Follow TV Tropes


It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Go To
Using this image seemed a good idea...
"You joined [the army] because you broke up with your boyfriend... you'll wake up one day, totally over your boyfriend, thinking 'Oh My God, I joined the army.'"

Someone does something that puts them, or the people around them in a bad or unpleasant situation. Hindsight reveals that although they had good intentions, their actions were not in their best interests.

If questioned about why they did it, they'll often respond with the reason for everything that has ever been done by anyone at any time and any place: "It seemed like a good idea at the time!"

This is also used sometimes as an explanation for Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Stupid actions. Contrast I Did What I Had to Do, which does the same as in this case, but for Lawful Neutral or Lawful Stupid actions and their moral, rather than strategical, consequences. Often goes hand in hand with Alcohol-Induced Idiocy for obvious reasons. Sometimes goes hand in hand with Exhaustion-Induced Idiocy. If the plan somehow still works — and is stated or implied to work not despite but because of how ridiculous it seems — that's Refuge in Audacity and/or Crazy Enough to Work.

Compare the situational trope, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, as well as Actually a Good Idea, Didn't Think This Through, I Was Young and Needed the Money, Not Quite the Right Thing.


    open/close all folders 

  • John Jameson:
    • In one commercial for Jameson's Irish Whiskey, John Jameson leaps overboard when one of his barrels of whiskey is lost in a storm to retrieve it, and while he's down there narrator says "In hindsight, that probably wasn't a good idea" when he sees a giant octopus start reaching towards him. Viewable here.
    • In another, as a fire ravages Dublin, he grabs an ax when the fire reaches his distillery. The narration says "John Jameson devised a brilliant plan. But there was simply no time, so, he devised another, less-brilliant plan." Said not-so-brilliant-plan is chopping open a sluice gate of a giant, stone dam to flood the city. (Where he found a mountain range that big in Ireland is not elaborated upon.) Fortunately, good whiskey being Serious Business in Ireland, the collateral damage is judged Worth It. Full version here.
    • In yet another, he catches up to a Runaway Train on horseback to save its cargo of whiskey, climbing aboard and tossing the engineer onto his horse. As the narrator puts it, "A decision he would instantly regret." Full version here.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the finale of Digimon Adventure 02, Anti-Villain BlackWarGreymon performed a Heroic Sacrifice by using his body to seal the Japanese gateway in order to stop the Myotismon-possessed Owikawa from getting to the Digital World. Two factors end up turning this into a Senseless Sacrifice. First, through a convoluted ricochet into another world, Myotismon (now MaloMyotismon) gets into the Digital World anyway, enabling him to launch his master plan to claim both worlds as his own. Second, BlackWarGreymon's seal makes it difficult for the Digidestined back on Earth to get to the Digital World in order to help the others.
  • My Hero Academia: During the USJ arc, Jiro shoves Kaminari into a group of villains so he can shock them, even though she and Momo will also be zapped in the process. The latter scolds her for this, and in the Japanese version, Jiro apologizes and says she thought it was a good idea at the time. In the English dub, she instead sarcastically apologizes and says she'll ask before trying to saving them next time.
  • In Heaven's Design Team, Pluto fills the Amazon river with piranhas as a testing environment for her new species, and Mercury puts a couple of caimans to serve as a predator for the piranhas. This bites them in the ass when a freak accident de-ages four of the designers (including Pluto and Mercury) and blows them straight into the river.
    Venus: What on earth?! Of all the things to put in here!
    Mercury: It seemed like a good idea at the time!
  • One Piece: The corrupt World Government admitted privately that they made a major mistake with the Whitebeard War. They managed to capture the late pirate king Gol D. Roger's son Portgas D. Ace, and wanted to not only end Roger's bloodline but also use Ace as bait to draw in Whitebeard so they could defeat Whitebeard and his crew. Unfortunately, several outside factors made things go south very fast. While the World Government had no control over the outside factors that turned what should have been a great victory into a Pyrrhic Victory, it should have been obvious to the World Government that things wouldn't go down so simply, to say nothing of the fact that they really didn't consider the ramifications in the long term. They admitted they only wanted Ace dead because of his parentage, not because he was particularly threatening in and of himself. Whitebeard was on life support and would have died anyway in a few more years. In short, the World Government attempted to fix a problem that was already going to be solved anyways, and ended up bringing far greater problems as a result:
  • Pokémon: The First Movie. Maybe don't create the world's strongest Pokémon to use for your own personal gain/world domination without any way to control it. Also see Gone Horribly Right.
  • The scientists of the Open Sado Project in 7 Seeds. One of them discovered a new type of Lizard Ant, who seem partial to the energy bars that the scientists eat themselves. One of their later hologram-recordings mentions that the ants escaped their original glass nest and are roaming around freely, with some of the scientists hallucinating. It's not exactly clear how many years passed between this event and when our protagonists finally encounter it, but by the time they do, the facility is a mess of huge holes, filled with these and other huge ants and even larger earthworms and they all suffer from hallucinations which make them disorented. And this is all cause the scientists were doing their job, trying to continue the regular life of scientists in a facility meant to replicate the world for the protagonists whenever they awaken after The End of the World as We Know It.

