Two characters compete for a slot at a talent show or something else requiring concrete perceivable skills. One is very talented; the other is, as far as anyone can tell, hopeless.
When the pick is made, the "hopeless" person gets the slot.
This is always the case when someone is Bested at Bowling.
- In Turk 182!, the titular character is persuaded by his new girlfriend to go to a local TV broadcast station to tell his story to the public of why he's been waging his clandestine graffiti-based political smear campaign. The thing is, by that time, Turk 182 has become something of a hero in New York City, so when he arrives at the station, there are already at least twenty other men there, of a wide variety of sizes, ages, and garbs (including a balding middle-aged man dressed as a caped "Super Turk"), each claiming to be the elusive vigilante. A news reporter watching things unfold in the lobby from behind a large potted plant is able to identify the real Turk because, not only is Turk not going out of his way to hog the proverbial spotlight for himself, he clearly doesn't even want to be on TV at all.
- In the Emma Watson version of Ballet Shoes, Petrova gets the part of Mustard Seed in A Midsummer Night's Dream over the far more talented Winifred - because the directors are in a rush and Winifred is late to the audition. In the book she gets a starring role over Winifred again - only because her adoptive sister Pauline is playing her character's brother, so it's more convenient to cast her as the sister. Likewise Winifred strikes out earlier in the book when she and Pauline are up for the part of Alice. Winifred is recognised as the solid all-rounder of acting, dancing and singing while Pauline is good at acting but merely competent at the rest. Pauline gets the role because she "looks right" whereas it's said that Winifred looks shabby at auditions due to how poor her family are.
- Saved by the Bell: Zack receives a 1500 SAT score and is accepted by Stansbury (an obvious Shout-Out to Stanford) ahead of straight A student Jesse, who had 1205 on hers (the exact opposite, of course, of criteria that many colleges and universities use for judging "overachievers" and "underachievers").
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will and his never-seen-before-or-since comedian friend go to an interview for a comedy club. Will gets the gig by accident (then bombs leading to An Aesop).
- 8 Simple Rules: Bridget and Kerry try out for cheerleading. Bridget is the clear favorite, but Kerry gets the spot.
- In an episode of Ready or Not, Busy got the opportunity to audition for something Amanda wanted after a talent scout found her little bit of silliness during a set mishap more entertaining than the actual play Amanda was in.
- In an episode of She Spies, one of the girls has to go undercover as a model. D.D., who is excited about it, auditions first. Cassie, who finds the whole idea of modeling revolting, makes her disgust obvious. Of course, since all models are cold, bitchy, and rude, Cassie wins by a landslide.
- In an episode of Two of a Kind modeling auditions are held at school. Ashley, who is an avid fan, doesn't make the cut. Mary-Kate does with a sarcastic tryout. It then gets subverted when it's revealed that Mary-Kate does have a secret love of modeling. Subverted even further when Mary-Kate easily persuades the photographer to let Ashley pose with her in some of the pictures. The twin thing probably helped.
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch when auditioning cheerleaders for a student film, none of the potential actresses are chosen. Roxie gives a sarcastic audition and gets chosen.
Roxie: I guess all those years of making fun of cheerleaders finally paid off.
- Shown in the TV documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family. Brother and sister Zak and Saraya both try out for WWE. Zak has been wanting to be a wrestler since he was thirteen years old. Saraya meanwhile only fell into it and trained for fun. Saraya is hired immediately and goes onto become WWE Diva Paige - first ever NXT Women's Champion.
- Parodied with a talent skit on The Amanda Show. The first two contestants whose lame talents are balancing a hat on his head and pouring salt on an egg respectively, get standing ovations. The third, a girl who pulls off some impressive gymnastics, gets the lowest score.
- In 6teen, when Caitlin wanted to apply for a job at Albatross & Finch, Jonesy comes along for moral support. She gets passed over in favour of Jonesy for his blase attitude.
- Hey Arnold! did something similar, with Stinky sitting out an audition for a soda commercial and cheering Arnold on, but the powers that be end up rejecting every single auditioner and pick Stinky. Of course, there's a reason behind that. (And they would do it again with Helga, the only kid in class who doesn't want to try out for modeling, ending up getting picked by a model scout over those who actually wanted to get the job.)
- Also in "Cool Party": Arnold is on classmate Rhonda's "Cool List" (and has thus received an invitation to her party), yet his best friend Gerald, "the definition of cool", is on her "Geek List". (Rhonda's explanation: he ran for class president against her.)
- Kim Possible, "Job Unfair" does it with a twist: At a career fair, Ron and Kim get assigned jobs. One of them gets secret agent... which bewilders Kim, since she got janitor. It turns out that the janitor acting as her mentor was trying to teach her to deactivate a weather machine and was also Ron's mentor.
- The Simpsons; A flashback scene shows that Sideshow Bob got his job as Krusty's right-hand man during his brother Cecil's failed audition - waiting offstage, aloof in a three-piece suit, Krusty threw a pie at him to show that "pie takes are only funny if the sap's got dignity", and was so amused by his reaction that he hired him.
- The Weekenders, "Talent Show": Lor The Ditz has been selected for a local talent show with an act involving her playing guitar and singing "Home on the Range", yet artistic girl genius Tish, with a dulcimer act, wasn't. The snub is never explained, but may have something to do with the Crack Defeat at the end. What's more is that Lor has a bad habit of getting the lyrics wrong and she was still picked.
- Christine "Moose" McGlade went to a Canadian TV audition only to support a friend only to become one of the stars of You Can't Do That on Television.
- American Idol winner David Cook went along with his brother to cheer for him as he auditioned. Obviously, it didn't go so well for his brother.
- An urban legend claims that this is how Johnny Depp's career launched: He was driving his buddy Jackie Earle Haley to an audition when Wes Craven saw him and asked him to do 'A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)''. The rest is history. Jackie Earle Haley himself says that isn't true and has no idea how that rumor got started.
- There's a similar story about Mel Gibson - his friend was auditioning for Mad Max, and Mel was just his ride, but, owing to the fact that he'd been in a barfight the previous night, Mel was pretty bruised and messed up, which got him an audition of his own since it fit with the theme.
- Michael Clarke Duncan was bodyguard of Bruce Willis, and was hired when accompanying him to the set of Armageddon.
- Brazilian comedian Chico Anysio returned home to pick up his shoes for a soccer game, and his brother was leaving for a radio, where he would audition. Chico decided to come along... and later became a mainstay of it, and Brazilian TV afterwards.
- Sarah Bolger never intended to audition for In America. Her sister Emma read for the part of Ariel and then insisted Jim Sheridan meet Sarah, who was outside waiting in the car. Upon meeting her, she was immediately cast and it became a Star-Making Role for her - leading to prominent roles in The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Tudors and Once Upon a Time.
- WWE Diva Ivory was dragged to an audition by a friend and had very little idea what she was actually auditioning for. The project? GLOW. Roughly ten years later Ivory was a 3-time WWE Women's Champion and her friend left wrestling after GLOW's cancellation.
- R. Lee Ermey was previously in the military and was on the set of Full Metal Jacket just as a consultant. After seeing a tape of Ermey chewing out the extras as part of a demonstration, he immediately recast the role of Sgt Hartmann with Ermey.
- Geri Halliwell was the last one of the Spice Girls chosen. She missed the first set of auditions and turned up on the second set, with barely any idea what she was auditioning for. She of course was chosen and became the Ensemble Dark Horse. This did come to bite her in the ass however as, according to Victoria Beckham, she was the only one of the girls who wasn't a trained dancer - so she was frequently struggling to keep up with them.
- Originally, George Lucas wanted to hire new talent for the Power Trio of the first Star Wars movie, and had no intention of reusing actors from his previous film, American Graffiti. Still, he had Harrison Ford tag along as a line reader, and his performance bantering against the auditionees convinced Lucas to cast him as Han Solo. The rest, as they say, is history.