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"Oh! We'll make you a movie
That's long and immense,
Way-hey! Slow the plot down.
Just give us a script
That makes no friggin' sense —
We'll try so hard to slow the plot down!"
Joel and the Bots, "Slow the Plot Down", Mystery Science Theater 3000

Padding is a moment in a story that could have easily been removed from the plot without affecting the story significantly.

Most works have to employ some level of this to get to the desired length/running time, but are usually either subtle about it or manage to make the padding itself enjoyable. In other cases, these scenes distract from the plot advancement, tainting the viewing experience for the viewer and leaving them annoyed as a result.

This is more easily identifiable in television shows than films, as those techniques are influenced by having to hit a specific runtime threshold that can be aired in a defined timeslot. This sometimes involves the use of Stock Footage, which allows the producers to pad multiple episodes with a scene they only have to pay to shoot once. In anime this can be easily identified in works adapted from a manga: if a scene wasn't in the original work, it's almost certainly padding. Shonen works especially like to extend existing fight sequences, or add entirely new ones with moves only used in that scene (which don't affect the outcome of the fight, of course, they have a manga to follow!). Digital-only shows such as Orange Is the New Black, The Boys (2019) and The Mandalorian don't have to adhere to this threshold as much, so they can be as long as they want to be; Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ don't really care about per-episode runtime, and so these shows largely escape the issue.

In film, due to the time constraints of the medium, this can often be entirely a matter of opinion, rather than any obvious pattern to follow. For instance, many people wonder why the movie Fargo wasted time showing the detective's husband fixing her breakfast when there was a compelling Reverse Whodunnit in the works, whereas the movie's most ardent fans feel that such scenes were the whole point. Padding is also easier to get away with in comedic works, where one can get away with adding extra, unnecessary scenes as long as they're funny enough. The Overly-Long Gag trope is frequently used as this, with an oft-referenced example being the rake scene in The Simpsons.

All the same, there are some unquestionable and painful moments of padding in films, especially from the 1950s. Roger Corman and Bert I. Gordon are often considered the kings of padding (both have even been credited with inventing the device, though such claims are apocryphal), inserting gratuitous scenes of mountain climbing or characters stumbling around in the dark in order to pad a film to feature-length. They were not even above simply doubling individual frames to add a few extra seconds. Mystery Science Theater 3000 treated this sort of time-filler as the most painful thing a movie could do (it was presented under the name "Deep Hurting" in Hercules Against the Moon Men, thanks to its drawn-out sandstorm sequence).

In comics, arcs that could be easily three or four issues long are usually padded out for the inevitable trade paperback collection. Usually, the default arc length is six issues, as that results in a $20 trade (the typical rate for such a book). This happens at both Marvel and DC, though the former was so notorious for it that it drove writers away from the company.

Games often send you on long fetch quests, sidequests, or just running back and forth and not progressing the story. This is commonly seen in Roleplaying Games and the more expansive of Action-Adventure games; although a lot of the content that is considered "padding" is optional, meaning unless a player is going for 100% Completion, the "padding" can be avoided. Forced Level-Grinding, however, isn't. For a First-Person Shooter game, you'll be required to go back and forth or repeat the same levels over and over again, without Chaos Architecture making it seem different or at least getting to go to new areas. In an adventure game, which naturally is much shorter than the average Roleplaying Game or most First-Person Shooter games (especially if you know what to do), they will pad it by making you go back and forth or making an overly-long puzzle or dialogue branch.

Other examples would include Pixel Hunting or sending you on a long series of errands/puzzles that merely give you one item to progress the story. And if they can't think of a way to do even that, they just might cause enemies to regenerate (in a first-person shooter) or keep endlessly entering the frame as clones of themselves (in a side-scroller) so that you have to eat up time just killing people!

Padding is often frequently present in music, too. It can range from parts without the main melody or sudden stop periods. Examples are quite subjective.

Compare with Filler, which is when whole episodes/issues/whatever else in a continuity-based serial applies this principle, rather than just individual scenes. See also Engaging Chevrons, Inaction Sequence, Leave the Camera Running, Overly-Long Gag, Purple Prose, Arc Fatigue.

Should not be confused with Padded Sumo Gameplay, but the video game version of Padding is Fake Longevity.

Styles of padding:

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • An unusual example comes from a car commercial, where two men are standing next to each other, staring at the car. One says "call her," the commercial then pauses in silence for a full three seconds, before he replies with "OK," and the commercial continues as normal.

    Asian Animation 
  • Simple Samosa has its theme song written into a few episodes rather than played before the proper episode, since it uses an Extremely Short Intro Sequence. In some cases, they use the theme song to pad out the runtime of the episode, such as with the episodes "Comic Book" and "Kheer" which both play the full song at the end. If you're wondering, the full theme song is about two minutes and 30 seconds long.

  • Jeff Dunham has a tendency to do this. In one show, Achmed spent like half an hour making gay jokes to the Guitar Guy before singing a song, and it took about as long to get Peanut to read a letter. If you were to take a drink every time Peanut repeated the "Taste of-a-China" joke, you'd be dead drunk before the end of the routine. It's one thing if you're trying to build up the joke so it'll be funny, but when you've repeated the same joke multiple times, it stops being funny and is more annoying.
  • Stewart Lee, to the aggravation of many, loves Overly Long Gags; so it's not unusual for him to spend 10 minutes on a subject and in one of his live shows he stood onstage for five minutes doing nothing but wearing one of his daughter's toys as a hat.

