Follow TV Tropes


Quotes / Strictly Formula

Go To

    open/close all folders 

    Film — Animation 
"Most features follow the basic structure and trappings of Snow White and have turned it into a blind formula. The original Grimm's fairy tale of Snow White has about 4 pages of story (about 10 minutes worth of screen time). The movie added about 50 minutes of filler: animals cleaning plates with their rear ends, comedy relief, romance between two lifeless people, pathos. They also added some delightful song sequences. I would call those entertainment, not necessary for the story but worth putting in a movie because they are fun. Clampett made the exact same story as Disney's version of Snow White in 8 or 9 minutes and left out all the filler. Most animated features today are about 90% filler. The songs are no longer fun; they too have become filler."

Most cartoon features begin on the plot set-up, usually a revelation of the villain (or villainess) and their plan (usually take over a kingdom, or kill a rival, or get rich or a combination of all three) then establish your hero or heroine, usually a likable loser if male (Aladdin, the guys in Treasure Planet or Atlantis, that dumb panda that's already showing up everyhere), a comically-scattered, sweet, smart, ugly duckling type if female (Belle, Anastasia, the girl in "Enchanted") and the obligatory wacky sidekicks, always one, sometimes as many as three (Flounder, Scuttle, Timon, Pumba, monkey, flying rug, etc., etc.). The villain also usually has a sidekick, either the bungling nincompoop type (Kronk) or the loudmouthed asshole (Iago) or very rarely, some actually sort of threatening creatures (the hyenas in "Lion King."). The screen action lumps along for 80 minutes or so, consisting of initial skirmishes between hero and villain, the set-up of the traditional hero/heroine love story (these days they usually hate each other at first sight, snark back and forth until the end, then inexplicably fall into each other's arms), songs that explain what the hero, the villain and the heroine each want, a vomit and/or fart joke or two from the sidekicks, and action sequences designed to pad out what could usually be a story told in 10 minutes. Your primary objective as a modern animation feature storyteller is to get the audience members emotionally charged (i.e., distracted from logic gaps and not thinking too much) so they will be ready for your big finale.

    Film — Live-Action 
"The reason that we ended up doing so many rehashes of episodes was there was a point where Brannon [Braga] — whether he was tired, or it was just the pressure of trying to get the show done — was not really willing to hear a variety of ideas. He would hone in on a story. Somebody would pitch a story, and then all of a sudden we’re breaking a story that’s very similar to a Deep Space Nine or a Voyager...because — quite rightly — they’d had success doing the characters the way they’d been doing them, and really getting into real conflict with our characters was not something Rick [Berman] and Brannon were interested in."
David A. Goodman, Star Trek: Enterprise: Uncharted Territory

"They really are all the same, aren't they?" she said to the three-eyed teddy bear. "You know it's going to be Mary the Maid, or someone like her, and there's going to be two men and she will end up with the nice one, and there has to be misunderstandings, and they never do anything more than kiss and it's absolutely guaranteed that, for example, an exciting civil war or an invasion by trolls or even a scene with any cooking in it is not going to happen. The best you can expect is a thunderstorm.
Glenda Sugarbean, Unseen Academicals

In some ways, there is a certain inflexibility about my scheme for writing Black Widower stories. There is always the banquet and the general conversation; then the grilling and the presentation of the mystery; then the discussion and solution.
But there is a certain flexibility as well, for the mystery itself can be anything at all. It can be a murder, or a theft, or a spy story, or a missing-will story.

[On Bollywood films] The stories had, to the British eyes at any rate, a monotonous similarity about them that went something as follows: two men, one a policeman, one a criminal, come into conflict. They have lots of very badly-choreographed fights. There is a song. Then another fight. Another song. Halfway through, a villain strangles the policeman's saintly mother. Then it's revealed that the criminal and the cop are really brothers separated at birth by the machinations of the evil villain. There is a song. Then there is more fighting of a kind which would make the average playground pretend martial arts game look highly polished. Then another song. The brothers fall in love with two sisters. The sisters are kidnapped. There is a song. They are rescued. The villain is beaten to a pulp. There is a song.
The Golden Age Of Censorship, by Paul Hoffman

[This] is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words. No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell. The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.
Lester Dent, The Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot (originally published in Writer's Digest Yearbook, 1936)

    Live-Action TV 
Mandy Baxter: I want to see how that ends.
Kristin Baxter: One dance mom yells at the other dance mom, and then they both get yelled at by that big teacher.
Mandy Baxter: How do you know that?
Kristin Baxter: Because it's every episode.

"What I liked was, because it had all the things you expect — like a bit where someone hides from a husband, and a bit where a young bloke earns the respect of a slightly older bloke, and a bit where someone's framed for murder because they picked up a knife and put a fingerprint on it, and a bit where one of the main characters is gonna die, and you're like "Oh my God, one of the main characters is gonna die!", but then the person who was gonna kill them gets shot, and it pulls focus and it's someone surprising who saved them — because it had all of that stuff you already know, you didn't have to waste time working out what it was, or what you thought about it, or like, who these people were. You could just sort of look at it while your mind went into screensaver mode. And that proves it's good drama."
Barry Shitpeas, Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe

Ass: OH NO! Look who it is!
Musty: It's Team Rockhead, of course! They show up EVERY episode!
Ass: Yes, but they usually show up six minutes into the show! This time, they didn't show up until six minutes and twenty seconds!
Messy: (entering) Ha! Never underestimate the element of surprise!
MAD parody of Pokémon

    Web Comics 
The first episode of Pokémon that aired on network TV was episode #42, "The Problem with Paras." There are over 700 Pokemon episodes in existence now, so you might not remember this particular one. It's the one where they go somewhere and meet a Pokèmon with a problem, and the gang tries to solve that problem, and Team Rocket tries to mess it up. It's that one.
Platypus Comix , "First Kids WB airing of Pokémon"

    Web Animation 
"What's this game about then? You play as Link and you have to rescue the Princess Zelda? Wooow, across the meadows of fresh ideas you stride like a colossus, don't you? Oh, but it's very innovatively evoking A Link to the Past on the SNES, the same way I 'very innovatively' crawled up my mum's vagina and stuck my thumb in me mouth... Oh! A Boomerang and a Hookshot!? SLOW DOWN, STANLEY KUBRICK! Zelda? More like Smellda!... fart. I Smellda fart."

"In one of the behind-the-scenes featurettes, the developers flat out admit that they think up the spectacular set pieces first and then come up with the plot around them, and by Christ does it show, because these games are getting as formulaic as a Scooby-Doo episode. Who wants to bet the lost treasure at the end will turn out to have been deliberately lost because there's some negative effect surrounding it that the bad guys want to weaponize? And that Drake will pull off the main villain's face and it'll turn out to be Old Man Withers!"

Bowser: I figured now would be a perfect time to put my latest plan into action!
Lakitu: Hold onto your seats, Smash fans. It looks like King Bowser is planning to kidnap the princess again!
Bowser: Hey! Cloud boy! How did you know about my plan?! Now spill! Who told you about it?

Mega Man: Hey, is it noon, yet?
Dr. Light: Just about.
Mega Man: (groans, turns on TV set)
Dr. Wily: WAH HA HA HA!! I have created—!
Mega Man: Eight Master Robots and you plan to take over the world. Sigh... can we just get this over with? My balls hurt.


    Web Original 
"I find the rigid visual schematic and the close-cropped A-B-C framing and editing of Adam-12 to be beautifully spare and clean, matched by the almost kabuki-like scripting that turns the most mundane actions into stylized rituals, repeated over and over again until they achieve mythic, iconic status. When Malloy and Reed drop down into their new, more powerful 1973 AMC Matador, solidly chunking those doors closed, and begin to roll down the mean streets of L.A.―over and over again, episode after episode, with little variation―the effect eventually becomes hypnotic. The characters, although humanized by the scripts (and obviously by the performances), simultaneously operate outside the realm of reality due to this stylization of the visuals and editing...for a show like Adam-12 where not only its format but its very construction, both visually and aurally, are so rigidly formalized, it's eventually going to become difficult to maintain viewer interest over the years unless something new is added."
Paul Mavis on Adam-12

"In many ways, television is a conservative medium — more in an artistic sense than a political one. Network television is largely built around churn, a conveyor belt model that is designed to generate product according to tight schedules and oppressive deadlines. Routine and familiarity make the production schedule easier to manage, particularly for shows with large season orders. More than that, if a show has figured out an approach that has worked, it makes no sense to deviate from that pattern."

One of the most popular '90s shows was Batman: The Animated Series. In this show, our caped crusader Batman would confront a villain/minor life event of the week, scowl at it, use something on his utility belt, learn a valuable life lesson and then he would share a private joke with his faithful butler before the credits rolled. It was all very tidy, and there was no argument that this was how the world worked. Children everywhere aspired to be Batman, and to one day share private jokes with butlers of their own.

But if there's one good thing I can say about Voyager, it's that it reached such a predictable level of sameness, that it became like comfort food television. Just like ordering a Big Mac, you always knew what you would see when you opened that box. Unfortunately, this is only good for certain situations, like when you have an hour to kill and don't want to think too hard.

It seems like six years of growth can be reduced to the addition of some monitors to the bridge, an adjustment of T'Pol's hairstyle and the inclusion of a name tag to the familiar jumpsuits. It is worth pausing and stressing this point. These cosmetic and technological changes are what "These Are the Voyages..." would consider to represent growth and evolution.

A "reimagining" courtesy of Tim Burton (read: take original material, make it darker yet somehow simultaneously goofier, insert Danny Elfman soundtrack, sit back, make millions)

""The whole reason Watchmen has a unique place in superhero history is that it’s an actual, honest-to-gosh novel, with a purpose, and a beginning, middle, and end. The reason there aren’t more books like Watchmen is because DC and Marvel don’t understand the difference between making something like that and creating IP that can be spun off into continuing franchises.... Recycling is just as good as creating. Better, really, because then you don’t have bitches like this Alan Moore character with some personal connection to the work muddying up the issue."

Some crime show. You don't know any of the characters, but you still pay attention to the plot. Abortion doctor murdered. The Christian fanatic is too obvious a suspect. Maybe it's the doctor's wife. Maybe it's his brother; they were professional rivals, and the deceased just won an award. What does an abortionist win an award for, anyway? The cop's partner wants him to do something about his anger issues. Isn't that always the way?

The TV producers' pedagogical theory is that young kids really like repetition, because they’re more comfortable watching a show if they know exactly what to expect. And that’s a really convenient pedagogical theory to have, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on writers.

Jay: The Marine 1: U.S. Marine John Triton returns home, his very attractive citation needed wife Kate is kidnapped, and he busts some heads to rescue her. The Marine 2: U.S. Marine Joe Linwood returns to his hotel room, his very attractive citation needed wife Robin is kidnapped, and he busts some heads to rescue her.
V1: I can see where this is going.
OSW Review on The Marine 3: Homefront

"All The Little Mermaid did was put that godforsaken Disney musical 90s formula in place."

"Tell me if you recognise any of these:
Quirky underdog meets a hot attractive babe
But some unfunny bullies try to stop my goofy ways
My quirky sidekick and/or grandma help me on my path
While using an annoying voice and jokes about my ass
Come on guys, you liked it the first eighteen times, surely you'll like it fifty-six more."
The Nostalgia Critic, The Adam Sandler Song

"The plot, in a general sense, involves a villain trying to get a hold of an alien artifact that will give him control of the universe. You may remember this plot from every single fucking plot these goddamn Marvel-movies have ever had!"

"Survival of the Dead scared me, and not in the good way. Every time I would pass it in my Blockbuster (and yes, I still go to an actual Blockbuster store) I almost flinch as if the box will give me some electroshock if I picked it up. Diary of the Dead was so atrocious and showed how far Romero had fallen that I honestly did not want to see him fall any lower. It is not about seeing Survival and being pissed off, I didn’t want to watch it and be depressed."
Miles Antwiler on Survival of the Dead (2008)

     Western Animation 
Stacy: Is this where you go everyday, Perry?
Dr. Doofenshmirtz: (while fighting Perry) Yeah, pretty much. I create -inators, and he breaks in and foils my scheme, it's kind of our thing!

Fry: Jenny can't get married.
Leela: Why not? It's clever, it's unexpected.
Fry: But that's not why people watch TV. Clever things make people feel stupid, and unexpected things make them feel scared.
Futurama, "When Aliens Attack"

D.W.: Mary Moo Cow is not a baby show!
Arthur: It is too! It's always the same! Three always comes after two, blue and yellow always make green, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
D.W.: Oh, like Bubonic Bunny isn't always the same?
Arthur: It's Bionic Bunny!
D.W.: There's trouble, no one calls Bubonic Bunny. Things get worse, they call Bubonic Bunny. He fixes it, big whoop!
Arthur, "That's a Baby Show!"

    Real Life 
"Three of Mr. Fleming’s favourite situations are about to come up one after the other. Bond is to be wined and dined, lectured on the aesthetics of power, and finally tortured by his chief enemy."
Kingsley Amis

"Tarzan is always knocked on the head and taken captive; he always escapes; there is always a beautiful princess or high priestess who loves him and assists him; there is always a loyal friend who fights beside him, very much in the Queenpeg tradition... But no matter how difficult the adventure, Tarzan, clad only in a loincloth with no weapon save a knife (the style is comforting to imitate), wins against all odds and returns to his shadowy wife."
Gore Vidal, "Tarzan Revisited"

"Tom & Jerry is about as uninspired a cartoon series as was ever created. It's pure generic cartoon thinking of the time. What is a cartoon? Uh... it's where a cat chases a mouse and there is lots of hurt and noise and mayhem. It's hard to be more basic than that, so Bill and Joe didn't fix something that wasn't broken for 15 or 16 years. For that whole period they didn't even try to create new characters."

"We both to this day still feel there is really no 'art' in most music...People like to think everything is art. Arranging flowers, writing poems, making a latte—these are just actions, not art. Plugging in an electric guitar, playing four chords, adding bass and drums, and singing words in key is no more 'art' than a guy opening his tool box, putting on a 9/16 socket, replacing a belt, and getting the lawn mower running again."
Matt Johnson interviewing Starflyer 59, Bandoppler, "The Cool War"

"I don't read the scripts any more very often because I know what's going to happen. It's all been done before. It's a variation on a variation on a variation, so consequently when I show up on the set I know my lines just long enough to say them and forget them immediately. So if we need one or two takes more than I'd planned for I'm in trouble, and the other actors know this and they're like, 'Say the lines perfectly or they'll make us do it again!' But what can I say? If you're not inspired to learn the lines, it doesn't matter. Because you can't tell from the final product... I'm sure there's some guy in a factory in Detroit whose sees a little nick on the bolt and goes, 'Shall we start the car all over again?' It's the same thing. It's a factory."
Robert Beltran on his Star Trek: Voyager experience

"On the one hand they insist that they don't want to patronize the audience and want to leave things for them to figure out. On the other, when Chibnall complains that the story was cliched monsters and corridors stuff, Jane Baker rather icily notes that she thought Doctor Who fans liked traditional stuff. There's something really unsettling about this. It's difficult to see how feeding Doctor Who fans a steady diet of generic and traditional adventures could be called challenging. Indeed, 'here's the same thing you've been enjoying for decades done with no changes' seems the very definition of patronizing television... They're writing for children and, worse, doing the thing that no good children's entertainment ever does — talking down to them."
Dr. El Sandifer on Pip and Jane Baker, "The Mysterious Planet"

"This is the type of approach that producers will frequently describe as back to basics.” More cynical commentators might use the phrase “back to the well.” The goal seems to be to offer the audience more of what they’ve had before, to repeat what had worked in earlier episodes in earlier seasons in earlier shows. There’s a creeping sense of familiarity to the whole exercise, as if the writing staff are merely filing the numbers (and character names) off old scripts so that they can be recycled. It is very environmentally friendly."

"Down South in WCW, both management and talent felt nervous about the reveal, as they felt it could become the moment where the WWF turned the tide on the Monday Night Wars. On the night of the reveal, they all sat in the back crowded around a TV waiting to see what would happen. Bischoff had tried to calm them down by saying "it'll just be McMahon, because Stone Cold vs. McMahon is all they've got", but no one except Bischoff felt entirely sure about that assertion. Bischoff ended up being right for one of the few times in his miserable existence."
Taimapedia on the anticlimatic end to the Ministry of Darkness

"Wow, listen to David Duchovny in the first scene Mulder and Scully share. After his riveting turn in 'Max' he sounds bored already, fully aware of the functional episode that is about to play out...He can’t wait to get away from this case and into something more interesting. At the end of the episode, Scully is so jaded by the tedious events that have taken place that she can't even bring herself to argue with Mulder over the idea of time travel. She’s almost like 'sure, time travel, whatever you like...can we go now?'"
Joe Ford on The X-Files, "Synchrony"

"Lana goes ALL THE WAY from Metropolis to Smallville just to burst in on Lex. She doesn't try calling, because, well, I guess that wouldn't be dramatic enough...She charges in. "I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR ANY MORE OF YOUR LIES, LEX!"

Lex, actual line, says,
"This is the part where I say, 'What are you talking about?'."

They poke fun at how bad and formulaic their own scene is. That's pretty pathetic."
Neal Bailey on Smallville ("Splinter")

"As with most of Woody’s movies, everyone signed on without seeing a script. There is no plot and there is no title. Like we need to be told what it’s going to be about. We already know it’s going to be about a bunch of nervous white people and their problems."
Michael K., on a casting announcement for the then-untitled Woody Allen movie Cafe Society

"Steven Seagal staked his ponytail on the cultural donkey with Above the Law, his film debut that hit theatres two months after Bloodsport. It set the tone for what was to come, as well as nailing on the trademarked three-word title structure of his many direct-to-video acts of tedium. Driven To Kill, Marked for Death, Hard to Kill, Today You Die; but even the best Seagal movie is Hard to Watch."
Stuart Millard, Smoke & Mirrors and Steven Seagal

In the end, WCW was a victim of its own success. Bischoff had created a successful formula, one that he held onto for far too long, and one that ultimately started the downfall of the company. Once the snowball started to roll, those in charge had no idea how to stop it...sadly, since the death of WCW, we've seen far more examples of copying what killed it than copying what made it successful."
R. D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, The Death of WCW (foreward)

"I'm sick and tired of people saying that we put out 11 albums that sound exactly the same. In fact, we've put out 12 albums that sound exactly the same."
Angus Young of AC/DC, in a 2000 interview with Jim Farber


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: