Follow TV Tropes


"Walk on the Wild Side" Episode

Go To

"Am I a good boy? Would a good boy do this? I am running with scissors! I’m going swimming right after lunch! … I’m going to pet dogs no matter where they’ve been. Look out world—Frasier Crane’s gonna raise some hell!"
Frasier, Cheers

In most sitcoms there is always the one character who is responsible and trustworthy. They are structured, neat and orderly and would never think of doing anything reckless or illegal. They might be a Control Freak but they don't have to be.

If this character exists in the series then 9 times out of 10 there's going to be an episode where one of the other characters tells them they need to "lighten up" or "cut loose". Our responsible character will start to worry that they are too boring and so will eventually get wild and spontaneous.

It's almost a given that they will go overboard and something akin to an inverse We Want Our Jerk Back! happens where the rest of the characters realise they do need some order and discipline in their lives, which the responsible one provided. They'll be back to being responsible by the end of the episode and they'll either reveal how much they hated being spontaneous or resolve to be a bit more fun without going overboard.

If it's the latter then expect this to be forgotten by the next episode. This will almost always happen to a female character but male examples aren't unheard of as well.


    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 
  • Our Own League:
    • Proper princess and responsible team leader Donna briefly becoming Circe the Sorceress's protégée Troia in Teen Titans: Witch-Hunt is treated as an extreme version of this trope. The chapter where the Titans first face Troia is aptly titled "Good Girl goes Bad".
    • It is revealed in Teen Titans: Race to the Start that Damian and his stepmother Selina regularly plan nights for him to dress up as Catwoman's sidekick Stray, and go indulging in theft and her morally flexible kind of vigilantism. As he puts it when his friends find out, "Once a month, I need a night to not be me."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used as a bit of a joke in the film of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where Hermione remarks that it's fun breaking the rules. It's worth noting that in the book, it is Hermione's idea to start up an illegal Defence Against the Dark Arts society which could technically count as an example of the trope.

  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Making Money has an example that gives a Shout-Out to the Twelfth Night example below: the austere and humorless bank clerk Mavolio Bent, a man who ran away from the circus to join a bank, suddenly re-asserts his destiny and heritage as a circus clown.
  • In the Labyrinths of Echo novella A Trip to Kettari, the resident Stoic Shurf consumes an otherworldly drug (specifically, marijuana) and gambles away all the funds he and Max were given for the mission in a single night. He deeply regrets the incident for years to come.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a two-part episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Disc Jockey Dr. Johnny Fever falls into an alter-ego (Rip Tide) a shallow host of a Disco-themed t.v. show. This provides him with more fame and a larger fanbase but it also causes him to give into his urge to exploit his fame to satisfy his basest desires.
  • In the Season two Episode A Many Splendored Thing of the show Homicide: Life on the Street, uptight detective Tim Bayliss investigates a murder that involved participants of an SM sex club. The end of the episode finds him (having been given a kinky-looking jacket as a gift) strolling along Baltimore's infamous sex strip "The Block".
  • Monica in Friends got two examples of this:
    • One was a minor subplot where the other friends suggest she not get so uptight about things like coasters and leaving her shoes out of her room. The end of that episode has a moment where she can't sleep because she's worrying about leaving the aforementioned shoes. She gets to considering putting them in her closet and getting up early to put them back out before she realises "you need help" and goes to sleep.
    • Another episode had someone stealing her credit card. When Monica tracked the woman down, she found said woman a lot of fun and started doing everything with her to the point where she was drunk in the middle of the day and kept missing work.
  • One episode of Full House has Danny, already Obsessively Organized when it comes to neatness, taking his cleaning habit up a notch, much to the chagrin of the rest of the family. They gather in D.J.'s room to commiserate and call Danny a "psycho with a dust mop"—a statement he inadvertently overhears as he was in the closet at the time. Danny thus decides to completely loosen up and become "Dirty Dan," and the family realizes they went too far with their griping.
    • Another episode has Michelle trying to break up a budding relationship between Danny and Gia's mother by donning biker clothes and asking her for a cigarette (keep in mind that she's about nine at the time). Danny understandably goes ballistic.
    • One of the minor story arcs in the first and second season was Jesse slowly realizing that he was losing his "wild" edge as he became more comfortable in a domestic environment. More than one episode had him trying to recapture that element by partying, dating, or performing dangerous stunts.
    • This was a recurring theme with Stephanie in the later seasons of the show, especially as she tried to develop a personality for herself independent of older sister D.J. and younger sister Michelle. Various episodes had her doing things like piercing her ears, being tempted to smoke cigarettes, playing a revenge prank, and going joyriding. While she inevitably learned her lesson about being true to herself at the end of each one, she did genuinely develop into more of an "alternative" teenager as time went by, especially as she bonded with Gia.
  • In What I Like About You, Jeff says to Val he wishes she was more spontaneous. She goes a bit wild during the episode but reveals at the end the whole experience "nearly killed me".
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Zelda temporarily moves in with Sabrina and her college roommates and decides to become a "hang-loose gal" which involves eating the entire contents of the fridge, spending all night at a rave, driving around in a van with a guy named Vick and trying to get a tattoo. In this case it's resolved by Zelda's subconscious stopping her from doing something untrue to herself.
  • In the Lizzie McGuire episode "Bad Girl McGuire", Lizzie bonds with a bad girl in detention and starts going bad herself until her friends convince her she's a good girl at heart with a terribly made documentary.
  • Party of Five:
    • In the third episode, straight-A student and bookworm Julia convinces her friend to start going to parties during the week. The friend eventually has enough and disappears from the show but Julia keeps on with this new lifestyle and her grades start slipping. Her brothers try to convince her to go back to her goodie-two-shoes persona but she eventually finds a balance.
    • Pops up as a joke in the second season where Charlie tells Kirsten she's a lot like her mother, prompting her to fret that she doesn't always make plans.
      Kirsten: You know what, I was supposed to call the man about the invitations today. And you know what? I didn't. (claps hands) What the hell!
  • Parodied in an episode of Scrubs where Elliott decides to go out on the town for the night. She steps out of a taxi and her hat is immediately stolen. She jumps right back into the taxi and screams "get me out of here".
  • Malcolm in the Middle has Malcolm turning his brain off for one episode in an attempt to get with a ditzy girl. It works fine until his mom catches them about to drink beer and make out on the football field, a situation where his brain would have come up with a way out of it.
  • In The Brothers García, Larry gets sick of being called a goodie two shoes and tries to throw a Wild Teen Party that predictably gets out of control.
  • Wings provided the "Joe Blows" two-parter. Part 1 sees Joe so overwhelmed by being taken advantage of or constantly annoyed from all sides. So after thirty-five years of being the most responsible person on Nantucket, he finally loses it, gives an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech and then steals Lowell's motorcycle to get away. By the time we catch up with him in Part 2, he's now partying and living it up in bars along the coast. He's basically become like Brian, who is now trying to keep the airline afloat and be the responsible brother.
  • The How I Met Your Mother episode "The Pineapple Incident" has the gang convince Ted to drink instead of think. He wakes up next morning with a sprained ankle, burned coat, several drunken messages on Robin's phone and a girl he's never met before in bed next to him. Oh, and a pineapple for which we never get an explanation.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
  • In Family Matters, the strait-laced Laura is peer-pressured by her two friends to sneak into a strip joint. And naturally, she's caught by her mother...who later admits to having done a similar thing in her own youth.
  • On New Girl, after Jess brings some furniture she found on the street home and Schmidt throws a hissy fit which culminates in destroying it, she insists its time for him to lighten up. Winston and Nick tell her its a bad idea to try to change him, but are too caught up in their own immature feud to stop her. Jess eventually does get him to unwind and he turns into a dirty, drum-circle-loving, crystal-necklace-wearing, slacker who no longer cleans up after everyone in the apartment, does all the shopping, or shows up to work. As the apartment starts to fall apart around them, Jess and the others have to stage an intervention and lure him back to acting like himself with some (literal) fancy-pants. After he's back to normal, he's a little less uptight and more accommodating (but not much).
  • Emma in H₂O: Just Add Water gets sick of being the responsible one and slacks off while her parents are away for the weekend. She eventually holds a Wild Teen Party and comes to her senses when her mother's crystal ornament is smashed.
    • A season earlier, she gets annoyed when Byron calls her "dependable" and decides to colour her hair. The one Cleo gives her is called "Scarlet Fever". Luckily she's only stuck with it in her mermaid form.
  • Good Luck Charlie: Teddy finding out her nickname at school is GG (goody-goody) She tries to show she can be bad by drinking milk out of the carton. She refuses to swallow it, however, and runs to the sink to spit it out. Later on, Teddy makes a more earnest effort at being bad by ditching school and going to Super Adventure Land. After taking down a theft ring at the park, Teddy realizes she just doesn't have it in her to be a bad girl and embraces her goody-good image.
  • Shake it Up: In one episode, Rocky is tired of her reputation as a perfect student and buzzkill and creates a 'bad girl' persona, including a leather jacket and different make-up.
  • The Kicks episode "Go Big or Go Home" involves Devin sneaking out with Mirabelle while the team is away at a tournament, contrary to her usual behavior.
  • An inversion happens in the Bosom Buddies episode "WaterBalloonGate": Kip, who likes pranks, drops a water balloon from the apartment window onto a passing car. Said car happens to belong to Richard Nixon... and one Secret Service visit later, Kip not only decides to cut out pranking but becomes decidedly humorless and anti-fun until his friends get him to snap out of it.
  • In Kim's Convenience, Janet starts to act rebellious when she feels she doesn't receive enough appreciation from her parents.
  • Victorious: The episode "The Gorilla Club" involved Tori auditioning for the part of a troubled girl in a movie. Her acting teacher tells her she's playing things too safe and needs to take risks. To do this, Tori begins engaging in risky behavior in order to take her out of her comfort zone.
  • Played for Drama in Smallville whenever Clark, ordinarily a Nice Guy (as one would expect from the future Superman), was exposed to red kryptonite. Unlike the physically-weakening green variant, red kryptonite affects Clark's moral compass, making him wild, selfish, and uninhibited. At first he simply gets mouthy and more sexually forward (as seen when he uses his X-ray vision to stare through girls' clothes), but the longer he is exposed to the rocks, the more dangerous he becomes, to the point of openly using his powers for financial gain and committing crimes.
  • One episode of The Real O'Neals has Kenny trying to impress his boyfriend Brett (who is far cooler and more athletic) by becoming a school-skipping "bad boy." As per usual, the Be Yourself Aesop kicks in, especially when Brett reveals that he likes Kenny's sweet, kind personality.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: In "What the Hey." Zack talks Cody into ditching school, and they head for the mall.
  • In Joan of Arcadia, Joan's geeky younger brother Luke enters a relationship with the Troubled, but Cute and Soapbox Sadie Grace. In one episode, Grace gives Luke a leather jacket, and he promptly starts acting like a 1950's greaser. Grace promptly lampshades how the jacket is affecting him.
    • Invoked by God in one episode when They (in the form of a suburban housewife) ask Joan to throw a Wild Teen Party while her parents are out.
  • In "Before and After," an episode of The Golden Girls, Rose is hospitalized due to an esophageal spasm brought on by overexertion. After recovering, she declares that she's going to "eat life" and not be such a goody-two-shoes any more, which prompts her to find a group of wilder friends and drive the other Girls crazy with her selfishness and partying. They eventually have a fight that ends with Rose moving out, only to discover that her new roommates aren't social and her new friends no longer want to spend time with her. A chastened Rose then returns to her True Companions and makes amends.