    Comic Books 
  • All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder suffers from this. One critic noted the book felt like Miller was spreading 4 issues of story across 20. To put it in perspective, Batman meets Dick Grayson in Issue 1. They arrive at the Batcave in Issue 4. The time in between (the entirety of Issues 2 and 3) is focused on either inner monologue which repeats itself or scenes focusing on other characters (despite this being a book about Batman and Robin). Black Canary's introductory scene takes up half of Issue 3, but all that happens is her getting harassed and her beating up a room full of people.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark is the longest work by a single artist in Western literature. Its creator, Dave Sim, set out to write the "longest sustained narrative in human history". In the end, it amounted to a massive 300-issue saga. Unfortunately, Sim only had plot for 200 issues.
  • A huge amount of Countdown to Final Crisis is this, with each issue jammed with snippets of several different storylines spread across the entire DC universe introducing plot points that are forgotten three issues later, with special mention to everything having to do with the Monitors. Also, many of the events happening in Countdown were completely unrelated to the series' plot lines themselves, and were instead random intersections with all the other stuff happening in the DC universe at the same time, reducing the event to a series of advertisements for plots in dozens of other comic titles.
  • More than half of Holy Terror is splash pages. Because of this, the pacing is so slow that the plot starts moving during the last third. To prove this, on page 93 The Fixer says the attack is still beginning.
  • Averted in Nextwave, which was based on the idea "if it doesn't fit in two explosion-heavy books, or it's sane, don't do it."
  • Spider-Man comics back in the mid-'90s were really bad at this. Among those were Maximum Carnage (which was 14 parts, compared to the 3 parts the creature's first appearance took) and The Clone Saga, which was meant to last 6 months and lasted two years. Clone Saga's problem was due to Executive Meddling — the Marketing Department noticed how fans were gobbling up the stories and demanded more.
  • Quite egregiously in old German translations of Spirou & Fantasio. Since the editors had decided to use a 3x3 panel layout instead of the original 2x3 one, every row had to be expanded by 50%. And how were the additional 50% filled? With random stuff, most often by adding panels of their squirrel commenting on the scene, but sometimes by expanding the drawings (by someone who was very obviously not Franquin).
  • The Future Shock and Terror Tales strips in 2000 AD are self-contained, one-shot strips inserted primarily to take up space when a regular strip ends before another is ready. They are often used to give unknown writers and artists a trial run without risking harm to established stories, and indeed such well-known writers as Alan Moore and Grant Morrison got started with Future Shocks. While recognizing the device, fans generally don't mind, as the stories are often entertaining in their own right, and there's something to be said for a strip you can enjoy without having to worry about continuity.
  • Virtually anything written by Brian Michael Bendis prior to 2003. The concept of his breakthrough work Ultimate Spider-Man was taking a story that Stan Lee told in 4 pages and turning it into a 6-issue arc. Naturalistic/Mamet-esque dialogue tics account for 40% of this.
  • For much of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) early run the backup stories would frequently be complete filler clearly only present to pad out issues. Frequently they would be totally disconnected from the current plot lines, consisted mainly of lame jokes, and were rarely, if ever, mentioned again. It wasn't until later on (around the "Endgame" arc onwards) that backup stories started getting consistently used for actually plot-relevant events.
  • Superman:
    • Two for the Death of One is an eight-issue-long storyline. Four of those issues have Superman fight villains unrelated to his plight, as well as cross over with the Omega Men and the Teen Titans, and do little to push the main plot forward. Most of it could be cut to fit the few relevant scenes in the remaining issues. It may come across as Marv Wolfman using Superman as a self-promoting vehicle since the Omega Men are his own creations and he was writing New Teen Titans back then.
    • The Leper from Krypton: Most of issue #365 could have been cut off without detriment to the story because, except for the first and last pages, it is largely a flashback chapter where Superman lies in his rocket as his life flashes before his eyes.

    Comic Strips 
  • Gasoline Alley is guilty of often stretching storylines out much longer than necessary. The most notorious is a story about Skeezix returning a faulty DVD player that lasted for about three weeks.
  • Garfield: The Sunday comics, are sometimes guilty of this, featuring a gag that could just as easily be done in the usual 3 panels, with everything else just being there to stretch it out to 6 - 7 panels (this one being an example).
  • Herb and Jamaal is very guilty of this. Most strips consist of one joke needlessly stretched out over 2-3 panels with gratuitous ellipsis.
  • Luann dedicated a full 3 weeks to a story about Mr Fogarty retiring, though he's a minor character at best. Included in the strips were links to old "Fogarty Flashbacks" and old panels that had the unintentional effect of showing exactly how one-note he was (though the author has stated Fogarty was his personal favorite and was his first choice as main character of a comic strip). Contrast that with the 2 weeks given to Luann's prom.
  • Modesty Blaise: One newspaper Peter O'Donnell wrote for was published five days a week, the other six days a week. Therefore every sixth strip is padding, irrelevant to the main plot, but adding seamlessly to the story. Also when one newspaper was on strike he had to write a whole short story to publish in the non-striking newspapers, before getting back to the original story.
  • 9 Chickweed Lane: The 2013-2015 Normandy flashback had a lot of "Bill and Martine wander the countryside, run into some of Those Wacky Nazis and kill them, then have sex and wander some more" scenes, repeated over and over again. This took place for months on end, with the characters getting no closer to reaching their destination.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "Reygoch": The segment where Curlylocks becomes trapped behind a wall of rocks and almost dies as exploring a subterranean maze could be easily removed because it has zero bearing on the plot.

