Somebody does something stupid or amazing; another character (or several), who witnessed the event, holds up a sign with the score. Frequently, the sign comes from nowhere; a table might be provided as well. The score can be anything, but it's usually very low or very high— a common gag is for one of the judges to award a 6, only to realize they had it upside down and switch to a 9. A lot of times, the score goes Up to Eleven—literally. And then sometimes the score doesn't even make any sense, such as in the picture provided here.
In works with international judge panels, there will often be a judge who's stereotypically hard to impress—back in the day, it was the Soviet judge, and in food competitions it's usually the French judge. Reality TV shows favour the Mean Brit (e.g. Simon Cowell).
This comes from the world of sports, like figure skating and gymnastics, where athletes' scores are announced by having the judges hold up signs with numbers on them. Or at least, that's the trope— nowadays, they just punch numbers into a computer.
- A moment with the "punch in numbers" modern version in Iron Wok Jan; at the end of the second major tournament arc, the last judge is unable to enter a score due to an ostrich attack sending everyone running. One of the chefs punches in the numbers he thinks Jan deserves, and they call it a day.
- In Bamboo Blade, Sayako tells a sob story about why eventual Sixth Ranger Azuma Satori had to give up kendo and can't join the team. Saya's teammates, unimpressed with her tale, all rate her story a 3 out of 10.
- Chapter 47 of Urusei Yatsura has Cherry making an Incredibly Lame Pun (rendered in Viz's Woolseyfied translation as "We would know your powers, oh demon! How about demon-strating a few of them?") to which Sakura, Lum, and Shinobu responded by holding up signs reading "2", "3", and "2" (respectively).
- In the second story-arc of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) Rainbow Dash rates Fluttershy's "shout" to break her nightmare as a 3.4.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Abridged: After ordering four iced teas, and drinking them in unison, Jotaro and the gang are scored. Everyone gives them perfect scores, except for Germany (a 7.4).
Joeseph: Oh, f*** you, Germany!
- In Retro Chill, Rupert, Earl, and Bob give Retro a 10, 9.5, and 9 for his attempt to get the aliens to shut up.
"Hey, I beat my old record."
- Used for a brief sight-gag in the original short-film incarnation of The Wizard of Speed and Time, when the rest of the panel rounds on one judge holding up a 9.9 instead of a straight 10 and start wailing on him with the signboards.
- The Acapulco episode of El Chavo del ocho features a scene where Chavo and Quico begin arguing over which of the two is better at diving in a pool. Chilindrina comes up and offers to be the judge (using a chalkboard). She gives 10 to Chavo and 2 to Quico.
- The "Silly Job Interview" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, at around 3:28. Originally written for the one-off How to Irritate People with Tim Brooke Taylor in the Graham Chapman role.
- In "Famous Deaths," Genghis Khan gets a 28.1 score (9.3, 9.7, and 9.1).
- Spoken rather than held up, but on CSI Danny Messer's failed attempt at a Quip to Black gets graded poorly by Detective Flack.
- Top Gear used this in the Motoring Ashes challenge. Richard Hammond managed to mix up the cards trying to give a score of 1.1 and instead gave them an 11.
- The Square One TV music video "Less Than Zero" is about an athlete who is so inept he gets negative scores at any competition he enters, with the diving and dancing contests being scored this way.
- McCallum. A Girl of the Week who's Not Staying for Breakfast pinches a brand-new shirt and leaves a score of McCallum's bedroom performance written on the wall. Despite his being portrayed as The Casanova, it's not very high.
- After a mouse jumps from the top of Jon's head into his cup of coffee, Garfield gives him a score of 5.9.
Garfield: Too high of a score?
- Occurs at the end of each ball in Cirqus Voltaire is "Fun With Bonus", when three judges hold up scorecards that affect the player's bonus score.
- Statler and Waldorf rated the performances on one episode of The Muppet Show. Everyone except guest star Diana Ross got low marks. After the audience booed Fozzie Bear off the stage before he could begin his act, Statler surprised Waldorf with his score:
Waldorf: You gave him a 1?
Statler: He's never been better!
- During the NBA dunk contest, it's gotten so ridiculous that, although there are official judges whose scores are the only ones who count, most of the fans in the stands will have score signs as well to show their approval.
- Whenever NASCAR driver Carl Edwards wins a race, he does a celebratory back-flip off of his car. Regardless of which network is airing the race in question, the commentators will nigh-inevitably mention the (non-existent) Russian Judge giving him a surprisingly high score.
- In King's Quest III, one of the many falling deaths produces this Have a Nice Death message:
"You successfully fall for twenty meters before you hit the bottom. You get a 4.1 from the Russian judge."
- In Torin's Passage, one of the Many Deaths of You involves diving into a peat bog, and Boogle holding up a score card. Another similar one involves tiny score cards appearing from out of the bushes.
- In Spore, during the Tribal phase other villages will hold up scorecards after you socialize with them. Successfully improving your relationship with a village will get them to hold up all tens.
- In Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon, when you pole-vault across a chasm on Ortega, this is the first part of the message that appears:
"The Romanian judge gives you a 9.5! A truly outstanding jump by one of the finest young athletes we've seen this season."
- A case of "Blink And You'll Miss It": in Pink Panther's Passport to Peril, when Pink throws a stick in the Ganges River, the man bathing in it briefly holds up a score sign. He gives pink a 2 3/4 .
- Teen Girl Squad did this once, for a contest of diving into a lion's mouth. The Ugly One's cannonball got a two (and was thus "TWO'd"), while Cheerleader's "Double-Double Whipless Mochacinno Half-Caf" dive got a score of "Three noses?".