  • One stand-up comedian says that this is the reason why men do so many stupid and idiotic things, because guys aren't thinking about the past or the future and are only concerned with having a good time right now. He uses Bill Clinton as an example, and claims Bill would have gotten off scot free if he had just told the truth.
    "Mr. President, are we to understand that she just walked right into your office and started...well, you know."
    "Seemed like a good idea at the time!"

    Comic Books 
  • In B.P.R.D., this is how Director Manning justifies preserving the remains of Sadu-Hem in a laboratory, after it regenerates and escapes:
    Manning: Hindsight is, of course, 20/20. We felt the object was properly contained, and from a scientific standpoint... the whole growing thing seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Said word for word by Loki in issue #16 of Loki: Agent of Asgard when their best (and only) friend began to question why they turned her soul into a piece of magical jewellery. Come to think of it if you apply this reasoning to most of young Loki's plans they begin to make a strange amount of sense... sometimes they even work.
  • Also said word for word in Young Avengers, when the team are dimension-hopping through Crapsack World after Crapsack World:
    Kate Bishop: How many Earths did other yous make the capital of a new Kree empire?
    Noh-Varr: I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Supergirl extradited her enemy Reactron to New Krypton illegally so he got trialed and punished for his crimes (something Earth's courts seemed unwilling to do). Nonetheless, Lex Luthor had turned him into a ticking human bomb which blew the planet and the Kryptonian race up. In Bizarrogirl, Kara is still blaming herself for it, stating: "I thought I was doing the right thing."
  • In White Sand, Kenton spends a long time arguing to be allowed to take the Mastrell's Path exam, but when he enters the arena, his first thought is "remind me again, why did I think this was a good idea?".

    Comic Strips 
  • This explanation gets used a lot in Nodwick. Especially by Yeagar, who has the wisdom of a lemming.
  • In one Dilbert strip, the Pointy-Haired Boss suggests encouraging their most rebellious employees, since their mode of thinking allows for them to come up with new ideas. Dilbert then informs him that all the rebellious employees either left to start their own company, or were laid off in the last round of budget cuts, to which Wally suggest that there's a bunch of sarcastic employees in the company.
    PHB: (Thinking) It seemed like such a good idea in my head.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Outlaws:
    Jesse James: A war against the railroad... what the hell was I thinking?
    Frank: Well, I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Hannibal has this exchange where Mason Verger explains how he ended up in his current state, with some help from some drugs Lecter gave him during one of their "therapy sessions":
    Mason Verger: The good doctor approached me with a piece of broken mirror and said...[Flashback: Lecter is holding a shard of broken glass]
    Hannibal Lecter: Try peeling off your face...
    Mason Verger: ...and feeding it to the dogs. [Flashback: Verger peels his face off.] Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • The 1975 comedy film called It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, starring Stephanie Powers and John Candy.
  • Jesse Stone: No Remorse. Jesse Stone suggests Dr. Dix take up fishing.
    Dr. Dix: I hate fishin'.
    Chief Jesse Stone: So do I.
    Dix: So why'd you suggest it?
    Stone: Seemed like a good idea at the time, doesn't cost me anything.
  • Live Free or Die Hard
    Lucy McClane: Daddy, you're out of your mind.
    John McClane: What're you talkin' about?
    Lucy McClane: You shot yourself!
    John McClane: [groaning] It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • The Magnificent Seven:
    Calvera: What I don't understand is why a man like you took the job in the first place, hmm? Why, huh?
    Chris: I wonder myself.
    Calvera: No, come on, come on, tell me why.
    Vin: It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, "Why?"
    Calvera: And?
    Vin: He said, "It seemed to be a good idea at the time."
  • In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, after the Kremlin explodes, Ethan is taken to hospital and is suspected to be responsible for the explosion. The Russian cop Sidorov is sent to the hospital to investigate, but Ethan manages to free himself and climbs out of the window to jump down into a refuse container, but realises that it's way too high.
    Sidorov: Not a good idea.
    Ethan: Seemed like one... a minute ago.
  • The Mummy
    Evelyn: By the way, why did you kiss me?
    Rick: I don't know. I was about to be hanged. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, Crow attempts to escape the Satellite of Love by digging a tunnel through space. When asked why he decided to bore a hole through the hull of the ship, he responds, "I calculated the odds of this working versus the odds that I was doing something incredibly stupid and... I went ahead anyway."
  • SHAZAM! (2019): In the climax of the first movie, Shazam broke the Wizard's staff to prevent Sivanna from using it against him and his siblings. Unfortunately, the second film reveals that the staff was a Cosmic Keystone, keeping the realm of the Gods sealed off from the human world and striped of magic. By breaking the staff, Billy ended up inadvertently releasing the Daughters of Atlas and restoring their powers.
  • Solaris (2002):
    Chris Kelvin: Why did you kill yourself?
    Gibarian: It seemed like a good idea at the time, now I think I made a mistake.
  • In what's likely an homage to Star Trek: The Original Series (see Live-Action TV), Star Trek (2009) has Sarek tell a young Spock, "Marrying your mother was logical." note 
  • Without a Paddle. Del Knox has spent 30 years in a cabin after partnering with D.B. Cooper in his famous skyjacking.
    Jerry Conlaine: But you could've left! Why'd you stay up here all these years?
    Del Knox: Seemed like a good idea at the time. Know what I mean, kid?

