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Ratings Stunt

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"You either have a wedding or you burn down something. That's what you do during sweeps week."
Garry Marshall, Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion

Any out-of-the-ordinary action or development in a show enacted solely to boost ratings, usually during Sweeps week, or when a show is in dire straits in terms of viewership.

In comedies, it's usually a Celebrity Star or Special Guest or possibly a Very Special Episode; in dramas it's usually a great crisis that will affect everyone in the cast, often with the possibility that Tonight, Someone Dies; in news shows it's a sudden focus on "lifestyle" stories with a prurient air about them. A Wedding Episode or Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss is often one of these. In reality shows, it features a celebrity player or the (often unnecessary) return of famous contestants from past seasons. Sometimes, it can refer to a one-off, standalone special or event, such as having an extra-spectacular actual stunt being performed.

Ratings stunts are always heavily promoted in order to pull in as many viewers as possible, but the advertisements can often be coy and teasing, blotting out the face of the celebrity guest or showing all the possible candidates for a gratuitous death scene. Promos for news stunts will be designed to extract the most lascivious potential from the most staid of phrasing.

A poorly-executed Ratings Stunt may cause a show to Jump the Shark, while having many in a single season may indicate the show already has. Related to Publicity Stunt.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Excel♡Saga:
    • Parodied and lampshaded, where episode 8 is called "Increase-the-Ratings Week", features nothing but sexy girls in the swimming pool showing their bodies, all but one of the male characters are off-screen or explicitly blocked by someone else, and at the end of the episode they try to kill the one male character who got screentime out of jealousy. "Outcome: unknown yet".
    • The writers also introduce Ropponmatsu I and II for ratings.

    Comic Books 
  • The Simpsons: In a story, Bart switches places with a celebrity lookalike for the day because he'll be appearing on a "live" Krusty the Clown special the next day. Lisa tells the lookalike that Krusty just says it's live to draw in ratings and actually tapes it the day before it airs, setting off the main dilemma to find Bart and switch the two back.
  • Marvel has said in several interviews that Captain America being a HYDRA agent was this, including lying about Captain America being Not Brainwashed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sometimes a network will create an event in which three or four sitcoms that regularly air back to back will have individual episodes involved in an umbrella overall plot. NBC did it twice to The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, and Nurses (1991) ... once with a "Full Moon" plot and once with a "Hurricane" plot. NBC did it to Mad About You, Friends and Madman Of The People with a plot about New York City being blacked out. ABC had the casts of Ellen, Coach, The Drew Carey Show and Grace Under Fire meet cute in various ways in Las Vegas and in a later crossover the Friday sitcoms (Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Teen Angel, et al) all had to deal with Salem suddenly screwing up with their stories courtesy of a time-travel orb that he had accidentally swallowed.
  • One of the more noticeable stunts seen in the 1990s was the lesbian kiss. The first was between attorneys C.J. Lamb (Amanda Donohoe) and Abby Perkins (Michele Green) on L.A. Law back in 1991. Both Roseanne and Ally McBeal famously threw in a little girl-girl liplock. In the UK, Brookside did it. And Jennifer Aniston once kissed two women in a single episode of Friends.
  • The Bill likes to kill its officers, and had a gay kiss. No, not at the same time.
  • Survivor:
    • Done with the decision to divide the castaways by race in the Cook Islands season. This form of segregation backfired hard on CBS, causing advertisers to drop the show.
    • They also did this with the decision to borderline fix a few seasons for their personal pets to win, casting the most braindead and oblivious of all the applicants they can find. It backfired as Redemption Island and South Pacific were considered examples of Seasonal Rot, although the following year's Philippines was received more positively. Not, of course, that Seasonal Rot impacts its existence, or that of any Reality Show airing on CBS, in any adverse way.
  • Spoofed in an episode of The Drew Carey Show which tried every Ratings Stunt in the book in a desperate bid for an Emmy nomination. Of course, they did it more than that; you don't get a Shout-Out in a Weird Al song for all of your gimmick episodes for nothing!
  • Parodied mercilessly on The Daily Show. A self-identified "stunt" involving sending a correspondent to a remote location and having viewers guess where he was (cheerily ripped off from an identical stunt on a "real" news show) goes badly wrong when it becomes apparent that the correspondent in question (Stephen Colbert) has been kidnapped. The others on the show either don't notice, or are so determined to work the ratings that they keep to the script and ignore his increasingly desperate pleas for help.
