Game shows generally use this trope by default, since they tend to take mundane things like auctions, Tic-Tac-Toe, and crossword puzzles and make them high energy and for high stakes. Contestants are even encouraged to act more excited than they are.
Scores of TV medical dramas invoke this trope when they focus on life-or-death surgeries and rare, fatal diseases. There is much truth in this. The problem is that the shows neglect to depict the daily grunt work of the medical practice. Scrubs subverts this tendency by emphasizing that the characters spend the bulk of their time working on completely mundane and disgusting tasks, and admit that most of their patients are going to die regardless.
Many reality shows where there are groups of people competing against each other to win things like money, makeover of their house, etc. While everyone does want to win as badly as the next guy, the serious business comes into play when you got some of the competitors get drastic or act dramatic in order to have a shot at winning and act like losing doesn't exist in their dictionary. And then you have the people who say they gave up everything to be on the show (quitting their job, moving away from home, etc.), not even thinking about what to do in case they don't win.
Averted by one contestant, who dared to have a sense of perspective when she was kicked off America's Next Top Model by not breaking into tears like she was meant to; as punishment for this, Tyra Banks subsequently went medieval on her ass.
In the other vein of this example, shows about things like fashion tend to be played up way more than necessary. Shows like What Not to Wear, where a person's "bad" clothing (which are rarely worse than average) cause the hosts to treat the woman as if she were dying from some sort of clothes cancer. And to cure this, they ridicule said person's bought possessions while throwing them out. At one point, a person featured on the show hated the hosts' advice, prompting the male host to actually leave the room for several minutes to cool off. Over clothes.
Most of the moms featured on Toddlers & Tiaras take their girls' pageants way too seriously.
Parodied by Tom Hanks in a sketch of him preparing his daughter for such a contest. At one point, his daughter comments that she thinks he's putting her through all this because he wishes he could be in a beauty contest. At the end, they lose to Ron Howard, who showboats as though he just won the Super Bowl.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete loves this trope played for surrealism. Smoothies, High School Marching Bands, Prank Wars, people urinating in pools and the identity of the masked Ice Cream Man Mr. Tasty are all Serious Business. And Artie, the Strongest Man in the World fighting Killer Bees? Normal Background Stuff. In addition, every single adult, be they a shop teacher, an underwear inspector or a postal carrier, treats their profession with a reverence usually reserved for war heroes and cancer researchers.
Agatha Raisin: In "Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener", the village's annual open garden, and the competition for best garden, day leads to vandalism and murder.
Everything about the local agricultural fair in All Creatures Great and Small is Serious Business, right down to the children's pet show. There's some rather nasty rumors of favoritism when James gives the blue ribbon to a goldfish.
Wesley: You've been yelling about this for forty minutes... do the astronauts have weapons? Spike & Angel:NO!
Are You Being Served?: Everything from what sort of pen you keep in your pocket, to how you fold your handkerchief, to what sort of hat you wear on your way into the store are matters of dire consequence at Grace Brothers.
Lampshaded on a regular basis in The Big Bang Theory, where everything from comic conventions to couch seats are immensely important to Sheldon.
A Bit of Fry and Laurie: Played straight by Fry and Laurie in their 'John and Peter' sketches where they treat running their health sauna in Uttoxeter as if they were running a multi-national corporation. They also inverted this trope with their 'Tony and Control' sketches in which MI-5 agents treat terrorist attacks and defections with as much emotion as they do ordering coffee.
Breaking Bad: In the appropriately titled episode "Fly", Walter White encounters a fly buzzing around the meth-cooking laboratory he's working at, and he spends most of the episode hunting it down, deeming it a "contamination" that could ruin his cook. Jesse Pinkman, his partner in crime, is understandably puzzled as to why Walt is making such a fuss over a common housefly, considering that they are manufacturing what is quite literally poisonous to the end users.
In Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the detectives view a cop sleeping with a defense attorney as beyond the pale. When it's discovered that Jake slept with the defense attorney handling one of his cases without knowing she was a defense attorney, it's almost treated as if Jake has accidentally performed an act of bestiality.
Sgt. Jeffords: Okay guys, let's take it easy on him. But seriously, I think you need to get checked for rabies.
Losing a pen is serious business in Annie's book. And the entire study group's, at that.
Paintball is such serious business to the students that both times the college tries to have a friendly game it ends up causing thousands of dollars in property damage.
One professor devoted his academic careers studying old sitcoms and wrote a detailed book analyzing Who's the Boss?, analyzing the show's title as a deep philosophical riddle. He is devastated when Abed disproves his main theory by pointing out that "the boss" obviously just refers to Angela.
The show uses this so often it's practically a Running Gag; there is next to nothing that either the study group or the school in general cannot blow completely out of proportion. Someone pushing a yam off a table becomes a homicide investigation and trial, the decision over whether to make a pillow fort or a blanket fort becomes a school-wide pillow-fought civil war. And so on. Jeff mentions at one point that the entire school is on 911's blocked caller list due to their constant antics.
On The Cosby Show, Cliff takes petanque with Dr. Harmon very seriously. Pinochle, too. The episode featuring a pinochle tournament shows him coming in second as a serious blow to his pride.
On various episodes of the CSIs: Bowling, competitive eating, a Scrabble-style word game, historical re-enactments, and fashion have been shown to be deadly serious business to the people involved.
The high school science fair in Eureka. Previous ones have taught Joe to come dressed in riot gear.
Allison: You know how Texans feel about their high school football? Child's play.
In Family Ties, the Keaton family, especially Alex, gets this way about contests and competitions of any sort.
One episode has Alex and Steven become so obsessed with beating each other at Scrabble that, at the end, they sneak downstairs at night in their pajamas for "one more game. The winner gets the deed to the house."
In "Walking on Air", Alex, Elyse, Jennifer and Andy team up for a "Find Colonel Crackle" cereal contest. Alex soon takes charge, posting a giant map of Cleveland with potential "Colonel" sightings pinned, having his friend Skippy check the Colonel's dental records and do a hair analysis, and commandeering a newscaster's desk at Steven's TV station to call the "Crackle hotline" seconds before airtime (resulting in his being dragged off).
While preparing for the "all-priest, over-75, indoor football challenge match" against Rugged Island, Ted frantically tears the place apart looking for a bug placed by their opponents. Turns out he's Properly Paranoid when the Rugged Island crew hurriedly drive away in their ice cream van.
The Christmas special in which Ted leads a group of 7 other priests out of the lingerie section of a department store in the style of soldiers making their way back from behind enemy lines.
The theft of a policeman's whistle results in helicopter patrols over Craggy Island, and townsfolk barricading themselves indoors.
The King of the Sheep competition is taken very seriously, attracting the attention of shady types who aim to profit by rigging it.
Firefly, "Our Mrs. Reynolds": Shepherd Book suggests you do not talk at the theater unless you want to end in a very SPECIAL level of hell, one also reserved for child molesters.
In an episode of Frasier, Spelling Bees are Serious Business, complete with a Shell-Shocked Veteran Spell Master and a Young Cub trying to reach the top... of Spelling! The episode was devoid of the usual hijinks and focused the humor on the absurdity of the subject. One of the series' better episodes.
Much of the comedy in Frasier stems from the main character and those around him blowing relatively minor things into full-blown Serious Business, but another notable trope-relevant example comes when we learn that Frasier has been keeping a collection of taped recordings of his show. When he learns that one of them is missing and is unlikely to be able to be replaced, he enters a depression which sends him into his bed for like a week. He later gets over it when he meets his 'biggest fan' who happens to have a copy of the missing show and finds him an obsessive nut who's isolated everything from his life.
And of course, to Monica, anything related to cleaning, cooking, and weddings is extremely serious business. Even when the wedding's not even her own.
Ghostwriter: The first mystery has the gang unraveling a secret conspiracy of middle-schoolers who run an organized criminal enterprise... to fuel their arcade game addiction. They have built an actual cult around the game, in which they trade secret codewords to organize, hold ominous rallies in abandoned warehouses and take on the identities of their favorite characters from the game.
On Glee show choir is presented as possibly the main characters' only chance to ever feel good about themselves or do anything other than toiling away in unappreciated obscurity for the rest of their lives. The schools they compete against, though, take it really seriously.
"There is nothing ironic about show choir!" "You can't quit Cheerios. It's blood in, blood out!"
The Hogan's Heroes episode, "Go Light on the Heavy Water" had the heroes wondering why German troops are seemingly playing this trope with a barrel of water in a truck they are determined to keep secure. They find out that there is an extremely good reason why they're doing that: the water in question is heavy water, used for experiments for nuclear weapons and they are ordered to stop that delivery at all costs.
In "The Best Burger in New York", it's revealed that Marshall has spent the last eight years of his life trying to find the restaurant where he once ate the best burger of his life. Though he actually takes it mildly compared to Special Guest Regis Philbin.
Marshall: It's so much more than "just a burger." I mean ... that first bite ... oh, what heaven that first bite is. The bun like a sesame freckled breast of an angel, resting gently on the ketchup and mustard below, flavors mingling in a seductive pas de deux. And then...a pickle! The most playful little pickle! Then a slice of tomato, a leaf of lettuce and a ... a patty of ground beef so exquisite, swirling in your mouth, breaking apart, and combining again in a fugue of sweets and savor so delightful. This is no mere sandwich of grilled meat and toasted bread, Robin. This is God, speaking to us in food. Lily: And you got our wedding vows off the Internet.
Ted: Duck is delicious! Rabbit is all gamey! Marshall: We're not talking about flavor! Ted: Flavor counts! (Later) Marshall: Who carries around a duck's foot for good luck?! Anyone?! (Later) Robin: You wrap yourself in a comforter stuffed with rabbit hair, I'll wrap myself in one stuffed with duck feathers, who's cozier?! (Marshall tries to deflect) No, no, no, no! But who's cozier?! (Later) Ted: Then why don't get a duck and a rabbit, stick 'em in a cardboard box, and let them fight it out?! Marshall: Because it's illegal, Ted! Ted: Only if we bet on it, Marshall!
iCarly The webcast seems to have only slightly less cultural impact than Dethklok. Sneaker manufacturers beg Carly to endorse their product. Television producers ransack the show for ideas in two separate episodes. It's watercooler discussion material, even amongst adults.
The entire school ridicules Freddie after Sam reveals he hasn't yet had his First Kiss, and he ends up missing school and avoiding his mom as a result of the embarrassment. note Okay, so he probably does that last one a lot anyway.
In iFight Shelby Marx, Carly makes some joking comments about being able to "take down" an MMA fighter. Said fighter appears at her doorstep the next day, proposes an exhibition match for charity that is apparently so popular, it fills a stadium and is sold on pay-per-view. Lampshaded when the MMA announcer introduces her as "Carly Shay, who... has a web show."
The competitive cooking series Iron Chef plays this up as hard as it possibly can. Particularly in the American version.
In one episode of Kenan & Kel, Ron Harper shows in Rigby's and everyone is excited to see him, especially the titular characters. However, he ended up slipping on a puddle of orange soda, injuring his knee. Thanks to that, all of Chicago are after Kenan and Kel.
Luke Cage (2016): In season 2 episode 2, a reporter covering Luke Cage at a crossfit event claims he's "faster than Usain Bolt". This results in a Running Gag where every Jamaican, even Bushmaster, gives Luke a hard time about it as if he himself were the one who said it.
One episode of MacGyver, a Dramatic Hour Long show, had an episode open with a girl talking extensively about the horrors inflicted upon her hobby by store owners. The topic: counterfeit baseball cards. It's a good thing MacGyver is unfailingly polite, lest he tell her to just shut up.
The scary thing is, some baseball cards can be worth thousands of dollars. A single counterfeit baseball card can constitute fraud on par with grand theft auto.
According to the ABC Family series Make It or Break It, gymnastics is incredibly serious business. Yes, they're training for the Olympics, but every single detail of the gymnasts' lives is overblown for the sake of drama.
Everyone in Midge's family seems to run on this trope. It's extremely important for everything to run smoothly, as expected, and conforming to cultural norms. Even slight variations result in complete breakdowns.
Everyone vacationing in the Catskills takes their recreation very seriously. Everyone has a lot invested in the resort games and customs, including the prestige of the beauty pageant.
Even a game of Simon Says provokes surprising amounts of competition from grown adults.
The trope is particularly noticeable with Abe, who sets an extremely rigid routine for himself that involves drinking copious amounts of tomato juice, doing calisthenics in a romper, and playing shuffleboard at an outrageously competitive level.
Shirley is not much better, being so invested in Mahjong that Rose says she's the only person whose disposition worsens in the Catskills.
The stand-up comedy circuit has hired muscle, such as a pair of thugs who Harry Drake sends in the first episode of season 2 to intimidate Susie for Midge's takedown of Sophie Lennon. Susie ends up befriending the thugs after learning they're from the Rockaways just like her family is.
In Episode 6 of Season 2 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries most of the action revolves around the murder of a rugby player and the immediate suspicion that the rival team killed of the player. Throughout the episode everyone carries on as if this was all about winning the rugby match, including the deputy commissioner intervening with the investigation because he was a fan of one of the two teams.
Often played straight in Monty Python's Flying Circus (The All-England Summarize Proust Competition), but subverted with 'The Society For Putting Things on Top of Other Things' where one member claims that they haven't put anything on top of another thing because they've decided that the whole thing's a bit silly. The chairman looks as if he's about to go berserk, and then suddenly agrees with him and decides to wind up the society.
In one episode of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn, the quadruplets' parents refused to take them to an amusement park because one of them forgot to flush the toilet.
According to Antony Bourdain in one of the Japan-centric episodes of No Reservations, Japan's entire culture is devoted to the Art of Serious Business. Anything can be Serious Business in Japan, from Tea Ceremonies to Cherry Blossom Viewings, to Baseball (see below).
Also, when he visited France, he played petanque (much like bocce) with the locals, expecting them to be leisurely about the game. Instead, he discovered that they actually are fiercely competitive about it, especially since they put money on the line. Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hxm_7mCpm7c
One day, when Michael is out of the office, the entire staff spends hours debating over whether or not Hilary Swank is hot. Simple attractiveness and willingness to have sex with her are apparently not necessarily part of the equation, and an organized debate ensues. The real icing on the cake comes when Oscar creates and presents a detailed diagram analyzing Swank's facial symmetry.
Jared on Open Heart is very serious about the volunteer program. And especially serious about restocking his supply closet.
The British series Playing for Real featuring the lives of the Real Falkirk Table Football Club, who lived and breathed Subbuteo.
Anything that is the subject of an episode of Pushing Daisies is extremely serious business (enough to make people commit murder over it), including but not limited to dog breeding, circus performance, and fried chicken.
When Dick Clark hosted Pyramid, he made sure it was Serious Business. "I remind the audience once again, we need absolute silence, please. GO!" In one episode the contestant was awarded partial credit in the Bonus Round because there wasn't absolute silence; an audience member started a loud Countdown when the clock hit 10 seconds.
The Soup Nazi. His soup is so good that people are willing to put up with the authoritarian regime that is his restaurant and rejected patrons become motivated to exact revenge rather than just finding someplace else to eat.
Elaine had a boyfriend who shared a name with a well-known murderer. He decided to change it, but Elaine hated every one of his suggestions because of her associations with those names.
Jerry's Girl of the Week's stepmother not wanting to lose her spot on her stepdaughter's speed dial. Then the girl and her stepmother spend the rest of the episode changing their respective speed dials.
Jerry discovers that his girlfriend was working for one of Jerry's former classmates who has been holding a grudge on him since a sprint in high school. They hold a rematch presided over by their high school gym teacher, and many of their old high school mates are there to watch.
After being banned from the manicure shop, Elaine manically sobs all over Manhattan, to the point where she doesn't know where she's going.
Never make a weird face at a doctor or "be difficult", lest you be instantly blacklisted by your medical professional and be denied medical services for the rest of your life. Even from veterinarians.
Jerry discovers he failed to return a library book in the 1970s, and the library finally retorts by sending a library security cop over to his house. The cop is a direct parody of the detectives on Dragnet and takes this job as seriously as if he were tracking down serial killers in a gritty police drama. When he enters into a monologue about people disrespecting the New York Public Library, it's so over-the-top yet so dead-straight-serious that Jerry (the actor) is clearly struggling not to burst out laughing.
On an episode of Smallville, the editor of the school paper grills the student council candidates on their positions on administration policies ranging from the dress code to anti-drug locker sweeps before settling on an endorsement, while one of the candidates plots to assassinate her rivals to clear the field. Though in that candidate's defense, she wasn't thatmentally stable.
Subverted entirely in "Move Along Home", which has Quark playing a board game brought by some race from the Gamma Quadrant. Eventually he realizes the Seriousness of the Business as his pieces represent members of the crew who have been somehow teleported into the game and are thus in mortal danger through his actions. Although he plays conservatively from then on, he eventually loses a piece; assuming the corresponding crewman to be dead, he is stunned when all the missing crew reappear completely safe at the end—and he learns that he lost. As the alien gamemaster explains, it's only a game.
Riker: I had no idea you had such a ritual. Troi: Chocolate is a serious thing.
In that episode, though, some real Serious Business comes about because nearly everyone on the ship gets obsessed with a video game-ish contraption... that rewards wins directly at the pleasure center of the brain, creating an addiction.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Matt and Danny work on a sketch show which is a SNL ripoff, yet they try to play it as being of the utmost importance and a platform for social change. This is a big problem for the series as a whole, since Aaron Sorkin's trademark style of political filibustering is embarrassingly misplaced in a comedy series. Though many fans think the show would be shallow and soulless without that extra dimension.
Played with in another episode, where Dean yells at two fans of the Supernatural book series for not taking the job/lives of Sam and Dean seriously. Considering it's his life they're making light of, he is completely correct. They however assume he's merely doing this trope.
Zig-zagged, inverted and played for laughs in That Mitchell and Webb Look. In one sketch, a wife discovers a large bra that is not hers in amongst her husband's possessions and confronts him about whether he's having an affair in a tone of very slight annoyance. After the husband nonchalantly replies in the affirmative, they proceed to get into mildly irritable quarrel about this, the wife's gambling problem and their mutually incompatible desires for a child. Until the husband figures out what's really bothering his wife... the time he accidentally left the fridge door open, resulting in a quiche and some milk going bad and having to be disposed of. This is treated as if it almost destroyed the marriage.
In a weird meta-example, the British student quiz show University Challenge made nationalnewsheadlines when the internet decided nobody should be allowed to be that clever. The young lady in question ended up being interviewed about her public image on national primetime breakfast news, simply because some people objected to the way she smiled (was it embarrassment? Or smugness?) when she was told she'd got a question right. University Challenge: Serious Business to everyone except those who actually play it. To make it even worse, the team that young lady was on ended up being disqualified after the winning the final because it was discovered that one of the other team members had graduated partway through the competition, and the rules could therefore be interpreted to state that he was ineligible. Serious Business indeed.
In one episode of The West Wing, a quote in the news that the President doesn't like green beans is treated as this by C.J and Toby, because a huge percent of America's green bean output is grown in Oregon, the President barely won Oregon in the previous election, and this risks potentially offending a huge part of the electorate there. Subverted when Charlie — who inadvertently gave the quote — points out that C.J and Toby are being ridiculous, the green bean quote actually is a minor issue, the Oregonians Charlie has met aren't idiots, and C.J and Toby assuming they'll all vote against Bartlet in outraged offence that he doesn't happen to enjoy eating a particular crop they happen to grow is in fact a very condescending and insulting attitude for them to take.
Charlie: Well, I'm sorry that I mouthed off to a reporter, but you're out of your mind. C.J: No I'm— Charlie:Education's a serious thing. Crime, jobs, national security. In eighteen months, I've been to Oregon four times, and not a single person I've met there's been stupid. C.J: Everyone's stupid in an election year, Charlie. Charlie: No, everyone gets treated stupid in an election year, C.J.
The annual basketball game between the East Side and West Side drug crews is such serious business that the entire neighborhood in which it is held shuts down for the day, and the leader of one of the crews thinks nothing of paying $20,000 to hire a ringer for his team.
Business doesn't get more serious than the right to donate a stained glass window to Father Lewandowski's church. Because of a beef over that window, lives are destroyed, careers are made, a union is brought low, and the MCU is formed.