  • In the Discworld series, Nanny Ogg's primary method of functioning is explicitly described as, "Nanny's philosophy of life was to do what seemed like a good idea at the time, and to do it as hard as possible. It had never let her down."
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden cites this word for word when he admits that he may have kinda thrown himself out of a moving car. He had a plan. Sort of.
  • In the opening quote for one of the chapters in The Grimnoir Chronicles, this is the defense offered by the people who accidentally caused the Dust Bowl by magically altering the weather.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Everything Zaphod Beeblebrox ever does, except when caught up in a plan related to finding out who really rules the universe in later volumes. Of course, this seems to have been the main reason Zaphod pulled said plan on himself by altering his own memories; even he questions his own judgment on this one.
  • The Horrible Histories: 20th Century novel lists a whole bunch of useless 20th century inventions that seemed like good ideas, but weren't. They're even referred to with the acronym "SLAGIATT" - "Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time!"
  • In the novel Knight Life by Peter David, Merlin says any question can be answered by one of three statements: "Everybody has to be somewhere," "God told me to do it," and "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
  • In Oryx and Crake, where pigs are spliced with human DNA in order to create ultra-large pigs who grow multiple human organs that are used for transplants. Some of them even have some human brain tissue, which makes them viciously intelligent. Of course, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Similarly to the Oryx and Crake example, in the Revelation Space universe an intelligent species of "hyperpigs" exists due to genetic manipulations conducted to provide transplant materials. While things are rocky for a long while, a hyperpig ends up being vital to saving all humans and hyperpigs from the Inhibitors.
  • In Warrior Cats, StarClan thought it was a good idea to hide the secret about their parents from Hollyleaf, Lionblaze, and Jayfeather. It wasn't.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Adam-12: Several episodes where officers — both Malloy and Reed, and then other officers as well — are shown making serious mistakes that seem to work out well initially but later on have not-so-good outcomes or might not have made good outcomes, and an authority figure pointing said mistakes out. One of the most notable examples:
    • Malloy making several judgment mistakes in "A Jumper-Code 2", in the concluding call of the episode (a possible jumper on a tall ledge); Malloy makes a high-risk move that, while it works out well, could have gotten either him and/or the jumper killed or badly hurt.
    • Sometimes illustrated through the character of Officer Ed Wells, the cocky officer who often acts before he thinks. His attitudes are spelled out perfectly in "A Dead Cop Can't Help Anyone," where the first call we see him work — Wells and his partner barging in on a domestic dispute and narrowly avoiding getting shot — turns out well enough, but a second call (a psychotic gunman randomly firing at passersby in a residential neighborhood) ends with him getting shot as he was running toward the house to try to subdue the gunman. Don't worry: Wells is OK, and he'll be back in the future.
  • The producers of The Amazing Race have been quoted as saying this about the Family Edition.
  • On Attack of the Show!, they tested the Sham Wow! and the Zorbees, and used substances such as vomit. Kevin nearly threw up on camera.
    • And then they tested the Slap Chop on sheep eyes...
  • In the Doctor Who episode “Cold War”, the Eleventh Doctor had reset the HADs, which caused the TARDIS to relocate to the South Pole and strand him and Clara on the Soviet submarine Firebird.
    The Doctor: Hadn’t used it in donkey’s years. It seemed like a good idea at the time…
  • Lampshaded in an episode of The Drew Carey Show after another screw-up by Lewis and Oswald:
    Drew: Everything seemed like a good idea at the time! Lead paint seemed like a good idea at the time! Living under high tension lines seemed like a good idea at the time! Nuclear blasts you could watch seemed like a good idea at the time!
  • Good Omens (2019): Crowley describes gravity this way, when he is asked why it exists.
    Crowley: Ah... Honestly, um, I don't remember. Seemed like a good idea when we were all talking about it. So things would stay where you put them, not just drift off?
  • Gossip Girl episode "All About My Brother"
    Lily van der Woodsen: Really, Rufus, what were you thinking? You threw her a surprise birthday party and had her face painted on a cake with a tiara?
    Rufus Humphrey: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
    Lily van der Woodsen: So did flannel and acid wash-jeans, but they weren't flattering either.
  • In the Hell's Kitchen "Rookies vs. Veterans" season, after a couple of embarrassing losses, one of the veterans says that returning to the show was this.
  • iCarly episode "iSell Penny Tees":
    Unnamed child: You already pre-paid us. For the whole month. (holds a wad of cash up to Carly and Freddie)
    Carly: [to Freddie, who looks at her weirded out] ...It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman episode "Tempus Fugitive":
    Clark Kent: Glasses, secret identity... seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • In the 2nd episode of Malcolm in the Middle, when Malcolm's Mother (who had been interrogating Malcolm and the boys believing that they were responsible for the destruction of one of her dresses) finds out how the boys had been surviving her punishments, Malcolm and the boys get desperate and they attempt to flee once they get found out by creating a tunnel. When their mom (who had calmed down) goes to re-confront them, she finds their room completely destroyed, while Malcolm puts the icing on the cake:
