Follow TV Tropes


Mood Whiplash / Live-Action TV

Go To

    open/close all folders 
  • At the end of the second-season premiere of 2 Broke Girls, where we finally met Caroline's imprisoned father Martin (always off-camera during the first season), Caroline, who up to then had been the doting Daddy's Girl, realizes that she has been a victim of his malfeasance too, and rather coldly cuts the visit short without saying anything to him.
  • Frequently done in 2point4 Children, most dramatically the penultimate episode of season 4, in which Ben, David and Jenny win Jenny's school talent show with a triumphent version of "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", and then their house burns down.

  • The Addams Family has "Cousin Itt and the Vocational Counselor", an episode in which Cousin Itt wants a job, so Gomez and Morticia, who are a Happily Married couple, try to train him to be a marriage counselor by pretending to be a bickering couple. Hilarity Ensues when Gomez keeps forgetting he's meant to be mad...but then it goes away when Morticia worries he might be serious. He reassures her he's not, but, and this is somewhat out of character for Morticia, she isn't convinced. She even makes him sleep in the living room.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (a.k.a. Russian Holmes) contains a rare inverse example of Mood Whiplash, sad to hilarious. In "Hunt for the Tiger" (based on "The Empty House") Watson and Mrs. Hudson enter Holmes' room, for the first time since his death, to the soft strains of a violin. Watson finds Holmes' violin, looks at it with a heartbroken expression and begins to play. Badly. After a few seconds the Background Music rockets to a crescendo and drowns him out.
  • All in the Family: Many episodes did this, shifting from drama to comedy. A couple of examples:
    • One of the best to do this was Season 3's "Archie Gets Branded", where a mission to determine who painted a swastika on the Bunkers' front door. As the story unfolds to reveal that a neighbor was targeted and a Jewish activist urges "violence for violence", the mood shifts from side-splitting comedy to high drama and each side passionately arguing their point, back to a sigh of relief and light comedy ... to an unbelievable climax that will stun even series protagonist, the unflappable Archie.
    • "Edith's 50th Birthday": Much of the first half of the act sees a frightened Edith try to fight off her rapist, who by his actions is very experienced and is hep to every trick in the book; this is divided by light sighs of relief as, to help set up one of the most harrowing scenes — a shaken Edith warned to get rid of Archie when he has to come to the house to get a punch bowl — Archie and Mike get into one of their squabbles and cause another punch bowl to get broken and point fingers. Finally, the audience feels triumph when Edith finally gets rid of her attacker; he wasn't counting on a burning cake being flung into his face! Later, the audience is put in Edith's shoes, as she is petrified to even function normally, shaken from her ordeal and unable to begin to cope, and only when Gloria threatens her with disowning her and calling her selfish, and Edith slapping her in the face does she realize she needs to find a way to triumph over her attacker ... by going to the police station to identify him and put him away forever.
  • In Season 6 of The Amazing Race, Gus broke down crying at the Gate of No Return in Senegal where slaves were sent to the New World. He said that it was the only time in his adult life that he had cried. The next cut was to Kendra.
  • The '90s series American Gothic had a number of scenes with this, but one of the most outstanding is the episode "Learning to Crawl", which opens with an unusually cheerful scene of Caleb and Ben joking while Caleb helps clean the sheriff's office... then, in the middle of a line, 10-year-old Caleb gets nearly electrocuted in a sudden and random accident.
  • An episode of America's Got Talent featuring 6-year-old Aaralyn and her 9-year-old brother Issaiah. The entire intro plays them as an extremely cutesy brother-sister duo... and then they start singing their song, "Zombie Skin", a death metal ballad featuring Aaralyn screaming her lungs out. The looks on the judges' and audience's faces make it clear they were NOT expecting that.
  • Done rather tastelessly in an episode of America's Most Wanted. In the re-enactment, a desperate fugitive looking for shelter runs into an unlocked house to find two rednecks. They chase him out with baseball bats while banjo music plays and John Walsh wryly notes, "They weren't in the mood for company." Then the next unlocked house he goes to has an old lady who he brutally murders.
  • Andor: In "Announcement" the episode cuts from Dedra receiving what sounds like a threat from her boss to a sunny beach resort and a gratuitously shirtless Cassian in a hotel room with his latest girlfriend, whom he clearly bedded the previous night.
  • The Aquabats! Super Show! episode "Showtime!" begins with the team trying to get their big break. When the team hears about something happening in the downtown area, they go check it out. On arrival, they witness a little girl fall into the clutches of aliens. The team and some other allies plan to stop them until SuperMagic PowerMan and Lanolin Lady show up, defeating the aliens and stealing the Aquabats' chance at fame. The episode maintains a light-hearted feel up to that point, when the little girl that was rescued uses SuperMagic PowerMan's headband to vaporize the superhero couple, and transforms into Space Monster M, who proceeds to terrorize a nearby city in his mecha form. Suddenly the plan no longer becomes to save the world to get fame, but because peoples' lives are at stake. It is here that the Aquabats, especially the MC Bat Commander who's been the occasional Idiot Hero, get their act together and outsmart Space Monster M, while the audience learns that the team is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
    • 'Arrow: In Season 3 Episode 9 "The Climb", Oliver must face Ra's Al Ghul in a duel to the death using swords. The fight begins with Ra's unarmed while Oliver has two blades. Ra's dominates the fight, taking one of Oliver's blades during the battle. Oliver seems outmatched when music of worry starts to play as our hero is held to a standstill at the end of a sword at around 40:43... suddenly at 40:48 Oliver uses his remaining sword to parry Ra's blade and mount an offensive. The music of concern gives way to optimistic music. Oliver is mounting his comeback and the song has almost gone full-on Arrow theme music.... which is abruptly stopped when at 40:53 Ra's uses his bare hand to stop Oliver's sword mid-swing. Ra's punches him in the throat, slices his abdomen, monologues, stabs him through the chest, and kicks him off the side of a mountain. Oliver dies from his injuries.
  • An episode of Arvingerne's first season includes an ecstatic celebration after a handball match, accompanied by a rousing electronic soundtrack, in stark contrast to the entire series up to that point. It then abruptly cuts to bored goth girl Hannah listening to her MP3 player, the sound inaudible to us.
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008) has a lot of this. The season 1 finale, in particular, goes from farcical to heartwarming to OH SHIT in the space of about fifteen minutes.

  • Babylon 5 has a lot of this. J. Michael Straczynski has gone on record saying something to the effect of "I just love giving viewers a nice, happy scene, and them slamming them on the back of the head with a 2x4." He especially liked doing this as the introduction to a Wham Episode; making the episode look like a light walk in the park, then suddenly flinging you into the Myth Arc at breakneck speed.
  • Band of Brothers did this with episode to episode continuity. The last two episodes go from finding a Nazi concentration camp to them going into Hitler's summer home and hilariously looting it of everything of value (up to and including the photo album of his summer vacations).
  • Battlestar Galactica - "Sometimes A Great Notion": after discovering that Earth is a radioactive wasteland Dualla cheerfully reconciles with her estranged husband then puts a bullet in her brain.
  • Baywatch: What shall we have as the B-Plot for the Pro Wrestling Episode, where Hulk Hogan battles Ric Flair to save a Rec Center? How about Stephanie getting skin cancer!?
  • Being Human (both versions) constantly whips between wacky sitcom hijinks and extremely gory supernatural horror, which can be more than a little jarring.
  • The Big Leap invokes this when a live brawl between the cast on the in-universe reality show is cut off by a pre-recorded montage of everyone dancing happily together.
  • Blackadder - "Goodbyeee" suddenly takes an abrupt swerve out of comedy territory in the final five minutes. The entire final episode features Blackadder once again attempting to get out of "The Big Push", that is, everyone in the trenches entering No-Man's Land assaulting the German front. In previous episodes, he and the other characters have gotten out of these assaults, but at the end of this episode he realizes that there's no way to get out of it this time, and he, George, Baldrick and unexpectedly Darling, end up going over the top with everyone else, Blackadder's last words before going over being "Good luck, everyone". All of them are killed within seconds of going over, and the final, silent shot of the series is of an empty field of poppies in spring. There are no jokes in these last few minutes whatsoever, it's entirely dramatic, and in a comedy series, this comes as being a very unexpected Tearjerker.
    • A specific example of a beautifully-executed mid-sentence Mood Whiplash in this episode comes when Captain Darling, about to go "over the top" to his likely death, is listing all the things he'd hoped to do when the war ended. "Go back to work at Pratt and Sons" gets an audience laugh, as does "Keep wicket for the Croyden gentlemen", but these are followed by a brief pause and a wistful "Marry Doris". A character who'd been portrayed as just a petty comic foil to Blackadder up to that point suddenly gets humanized.
      Darling: Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says..."bugger".
    • George gets a very similar mid-sentence whiplash.
      George: Well, really, this is brave and splendid and noble...[pause]...sir?
      Blackadder: Yes, lieutenant?
      George: I'm scared, sir.
      • There are jokes right up until Blackadder's penultimate line, but they are all extremely grim. It's called Trench Humour for a reason.
    • And of course that moment moments before the end where they are lined up ready to go over the top, artillery booming in the background, when... silence falls.
      Darling: Listen - our guns have stopped.
      George: You don't think...
      Baldrick: Maybe the war's over. Maybe it's peace!
      You actually start to feel hopeful for the characters that fate has intervened and they have escaped certain death, and then Darling says...
      Darling: Thank God! We lived through it! The Great War, 1914 to 1917!
      ...And we know that the First World War actually ended in 1918.
    • A less dramatic, but still very jarring one occurs in the finale of Blackadder II, Chains. The episode ends with Lord Edmund Blackadder defeating Prince Ludwig and joining the other characters in a party. Then the end credits sequence shows Blackadder finally catching the annoying minstrel and drowning him. It seems like all's well for Lord Blackadder... then cut immediately to the post credits scene showing all the season's major characters laying dead in a pile, apparently with all their throats slit, and then the reveal that Ludwig came back to kill them and disguise himself as Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Black Books: The first half of the final episode of the show is typical Deadpan Snarker alcoholism as the trio decide to head to a party. After they return the episode takes a turn when Bernard & Manny end up in an argument and Manny delivers a The Reason You Suck speech. Despite the rest of the episode still having comedic moments, it's still horrendously dark compared to the first half.
  • One episode of Bones ends with Brennan singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in a bar. Everyone's having fun until Pam shows up and shoots Booth.
    • In "Two Bodies In the Lab", Booth insists on staying with Brennan in her apartment after someone shot at her. At one point he notices a Foreigner CD in her music collection, and Booth and Brennan start rocking out to "Hot Blooded". Shortly after, Booth offers to get Brennan a beer. Just as he opens the refrigerator, he ends up getting the brunt of an explosion from a booby-trapped door.
    • The trope is also invoked in the episode "The Hole in the Heart", in this conversation between Brennan and Angela:
      Angela: I mean, is this about Vincent?
      Brennan: ...Yes.
      Angela: Yeah. [Angela starts to leave]
      Brennan: And... I got into bed with Booth last night.[Long pause] Why aren't you saying anything?
      Angela: Because I don't want to yell "Hallelujah" so close to losing Vincent.
    • In "The Patriot in Purgatory", Brennan was inspired by watching a basketball game with Booth to bring several of the interns together for a "team building exercise", instructing them to identify as many unnamed bodies as they can. This quickly got derailed when Vasiri realized that the body he was identifying was a homeless veteran who was standing outside the Pentagon during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. By the end of the episode, the team determined that he died from injuries sustained when he pulled people from the debris, saving their lives. Booth delivered his eulogy as he was buried at Arlington Cemetery with full honors.
  • The later seasons of Boy Meets World had a lot of this because during those seasons the show had a lot more serious plotlines while continuing to be a sitcom, so in the more serious episodes, comedy relief scenes were injected between the serious scenes. A lot of the episode had a Two Lines, No Waiting setup where one plot was comedic and one was serious.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • In Dead Freight, the methylamine heist goes swimmingly, with no casualties as Jesse originally intended to, but then the kid following them in the beginning finally catches up with them, and before anyone has a chance to react, Todd shoots the kid.
    • In Confessions, Jesse is finally on the track of getting away from all the mess in Alberqueque with hope for his future, then he looks for his cigarette and after finding it missing, guesses exactly what happened to the ricin one...
    • In To'hajiilee, Jesse, Hank and Gomez finally corner Walt red-handed with his money barrels and proceed to arrest him, with Hank elatedly informing Marie it's over. Not more than 5 minutes later, Walt's Neo-Nazi backup arrive... and by the beginning of the next episode, Gomez and Hank die and Jesse is shipped off to the Neo-Nazis for further blue meth production, with Walt even viciously revealing that he let Jane die.
  • The Brittas Empire: Brittas' death and funeral in "The Last Day" is played surprisingly seriously for the show, with everyone being very sad. However, this is then followed by a scene in the afterlife which has Brittas being his usual humorous annoying self, to the point where he is actually kicked out.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: The episode DFW begins with one of the shows' most famous Cold Opens as Jake is helping a woman find a perp through a police lineup. She never saw the face, but remembered him singing "I Want It That Way" so Jake has them sing, even having them harmonize at points and some really getting into it. Afterwards just as Jake is having fun, the woman reveals Number 5 killed her brother, to which Jake (and likely the audience) says "Oh my god I forgot about that part!"
  • The Burn Notice Season Four episode "Friends and Enemies" is mostly lighthearted at first, with the week's client (a spy that Mike accidentally burned) being introduced to the trio's dynamic and making lighthearted banter. The villain is even defeated by having the police catch him with guns in his trunk—a trunk that snaps open dramatically two moments, after the car flips, spilling the guns all over the street. Then cut to the next day, to where the not-arrested-after-all villain is horrifically torturing the client for information...

  • Call the Midwife seems to want to find out how many emotions it can make viewers feel in a single episode. Answer: All of them. Repeatedly, without ever once becoming melodrama. The sudden jump from the horror of a bloody back-alley abortion to a cheerful summer fete in the space of seconds. In that particular case, the juxtaposition only underscores the horror of the first scene. Dammit, Heidi Thomas!
  • Castle:
    • It's pretty jarring when something dramatic happens during the end of an episode's opening and then the upbeat theme with the title card comes up right after. The ones that use the dramatic still version of the title card subvert this. Same goes for those who watch an episode with a Downer Ending on DVD and the upbeat theme in the credits comes up after that too! Way to ruin the mood!
    • The Dark Castle episodes themselves which rarely have any humor in them also apply to the trope.
    • A common gag in the show is for them to show a grisly murder scene or even the murder, and then Smash Cut over to a cutesy domestic scene in Castle's apartment (e.g. guy shooting at van gets run over by van -> Castle making pancakes).
    • The ending. There was originally going to be another season, then it was announced that some of the main cast wouldn't be returning, and then it was announced just a few weeks before the end of the season that the show would be canceled, and the season finale became the series finale. The result is perhaps the most jarring case of Mood Whiplash ever: it cuts from the intended Cliffhanger of Castle and Beckett lying bleeding on the floor to a cheerful Flash Forward of them alive and happy with kids.
  • The season 4 Charmed episode "Hell Hath No Fury". Funny jokes about Paige messing with magic and getting an accidental Breast Expansion one minute, a serious story about Piper literally losing herself in rage and grief over Prue's death the next. One of the better-acted episodes in the series, oddly enough.
  • Chuck's 2nd season had "Chuck vs. Santa Claus", a hilarious homage and parody to Die Hard, with nearly every scene being a funny reference to the movie. In the end, the day is saved...and Chuck secretly watches Sarah execute the unarmed villain in cold blood, and then coolly lie to his face about it. Anna and Morgan are also on the outs.
  • Almost every episode of Cold Case starts as such. There is at first a relatively happy scene with the victim and his/her family or friends, which brutally ends with the dead corpse of the victim, and police agents who close the investigation file...
  • Community has an episode where the guys are listening to a Video Will Pierce's mom left behind on a CD. The first track on Pierce's mother's CD is a recording of her pleading with him to understand the finality of death. The second track is hardcore gangsta rap.
  • The BBC Adaptation of Cranford can be quite frankly emotionally exhausting to watch. Funny and witty one moment, heartbreaking the next. Then melancholy. Then heart-warming. Then... you get the picture.

  • Dead Like Me:
    • Mason has to pose as a clown at a kid's party and it's hilariously cranky the entire time. Then it comes the time to collect the soul of the birthday girl's father.
  • Death in Paradise did this with the first episode of the third season after the murder of Inspector Poole, the lead from the first two series. The body was revealed with the knife sticking out and then the cheerful credits played including footage of the now dead inspector humorously lugging his suitcase along the beach before switching back to everyone sombrely mourning.
  • Done deliberately as part of the format in Doc Martin, every episode will contain one dark, serious and weighty storyline, and one light Quirky Town style story. They will then interleave throughout the episode, often with both storylines crossing through the same scene, and leaving the viewer pretty wrung out emotionally by the end.
  • The Doctor Oz Show: Tends to do this in episodes with serious topics. It may start off with somber conversations with women who have lost family members to cancer... and one tiny commercial break later, audience members are passing brightly colored balls representing poop through a plastic tube representing the colon, with everyone laughing and cheering at a successful "bowel movement" into a plastic bucket.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Almost all of the Doctor's regenerations use this, as we're basically witnessing a death and a birth at the exact same time. For this reason, they usually take place at the end of an episode, serial or season. Quite often, the whiplash is from "sad" to "funny", with some of the more recent regenerations adding "Oh, Crap!" after the funny.
      • "The Caves of Androzani": Five's regeneration into Six, going from his hallucinatory death scene right to Six snarking at Peri.
      • "The Parting of the Ways" has Nine to Ten: His tearful goodbye to Rose right into a joke about having "new teeth".
      • "The End of Time": Ten himself had one of the saddest regenerations with that look of his horror on his face when he says "I don't want to go." Then Eleven kisses his knees out of joy that he still has legs and then checks if he's ginger this time.
      • "The Time of the Doctor": Eleven has a vision of Amy before he regenerates, and gives a speech about how he will always remember his time as the Doctor, very sad... then he instantly turns into Twelve, who complains about the colour of his kidneys... then he forgets how to fly the TARDIS.
      • "Twice Upon a Time": Twelve gives a magnificent speech, it's all very sad, then the regeneration, then Thirteen cheerfully checks out her reflection... before hitting one button on the console and getting thrown out of the TARDIS into freefall as it explodes and dematerializes. To Be Continued.
    • "The Chase" is mostly a ridiculous comedy with Slapstick and a Comic Trio of Daleks who don't seem all that threatening. The atmosphere is very loopy and comfortable. Then Ian and Barbara, two very, very loved companions who'd been there since the beginning of the series, realize they can use the Daleks' timeship to return to their home time and inform the Doctor they're leaving, and he snaps at them both out of selfish grief.
    • "The Myth Makers" is a genteel and funny social comedy about the Greeks and Trojans until the Greeks invade Troy, everyone gets slaughtered horribly and Vicki leaves the TARDIS to start a new life.
    • "The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve" ends with the darkest sequence of events in the entire series thus far. The Doctor forcibly transports his companion Steven to 1960s London to escape an impending 17th Century genocide he'd been powerless to prevent, abandoning Steven's Temporary Love Interest Anne (a member of the group being massacred). He rages at the Doctor about how amoral he is and storms out of the TARDIS, leaving the Doctor behind to perform some Thinking Out Loud about how everyone leaves him and he has no control and nowhere to go. This is suddenly interrupted by a Cloudcuckoolander Manic Pixie Dream Girl named Dodo accidentally walking in on him, deciding to travel with him in about two minutes of conversation, and then Steven returning with no explanation to suggest that Dodo might be one of Anne's descendants.
    • Part Six of "The Dalek's Master Plan" closes with the Daleks pursing the Tardis Crew for a component for their doomsday weapon, Part Seven...features a man reporting that his Green House has gone missing, before the Tardis crew go to Hollywood where Steven is mistaken for a Keystone Kop, get chased about the studio, and then talks to Bing Crosby, before the Doctor looks directly at the audience and says "Merry Christmas"! Episode Eight; back to the Daleks!
    • "The Pirate Planet" is a goofy, playful, high-Camp Douglas Adams romp with enormously over-the-top Space Pirates as villains, all Played for Laughs. Until the moment when the Doctor finds out how pointlessly, selfishly evil the pirates actually are, and absolutely blows his top in a scene that is played perfectly straight. There is also a scene where Romana is forced to shoot and kill a pursuer, which passes quickly but also doesn't fit the mood of the overall story.
    • The revival series embraces this trope wholeheartedly whenever it would cause the Doctor the most angst.
    • "Aliens of London" has a rather outrageous example halfway through the episode. There is an entire minute of the Slitheen (disguised as humans) farting and joking around in front of the General inside 10 Downing Street. This moment is then immediately succeeded by the 3 aliens revealing themselves to the General before murdering him in a rather gory and sinister fashion. All of this happens in the same scene.
    • "Father's Day" goes from a lonely girl wanting to meet her dead parent to a Class 3A Apocalypse How ending on a Heroic Sacrifice, with some Awful Wedded Life thrown in between.
    • "Bad Wolf": The scenes where the Doctor and Rose discover that the future reality and game shows they've wound up on are, in fact, Deadly Games/Immoral Reality Shows use this.
      • When the Doctor sees a Big Brother contestant get "evicted", he's talking about how she'll profit on the outside before she's disintegrated on the TV.
      • Rose spends the first round of The Weakest Link cracking up about being insulted by a robot Anne Robinson... and then comes the first elimination.
    • "Rise of the Cybermen": The TARDIS has crashed, completely dead and gone. The Doctor says they could have crashed anywhere, completely outside time and space... and then Mickey sticks his head out the door. "Otherwise known as London!"
    • "Army of Ghosts":
      • Rose is caught by a Torchwood scientist while sneaking around. Dr. Singh tells his assistant to call security... and Mickey Smith replies that he'll get on it, before giving Rose a smile and thumbs-up behind Singh's back.
      • The amusing moment when Yvonne finds out that the Doctor has dragged along his companion's mother on this adventure ends when several mind-controlled employees start up another ghost shift.
      • The Doctor being told by the Cybermen that "The Sphere is not ours." It was made by the Daleks, so the whiplash is from "This is bad" to "We're all gonna die."
    • "Doomsday" goes from a tearful farewell between Rose and the Doctor to the Doctor and a bridal gown-clad Donna shouting "What?!" at each other at increasing volume when she suddenly appears in the TARDIS.
    • "Utopia": There's a bittersweet scene where poor old Professor Yana tearfully ruminates on his past and the stories about time travel he used to hear... and then he pulls out his pocket watch hey, why'd the Background Music suddenly turn scary?
    • "The Sound of Drums": We cut from the Doctor, Martha, and Jack running down an alleyway to televised news reports about the first contact with the Toclafane to... the Master watching the Teletubbies, which he marvels at the concept of television "in their stomachs". Even better, right before the Teletubbies, we had "This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home" playing in the background. And then, bluegrass-type music.
    • "Partners in Crime": Donna and the Doctor are both spying on the head of Adipose and her hostage. Donna is watching through the door window, and the Doctor is watching through the window in the wall across from the door. There's a very serious questioning going on. Then the Doctor and Donna catch sight of each other. Hilarity Ensues. Then, mid-word, Donna realizes that they've been noticed. Cue chase scene.
    • "Forest of the Dead" has a four-fold one: First, River decides to get the Doctor to trust her by whispering something to him that leaves him absolutely dumbstruck for a moment (later revealed to be his real name). After a Beat, he suddenly starts talking about the interference messing with his sonic screwdriver. Then, a bit later, Anita realizes she has two shadows. Then the Doctor points out that Proper Dave has caught up with them.
    • "Turn Left": Donna and Sylvia are having a depressing conversation about their current situation, then Donna hears singing from the next room and goes over to yell at them, only to find out her grandfather Wilf is participating. Smash Cut to the entire family singing along with their housemates, the first time they've been happy in a long time then they hear gunfire from outside.
    • "The Stolen Earth": There's a beautiful reunion scene where the Doctor and Rose notice each other and start running into each other's arms when suddenly, out of the blue, a Dalek rolls up and shoots the Doctor.
    • "Journey's End" has triumph, reunion, and celebration, followed by the Doctor being forced to erase the memory of one of his companions to prevent her from dying and being all alone again as a result. The whiplash occurs in mid-scene, as Donna is babbling her newfound Time Lord knowledge in a rapid-fire manner and just generally being hilarious as the Doctor starts to look sadder and sadder, and then, in mid-babble, Donna starts to repeat the same word over and over in a stuck-record fashion and you start to realize that something is very, very not right.
    • "Planet of the Dead": At the end, everyone's gotten back to Earth, everyone's happy, Christina has successfully avoided jail... and then the Doctor is told that his song is ending. The jubilant music stops dead, replaced by something more serious.
    • Both "The End of Time" and "The Time of the Doctor" are fairly grim stories which see the end of their respective Doctors and the conclusion of many long-running story arcs. They're immediately followed by "The Eleventh Hour" and "Deep Breath", which, while not without some scary moments, are generally very light-hearted romps.
    • "The Time of Angels": One particularly memorable scene goes from Bizarre Alien Biology jokes about the extinct two-headed Aplans to the Doctor realizing that the statues in the maze don't have two heads, meaning none of them are really statues
    • "The Vampires of Venice" ends on Amy, Rory and the Doctor joking about and then... silence. Utter silence. Not even the water is making any noise, and everyone in the area has vanished. The Doctor wisely gets inside the TARDIS as the episode ends.
    • "Amy's Choice": A conversation between Amy and Rory about how Amy thinks Upper Leadworth's amateur dramatic society is very bad takes a turn for the worse when the Doctor reveals the schoolchildren exploring the ruins have been turned into piles of dust.
    • "Cold Blood": Amy Pond goes through one by herself. Her fiancé Rory is killed, causing her to become inconsolable from grief. But then he is absorbed by a crack in time and is made to have never existed, so she doesn't remember him or his death, leading to her cheerfully continuing despite the huge loss which just happened (or not). It's disconcerting, to say the least.
    • "The Lodger" is a very lighthearted and comedic episode, but at the end, as the day is saved and Craig and Sophie have a Relationship Upgrade, it cuts to the Doctor and Amy getting ready to set up elements of the episode's Stable Time Loop, and as Amy compliments the Doctor on his matchmaking skills, she asks "Why can't you find me a man?" ...unaware of her retgoned fiancé Rory. Then Amy finds her engagement ring in the pocket of the Doctor's jacket. Then it cuts back to Craig's flat, where there's a crack in time behind the fridge... and it's growing.
    • "The Big Bang" does this so much, it'll leave your head spinning that is if your head isn't already spinning from all the timey-wimey bits. Seriously, the episode starts with the universe in shambles and Rory holding Amy's body, begging her to laugh when the Doctor pops out of midair holding a mop and wearing a fez. He pops in and out three times while explaining that Amy is actually not entirely dead, it's the end of the universe, and Rory needs to go down to the Pandorica to let the Doctor out. The rest of the episode consists of the Doctor getting killed in the future, the TARDIS exploding with River in it, River getting rescued, more fez jokes, the Doctor getting killed, the Doctor actually not being dead, but he's going to be erased from time instead, the actual process of being erased from time, and then the Doctor gets unerased from time and gets to come to Amy's wedding and dance really extremely badly. It's hard work, this show is.
    • "The Doctor's Wife" cuts from the Doctor in tears (and Amy and Rory nearly so) as the TARDIS loses her human form, to the Doctor working on the TARDIS's machinery, chatting with Amy and Rory about bunk beds, and asking the ship, "What do you think, dear? Where should we take the kids this time?"
    • "The Almost People", despite being somewhat dark, wraps things up on a fairly hopeful note... and then the Doctor unexpectedly melts Amy into a pile of goo, and she wakes up in prison about to give birth...
    • "A Good Man Goes to War", the Series 6 midseason finale, ends with (among other things) everyone finally learning just who River is. Cut to a card telling us the Doctor will return in Autumn with "LET'S KILL HITLER".
    • "The God Complex": Not only do the viewers experience it at every turn, but so do the characters when they are possessed.
    • "The Angels Take Manhattan" ... hoo BOY! Rory has decided to jump off the hotel to kill himself and create a paradox that will ruin the Weeping Angels' food supply, and Amy decides to go with him, not being able to bear to live without him. The paradox resets the events of the story, taking them all back to present day New York, ready to embark with the Doctor and River on a family voyage. Rory, however, gets distracted by his own gravestone and is transported back to 1938 by a surviving Angel. Despondent, Amy allows herself to be sent back with him, leaving the Doctor and River helpless to save them.
    • "Kill the Moon" proceeds as a "base under siege" tale until it pivots twice: first when the Doctor unexpectedly abandons Clara, forcing her to make a difficult decision on behalf of Earth and again at the end when Clara becomes the first companion to have a full-scale blow-up at the Doctor since the mid-1960s.
    • "The Girl Who Died" is a comedic episode up until its final 10 minutes when the title comes into play and the Doctor bares his soul to Clara about it before coming up with a fix that he almost instantly regrets.
    • "Face the Raven" is very much an uber-example. The episode begins on a lighthearted note and (despite the jeopardy involved) continues as a relatively standard light-hearted story based on a cool premise until without warning it pivots to full out tragedy as longstanding character Clara Oswald learns that she only has minutes to live and spends the remainder of her time giving an emotional goodbye to the Doctor before dying, screaming in agony leaving the Doctor struck monotone with anger.
      • "Heaven Sent": Near the end, the Doctor is faced with a wall twenty feet thick made of material four hundred times stronger than diamond, with a monster bearing down on him. He futilely punches it until his hands are bloody and the monster catches him and kills him. But it takes Time Lords a while to die, so he spends a day and a half dragging himself back up to the teleporter room, where he burns his own body as fuel to recreate the last teleport stored in the hard drive: Himself. Since the castle resets when he leaves a room for long enough, the new Doctor does the exact same things as the previous one, all the way up to punching the wall and dying and creating a new Doctor. This happens countless times, and the audience thinks he's trapped in a never-ending hell... and then we see that he's actually making progress through the wall. Suddenly one of the most horrifying moments of the series becomes the most awesome.
        The Doctor: There's this emperor, and he asks this shepherd's boy... "How many seconds in eternity?" And the shepherd's boy says... "There's this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it, and an hour to go around it. Every hundred years, a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed." You must think that's a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that's a hell of a bird.
      • "Hell Bent" begins with the Doctor seemingly seeking revenge for the death of Clara and the events of "Heaven Sent", but soon it becomes clear that everything in "Heaven Sent" and the opening of "Hell Bent" was simply a gambit by the Doctor to get Clara pulled out of time just before her death. The moment this occurs, the episode changes tone completely and focuses exclusively on the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, effectively becoming a two-hander for its second half.
    • "Rosa": After Graham recalls how he learned about James Blake from Grace the day they met, he wishes she were there. There's a moment of somber recollection, and then Ryan says he's glad she isn't because she'd probably start a riot, which causes everyone to have a good laugh.
  • The 2020 virtually-produced special The Disney Family Singalong does this near the end, with the fast-paced, energetic We're All In This Together being followed by a slow, tear jerking rendition of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes, performed by Michael Bublé and Demi Lovato.

  • Used to great dramatic effect in Eyes on the Prize, the landmark PBS documentary series about the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. At the end of episode four, "No Easy Walk," the series cuts directly from Rev. Ralph Abernathy happily reflecting on the afterglow of the 1963 March on Washington to the sound of loud police sirens in the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four young girls were killed. In addition, about 25 seconds of dead silence accompanies footage of mourners comforting each other and of workers removing the bodies of the deceased from the scene. The takeaway is that for as much progress as the movement had made by the summer and fall of 1963, it had a long way to go.

  • Farscape manages to do this so often that you would swear the entire show was bipolar. Prime example, in the episode "Revenging Angel" where John gets knocked unconscious due to a comedic accident... cue Harvey appearing in his coma-hallucination telling him that he's dying... cue John turning his entire reality into a Looney Tunes world... cue slap-stick and John asking all the main characters in his head how he should survive... cue his entire world blowing up and him flatlining. This is a one-episode example. Often the show will jump from the serious arc plotline with horrific and damaging psychological implications for the characters to good old harmless space opera fun in a very short amount of time. Admittedly the show is made of Crazy Is Cool but there is a heavy emphasis on the crazy.
    • The last episode of season four has a doozy, more so given that it wasn't intended to be the last regular episode at the time of broadcast. After seemingly besting their enemies, Moya takes the crew to an ocean planet for some R&R. Crichton and Aeryn are having a heart-to-heart in a boat while Moya and the others rest in the sea nearby. Aeryn reveals that she's having Crichton's baby, Crichton proposes, Aeryn accepts, we go in for the happy ending... and suddenly an unknown ship hurtles out of the sky and shoots the boat, disintegrating both of them. D'Argo, seeing this happen from Moya's bridge, screams in horror. We cut to the end credits, which roll in silence.
  • Done many, many times in Frasier, when a scene that is initially Played for Laughs becomes, upon further elaboration, much darker or more emotional than before. For example, Niles discovers that his wife Maris is cheating on him with his marriage counselor through a hilarious scene of Missed Him by That Much where both he and the counselor think they are preparing for a steamy night with Maris. This leads to an equally hilarious confrontation, and an even more hilarious scene where Niles' anger at his wife boils over while coaching a group therapy session; only for the scene to turn into a Tear Jerker halfway through when he bursts into tears and starts screaming at an absent Maris that he has never, ever cheated on her despite being tempted by Daphne, who treats him well and is a far better person than Maris is, for years, and finally breaking down sobbing that "I wanted to believe that [Maris has been always faithful to him] more than anything in the world, but just can't see how I can...Now I just want to die."
    • Oh God, Daphne when Niles is having heart surgery. It's terrific writing and acting because the others make the jokes and act as you would expect but Daphne is sat wondering if she is going to lose Niles not that long after they have finally managed to get together. Almost as good is the terrific scene with Martin who is equal parts reproachful, compassionate and understanding with her when he says "It's hard as hell for all of us".
      • One particular part that stands out involves a candy machine. Frasier and Martin are arguing about the machine, in typical sitcom fashion. Daphne grabs a fire extinguisher, smashes the front of the machine, calmly hands Martin the particular candy bar he wanted, then completely breaks down.
    • In the episode before (S10E7), we see Niles fretting about his toothache and the "1 in 10,000" chance that it could be heart trouble. Seems like typical Niles overanxiety, until the last scene where we find out he was right. Then it jumps back in the other direction when Niles is shown during the credits to be freaking out over being handed a water bottle.
  • Friends occasionally does this.
    • Never more than in the episode "The One With the Morning After" which deals with the fall out of Ross sleeping with another woman behind Rachel's back after believing she's left him. Even though it's a fairly serious episode, the majority of it still has a few hilarious moments such as Ross and Rachel taking a brief break from their fight to order pizza and Rachel intentionally ordering anchovies mixed in with the toppings and sauce because she knows Ross hates them. However, the very last scene completely abandons the humorous aspect and goes completely serious. Even the brief moment where we see the remaining four other characters still trapped in Monica's back room is suddenly much more serious as they're all somberly listening in to the conversation, with Monica and Phoebe even breaking down into tears as they all realize that their two friends' relationship is over.
    • "The One With The Fertility Test" also has this. Most of the episode revolves around usual hi-jinks and Chandler freaking out about 'doing it in a cup'. Right at the end of the episode he and Monica discover they probably can't have children and the scene fades out with them sobbing in each other's arms. It's a punch in the gut that leaves you reeling and wondering what happened to so-called 'comedy'.
    • A lot of episodes with Monica and Chandler involve this, as the writers balance what is a genuinely sweet, heart-warming relationship and comedy. Their engagement episode goes from an amusing Zany Scheme to Chandler breaking down thinking she's left him and a gut-wrenching proposal, to the others coming in to crack some jokes, and then back to them dancing quietly together. Hell, even their wedding vows switch between their tender declarations of love and Joey's messing up the order of service.

  • Game of Thrones:
    • The show features a lighthearted scene about Arya catching a pigeon and trying to trade it for a pie, then moments later witnessing her father's execution. And this was just after she killed the pigeon with her bare hands, breaking the bird's neck.
    • In the same episode, a humorous scene in which Tyrion, Bronn, and Shae play a drinking game leads into the tragic story of Tyrion's first love, and how it turned out that she was actually a prostitute his brother had hired to make a man of him, and how as punishment for marrying her, Tyrion's father made him watch as she was gang-raped by his entire garrison.
    • In the third episode of the third season, the closing scene is of Jaime being threatened and ultimately getting his hand chopped off. This graphic, violent event is immediately followed an anachronistic rock cover of The Bear and The Maiden Fair, a comedic song which was sung earlier in the episode, turning a moment of pure horror into pure hilarity.
    • However, the crowning example of this trope occurred in Game of Thrones S3E9: "The Rains of Castamere" during the wedding between Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. Initially there were both hilarious moments (i.e. Walder Frey's utter Jerkassery and lecherousness on display) and utterly heartwarming moments (i.e. Talisa telling Robb she wanted to name their son after Ned Stark) with a light and happy atmosphere... then the eponymous "Rains of Castamere" song began to play as the Freys closed and bolted the doors, and Walder Frey loudly announces that he has a wedding gift for Talissa. Within ten minutes Robb, Talisa and Catelyn have been butchered along with almost all the Stark and Tully bannermen while their soldiers are slaughtered by the Bolton and Frey traitors outside, thus ending the Northern Rebellion.
    • Jory's humorous Distracted by the Sexy moment in the brothel is immediately followed by a violent ambush resulting in his death.
    • This sometimes happens when switching between different plot threads. Arya training with Syrio? Cool, and even a little funny, but the next scene is Dany eating a horse's heart.
    • Theon's torture starts with a sudden, comically timed blowing of a horn.
    • This happens to Cersei, due to Tywin's Wham Line. Just before that, she had been shamelessly gloating over the fact that Tywin was going to force Tyrion to marry Sansa... and then Tywin tells her of his plans for her, and she's brought nearly to tears.
      Tywin: You're still fertile. You need to marry again and breed.
      Cersei: I am Queen Regent, not some broodmare!
      Tywin: You are my daughter! You will do as I command and you will marry Loras Tyrell!
    • "Mother's Mercy"; After Jamie picks up Myrcella and her fiance from Dorne, there's a heartwarming scene where Myrcella admits that, deep down, she's always known that Jaime is really her father, but she's just fine with it, and the two of them embrace in a hug. Shortly afterwards, blood pours from her nose and mouth as she succumbs to poison secretly inflicted upon her earlier, and dies right in Jamie's arms. Holy fuck.
  • Gilmore Girls uses this trope rapid fire in the season 6 episode in which Lorelai and Rory go back to Friday night dinners with Richard and Emily. We suddenly cut to:
    1. Rory and Lorelai arguing with Richard and Emily as the camera swings back and forth between the four of them.
    2. The four eating dessert while making polite chitchat.
    3. Richard and Emily having it out about Emily's almost buying an airplane while Lorelai and Rory sip their coffee quietly.
    4. All of them laughing as Emily recounts how she took Shira Huntzberger down verbally.
    5. Rory arguing with Emily because Emily wants to force her out of the DAR but apparently lacks grounds to do so. Richard and Lorelai sit on the couch staring at nothing. Bonus: Richard asks, "So, how's Luke?" and Lorelai says, nonchalantly, "He has a kid." Richard doesn't react.
    6. Lorelai and Emily rehashing the 21-year-old argument about Lorelai's refusal to marry Christopher when she got pregnant with Rory. Richard and Rory sit across from each other, looking bored.
    7. All of them sitting slumped in the living room, apparently exhausted. No one says a word.
    8. Lorelai and Rory exiting through the front door, still exhausted. Lorelai says, "Well, I think we've officially reinstated Friday night dinner."
  • The opening of the third season of GLOW (2017) has the girls living it up in Las Vegas. Ruth and Debbie are doing a TV interview in character, Debbie as an All-American Girl while Ruth is an "Evil Russian." They talk of a coming shuttle launch and then watch as it's...the Challenger. Looking off, Ruth continues to push her character slamming the shuttle and "American teacher on board" while Debbie's face turns to horror watching the screen. She finally gets Ruth to watch as she realizes she was bad-mouthing the astronauts in literally their final moments.
  • The Golden Girls propensity for this is why it's said to be one of the few shows to be able to do the Very Special Episode right. One of the earliest examples was when they spent an entire scene bouncing between a serious discussion about the state of the elder care system, to jokes about the pictures of topless women spread over the table.
    Sophia: Why do we let this happen? Why can't we care for our elderly the way they do in Japan? Why are there seventeen sets of hooters on the coffee table?!
  • The final episode of The Good Life has Tom, Barbara, Jerry and Margo returning from a party celebrating Jerry's promotion - only to find that the Goods' house had been broken into, and needlessly and viciously vandalized when the burglars could find nothing of value to steal.

  • The Handmaid's Tale: A downplayed one where a younger Fred Waterford and Serena Joy are about to enjoy a movie, partaking in a regular casual leisure as ordinary Americans do, then Fred picks up his phone to receive the news that the planned attacks are happening and the couple blithely agree it's for the best of the world and proceed to watch the film.
  • Hawaii Five-0: The episode "Ina Paha" alternates between Wo Fat's brutal and Cold-Blooded Torture of McGarrett—using mind-altering drugs, electrodes, and good old fashioned physical brutality—and McGarrett's drug-induced hallucinations of a Lighter and Softer alternate universe version of the pilot episode where Victor Hess is stopped from killing John McGarrett at the last second, Chin Ho is still on the force, Danny is a happily-married Cowboy Cop who loves living in Hawaii, Kamekona is an imprisoned crime lord, and Kono is a four-time world surfing champion doing TV commercials for lip gloss.
  • The Hogan's Heroes episode "Operation Briefcase" was surprisingly dark, featuring an agent actually dying (offscreen) while in Hogan's care, when most involved escapes by the skins of their teeth. Even more unpleasantly, this episode dealt with an attempt to assassinate Hitler—an attempt, as everyone should know, that failed.
    • In the Batman Cold Open of another episode, the guys are meeting an Underground agent who was a female impersonator before the war. Jokes fly, then Germans crash the meeting, fire at the good guys and take off in pursuit of the Underground agent. Hogan and his men get up again, Newkirk cracks a joke at the expense of the French... and they realize that LeBeau is still on the ground and has actually been shot. Cue one of the most dramatic moments in the (usually) comedic series when Newkirk does a 180 from his usual Deadpan Snarker persona and says quietly, "Colonel, my little mate's been hit."
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • The episode "Bad News" plays out as a standard infertility story where Marshall and Lily go to a fertility specialist to get a test to see why they are having problems conceiving (we already know Lily will get pregnant). The usual Hilarity Ensues with Marshall being locked in a bathroom having to get a sperm sample while his mother is talking to him through the door (unaware of what is going on). Robin has some bad first days at her new job where she becomes the new Butt-Monkey. By the end everything seems to have worked out, Marshall and Lily are perfectly healthy, Robin has managed to turn things around at work and we think that the episode title is just a spoof. Then at the very last minute Marshall finds that his dad, whom he was about to call with the good news, had a heart attack and died.. Marshall's reaction is a complete Tear Jerker.
    • The season 8 episode "Band or DJ?" has Ted feeling guilty that he's not really happy about Barney and Robin's engagement. Lily privately confronts him about this. Future Ted says, "By this point in my life, I'd been hurt quite a few times already." Cue a montage of clips we'd seen before of Ted getting hurt in funny ways: Young Ted as a camp counselor getting hit in the nuts by one of the kids, Ted getting attacked on a bad date, getting a tattoo (butterfly tramp stamp) removed and screaming in a high-pitched voice, getting beaten up by a female goat, a couple more nutshots, etc. and then Wham! Ted asking Robin if she loves him and getting rejected. Then a couple of seconds later, all the clips are replayed faster with just the hits (and Ted's pained reactions) even funnier when chained together... Then Robin says, "No," again. And if that wasn't extreme enough, Lily's confession that sometimes she wishes she weren't a mother seconds later takes it up to eleven. Ted and Lily have a heart-warming moment. This is immediately followed by Marshall opening (the previously constipated) baby Marvin's diaper only to get covered in a massive spray of confetti.
      Future Ted: Kids, it wasn't confetti.
    • "The Lighthouse" started out with Robin and Loretta trying to up one another and arguing who makes better scrambled eggs than Loretta but when Loretta unknowingly mentions grandchildren in front of Robin who can't have kids, the mood becomes a lot sadder.
  • The ABC series Hungry Beast swaps between sketches and serious current affairs, so in one episode you may have an exposé on the continuing problems of asbestos in Australia and a hilarious competition between Australian broadband and a pigeon in the same episode.

  • An In-Universe example from iCarly:
    Spencer: She used to say "Winder" instead of "Window".
    (Everyone laughs)
    Spencer: She's dead now.
    Spencer: She fell out a winder!
    (Everyone laughs)
    Spencer: No, I'm kidding, she had a heart attack.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: In an early episode, the main characters accidentally blow up a neighboring business with a Burning Bag of Poop. In the next scene they're chilling at the bar singing "More Than Words" A Cappella.


  • Any Christmas Episode is likely to be this in any given Kamen Rider series. Since the plotlines of franchise are usually fairly dark and serious, the Christmas Episode will provide a lighthearted break from the story before getting back into the nitty-gritty.
    • By contrast, its sister series, Super Sentai will have more serious Christmas Episodes since by the time Christmas rolls around, Sentai is usually in its endgame, while Rider isn't a quarter of the way done yet.
    • However, one Christmas Episode that qualifies in a different way is that of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid. The episode is mostly fairly silly, thanks in no small part to Poppy's antics. But then the second half has Kiriya, one of the main Riders, being brutally murdered in the show's first major tragedy. The last shot of the episode is of Emu clutching Kiriya's Gamer Driver while sobbing over where his body once lay. The whiplash was so intense that it actually attracted some complaints, and even a child viewer wanting to hunt down Kuroto Dan for killing Kiriya. You can't make this up.
  • Keeping Up Appearances: Hyacinth shops for a second car; A crime thriller ensues. Hyacinth tries to help her sister fix her marriage; An epic foot chase ensues. Hyacinth goads Richard into repairing some electrics and babysits dogs; The dogs run away when the church is turned into a virtual war zone and explodes.

  • One episode of Laverne & Shirley called "Why Did the Fireman...?" has Laverne dating a fireman named Randy (played by a pre-Cheers Ted Danson). Randy is preparing to propose to Laverne, only to be interrupted multiple times in humorous fashion. The last interruption is a fire emergency that Randy has to respond to. He tells Laverne to go home and wait for him. She does... and is then told that Randy was killed in the fire. The rest of the episode takes a dark turn as Laverne must come to terms with Randy's death.
  • Live Forever As You Are Now with Alan Resnick: Downplayed; Every time Teddy speaks, the bouncy Background Music is replaced with a jarring ambiance, making the scene go from upbeat, to unsettling, back to upbeat when the scene changes again.
  • Lost: About mid-way through the two-hour series opener, the Losties get the radio from their plane working and hear a transmission in French. After a couple of seconds of them cheering that the French are coming to rescue them, Shannon translates the transmission which says in part: "I'm alone, all alone, the others are dead." The Mood Whiplash makes a creepy moment far more terrifying than it already would be, and this moment basically sets the tone for the entire series.
    • Possibly the most chilling moment in this show's history: in the season one finale, they're on the raft, they fire the flare—and suddenly there's a light! There's a boat! There's triumph music! They're saved! And then: "Only the thing is, we're gonna have to take the boy." HOLY CRAP.
    • A particularly heartbreaking one is the episode where Claire successfully delivers her baby, and Sayid surprises Shannon with a romantic dinner. All this at the same time Jack is trying (and failing) to save Boone's (Shannon's half-brother) life. The final scene shows people gathering happily on the beach to tell the good news. Then we see Shannon and Sayid also arriving and the look on Jack's face when he sees them.
    • On a similar note, the soundtrack for this show. A prime example is "Life & Death": the first three minutes are a tearjerking meditation on well, life and death, and the last thirty seconds is you being dragged into hell.

  • The Magicians: When Penny and Katy cast a luck spell to infiltrate the Library of Magic, Quentin and Julia stay home and Quentin has to hold the "Bad Luck Bear," an enchanted teddy bear that balances out the luck magic by giving its holder extremely bad luck (Julia couldn't because she was pregnant at the time). As Penny and Katy move along with their mission, we see Quentin fall victim to various comedic misfortunes, ranging from dropping his spoon in lukewarm tomato soup (the safest thing Julia could make for him) to a python coming out of the toilet while he was on it. But the lighthearted tone comes to a halt when Q's phone rings and it's his mother. Julia pleads with him not to answer, because they both suspect his mom is calling to inform him that his cancer-stricken father has passed away. Q doesn't answer during the mission, but when he calls her back later, his father had died all the same.
  • M*A*S*H gave Col. Henry Blake a funny, moving, celebratory departure when he was finally released from his tour of duty as the 4077's commander... only to cut the legs out from under the audience and cast by having Radar walk in on the kidding-around-as-usual surgeons and announce that Blake's plane home was shot down with no survivors.
    • As a comedy set in war-torn Korea, M*A*S*H did this a lot. You could be laughing hysterically one minute and within seconds, you could be left as if you've just been punched in the gut.
      • This was parodied in Futurama; one episode had a robot surgeon clearly based on Alan Alda's character, which had an actual switch that it would flip to jump between jovial goofing around and war-weary angst (labeled "Irreverent" and "Maudlin" respectively).
        iHawk: [despairingly] This isn't a war... it's a murder.
        [flips switch]
        iHawk: [Groucho Marx voice] Dis isn't a war, it's a moider!
  • Used to chillingly good effect in the episode "Queen of Hearts" in Merlin. King Uther initially thinks it's hilarious that Arthur has been caught making out with Guinevere in the woods ("I was young once, I know about the temptations of serving girls!") only for him to coldly banish Gwen from Camelot on pain of death once Arthur declares his love for her less than thirty seconds later.
    • The episode also opens on a note of Mood Whiplash in which Guinevere's beautiful sunlit coronation is suddenly interrupted by Morgana waking up in a panic, the whole thing having been her prophetic nightmare.
    • Season four premiere has Arthur, Merlin and the knights wandering in a desolate village. Tension is mounting and they don't even know what kind of monster they are looking for. Suddenly, Gwaine takes a bite from an apple, startling everyone and breaking the tension. Only for Elyan to discover dead bodies.
    • The Wicked Day yanks its viewers around like crazy. Okay, it's Arthur's birthday. Good, Breather Episode. There's an assassin. Ok, Monster of the Week, can't be that bad. Uther gets stabbed and has only days to live.
  • Misfits has this on its very first episode: we have Alisha recounting to the boys how she got pulled over by a cop for driving drunk and tried to avoid it, which includes a lot of sensual licking and sucking of a water bottle (the guys' reactions, Simon in particular, are hilarious), while at the same time Kelly is running for her life as a Brainwashed and Crazy Tony attempts to kill her. One story interrupts the other time and time again, and when Kelly gets to the building the rest of the group is in it's when the episode turns 100% serious.
  • The third season Modern Family episode "Virgin Territory" goes from a serious discussion and realization of girls growing up quickly to scenes where Luke and Manny, both too young to drive, try to impress a girl by slowly driving Mitch's car.
  • Monday Night Football on Dec. 8, 1980, when Howard Cosell all but defined the trope when he announced the breaking news of the murder of John Lennon right after the broadcast of a football play.
  • The 1990 Disney Channel special Mother Goose Rock 'N' Rhyme, a "hip" take on children's stories with Jean Stapleton in the title role and various celebrities guest-starring as nursery-rhyme characters (Cheech Marin as the Cat With the Fiddle, ZZ Top as the Three Blind Mice, etc.) includes what is in context a very strange scene that would be a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment if it wasn't pointedly referred to later on in the movie. The Hero is captured and imprisoned in a dungeon (the female lead eventually rescues him) where he is forced to view an angry, wild rock video in which the headbanging musicians tell him he's been a "bad boy", he is to be punished, and "It's gonna hurt me more than it hurts you." Then, after all of that, what is the hero's punishment? Two jokers in lemon-yellow fright wigs (think that guy from Monty Python with the ax through his hat, but even crazier) show up with some feathers, giggle and tell the audience "Kids, don't try this at home!", and proceed to subject their victim to Tickle Torture. The grotesque juxtaposition of something that is (for kids) terrifyingly scary with something that is absurd just becomes all the more unnerving for that very reason. (It's even worse when you consider that, during wartime, militaries - even the militaries of democratic countries - perform "enhanced interrogation techniques" that are based on precisely this "serious/silly" dichotomy.)
  • Otherwise cheerful comedy Mr. Bean has an unexpected moment. At the beginning of the episode, Bean steals a cordoned-off parking space for his yellow car while attending an event at a school. As he is leaving at the episode's end, he finds his car has been moved to the middle of the parking lot, where a crowd is watching. On his way to the car, he stops to buy a dessert, while in the background his car is crushed by a tank; Bean having stolen a parking spot meant for the demonstration. Bean is oblivious to the crushing, and upon finally turning around he does a comical Double Take. It's all been very funny until now, but suddenly the camera focuses on Bean's absolutely devastated reaction to his car being destroyed, with him solemnly approaching his crushed car and dropping to his knees, while a sad rendition of the main theme plays.
  • MTV's New Year's Eve Special for 1999/2000 was one of the biggest events in the network's entire history. One of the festivities of the evening was the world premier of a new Backstreet Boys music video, as they were the biggest musical group in the world at the time. What was the video? "Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely," a slow ballad about heartbreak, with a somber music video where each member is in a scene representing a trauma from their personal lives: Brian's open-heart surgery, Kevin's deceased father, AJ's deceased girlfriend, Howie's deceased sister, and Nick watching a young fan almost get hit by a bus. It's one of their most introspective songs and was nominated for a Grammy, but it was still a jarring break in tone for a New Years special.
  • The Milton Berle episode of The Muppet Show pulled this twice. As a vaudeville veteran, Berle got two sketches that started out soft and nostalgic and then went somewhere else. First, he performed a sad, reflective version of "The Entertainer", only for Miss Piggy to deliver a rather more bombastic version. Then came the closing number, where he starts out giving fatherly advice to Fozzie accompanied by gentle piano backing...then the tempo goes up, the tune turns into "Top Banana", Berle's black suit turns into a clown outfit, and the slapstick and puns start flowing.
  • The outburst by Captain Joe in Fugitive Alien became a Memetic Mutation on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
    Ken: What did I do to deserve this?
    Captain Joe: [pensive] We don't deserve half the things we get. [laughs maniacally, then throws down his pen angrily] You're stuck here!
  • The Myth: Xiao Chuan's arrival in the past is initially comedic, with his inability to understand what's happening and assumption he's stumbled onto a film set. Then he witnesses an execution and realises the seriousness of the situation.

  • NCIS does this in the episode "Two-Faced" (8.20). In many episodes, the final minutes after the climax are dedicated to comedy or romantic drama, and this is what it looks like when Tony and Ziva are sitting at a bar talking about their relationships (with a colleague and a liaison CIA agent respectively) when suddenly, the music changes and then... eyeball in the icecube. And their expressions: FUCK.
    • Kate's sudden death at the end of Season 2 too, actually done twice. She takes a bullet for Gibbs, but turns out to be wearing a bullet-proof vest. Everyone sighs in relief... and then she gets shot in the head.
  • NewsRadio tried this with the episode dedicated to Phil Hartman's death by inserting jokes to lighten the mood. It didn't work too well; the real-life tears from the cast were too overwhelming for much of the episode to be really funny.
  • New Tricks jumps from light-hearted comedy to serious police procedural drama to seniors humor to Tear Jerker moments, often multiple times in the same episode. If an episode ends on a somber note, it can make the sudden appearance of the show's happy credits theme tune rather jarring.
  • Night and Day does this deliberately and in spades, never taking itself especially seriously despite some relatively dark (for a soap opera) subject matter - and punctuating pathos-driven scenes with madcap fantasy sequences or comical interludes.
  • Night Court did this from time to time, often going all the way around back to funny in the same scene. In "Leon, We Hardly Knew Ye" Judge Harry's foster son (and recurring character) Leon successfully runs away when he can't stand his nice, but prudish new adoptive parents. He's not seen again for the rest of the season. "The Hurricane: part 2" goes all the way back around to funny again. After helping deliver the babies of four couples during a thunderstorm and blackouts Harry slips away to have a deep and emotional talk with God in front of a cross someone left in the courtroom.
    Harry: (speaking to God) You remember that one guy? Of course you do, you remember everything. I tell ya, that one shook my faith to the CORE. Then you drop this brand new life, right into my hands... But if I could just have the answers to a couple of questions, like if you've always been here than where did you come from? And does man have the capacity to rid himself of his own evil? And why IS the sky blue anyway? Well, maybe I can look that one up. But all this baby stuff... that's no accident, after all, you gave us Mozart, Van Gogh, Confucius, and LARRY BIRD!" * pulls a basketball from under his robes and tosses it through a hoop nailed on the cross*
  • In a bizarre case where it's used for comedic effect, the old UK sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News where two politicians are in a shouting match until one of them drops dead on the stage, resulting in a line to the effect of: "How can you believe these lies! This man... [URK] ...will be sadly missed, and our condolences to his family."

  • On One Day at a Time (2017), a flashback to 2001 shows Penelope and husband Victor move into their new place with Schneider boasting blonde hair. The duo handle having a newborn baby and the horror at realizing Penelope's parents are moving in with them with humor. Penelope settles down with baby Elena, hitting the TV...and hears the reports of a plane hitting a building in New York as the audience realizes which day in 2001 it is...
  • The Orville uses this so often that the show might be best described as a bait and switch. Switching from a Brick Joke about calling a Negative Space Wedgie a "glory hole" to a nasty plot about a Zombie Apocalypse? Having a protagonist tortured by the bad guys? Well, one of them makes a Your Mom insult, followed by a dick joke, then the captors really get serious and inject a drug causing agonizing pain, leaving the badass a shrieking wreck.

  • Paper Girls: Mac is having a great time laughing and busting the chops of her older brother on his life as a doctor...and then he coldly says his sister died when she was 16.
  • The "Secret Word" Running Gag in Pee-wee's Playhouse. Any time the episode's secret word was spoken (always a word guaranteed to turn up in normal conversation), the entire cast would scream in a wacky manner while a bell rang in the background. And that does mean any time, which could be pretty jarring whenever it popped up during a moment meant to be a downer.
  • The hands-down funniest scene in Person of Interest Season 3 episode "Endgame": Reviewing surveillance footage in the Library, Reese and Finch realize that the person who has potentially started a war between the Russian mob and the corrupt police organization known as "HR" by attacking a Russian mob drug shipment using a grenade launcher and wearing a gas mask is a woman. They immediately suspect that it's Shaw. Shaw promptly walks in, notices she's getting funny looks and calls them weird. They show her the video and she starts fangirling over the tactics used, which reveals to Finch that it's actually Detective Joss Carter, because Shaw has no other friends. Shaw reveals that she loaned Carter some of John's weapons and equipment, leading to Reese's bemused reaction: "Wait, that's MY grenade launcher?" From there, the scene quickly devolves into John all but commanding Shaw and Finch to get eyes on all 38 of the HR members whose numbers came up, despite there only being two of them, because if HR or the Russians discover who's really behind the attack, Carter is the only person who is going to die.
  • Tonight, on a very special episode of Popular, Harrison must resolve his mixed feelings about his mother when his friends discover that she's gay...
    • ...and Mary Cherry chains Gwyneth Paltrow's personal shopper to a pipe in the school boiler room.
  • Power Rangers RPM. Jesus. For a season that has unquestionably the darkest plot Power Rangers has ever done, this series also seems to have some of the most off-the-wall humor. Highlights include Ranger Green attempting to use his teleportation ability, only to teleport his suit, leaving him in his helmet and underwear, Ranger Green getting a wedgie from a disembodied robot hand, Ranger Green fumbling his one-liners, Ranger Green... y'know what? I think you get the idea.
    • Likewise with Dr. K. At first, she just seems a little strange and kinda funny, being protective about the ranger tech and even wearing bunny slippers in one episode. Though all urges to laugh at her behavior suddenly go away when you think of her back story...
    • Even stranger, is the fact that the series it was adapted from, Engine Sentai Go-onger; is dripping with campy, over-the-top parodies of Super Sentai tropes, complete with singing and dancing heroes. This makes for a case of Mood Whiplash in itself for those who have seen both versions.
  • The episode of The Price Is Right airing on October 15, 1985, swerved into this at the end when host Bob Barker announced in a separate clip that announcer Johnny Olson had died a few days earlier. Considering Olson had announced that day's game (which had been taped about a month earlier) and the fact that there were still a handful of episodes of various game shows that had not aired where Olson was still working nearly until the endnote ; Barker's announcement may have also been intended to explain why Olson's voice was being heard instead of being dubbed over.
  • The main plot of the Psych Halloween special "Tuesday the 17th" features Shawn, Juliet, and Gus investigating a Jason style serial killer at a summer camp while the B-plot is about Lassiter meeting up with his estranged wife for dinner.
  • Common in Pushing Daisies, as it takes place in an extremely bright, beautiful universe and has some hilarious dialogue, but all the main characters have pasts that vary from the merely sad to the downright traumatic.

  • In Quantum Leap, moments after many of Sam's leaps, especially if leaping from a very dramatic episode into a comedic one (or vice versa). "Oh, Boy!" Indeed.
  • The last 10 minutes of the Season 1 finale of Queer As Folk (US). Commitment-phobic Brian shows up at Justin's prom, where the two share an epic Dance of Romance and even The Big Damn Kiss in front of everyone. Then they're leaving to continue their romantic evening when Justin gets gay-bashed with a baseball bat to the head and the season ends with Michael coming to Brian in the hospital waiting room, Brian looking utterly broken with Justin's blood staining his scarf. Wow.
  • The Quincy, M.E. episode "Guns Don't Die" seems to have a standard "Everybody Laughs" Ending with Quincy and pals celebrating the happy wrap-up of the episode's case at Danny's. Then cut to a little boy playing at home who finds a gun in his parents' bedroom; he approaches his sister while holding it pretending to be a science fiction bad guy, counts to three... and fires, a big grin on his face. Freeze-frame on the kid as the gunshot echoes, roll credits, the end.

  • Rescue Me: One minute you'll be rolling on the floor at the various antics of the guys of 62 Truck, two seconds later a bunch of kids die horribly in a fire. Every episode is like that.
  • In the final episode of season two of Robin Hood Marian was brutally stabbed to death by Guy and buried miles from home. The first episode of season three dealt the raw and bloody emotional aftermath of this. But the next episode involves Robin laughing his head off as he hang-glides from the parapets of Nottingham Castle, and Marian was mentioned only a handful of times throughout the rest of the season.

  • During an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Rani gets to meet the Doctor, and asks if she can see inside the TARDIS. The Doctor gives her a Death Glare.
    The Doctor: What, inside the TARDIS? MY TARDIS?...'Course you can, yeah.
  • In one episode of the British documentary series Saving Lives at Sea, a lifeboat crew pull a mentally disturbed woman out of the water:
    "Jesus is over there! Get off me! [Beat] I like your boots."
  • Scream Queens (2008) acknowledges this very trope in its second series when John Homa is teaching the girls how to cry in scenes. One girl is told to laugh hysterically about stories she's telling at Christmas when Homa suddenly tells her to imagine that the stories are about people who aren't alive anymore.
  • Scrubs features this rather prominently, being a comedy set in a hospital where people have a tendency to die occasionally.
    • The most egregious example must surely be: a pregnant couple find out that it is likely either the mother will die and their baby will live or vice versa, when the show suddenly cuts to J.D.'s fantasy that they are on Candid Camera, complete with laughter and pointing at the show's actual camera before cutting back to dealing with the dilemma. Mood Whiplash so strong you'll be massaging your neck for hours.
    • Upon learning (in the first 10 minutes of the show) that a patient has terminal cancer, JD imagines the rest of the episode as a wacky TV comedy. It turns out they got the results wrong, and the patient who actually has cancer "is anti-Semitic, so no one cares". Cue laughs. Oh, what is that strange beeping sound? Oh yeah, back to reality again, with the cancer patient losing consciousness.
    • In "My Roommates", Perry is constantly being one-upped by his friend, Ron. They even turn their children's playtime into a competition, and Perry's son sticks a bucket on his head while Ron's son builds a Lego building way better than a child that age should. It's played like part of the gag until a suddenly serious Perry points out that's a major warning sign for autism.
    • It's a wacky musical episode with songs about guy love written by the people who made Avenue Q! Oh, by the way, there's a brain aneurysm too. Particularly the last couple of songs—an upbeat, energetic song reminiscent of Grease's "You're the One That I Want", which then cuts abruptly into a somber, haunting melody about the aneurysm patient asking what will happen to her, and being afraid she's going to die. Enjoy.
    • How about "My Screw Up": Dr. Cox is joking with Ben as they're walking towards Jack's birthday when an obviously perturbed JD walks up to them:
      JD: Where do you think we are?
      Dr. Cox: [sobers, and attends Ben's funeral]
    • "My Lunch" has a beyond-cruel one, cutting from The Reveal that Todd was just pretending to be gay so he could check out Elliott and Carla to JD and Cox trying and failing to save their rabies-infected transplant patients.
    • An episode centers around Cox telling Jack a fairytale story that is really the story of JD trying to find out what's wrong with a patient. After he leaves the room, Jordan eagerly asks if the patient was okay, only for Cox to reply that that's the way he's telling it.
  • This happens at the end of the seventh season finale of Seinfeld when Susan dies.
  • Sesame Street, when dealing with the death of Mister Hooper. The scene where Big Bird shows his drawings of his friends to the adults is light and cute ... up until the point where Big Bird says he wants to show Mr. Hooper the drawing he made of him. The mood then turns changes abruptly as the adults have to explain to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper has died and he won't be coming back.
    • Also, there are three episodes that invoke this trope that have something to do with illness or injury. One has Maria, Luis, Big Bird and Gabi playing charades at Maria, Luis and Gabi's apartment. Maria is pretending to be a cow driving a car...when suddenly, she moans and grabs her side. It all goes downhill from there until the next episode, when she gets better. She even had to go to the hospital. The second opens on Luis and Gabi happily practicing a dance...until Luis starts moaning and his back is sore. Worst of all, it hurts whenever he moves. The third is about Gabi. She, her parents and Elmo are getting ready to celebrate her eighth birthday. It has a light mood...up until Maria kisses her face, then looks at her funny and says she may have a fever. Then, it turns out she is sick.
  • In the BBC show Sherlock: Whenever Jim Moriarty speaks it's hard to tell if you should be laughing or cowering in terror.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man: Due to a decision not to air the tragic original The Bionic Woman two-parter at the end of the season (even though it was filmed as such), viewers saw Steve grieving for Jaime one week, and then his usually happy-go-lucky, womanizing self the next week.
  • Skins did this one in series 4; sandwiched between Freddie's Episode 5 (which ends with Effy slitting her wrists) and Effy's Episode 7 (which ends with Freddie being murdered with a baseball bat by Effy's psychiatrist), is JJ's episode, which is an almost too saccharine love story (in which JJ gets together with a colleague at the confectionery wholesalers where he works). It sticks out like a sore thumb, doesn't advance most of the other arcs of the series, and is suspected by some to exist primarily because of Executive Meddling.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Stargate SG-1's most prominent comedy episode "Window of Opportunity" ends with one of these. The episode's all wacky time-loop fun until we find out why the archeologist is looping time; he's trying to bring his dead wife back to life, which of course leads to an outburst from the usually jovial O'Neill:
      O'Neill: Listen to me... I know what it's like.
      Malikai: YOU CAN'T!
      O'Neill: I LOST MY SON! I KNOW!
    • The first part of the two-part episode "Heroes" dealt with a seemingly irreverent documentary director who is trying to interview the different SGC personnel. Very few treat him with respect and hte entire first part episode was seen as a bit comedic. The second part episode, on the other hand, dealt with the aftermath where a major character is killed during a rescue mission.
    • The end of the Stargate Universe episode "Light". The mood the entire episode has been one of resignation. Then Rush realizes that they're all going to live, and the mood shifts to elation. Then they realize that Destiny is accelerating too fast for the shuttle to catch them, and the mood shifts again to action, as the crew works together to get the shuttle back home.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Ultimate Computer", a malfunctioning computer controlling the Enterprise manages to kill several hundred crewmen aboard the other Federation ships engaging it in a mock exercise. No more than a minute of screen-time after the situation is resolved, Kirk struts back to his captain's chair and plops down with a massive grin on his face and a traditional "Everybody Laughs" Ending - accompanied by silly music.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Best Of Both Worlds: Part II", now-Captain Riker receives a much-needed motivational speech from Guinan, urging him to rise above his personal doubts as captain. Afterwards, the Enterprise arrives at Wolf 359 and sees the horrifying aftermath of the Borg having annihilated an entire Starfleet armada.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • The episode "Business as Usual" was mainly about Quark swallowing his conscience and going into the weapons trade with his cousin, suddenly confronted with ruthless employers and even more ruthless customers who casually laid out their requirements for death tolls (up into the millions, to start with). The B-Plot was that O'Brien's new baby, Kirayoshi, won't stop crying.
    • "The Magnificent Ferengi" bounced back and forth between ridiculous and awesome repeatedly. Especially evident in the end, when Quark's team has just beaten the remaining Jem'hadar in a shoot-out and captured their Vorta leader, the triumphant mood is suddenly turned hilarious by showing the dead Vorta (reanimated with carefully-controlled electrical impulses) trying to walk into a wall, with Nog saying "I can't turn him off!"
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Infinite Regress", Seven of Nine starts manifesting the personalities of people she assimilated. So in the middle of her descent into madness, we get a comedy scene where she's a Ferengi trader. And then we immediately switch to pathos as she becomes the confused mother of a Starfleet officer, who was supposed to meet him at Wolf 359 (site of the big battle in TNG's "The Best of Both Worlds"). And then the Fridge Horror creeps in on a sweet early scene of her as a little girl playing with Naomi Wildman, when we're reminded that this little girl was assimilated.
    • In "Latent Image", the Doctor discovers some of his memories about a junior officer who died during a medical incident where he had to choose between saving two patients were purged from his files because his reasoning for saving one patient over the other caused a breakdown within his programming. A flashback to the breakdown showed the Doctor comically bantering with Neelix in the Mess Hall before becoming wracked with guilt.
    • Another one involving Seven of Nine is in "Body And Soul", as she manifests other characters was when the Doctor's program is downloaded into her nanoprobes. Initially, this is played for comedy, with Jeri Ryan doing a hilarious pastiche of the Doctor's pompous mannerisms. And then it suddenly turns dark when Seven learns what's happening, and she feels violated.
  • Stranger Things
    • The episode "Holly Jolly" (s1e3) does this as many times as it can in the span of only two minutes. The episode starts off with Barb waking up covered in vomit, in an empty pool full of slimy tentacles, along with a monster. Cut to Nancy and Steve having sex. Cut back to Barb scrambling to climb out of the pool. Cut back to Nancy and Steve. Cut back to the pool. Cut back to the sex. Cut back. Cut back. Cut back. Cut back. And then the episode starts.
  • Supernatural has goofy, self-referential episodes right in the middle of incredibly dark and bleak arcs. Seasons Two and Three are the guiltiest of this.
    • The basic premise and the actual tone jar so much that it makes the show the western king of Mood Whiplash. Because, honestly, would you believe that a show with the premise of two brothers hunting down ghosts and demons with rock salt could be one of the most unbelievably sad and angsty shows around?
    • Supernatural also had a case of internal Mood Whiplash in the episode "Mystery Spot" (S03, E11). The episode starts out like a normal "Groundhog Day" Loop episode in which the same Tuesday plays over and over again, with only Sam experiencing the loop; the trigger for him to start the day again is Dean's violent and unpredictable death. The first two are sad, and with the third (Dean gets crushed by a falling safe, with his feet sticking out like the Wicked Witch.), they start to get hilarious. Despite the dark subject matter, the first half of the episode plays like your standard goofy comedy installment, — wacky montages, upbeat music, constant one-liners, and jokes — until Sam figures out the Trickster is behind it, convinces him to end the loop, and Dean dies for real that Wednesday. Then the episode transitions into an incredibly dark, months-long journey with an emotionally-destroyed Sam hunting down the Trickster until he finally lays hands on him. In the end, everything is reversed, but Sam is just a little more unstable...
    • "Simon Said" (S02, E05) had this in spades. It starts with Sam having one of his painful death!visions, then Ash comes in for some comic relief and Dean sings REO Speedwagon, then Sam angsts some more and someone gets killed, then they find Andy's "Moby-Dick bong", then Dean gets mind-fucked (for the second time) and admits he's scared for Sam and Sam has another death!vision, then Evil-Twin humor, then full-blown angst with Tracy's Mind Rape and seriously-painful-in-hindsight foreshadowing of Dean's death wish (he gets forced by Webber to put a gun to his head), more Sam!Angst and a not-so-nice twist in the "psychic kids" storyline.
    • "Wishful Thinking" (S04, E08), where we go from hilarity like a suicidal, alcoholic teddy bear and "KNEEL BEFORE TODD!" to Dean's confession that he remembers every detail of what happened to him while in Hell.
    • Or "Yellow Fever" (S04, E06), where we start out with Dean running for his life from a tiny little dog with a pink bow on its head and ends with Dean terrified, about to die, facing Lilith again, and seeing Sam as a demon. Yeah.
    • Or "Changing Channels" (S05, E08), with the boys trapped in Grey's Anatomy and CSI parodies and a Japanese game show, which ends with Gabriel's heartbreaking reveal.
    • "My Bloody Valentine (S05, E14) starts with some of the squickiest gore in the show's history, veers into comedy by introducing a goofy, naked Cupid, veers back to the Body Horror and then ends with Dean's desperate and heartbreaking prayer for help after Famine tells him he's dead inside.
    • Or "Hunteri Heroici" (S08, E08): plays with every Looney Tunes trope there is and has Castiel join the brothers on a hunt and provide hilarious one-liners...and admit that he's afraid that if he sees what he did to Heaven, he'll kill himself.
  • Super Sentai can fall victim to this in how the mood of each series can differ; they can range from dark and serious (Jetman, Timeranger, Shinkenger, Go-Busters) to extreme camp (Carranger, Kakuranger, Go-Onger, Kyoryuger) and anywhere in between. At least some of these are market-based; when a dark sentai underperforms, the next one will be campy and vice versa.
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger is rather prone to this, both within individual episodes and within the series on the whole. Episodes calling back to a specific series usually take on the tone of that series which makes for some rather odd juxtapositions with probably the most striking being the very light-hearted and silly Carranger tribute episode being sandwiched between the character drama heavy Shinkenger double and the two-part, action-packed introduction of Basco.
    • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger had one episode where the Blue Ranger had to kill his girlfriend's younger brother because he was killing women to cure his sister's fatal disease, which she was already getting better from in the first place. The scene ends with him watching his girl cry over her brother (in a rubber monster costume) in the rain with this sad whistling song, and to top it all off, they silently break up at her brother's gravestone with the sad song said girlfriend was singing the whole episode. And then you get a neck sprain from the series' usual jazzy nightclub-ish end theme. Just be thankful the episode's ending song is NOT the more upbeat "Girls in Trouble! Dekaranger", because that would have been a even more bad way to end that episode.
    • And of course, Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger has given us the memetic "Sing and Dance with us after the commercials!", which pops up when the episode ends on a bad note, which of course, after the last commercial break, brings up the happy ending credits sequence. People have since placed the message onto Toku episodes with major Downer Endings for laughs.

  • Tarrant on TV was an ITV series in which Chris Tarrant introduced clips from non-British TV. The clips were usually very funny — sometimes deliberately, sometimes not. Before the mid-point commercial break, however, he would introduce a very serious clip that was judged brilliant for its shocking drama, often a Public Information Film. In the context of everything else he introduced, they were, if anything, even more effective than in their own countries.
  • A Taxi episode had Jim buying an over-the-hill old racehorse and keeping it in his apartment. Typical Jim hijinks, but the horse inevitably dies. Jim gives it a funeral and gives a truly sweet, moving eulogy that chokes up the rest of the cast (and plenty of viewers).
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look referenced the famous Blackadder example above in the fourth series's penultimate episode, joking that they would follow suit and see the show off dramatically. Fast forward to the last sketch of the series a week later, in which Dr. Watson visits a dementia-riddled Sherlock Holmes and through a very silly exchange allows him to think he's still the cleverest mind in England. Then, Holmes has a moment of clarity.
    Holmes: I know, John. I do know. I just... can't get the fog to clear.
  • Tomica Hero Rescue Fire had an extreme example of this in one of the final episodes. Joukaen, an Axe-Crazy fire-demon learns that humans are not the corrupt lifeform he thought them to be. Therefore he confronts his lord, Donkaen, only to learn that Donkaen turned him against the humans in the first place. So in a last-ditch effort to make up for this, he fights Donkaen and gets killed. One second after his death, the credits roll, with a very upbeat song as Background Music.
  • Top Gear:
    • The Polar Special, in which the three presenters attempt to reach the North Pole, two by truck and one with a dogsled, is out of tone with the light and rather silly stunts the gang usually pulls, sometimes jarringly. The danger involved and the fear and discomfort of the presenters are simply too real to be played for humor.
    • Their first visit to America, where they paint their cars with messages as offensive to Southern Americans as possible (pro-gay, anti-Nascar, etc.) and try to drive through Alabama without getting murdered by those wacky rednecks. It's all played for laughs until they hit New Orleans and see the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. That entire thing is whiplash after whiplash. First it's funny, then it gets really creepy considering those rednecks were probably very serious, followed by the very serious "we shouldn't make jokes around here" air in New Orleans. Followed by a heartwarming moment by giving away their cars (as opposed to selling them for a bit of a laugh).
    • Right after Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz both beat the record for 'Star in a Reasonably-Priced car', James May segues (complete with lampshading of the mood change) into a 15-minute piece on Ayrton Senna, who would have turned 50 that year.
    • In the Middle East Special, attempting to dislodge Clarkson's stuck car in the desert results in a tow rope knocking down May. You realize it's not one of their usual "laugh at the others in pain" moments when he doesn't get back up... and then you see the blood. Luckily, the result was only a bad concussion, and May was better by the next day.
  • Torchwood is not without its own Mood Whiplash. The most blatant comes from the season of Torchwood: Miracle Day, where a scene goes from nostalgic-romantic to comedy, to angst, all in the same scene and within the space of a few minutes.

  • The Vampire Diaries has this when Vicki, after dancing and partying it up after Damon heals her, has a breakdown and starts crying about how awful her life is. Damon's response is to snap her neck (she gets better).
    • He almost did it to Caroline, too, but Elena prevented him.
    • In the season four finale, Stefan says his final goodbye to Lexi's ghost and starts planning which city to visit during the summer, finally resolving to try to get over Elena... and then Silas sneaks on him, locks him in a safe and throws him in the river.
    • There was also that time in season one when Bonnie and her grandmother were able to open the old grave just in time for Damon and Stefan to get out and for Anna to rescue her mother Pearl. Elena and Bonnie go home victorious...and suddenly Bonnie's grandmother drops dead out of the exhaustion of the spell, which marked Bonnie's start towards more powerful and dangerous magic.
  • Vinyl has this in spades. Episodes wear between broad slapstick humor, Cringe Comedy, Black Comedy, kitchen sink domestic marital strife, tragedy, and outright violence. One never knows when things will go out of hand especially when cocaine and rock music is involved.

  • These moments show up in WandaVision all the time, due to the fact that it's equal parts psychological thriller and sitcom parody. A good example is The Reveal at the end of a Wham Episode being immediately followed by an incredibly silly Villain Song.
  • The West Wing has one of these, completely unintentionally. Season 1 ends with someone opening fire on the president and crowd and as the visual fades, you hear "Who's been hit? Who's been hit?" and then... there's the exceedingly peppy end credits music.
    • It's the same in any episode that ends on a serious note: the credits music is too damn happy! This is the fault of the DVD edition; during the original run, the end credits were almost always overdubbed with "Next on:" announcements.
    • The show often does intentional versions of this trope too. The most extreme is probably "Take This Sabbath Day", where the episode alternates between the gut-wrenching, extremely dark A-plot of Bartlet debating whether or not to commute the sentence of a man on death row scheduled to be executed by midnight, and the side-splittingly hilarious B-plot of an extremely hungover Josh experiencing Disaster Dominoes while bickering with a congressional campaign manager.
  • Joss Whedon does this. All. The. Time:
    • Firefly has a tendency to quickly and unexpectedly shift from intense action to engaging drama to heart-wrenching sadness to laugh-out-loud hilarity to warm and fuzzy, within the space of a single episode.
      • The "The man's psychotic!" scene in "Serenity" is particularly epic.
      • It's even got an example of a character getting the brunt of the whiplash. River is dancing, actually happy for once, while the others are having a Wild West shootout, unbeknownst to her. Then Shepherd Book is wounded, and both the audience and River have the same reaction.
      • The finale of Serenity: The day is saved, the music soars, they've escaped thanks to Wash's excellence as a pilot, "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar", then Wash is killed out of nowhere, and we immediately lose all sense of victory.
    • On Angel, the writers would frequently place an amusing or lighter-hearted episode before starting a dark story arc. More memorable episodes include the ballet episode that aired before the "Father will kill the Son" arc and the seriously amusing "Smile Time" which aired before the Fred/Illyria episode.
      • The start of the Fred/Illyria episode also qualifies. It starts off on a light note—Wesley and Fred are together, while Angel and Spike are arguing over whether cavemen or astronauts would win in a fight. Then Fred starts coughing up blood... Specifically, she has just had a whole battery of tests, all of which say she's fine. She starts to sing "You are my sunshine" to Wesley, Lorne whirls around with a look of complete horror, and she starts coughing up blood.
      • At the end of the episode, Fred's horrific Tear Jerker of a death immediately gives way to Illyria's rebirth.
      • After the Darker and Edgier second season plot arc of "Darla and Angel", the creative team indulged in a whimsical 3-part season ender, set in a fairytale kingdom, to deliberately offset the grimness of preceding episodes.
      • And then at the end of that arc, Angel returns to earth and gets the news that Buffy died while he was away.
      • "You're Welcome", where after the day is won and everyone is celebrating, Cordy and Angel have one last kiss. She says, "You're welcome.", the phone rings and Angel finds out she died that morning. Let the tears commence!
      • "Spin the Bottle" which is Angel's equivalent of Buffy's "Tabula Rasa" is a perfect example of this. The majority of the episode has the Angel Investigations crew all having their memories regressed to their teenage years and all sorts of wacky hijinx going on: Wesley returns to his wussy self from Buffy's third season, Fred is revealed to have been a pothead as a teenager, Angel's memories go back to before he even became a vampire and he mistakes a group of cars for demons... and then the end happens where everyone gets their memories restored. we get our first glimpse of the first major antagonist for the season, Cordelia leaves the group and Angel is alone and heart-broken, and Lorne, who's also been directly addressing the audience the whole episode closes things out by delivering one of the most somber, heart-breaking monologues on television.
      • The episode "The Magic Bullet" begins with The Beach Boys playing as complete strangers share the love of Jasmine. A commuter happily stops his car to allow some pedestrians to cross only for a wide-eyed Fred to slam into his window before fleeing, pursued by Wes and Gunn.
      • "The Girl in Question", which is already a Bizarro Episode for being light-hearted and irrelevant in the middle of the last few episodes of the show which have entered a very dark arc. In edition to the episode being a dramatic change in mood from the previous and following episodes, the episode itself cuts between Angel and Spike having wacky screwball hijinks in Italy and Wesley being tramautized by Illyria suddenly taking on the appearance of the recently murdered Fred. The episode does not appear on any "Best of" lists.
    • Buffy is rife with examples.
      • "The Puppet Show" has one in-universe mentioned by Cordelia. In the talent show, her song about 'dignity, and human feeling, and personal... hygiene, or something like that' is set up to occur just after a band's rock song. She says something along the lines of, "The point is, my song is sappy, and no-one is going to feel sappy after all that rock and roll?" Giles quickly makes her go away by mentioning her hair.
      • In "Prophecy Girl", the Master is hamming it up during an earthquake. After the shaking stops, he turns to the Anointed One and asks:
        The Master: What do you think? 5.1?
      • "Innocence" goes from passionate love story to "zomg, Angel is EVIL!"?
      • When Spike attacks Willow in "The Initiative", the scene is played out like a rape scene, and it genuinely seems like Willow is about to die before it cuts to a commercial... and then it gets revealed that something is preventing Spike from biting her, and Willow begins to feel like she isn't good enough to bite.
      • "Once More, With Feeling" contains an enormous one in addition to all the song-specific ones listed below. The episode begins with cheery singing and dancing and fabulous songs and end with the main character's attempting suicide! And then it ends with a kiss...
      • "Tabula Rasa", with its 37 minutes of madcap memory-loss hilarity (including a kiss between Anya and Giles) followed by Giles going back to England and Tara leaving Willow.
      • Or how about the zany madcap jaunt about a geek and his robot girlfriend that ends with Buffy finding her mother's dead body? And then, of course, the geek turns out to be the bastard son of Lex Luthor and Max Cady.
      • Even without Joyce's death, "I Was Made To Love You" is still pretty whiplashy - like the part where April nearly kills Katrina after the latter "lies" about being Warren's current girlfriend, or when she "dies", still believing that Warren would come back to her.
      • Everything to do with the Geek Trio in Season Six has Whiplash. Just one example is in "Dead Things" when they start with a zany plan to acquire a sex slave then accidentally murder her and try to frame Buffy for it.
      • "Storyteller" is pure comedy (One scene features Andrew narrating the story of Faith fighting Spock). Then they get to the seal, and Buffy threatens to kill Andrew:
        Buffy: When your blood pours, it might save the whole world. What do you think about that? Does it buy it all back? Are you redeemed?
        Andrew: No. Because... I killed him. Because I listened to Warren and I wanted to believe it was him, but I knew it wasn't. So I killed him, and now you're gonna kill me, and... this is what Jonathan felt. (he starts to cry)
      • "End of Days" has a serious dialogue where Buffy and Faith contemplate the loneliness of being a Slayer ending with the following line:
        Faith: Thank God we're hot chicks with superpowers.
      • Or how about "Standing", Giles' song from "Once More, With Feeling", in which he realizes that he must leave Buffy so she'll learn to stand on her own? He sings as he watches Buffy going through her exercises, and as the song ends, she walks up to him, unaware of what just happened, and:
        Buffy: Did you just say something?
      • Or in "Selfless" where we go from Anya singing about how she'll be Xander's Missus, to her impaled upon Buffy's sword? (She gets better)
      • Episode placement will do it too... right in the middle of the 'Angel goes bad' arc we get a wacky story of Xander casting a love spell - then back to the pain and angst.
      • The whole ending scene of "Bad Girls", where the Mayor goes through the ritual to become invulnerable.
        Mayor: [very deadpan] This officially commences the Hundred Days. Nothing can harm me, until the Ascension... [breaks into giggles] Gosh, I'm feeling chipper! Who's for a root beer!
      • An unintentional example occurs in "The Body": the episode has no score, which adds to the harsh realism of an emotionally devastating story. Except nobody bothered to remove the loud, upbeat theme song from the end credits. It's somewhat jarring.
      • Another good example is the episode "Seeing Red" from season 6. Willow and Tara finally get back together after being apart for the entire season and are shown incredibly happy for the whole episode. Amber Benson (Tara's actress) finally gets to be in the opening credits, too! Everything's going great... then Warren kills Tara.
      • "The Wish" offers a good one - the alternate Sunnydale is ruled by vampires, the Master's still alive and kicking and now factory processing humans, and just about every main character dies. And then Giles undoes the wish and we're back to Cordelia, who'd died around the halfway point and was the one who made the wish, gleefully rattling off a series of wishes of what horrible fate should fall on Buffy, Xander, and Willow, and eventually all men while Buffy, Xander, and Willow cheerfully chat in the sunlight.
      • There's a pretty good moment that fits this trope well in the third season episode "Helpless". After learning that Giles is responsible for her temporarily losing her Slayer powers, Buffy directly confronts her mentor over his betrayal of her trust. The scene gets more and more dramatic as Buffy becomes more horrified and Giles tries to do anything he can to make it up to her, and then suddenly at the end, Cordelia comes in completely oblivious as to what's going on. As Buffy coldly tells Giles, "I don't know you," Cordy takes her literally and believes some demon has given her amnesia, as well as wondering from their serious expressions if the world's supposed to end again and whether or not she should bother studying for an exam if that's the case.
      • In Season 9, Whistler, after inviting Angel out for dinner to talk, punches a hole through his stomach. After almost killing him, Whistler decides to spare Angel then tells him that once his stomach grows back, he should try the food there.
      • In "The Freshman", Xander tells Buffy, "When I'm alone against the dark, I think 'What would Buffy do?' You're my hero. ...And sometimes when I'm alone in the dark, I think 'What is Buffy wearing?'".
    • Even Dollhouse has some:
      • In "Man on the Street" handler Joe Hearn is sexually abusing his Blank Slate charge Sierra while telling her they need to be very quiet. At that moment Boyd enters and knocks Hearn through a plate glass window.
        Sierra: That wasn't very quiet.
      • In "Omega", Echo's line upon arriving at Alpha's lair:
        Echo: Say, you got a bathroom?
      • "Getting Closer": Topher and Bennett's kiss scene, which leaves them both giddily happy. Topher steps out for a minute and Claire walks in to have a conversation with Bennett that does nothing to lessen the charming atmosphere. Then Topher comes back and Claire immediately pulls out a gun and blasts Bennett's brains all over him.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place is a lighthearted teenage comedy without any serious consequences for anyone for years until suddenly Justin's very old vampire girlfriend ages to her real age and Alex's boyfriend turns out to be a jerkass and is turned permanently into a wolf. Thankfully, both of them get better later on.
  • The WKRP in Cincinnati episode "In Concert" begins with the lighthearted, comedic tone that is typical of the show as the characters prepare to attend a rock concert. Midway through, there is a sudden cut to the day after the concert, when everyone is reeling from the news that eleven people were killed outside the venue while they were inside enjoying themselves. The mood switch is jarring and, to a first-time viewer, inexplicable, until you see the message at the end explaining that the episode was inspired by a real-life tragedy that took place in Cincinnati on December 3, 1979.
  • In the second episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell and his late wife's sister finally give in to their feelings for each other, and the next day Cromwell strolls around his garden singing and telling his apprentices a funny story about his youth in Italy (much to their shock, as he never talks about his past). When he gets back into the house, he finds George Cavendish has arrived to tell him that Cardinal Wolsey has died after being charged with treason.