The plot usually begins with the character need some money or something similar and the upcoming talent contest has a cash prize that suit their needs. So, they rehearse and usually create a professional level act, usually a musical number.
The special thing with this plot that the heroes typically never win the contest, or at least not in circumstances they were expecting. When they do lose, they take the loss gracefully, but find they have earned something far better for their efforts such as a business owner wants them to be his establishment's house band or a record label agent wants to sign them on.
If you're looking for a television show that is all about showing off talents, see Talent Show.
- Girls und Panzer: OVA 6 includes a talent show, with the teams competing for 100,000¥ worth of dried sweet potatoes. As a twist, none of the teams are allowed to use their typical specialty (for example, the Duck Team, composed of the disbanded volleyball team, can't do anything related to volleyball), but that doesn't stop Hippo Team/the historical team from inserting period history references into their production of Little Women.
- Our Gang: Spanky tries to deliberately lose a talent contest and tells his friends to boo him, but when the circumstances change and now he must win, the gang are not aware of the change and heckle him furiously. Fortunately, his efforts to keep going prove hilarious to the audience and he wins in a walk.
- In School of Rock, the band is in such a contest, and they don't win, but the audience requests an encore from them instead of the winning band, and they end up learning an important lesson.
- In The Brady Bunch Movie, the Bradys are in danger of losing their house because they inexplicably owe $10,000 in back taxes. By a Contrived Coincidence, there's a talent show at the kids' high school where the prize is that exact amount.
- In the Red Green movie, Duct Tape Forever, the lodge has ten days to pay $10,000 in fines as part of a Evil Plan by a developer to buy the land out from under them. Harold finds an ad for a duct tape sculpture contest in Minnesota, with pa third-place prize of $10,000.
- The Talented Clementine focuses on Clementine being convinced that she can't enter school's talent show because she has no talent that would fit such a show. She and her friend Margaret try desperately to find her a talent throughout the book. In the end, Clementine ends up serving as director of the show along with the school's principal when the teacher who's supposed to be doing it has to leave due to an emergency. It turns out that Clementine is very talented when it comes to knowing what's needed for the various acts and how to keep the show moving along smoothly.
- The Brady Bunch: "Amateur Night," where the kids enter a contest to raise money for an anniversary gift for Mike and Carol.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy, Willow, and Xander participate in a talent show, but only under duress.
- Scrubs: "My Life in Three Cameras," spoofs sitcom tropes. A cafeteria employee (played by Clay Aiken) is in danger of being laid off due to budget cuts, and, in JD's imaginary sitcom, he wins the hospital talent contest and earns the money they need to keep him. When the episode cuts back to the real world, though, he actually does get laid off.
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm: The Rangers enter a talent show, but the plot's not so much about the competition as the fact that Cam's being secretive about his act and the others want to know what his talent is. (Incidentally, it's guitar playing, which lines up nicely with the Instrument of Murder weapon they receive that episode.) In the end, all the Rangers' acts wind up losing to Marah and Kapri.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: "Opening Night at the Boar's Nest," the final episode begins with one of these. It figures heavily into the plot as Boss — playing the role of the disappearing lady — disappears for real when he is kidnapped and taken hostage by two revenge-seeking crooks who were sent to prison on his testimony, and magician Rosco thinks that it was because he made him disappear for real.
- Good Luck Charlie: Teddy rehearses a dance number with Spencer for the talent contest, but Spencer gets out of it by faking a broken angle when he finds out that Teddy is a bad dancer. Teddy then has Emmett be her new dancing partner...with disastrous results. [[note]] A Brick Joke in the episode what Emmett and PJ argue over which one of them will play the dummy in their suggested valentruism idea for the contest. After Emmett leaves PJ to dance with Teddy, PJ makes Charlie the dummy.
- Out of Jimmy's Head: One episode dealt with a Gong Show-like talent show, which Robin protests since she doesn't think talent shows should be competitive.
- Shake it Up has the episode "Talent It Up" in which Rocky tries to get back at a rival cheerleader who beats her in everything by winning against her and the entire cheerleading squad at the talent show.
- American Dragon: Jake Long has an episode where Jake had to try to beat his best friend Spud in a talent contest in order to secure the prize (a magical MacGuffin) despite it being Spud's lifelong dream to win the contest.
- The Kim Possible episode "Rappin' Drakken", where Dr. Drakken went on "American Starmaker" to promote his brainwashing shampoo and cranium rinse. Ron (filling in for Kim, who was fighting Shego backstage) did the Naked Mole Rap.
- South Park: "Erection Day" follows Jimmy trying to get rid of his erection before the school talent show is over.
- One is held in "Talent Show" on Timothy Goes to School. Timothy is assigned to be the Master of Ceremonies and when Grace gets hurt, she becomes his assistant.
- The Total Drama episode, "Not Quite Famous" features a talent show as the challenge.
- The Angry Birds Toons episode, "Pig Talent", has the King Pig host a talent show in his palace. No matter how much the audience like performances, if King Pig isn't impressed, contestants get dropped down a trap door.
- The The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "Battle of the Band" has Jimmy, Carl, and Sheen putting together a band for the school's talent contest using Jimmy's instruments that play songs just by thinking of the sounds. They aim to band together to outdo Cindy and Libby's river dance sequence, but things don't go exactly as planned.
- The Duck Dodgers episode "Talent Show A-Go-Go", in which the Martian Queen becomes The Chanteuse and Dodgers cheats by stealing Tom Jones's voice.