- Yahtzee does this quite often, usually when he describes something as "well-executed" (sometimes an actual execution). Probably the first recorded example was his review of Bioshock where a Little Sister awarded the game's "well-executed kick in the balls" a 6.0.
- The Phineas and Ferb episode "Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror!" (pictured above), where Phineas enters a surfing contest and gets a score so high (10 to the fifth power and infinity being two of the scores), it causes one judge to reconsider Einstein's theory of relativity!
- In one episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy, several of the kids were holding a gymnastic competition on the playground, and a few of the kids played the judges complete with the score cards (notably, Kevin). On Ed's turn, he epic fails his run, causing him to crash into things, fly several dozens of feet in the air and land face flat on the ground. Kevin's rating: d0rk.
- In one episode of Pepper Ann, the title character tries Playing Sick in front of her mother at breakfast so she can get the day off school. As she coughs and moans pathetically, her younger sister holds up scorecards judging her performance.
- In the Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot episode "Stand Up and Cheer," the judges at a talent show use cards with either a heart or a storm cloud on them.
- There's an episode of The Fairly Oddparents in which Timmy dives into a pool and gets marks, including a low mark from a kid dressed up like a stereotypical Russian. Timmy then uses one of the cards to cover his modesty when his swimming trunks fall off.
- In another episode, Timmy, Cosmo, and Crocker are trying to replace the money that Crocker spent after Cosmo gave him a stolen pot of leprechaun gold. Timmy and Cosmo enter a figure skating competition and two of the judges give them a 10, but Crocker (who somehow became a judge) gives them an F due to force of habit.
- Sadlygrove does this at one point in episode 4 of Wakfu. He's judging Evangelyne, so unsurprisingly he gives her a 10.
- In The New Batman Adventures episode "Beware the Creeper", when The Joker throws talk host Jack Ryder into a vat of chemicals (leading to the creation of The Creeper), he gets score signs from Harley Quinn and his henchmen.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Keep Calm and Flutter On," Discord magically creates an ice-skating rink and then has clones of himself judging his skating. Naturally, they all give him a 10.
- The episode "Leap of Faith" has three ponies judging a swim meet. Lyra fills the role of "extremely tough judge"; even when she tries to give a 10, she holds the card upside-down.
- In the episode "Bloom and Gloom," Sweetie Belle has a nightmare where she discovers that she's destined to be a janitor right in the middle of a music recital, resulting in two of the judges give her a zero, while her sister Rarity gives her a one.
- In an old Cartoon Network bumper, I.M. Weasel jumps off a diving board into a pool and the judges give him all tens. I.R. Baboon falls off and lands flat on his face on the ground and he gets all zeroes. The judges then flip their cards to form the Cartoon Network checkerboard logo.
- Occurs in one of the non-canon super-deformed shorts for Avatar: The Last Airbender. After Aang makes a giant arrow in the sky, Momo gives Aang a six, which turned out to be upside-down, so he flips it around. Appa does the same, except he gave Aang an 8.
- Deadpool holds up a 9.1 for Ultimate Spider-Man after he skillfully got a bomb off of himself and kicked it away before it exploded.
- Used on Futurama during the Miss Universe pageant. One of the judges is Zapp Brannigan, who holds up his room number instead.
- In the Action League Now episode, "Sinkhole of Doom", when Thundergirl attempts to fly to the garbage disposal to save Pierce, the son of The Mayor, she accidentally flies into the ceiling fan and gets her hair caught in it. The other members of the Action League hold up score cards, most of them having very low scores. The Flesh and Justice each hold up a 2 card, The Chief holds up a 3 card, Stinky Diver holds up a 3.5 card, and Meltman holds up a 10 card.
Serious Examples (examples with actual judges)
- My Hero Academia: Briefly seen in the entry exam for the UA High School. While the students are only aware of the Villain Points they score for defeating the robots, a panel of judges secretly awards them Rescue Points for helping others.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire featured Barty Crouch (with Percy Weasley filling in for him in the second task and Cornelius Fudge in the third), Ludo Bagman, and the three magical school headmasters as judges for the Triwizard Tournament. Igor Karkaroff was the hard-to-please judge, blatantly favoring his student with high scores.
- The Amazing Race did this for one of its tasks in season 19, where teams had to learn bodybuilding poses and show them to judges. This led to a Funny Moment when teams repeatedly tried and failed to obtain the target score - of 4 (averaged across 3 judges).
- The judges of Dancing with the Stars do this.
- Any act that avoids getting gonged on The Gong Show is scored this way by the three judges. Yes, zeroes have been given.
- The judges on Hey Hey It's Saturday do this for Red Faces.
- An early episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had a dancing contest in which Zack and Bulk take part. The latter's performance earns him the scores of 0, 1 and -3 from the judges.
- The Talent Showcase round on That's My Dog!
- The judges on Pose.
- This is the basis of one of the puzzles in Escape from Monkey Island. Three judges score you in a diving competition against a resident champion. Winning is achieved by finding out how to impress each of the judges (and in one case, blackmailing them) and also sabotaging the competition.
- The pizza competitions in Pizza Tycoon are judged like this.
- The Lumberjack Games in Chapter 7 of Sly 2: Band of Thieves are judged by three duck guards who will hold up their scores.
- Slam Poetry works in this way. The judges are selected from the audience and given dry-erase boards.
- The judges at drag balls hold up their scores.