be for him to be covering a story like this.
- Apu and Manjula have octuplets, which briefly results in them getting copious baby supplies from well-wishes, but leaves them in a dreadful situation once the reporters move on to a story about a couple who has nonuplets. ("Nine babies? That's barbaric!")
- Bart accidentally destroys a set while on the Krusty the Klown show, and reflexively says "I didn't do it" to the audience. They find it incredibly amusing, and he gets promoted from being Krusty's off-screen "gofer" to having an entire sketch on the show dedicated to him. He loves it, then gets sick of the repetition, then accepts it again - only for it to become a Discredited Meme in-universe.
- Men in Black: Agent X called for a TV crew from his home planet so they'd make him the star of their show. Being unable to get rid of them, Zed punished X by offering a chance to have K instead of X as the star, which they quickly accepted. As J pointed out, fame was so fickle X didn't even had fifteen minutes of it.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic had an episode with a similar theme to it, with the Aesop being directed at Rainbow Dash. After she rescued a resident of Ponyville and the town cheered her for it, her ego started to grow. This prompted the rest of the Mane Six to teacher her a lesson in humility, dressing up as Mare Do Well.
- One episode of Cow and Chicken had Red Guy exploiting this with Cow. He makes her into a supermodel, which makes her super popular for about a day, maybe only a few hours at most. Then, when she becomes upset after becoming unpopular and yearns for the spotlight once again, he puts her to work as the live entertainment at his seedy milk bar. The episode ends with Chicken also getting his 15 minutes, though it doesn't go to his head.