    Malcolm: [turns to the viewers] I swear to god! On paper, this was a great idea!
  • Mayday: The root cause of some of the disasters caused by pilot error. "Kid in the Cockpit" concerned a famous Russian case where a senior airline pilot allowed his teenage son to take the controls of a brand new Airbus A310. The teen inadvertently disabled the plane's autopilot and the flight crew, unfamiliar with the state-of-the-art aircraft, failed to bring it back under control. Tragic hilarity ensued. An especially needless tragedy given that the investigators found that everything would have been fine if they had just let go of the control column.
  • The Mentalist: In "Red Queen", Jane is taken hostage by Hightower and forced to drive off. He's found a few blocks away in a now-wrecked car, at which point Lisbon asks him what happened.
    Jane: She was unwrapping her hand. The moment I was waiting for.
    Lisbon: To crash the vehicle?
    Jane: It seemed like a smart idea at the time.
    • Of course, it being Jane, none of this is true anyway; he had actually realized that Hightower was framed and was helping her escape, staging the crash to create a plausible scenario for her disappearance while Hightower, who was never in the car, escaped by other means.
  • On an episode of Night Court, Mac’s bigoted grandfather can’t accept that his grandson has married an Asian woman. So Harry orders his grandfather arrested and locks him up in the same cell with Mac’s wife, so the two of them can get to know each other better. Mac is aghast when he finds out, and a crestfallen Harry gives the trope name word-for-word as his defense. Mac responds, “Well, sir, I’m sure human sacrifice seemed like a good idea at the time!”
  • On Parks and Recreation a young grade-school girl visits the office on a class assignment to learn about government, and finds Ron Swanson to talk with. He happily shares his disapproving views on the government and taxation, and gives her a going-away present of a Claymore mine, telling her "Protect what's yours." Her mother later visits, furious at her daughter being given ordnance, and Ron utters the trope phrase.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Journey to Babel," Spock's father, Sarek, gives this as the reason why he married Spock's human mother:
    Spock: (about his mother) Emotional, isn't she?
    Sarek: She has always been that way.
    Spock: Indeed. Why did you marry her?
    Sarek: At the time it seemed the logical thing to do.
    • Though, given how the couple are never shown as other than Happily Married, it sounds like it was actually the logical thing to do.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
  • This is a common occurrence on Taskmaster, which involves contestants assigned deceptively simple yet often incredibly goofy tasks to complete. The contestants are filmed completing them in isolation and are sworn to secrecy once they are done, meaning they have no idea how well (or not) they've done compared to the other contestants. They're also often forced to complete the tasks under time limits or similarly strict limitations, meaning that they often rush into doing the first thing they can think of regardless of how well-advised (or not) it is in hindsight. This means that a contestant will often leave the location shoot believing they've completed the task quite well only to cringe in mortification in the studio when their attempt is played back to an audience and shown in comparison with their competitors. For example, in Series 1 Frank Skinner completes a "do the best thing that will look amazing when played backwards" task by doing some push-ups, only to then have to watch the far more creative things his competitors come up with, leading to this:
    Frank: I thought, seeing it now it's quite poor. [Laughter] When I'd only seen me doing it, I thought there was no way anyone would get close to this, but looking back I'm just embarrassed.
  • Terry and the Pirates episode "Deadly Species" (1952):
    Terry Lee: Good timing, Major.
    Major Ellis: Oh, it was quite simple. All I had to do was follow the baskets you chaps so thoughtfully pushed off the truck.
    Terry Lee: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • The Thundermans: In Season 3's "Kiss Me Nate," Max is jealous when his girlfriend Allison is auditioning for the lead female role in the school play alongside Nate, who gets the male lead in every play he auditions. Fearing he could lose her, he has Phoebe audition for the same role Allison is trying out for. His plan works, with Phoebe getting the lead and Allison getting one of the supporting roles... until Allison brings up the part she got has to have a big kissing scene with Nate's character, which Max didn't know of until now. Phoebe lampshades such by quipping "You should've read the play."
  • Trailer Park Boys episode "Propane, Propane":
    Bubbles: You're not really marrying Lahey's ex-wife are ya? [snip]
    Ricky: Look Julian, I was baked out of my mind, it seemed like a good idea at the time, alright?
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode "Demons of Deception" ("Verdun" and "Paris")
    Remy Baudouin: I can't believe you actually did that. You could have ended up in front of a firing squad!
    Indiana Jones: They'll never figure it out.
    Remy Baudouin: But still, you lost your courier's job, and you put yourself back in the mud. You're crazy!
    Indiana Jones: It seemed like a good idea at the time. Some men got to live another day.
  • The Professionals. In "Mixed Doubles", Bodie and Doyle worry that a berserker fanatic might attempt to kill a foreign head of state, so load their revolvers with dum-dum rounds to be sure of dropping their target instantly. At the same time two hitmen are planning his assassination, and to be sure of killing their target use the same ammunition. After all the shooting is over...
    Bodie: (quietly) Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time...