  • Parodied in Arrested Development. The intro sequence is replaced with an excited announcement of guest stars, solving all plot points, and of course Tonight, Someone Dies. There are even a few 3D Glasses and a website plug in the episode. To top it all off, the last few seconds would be "transmitted live". The entire episode is a commentary on how they could rely on cheap gimmicks to boost its (low) ratings.
  • The "Moldavian Massacre" on the 80's hit show Dynasty (1981). Used almost solely as a way to force the stars to renegotiate their salaries, this season-finale cliffhanger appeared to have the entire Carrington family (and guests) massacred by Moldavian commandos during a wedding ceremony. When the show came back the next season, the expectations of the fans were understandably high... then they found out that, save for two unimportant people introduced in the previous season who died, everyone else wasn't injured at all.
  • Subverted / Parodied in Dead Set. When the Big Brother housemates find all the cameras are off and no-one's talking to them, they assume it's this. They continue to assume when one of the staff, Kelly, runs in with a bloody pair of paper scissors and starts screaming about zombies. They are wrong.
  • Parodied on Mr. Show, where, during a Very Special Episode moment, Bob goes "Here comes the highest rated moment in television!" Of course, the result is hilariously underwhelming and quickly forgotten.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the fourth-season opener of Deep Space Nine, the ever-popular Worf from The Next Generation was added to the regular cast. This is a rare moment of a Ratings Stunt done right, more or less.
    • Voyager decided to shoot for higher ratings by adding the full-figured, catsuit-wearing Jeri Ryan as Borg-turned-human Seven of Nine. It worked.
  • Friends: The Ross/Rachel relationship in every fricking season finale. During the seasons their relationship is forgotten, but come the season finale Rachel realizes she loves Ross (again), or they get married or have a baby. Each time the writer luring viewers back next season with the possibility they might really get back together! (For the sixth, seventh...eight time). This stunt has actually caused questions over whether Ross, and particularly Rachel, are a Spotlight-Stealing Squad or not, and how central their "Official Couple" status is to the show. On one hand they don't have major character arcs — seperate or shared — within quite a few seasons, but both come front and centre during season finales and premieres. (So are naturally what the media, fan sites and advertising focuses on). Consequently, someone who knows the show but doesn't watch it, will automatically mention "Ross and Rachel". However actual fans will go at length about other characters and storylines that were more significant long-term, like Phoebe's development and Monica and Chandler's relationship. (Notably, the Chandler/Monica relationship, only have one season finale about them. Fans consider it one of the best-written and acted episodes, but it's less famous because it wasn't a cliffhanger. I.e not a Ratings Stunt).
  • Law & Order:
    • Two in-universe occurrences in Law & Order: In the first, the host of a chat show "accidentally" lets slip the location of an interview of a convicted child molester to the child's father, in the hope he will attack or kill the molester on live TV. In the second, the producer of a reality show similar to The Real World manipulates two of the housemates into having a fight in which one of them accidentally dies.
    • The short-lived Law & Order: LA did this twice in their only season: first adding Terrence Howard as the lead on a second "Order" team, then later dropping Skeet Ulrich, moving Alfred Molina into his slot (and into the show's top billing) and bringing in Alana de la Garza from The Mothership to take Molina's place. It didn't work.
  • If Courtney Cox gets a new show, you can bet there will be a fellow Friends actor guest-starring at some point to boost ratings.
    • Case in point: Courteney Cox stars on Cougartown, and Lisa Kudrow is guest starring as her dermatologist.
    • And apparently Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry are due to appear too. It works both ways as Courtney guest starred on Matthew show Go On, which was described as a Monica and Chandler reunion.
    • Plus Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer appeared on Lisa's show Web Therapy, advertised as the Friends getting back together. Basically all of the Friends cast seem happy to pop by on-screen and help each other out.
  • Heroes: The ridiculously-hyped kiss between Claire Bennet and her female roommate in volume five.
  • Britney Spears's guest appearance on How I Met Your Mother is largely considered this mainly because the episode in question aired during (one of) the peak(s) of Britney's infamy.
  • The first few episodes of Drew Careys Improvaganza feature Wayne Brady as a guest performer.
  • Jeopardy!:
    • One in "The IBM Watson Challenge": The show's two biggest winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, square off against IBM's Watson supercomputer, the first nonhuman to ever play a live game of Jeopardy. Watson won effortlessly.
