Our main character's had enough of their subpar or insanely difficult job and has taken a day off so they can have some downtime. But things go haywire at work and they get called in anyway.
Compare Busman's Holiday where the character does successfully take a vacation but ends up spending it doing what they do for work. May overlap with When You Coming Home, Dad?, given that one of the things heroes might want to do with their spare time is spending time with their loved ones.
See A Birthday, Not a Break for when you're pulled on your birthday.
Depending on what sort of job you have and whether or not your skills are essential for a specific task, this can be Truth in Television.
- Judge Dredd:
- One story subverts this: Dredd's in the bath when two robbers break into his apartment. Their horror increases as they realize a), whose apartment they broke into, b), the fact that he's inside with them. It ends with the criminals calling the Judges on themselves. Why didn't Dredd do it himself? He was taking a bath.
- Another has a terrifyingly chipper Dredd walking down the street, reminding people that what they're doing is illegal but making no attempt to stop them. This continues until he reaches the station, where he is reinstated as a Judge... and instantly snaps back to the snarling Stoneface we know.
- The Ultimates: Jarvis had a day off, but declined it when he heard that Stark would be visited by a super soldier and a god from Asgard.
- Simple Gifts: Defied; Watson insists that Holmes not drag another doctor away from Christmas with his family to tend to him, no matter what. Holmes does refrain from fetching a physician, but only because he's afraid to leave his feverish roommate alone while he retrieves one.
- In The Wrong Reflection Eleya actually managed to attend the event she had gotten a few days' leave for (that being her sister's wedding), but she gets called in to deal with a spate of mirror universe incursions when she still had a day and a half left before she had to go back to duty.
- The opening of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has the main characters called back from their vacation in order to deal with a hostage situation on another planet.
- S.W.A.T.: The day after the team passes the SWAT test, Hondo's SWAT Team get the day ostensibly off work. However, they're still on call and end up getting paged to come in and deal with a "Polish hostage" who's randomly firing shotgun blasts out his front door. (This is Rule of Drama: SWAT in the LAPD is part of the Metro D-Platoon. It has 60 full-time officers who work on rotating shifts, thus removing the need to call in an off-duty team thus have to give them overtime pay and recall to duty penalty pay. If Hondo's team was off duty, whatever teams were on duty would be sent in instead.)
- Clerks: The entire film is the story of a day in the life of Dante, a convenience store clerk. It opens with him being called into work on his day off, and the rest of the film is a chronicle of Dante's misadventures during the day. His Catchphrase could easily be this page's quote:
Dante: I'm not even supposed to be here today!
- Ray Owens is the only sheriff of the small Arizona town of Sommerton Junction in The Last Stand. Naturally, the one day he has a vacation, a drug lord steals a Corvette C6 ZR1 and makes a break for Mexico, his path taking him right through Sommerton. Lampshaded by Owens in their final confrontation: "You fucked up my day off."
- Happens to the squad in the movie Navy SEALs. The squad is attending the Chief's wedding when all of them including the bridegroom chief get paged to go on a rescue mission. Leads to quips about the chief having a "close call" and "he was born lucky or unlucky, I don't know which".
- The final act of Top Gun begins when several Fighter Weapons School graduates (Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, Wolfman, and Maverick) are recalled to the field for an emergency mission in the middle of their graduation party.
- In Independence Day, Hiller is given leave for the titular holiday weekend, but is recalled when the aliens show up. Lampshaded a couple times in his monologue after being shot down:
Capt. Hiller: This was supposed to be my weekend off, but nooooo...later...Hiller: I could've been at a barbecue!!!
- In Spice World, the Spice Girls have their much-needed day off cancelled.
Chief: The answer is no, Clifford. The girls cannot have the morning off.Clifford: Look, Chief, the fact that they've been working very hard, and they're really tired is...Chief: Irrelevant.
- Spock's World has the Enterprise yanked from shore leave when Vulcan decides to discuss secession.
- The aptly-named short story "Day Off" in The Dresden Files sees Harry having all manner of Busman's Holiday style mayhem descend on him during his one day off—beginning with a Big Bad Wannabe, continuing with a pair of werewolves suffering from spectral fleas, and culminating with his apprentice smoking out the whole apartment. He does eventually get to enjoy his day off though.
- In the novels by Sven Hassel the phrase "All leave is cancelled" gets heard every time there's a major enemy breakthrough. It's bad for morale to pull soldiers off leave, but refusal is not an option in Hitler's army.
- In one episode Brennan is temporarily shacking up with Booth's FBI colleague Sully when a call comes in, but the body has no bones: "Dr. Saroyan said, "no bones". So, you know what that means? I'm back on vacation. No bones, no 'Bones'. Uh... I was the second bones." She heads back to the boat Sully has rented, but when a small bone is discovered Booth takes the opportunity to interrupt Brennan again.
- In order to convince Brennan that the staff has the crime of the week covered they get the various interns to come in and pretend to work for ten minutes. After she's convinced and leaves, they pack themselves up to go, but Dr. Edison (who is covering for Brennan on her wedding day, though he is getting paid) guilts them into staying and helping for free.
Dr. Edison: Am I the only one here who cares about this [dead] woman?
- Murder, She Wrote brings up this trope in the episode "The Corpse Flew First Class". When Jessica meets him, Inspector Pogson has booked the flight to return to Britain after a holiday in America. After Bigard (the bodyguard)'s murder and the theft of the necklace, he comments that apparently he'll have to return to duty a little earlier than he planned.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Defiant", Gul Dukat laments to Ben Sisko that, rather than spending the day trying to stop the hijacked USS Defiant from attacking Cardassian space, he was supposed to be taking his son to an amusement park for his eleventh birthday.
Dukat: He always wanted to go, but I never had the time. I told him, "This year will be different, Mekor. This year I will make the time."
Sisko: I had the same experience with Jake. At that age, they never understand, do they? You just hope that, one day later, they'll look back and say, "Now I understand. Now I know why he did that."
Dukat: When my son looks back on this day, the only thing he'll remember is that a Federation officer, on a Federation ship, invaded his home and kept his father away from him on his eleventh birthday, and he won't look back with understanding. He'll look back with hatred, and that's sad.
- Barney Miller:
- The detectives walk off the job as a part of a citywide police protest, but a call comes in and Barney is suddenly overworked because it's just him, Inspector Luger and Officer Levitt holding down the fort. So Wojo goes out on the call, telling the other guys he'd just do this one. After getting back now Wojo has to process the perp.
- Another call comes in about a grocery store holdup in progress. They all decide they all need some groceries right now, and if they "happen" across any crime they can make a citizen's arrest.
- In the Dennis the Menace Season 4 episode "Wilson's Little White Lie", when John Wilson is about to have a day off, his wife wants him to spend the day doing home repairs, and when Dennis comes over, Mr. Wilson tells Dennis that he can't see him because he's feeling under the weather. This is further complicated when Mrs. Wilson insists that he goes to the doctor for an overdue check-up, which Mr. Wilson unsuccessfully tries to avoid, only for Mr. Wilson to end up staying in the hospital next to Dennis.
- One episode of Blue Bloods has Danny's Body of the Week drop right when he's about to go out to Long Island for the weekend with his wife Linda. He ends up trying and failing to juggle both, with her letting him out of a play they had nonrefundable tickets to by calling a friend.
- On Justified US Marshal Raylan Givens is taking the day off to go house hunting with his pregnant ex-wife/girlfriend Winnona when he gets a call about a problem in Harlan County. Raylan is the only one who can properly resolve it so he apologizes to Winnona and leaves. Winnona seems to be fine with this but it is actually the final confirmation for her that Raylan has not changed and will not prioritize her and their child over his job. Soon after she breaks off the relationship and leaves.
- In one episode of Psych, Juliet complains about having an awful day-off. She had intended to spend the day interviewing potential roommates, but her plan is cut short when one of the interviewees is found dead not long after.
- On Brooklyn Nine-Nine Peralta causes everyone at the precinct to have to abandon the rest of their day off and work a case all night long and the next morning, all because he screwed up. Everyone hates him for it.
- The Scrubs episode "My Way Home" has two examples as JD is paged by an intern on his day off of work. What follows is a Whole Plot Reference to The Wizard of Oz where JD gets constantly assigned tasks that prevent him from returning home. This in turn is revenge by Doctor Cox who has orchestrated this for all the times that JD called him in on his days off.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Nemesis", the team gets some leave courtesy of Daniel (and his actor) coming down with appendicitis. Teal'c goes off-world to visit his family, Carter is fiddling with a naquadah reactor, and Jack is about to leave to go fishing when out of nowhere Thor arrives in orbit and beams him up to his ship to fight Replicators.
- In Castle, the episode "In the Belly of the Beast" opens with Detective Beckett giddily about to enjoy a rare and much-earned day off, when Captain Gates calls her in to help out with an undercover operation. Things go From Bad to Worse.
- One episode of WKRP in Cincinnati has the staff called into the station for an emergency weekend meeting, revealing outfits such as Jennifer's formal horse-riding togs and Venus's Scoutmaster.
- The Power Rangers S.P.D. episode "Stakeout" has Syd about to take off for her birthday when a situation arises, and Jack assigns her the duty because she's the most experienced of the team at stakeouts ("And besides, you said it's not a big deal." "I lied!"). Part of the problem is that, as he admits later, he had spent most of his life homeless so he doesn't know when his own birthday is and doesn't understand why they're such a big deal.
- In the Drake & Josh episode "Dance Contest", Helen makes Josh work at the movie theater on his day off. When Josh tries to tell her she can't make him work on his day off, she counts down threateningly, convincing him to get back to work.
- The Madam Secretary episode "Standoff" has the State Department call Liz to Dallas from an anniversary trip with her husband. It worked out, though: the attempt to recreate their first anniversary had already been blown (the Secret Service wouldn't let them have their old hotel room and the restaurant had remodeled), and the trip had turned into a Busman's Holiday for Henry.
- Inverted on ER when Mark Greene comes into work willingly on his day off, looking to alleviate his loneliness (his wife has recently left him, taking their daughter). As it turns out, he should have stayed home — a patient under his care dies, and even though he did everything right, he spent the entire episode blaming himself.
- Carter got into serious trouble because he ignored the fact that "on-call" does not mean that you have the day off to do as you please. He goes out with friends and drinks alcohol which an on-call doctor is not supposed to do in case they are called into work for an emergency. When he is called into work, he makes the situation worse by actually showing up rather than explaining what happened on the phone. What would have been a bad administrative problem turns into a serious ethical and legal transgression (an intoxicated doctor trying to treat a patient) and Carter barely saves his medical career.
- CSI: NY does this with Mac quite often. He once gets called away from attending the opera with Peyton and has to examine the scene in his nicest suit. Another episode had their phones go off while they were in bed, obviously having just made love. In season 9, he's on a date with Christine in Central Park when he's called in yet again.
- Happened with Stella once as well, when she was in bed with Frankie.
- As well as with Flack, when he was in bed with Angell.
- Lindsay came in on her day off to help find the type of radiation Sid was exposed to in season 5's "Page Turner."
- Our Miss Brooks:
- In "School on Saturday", Mr. Conklin pulls everybody from their day off.
- "Head of the Board" sees Mr. Conklin again plot to do the same.
- In "Who's Going Where", it's just Miss Brooks whom Mr. Conklin intends to send to work on her vacation.
- In "Trouble Paying Taxi Fare", Mr. Conklin gets a taste of his own medicine at the hands of school board superintendent Mr. Stone.
- At the end of Act I of the Republic Trooper's storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Trooper is given an extended shore leave after successfully tracking down the Havoc Squad traitors, but it is cut short almost as soon as you land back on Coruscant—there is a new Imperial superweapon in the making and the command wants you to take it out.
- Trauma Team opens Maria's story with her being needed on her day off due to high load.
- Episode 4 of Duke Nukem 3D, "The Birth", opens with the Player Character grousing as he loads and cocks a pistol vengefully.
Duke: Someone's gonna friggin' pay for screwing up my vacation.
- In the backstory of the original Carmen Sandiego game, you are just about to leave on a well-deserved trip to a tropical beach when you get a phone call from the Chief. All vacations are canceled because Carmen has escaped from prison.
- In Persona 4, your uncle Dojima, a police detective, plans on a family outing with you and his daughter Nanako for Golden Week. Unfortunately, he's called in to work at the last minute, an apparently common occurrence for him. Instead, the Investigation Team invites Nanako to go to Junes with them.
- In El Goonish Shive, the events of the "So a Date at the Mall" storyline, involving an encounter between a superhero and a griffin in the middle of a busy mall, result in reporter Carol Brown getting called to the scene. However, as the audience was shown in an earlier storyline, Carol was supposed to be having dinner with her parents and younger sister that evening. This probably contributes to her frustration when she arrives on the scene to find that the superhero and griffin both left the scene almost immediately before she arrived.
- Darkwing Duck: In "All's Fahrenheit in Love and War", Darkwing, fed up with the cold and snow, announces his plans to go on vacation somewhere warmer. However, then he overhears a bank manager talking to a couple of cops about stolen gold and he decides he'll go on vacation after figuring out what's happening. The aftermath leaves Darkwing sick and not wanting to go anywhere.
- In the Timon & Pumbaa episode, "Zazu's Off Day Off", Zazu tries to enjoy his day off, but Gopher continually interrupts it to tell him that the river has dried up and the animals are dying of thirst. Jumbo Jumbo, a stubborn elephant, is sitting in the middle of the river and refuses to move. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Jumbo Jumbo was only sitting in the river because he thought it was his day off, and promptly moves when he realizes his mistake. Then Gopher tells Zazu that tomorrow is Jumbo Jumbo's real day off.
- In the "Labor Day" episode of Teen Titans Go!, Robin forces the other Titans to appreciate Labor Day by teaching them about manual labor, as they undergo the excruciating experience of manufacturing their own beach umbrellas, refining crude petroleum into fuel, and making their own tortilla chips, which none of them can eat yet until their work is all done before they can have any chance of celebrating the holiday. By the time they finally get to the beach, they have already spent about three months of agonizing, back-breaking labor when they discover that winter has already arrived and the other Titans are not the least bit pleased.
- In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode, "Thomas' Day Off", Sir Topham Hatt gives Thomas a day off and sends a diesel engine named Dennis to do his work for him. However, Dennis is a lazy diesel and lies about having something wrong with him to get out of doing his work. Thomas is still happy to help Dennis despite wanting to enjoy his day off, even when Dennis actually does have something wrong with him.
- Spongebob Squarepants:
- An inversion occurs in the episode, "Bubble Buddy". Squidward tries to enjoy SpongeBob's day off, but SpongeBob comes into work anyway to show Squidward his new friend, Bubble Buddy. He also makes Squidward make Bubble Buddy one of everything on the menu, with various alterations to suit Bubble Buddy's needs, only for Mr. Krabs and the other customers to be outraged when his bubble buddy pays for the meal with bubble currency, which promptly vanishes as the soap bubbles dissolve into nothingness.
- A self-inflicted version occurs in "Squid's Day Off", where after being given the reigns to the Krusty Krab for the day, Squidward hands it to SpongeBob and goes home on some "errands". Squidward then spends the entire day bursting into the restaurant out of fear that SpongeBob has burnt it to the ground. SpongeBob then notices that the sign was set to Closed the entire time, meaning he really could have taken the day off!
- Robot Chicken had a Final Fantasy VII parody set at a fast food joint. Sephiroth the manager arrives, complete with Ominous Latin Chanting, and tells Cloud that he needs to come in on Saturday, but Cloud has Lakers tickets! In the ensuing battle, Sephiroth hits Cloud with the Unpaid Overtime attack and Cloud levels the restaurant with a meteor.
- On the Looney Tunes short "Boston Quackie", Daffy Duck plays a detective on vacation with his girlfriend when his boss Porky Pig comes in with an urgent assignment. Daffy sarcastically thanks him for the Busman's Holiday.
- The aptly-titled episode of Sofia the First, "Baileywick's Day Off". Baileywick is the butler that ensures everything in the castle runs smoothly. To show how much they appreciate him, the royal family asks that he take his birthday off with his brother Nigel to go fishing. However, problems arise that Baileywick is called to help solve and he insists on helping, so the royal family gives him a do-over day off afterward.
- In an episode of Salty's Lighthouse, the Cut-and-Paste Translation of TUGS, Bluenose makes Grampus work at the Naval Yard on his day off. When Grampus tells him that it's his day off, Bluenose reminds him that all days off can be cancelled without notice.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Groundskeeper Willie, who is cleaning a large puddle of vomit, asks himself why he chose to work on his day off.
- The Powerpuff Girls and Professor Utonium have their trip to the beach pre-empted by the Powerpuff hotline (episode "PowerProf."). Sigh. Duty calls.
- People who work in sectors which never have a day off (such as newscasting, personal care, and emergency response) are especially vulnerable to this.