  • The song "A Good Idea At the Time" by OK Go both expresses Sympathy for the Devil and is an explicit response to The Rolling Stones song of the same name. Lucifer wasn't responsible for any of the tragedies listed in the Stones song, humans did these terrible things because they "seemed like a good idea at the time."
  • The narrator of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota" quotes this trope verbatim while speculating why the titular twine ball was built.
  • The inclusion of 3D glasses with The Raveonettes album Lust Lust Lust must have seemed like a fun gimmick at the time, but unfortunately it rendered the album ineligible for the UK Albums Chart. None of their albums since have charted in the UK at all.
  • When he was 21, Tom Lehrer thought it a good idea to write "The Old Dope Peddler." Later, he called the song "Chilling."

  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme: A radio show revolving entirely around guessing the weight of cats starts running into problems, such as trying to make it more exciting for the audience by hiding the cats from sight. The host keeps breaking off to lament that the show sounded really great at the pitch meeting, before gamely trying to soldier on.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Sound:'' The host of "Norm-ill or Met-ill", a show revolving entirely around the premise of stating whether something is metal or not, falters when the format runs into a problem, such as the two panellists pointing out some things can be both. He mutters that it had seemed like such a great idea to begin with, and tries pressing on.
  • True to its tendency of turning sayings into titles, This American Life has done an episode (#306) that's flat out titled "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time."

  • Hua Yin asking for Tianlang's grandchildren to help him practice evasion in The Dao of the Awakened. Not only does dodging three horse-sized Spirit Wolves turn out to be harder than expected, he soon finds out there is a human audience... so yeah, the trope name is dropped. Twice.

  • In The Addams Family, Gomez tells the giant squid in the cellar that this is why the United States has the Electoral College (Used as a throwaway joke).

    Video Games 
  • A Real Life example for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Introducing paid mods into a passionate, decades-old community with no prior warning wasn't the most well-thought out plan. Insisting it was for the best intentions didn't help. The feature was removed amid intense backlash mere days later.
  • In Portal 2 you're given the opportunity to remove Big Bad GLaDOS' control over the facility and replace her with Wheatley, a cheery, kindhearted robot that's done nothing but help you. Seems like a great idea, right? Well, keep in mind that you should have noticed by this point that the "cheery, kindhearted robot that's done nothing but help you" is in fact an idiot. But the immediate effect is that anyone who gets put in charge of the facility is driven insane (good job turning your only friend into a homicidal maniac) and said friend is actually a literal Idiot Ball; "He's the product of the greatest minds of a generation working together with the express purpose of building the dumbest moron who ever lived." And you just put him in charge of the facility that was taking great effort to kill you before you put a vicious idiot in the driver's seat.
    • This statement could probably be the unofficial motto for Aperture Science in general. Which is exemplified by the Mantis DNA project, in which the second batch of test subjects gets used for a new test: fighting an army of Mantis Men.
  • In RuneScape, if you tease the bandit "Narf" about his name, he mocks yours (your username) in return, and your character replies that it seemed like a good idea when they were signing up!
  • A Real Life example for Spore: there used to be a "Bad Baby!" achievement, which you could only get if a creation of yours was banned from the servers. Naturally, everyone and their mother started deliberately uploading offensive creations in order to get this achievement. It got so bad that the achievement was eventually removed from the game.
  • Another real life example. Back in 1988 Nintendo wanted to develop a CD peripheral for the SNES. They first partnered with Sony, but after discovering the deal gave Sony unprecedented control over the games on it, they bailed and partnered with Philips. This made Sony none too happy at the betrayal. The SNES never got a CD add-on, Philips got temporary rights to misuse Nintendo IPs, and Sony got busy preparing for the formal announcement of the PlayStation with the CD video game technology they now had to hand. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero indeed.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue, in episode 52 Have We Met?:
    One of the many Churches: So, what did you do?
    Yellow Armor Church: Aw, man, it seemed like such a good idea at the time!
    • It later emerges that this iteration of Church had somehow wound up inside Caboose's mind, as the latter's mental image of Sister, and had then been sent back to Sidewinder by a malfunctioning temporal distortion unit. Whatever the 'good idea' he had was, it's never explained.
  • In The Trash Pack webseries episode "Snot My Problem," Trash-A-Pillar and Scummy Screen feel this way when it comes to a link.
    Blow Fly: What did you do?!
    Trash-A-Pillar: Uh, nothing! I just clicked on this little link that said "Download this virus to win one million dollars"!
    Scummy Screen: [congested and obviously ill-looking] It seemed like a good deal at the time...

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Chakona Space 'verse, chakats are mentioned to be highly susceptible to this.
  • This video by Spanish comedy duo Pantomima Full spawned a meme known as "En su cabeza era espectacular" ("In his head, it was spectacular") from a caption referring to the main character's idea to cook dinner and fill the bed with petals for Valentine's Day, implying that it didn't quite go the way he hoped. This meme is since applied to adverts, concepts or messages that don't quite come out as the person pitching them hoped.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: Tina is backed into a corner when classmate Tammy blackmails her with the threat of reading Tina's "erotic friend fiction" to her crush Jimmy Junior — her mom reassures her, and tells her to take control of the situation and read her fiction herself to the whole class. It's only after she repeats her advice to Bob that she sees what a bad idea it is.
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Commander Nebula thought it would be a good idea to put Star Command's control system in an escape pod... including a self-destruct switch, and this gets exploited by Zurg when he finds it out.
  • Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: Every idea Klunk comes up with for the Vulture Squadron to catch Yankee Doodle Pigeon seemed like a good idea at the time. Once it's implemented, Epic Fail is imminent.
  • In Drawn Together episode "Breakfast Food Killer", that hiding the UCP codes up his butt seemed like a good idea at the time. Though he didn't really have any other place to hide them.
  • Milked for all its comedic worth in Family Guy. Adam West rolls around in nuclear waste in order to gain superpowers — and gets lymphoma. The doctor who he explains this to is taking this all in, and concludes that Adam West is an idiot — much as someone would do were this same feat attempted in Real Life. The irony is that earlier in the story, the Griffins had gained superpowers in a manner quite similar, and Adam West's rolling around in the waste was part of a desperate plot to put a stop to their evil dominion over the town. Of course, he still succeeds — the Griffins feel extremely guilty realizing that Adam West got lymphoma just because they were using their superpowers to be petty jerks.
  • The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan episode "The Gypsy Caper". Suzie, Alan, Anne and Tom are exhausted, Tom spots a hive and suggests they partake of the honey as a natural energy source. Unfortunately, the bees aren't too thrilled about that and the group ends up getting a second wind by fleeing and diving into a lake.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • Jade destroys Shendu's physical form after they beat him at the end of season 1. Unfortunately this allows other forms of evil beings to come forth, since the world NEEDS a Balance Between Good and Evil. The only reason it seems things float towards the good side of things is because said evil is sealed, NOT destroyed.
      Uncle: [to Jackie] You destroyed the demon! Yin and Yang! Now the world is out of balance! Nobody told you to destroy the demon!
    • It also happens when Jackie destroys the talismans. He had hoped that their power would be destroyed and would end people misusing them, but unfortunately their powers can't be destroyed; only their hosts (which were the talismans at the time) can. Their powers then sought out new hosts and he inadvertently started the talisman hunt all over again.
  • Throughout Season 9 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Grogar created a Legion of Doom with Chrysalis, Tirek, Cozy Glow and King Sombra. However, during the Grand Finale, it's shown that the actual reason Grogar gathered the villains together was that Grogar was actually Discord assuming Grogar's form the whole time. He wanted to prove to Twilight that she was ready to become the ruler of all of Equestria by having her defeat all of her strongest villains. Discord admits that it seemed like a good idea to try and play the Stealth Mentor. Discord even says "it all made sense in my head" when he explains himself. The rest of the cast does not let Discord get away with this.
  • In the Rugrats episode "Chuckie is Rich," Drew foolishly invests the majority of Chaz's new money into a product that seemed promising...until it failed and the company went bankrupt. He uses this as his excuse.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer, taking advice from Moe and the barflies, hires a private eye to spy on Lisa so she'll think he's a good father. When the time comes to pay the bill, Homer refuses, citing the detective's overspending, and he retaliates by freeing some animals from a research facility and framing Lisa. As Homer and Lisa are hiding in a motel, Lisa asks who could want to frame her, and Homer, feeling guilty, confesses to the whole thing:
    Lisa: How could you?
    Homer: Well, all the childless drunks at Moe's thought it was a great idea.
    Lisa: [angrily] Let's just get some sleep.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In Season 1's "Boating School," after SpongeBob fails his boating test for the 38th time, Patrick decides to help him by placing a walkie talkie in his head which he hides under a hat, while he gives him the directions. The technique works, and SpongeBob makes it through without a hitch... until Mrs. Puff jokingly comments it would be cheating, causing SpongeBob to realize he cheated and flips out, failing again.
    • In Season 4's "The Lost Mattress", Mr. Krabs is having sleeping troubles because his mattress is old and lumpy, so SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward buy him a new one and toss the old one out. But then Mr. Krabs reveals not long after that his old mattress has all his money in it, and he winds up falling into a coma where only his money can revive him. Worse still, since Squidward took all the credit, the police threaten to send him to jail unless Mr. Krabs gets his mattress back.
    • In Season 13's "Frendiversary", SpongeBob is celebrating the anniversary of his friendship with Squidward, which is only one-sided as Squidward tries in vain to avoid the occasion as possible. As a last resort, he erases every memory of him from SpongeBob's memory book and from his brain, giving the sponge amnesia and unable to remember him, finally giving Squidward peace. But then Mr. Krabs reveals this also erased SpongeBob's memory of the combination to the Krusty Krab safe which contains the secret formula, because he attached it to one of his memories with Squidward to begin with; because Squidward was responsible for causing SpongeBob to forget the combination, Mr. Krabs forces him to spend time with him to help him regain his memory.
  • Squirrel Boy: Andy says something along the lines of this when he mentions that he's been slowly replacing his bedroom door with graham crackers as a trio of rat gangsters are breaking it down.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In Season 1, Ahsoka says this word for word in response to Anakin scolding her for engaging Grievous in combat alone.
  • In Star Wars Rebels, Bo-Katan Kryze asks a sheepish Sabine Wren why did she have to name a weapon that killed Mandalorians specifically, after her (Bo-Katan's) sister, a pacifist.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "The Case of the Killer Pizzas," when Baxter Stockman used a remote device to command the trio of Xenomorph Xeroxs to attack the turtles, Donatello uses his bo staff to knock it out of his hand and into the sewer river. Unfortunately, without the remote, the creatures were completely out of control and attacked everyone. What's more, Raphael points out that the remote could've been used to subdue them if "Mr. Homerun Slugger" hadn't knocked it into the water. Donatello sheepishly says this.