    Fan Works 
  • A Running Gag in Season 1 of Script Fic Calvin & Hobbes: The Series has Calvin doing something somewhat strange, which Hobbes points out. Calvin then starts arguing about it, and it continues for an absurd amount of time. This was thankfully phased out in Season 2.
  • Double Rainboom was first envisioned as standard-length fan episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Unfortunately, the project's director made it his final project for animation school, and said that the project had to be a minimum length of 30 minutes, while the episode script was intended to be a 22-minute episode. In the end, this trope ensued.
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic:
    • The author outright admits to using this, as he believes he has to fill a word quota. More specifically, he believes that every chapter has to be an equivalent length to a half-hour TV episode, with no exceptions.
      • Amazingly, he complains in the author's notes of the third series about how long his fanfics are, and yet does nothing to fix this.
    • Aside from padding in-chapters, Mykan seems to have an obsession with writing 26 episodes per season, which leads to many episodes where nothing advances the plot. The biggest offenders are in My Brave Pony: Star Fleet Magic II.
  • Ultra Fast Pony lampshades this in the episode "Granny Smith Is Mean".
    Apple Bloom: Why do we even have these trees, anyway?
    Applejack: It's a short episode. We need to fill in the time somehow.
  • The Stalking Zuko Series is mainly about Katara writing a diary to keep tabs on Zuko, during which she falls in love with him, but also includes the canon plotlines(which are greatly expanded on in this fic and several original plotlines, such as romance between beta couples and stories that help expand on the setting. As a result, over half of Not Stalking Zuko, the longest installment in the series, takes place on Ember Island, and some people complain that all the extra content is unnecessary, while others believe it helps add to the story and allows Zuko and Katara's romance to proceed at a realistic pace.

    Films — Animation 
  • The ending musical number of Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation lasts for six minutes, and has nothing to do with the plot.
  • The Hungarian animated movie Cat City has an expository Music Video (3 and a half minutes), a mouse performing a trumpet solo (3 minutes, though this one at least impacts the story), a cat lady singing (1 minute 40 seconds), and characters engaging in the mundane acts of walking slowly, sitting into cars and driving off, reading and turning pages, as well as stretching out almost every conversation to its maximum length, and making long, seemingly plot-relevant buildups to relatively weak throwaway gags or other kinds of disappointing payoffs. And though most of the film plays out at this excruciatingly slow, sleepy pace, the ending still feels downplayed and rushed. However, a lot of fans do consider the musical bits the movie's high points.
  • Gummibär: The Yummy Gummy Search for Santa contains many unnecessary scenes that could easily be cut and the plot would remain the same, like Gummy's Dream Intro, the scene where Gummy takes the elves for a ride, and the scene where Gummy and Santa are trying to catch a fish.
  • The Lion King (2019) is 30 minutes longer than the original. Given the story is downright the same, with few additions (many of which try to fix logic gaps the first movie had), this is accomplished by either doing extended pans of the beautifully rendered scenery or downright adding extraneous content to some scenes - the first scene after the title, where Scar gets a mouse in his den, is now preceded by the rodent wandering around the Pride Lands for some minutes; and Rafiki now discovers Simba is alive by finding a piece of his mane... whose "journey" to the mandrill is basically done in real time (the scene is so long it even cuts to black at one point).
  • You could cut out 50% of Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, a 40-minute special, and still be left with the basic plot, which is about 10 minutes long.