    • There was also the tame but effective "stunt" of removing the 5-day limit for returning champions, opening the door for really good players, like Ken Jennings, to play for a really long time. The long-term downside of this move is the risk of Invincible Hero syndrome, but they still can and will lose eventually.
  • Pretty common on most Brazilian soap operas. The plot tends to start softly, most with the same tranquil beginning. However, if the initial ratings aren't high enough, one of the main cast characters is bound to have a drastic change in their life, usually by suffering an accident, being conned or having a sudden family-breaking revelation take place. However, some of these twists were already planned by the author since the start.
    • One of the most iconic stunts in Brazilian televison was the shopping mall in Torre de Babel. The 1998 soap opera was disliked and was not doing well in ratings. The producers' idea to save it was rewrite the script to include an explosion in a mall, which became the main focus of the soap opera after that. It gave the story a new mystery that was only solved in the last episode, many disliked characters died in the explosion, and the comic relief Jamanta got a new catchphrase, "Jamanta didn't die." The stunt worked, but it also became a symbol of contrived unplanned changes to boost ratings.
  • Donald Trump tried this by hinting at a potential run for President on The Apprentice. The stunt backfired badly, as the ratings went down. In 2015, he finally got around to doing so.
  • An odd example with The X Factor. The show is hugely successful and the papers are constantly following it. At the beginning of one series long time host Louis Walsh quit the show after some very public insults from Simon Cowell. Then during one of the shows Cowell suddenly feels something isn't right and "unexpectedly" goes off to find Walsh and bring him back to the show.
  • In the short-lived lawyer drama Civil Wars, ABC tried to drum up interest by having lead actress Mariel Hemmingway appear completely nude. While Hemmingway was clearly naked on screen, the scene itself (where Hemmingway's character was posing for a fashion shoot) used posing, lighting and camera angles to ensure nothing more than slight sideboob and upper thighs were shown.
  • To drum up buzz for its struggling first-season sitcom, Roc, FOX had an episode performed and broadcast live, along with guest starring lead Charles S. Dutton's then-wife, Debi Morgan. The stunt worked so well, that the entire second season of Roc was done live. Ratings improved, but not much, and the show was cancelled after one more, non-live, season.
  • In Big Brother 13 of the U.S. series, famous duos made a return to the game. They were promised to make it to the Jury, and were edited to be the sole focus of the show. The eight new people they're competing against were cast as sacrificial lambs, intentionally left Out of Focus (at best) and made to be complete villains (at worst) so that the fans on the boards wouldn't miss them. The returnees meanwhile got the lion's share of screentime and became the targets of benevolent editing. When things started going the newbies' way, the producers stepped in, introduced a "twist" and a series of events that benefited them and only them while throwing challenges that one of them had competed in before to make sure that one of them would win. The stunt actually seemed to work.
  • The programming block NickRewind (formerly known as The '90s Are All That, The Splat, and NickSplat) on TeenNick counts as this. The block consists of 90's Nick shows (since the rename, shows from the 80's and early 2000's have also been added to the lineup) and was inspired also by complaints on social networking sites from people who grew up in The '90s about Nick's current programming. Considering most of what TeenNick showed all day at the time was Degrassi repeats, they needed a ratings boost. And it worked. The block even had better ratings than late night shows such as The Tonight Show and Late Night.
  • Charlie Chaplin's appearance at the 1972 Academy Awards ceremony was a publicity/ratings stunt. The producers were having trouble finding a sufficiently A-list name to give out the Best Picture Oscar that year; younger stars weren't interested, and older stars refused over the fact that one of the nominees in that category was the highly controversial A Clockwork Orange. (Ultimately, they went with Jack Nicholson, a key face of New Hollywood at the time but not yet a superstar.) The solution was to invite Chaplin — who hadn't visited the U.S. in 20 years — to attend and receive an Honorary Award after the reveal of the Best Picture winner (traditionally the show's finale). This gained the show huge amounts of publicity, while the presentation of the award proved to be one of the most famous moments in award show history.
  • British current affairs program Question Time came under criticism for this when it invited the extremely right-wing and generally despised Nick Griffin onto the show. Result: that episode received three times the show's previous highest rating. It also caused a buttload of controversy. More information can be found here.
  • An example crossing this trope over with Preview Piggybacking: Trailers for the season finale of The Voice, which were shown during such NBC network programming as the 2016 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Hairspray Live!, claimed that viewers could catch a sneak peak of the then-upcoming Illumination film Sing during it. The ads turned out to be a lie, since the preview shown during the episode had no new clips in it, being comprised entirely of footage that had been shown in previous trailers, albeit with slight alterations.
  • A similar thing to the above happened during Lady Gaga and The Muppets Holiday Spectacular. The official promotional announcement claimed that this special would feature a sneak peek of the Muppets' next big project, Muppets Most Wanted. This turned out to literally be the entire trailer for said film, save for one scene addition where Dominic insists that Kermit!Constantine sounds different because he has a cold.
  • Odd Squad has been the victim of this with Odd Squad Saves the World, which was repeatedly hyped up as an hour-long action-packed movie event by PBS Kids, and the promo for it was styled as such. Fans were disappointed, however, when the "movie event" turned out to just be four 11-minute episodes played back-to-back to make up an hour. What was more, they hyped up the episode "Rise of the Hydraclops" (as well as the other three episodes) as some big event that would end the world, when really they were episodes in which the enemy was destroyed with a Weaksauce Weakness and never threatened the actual existence of the world, the boss had a surprise party, two agents duke it out X-Files-style, and an episode where dancing is the overall key to beating the enemy. It garnered about 30 million streams of the show and bumped up the ratings.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): An In-Universe example in "Judgment Day". Jack Parson, the producer of the Immoral Reality Show Judgment Day, framed Declan McMahon for the murder of Caitlin Channing in order to create huge ratings. At this point, it had only produced a series of specials and it was his hope that it would receive an order for a full 22 episode season if the McMahon episode was a ratings success.
  • Some teasers for Super Bowl LIII, as well as the Twitter of the stadium where it was held, hinted that the song "Sweet Victory", best known for being played in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Band Geeks", would be played during the halftime show as a result of a petition made in honor of Stephen Hillenberg's death. But during the actual halftime show, the scene before the song is sung was played instead, followed by Travis Scott's "Sicko Mode". Many fans of the show were not pleased by this decision, taking to social media to complain about the decision that was made, to the point where Reddit crashed from too many fans storming the NFL and SpongeBob subreddits to express their thoughts on what had happened.
  • Parodied in the reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which new villain, Kinga, decides to marry Jonah (the new subject) in a blatant bid to boost their ratings. She wants the show to be ultra-successful so she can sell it to Disney for a billion dollars, refusing to listen to her henchman, Max, when he tries to tell her that streaming services don't work that way.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This was the reason why All Japan Pro Wrestling brought in seven foot Pakistani karateka Raja Lion in to fight Giant Baba even though Lion knew nothing about wrestling.
  • Subverted by WWE SmackDown!, as Ho Yay Tag Team Billy and Chuck finally came out as gay, and planned a gay wedding to occur live on the show. However, right before the minister pronounced them man and husband, both men stopped the wedding and announced that they weren't really gay and the whole thing was a publicity stunt orchestrated by their "stylist", Rico. Billy did, however, give us one last Ho Yay moment by saying, "If I was gay, I probably would marry Chuck." Rico was outraged though and formed Three Minute Warning in revenge.
  • The reality television stars like Survivor castaway Johnny Fairplay? The country music star suplexing Jeff Jarrett, wrestlers feuding with Nascar drivers? Most of the weird things seen when TNA first got its B Show Xplosion up until flagship show iMPACT left Fox Sports Net could be explained as ratings stunts, although there were some subversions. "Played in two Superbowls" Monty Brown did stick around and even looked like he was going to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion for awhile.
  • This was how Bob Sapp's career wound down. People had figured out to beat him and suddenly he had found himself looking at medical bills. So he took to showing up in the most unusual of places and taking dives for money, which reached Self-Parody levels in Dramatic Dream Team.
  • Kelly Kelly, the "vixen exhibitionist" who had promised to remove her clothing on the first episode on the derided SYFY ECW revival in a desperate attempt to attract a fan base adverse to the show's very idea around. When Kelly, predictably, failed to go all the way through and failed get over they kept trying by partnering her with two more exhibitionists, who together became the least popular part of an unpopular show.
  • Vince McMahon shamelessly played straight and lampshaded a ratings stunt - the Million Dollar Mania from 2008, where all you had to do was know a password from the beginning of Raw, and hope you were the lucky contestant that gets called at random later to give said password. The calls were made live on the air by Vince himself, who would have segments littered throughout Raw devoted to these giveaways. This ratings stunt actually lost viewers, who were forced to sit through long segments filled with Vince fumbling with his phone, and having awkward conversations with lucky recipients, one of which received two dollars(?). It was aborted in a Vince injury angle after three weeks, but it did have one highlight - the very first person Vince called had a Rick Astley ringback tone. That's right, Vince McMahon got Rickrolled on national television.
  • In 1998 on WCW, maniacal laughter began sporadically happening during matches. Fans were naturally quick to assume such things as this being a new wrestler or stable, but it ended up being Chucky, with the whole thing being to promote Bride of Chucky.

  • On the night that ITV was due to open in 1955, The BBC killed off one of the lead characters in its Radio Soap Opera The Archers (this was of course at a time when radio could compete for ratings with television). ITV naturally cried foul.

    Web Comics 
  • But I'm a Cat Person: Bennett was apparently planning to confirm the rumor that he was the Master of a Being when he needed a ratings boost, but he ends up revealing early after the events of the comic because he'd rather go to jail for what he ordered Cybele to do than be blackmailed by Ann Walker over it. Ann, predictably, is furious.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in the "Fantasy Files Explanation" episode of Captain Disillusion, where Cap analyses his viewer statistics and uses them to spice up the episode by adding 3D, green screen effects, and picking a subject to appeal only to his "core demographic" of young male viewers. He points out what a stupid approach this is at the end of the episode.

    Western Animation 
  • In 2011, Fox went back to the hurricane plot to link episodes of Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad!.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "Quest for Ratings". The boys, hosting a news programme on school TV, get soundly beaten by Craig's "Animals Close-Up With a Wide-Angle Lens", so they decide to sex it up not unlike cable infotainment shows. Craig ups it by giving the animals hats. The boys up it by advertising and showing that Craig was high on cough-syrup when he made it. Eventually, the boys pack it in when they realize they have to pull stunts week after week.
  • The Simpsons:
  • Family Guy has the infamous "Life of Brian" episode when the titular character gets Killed Off for Real and is replaced by another dog, Vinny. They had been announcing for some time that they were planning to kill off one of the Griffins, and most people thought it'd be either Chris or Meg (since they appear so little nowadays that their deaths wouldn't have any kind of impact in the show), so there was quite a shock when the killed character turned out to be not only one of the most prominent, but Seth MacFarlane's favorite character. They even replaced Brian with Vinny in the opening to hammer that yeah, Brian was gone for good and Vinny was here to stay. Except two weeks later, in the episode "Christmas Guy", Stewie managed to change the past and save Brian from death. After what appeared to be a major change in the status quo, things returned to normal, and the show continued as if Brian never died. The entire ratings stunt was heavily criticized by even the loyalest of fans as a shallow, desperate and manipulative attempt to garner controversy and attention. Because Family Guy episodes take over 6 months to animate, it was made clear bringing Brian back was the plan all along, with Seth MacFarlane himself admitting that they would "have to be fucking high" to kill him off.
    • The Family Guy and The Simpsons crossover episode "The Simpsons Guy" was an attempt to pull in ratings for both shows. Ultimately it was considered passable at best with an Anvilicious second half about how Family Guy is a ripoff of The Simpsons. The special had some Troubled Production as well, as members of The Simpsons cast and crew voiced their disapproval. Harry Shearer didn't show up to voice any of his characters due to scheduling conflicts, leaving major secondary characters such as Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Kent Brockman, etc, not showing up except as background cameos. In the episode "Emmy Winning Episode", the crew of Family Guy would put in jokes about how The Simpsons got all of the press regarding the special and Family Guy got little attention. It would also imply that the special was considered a disaster.
    Lois: Well, I'm not making another episode with The Simpsons. What did that get us? I'll tell you what it got us. More ink for The Simpsons.
    Peter: Yeah. *Peter reads a newspaper* "Simpsons plays down to competition." "Simpsons step into the sewer." "Shame on you, Simpsons." Those lucky bastards.
  • Any half-hour SpongeBob SquarePants episode promoted as a special isn't really a special. Nick just calls them specials to get higher ratings.
    • "Best Day Ever" is widely considered to be the very first ratings trap SpongeBob pulled. It wasn't even a half-hour episode, it was a common 11-minute episode, and it got a 100-episode marathon (even forgoing Nick at Nite) prior to its airing anyways.
    • "Truth or Square" is by far the most infamous ratings stunt SpongeBob ever pulled. The "TV Movie" was heavily hyped up as THE SpongeBob 10th anniversary special, and the previews showed Mr. Krabs about to reveal the secret formula and SpongeBob and Sandy getting married. When the episode finally aired, more than half of its runtime was devoted to Patchy the Pirate, and the SpongeBob segments were bland, with both the formula reveal and the marriage not actually happening, instead being part of unrelated flashbacks.
    • SpongeBob SquarePants itself just seems to be a ratings stunt nowadays, as not only will Nickelodeon constantly air countless reruns of it daily, but even just regular new episodes get promoted like crazy with few hour marathons before it.
    • There was also the 200th episode, "Goodbye, Krabby Patty?", which was advertised like a Grand Finale. Even rival children's channels thought it was going to be like this, scheduling marathons of their shows against the episode (then again, it was President's Day). However, this was not the case, as the problem in the episode was resolved rather quickly. Fans of the show considered it pretty good and said it was the best episode of any TV show that was done as a ratings stunt. The fact that Jon Hamm appeared in it and played a similar role to his one on Mad Men probably helped.
    • A promo for "Surf N' Turf" hyped up the episode as an epic adventure where SpongeBob goes out to get the Krabby Patty formula back from Plankton. It's not even half of the actual plot, but rather one Big-Lipped Alligator Moment where SpongeBob leaves the formula unguarded by accident while he offers to let Sandy use the bottle it was in, leaving him to quickly retrieve it with little to no fanfare.
    • Promotional material for "Goons on the Moon" only showed the scenes involving Santa, marketing it as a Christmas Episode even though he doesn't appear until the end.
    • Nickelodeon also did something similar to the "Goodbye, Krabby Patty?" example with the episode "The Ballad of Filthy Muck", with the channel airing an all-day marathon of the show to hype it up despite being a normal 10-minute episode of the show. This one didn't work as well, though, as it became the first episode to not get a million viewers on its premiere.
  • Teen Titans Go! has "The Return of Slade". Despite the title, Slade never actually appears in the episode, and the remainder of the plot is basically a giant Take That, Critics! combined with an Author Tract.
    • The 100th episode, "And The Award For Sound Design Goes To Rob", was heavily promoted and even had a marathon play before it's premiere. Promos claimed it to be a celebration of the show hitting 100 episodes and claimed that it would be like nothing the viewers had seen before. It actually turned out to be an exact copy of "Puppets, Whaaat?".
    • The two-part 200th episode of the show, "The Self-Indulgent 200th Episode Spectacular!", was advertised to be the end of the series, much like the SpongeBob example above. Of course, it wasn't the end - the episode revealed that there was still more to come. Also, viewers who usually hated the show really enjoyed the episode, which contained a few affectionate parodies of other shows and several shout-outs to both the fandom and the haters.
    • The episode "Beast Girl" was considered by fans as the "Best Day Ever" of The New '10s. The episode had the second-longest marathon for the premiere of an episode note  and was hyped up for a month before its' premiere, including a page where fans could vote for the versions of the characters they wanted to see in the episode. The episode turned out to be nothing but a Gender Bender episode and not different personalities of the characters as most people had expected and voted for.
  • PBS Kids has also taken up this slack. They broadcast hour-long specials as "movie events", like Wild Kratts and their Back in Creature Time special, and usually broadcast one once a month using the same term in their promos in order to bring more viewers in. In March 2017, their 24/7 channel debuted "PBS Kids Family Night", a two-hour block that airs a movie event and two half-hour-total episodes every Friday night, designed to get the family gathered together for a good fun movie. However, in the past they have made mock movie events, with one of the most notable examples being Odd Squad Saves the World (see the Live-Action TV folder for more on that).
  • Nickelodeon tried doing this with The Loud House episode "Pipe Dreams". Ads portrayed it as A Day in the Limelight episode involving the parents in the titular family. Nick had so much confidence in this episode doing well that they not only aired the ads for it often, but also took an hour of time away from SpongeBob to air two more Loud House episodes before the premiere and aired a nearly all-day marathon of the show before its' very first rerun. It turns out that the episode did have said children in it.
    • This also happened a few weeks later with "Fandom Pains", an episode starring Jack Griffo (known to most people as Max Thunderman) and made it seem like the character he plays was the main focus of the episode and would be a major part of it. In the actual episode, Lucy tries to get rid of the character he plays so she could watch her show in peace.
    • A year prior to these episodes, they did "Legends", which was a rating stunt two-fold. It was a crossover with Legends of the Hidden Temple and guest-starred Jace Norman and Cooper Barnes, better known as Kid Danger and Captain Man.