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TV Telephone Etiquette

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"Doesn't anyone say 'goodbye' anymore?"

The inability for main characters who answer the phone to either hang up the phone, acknowledge the caller, or say any "good-bye" equivalent. This is because phone calls are often done solely for exposition.

If there is no split-screen and the other end is not heard by the audience, characters are also required to repeat back everything the person on the other end says to them.


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  • A Running Gag in the film 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag involves the primary antagonist's inability to have a normal phone conversation, usually in the form of destroying the receiver instead of saying goodbye and hanging up.
  • Twice in Bridge of Spies. In the first scene, Abel receives a phone call from his superiors and doesn't give any sort of greeting. Later on, the American agent receives a call from an East German agent, and silently picks up the phone, listens, then hangs up without a word. One would think in that situation it would be important to verify who you're talking to.
  • Ghostbusters (1984) features a moment where the 'Busters overworked secretary Janine answers the latest in an endless series of client calls with "Ghostbusters, whaddya want?!"
  • Averted in the Danish Police Procedural The Guilty, which is told from inside an emergency services dispatch center (meaning that the entire film unfolds through a series of phone calls). The characters say goodbye before hanging up except when they're Rudely Hanging Up or the call is otherwise interrupted.
  • In Layer Cake, the protagonist remarks "That's rude, Mr. Dragan", after the caller (a psychopathic Serbian hitman) hangs up without saying goodbye.
  • Shadow of the Thin Man: After receiving a vital piece of information over the phone during the Summation Gathering, detective Nick Charles slams the phone down without saying goodbye.
  • Shaft does it in style...
    Shaft: Vic, your case just busted wide open.
    Androzzi: So close it for me.
    Shaft: Cut the crap man, this is Shaft. Looks like you gonna have to close it yo'self, shitty! (cackles and hangs up, walks away, theme song music plays)
  • In The Smiling Lieutenant, the lieutenant gets the news from a lady friend that he is being forced to marry a princess he's not interested in. He hangs up the phone without saying goodbye.

  • Star Wars Legends: Emperor Palpatine needs no comm etiquette, as is pointed out in Shadows of the Empire. He has a habit of stating what he wants without greeting, then ending the conversation without any kind of farewell. His subordinates have learned to accept this as 'just one of those things'.
  • Lampshaded in The Godfather; Michael Corleone has a habit of doing this, but it's done on purpose by the author to reflect his all-business personality.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Law & Order (and later Law & Order: SVU) Captain Cragan invariably answered the phone by yelling "What?".
  • David Sandstrom of ReGenesis answers with an impatient "Yeah?" or, later in the series, "What?" This seemed to vary in its hostility based on whether or not another then-present character was prodding him to answer his phone.
  • NCIS: They're repeat offenders, none worse than Gibbs, of course.
  • On Covert Affairs, Annie calls Auggie on this early in an episode, saying that "normal people" say good-bye. He replies that it's just one more reason not to. This becomes a very minor comedic subplot, until the end of the episode, when Auggie is going off on his own to seek revenge. Annie knows something is wrong when he says . . .
  • "What?" is Miss Parker of The Pretender's signature greeting.
  • 24. Nobody ever says goodbye on the phone, which is a little funny since Jack spends at least half the series on one.
  • Characters on Seinfeld seemed to have a particular aversion to saying goodbye.
  • Debra Morgan on Dexter is also really bad with this.
  • Happens on Nikita a lot too, although it's kind of understandable.
  • The Brady Bunch: Mike calls a friend of his about a problem; he jumps right into the topic and doesn't say goodbye. Robert Reed wrote one of his many scathing memos about this scene.
  • Fearless: Gaia Moore greets callers with "speak".
  • Parodied along with everything else on Garth Marenghis Darkplace. Most of the time, characters will end even the most desperate and ominous conversations with an inappropriately casual "Bye!" At the other end of the scale;
    Thornton Reed: [picks up phone] Uh huh. Bye. [hangs up] Good gravy. A small bunch of objects are flying of their own accord in E Wing! [picks up non-ringing phone, then hangs up without saying anything] And apparently more objects are heading this way! [hesitantly, in the direction of the telephone] Good...bye...
  • On Barney Miller, a man tried to commit suicide by drinking a chemical. Wojo called Poison Control to ask what to do, but they needed to know what chemical the man drank. Eventually he reveals that it was food coloring. Wojo says "Food" into the phone, then realizes what the man said, and hangs up without another word.
  • Lampshaded in Broad City: "She didn't even say 'Bye, Lincoln'. That takes one more second. People have no phone etiquette these days."
  • Parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look: one sketch features Da Chief angrily yelling at a subordinate over the phone and slamming it down... only to pick it back up after a few moments and apologize sincerely for being so rude and unprofessional.
  • On a Season 6 episode of Grimm, Sean Renard does this on a video call. When the conversation was finished he simply closed the chat window.
  • Father Ted once had Dougal finish a phone call by simply dropping the handset and letting it fall to the floor as he walked away.

  • Craig's Wife: Harriet hangs up on Ethel's suitor Mr. Fredericks abruptly, after saying “I don't care to disturb her just now. I'm very sorry.” Justified in this instance as Harriet is trying to keep them apart.

    Web Original 
  • In The Guild, the leader of the evil guild is overtly rude over the phone. He answers the phone by stating the activity that you're interrupting, like "Journalling!" He also hangs up abruptly without saying goodbye, which confuses Cyd.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in one episode of The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy is talking on the phone with Chester and AJ (in a three way split screen). After the conversation is over he hangs up as does Chester. AJ is still hanging on the line when he realizes the other two hung up. He looks at the camera and asks "Doesn't anyone say goodbye anymore?"
  • Played for comedy in The Life & Times of Tim, when Tim bungles a call from a prospective employer by hanging up when he thinks the conversation is over. After a pause, the caller continues speaking, not realizing that he's hung up.
  • Played for Laughs in American Dad!, when Steve and Hayley call France's mom for plot-related reasons. Once they have the needed exposition they put the phone down and start talking to each other, ignoring her.
    Mah-Mah: Hey! What wrong with you?! I still here! Now tell me about your day.
    Hayley: Oh, I'm sorry, Mah-Mah. Well, this morning I went—
    Mah-Mah: (abruptly hangs up) Mah-Mah always hang up first.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Old World Blues: After Dr. Mobius delivers his terrifying broadcast from the Forbidden Dome, he caps it off with a cheerful "That is all. Bye bye."
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, nobody seems to say "good-bye" talking on the ARCUS unit. For example, when Instructor Neithardt calls Rean in Chapter 4 to ask him to swing by the lounge, he simply repeats his request at the end of the conversation and then clicks off. Rean even lampshades it at one point when Sara makes the same request...
    Sara: I'll be waiting in the faculty lounge. Later!
    Rean: Didn't even wait to hear my response...

    Real Life 
  • In South Korea, when a phone conversation is over, the callers simply hang up. Saying goodbye is not needed, although they may make a certain "Hmm" sound, indicating that they're about to hang up.
  • The book Nee Naw: Real Life Dispatches From Ambulance Control complains about people copying the way TV characters do this with emergency calls of all things. "In soaps, people often just call for an ambulance, bark an incomplete address and then hang up. And then, nee naw nee naw, the ambulance arrives." In real life, the dispatcher needs to keep you on the line to provide details about the patient's symptoms, verify where you are and generally make sure the paramedics are as informed as possible by the time they arrive, in addition to talking you through any first aid that may be necessary. Only hang up when the dispatcher tells you you can hang up.
    • Cellphones have implemented a feature called Emergency Callback whenever you dial 9-1-1. This allows the operator to call the phone back... you know, in case you do this.
  • Ever had a job that requires you to do customer service on the phone? If so, then you probably are already familiar with this.


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