  • Anna Sewell's Black Beauty is another example; if the chapters that were a case of Author Filibuster were removed ("Only Ignorance," for instance) the book would be half the length at the very least.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a good deal of Narrative Filigree that manages to be funny and/or world-building — the Oompa-Loompa songs, the trips through the corridors, and passing mentions of what's in the rooms that the tour group doesn't visit, etc. But the "Square Sweets That Look Round" chapter pushes things, as it takes several paragraphs to deliver a simple, silly punchline. (Only one major adaptation mentions them, for a passing sight gag.) The sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator falls headlong into this territory with the scenes set in the White House in the first half, which are funny but contribute little to the plot.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time has a lot of this, due to the narrator's autism. Two of the strangest examples include an irrelevant chapter about atheism and belief in the supernatural and a chapter about an ad for a trip to Malaysia.
  • Dragaera: Parodied in the books narrated by Paarfi, an author of historical fiction whose writing style is a parody of Alexandre Dumas's paid-by-the-word style. His eccentric narration will spend paragraphs digressing from the plot to explain a narrative device he's about to use, lecture the reader on some pet subect of his, or vent petty grievances against his rivals. Even when he's not intruding, characters will use ten times as many words as necessary in dialogue, bandying formalities back and forth before getting to the point until even the characters themselves tire of it. The forward of The Baron of Magister Valley includes the most direct example. It's written by a critic who was hired to write a thousand-word critique of Paarfi as an author. He spends the entire forward bitterly complaining about how his initial one-word summary of Paarfi's writing was rejected, and that he has to deliver exactly one thousand words or else he won't get paid.
  • Many chapters in The Protector's War (the second book in the Emberverse series) focus on three characters living in post-Change Britain. The problem here is that the actual plot occurs in the northwestern United States. The characters do eventually end up in the right place and become marginally important, but their roles could have been easily filled by someone else.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey:
    • The series would have been a hell of a lot shorter if the author cut out all of the descriptions of Christian being amazingly beautiful, and the needless recaps of things that happened as short as a chapter ago.
    • The Email conversations and the submissive rules and contract that are printed in the book twice take up a lot of space without adding much content.
    • Half of the sex scenes could have been cut, due to them being interchangeable, written identically, and barely making a difference to the flow of events or characters.
  • How NOT to Write a Novel describes a form of padding the writers call "The Second Argument in the Laundromat", where more than one scene is used to establish exactly the same thing.
  • Land of Oz: This became a problem in the sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. That book itself had a chapter featuring a Wacky Wayside Tribe of people made of china; a harmless diversion in the plot that only lasted one chapter and was never mentioned again afterwards, but it would turn out to be a Franchise Original Sin. L. Frank Baum was writing Oz sequels basically against his will, forced to write book after book due to poor sales of his other books and failed business ventures. So gimmicky Wacky Wayside Tribes became a fixture in the books, most notoriously in The Road to Oz, a book with practically nothing more to the plot. Once it became clear to Baum that he was stuck with the series, he started to put a bit more effort into the plots and relied on padding less in his final few books. Then he died, and the series was passed onto a new author, Ruth Plumly Thompson, who absolutely loved using the Wacky Wayside Tribe trope as padding. Later books in the series by other authors normally don’t use padding too heavily, but it’s practically a tradition to have one or two Wacky Wayside Tribe chapters.
  • The Lightlark Saga: In Lightlark, the various demonstrations and trials early in the Centennial don't add much to the overall plot progression, characterization or worldbuilding, and have little to no relevance to what happens later in the novel besides determining which ruler decides who pairs up with whom. Many of these scenes could've been condensed or removed without affecting much of the story. Given that the Centennial lasts 100 days but one of the rules is that the rulers can't start trying to kill each other until Day 50, these early sections of the Centennial are mostly there to fill up time.
  • Louisa May Alcott, like many authors of her time, wrote Little Women to be published in installments in a magazine, so each chunk of the story was structured in an episodic fashion. Every so often you get a chapter that has little to nothing to do with advancing the story, and more to do with a lovely picnic gone comically awry or some such thing. Somewhat peculiar, to the reader who is more used to reading novels written as novels.
  • The Lord of the Rings features lots of long traveling sequences in which the characters do little but walk, eat, and make camp. The series is also well-known for its many descriptions of the surrounding countryside.
  • Les Misérables was abridged for a reason when it was adapted for the stage. For example, Victor Hugo takes a break from telling us about his protagonists escaping a failed revolution into the sewers to give us the history of the Parisian sewage system. It should be noted that like many 19th Century novelists, his works were originally published in installments for a magazine. He was being paid by the chapter, so there was considerable incentive for him to take his time so long as people were still reading.
  • Moby-Dick has several entire chapters that consist of nothing but Ishmael's amateur forays into cetology, the study and classification of whale physiology. Ishmael's system is one that Melville invented himself. It's possible that Melville did this simply to provide information about whales, as his readers were unlikely to have had much experience or knowledge of them at the time. Plus, the cetology chapters often subtly parody academic writing. Given how much focus they take up, it could be argued that these forays are in fact the real central plot of the book, with the Excuse Plot of a whaling voyage really being just a framing device.
  • Moonflower Murders: In-Universe and Discussed Trope for the novel-within-a-novel. Atticus Pünd Takes the Case. That book has an entire chapter, in which Pünd investigates the theft of a diamond, that has nothing to do with the murder story. Editor Susan Ryeland remembers how she tried to talk author Alan Conway into deleting it, only to realize that the chapter was only there to pad out a book that was only barely novel-length without it.
  • R. J. Rummel committed this trope a lot in his Never Again series of novels. The first book is the worst about this, as two-thirds of the book is padding. The later ones, thankfully, are not as bad, but still glaring, particularly the third one.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell has the infamous "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism" book that Winston Smith reads. Every word that he reads is written down in the book and takes up two whole chapters. It reveals the true totalitarian nature of the Party in Oceania, but it also brings the plot to a grinding halt.
  • Oracle of Tao has effectively what could be known as line padding. That is, a paragraph ends with a single word like "cave" and rather than let the rest of the line go to waste, the author either cut out adjectives to shorten to the previous line, added sentences.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray has an entire chapter that could be summed up as "Dorian Gray owned a lot of nice things and read a book." Possibly a subversion, to show how boring decadent wealth is.
  • The Princess Bride professes to be an abridged version that William Goldman had edited down. Between chapters, he describes all the padding he's removed. For the supposed sequel, Buttercup's Baby (a sequel with only one chapter completed in reality), Goldman claims that the original author had invested heavily in trees, and so padded out the resolution of a Bolivian Army Cliffhanger with descriptions of trees in a bid to have readers protect his investment.
  • This is a common criticism of the late Discworld novel Raising Steam, with regular meanderings to get opinions/views from characters who have absolutely no impact on the actual plot; e.g., the Unseen University wizards taking a leisurely pleasure ride on the newly invented steam engine. Adora Belle Dearheart is the focus of one that subjects her character to Continuity Drift in the bargain.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: New Dornish and Ironborn POVs are introduced in the fourth and fifth books and most are largely unimportant to the main plot. Areo Hotah, Arys Oakheart, and Aeron Greyjoy's chapters, and especially the eight Brienne chapters in A Feast for Crows, which are long sequences of traveling through the Riverlands looking for Sansa have almost no bearing whatsoever on the main plot aside from a bit of character development and world-building. A Dance With Dragons continues the padding with the Quentyn chapters, which follow the story of a completely inconsequential character whose only point is getting burned by Daenerys' dragons at the end.
  • The Sword of Truth series increasingly suffers from this as it progresses. In particular, you could condense the last three or four books of the series into one, simply by removing all of the extraneous dialogue and chapter-long philosophical rants.
  • Harry Turtledove has to be the patron saint of this trope. His Timeline-191 series, in which the Confederacy won the Civil War, spans periods from around 20 years after the Civil War, then the timeline's version of World War I to the end of World War II. How bad is it? Three books for World War I, three for the inter-war period, and four books for World War II. Every 5 pages of something important happening is followed by around 30 of NOTHING HAPPENING. Each book is rather thick as well.
  • The The Twilight Saga has lots of padding such as Stephenie Meyer describing how beautiful Edward was and how much Bella loved him and the step-by-step descriptions of Bella getting up, brushing her teeth, picking out her clothes, making breakfast for her and Charlie, closing all the pop-up boxes after running her web browser, etc. The most extreme example of padding was in the second book (New Moon), where there are (literally) ten blank pages in the middle of the book. It essentially goes blank when Edward decides he must remove all traces of his life from Bella's.
  • Anne Rice actually mocked herself for this in The Vampire Chronicles. Queen of the Damned features a character who tried to read the original Interview with the Vampire, but couldn't get past all the lengthy atmospheric descriptions.
  • The Vietnam War novel War Dogs adds an extended fight sequence between a tiger and the black ops group leader (which leads in AND out of a river) after an assassination scene. The fight has utterly zero bearing on the plot and it gets little attention from the group when he returns. There is quite literally no reason for this scene to exist other than to pad the length of the chapter.
  • The Wheel of Time books are recognized to suffer from this, especially as the series progresses. Specific examples include:
    • The intent of Crossroads of Twilight seemed to be a "Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when this world-changing event happened?". Therefore, almost nothing of importance occurs because the entire book is a Reaction Shot, and the plot can be summed up as:
      Mat: I'm going to escape the pursuing Seanchan with my wife-to-be, but that will have to wait until the next book.
      Perrin: I'm going to rescue my wife from the Shaido, but that will have to wait until the next book.
      Elaine: I'm going to take the throne of Andor, but that will have to wait until the next book.
      Rand: I'm going to start doing things again, but that will have to wait until the next book.
    • Just cutting out the sometimes pages-long descriptions of a dress that is purchased, folded, put into a backpack or trunk, and never mentioned again would knock off at least two of the dozen books, and yanking out all the 'Nynaeve yanks her braid' character tics would kill off at least one, possibly two more.
    • At the beginning of A Crown of Swords, two main characters look at the prisoners taken in the battle at the end of the previous book and note that the various factions who joined forces don't really trust each other. This takes fifty-one pages.
  • Ruled Britannia suffers a lot from this in the middle stretch, where Shakespeare mostly rehashes the many, many ways in which his life is a lie that is apt to end horribly, and Lope de Vega mostly chases after women and ruminates on how he's really, truly in love with them all.
  • Jaroslav Hašek (best known for his novel The Good Soldier Švejk) parodied this in a short story, featuring a writer who is paid by lines, so he writes dialogues like this:
    Yes. Don't you think so?
    Because of that.
    Because of what, Emilia?