    Real Life 
  • During the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China, the Battle of Chibi was a case of this. The warlord Cao Cao, fresh over his conquest of northern China, marched his forces south in order to subjugate the only truly major opposition to his reunification of the whole country: Liu Biao and Sun Quan. Liu Biao died and his successor quickly surrendered, and Cao prepared for war with Sun. His reasoning was sound: his men, while exhausted, were fresh off numerous victories and his forces far outnumbered Sun's. He hoped to intimidate Sun into surrender, or at least breakthrough and force said surrender. The bad idea came from his forces being exhausted from the long march, many of his best generals and officers staying behind to consolidate his new territory, and the fact that the terrain in the south was unsuited for the cavalry tactics he used with such efficiency. A combination of determined resistance, an attack with fire ships, unseasonable weather that made the famous fire attack even more effective, and plague forced his retreat.
  • Emperor Tiberius was a paranoid tyrant and possible pedophile who arranged the deaths of his political enemies and more popular members of his own immediate family, alienating himself from anyone with power and influence in Ancient Rome. So reviled was he that, when he finally succumbed to a fatal case of being smothered in his sleep by his abused nephews, there was reportedly dancing in the streets of Rome. In an act of revenge, the Senate decided to completely ignore his last will and testament regarding his succession, and appointed one of these abused nephews to the office of Emperor. This nephew, Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, soon became synonymous with the decadence and insanity associated with the Caesars, and is better remembered by his nickname: Caligula.
  • The colonization of New England. Whereas most of Britain's New World colonies were set up either as trading posts or as cash cows for profitable crops, New England was Britain's dumping ground for weirdos. Social misfits, religious crackpots, political dissidents — basically anyone they didn't know what to do with. Massachusetts in particular was a hotbed of radical politics and spiritual weirdness for most of the 18th century. Less than a century after its initial colonization, New England became the center of a secessionist movement that would eventually become The American Revolution. Maybe putting all the crazy people in one place wasn't such a great idea...
  • The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan was several years into its occupation of most of East and South-East Asia but was running low on oil and other vital supplies. America gradually stopped selling Japan things due to outrage over Japan's conduct in the Sino-Japanese war, which drove Japan into even more desperate straits as they tried to invade and secure oil-producing regions in the Pacific. Unfortunately, the American-held Philippines were between Japan and said oil producers. The raid on Pearl Harbor was meant to scare the Americans away from total war with Japan at best, and at least cripple their fleet while Japan quickly nabbed the needed territory. It partially worked in that Japan was able to stall the Americans long enough to conquer the Philippines and Dutch East Indies, but it also meant that, when the Americans did recover, they were out for blood and would never accept any negotiated settlement, ensuring that Japan did not hold those territories (or a functional military) for long.
    • The guy who planned the raid, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, rather famously had a dim view of Japan's prospects for success; while he never actually said the 'Sleeping Giant' line, he did say that Japan shouldn't commit to war with the United States unless they thought that they could dictate peace terms in the White House (never going to happen and nobody thought it would), and warned his superiors that the Pearl Harbor attack would only buy them 6 months, after which he couldn't guarantee anything. The problem was, the Japanese high command were dead set on not having to lose face by withdrawing from wars with China and various small Southeast Asian countries due to a lack of resources, and thus didn't listen to him.
    • Hitler declaring war on the United States even before the United States officially declared war on Japan. Hitler wanted to be able to sink the American ships which were bringing much-needed supplies to England... but he didn't stop to think that the only reason that the United States wasn't doing more than providing supplies was because there was no state of war between Germany and the US.
    • Everyone knows about the atomic bomb droppings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but there were some other individual air raids almost as bad, like the bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, killing 100,000 people, which may have been worse than the atomic bomb droppings individually. Japan really shouldn't have messed around.
  • Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. At the time, the Soviet military was in disarray following Stalin's purges and its costly war against Finland, making it seem weakened enough to be invaded. However, the German military lacked the proper logisticsnote , intelligencenote  and strategy to execute the invasion. Subsequently, the Germans failed to crush the Soviets before they could reorganize into a proper fighting unity, resulting in Germany getting bogged in a war of attrition that lead to the nation's downfall.
  • Mary Renault on the burning of Persepolis by Alexander the Great:
    "Like many happenings at a very successful party, it seemed like a good idea at the time."
  • This was the reason given for the production of The Day the Clown Cried, a movie about a Holocaust-era clown, that will never be allowed to see the light of day until at least 2025 when the copy Lewis gave to the Library of Congress is finally allowed to be screened.
  • On Aeroflot Flight 593, the plane's captain took his two children into the cockpit to let them sit at the controls of the brand-new and impressive Airbus A310. The captain's teenage son, who had no idea how the plane really worked, inadvertently disabled the autopilot. The flight crew, unfamiliar with the state-of-the-art autopilot, were unable to regain control of the aircraft. Flight 593 crashed, killing all 75 people on board.
