An episode in which the main character is rendered tragically / comically invisible and wackiness commences to ensue. This can be done to give the lead actor a small break so they can skip principal photography. It also allows an opportunity to give that character unexpected insights into his or her own character via the overheard statements of others, or to do things they wouldn't normally do.
In shows that lean toward comedy, the character will often play pranks on the other characters, often overhearing things they were not prepared for (such as supposed enemies expressing concern about the character being missing, or frustration at aspects of the character's personality).
If the show is geared toward a young adult or older audience, the invisibility will frequently not apply to clothing — this seems more common if the invisible character is female. If the character has done anything to deserve a karmic backlash during their invisibility, said invisibility will usually wear off at the worst possible time, and in front of the most people possible.
In one variation, characters are placed "out of phase" so they're imperceptible to anyone on the show, but still visible to the audience. They can walk through walls, but they don't fall through the floor. They can't eat, but can still breathe oxygen. Often, if the character is "out of phase," there is one other character (usually a guest star) who can see and/or hear them, but this character has a reputation for "seeing things" that aren't there or has been in a mental institution for years. This variation can be realized as an out-of-body or near-death experience.
See Invisibility for when this is a character power or otherwise longer than a one-shot storyline.
- Sket Dance's protagonist Bossun tests his Mad Scientist teacher's invisibility potion and it works... at first. After successfully pranking Himeko by wearing a scary mask, the potion starts to wear off and his body (which is naked, naturally) starts to appear again, starting from the top. He and Himeko desperately try to find ways to cover him up (so that they won't scare other people with a half-visible naked guy running around) while racing back to the school to get his clothes. Hilarious use of Hand-or-Object Underwear ensues, which includes a deer mask for Bossun's head and an anime poster to cover his "out-zone".
- Issue #20 of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) involved Sonic being turned invisible by Robotnik's Anti-Matter Machine. As it rendered him briefly intangible too, he was assumed dead until the effects wore off.
- In the book Things Not Seen, the main character wakes up one day to find himself invisible.
- Memoirs of an Invisible Man is about a man who became invisible as the result of an accident and proceeds to write about his adventures.
- The Franny K. Stein book The Invisible Fran has Franny create a potion to turn herself invisible so she can whisper ideas into her friends' heads in hopes of getting them interested in finishing the two-headed robot she's working on. Unfortunately, her classmates get carried away and end up making more modifications to the robot when Franny isn't around to instruct them, resulting in the robot going around vandalizing the school.
- For most of Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Jason David Frank (playing Dr. Tommy Oliver) was not available for filming, necessitating that he be rendered audio-only for much of the show's run, first by encasing his character in a block of amber, then by rendering him unable to remove his Ranger Suit, and finally by turning him completely invisible as his natural dino-power was stuck on.
- In Doctor Who, the First Doctor turns invisible for the serial The Celestial Toymaker. This was actually supposed to set up for an instance of The Nth Doctor by having him become visible again as a different actor, but William Hartnell ended up coming back. The actor change would have to wait until a bit later, at which point it became part of his natural heritage.
- Gilligan's Island had an episode where Gilligan was rendered invisible.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Spoofed in the episode "200", when SG-1 discuss an unseen incident when Jack O'Neill became invisible, leading to a Hurricane of Puns and ultimately proves useless as he can no longer signal to his team ("Making hand signals here, people!"), leading to confusion all around. What makes the spoof even more delightful is that it was originally scripted in case Richard Dean Anderson wasn't available for filming... but he finally was, up to the point he acted as his own stand-up in a green suit for a scene involving special effects. The characters hung a big lampshade on this whole trope in the dialogue.
- Subverted and parodied in "The Road Not Taken", where the team assume that Carter is out of phase and spend two weeks keeping her company and talking to her, when she had in fact been transported to an alternate timeline.
- Played straight but still toyed with in "Arthur's Mantle": Carter and Mitchell really are invisible due to being "out of phase" but it takes a while for everyone else to figure that out, first deciding on miniaturization as a likely source of their disappearance.
- Daniel goes out of phase in "Crystal Skull"; the only person who can see him is his grandfather, who's spent the last few decades in an insane asylum after undergoing a similar experience.
- Daniel is not only invisible and intangible. He also doesn't experience hunger, thirst, or the need to relieve himself. When he realizes this, he assumes it's because he's dead. Of course, this is never brought up again.
- The "out of phase" scenario was done in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Next Phase" focusing on Geordi and Ro Laren when they were exposed to the energies of a new type of Romulan cloaking device.
- In the Sliders episode Gillian of the Spirits the wormhole was struck by lightning, turning Quinn "out of phase".
- Done in an episode of Round the Twist, titled "Linda Godiva". The title is in reference to the way the Invisible Streaker heroine helps another character win a horse race—after all, Linda is invisible, but her clothing isn't. In the end, the rider accidentally turns her visible again, just in time for her to ride off (nude, hence the episode's title) into the sunset as the credits start.
- In a 1992 episode of Sesame Street, repeated in 1994, Oscar the Grouch spritzes María, then himself, with invisibility spray called Disappear-O. Oscar's pet elephant, Fluffy, provides the antidote.
- In a two-part story in 2004, a magic ukulele makes Snuffy invisible, but he drops the ukulele while invisible and it breaks. He doesn't become visible again until the ukulele is repaired and brought back to Sesame Street.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Gone", Buffy wreaked havoc and had invisible sex with Spike when hit by an invisibility ray, but soon had to be returned to normal as the ray's side-effect would have caused her molecular structure to break down. In "Fear Itself", Xander experienced the visible-to-the-audience variation due to a demon exploiting his fear of being ignored.
- "Gillian of the Spirits" is an example where the out-of-phase character is perceived by another character.
- An episode of Seven Days had Parker unable to be seen or heard, except by one Blind Black Guy.
- Pee-wee's Playhouse had this as the result of a magic trick ("Now You See Me, Now You Don't!"). Played With in that invisibility was the intended result, but the means to reverse it were sold separately...
- Supernatural did this in the episode "In My Time of Dying." Due to a coma, Dean's spirit was walking around the hospital where his body was parked, invisible to everyone on the show but visible to the audience. He even referenced the Patrick Swayze example above.
- Parodied in an episode of Get Smart. Max investigates KAOS claims that they have a ray gun that can turn people invisible (which is actually a hoax). In the final confrontation, Max believes he has become this trope and that only he can see himself, and the KAOS agents have to pretend this is true while also not letting him escape.
- The "out of phase" version is also played straight in Silversun, with Cinnamon and Mara affected by a gravitational anomaly causing them to slip Just One Second Out of Sync.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Gentleman Ghost buries Batman alive. Batman then proceeds to use a trick taught to him by monks, rendering him a ghost that can go back into its still living body. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Peanuts special It's Magic, Charlie Brown, Snoopy turns Charlie Brown invisible during his magic act. At first Charlie laments becoming a "lost soul", but then he discovers that he can kick the football off Lucy's hand before she pulls it away, which he takes advantage of. Naturally, he becomes visible again just as he is attempting the kick a second time.
- One episode of Dexter's Laboratory has the main character turning invisible to discover his birthday gifts.
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon Water, Water Every Hare, Bugs douses himself in vanishing fluid to attempt escape from a Mad Scientist. It backfires when said scientist subsequently uses "Hare Restorer" to render him visible again.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Jimmy did this, in a way, by creating shoes that make him run so fast that nobody can see him. He abuses this ability to play mean tricks on all his friends.
- The Fairly OddParents: Timmy once wishes to make himself invisible to keep from being beat up by the school bully. He uses this opportunity to scare the entire student body until he has to wish himself visible again to get his award for perfect attendance.
- Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob and Patrick accidentally paint themselves invisible (It Makes Sense in Context) and then try to scare everybody in Bikini Bottom by pretending to be ghosts.
- An odd variation happens in two episodes of South Park, In one Cartman believes he is invisible/dead because everybody is intentionally ignoring him, and another has him use a fake superpower of invisibility. In both episodes, everyone but him knows that he is not invisible.
- Wile E. Coyote has painted himself invisible once. The paint came off when he fell into a body of water, however.
- Archie's Weird Mysteries: "Invisible Archie" involved Archie and Reggie having become invisible due to a side effect from one of Dilton's potions. Archie spent the time trying to get back to normal before the effects became lethal while Reggie, unaware of the possible danger, went into Invisible Jerkass mode.
- In the Futurama episode "Viva Mars Vegas", after covering himself in ink to escape the Robot Mafia, Zoidberg is hit by Farnsworth's ink polarizer and rendered entirely invisible. Amy decides to use this to advantage by having Zoidberg smuggle hundreds of dollar bills out the vault at the Wong Casino by swallowing them, and Zoidberg is subsequently restored to normal when he has a bath to wash the polarized ink off.
- The Dick Tracy Show: In "Lab Grab," Joe Jitsu concocts and drinks an invisibility formula before the Brow and Oodles get their hands on it. Now invisible, he subsitutes the book from where the formula came from with a book of chemical failures and plants it on the villains, causing them to create Gargle Blaster formulas. Joe then concocts a quasi-formula of the real thing which renders the Brow and Oodles halfway invisible—Oodles' top and the Brow's bottom are all that shows, prompting Joe to wax that it will save the city money in that only one prison suit will be needed between them.
- In the Donald Duck cartoon "The Vanishing Private", camouflage painter Donald is knocked into a barrel of experimental invisible paint by Sergeant Pete; he spends most of the rest of the cartoon playing pranks on Pete and causing the General to think the sergeant is going insane from sunstroke.