    Print Media 
  • MAD parodied this with "Padded Magazine Articles", such as "Growing Prize-Winning Roses:"
    Albert J. Sorenson of Hamhank, Mich. is a very, very, very, very fine rose grower. He has won many, many, many, many prizes for his extremely lovely and beautiful blossoms including first prize in his division in the Wayne Country Fair, which is held annually each year in June near Detroit a large city in Michigan which is the best known for the manufacture of automobiles but also has other industries.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Wrestling is known for several hour-long shows that are more full of backstage sequences and storylines than matches. It is also common to pad shows out with references to upcoming matches and replay cameras. Usually these are done to advertise for bigger, more important shows like pay-per-views but on pay-per-views they have been known to have bands perform live as well. The complete absurdity of doing this sort of thing is part of the reason why WCW went down.
  • There are times when even the matches will contain some padding. If a show is "running short," the wrestlers up next may be asked to drag out their match a little bit in order to cover more time. Additionally, in particularly long matches or matches where one/both of the wrestlers doesn't have the best stamina, the match will be padded with a lot of "rest holds" or instances where both men are knocked down so they can catch their breath. Given that it's supposed to be wrestling and submissions are a legit way to win, holds are to be expected but when something fans don't perceive as painful or useful for pinning the opponent is used several times or for extending periods, complaints of "rest holds" may come up. When pro wrestling was a sport without predetermined endings, this was known as "stalling" and was akin to "clinching" in boxing.
  • WWE has a habit of using their B shows to play recaps of the A show (RAW). Sometimes this just amounts to a minute's worth of highlights with new commentary but other times they will repeat entire matches or long segments consisting of nothing but talking. Occasionally they don't even try and they just stick in a random 'from the vault' match from years earlier. The less important shows leading up to a major event like Wrestlemania can end up as almost 100% padding.
    • RAW has become a tragic victim of padding as well, ever since it was extended to three bloody hours. It has gotten to the point where they are "recapping" things that happened within the last 15 minutes, to say nothing of all the time wasting video packages masturbating themselves over their charitable works, video packages of former wrestlers, and segments featuring non-wrestling celebrities, or worse, Hulk Hogan, that add exactly zero to the show or entertainment value.
  • At the time of its inception, Ring of Honor videos and DVDs were praised for trimming parts of the promos, brawls, entrances, and everything else that weren't wrestling matches. When ROH started doing Internet Pay Per View, Ring Of Honor was criticized for going too long with intermissions. The intermission's purpose, ironically, was to give the live audience time to catch their breath, use the bathroom, and or buy merchandise, more so than for stretching out the length of the show for the sake of it.
  • Concerts or other musical acts are often inserted into live PPVs that are commercial-free. Those who aren't fans of the artist performing usually use this as a chance to take a bathroom break or go to the concession stand.
  • Sable was not a trained wrestler, but placed in matches because of her popularity with fans. When she was playing a face, they could cover for her inexperience by having the heel dominate her and protect her while she hit only a few moves she'd learned off. When she was a heel on the other hand, and would therefore have to control a match before the face's comeback, she'd insert a lot of taunting and preening around the ring to draw heel heat. Maryse would do a similar thing during her 2009 reign as Divas' Champion, where she was competing with a knee injury and had to be protected until she could drop the belt.

  • American Country Countdown: Similar to AT40, except that the host rarely if ever gave an end-of-hour recap, instead relying on "extras" to pad things out. The show has its own version of the Long Distance Dedication and uses other features such as a top 3 listing of Mediabase's country downloads chart and the "Live Like You Were Dying" segment (where a listener shares his inspirational/beating the odds story).
  • American Top 40: In the early years when there was some time remaining at the end of an hour, Casey Kasem would either recap the previous hour (for instance, list which songs were new or which songs had fallen from the top 40) and/or preview the next hour. This was done to even out the number of chart songs per hour (13 to no more than 15 songs that were currently in the top 40 in a given hour) but — in the early years — to avoid having to cut songs unusually short or to cover up the fact that there wasn't enough "stretch stories" about some of the songs in the just-completed hour.
    • In later years, the padding amounted to playing the album version of a currently charting song.
    • Throughout the run, first in the early years and again once the show expanded to four hours, "extras" — songs not currently in the countdown (often but not always oldies), but always at least having an interesting fact to them — were played to stretch things out. The most famous "extras" were the Long Distance Dedications, of which two were played per show.
  • The Goon Show would occasionally make jokes about stuff being put in to make up the time. Minutes of footsteps or other mundane actions were very common. Especially Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister were used for this purpose, talking in circles between themselves for long stretches of time, usually, by the end of the conversation, several minutes later, being back at the exact point where they started, at which point the story continues. On occasion, one or the other would note that a man named Spike Milligan paid them to waste time here.
    • One thing that cannot be blamed on padding, is the two musical interludes each episode, even if there was no dramatic need to have the musical interludes, although Ray Ellington and Max Geldray are good enough that it's not really a cause for complaint. They didn't really have a choice. BBC sketch shows were usually required to feature musical numbers, especially since they had to have an orchestra there to play the incidental music. Though with the amount of padding even with the two musical acts, Milligan probably thanked his lucky stars that he didn't have to try and fill out another 5-8 minutes every show.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) contains a lot of this due to its Writing by the Seat of Your Pants nature, especially towards the end of the Secondary Phase where the story pretty much derails into Random Events Plot as a result. For instance, the "'Hey, Roosta, I've Just Had This Really Hoopy Idea' Incident" sequence, in which Zaphod escapes the Frogstar Fighter taking him to the Total Perspective Vortex by going to a horrible robot discothéque, but it all turns out to be a mindgame his captors are playing with him and he ends up stuck on the ship where he started, is classic 'the characters attempt to escape but get captured again' move, especially since (due to Anachronic Order) we already know Zaphod ended up in the Total Perspective Vortex and somehow survived with his mind intact, a much more pressing concern. There's also the sequence where Zaphod calls a seance to fend off a missile, which is a borderline Big-Lipped Alligator Moment (not to mention an Out-of-Genre Experience from science fiction parody to horror parody). Then there's the Cutaway Gags with the Book Wiki Walking around the events to provide useless anecdotes, such as the scene with Veet Voojagig and his biro planet. Of course, because the series runs on Rule of Funny, and these sequences definitely are, most fans forgive them.
  • Copious padding is pretty much the only way to hold on to the subject in Just a Minute. Contestants will also tend to say any old rubbish to pad out the time if there's a second or two to go since the clock is sure to save them before anyone can make a challenge for deviation.
  • In the era where virtually every radio station had network news at the top of the hour – and was available only by live feed – many stations used instrumental songs to fill time remaining between the end of the last song and when the network news began. Stations often had a library of a few dozen generic-sounding records (although some weren't generic but became hits in their own right), each sounding somewhat like the genre they played. These were used to fill out the remaining hour, often if there wasn't a current song or recurrent that was short enough to fit the remaining time without cutting it off early. The jockey sometimes read announcements or previewed the next hour, but if he chose not to talk, the song would allow the jockey to avoid broadcasting "dead air" (silence).
    • Pretty similar to how the tune Sailing By is used prior to the late-night shipping forecast on BBC Radio 4, which starts at 12:48am precisely. The unusual thing being that Radio 4 is a speech station, so it serves more as a function of continuity and as a tuning signal. (It's also pretty much an institution.)

  • In You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the class is assigned a book report on Peter Rabbit — which must be 100 words in length. Lucy's final sentence of her book report, and the final words of the associated song, reads, "'And they were very very very very very very happy to be home. The End' ... 95 ... 96 ... 97 ... 98 ... 99 ... 100 <whew>!" This is on top of other sentences in her report listing the exact vegetables found in Farmer Brown's garden.
  • Macbeth has a scene where a porter gets woken up by knocking at the gate and goes to answer, taking his own sweet time about it and sort of drunkenly narrating his actions. This is smack dab in the middle of one of the play's more suspenseful moments. There is much debate about whether this scene was a deliberate attempt to increase tension by putting off the discovery of the king's death and forcing the audience to watch this rather jarring comedy bit, or whether it's just padding put in so the theater's resident comedian can have a part worthy of his talents.
  • French "grand operas" of the 19th century contain elaborate ballet sequences that usually have nothing to do with the plot. Die Fledermaus also originally threw a ballet into the middle of its second act, but modern performances frequently replace it with cast members singing whichever arias they like.
  • Most ballets have divertissements which are extended dance sequences, usually featuring the entire company, after the plot of the actual ballet has been resolved.
  • Older musicals typically would have several short scenes played in front of the curtain (typically a traveler curtain depicting a corridor or street between somewhere and somewhere else) so that the main sets could be changed efficiently. These scenes contained many plot-irrelevant comic relief opportunities for secondary characters or star comics (e.g. the "you're Chandler and I'm Spaulding" scene in Animal Crackers).
    • It probably reflects both improvements in stage technology and Oscar Hammerstein's more mature sense of pacing that the 1946 revival of Show Boat eliminated the waterfront gambling saloon and Sherman House lobby scenes and heavily rewrote the scene showing Joe and Queenie after the Time Skip. All these were originally played in front of the curtain.
    • Kiss Me, Kate arguably parodies this when the two mobsters are trapped outside the curtain, unable to get back in, and are forced to improvise a song on how William Shakespeare is useful for seducin' the ladies - "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," which is probably the most famous song in the show.
    • Similar comic relief episodes happen during scenery change in Pantomime. Usually involves a lot of audience participation. The one immediately before the finale often has the audience being split into teams and competing against the others for who can sing a song better.
    • J.M. Barrie invented several front-cloth scenes to allow for set changes in his various rewrites of the play Peter Pan: for example, a scene of Hook impersonating various actors and a scene after the final pirate battle in which Starkey and Smee are shown to have survived. Notably, the "Mermaid's Lagoon" segment was conceived as a similar transition scene but turned into a major plot point explaining why Tiger Lily becomes Peter's ally. (In earlier versions, Tiger Lily sides with Peter because she and her braves like to listen in on Wendy's stories.)
    • Paint Your Wagon filled up a lot of time with its Agnes de Mille ballets, but it also had a scene in the first act in front of Rumson's cabin which didn't even have a song cue but merely reiterated plot points established in other scenes.
    • In Of Thee I Sing, the even-numbered scenes of the second act are set in corridors in the Capitol and White House. A few minor points get buried in a lot of gossip and no musical numbers.
    • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a modern example — in the original West End production, each major room sequence was preceded by a front-of-curtain scene. The first doubled as the Act Two opener as Mr. Wonka formally greets each of the guests with the song "Strike That! Reverse It!", while the other four were shorter, song-free stretches all based around them proceeding from one room to another in various fashions (bucket-and-pulley elevator, boat ride, etc.). In the third front-of-curtain scene, Mr. Wonka leads the guests down a lengthy set of corridors to reach a room that's right next to the one they just left. Granted, very similar padding appears in the original novel (see Literature above). The Broadway/touring Retool actually made matters worse in this regard because 1) the sets are not nearly as elaborate, 2) the third transitional scene involving a maze Visible to Believers stretches on for a good five minutes and turns out to be something of a shaggy dog story when Grandpa Joe can't get through the exit door and everybody has to make their way back to where they started, and 3) one new song, "When Willy Met Oompa", is just a Backstory number that sublimates the plot-important transformation and demise of Violet Beauregarde (in the London version, "Juicy!", which foregrounded said disaster, had this spot).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Done extra shamelessly in Dungeons & Dragons 3+ ed. materials': just repeat the basic definitions present even in the free reference document for each and every entry — over and over.
    • Mocked in Book of Oafish Might via "Redundant Creature" template (it repeats all this dull stuffing twice).
    • YMMV on the inappropriateness of this. Given the sourcebook spam of the game since time immemorial, when you're trying to put something together (especially something complicated) it's nice to have that rules reference right there, to reduce the needed number of books open or page-flips back if you don't have everything memorized. It's a real issue of reader convenience versus word count limits (which game designers will readily attest they often run up against), where reader convenience won out. (That said, it may also be insurance against "see page X" citations that never get properly filled in somewhere between early drafts and finished product, as happened a little too often late in 3.5's run.)
  • The television-inspired RPG Primetime Adventures strongly encourages players to avoid this.
    Good scene: A protagonist expresses grief over the loss of a loved one.
    Bad scene: A protagonist expresses grief over the loss of a loved one for the fifth time in the same episode.
  • It's common for Game Masters to do this occasionally by throwing in a random encounter to fill out more time than they have notes for so the game session can end at their average time.