  • The mega-popular image hosting site Imgur instituted paid advertisements in June 2015. The first company to attempt it was Warner (Bros.) Records, whose reputation dropped to almost -60,000 reputation in less than a week. They made three whole posts before the account was reset due to this intense negative reception. This was mere days after the forced removal of NSFW comments (which in no way was related to the incoming advertisers, trust us) that sparked a mini-revolt by the community at large. Imgur reinstated NSFW comments as an option that was off by default.
  • Sega of America had scheduled the Sega Saturn launch in North America for September 1995, until the Japanese headquarters ordered an early release to get an advantage over the PlayStation. So, during the first E3 in May Sega made the surprise announcement that 30,000 Saturns were already available. And then all the shortcomings piled up: the retailers left out of this release scheme were upset, some dropping Sega altogether; only six games were readily available for the console, with just two more titles in the following months; and the simple announcement that the PlayStation would be $100 cheaper than the Saturn made people more eager to wait and purchase Sony's console instead.
  • A humorous example: for the 2016 Olympic Games, to really get into the whole national spirit idea, the British Olympic committee decided to issue all their athletes matching luggage. Somehow, no one anticipated the rather obvious problem with this idea until it actually manifested.
  • Possibly the only reason United Passions was made. It's a movie praising the executives of FIFA, even though it was made at the time of a massive FIFA scandal. It grossed $900 in the United States and might possibly be the worst movie in history.
  • The worst religious war in history was the Taiping Rebellion, all started by a guy who claimed to be Jesus' brother (!). 31 million people died, so you could say this about the people who believed him.
  • As a tie-in to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Mattel produced a toy broomstick with a vibrating feature to help simulate the feeling of flying. The product was quickly pulled when the company learned several pre-teen to adult females were really enjoying this experience...
  • After World War I, the Allied Powers made sure to humiliate Germany as much as possible. They were even warned to treat them better with the possibility that they could rebuild their military. They countered by saying that they wouldn't even allow Germany to have a military they made one in secret.
  • Richard Nixon had one of the biggest Landslide Election victories in history, with a massive 96.7% of the electoral votes. He then got involved in one of the most infamous scandals in world history, becoming the only President to resign, not to mention his administration bombed Cambodia, in the worst air raid since World War II. In history, he's remembered as one of the most despised Presidents, so much that when Noam Chomsky was mentioning war crimes committed by Presidents, he said that he could just skip Nixon. Voters did not look well into his character.
    • The Watergate break-in was itself this from the POV of Nixon and his allies, as it was a "third-rate burglary" designed to find dirt on Nixon's political opponents and thus help ensure the landslide victory mentioned above... only to begin an intensive investigation into his dirty dealings which resulted in his eventual resignation in disgrace.
  • Venezuela’s Puntofijo Pact. The Puntofijo Pact was formed after Marcos Perez Jimenez, a dictator of Venezuela, was overthrown. The pact would be a power sharing agreement that excluded the Venezuelan Communist Party, and would secure democracy for 40 years. However, this agreement degenerated into oligarchy, and eventually, resulted in the rise of Hugo Chávez.
  • Thomas Midgely. A one-man environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions, he was the inventor of leaded gasoline and freon (among other CFCs, which were also used in the production of styrofoam). Presented with chemical engineering challenges - stop 'knocking' in internal combustion engines, come up with a better coolant for refrigerators - he proceeded to come up with solutions that worked, were adopted on a grand scale, and which had (and continue to have) lasting environmental and even societal impacts - there is strong statistical support for the idea that leaded petrol caused crime rates to spike, due to lead's impact on brain development in children. When countries switch over to unleaded fuel, it is pretty common to see their crime rates start to drop about two decades later, as the cohort that didn't grow up breathing in leaded fumes reach their late teens and early twenties, the prime age bracket for first involvement in serious criminal activity, and far more of them simply don't get involved than was the case for earlier cohorts. While a direct causal link is basically impossible to prove, the Lead-Crime Hypothesis has its share of supporters.
    • Popping over to the Roman Empire for a moment, the same hypothesis has been suggested as part of the cause of the fall of Rome; Lead was the plastic of the age, a material that was pliable enough to be shaped into water and wine jugs, and corrosion-proof so that it could be used to line aqueducts and water pipes to get clear, fresh water straight to your home! The current scientific conclusion is that there is no level of lead contamination that can be considered "safe" for humans, so the notion that the Romans slowly poisoned themselves into decline in pursuit of a public good has a deeply tragic resonance, for all that is is (as with the Lead-Crime Hypothesis) impossible to actually prove.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time


Mrs. Puff guesses right

On their way towards the finish line, Mrs. Puff unknowingly make accurate assumptions on how SpongeBob was able to pass his test before making him realize that he's cheating.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / IfOnlyYouKnew

Media sources: