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Taught by Television

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Some things you really shouldn't learn from Oprah. Especially misquoted Oprah.

"In the Mushroom Kingdom
I'm the finest Doc by far
I got my degree by watching
House and Scrubs and ER"
Brentalfloss, "Dr. Mario With Lyrics"

Some people learn by staring at text. Some people learn through trial and error. And then there are those who just have to watch television...

A character who you wouldn't normally expect to be a source of knowledge reveals, often in excruciating detail, important facts that help your group achieve their aims. Perhaps he can identify lethal plants in the the wild, or can tell an odd symptom of disease that throws light on a murder mystery. Everyone's impressed, but skeptical of where he gained this new-found logic.

Easy: he saw it on Discovery Channel once.

A common way to add information to a scene, while letting the designated idiot play The Smart Guy for a change. Plus it delivers the important message that watching TV is good. It's not always documentaries, of course, and they can still make mistakes if they copy near realistic TV shows, such as CSI, when they aren't as realistic as they appear.

Naturally, this is Truth in Television, in more ways than one. (Note, though, that there are many cases where Television Is Trying to Kill Us, so when in doubt, Don't Try This at Home.)

In the event that the character learned what they know from television through repeated viewings, see Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times. May sometimes stem from Endangering News Broadcast.

Compare Suddenly Always Knew That, Saw It in a Movie Once, I Know Mortal Kombat, Some Day This Will Come In Handy. See also ...Or So I Heard, when this doubles as a Suspiciously Specific Denial. Learnt English from Watching Television is a language-specific subtrope.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The second Aquaman featured in Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, Arthur Joseph Curry, lived in a tank for most of his life and learned about the world via TV.
  • Caballistics, Inc.: Invoked. When Miss Simmons asks if Lawrence Verse and Hannah Chapter have much experience in dealing with paranormal situations, Hannah snarks that they just play a lot of videogames.
  • In Creature Tech, after Dr. Ong gets an alien symbiont attached to him, he falls asleep watching an old kung-fu film—while the symbiont stays awake for the entire thing. The next time Ong finds himself in a fight, the symbiont takes control of his body and uses the moves from the film to open a can of kung-fu whoopass.
  • In an issue of Fantastic Four, the Invisible Woman gives the Wizard a pants-shittingly horrifying explanation of how easily she could kill him by using her force fields on his internal organs. When Johnny then asks how she knows so much about the heart despite not being a medical doctor, she shrugs and says she got all of it from watching Grey's Anatomy.
  • Taskmaster from Marvel has this as his superpower. He can copy any action perfectly simply by watching it once, even on recordings. He's learned the fighting styles of every major hero in the Marvel universe this way.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy's daughter Bonnie once teases him for watching a reality show about alligator hunters (obviously meant to be Swamp People). Shortly afterward, the villain Abner Kadaver traps Tracy with a hungry alligator... and Tracy knows exactly how to kill it, because of having watched the show.

    Fan Works 
  • In All Guardsmen Party, Doc (a medicae) is attempting to keep Space Marine Sergeant Gravis alive. He asks Tink (an unsanctioned mechanic) how he thinks is the best way to keep their big buddy alive. Tink suggests "harvesting his Seed and planting it in a Servitor." He, not being an Apothecary, learned about Geneseed and the practice of occasionally using genetically compatible but physically unfit slaves to culture a Marine's Super-Soldier bits by watching a Tau anime.
  • Calvin tries to invoke this in an unmade Calvin & Hobbes: The Series episode - he watches a bunch of cowboy movies to learn how to stand up to Moe. He ends up having a very cowboy-ish, episode-long Dream Sequence because of it.
  • Obviously the entire point of Everything I know, I learned from TV is that Xander has learned all sorts of useful skills from watching TV that later in life become important in some way. From saving the Council's budget with Extreme Couponing to defeating an unknown demon due to a chemistry lesson by Bill Nye.
  • Combined with I Know Mortal Kombat in The Fourth Council Race when humanity can easily shoot down turian fighters despite having none of their own because sci-fi movies and videogames have shown them every maneuver a fighter can possibly make.
    • The Volus ambassador mentions that when encountering a new race, he prefers to watch their entertainment, citing that it teaches far more about a race than a dry analysis. He uses Murder on the Orient Express to make Admiral Arterius understand why humanity won't accept him being shamed as punishment enough for the thousands dead by his actions.
  • Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past: During one of their martial arts training routines, Luna manages to surprise Harry a couple of times with Drunken Master moves. When Harry asks her later about them, she replies she learned from watching the neighbors' TV. Harry tries to gently tell her that TV isn't a real source, but Hermione informs him that Drunken Monkey Kung Fu is a real style, so they just get her some more learning materials.
  • In Hogyoku ex Machina, Ishida lists off several medications for tuberculosis off the top of his head. When everyone turns and looks at him funny, he says he learned them from an episode of House.
  • Deconstructed in The Karma of Lies. Adrien Agreste believes that life works much like it does in his favorite series — namely, that everything revolves around 'good guys' like him; therefore, everything he does is automatically right and he can expect things to work out precisely the way he wants. It certainly doesn't help that, thanks to his family's wealth, he's largely shielded from there being any long-term consequences to his actions... until his Karma Houdini Warranty runs out. Yet Adrien is so deeply entrenched in his ways that he simply can't conceive of the world not giving him everything he wants, no matter how much things blow up in his face.
    • Played straight with Lila, who is noted to watch and read every piece of media about cons and con artists that she can get her hands on, including nonfiction biographies of famous con artists. She's used these works to learn some tricks which help her pull off her petty grifts as well as a major theft from Adrien.
  • The idea came from TV, at least, in The Secret Return of Alex Mack. After watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, eight-year-old Shar asks if she can learn firebending. Since martial arts would be a lot less dangerous than her natural fire abilities, her various caregivers think it's a good idea. From that point onward, she always refers to her powers as firebending.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alien Siege, the hero puts his jacket on a dead mook and props him up, then ambushes the villain when he attacks the decoy. The hero comments he learned it from an action movie.
  • At multiple points in Big Trouble, one of the two FBI agents comes up with totally obscure information about the topic at hand. When everyone else in the scene looks at him in amazement, he shrugs and says either "Discovery Channel" or "Travel Channel". Justified because it was implied that the agents spent a lot of time in hotel rooms with nothing else to do except watch television.
  • Bulletproof Monk: the sidekick learned martial arts by working at a theater and imitating the moves he watched in old kung fu flicks.
  • Perhaps a more literal example: Jim Carrey's character in The Cable Guy is a man whose mother was a prostitute who was never around to teach him anything, and as a result he learned everything he ever knew from television in general (and sitcoms in particular). The plot revolves around his brutally extreme measures to keep his life working exactly as he thinks it should be, following literal TV Tropes, even at the expense of others' safety and privacy.
  • In Chocolate, an autistic girl has a Disability Superpower allowing her to flawlessly imitate any movements she observes. She becomes an invincible fighter from watching action films.
  • In Cold Pursuit, Nels explains to his brother Brock—who is a former hitman—that he has been wrapping the bodies in chicken wire before dumping them in the gorge because the wire weighs the bodies down so they sink, but allows the fish access to the body to nibble at it. This prevents gasses from building up and causing the body to bloat and float to the surface. Brock asks him where he learned all of this, and Nels says he watches a lot of crime shows.
  • In Days of Thunder, Cole Trickle admits to learning how to drive stock cars from TV.
    Harry Hogge: What do you know about stock car racing?
    Cole Trickle: Well... watched it on television, of course.
    Harry Hogge: You've seen it on television?
    Cole Trickle: ESPN. The coverage is excellent. You'd be surprised at how much you can pick up.
    Harry Hogge: I'm sure I would.
  • Dude, Where's My Car?:
    • The pair is saved from the mad French Ostrich farmer because Chester saw a documentary on ostriches on Animal Planet. The question the farmer asked was a homage to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
    • Later, Chester's knowledge comes in handy again in the climax when they need to push a tiny button on the Continuum Transfunctioner. Remembering a documentary on how chimps use sticks as tools gives him the idea to use a straw to push the button.
  • The titular alien in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial learns English from watching television while Mary is working and the kids are at school.
  • In Explorers the aliens have learned English from watching Earth's television satellites.
  • An inversion forms the basic plot of Galaxy Quest: aliens intercepted the broadcast signal for a really cheesy sci-fi TV show, thought it was real, and based their (actually real) military on this "documentary." Also played straight when the fans save the day with their knowledge of the show.
  • In Hansel and Gretel, the question is asked as to how Hansel knows how to pick locks and set sling traps? Answer, he watches too much TV.
  • In The Incredible Hulk (2008), Bruce Banner studies Portuguese by watching the local version of Sesame Street with a Portuguese/English Dictionary in his lap, in addition to making a living working in Brazil. This is fairly common for learners of a new language: children's shows and books are often designed to teach kids language skills and have simplified dialogue, making them good practice material for an adult beginner in the language.
  • In Lone Star State of Mind, Earl and Jimbo watch an action movie where the hero throws an object up and rushes his opponents when they look up. Later, they imitate this trick.
  • In Marmoulak, Reza learns how to pretend to be a mullah from watching TV preachers, who range from The Fundamentalist to discussing the theology of the filmography of Quentin Tarantino.
  • In Miracle Run, Steven and Phillip are sent to the principal's office for punching two bullies who were picking on a girl Steven likes. When the principal asks where they learned to punch like that, the brothers chorus "Rocky III!"
  • Oldboy.
    Dae-Su Oh: The TV is both a clock and a calendar. It's your school, your home, your church, your friend... and your lover. But... my lover's song is too short.
  • Splash: Madison learns to speak English after watching television for a whole day.
  • Thelma & Louise: "Where'd you learn to shoot like that?" "Oh, off the TV!"
  • In X-Men: Apocalypse, Apocalypse learns through touching a television set, learning English in a few seconds.
  • In The Young Poisoner's Handbook, the protagonist discovers the properties of thallium as a poison by reading about it in a comic book.

  • The Angel Experiment explains how the protagonists can function normally in a human society after spending their childhood being treated like animals - to the point of sleeping in dog crates - by... saying that they watched a lot of TV in the two years since they escaped the laboratory where they were imprisoned.
  • Animorphs:
    • There was a book where Rachel knows something about volcanoes. Everyone stares, and she explains that she saw an episode of The Magic School Bus. She was somewhat embarrassed about that.
    • And then there was the time Marco drove a tank... using his Playstation experience. And knew he could drive off a flatbed car onto the (raised) ground alongside the tracks because he saw it on the Discovery channel. Lampshaded by Tobias: "Ah. Video games and cable. How reassuring." To be fair, his skill at driving is about as good as you'd expect someone taught by video games to be.
      "Do you just hate trash cans?!"
  • The Berenstain Bears Big Chapter Books: In The Berenstain Bears and the Bermuda Triangle, when Cousin Fred shows off the Writing Indentation Clue method (which helps the cubs learn what Bermuda McBear was up to), he explains that he learned it from a Bearlock Holmes movie.
  • Jack from The Coral Island reads a lot of adventure novels, which helps him identify some of the plants and animals on the Deserted Island.
  • A rather hilarious Older Than Radio example in Frankenstein: The creature learns to speak English by sitting outside the tent of a Frenchman who's trying to teach English to his Arabic-speaking girlfriend. By reading Paradise Lost.
  • The Golden Hamster Saga: At the pet store, Freddy learns tricks like waving his paw and begging by watching a wildlife film on the store's TV in order to charm potential buyers.
  • In Petals on the Wind, the sequel to Flowers in the Attic, Cathy learns French from records while she's living and ballet-dancing in Paris.
  • Peter Grant from the Rivers of London series has a tendency to cite some obscure historical factoid that sounds like it came from one of the Folly's vintage books on folklore or magical theory, only to attribute his knowledge to having seen it on Doctor Who or read it off a placard when he was guarding a crime scene and bored out of his mind.
  • In the Temps story, Someone To Watch Over Me, two paranorms who have been sent to investigate a poltergeist on the London Underground bond over their love of old horror movies. When they do encounter the poltergeist, they grab a container of salt from a passing shopper and uses it to create a ring, trapping the entity. When discussing this with Gentleman Wizard Loric, who is surprised they realised this without knowing what a poltergeist actually is, they say it worked for Lyle Talbot in The Vampire's Tomb. They then decide to catch a movie together, because "you never know when it might come in handy".
  • Subverted in the first storyline of Please Don't Feed the Vampire!, which have you accidentally turning yourself into a vampire after drinking tainted blood. Your friend Gabe suggests you can research vampires by watching horror films, only for you to lose yourself the moment you see a movie vampire drinking blood, at which point you nearly broke down your door in panic.
  • Taylor from the Wild Orchid series has learned some of her social skills from the plays of Harold Pinter, like answering a question with another question when she isn't sure how to answer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team: In "A Small And Deadly War" Face mentions that he learned most of his best cons from Dragnet.
  • One episode of The Big Bang Theory has Sheldon threaten Howard with a throwing star (Shuriken), claiming he had learned how to use it from watching movies.
  • Castle explains he can speak Chinese because of a TV show he used to love.
  • Subverted hilariously in the Cousin Skeeter TV movie New Kids on the Planet, where Skeeter tries to show off his "Kung Fu Skills" from watching tons of martial films to aliens. The aliens then pulled an Indiana Jones, and just shot near him. Skeeter surrenders immediately.
    • However, Bobby did manage to fly a NASA rocket ship thanks to a flight simulator video game.
  • Nick Stokes in CSI complains that when Grissom talks about insects, he's a genius, but when Nick mentions an obscure fact about birds, everybody assumes he got it from the Discovery channel... even though Grissom is an entomologist while Nick really did get his information from TV.
  • Casey Jones from Decoy knows the basics of Vincent van Gogh's life story because she saw a movie about him. It's enough to get her assigned to a case involving an art forger.
  • In an episode of Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe rattled off some trivial knowledge about farm animals, then pointed to his temple and said "Discovery Channel." Clearly, even Discovery Channel hosts can learn from the Discovery Channel.
  • Keith Miller from EastEnders embodies this trope. This is a case of the actor adding a little of themselves to their character. David Spinx is well known to compete in Pub Quizzes at his local, so naturally his head will be filled with random knowledge.
  • Forensic Files: In “Grave Danger”, the perpetrators of a Faking the Dead scheme said that their plan was inspired by watching crime shows such as Law & Order and CSI. As pointed out by an investigator in the episode, they failed to realize that criminals on crime shows get caught by the end.
  • In Friends, Joey knew how to deal with a jellyfish sting (you pee on it) because he saw it on the Discovery Channel. This is an example of such information being wrong (whether on the part of Discovery Channel or Friends). Urine actually makes jellyfish stings worse.
  • Rose on The Golden Girls stuns everyone by correctly answering a Trivial Pursuit question about Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik." She explains that she learned it from watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.
  • A character on Heroes actually had this as her power — anything she saw on TV, she would instantly be able to do perfectly. For that matter, anything she saw, period. TV was just the easiest way to get relevant skill sets, since you don't see a lot of kung fu, parkour, and wrestling being practiced in the slums.
  • In the House episode "Frozen", Kal Penn's character explains his knowledge of Antarctic ice-breaking equipment this way.
  • Sawyer from Lost claimed that anyone who watches TV knows how to improvise a slow fuse with a cigarette.
  • In Masked Rider, Albee and Molly tell Dex to learn how to talk like a human from watching television- which he does all night. The trope ends up being subverted-Dex instead memorises tv commercials!
  • In My Family, a Charity store owner identifies a highly valuable teddy bear because "we all watch Antiques road show".
  • In one episode of My Name Is Earl, years of watching The Jerry Springer Show has made Joy a better fighter than a woman who spent years training in hand to hand combat.
  • Ned the piemaker from Pushing Daisies is capable of competently fending off a skilled swordsman due to his childhood desire to be a Jedi.
  • Scrubs:
    • There was an episode where J.D. diagnosed a patient with Necrotizing Fasciitis based on a documentary he'd seen the night before. Cox mocked him, but he turned out to be right.
    • In another episode, Cox gets annoyed with the new interns for getting their information from House. See the Real Life section.
  • In Resident Alien, "Harry Vanderspeigle" learns English by watching Law & Order, which causes him to use the police-type responses. Later, to cover being a doctor (the real Harry's profession), he uses the Internet.
  • WandaVision: Wanda and Pietro learned English by watching old American sitcoms. While watching foreign television is a legitimate technique for learning new languages, it also explains a lot about Wanda and Vision's life in Westview.

  • David Byrne described how he himself used to use TV as a means of learning more about the world around him so he could connect to it more readily. Two of his songs are based on this past habit: "Make Believe Mambo" (from his solo debut Rei Momo), about a man whose entire personality is constructed from TV characters, and the more overtly autobiographical and appropriately-titled "I Should Watch TV" (from his St. Vincent collaboration, Love This Giant).
  • The bridge of Smile Empty Soul's song "Nowhere Kids" alludes to this as a form of Parental Neglect.
    "And what did you expect
    A perfect child
    Raised by TV sets
    Abandoned every mile."

  • In Fangirls, Edna teaches herself how to steal cars and how to drive by watching Youtube videos. Every other character who learns of this agrees that this is both impressive and insane.

    Video Games 
  • Invoked with the detective school application in Kingdom of Loathing. The flyer promises to make you a detective with "only seven 73-minute courses" which it means DVDs of the first season of Columbo. This being a comedy game, it actually works, or at least well enough that you're soon recruited into the local precinct police and tasked with solving actual murders.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The krogan in Andromeda try to figure out this whole "courting" thing from watching various movies. This includes things like the Blasto movies ("notice how Blasto's partner did not eviscerate him for sleeping with his sister") or Asari Confessions no. 26 ("couldn't hurt.")
  • Travis Touchdown in No More Heroes learns new wrestling moves by watching old videos.
  • In World Mosaics 4 the main character went back to various time periods to acquire exhibits for the Atlantis museum. One of the diary entries concerning a totem pole stated that the villagers were pressing them to earn their keep and that it looked like all those years spent watching the Discovery Channel were finally about to pay off.
  • In Project Zomboid, TV programs are a handy source of knowledge and experience in the early days, until the power gets cut and the broadcasts go out. There are mods that add those programs as VHS tapes that you can loot and watch later on TVs with built-in VCR.
  • In Stardew Valley, the PC can learn new cooking recipes from the cooking channel. Additionally, the player can get tip-of-the-day hints from the show, "Livin' Off The Land."
  • Milla of Tales of Xillia learned everything she knows about human interaction from books, and often applies it amusingly out of context. Such as noticing Jude (whom she's known for maybe twenty minutes) feeling depressed and hugging him uninvited, something she learned from a book she didn't realize was about motherhood (although Jude does admit he feels a little better).

    Web Animation 

  • In Homestuck, Karkat's interest in romantic comedy films earns him some mockery from his friends, but also gives him insight into troll psychology and romance that none of his peers could match. When other trolls need advice regarding their love life, Karkat is almost invariably the one they go to.
  • Subverted in Melonpool: at one point the crew encounter a giant space amoeba. At first they relax, thinking Mayberry knows what to do, since he is a Star Trek fanatic and can simply do what the Enterprise crew did when they encountered such an amoeba in "The Immunity Syndrome". However, one of the comic's running gags is the fact that Mayberry has seen all episodes of the Original Series EXCEPT "the one with the giant space amoeba", and is eternally prevented from completing his education.
  • Ménage à 3 parodies the trope, and its spinoff Sticky Dilly Buns repeats and reinforces the parody; lead character Dillon gets some of his ideas about straight men and gay sex third-hand from Oprah. Misquoted Oprah, to be fair to her.
  • The Whiteboard: Sandy, who had no prior experience with paintballing, is shown repairing a marker at Doc's shop after months of reading the shop's e-mail, and says she figures she could probably build a whole nuclear reactor because of that experience.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, Roger wants to become a police officer: "Do you know how many Police Academy movies I watched in preparation for this? NONE, because I knew it would only give me bad habits!"
    • When the Smiths are stranded in a desert. Stan uses their urine soaked clothing to wear on their heads because he saw it on Man vs. Wild. Shortly, their heads are freezing at night. Stan gets them to huddle together for warmth which he also saw on Man Vs Wild.
  • Polly from Amphibia has learned fluent (or near-fluent) Thai by bingewatching Thai romcoms. Anne, who is Thai-American, lives with two native speakers and has been getting lessons her entire life, can barely string a sentence together.
  • A variation of this is used in Duck Dodgers episode "The Queen is Wild", wherein Dodgers claims to have "learned all [his] hard sciences from reading comic books". The scary thing: His idea worked.
  • On The Fairly Oddparents, Poof learns kung fu from television.
    • In the storybook Time Out!, Timmy is able to answer a teeth-themed riddle thanks to his favorite episode of a TV show he watches.
  • In an episode of The Flintstones, when Fred fakes an injury, the doctor diagnosing him has no idea what he's doing, admitting that he "saw a doctor do it on a TV show once."
    "I got to hurry now."
    "What is it, Doctor? An emergency?"
    "What emergency? I got to go home and watch TV."
  • Futurama:
    • In one episode, the shrunken-down cast flies through Fry's nose. Dr. Zoidberg points out a nasal capillary they can fly through, and Hermes asks how he knew about that, as Zoidberg generally knows nothing of human anatomy. Zoidberg mentions his medical training, but then admits that this he learned from a commercial for allergy medicine.
    • Fry has several moments where he tries to solve problems based on something that he watched on TV. He tries to figure out how to fake being the boyfriend of Amy and Leela at the same time by watching Three's Company and uses TV clichés in the reenactment of the last episode of Single Female Lawyer to prevent aliens from destroying mankind because they couldn't watch said episode.
    • Another episode involving Fry joining the police force has this exchange after he flies off a while in the midst of a TRON-esque car chase.
    URL: Whoa! Where'd my man learn that?
    Fry: Sunny D commercial.
  • Averted in the pilot episode of Pinky and the Brain, "Win Big". The Brain realizes too late that Pinky had the answer to a TV trivia question he needs to win a game show, after he has already knocked Pinky out for being annoying. Which is, of course, a reference to The Honeymooners.
    • Played straight in another episode where the two find themselves on an alien ship. Pinky knows how to pilot it due to it being identical to the one shown in "The Z-Files", which Brain had earlier berated Pinky for wasting time with.
  • In one episode of Recess, Vince's only experience with golf is having watched it on TV, and yet he's able to play proficiently the first time he tries. He even teaches Principal Prickly how to play better based only on what he saw on TV.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Summer of 4-Foot-2", while on vacation Lisa pretends to be average since being brainy left her with no friends; when she accidentally mentions a scientific fact about hermit crabs around her new friends, she quickly passes is off by saying she heard it on Baywatch.
    • Bart hides from a Shelbyville gang in the tiger-handler area of the zoo (It Makes Sense in Context) and finds a note that the only way out (i.e. without any tigers) is door number 7, only the doors are labeled with roman numerals, which Bart doesn't know. Until he remembers the Rocky sequels and pieces it together just in time. The real joke there, though, was that they had studied roman numerals in his class, that same day (a.k.a. earlier in the episode), but he didn't pay attention.
    • Dr. Nick Riviera, Springfield's leading quack, tries to perform open heart surgery on Homer guided by a videotaped TV show. Of course, something went wrong when setting the recorder...
    • Bart was once caught shoplifting and Homer was disappointed Bart wouldn't have known better after watching the Police Academy movies.
    • Homer in "Homer Goes to College" decides to do research for college life before going by watching comedy movies about Wacky Fratboy Hijinks. Needless to say, the actual college is nothing like what Homer expected, but he doesn't learn this easily.
    • Lionel Hutz in one episode tells Homer not to worry about their upcoming legal battle, because he saw an episode of Matlock in a bar the prior night. "The sound wasn't on, but I think I got the gist of it."
    • In "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife", Apu claims to have learned English from watching porno movies.
  • South Park: When Hell's Pass Hospital was understaffed, Chef was accepted as a replacement just because he once watched an episode of Quincy, M.E.
  • Star Trek: Prodigy: In "All the World's a Stage", the Enderprizians are a Cargo Cult created when an ensign from the original Enterprise crash-landed on the planet and taught the natives about Starfleet and the Federation. When they need help rescuing some crewmembers, Dal realizes he can use the Enderprizians as substitutes. However, they are unfamiliar with the Protostar's bridge controls. Luckily, Janeway can create holographic consoles of a Constitution-class starship that overlay the real ones, allowing the Enderprizians to use what they've learned from watching the video logs to fly the ship.
  • During the episode "The Ci-Kat-A" on SWAT Kats, Razor seemed to know exactly what the alien bug monster was going to eat and where it was going to go. When T-Bone asked him how he knew all that stuff, Razor replied: "Horror movies, where else?"
  • In the first episode of the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, April O'Neil is unsure about letting her new Turtle friends up to the surface with her. The Turtles assure her that they knew all about human culture. When April asks what they learned from, Michelangelo responds, "We watch a lot of TV." "We're in big trouble!" April moans.
  • Transformers: Prime: When the Terrorcons start overrunning the Nemesis, Knockout tells Starscream that you need to shoot such creatures in the head, because that's what happens in Earth horror movies. Starscream tries this to no effect, then counters that they need to be shot in the Spark.

    Real Life 
  • CPR was a fairly rare skill set and not commonly taught to the general public until emergency workers started seeing it being used in the 1970s by civilians (mostly wrong, but they had the basic concept) with no training. They'd seen it being used, and knew what it was for, on Emergency!
  • Medical students often learn a lot about diagnosing patients by watching House. To the show's credit, it raises awareness about rare conditions that are often under-diagnosed or missed by younger doctors who have no personal experience with that particular condition. The show has also helped raise Lupus awareness, which is good news for Lupus patients in general. The form of diagnosis that House employs is sound. Med students would learn to watch for little details, not to take everything a patient says at face value, and to consider symptoms that might not be seen as symptoms. All of this is a good thing if it helps prevent someone from being misdiagnosed.
    • Although some doctors blame the show (along with others like Grey's Anatomy) for making new doctors immediately jump to obscure and deadly diseases before ruling out the more obvious options first and spooking the patients (and wasting resources on expensive and time-consuming tests to confirm). But a few good snarks from the attending doctor usually takes care of that.
      • What they forget about House is that he specializes in rare and unusual diagnostics, so for him to even see the patient means that the obvious and most likely have already been eliminated as options.
    • It went through German press: A doctor had seen the episode with the thallium poisoning the day before and thus immediately recognized it. Since the symptoms are so strange, the patient surely would have died otherwise.
  • One teaching doctor would record episodes of CASUAL+Y, label them by injury and use the make-up work to show his students what the injuries looked like.
  • Ken Jennings, who won 75 games of Jeopardy! in 2004, admitted on Television Without Pity that he'd correctly answered a question about the Olmecs thanks to an episode of The Simpsons.
  • A mother reportedly saved herself and her son after their car dove into the drink by following the advice she saw on Mythbusters. As of the "Turning Turtle" revisit, Adam has mentioned at least four people who've contacted the Mythbusters to credit that same episode with helping them in similar circumstances.
  • An 8-year old kid saved his 5-year old neighbor from drowning in a nearby lake using lifeguard swimming moves he saw on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.
  • From 1989 to 1996, Rescue 911 was responsible for having many lives saved by people who saw the show. In fact, the show aired two episodes, called "100 Lives Saved" and "200 Lives Saved," showcasing stories of people who saved lives thanks to what they saw on Rescue 911.
  • Episode 5 of Season 6 of Canada's Worst Driver had a guest appearance by a viewer who escaped a dangerous situation using the Swerve-and-Avoid technique taught on the show.
  • On at least one occasion, a elementary-school child has saved a friend by using the Heimlich Maneuver. Which they learned, it should be noted, by watching The Simpsons.
  • This is supposed to be the purpose of Baby Einstein videos. Although, at least one study showed that they had the opposite effect.
    • In the case of babies, this is thought to be because at that age, babies learn much more by exploring their environments, developing motor skill, spatial awareness, emotional awareness (from interacting with others as opposed to staring at a TV screen) figuring out what things feel, smell and taste like, and so on. For a baby, there's far more to be learned just playing with you in the living room than any video can teach. When they get that stuff figured out, then TV can potentially contribute.
  • Beginning in the Nineties, school systems in America began to really tighten in on Math and Sciences, usually coming at the expense of other subjects. For a lot of kids, their only really in-depth knowledge of History, Geography, and the arts likely came from an Edutainment Show such as Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego or The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
  • It's very common for people to learn a foreign language by watching television.
  • For Sesame Street and shows like it, this is the Raison d'être: educating young children through public television.
  • The MythBusters and their spiritual predecessor Bill Nye the Science Guy, along with similar shows, have probably succeeded in teaching the last 20-odd years' worth of young people more about science than 12 years (give or take) of school ever did.
  • Though sport programs like WWE and UFC have told the audience never to try the stunts at home due to the dangers and the people behind are trained, this rule does get discarded which can end in disaster. On a more practical side, a number of the moves, particularly the submission holds, are based on real-life wrestling maneuvers, and therefore can be used practically in a self-defense scenario.
  • In at least two recorded cases, thallium poisoning was diagnosed thanks to Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse.
  • On an episode of Food Network's Cooks vs. Cons, the premise is that two professional cooks and two amateur cooks ("cons") go head to head in a cooking competition, with none of the hosts knowing which is which. One of the "cons" (a radiologist) beat the other amateur cook and the pro chefs, and completely fooled the celebrity chefs into thinking he was a professional. When they asked where he learned all those advanced cooking techniques? He shrugged and said "Food Network."
  • A meme making the rounds first shows a picture of several Muppets on Sesame Street with the caption "As a child, Sesame Street taught me the values of education, empathy and kindness," followed by a still shot from the Bugs Bunny cartoon "High Diving Hare" of Bugs handing Yosemite Sam an anvil with the caption "But Bugs Bunny taught me that revenge against my enemies must be quick, clever and brutal."
  • Brothers Brian and Andy Le, who run the MartialClub YouTube channel together, never took martial arts lessons, only watched old Hong Kong movies. When they got a chance to work with one of their idols Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once, she said they knew everything she could do and were making her "go down memory lane" by doing the same moves from earlier in her career.
  • One woman's life was saved when a bystander was able to perform CPR, despite having no training, using the technique he'd picked up from an episode of "The Office."
  • One of the famous stunts by special forces commander Larry Dring during the Vietnam War was organizing a private 'invasion' of a beach where some VC would take occasional pot-shots at a passing Navy vessel. When hauled up before his CO to explain, Dring could only reply, "Well sir, I once saw a movie about World War 2." You can read the story here (Story #1, pages 6-8).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Taught By TV


Polly speaks Thai

Polly begins speaking Thai on account of watching Thai romcoms.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (21 votes)

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Main / TaughtByTelevision

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