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.
- In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Assassin Miss Alice Band is explaining to a pupil that the new Magitek-based security systems promise to make life interesting for an Assassin, especially when you are carrying metal weapons and Security around the client is based on the metal-that-loves-iron. However, as she points out, the weak point in such systems will invariably be the human attendant supervising them who is resonsible for raising the alarm. And such people are generally bored, inattentive, paid very little, and are therefore not drawn from the best human material available - "You get what you pay for. When you pay pennies, you get the labour you deserve."
- 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 wasnt going to take a nap while he was on duty, but he also wasnt 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 whats 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 hadnt been a need to use it in the last two decades.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts. In "Ore", the human worker in the monitoring room is asleep while the synthetic is doing all the work. When he leaves the room for a toilet break, the synthetic simply locks the door to prevent him interfering in subsequent events.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Cruella, Jasper and Horace have to break into the Baroness' workshop and get spotted by the guard before escaping as part of The Caper. However, when they drop in from the skylight, the find the guard is fast asleep. Horace then topples a row of mannequins, which fails to wake the guard. He then walks up to the guard and takes his packet of Wotsits. The guard keeps snoring. He doesn't wake until Jasper yanks out one of his nose hairs, at which point Jasper and Horace scarper.
- A Cure for Wellness. A male nurse is supposed to be monitoring the protagonist Lockhart while he's in a sensory deprivation tank. A female nurse enters and exposes herself to him, so he's too busy engaging in A Date with Rosie Palms to notice that Lockhart is on the point of drowning.
- The Day After Tomorrow has that shack full of British guys who watch a football game rather than pay attention to their equipment.
- Girl House: When Anna sneaks back into the house, she passes the gatehouse where Big Mike is asleep with his feet up on the console next to the monitors he's supposed to be watching.
- In Hackers, The guard in charge of the Gibson computer at Ellingson Mineral is asleep on duty when someone breaks into the system. He only wakes up when the alarm goes off after the fact, and has to call The Plague to come help.
- 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, where he trips over the golf balls. The signals turn out to be from an alien ship approaching the Earth.
- In The Island (1980), a Coast Guard launch is sent to investigate an explosion on a supposedly uninhabited island. The guardsman left to guard the launch decides to tip his hat over his eyes and take a nap. Unsurprisingly, he is captured by the pirates.
- In Judas Kiss, the security guard at Dyson's building is watching a porno film rather than the surveillance monitors when Ruben sneaks up in him and knocks him out.
- 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!
- 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.
- Late Phases: The gate guard at the retirement home is a bit lazy and distracted, not always watching the monitor.
- The Matrix Reloaded. A security guard tells off his colleague at the gatehouse for being half asleep with his feet up on the desk. He becomes dead at his post when Trinity drops a motorcycle on top of him.
Guard One: Hey! You can count sheep at home.Guard Two: (unimpressed) Why? I get paid to count them here.(Guard One shakes his head in disgust and walks off. Camera pans down to show our heroes entering the building on the monitor)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To Live and Die in L.A.. The two detectives Chance and Vukovich fall asleep while on stakeout. They wake up to see police cars outside the place they're watching, because the Big Bad has just walked in (knowing the place is under surveillance) and murdered someone.
- 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.
- 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.
- William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. When Romeo is sneaking into the Capulet house to woo Juliet, the guard is shown reading a magazine instead of watching the monitors, despite reacting to sounds like Romeo clumsily knocking over objects and Juliet shrieking in surprise and falling into the pool when she suddenly encounters her beloved.
- Space Assassin: You can come across two of Cyrus' guards, whom were too busy watching space football to notice your presence until you're in the same room as them. Heck, this scene is actually on the book's cover!
- 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.
- There were a couple of non-tech versions of this in The Famous Five:
- In Five Run Away Together, the Five suspect that smuggling is taking place on the island, and they take turns to keep watch. Anne is severely scolded by Julian when she falls asleep on her watch.
- In Five Go Off in a Caravan, Julian climbs on the caravan roof to spy on the villains Lou and Tiger Dan. When they disappear for a long time, he falls asleep.
- In Stanley Bagshaw And The Fourteen Foot Wheel, young Stanley is beckoned into a wheel factory, and is given the task of pulling a lever when a clock reaches thirty-two. But he falls asleep, and the hands on the clock keep turning, past the red danger sign, until the machine goes bang, and a fourteen-foot wheel is produced.
- Fractured Stars: During the Great Escape, Dash finds the guard who's supposed to be watching the security camera footage watching holographic porn on his netdisc instead. Dash briefly considers leaving him alone, since he probably won't look at the screen long enough to notice their escape, but decides it would be safer to knock him out anyway.
- "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.
- Averted in Sharky's Machine, by William Diehl. A detective makes sure to bring the Guinness World Records to kill time on stakeout, because it's easy to put down if something happens.
- In Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith, the murderer 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.
- Arrow. Averted in "Blind Spot". While breaking into the city archive, Team Arrow get a nasty shock when it turns out the rent-a-cops working there have computer skills to equal those of Felicity Smoak. They counteract her virus and get the cameras working again, see the Arrow and call in the SCPD Anti-Vigilante Taskforce. Our heroes barely make it out alive.
- 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.
- Crash Landing on You: In the first episode, North Korean soldier Eun-bok is up in a guard tower, supposedly watching the DMZbut he is actually watching a bootleg Korean Drama from the south. Se-ri runs right past him. This incident, and the knowledge that Eun-bok could go to prison for a long time for watching South Korean TV, gives Se-ri some leverage over the squad when they finally catch her.
- 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."
- This was essentially Martin's job, as a graveyard-shift security guard in an office building in Frasier.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- 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...
- 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.
- 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 trailer of Overwatch has the security too busy playing Hearthstone to notice the fight going on in the exhibit.
- 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.
- 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.
- Trevor (2020): Downplayed; The security guard was getting just bored enough to open a porn tab on his computer, and thoughtlessly put his coffee cup in front of the footage for the live feed from the autopsy room. He gets the shock of his life when he moves it to take a sip.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Family Guy Cutaway Gag from season 3 episode "The Thin White Line" revealed that Peter Griffin 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...on December 30, 1999, the night a crazed man broke in and stabbed Harrison over 40 times.
Peter: *humming the theme song* Charles in Charge of our days and our nights. Charles in- *sound of Harrisson fighting the intruder* Hey, HEY! Keep it down up there! Ya wacky Beatle!
- 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.
- 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.
- The Rugrats episode "Toy Palace": Tommy and Chuckie decide to stay at the titular toy store overnight and sneak out of their strollers replacing themselves with plush dolls. Though the store has an elaborate security system complete with dozens of cameras, the security guard doesn't pay attention at all as he eats doughnuts and watches his portable TV. When Stu and Chas finally notice their sons are missing, they rush back to the store and explain the situation, but the security guard doesn't believe them because the store is equip with a movement-sensitive security system that would've detected the babies (which it did, and the only reason the guard didn't notice is because he was too distracted by his portable TV). Eventually, Stu and Chas see their sons on one of the security screens and as they rush out, the security guard takes a look at the monitors, and spits out his coffee in shock, then follows the dads out the door.
Security Guard: Holy McGillicuddy! They penetrated the net!
- Sheep in the Big City: Parodied in the trailer for Attack Of the 50-Foot Creature, which starts at a "remote monster-viewing outpost" where the guards turn off the monster detection alarm out of boredom and then decide to throw away their guns next. Naturally, that's when the 50-Foot Creature shows up.
- 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. In another, the security booth is only manned by an automatic response machine who's only reaction to someone (Homer) smashing through the entrance in a car is to call the police once then hangs up and shuts down when the line was busy.
- When Homer, Carl, Lenny and Bart are out in the woods hunting a bear who had attacked Homer earlier in the episode, they're using a detector that is keyed to the bears electronic tag, but when Homer leaves to wash up in the river, Bart notices that the batteries are gone. Turns out Lenny and Carl took them out to listen to their radio, allowing the bear to sneak up on Homer.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Wander over Yonder episode "The Eye on the Skullship" deals with the rare instance in which this isn't due to apathy; Andy, a Watchdog security guard on Lord Hater's ship, fancies himself a talk-show host and spends most of his time exploring the ship and interviewing coworkers instead of watching his sector.
- In 2004, Guards at Caesar's Atlantic City Hotel Casino used their remote-controlled cameras to ogle women. The casino was fined $80,000 for the misuse of the system. Las Vegas has a lot of laws and rules governing the use of cameras in casinos, and anyone pulling this stunt is likely to be fired immediately, and is unlikely to be hired by 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 Too Dumb to Live 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.