In a variety of jobs, a person has to be watching out for something important, poised and waiting for a certain emergency situation. For example, a big satellite dish could be constantly listening for any signal, any sign of life from the stars. Or it could be some sort of asteroid early-warning system, or it could even be an inbound-missile warning system on a space station. And in movies and TV, at the other end of all that surveillance equipment is a tiny shack/room absolutely stacked with computer equipment, one integral computer screen, and the Surveillance Station Slacker. He's usually one guy (very rarely female) sat watching the readouts for weeks with absolutely nothing happening, in a state of utter boredom. Invariably this guy will be goofing off all day knowing that the screen will never bleep, eating pizza and watching a portable TV or something, and due to this is often portrayed as overweight.
If the computer screen DOES bleep all of a sudden, the alien signal IS picked up or whatever, the Slacker will quite often panic and not know what to do, maybe even having to refer to an old set of instructions for this eventuality. He might even ignore the signal, putting it down to a faulty system, and just turn back to the TV.
The Slacker sometimes comes with a workmate/companion, someone to tell him to stop lazing about so much, who is often portrayed as a grumpy elderly man.
- The long-suffering Maytag Repairman, sitting by the phone waiting for someone to call (the joke, of course, is that Maytag appliances never need repair).
- Two examples from Interstella 5555. At the start, three Blueskin soldiers are too busy watching a concert to notice the Big Bad landing troops, and near the end, the record company guards are too busy watching a soccer game to notice Octave sneaking in and attempting to steal back the group's memory discs.
- In the anime version of Rave Master, the episode after Haru defeats Lance opens with Musica in the middle of a robbery. Since the guards are too busy watching TV, he and his gang easily leaves them Bound and Gagged while they investigate for the Silver Ray.
- In the Image Comics series Chew, the Gardner-Kvashennaya International Telescope in Siberia has a $34 million-a-year budget to basically monitor a single mysterious planet light-years away. But since the telescope only needs $3 million-a-year to actually run, the scientists use the rest of the money to spend on whatever they want, and these things get extensively bigger, weirder, and more hedonistic as the scientists get bored with regular pleasures. Up until the protagonists arrive following an investigation, of course. Then all hell breaks loose.
- A comic in Horrible Science magazine featured a radio astronomer who was supposed to be listening for alien signals playing Tetris on his computer.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: In A Better Plan?, Theo, the watchman of Sleepymeadows is like this:
Just as a guardsman on top of the tower was keeping a watchful eye on the surrounding fields and pastures with a telescope, a second guard attentively observed the sensitive instruments that measured vibrations in the ground. In theory.
In practice, Theo considered watching the calm basins, swinging pendulums, and trembling indicators one of the most boring jobs in the world. He wasnít going to take a nap while he was on duty, but he also wasnít going to stare at the hands moving across never-changing charts all the time. That would lead to him falling asleep for sure.
Instead, he reclined on his chair and flipped the pages of a worn booklet, glancing from time to time at the instruments.
Now whatís this noise?
He listened intently for the feint ringing that sounded just as if he had struck his helmet with a teaspoon. It repeated, and his eyes darted toward the cylindrical chimes hanging from the wall, connected to one of the vibration-measuring devices clicking away before him. Alarmed, he stood up, put the book aside, and wiped the dust and spider webs off a huge board that covered the right wall. Nervously, he searched the comparison chart for patterns matching the graphs the mechanical instruments were drawing. Once he found them, he paled.
The proper authorities needed to be informed immediately! His keys jingled as he approached the dusty cabinet that held a crystal ball for just that purpose. He missed the keyhole twice in his haste, and hoped the orb would still be in good shape. As far as he knew, there hadnít been a need to use it in the last two decades.
- Monsters vs. Aliens begins with two technicians at an isolated base in Antartica monitoring for extraterrestial activity. When they detect some, one of them freaks out because he took the job specifically because he wasn't expecting to ever do anything Interestingly, said "extraterrestrial activity" was just a meteor (full of quantonium, but still), so it shouldn't have even registered as a UFO. Those show up later.
- In Toy Story 3, a Cymbal-Banging Monkey is checking the daycare security monitors at night, without ever going to sleep.
- Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders has a trio of scientists who man a satellite station watching for evidence of extraterrestrial life. While not slobs, they're cynical about any hope of success and joke about the massive collection of static they've collected. Fortunately, they've found other ways to occupy the time.
- Though averted earlier in The Incredibles, once Syndrome leaves to carry out his Evil Plan his mooks are seen enjoying the havoc being inflicted by the giant robot on live television, instead of watching the security monitors showing that the Parr family have escaped their confinement.
- Independence Day. The man on duty at the S.E.T.I. Institute is playing Office Golf. A red light starts blinking and he goes over and flips a switch, which causes a series of tones to come out a speaker. He excitedly calls his boss on the phone and asks him to listen to the tones, and when the boss hears them he sits up in bed, bumping his head, then hurries to the lab. The signals turn out to be from an alien ship approaching the Earth.
- Contact, Jodie Foster doesn't really count, she's more like a protagonist version of this, but her 2 fellow scientists at SETI fit this trope perfectly.
- WarGames. Two U.S. Air Force officers are in a missile silo control room carrying out their standard routine - they're fairly bored and not expecting any problems. Suddenly there's an alert message from NORAD telling them to prepare to launch their missiles.
- Sneakers. A security guard who appears to be in his teens is sitting around in a bank late at night watching TV. All of a sudden the fire alarm goes off and he panics, scrambling around trying to find the instruction book and figure out who to call.
- The Day After Tomorrow has that shack full of British guys who watch a football game rather than pay attention to their equipment.
- In The Avengers, Tony Stark calls out a SHIELD Mission Control op for playing Galaga while on duty. The guy goes right back to playing the game after Tony leaves.
- Played with in TRON Legacy: The security guard at the Encom building looks like your typical slacker, and when he notices a security camera glitching he taps the screen and it goes back to normal - when actually its being hacked by Sam Flynn. However, when Sam accidentally triggers a laser tripwire, the guard instantly responds, knowing exactly what to do, and goes so far as to call backup and police to the building.
- The Art of War (2000). The security guard in the monitor room of UN Headquarters is actually asleep when he gets the call. To add insult to injury, The Dragon Neck Snaps him a few moments later. None of this is really his fault, as the villains worked in the building, so were already inside (they just want the freedom to kill a witness unobserved).
- There's one of these in Jurassic World, and his behavior is especially egregious considering he is the supervisor of Paddock 11, the place where Jurassic World is keeping its genetically engineered nightmare beast, the Indominus rex. He's seen eating a sandwich at his desk not paying even the slightest bit of attention to any of the dozens of computer screens around him. To his credit, when it appears as if the I. rex has gotten free, he does finally start paying attention, but continues eating his lunch despite being visibly concerned! Jurassic World's employee of the month!
- The cheap 60s sci-fi horror movie Attack of the The Eye Creatures features a pair of Army guys who, while a flying saucer invasion is taking place, spend their time watching teenage couples in Lovers Lane on their monitor - yet somehow they're not the creepiest people in the movie.
- Averted in The Killer Elite. Although the guards are shown to be bored stiff guarding the duck farm that they're using as a safehouse, they're still on the ball, drawing their weapons when their relief arrives and demanding a password even though they already know them. One thing they're not prepared for however is the possibility that one of them has turned traitor.
- Terminator Genisys. The security guard at the hospital is too busy playing with his smartphone to watch the CCTV screens, or turn to face Pops who's just walked in the door behind him. Pops bangs his head on the console.
- Screamers. The sentries in the Alliance bunker are playing cards and only just happen to notice the lone enemy soldier approaching on their monitors. We soon find out why they're slacking off — there's been no enemy sighted for months as the base is defended by the titular Killer Robots, who soon make short work of the approaching soldier.
- "Behind the Glory of the Heroes", a Star Fleet Battles short story in Nexus magazine #6. A female Starfleet officer monitoring a sensor console in a battle station is so bored that she starts daydreaming. She comes out of it when a star winks on her console, indicating that there's a ship approaching. She calls in the Officer of the Deck and together they determine that there are four Romulan ships approaching using their cloaking devices, preparing to attack.
- In the A-to-Z Mysteries book The Jaguar's Jewel, Dink's uncle forgets that his office has a security system even when a thief steals the titular jewel from his office. Leaving it up to our three heroes to find the video and decipher the clues.
- In Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith, one character notes that no-one is even manning the Ominous Multiple Screens at the security company he works for. When he sees a Russian oligarch whom he has a grudge against on one of the screens, he uses the system to plan his revenge.
- In Lost, Michael uses the Hatch computer to communicate with Walt, despite DHARMA's warning not to use the computer for any purpose other than entering the Numbers.
- "Homer," a one-shot character on The X-Files, who was a shout-out to The Simpsons, down to working a boring job in Sector 7G of a nuclear power plant.
- This was essentially Martin's job, as a graveyard-shift security guard in an office building in Frasier.
- The Day Today spoof about the swimming pool features a night watchman who spends his time doing puzzles and trying on abandoned swimming costumes, leading him to miss 40 people breaking into the pool and eventually one of them drowning. He defends himself saying, "I have been working here for 18 years. In 1975, no one died. In 1976, no one died. In 1977, no one died. In 1978, no one died. In 1979, no one died. In 1980, someone died."
- Lampshaded in Burn Notice when Michael states how surveillance duty is boring and how guards watching sports rather than keeping watch has led to a lot of victories for the enemies.
- In the Clone episode "The Ian Cam", the agents who are supposed to be monitoring the feed from the tiny camera implanted in Ian's eye are watching archived footage of Ian trying to flirt when Ian walks into the surveillance room. Once Ian knows about the surveillance, he proceeds to Bluff the Eavesdropper.
- Security guards watching TV instead of the security cameras has happened a lot in Leverage too. An egregious example in "The Two Live Crews Job", where several museum security guards are watching a sports game after the museum was locked down after Parker and her counterpart from the other crew steal one too many items from the chief of security. Yes, there are possible thieves about... and all of your guards are too busy to watch the cameras.
- In Stan Lee's Lucky Man Harry is escaping from the prison when he realizes that he has jumped right in front of a security camera. However, Harry is supernaturally lucky so the guard watching the security monitors is slacking off and does not actually look at them until Harry run out of the camera's view.
- Final Fantasy VII shows us the security camera guy at Shinra Building only for a few seconds, but we get the message he's bored out of his mind and does absolutely nothing. AVALANCHE sneaks effortlessly past his cameras.
- The Dig opens with a cutscene showing a tracking station in Borneo, whose operator (Steve Blum, playing a Southern-Fried Genius) is on the phone to his "darlin'", explaining that the most interesting thing there is a day when it doesn't rain. Until an asteroid on a collision course with Earth shows up on his scope...
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has Jake Marshall, who is the security officer in charge of the police department's evidence room. He goes beyond simply being a slacker seeing as how he only checks in at his post once every few weeks. He justifies this with the fact that the room has 24 hour surveillance by security cameras, so there doesn't need to be someone there watching the screens. It's said in dialogue that the security footage is checked electronically by a machine every hour and if nothing suspicious is seen on it then that hour's footage is erased. So in some sense Jake's logic makes sense... although one has to wonder how he wasn't fired seeing as how he pretty much skips work more time than he actually GOES IN, and if anything were to happen in the evidence room there would be no one there to stop it. Which incidentally ended up happening in the form of a murder. Although it's assumed that on this occasion, Jake was preparing to dress as Goodman and steal the SL-9 Evidence. Which in itself ended up resulting in what was first thought to be a "murder" in the evidence room but was actually a fight.
- Case 2 of Trials and Tribulations sees the return of Larry Butz, who is a slacker anyway. He's got himself a job at a security firm, watching the cameras, but he seems to be doing his job for once! As it turns out, he'd left to see his girlfriend on the one night it mattered. A murder was committed at his security firm while he was being dumped. Ironically, this was him being the Spanner in the Works: the culprit deliberately triggered the alarm on the way out to ensure his patsy would get arrested, which would have worked if Larry Butz was at his post that night.
- In Emerald City Confidential, Jinjur, one of the army guards, falls asleep next to the prison entrance where the main character is being held. Jinjur assumes that no one can be quiet enough to get past her, but she doesn't count on the main character escaping when her footsteps are magically muted.
- The trailer of Overwatch has the security too busy playing Hearthstone to notice the fight going on in the exhibit.
- Undertale has Sans, who has the job of being a sentry that's supposed to watch out for humans that enter the Underground. However, he's such a notorious slacker that he basically does everything but his job. This trope is his Achilles' Heel in his Boss fight.
- Lampshaded in S.S.D.D here
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: In Chapter 10, Tuuri's job of the day is to wait for a call from Mission Control, who may not be in headquarters until quite late in the day. She's shown to have fallen asleep at the radio while Mikkel and Reynir were cleaning up the tank, and later plays games with Reynir. She eventually drags Reynir into following Mikkel, who has gone on an unauthorized escapade of his own. Of course, the comic cuts to Mission Control returning to headquarters right after Tuuri and Reynir are shown leaving the radio completely unattended.
- The VeggieTales episode "Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space!" has Jimmy and Jerry Gourd as two technicians whose entire job is to monitor the sky, and to turn on the Larry-Signal if they see anything from space approaching the city. In their one scene, Jerry sees the eponymous Fib on his monitor and freezes in panic—while Jimmy, completely oblivious, complains about how boring this job is, and how nothing ever happens.
- This is how Tommy and Chuckie got lost in the Toy Palace in Rugrats, despite the security system being top-of-the-line.
- Subverted in Stroker and Hoop, where Stroker is caught breaking into a high-security facility when he walks by the surveillance room and is held up by the guard manning it. He saw everything Stroker had done up to that point via the camera feeds. Stroker complains that the guard should have been watching a sports game or reading a skin mag, but it turns out this guy happens to like his job.
- In one episode of the Nick Knatterton animated series the bank of security camera monitors had a softporn video playing in the middle to keep the guard watching the cameras awake. That failed to keep him awake through the graveyard shift.
- Happens twice in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In "The Blue Spirit", two Fire Nation soldiers are shown in a small hut looking out for the Avatar. They read the description of his abilities, including running at top speeds, and dismiss it as impossible. That is, until Aang is shown running past them at top speed. They then blow the horn to signal that they've found him. In a third season episode, two guards are shown complaining that nothing ever happens, until Aang slides past them. They then send a messenger hawk to alert their superiors, however the assassin Combustion Man takes the message from the hawk before it gets very far.
- An early Family Guy Cutaway Gag revealed that Peter once worked security at George Harrison's house. He was busy watching Charles in Charge and dismissed the sound of a window breaking as Harrison partying or something... the night a crazed man broke in and stabbed Harrison over 40 times.
- This started off the plot of one episode of The Looney Tunes Show. Daffy, working as a security guard, fell asleep on the job the one night a robber broke in. This got him fired, and the rest of the episode is about how his lack of work leads to him getting thrown out by Bugs.
- Invoked in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, when XR encourages Booster to do this when they're stuck on monitor duty while Buzz and Mira are away on a mission on Zurg's planet. They do spring into action when the monitor reports Buzz and Mira's vital signs have gone flat.
- Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in The Simpsons is known for its lax security among other things. In an early whole episode flashback, Homer simply walks past security and demands to get hired in the plant.
- Even appears in Thrythlind's New Seeds series; It's downplayed, however, as the characters actually DO act promptly when something goes wrong. A pity they're, essentially, in a horror movie.
- In 2004, Guards at Caesar's Atlantic City Hotel Casino used their remote cameras to ogle women. The casino was fined $80,000 for the misuse of the system.
- On a related note, Las Vegas has a lot of laws and rules governing the use of cameras in casinos. Generally speaking, anyone caught slacking off is fired immediately, and won't likely be able to work for another casino.
- During a Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, a Security Forces airman was caught playing a video game on his cell phone while standing guard over some nuclear weapons. The fact that he was dumb enough to do this during a major wing inspection was the subject of quite a bit of humor and head-shaking in the US military community.
- During the infamous Michael Fagan Incident, the man actually did trigger an alarm as he climbed through the window of Buckingham Palace. The policeman manning the guard station silenced it, assuming it was nothing more than a malfunction. Twice. This policeman's pretty lucky they've long-since done away with the gallows.