Follow TV Tropes

Following

Rhetorical Question Blunder / Live-Action TV

Go To

Rhetorical Question Blunders on live-action TV.


  • On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick Solomon responds to the question "You think you're the smartest person in the world, don't you?" with "For the thousandth time, yes!"
  • Angel gets in on it too.
    • In "City of", Angel asks Doyle why the attractive Damsel in Distress would want to talk to him. Doyle replies, "Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?" then realises he's talking to a vampire who doesn't have a reflection.
    • Advertisement:
    • When Cordelia is chastising Angel for letting a demon get away in "Untouched":
      Angel: Do you know how hard it is to think with a rebar through your torso?
      Cordelia: Actually, I do. Benefits of a Sunnydale education. note 
    • "Spin The Bottle": After Wesley's Face Heel Turn:
      Gunn: What happened to you, man?
      Wesley: [matter-of-factly] I had my throat cut and all my friends abandoned me.
    • In "You're Welcome", Cordelia reunites with Team Angel after coming out of her coma and sees that Gunn has let his hair grow out slightly, leading to this:
      Cordelia: Oh, my God. Gunn? You have hair.
      Gunn: What'd you think, I was Prematurely Bald?
      [Cordelia just looks at him, a smile on her face]
      Gunn: ...I wasn't.
  • Babylon 5:
      Advertisement:
    • In "A Voice In The Wilderness Part 2", when Pierce insists upon landing upon Epsilon III despite the warnings of Sinclair and Varn, he makes a flippant remark:
    Pierce: What are you going to do, shoot us down?
    Sinclair: If that's what's required to protect this station, yes.
    • Played for Drama in "Revelations". Mr. Morden is rattling off potential locations for strikes against the Narn.
      Londo: [jokingly] Why don't you eliminate the entire Narn homeworld while you're at it?
      Morden: [grimly] One thing at a time, Ambassador.
      [Londo's smile slowly fades]
    • "Shadow Dancing": Choosing between sending a signal about the presence of a Shadow fleet and risking detection, or laying low until they can get the engines back on line:
      Ivanova: Who wants to live forever?
      Marcus: I do, actually. But what the hell... Signal away.
    • In "Racing Mars", after explaining her proposal to the smugglers, Ivanova asks, "What more could you ask for?" One of them asks if she's seeing anyone.

  • The Big Bang Theory:
      Advertisement:
    • In "The Jiminy Conjecture", when Raj, Howard, and Sheldon go look up an entomologist to settle a bet:
      Professor Crawley: Let me ask you a question. What does an accomplished entomologist with a doctorate and twenty years of experience do when the university cuts all his funding?
      Raj: Ask uncomfortable rhetorical questions to people?
    • In Sheldon often answers rhetorical questions, because he too needs help detecting sarcasm, like in "The Big Bran Hypothesis":
      Penny: "And what kind of doctor removes shoes from asses?"
      Sheldon: "Depending on the depth, that would be either a proctologist or a general surgeon... [Cue Leonard holding up a "Sarcasm" sign] Oh."
  • In the A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch "Scumbag", Stephen and Hugh are ineptly interrogating a woman about her husband, despite her repeated claims that she doesn't have a husband.
    Stephen: To business, Mrs Popey. Your husband has ...
    Mrs. Popey: For heaven's sake. How many times do I have to tell you? I haven't got a husband.
    Hugh: Twenty-five.
    Stephen: [to Hugh] ... What?
    Hugh: She's got to tell us twenty-five times that she hasn't got a husband.
    Stephen: Why?
    Hugh: Once for every day in the week.
    Stephen: Yeah, that doesn't quite work.
  • In Blackadder II, Blackadder shows Baldrick a potato and One Dialogue, Two Conversations ensues:
    Blackadder: I mean, look at this. What is it?
    Baldrick: I'm surprised you've forgotten, my lord.
    Blackadder: I haven't forgotten. It's a rhetorical question.
    Baldrick: No, it's a potato.
  • Common on Bones, due to the socially-challenged nature of the heroine:
    Brady: Do you have any idea what you're doing?
    Brennan: Yes, I'm blackmailing you.
    Brady: Do you know what the penalty is for blackmailing a federal prosecutor?
    Brennan: I could receive 20 years in prison, civil forfeitures of real estate and personal property, and a fine of $250,000.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Bad Eggs":
      Mr. Whitmore: How many of us have lost countless productive hours plagued by unwanted sexual thoughts and feelings?
      [Xander raises his hand]
      Mr. Whitmore: That was a rhetorical question, Mr. Harris, not a poll.
    • And in "Bargaining, Part I":
      Xander: [to Willow] Excuse me? Who made you the boss of the group?
      Anya: You did.
      Tara: You said Willow should be boss.
      Anya: And then you said "let's vote," and it was unanimous...
      Tara: ...and then you made her this little plaque, that said "Boss of Us," you put little sparkles on it...
      Xander: Valid points all.
    • In "Seeing Red", Buffy is up against a vampire who's putting up a good fight.
      Buffy: How hard you gonna hit when you're blowin' in the wind?
      [Vampire kicks Buffy into a tombstone just as she dusts him]
      Buffy: [groaning in pain] That was rhetorical.
    • And in "The Dark Age":
      Buffy: Have I ever let you down?
      Giles: Do you want me to answer that, or shall I just glare?
    • Played with in "Crush":
      Spike: What the bleeding hell is wrong with you bloody women? What the hell does it take? Why do you bitches torture me?
      Buffy: Which question do you want me to answer first?
    • In "The Harvest", Angel tries to talk Buffy out of going into the sewers.
      Buffy: I've got a friend down there. Or at least a potential friend. You do you know what it's like to have a friend? [Angel looks away] ...That wasn't supposed to be a stumper.
    • In "Grave", Buffy cries Tears of Joy that the world wasn't destroyed. Dawn mistakenly believes that Buffy wanted the world to end, leading to this:
      Dawn: Wait. Is... is that happy crying?
      Buffy: Yes, dummy. You think I wanted the world to end?
      Dawn: [uncertain] I don't know. Didn't you?
    • Cordy bitching at Xander for dragging her out of bed for a ride. "What am I, mass transportation?" ("What's My Line, Pt.1")
      Xander: That's what a lot of the guys say, but it's just locker-room talk.
    • After Wesley is fired, Cordelia barges into the library and demands to know what happened to him. Xander responds, "Inbreeding?"
  • Community: In "Competitive Wine-Tasting" Professor Sheffield, who teaches a class critically analysing Who's the Boss?, opens his first class with the question: "Who was the Boss?" He intends it as a rhetorical question — unfortunately, as Abed ends up conclusively and empirically demonstrating, this particular question has a quite clear and definite answer. So the professor moves on to "What was happening?" (a course critically analyzing What's Happening!!)
  • From Dexter:
    Debra: I've sat through god knows how many briefings; why am I so fucking nervous?
    Dexter: Because everyone'll be looking to see if you know what you're doing?
    Debra: Do me a favor: when you get back to your desk, look up the word "rhetorical".
  • An early episode of Dharma & Greg has a no-longer-hippie friend of Dharma's father explain, rhetorically, "How long can you keep driving around in a VW bus with shag carpeting on the walls?" Father replies after a moment's thought: "Fourteen years."
  • In Doctor Who:
    • K-9, being a computer, was prone to this:
      Romana: How could I have been such a fool?!
      K-9: Question unclear. Kindly rephrase.
      Romana: Oh, be quiet, K-9.
    • From "The Doctor Dances":
      The Doctor: History says there was an explosion. Who am I to argue with history?
      Rose: Usually the first in line.
    • From "Boom Town":
      Blon the Slitheen: This is persecution! Why can't you leave me alone? What did I ever do to you?
      The Doctor: You tried to kill me and destroy this entire planet.
      Blon: Apart from that!
    • From "Hell Bent":
      The President: Who the hell does he think he is?
      The General: The man who won the Time War, sir.
  • In the Firefly episode "The Message":
    Tracy: Do you think I'm stupid?
    Mal: In every way possible.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"", after saving Qyburn he and Jamie discuss the ethics of his research, with the Mad Scientist asking the Kingslayer how many he had killed and proposed countless, Jamie liking the idea. Qyburn then asks how many were saved.
    "Half a million." [Qyburn looks in surprise, knowing the story of how Jamie killed The Mad King but not realizing that it was due to trying to blow up the capital.] "The population of Kings Landing."
    • "The Red Woman" has a bit where the newly introduced Khal Moro (a barbarian warlord) rhetorically asks if there is anything better than seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time. His lieutenants then launch into a pythonesque series of examples, ending with a frustrated Moro amending it to "seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time is among the top five best things in life".
  • The George Lopez Show: Max has been so stressed from schoolwork that he's developed insomnia. When George tries to reassure him...
    George: Then you've gotta take the pressure off yourself, Max. Okay, what's the worst thing that could happen if you failed the fifth grade?
    Max: I'll be humiliated, I'll lose all my friends, I'll have to redo all the work I hated doing this year, and every day I go to class, I'll know I'm stupider than everyone else there!
    George: You've obviously given this some thought.
  • Gilmore Girls: In "The Bracebridge Dinner" episode, Emily and Richard are having a fight while they, and Rory and Lorelei, are staying at a hotel. Emily asks to spend the night in Lorelei and Rory's room, but then goes to the lobby and meets Richard, and they make up. The next morning:
    Lorelei: Hey, Mom. You didn't make it back to the room last night. Did you get lucky?
    Emily: Could you be any cruder?
    Lorelei: Yeah, I could be cruder. Hey, Mom. Did you get lai-
    Rory: Thanks for coming!
  • The Good Place:
    • When Chidi is teaching Eleanor ethics from the very beginning, including Plato and his student Aristotle, she is dismissive.
      Eleanor: It's like, who died and left Aristotle in charge of ethics?
      Chidi: Plato.
    • Eleanor asks Chidi if he wants her to break up with Simone for him, like they're in middle school. His immediate reaction is "yes, please!"
    • Eleanor smugly asks Michael if he can believe that she was voted most likely to die young and unaccomplished. He reminds her that she did die young and unaccomplished.
  • * Heidi, bienvenida a casa
    Paulina: I won't argue with you about matters outside your jurisdiction. Do I interfere with your business?
    Gerardo: Yes
  • In How I Met Your Mother:
    • Barney's brother shows the gang pictures of his son.
      James: Isn't that adorable? When was the last time you saw a diaper poking out from a Dolce and Gabbana suit?
      Marshall: Tuesday, At work... some of the senior partners are really getting up there.
    • Also Barney once, when he was angsting to Honey (played by Katy Perry) about finding his father.
      Barney [to Honey as he's about to climb in bed with her] Who's your daddy?
      Honey: [flirtatiously] I don't know... who's your daddy?
      Barney: [bursts into tears] I don't know!
  • Jessica Jones (2015): While Wendy is stitching up Kilgrave's stab wound, they vent about their relationship problems.
    Wendy Ross-Hogarth: Oh, sure. But how do you avenge death by a thousand cuts? [finishes the stitches, starts taking off the surgical gloves] All the little slices over the years, then the final stab, the secretary.
    Kilgrave: That's nothing compared to Jessica. She's crueler than my parents. [in Jeri's direction] What does she want from me? [beat] That wasn't a rhetorical question! Tell me!
    Jeri Hogarth: She wants you to pay for what you did to her.
    Kilgrave: I treated her better than anyone ever has.
    Jeri Hogarth: She wants you to pay for what you did to Hope Shlottman.
  • While undercover in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Finn is questioned who Munch is and says he's "his Jew". Later, a very offended Munch tries and fails to turn it back on him. Given that Finn used to work in Narcotics, it's a given he's been called worse.
    Munch: What if I had said you're my boy?
    Finn: I'll be your boy!
  • From Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Science Fiction Sketch:
    Charles: Will they stop at nothing?!
    Carol I don't know, do you think they will?
    Charles: I meant that rhetorically.
    Carol What does rhetorically mean?
    Charles: It means I didn't expect an answer.
  • The Muppet Show: In the Lola Falana episode:
    Kermit: Gonzo! Have you no dignity?
    Gonzo: Of course not! How long have we worked together?
  • In NCIS, Abby ask "how many people know how to build a homemade claymore mine?" and thinks that Eli has incriminated himself by admitting he knows how to make the murder weapon. A Mossad agent responds "In this room?" Abby concedes her mistake when it's clear that at least four other people present (including herself) do know how to make one.
  • In NCIS: Los Angeles, Callen drills a way under a lamp and meets up with Kensi, who was dressed up as the suspect's victim. She asks "What am I, a contortionist? Don't answer that, and you don't either, Deeks."
  • In Not Going Out episode "Dads", Lee, complaining about his dad, asks Lucy if she has any idea what it's like to have someone constantly sponging off you. When she seems about to reply, he hastily adds it was rhetorical.
  • Person of Interest. The Victim of the Week has been imprisoned in a CIA Black Site. Fortunately Team Machine has turned up to rescue him.
    Greenfield: [shouting at CIA guard] I'm an American! I have rights. Do you even know my name?
    Root: [from next cell] Jason Greenfield, I presume?
    Greenfield: How do you know my name?
  • In an episode of Scrubs Carla is upset that people tend to think that her daughter Izzy is African-American rather than African-American/Latina. In an attempt to demonstrate this she grabs a nearby doctor and asks him what ethnicity he thinks Izzy is, the doctor proceeds to give a very detailed and accurate breakdown of her ethnicity before revealing that he's the hospital's new genetic specialist and therefore probably not the best person to ask to make her point.
  • Seinfeld
    • In "The Soul Mate":
      George: What's with all these people having babies?
      Jerry: Perpetuation of the species.
    • In "The Secret Code":
      George: Why does everything have to be 'us'? Is there no 'me' left? Why can't there be some things just for me? Is that so selfish?
      Jerry: Actually, that's the definition of selfish.
    • In "The Non-Fat Yogurt", the doctor treating George's made-up elbow injury accuses him of faking it. George denies it, asking what kind of person would do that, and the doctor gives him an earful, pointed squarely at George, describing exactly what kind of person would.
  • Slings & Arrows has this dialogue exchange (from "Steeped In Blood"), which perfectly typifies the difference in philosophy between Geoffrey and Richard.
    Geoffrey: Which would you prefer: an empty house with a great play, or a full house with a piece of garbage?
    Richard: GARBAGE! GARBAGE! I want GARBAGE!
  • A twist in the Smart Guy episode "Big Picture", as T.J. creates one in a long rant about losing creative control over his music video project to the other students involved (the blunder happens again when T.J. makes the same rant to Floyd a couple of minutes later):
    T.J.: Was it perfect? No, but it was fine just the way it was. Why couldn't they have left it alone?!
    Yvette: Well, sometimes...
    T.J.: That was rhetorical.
    Xavier: What?
    T.J.: A question that doesn't require an answer. (beat) If you're determined to find something wrong, you'll find it. Nothing's perfect, so why can't people just look at what's good?
    Xavier: Why can't they?
    T.J.: Still rhetorical. My point is people need to lighten up, they need to stop overthinking everything. Is that so hard? (Xavier and Yvette don't answer) Hey, this one's a real question!
  • The Sopranos: Tony and co. are torturing a Jewish man, who brings up the story of the Masada to explain why he'll never budge. He ends his story with, "Where are the Romans now?" to which Tony responds, "You're looking at 'em." Cue Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • When Samantha Carter is introduced in the pilot, the men in the briefing room are somewhat annoyed that "another scientist"note  (and a female one, no less) is being foisted on them for the recon mission to Abydos. Maj. Kawalsky condescendingly asks her if she has ever pulled out of a simulated bombing run in an F-16 at eight-plus g's. Carter's response is a Blunt "Yes", and Kawalsky has to stop and process that before mumbling that traveling through the Stargate is worse.
    • From "Window of Opportunity":
      O'Neill: What kind of archeologist carries a weapon?
      Dr. Jackson: Uh, I do. [holds up his pistol]
      O'Neill: Okay... bad example.
    • In "The Shroud", after Daniel has been kidnapped by the Big Bad (Adria) and may have undergone a Face–Heel Turn, he tries to convince his teammates that he's really himself and hasn't been brainwashed so they will let him undertake a mission that might make the situation far worse.
      Daniel: [to O'Neill] Have I ever let you down? [O'Neill raises his eyebrows and prepares to speak] No, don't answer that. Have I ever let you down when it really mattered?
  • In Star Trek: The Original Series, Spock sometimes answers rhetorical questions. For example, this exchange from "The Apple", after Spock has risked his life to save Kirk:
    Kirk: Trying to get yourself killed. Do you know how much Starfleet has invested in you?
    Spock: One hundred twenty two thousand two hundred —
    [Kirk cuts him off]
    Kirk: Never mind. But thanks.
  • Supernatural:
  • In the That '70s Show episode "Over the Hills and Far Away":
    Kitty: What is wrong with you? Were you dropped on your head?
    Kelso: Yes, I was! And up until now everybody had the good grace not to mention it!
  • Done in Threshold. Awesomely.
    Whitaker: [sarcastically] And how many people do you think you can pluck off the streets before people start noticing?
    Molly: [completely serious] Approximately 300.
  • IWarehouse 13: In "The Ones You Love", Artie is looking at the Warehouse's electrical schematic and muttering to himself.
    Artie: For crying out loud. Who designed this thing?
    Leena: Thomas Edison. Nicola Tesla. And M. C. Escher.
  • One Mark Wary sketch on The Wedge features his manager asking "How could Mark possibly have impregnated three women at the same time?" Mark, sitting next to him, unhelpfully answers "Daylight Savings".
  • In The West Wing, during President Bartlet's Establishing Character Moment, a right-wing Christian fundamentalist asks him "If our children can buy pornography on any street corner for five dollars, isn't that too high a price to pay for free speech?" clearly expecting Bartlet to either agree with him, or try to wriggle out of giving a straight answer. He's rather taken aback when Bartlet immediately replies with a Blunt "No". An unusual example of this trope, in that this was not a case of the unwanted answer coming from someone who didn't understand what the asker was expecting, and the following two minutes prove how totally outmatched the fundamentalists are by Bartlet both in intellect and force of personality.
  • On Will & Grace, when Grace is getting ready for her rushed wedding to Leo, she and Will have this exchange:
    Grace: I'm doing the right thing, right?
    Will: Well—
    Grace: What?!
    Will: Nothing. No, I just—I'm just saying—as a friend, I want you to know that if you were thinking of calling it off, don't worry about the people out there. Don't worry about all those gifts. You do what your heart tells you is right.
    Grace: ...Are you freaking kidding me with this?!
    Will: "If," I said "if!"
    Grace: The question was rhetorical. That means you're supposed to say "yes."
    Will: That's not what "rhetorical" means.
    Grace: Are we talking about what "rhetorical" means or about how you're freaking me out right now?!
    Will: Am I supposed to answer that or is that rhetorical too?
  • On Wolf Hall, Cromwell does this to King Henry VIII, of all people, when taken to task for having opposed war in France. Henry seems impressed by his boldness.
    Henry: I captured the town of Thérouanne, which you called –
    Cromwell: [unapologetic] - a 'dog-hole', majesty.
    Henry: How could you say so?!
    Cromwell: Uh—I've been there?
    then
    Henry: You told me I could not lead my own troops! You told me if I was taken prisoner, the ransom would bankrupt the country! So, what do you want? You want a king to huddle indoors, like a sick girl?
    Cromwell: That would be ideal, for fiscal purposes. A strong man acts within that which constrains him.
  • In You're the Worst, Edgar has doubts about Jimmy going to his ex's wedding, leading to an inversion of this trope:
    Edgar: Are you sure it's even a good idea that you go?
    Jimmy: What's the worst I could do?
    Edgar: Okay, fine.
    Jimmy: No, seriously, what is the worst I could do?


Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report