  • As old as William Shakespeare: in Twelfth Night, the rigid Puritan Malvolio lets it all hang out by dressing in flamboyant fashions meant for somebody twenty years younger and protests his love for his shocked female employer.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • There is an episode of X-Men: Evolution titled "Walk on the Wild Side" that plays with this trope. It involves all the X-girls and Boom-Boom forming a vigilante crime-fighting group, even Jean who is the responsible one. The Aesop of the episode is that fighting crime (with people willing and able to kill you and that can succeed if you're unprepared, mutant powers be damned) is not exactly the best place for a "You Go, Girl!" mentality.
  • Susie in All Grown Up! gets told she's too perfect by the popular girls and decides to go bad for the episode. Angelica of all people tells her to calm down.
  • In As Told by Ginger, Ginger gets fed up of being called a nice girl and crashes a high school party. This leads to a rumour getting started about her and a bad boy called Jake. When she starts getting bullied for being "fast", Ginger realises she preferred being known as a nice girl.
  • Big City Greens: "Big Trouble" sees Tilly getting grounded for the first time ever after she let her pet goat, Melissa, leave muddy hoofprints all over the house shortly after Bill cleaned it. Bill is used to doing this to Cricket, but for Tilly, there's a first time for everything. While Cricket decides to start being more well-behaved, Tilly decides to go bad and ropes her friend, Andromeda into it. Eventually, she goes back to being a good girl after shoplifting a Pez dispenser, and then returns it after being racked with guilt.
  • The Disney version of Doug has "Doug Cuts School", where Doug, convinced that girls like rebels, decides to skip school during an assembly and convinces Skeeter to go along for the ride with Vice-Principal Bone in hot pursuit. Their attempt turns out to be all for naught and the episode ends with Doug and Skeeter in detention.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In one episode, Squidward gets so fed up with Spongebob and Patrick's antics that he decides to move out into a gated community filled with other squids who share his interests. Inside, he finds that everyone else has a Easter Island head house, everyone else loves playing the clarinet, everyone else loves riding their paddlebikes, everyone else loves ballet dancing, and everyone else enjoys eating canned bread. He's thrilled at this, but soon gets bored of the same routine every day, to the point where he starts going out of control and just lets loose while playing around with a leaf blower. The other citizens filled a formal list of complaints, but Squidward tells them off by flying his leaf blower into the sky while screaming wildly.
    • In an earlier episode, Plankton wants to clear Goo Lagoon of people so he can build his new "Mega Bucket" restaurant. He recruits Spongebob to help him by claiming that he's helping him become more assertive, which gradually turns the cheerful sponge into a rotten one. Unlike most examples of this trope, Spongebob is initially aware that his actions are rude, but Plankton is able to convince him otherwise. In the end, Spongebob makes amends by proving that it's possible to Take a Third Option between being a selfish jerk and a spineless coward by being "aggressively nice" and helping others with their problems in a firm way.
  • Hey Arnold! had this happen to Eugene, of all people, when he learns that actor portraying his favorite TV superhero is in fact a massive jerk.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Katara decides to pull a scam with Toph to prove she can be fun. It backfires, horribly.
  • In The Simpsons:
    • This happens to Marge on many occasions, ranging from running from the law with her friend after stealing her ex's car in "Marge on the Lam", taking part in a monster truck rally in "Jaws Wired Shut", and gaining road rage from a Canyonero in "Marge Simpson in Screaming Yellow Honkers". Driving seems to be her recurring Berserk Button.
    • In "Separate Vocations", Lisa becomes a delinquent after getting "Homemaker" in an Inept Aptitude Test and being told that she'll never become a professional Jazz musician due to her stubby fingers. This culminates with her committing an expulsion worthy offense (stealing all of the teachers' guides) to which Bart takes the fall, not wanting her to ruin her life.
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series had two episodes like this, both centering on Rolly:
    • "Bad to the Bone" was about Rolly fooling Mooch and his gang into thinking he attacked Cydne the snake after being teased for being "soft", though he really only wrestled an empty snakeskin. After that, Mooch lets Rolly join his gang, and dubs him "Snake Stomper".
    • "Walk on the Wild Side" was about Rolly becoming a con artist under Swamp Rat's wing, after the other pups accuse him of being a "sucker".
  • One episode of Pepper Ann had Nikki trying to do this.
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Let Your Hare Down", Bloo finally gets Mr. Herriman to loosen up. The cast (except Bloo) quickly regrets this as the house descends into anarchy with Heriman's new hippie-like attitude to rules and life.
  • One Dexter's Laboratory short has Dee Dee getting one Get Out! yell too many from Dexter and firing back a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that affects Dexter so bad that makes him decide to look for more zen in life, asking Dee Dee to teach him. Unfortunately, when given the request to "go wild" on his laboratory (to show his "detachment from his earthly possessions" in the Zen way), he becomes such a demented savage that Dee Dee becomes seriously frightened and slaps some sense back into him, tearfully asking for forgiveness in trying to make Dexter something that he's not.
  • In the Rugrats episode "Rebel Without a Teddy Bear", after Tommy's favorite toy lion is taken away, Angelica convinces him to go bad in order to get it back. Tommy's first bad act is to throw his empty juice cup on the floor. He soon escalates to real mischief with some guidance from Angelica.
  • Steven Universe: In "Last One Out of Beach City" Pearl tries to act more rebellious, both to impress Steven and Amethyst and for her own sake (feeling that she's "lost her edge" since becoming a literal rebel). Pearl ends up leading the cops on a wild chase after running a red light to catch up with a "Mystery Girl" who caught her eye.
  • On Beetlejuice, sweet little Lydia goes through this but not of her own doing in "Dr. Beetle And Mr. Juice." After getting spritzed accidentally with Beetlejuice's perfume concoction, Lydia transforms into a prank-playing troublemaking biker and paints the Neitherworld red.
  • In the Martin Mystery episode "You Do Voodoo", after being mocked by Martin for her being excessively precise and stuck up, Diana puts on a black coat, army boots, sunglasses, and a black wig and turns into a rebellious and careless punk and passes the entire episode arriving late, chewing bubblegum and going full Agent Scully on the paranormal accidents of the day. Accidentally, this change of look is what manages to save the day: as the villain of the episode, who is a voodoo sorcerer, made the Diana doll based on her current look, taking off the coat and the wig is enough to free her from the spell.
  • Played with in the The Loud House episode "Snoop's On". In the episode, Lincoln, Leni, and Luan start reading Luna's secret diary and read stories about her becoming friends with a schoolmate named Roxy, who encourages her to do bad things like skipping school to go to the cinema, getting tattoos, and going into night clubs instead of studying for her finals. When reading that she is going to do riots and vandalism around town that night, the three of them go out to foil their plans. Then it turns out it was all a ruse: Luna made up all the stories because she overheard her siblings talking about reading her diary the first time they (albeit accidentally) did it and wanted to pressure them into confessing. Also, Roxy never existed, but Luna's girlfriend Sam posed as her for the final part of the plan.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Played for Drama — and even a bit of in-universe Nightmare Fuel — in "Never Fear." Scarecrow departs from his usual m.o. of bringing people's phobias to life and instead develops a new toxin that removes all fear from its targets. Unfortunately, this includes the basic fears in the human brain that fuel things like self-preservation, making victims become suicidally overconfident and willing to take horrible risks. When Batman himself is sprayed, he gets more reckless and violent with his opponents and nearly becomes the murderous Vigilante Man he's always desperately kept at bay within himself, forcing Robin to look for an antidote from Scarecrow.
  • Futurama: The "Anthology of Interest" episodes allow the characters to indulge in out-of-character behavior without affecting the status quo, via hypothetical scenarios from the What-If machine. In one, Leela asks to be more impulsive, and the machine shows her eventually going on a killing spree and murdering the rest of the crew. In another, it shows Bender becoming human, and he takes his already-hedonistic lifestyle to the extreme until it literally kills him.