    Web Animation 
  • William Country is pretty bad with this. Not only does it have two opening sequences (which state the exact same thing), and not only does the actual beginning feature a long bus ride of the campers getting to their site, but there are moments that are almost unnecessary to the plot. Like the strange "lives" system when Cody and Owen have been killed. Or a random cutaway to a Guitar Hero mock-up. Next to nothing happens in the challenges either. In fact, if you get rid of the details that don't really fit with the plot, you'll be able to make a summary a few sentences long out of what is a 90-minute Fan Film.

  • The "yellow musk creeper" storyline from Goblins didn't really accomplish anything except getting the heroes to second level.
  • Greystone Inn parodied the tendency for Soap operas (and to a lesser extent soap opera strips) to pad out their run time with an interview with a woman that used to work for one. She spends several strips doing Dramatic Downstage Turn with very wordy thought balloons before a fed up Argus forces her to answer if she can work in a comic strip - the answer is no.
  • Looking for Group is cutting down on the number of panels per page and including more overly long gags, with some pointless splash pages. Sohmer says one of his favourite book series is The Wheel of Time, so maybe being worried this will increase is a good thing.
  • The Mansion of E spends a lot of time exploring distant parts of the eponymous structure and its environs when it could be advancing the plot.
  • Misfile is getting better about this, but for a while there was an abundance of establishing panels for scenes that would last for two or three pages, to the point where some pages were just sky shots, leading to jokes in the forums about the sky being a main character.
  • 8-Bit Theater has a lot of this. First, there are episodes with practically only dialogues (but being an RPG spoof, people talking too much was obligatory). Then, the webcomic is running since 2001, has over 1000 episodes, and only now is reaching the end of Final Fantasy, due to all the Padding (which included storylines not in the game and with no plot relevance). Fortunately, the padding is usually funny enough that it's not a problem.
    • Spoofed in the All Just a Dream fake ending: "That dream was like 80% filler."
    • The finale reveals that all of the comic from after the battle with the lich until Chaos shows up was essentially padding, just the characters going on pointless quests that in the end had no effect on the plot.
  • Scott McCloud demonstrates it in his story about Carl. How many panels do you need to tell the story of Carl who is warned by his mother not to drink while driving, still does it, and dies? Decide for yourself here. Subverted by the "Choose Your Own Adventure" version: many of his deaths have nothing to do with driving, which makes those storylines not padding.
  • Parodied in the Gofotron battle scene in Sluggy Freelance. The page is several dozen panels long, but there are only 12 unique frames. Appropriate for an anime parody.
  • The National Novel Writer Month arc of Helpdesk had the guy trying to write a 40,000-word short story in 30 days catch up after falling behind schedule by adding a time loop to the story, which basically meant that he copy-pasted the same chapter into his story five times. And after his story with a Downer Ending was complete, he discovered that he only wrote 39,994 words, so he added "And they lived happily ever after" to the ending.

    Web Original 
  • Nick Phillips' gratuitous use of padding is parodied in The Cinema Snob's review of Death Nurse 2 in a Previously on… segment where the Snob eats some leftover Chinese food to kill screen time and concedes that it's basically Death Nurse in a nutshell.
  • Many YouTube videos may deliberately pad out the length in various ways in order to reach the 10-minute mark and monetize the video.
  • Discussed by the Game Grumps sometimes:
    • They jokingly accuse The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time of this when they get to the part where King Zora must move aside to open a path, which takes a comical amount of time:
      Arin: Here we go!
      Danny: Oh boy.
      Danny: Boy, this guy. This guy needs to do a little more exercise.
      Danny: It should not be this laborious to move two feet to the left!
      Danny: Were they just trying to pad the time the game takes?! My god!!!
    • And Arin genuinely accuses The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword of doing this with its Sprint Meter. As the meter has no real effect on gameplay outside of limiting how long you can run at full speed, and Stamina Fruits (which replenish it) are placed anytime you need to sprint to outrun a threat or make a jump, Arin believes it solely exists to pad the amount of time spent casually exploring and allow the game creators to boast the game offers more gamplay time than it actually does by making it so it takes you longer to get from one area to another than it actually should.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings often makes fun of movies that utilize this trope.
    • In the Unbreakable pitch meeting, the Screenwriter says that if the Producer wants to make the movie last longer than ten minutes, they'll have to resort to this trope. This includes adding shots of characters staring, inserting long dramatic pauses into dialogue, having characters take a long time to explain things, and making David slow to realize that he's never taken a sick day before
    Producer: Oh, unnecessary dramatic pauses in the middle of sentences are... (pauses for seven seconds) ...tight.
    • The 300 pitch meeting has the film repeatedly go into slow motion in order to reach a feature film's runtime.


Video Example(s):


The Electric Monocle

In-universe. The Electric Monocle is so long that it focuses too much on lore. It contains a map of the lands that the story takes place, an entire section in a made-up language that requires the reader to go the glossary to look up every single word, a list of a thousands things that are also round like monocles, and all the different types of light refraction.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / Padding

Media sources: