Follow TV Tropes


Skewed Priorities / Live-Action TV

Go To

Skewed Priorities in live-action TV.

  • The Adventures of Superman: In "The Bully of Dry Gulch", Lois calls Clark for help after Jimmy gets in trouble with the local gunslinger. Clark appears unconcerned. Then Lois mentions that the villain has also been "making eyes" at her.
    Clark: He's what?!
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "The Prom":
      Buffy: You guys are going to have a prom. The kind of prom that everyone should have. I'm going to give you all a nice, fun, normal evening if I have to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it.
      Xander: Yay?
    • Advertisement:
    • In the first two seasons, this was Cordelia's main character note: no matter what danger anyone was in, she would always bring up some completely irrelevant detail (usually of the self-centered variety) that she deemed far more important. She got better.
    • In the film, Pike cuts off Amilyn's arm and his main concern is his ruined jacket.
  • One episode of Casualty had someone almost escape a fire, only to turn back, because he'd left his CDs upstairs.
  • Charmed: Phoebe has a terrible tendency to prioritize her personal/professional life over her duties as a Charmed One.
  • Chuck: In the season one finale, while Sarah is fighting a Fulcrum agent, Chuck's main concern is that she doesn't break the engagement ring Devon got for Ellie.
  • Cobra Kai:
    • In season 1 episode 2, the LaRussos return home from the country club to find that Samantha has thrown a pool party in their absence. Daniel is most annoyed by the fact that the male guests were wearing his bathing suits (which just raises the question as to why he has so many to begin with).
    • Advertisement:
    • Daniel's fixation on training Miyagi-Do all in the name of stopping Cobra Kai backfires hard, as it concludes in not only Anoush ditching the LaRusso Auto Group for a rival dealership, but also an all-out school brawl between the two dojos in the Season 2 finale, which ends in disaster for both sides, including his daughter being hospitalized and his marriage strained.
    • In season 3 episode 9, Daniel happens to walk in on Samantha making out with Miguel. The first thing out of his mouth is, "Is that my drum in your pocket?" having noticed his Okinawan hand drum stuffed into Miguel's pants pocket.
    • During the All-Valley Tournament in season 1, Miguel's mother is more worried about his self-esteem being impacted by him losing, as opposed to any concern of him getting injured.
    • Counselor Blatt is so fixated on political correctness that she cares more about students using the buzzwords she wants them to use, than questioning every detail of bullying incidents that occur in the school.
  • Advertisement:
  • Used three times in Community episode "Epidemiology". First, right before zombies swarm the study room, Jeff asks if anyone managed to turn off the Dean's ABBA playlist. The second time is with the Cat Scare, where they abandon their plans of escape to resolve the cat issue. Then, when Jeff is about to be zombified, all he's scared of is Rich stretching his suit jacket.
  • The Deuce:
    • Just as he's about to tell a gunman to blow a man's brains out in the cellar of a mob-owned bar, the presiding mobster pauses to move a crate of booze so it won't get covered in brains.
    • A drunken off-duty cop stumbles across a deadly robbery in progress, sets his beer down, and gets into a firefight with the robber, shooting the robber and taking a bullet to the shoulder himself. He then looks down and laments that his beer was spilled during the shootout.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Aliens of London": Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North, had an appointment at 10 Downing Street about a cottage hospital scheme she'd come up with. The day of the appointment, Harriet keeps trying to get in despite the fact that an alien spaceship has crashed in the River Thames and the Prime Minister has gone missing, and she's told several times that her minor issue has to be put on the backburner as a result. On the other hand, her attempts to get the scheme discussed regardless end up putting her in the right position to discover the plotters behind the whole emergency.
    • "The Empty Child": While stuck in the middle of the Blitz and having broken into someone's house during an air raid to get the kids she's looking after fed, Nancy, possibly due to British Stuffiness, exhorts them to chew their food properly.
    • "The Christmas Invasion": Before dealing with the Monster of the Week, the Doctor asks Rose how his latest regeneration looks and then throws a tantrum about how he's not ginger.
    • "Tooth and Claw": While people are being torn apart by the werewolf, Rose's main priority seems to be trying to get Queen Victoria to say "We are not amused". Victoria later calls her out on it.
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace": The Doctor discovers that the "spatio-temporal hyperlinks" actually links to France. Also, he brought back a horse.
      Mickey: What's a horse doing on a spaceship?
      The Doctor: Mickey, what's pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get a little perspective!
    • "Partners in Crime": The Doctor and Donna are independently investigating a company and run into each other after not seeing each other for a year. Donna Fan Girls their encounter which occurs while the Monster of the Week is interrogating someone in the next room. The alien is the one to get them back on subject.
    • "The Doctor's Daughter": General Cobb tells the Doctor that "[his] woman" will die first if they cause any trouble. The Doctor and Donna are more annoyed by someone mistaking them for a couple (again) than the death threat.
    • "Planet of the Dead": When it's revealed that the sand covering San Helios is the remains of the planet's cities and population, eaten by a Horde of Alien Locusts, Christina is freaked out and disgusted because she has sand in her hair.
    • "The Big Bang":
      • The Doctor invokes the trope in order to pull a Secret Test of Character on Rory, as the Auton version may have agreed, but the real Rory never would.
        The Doctor: Your girlfriend isn't more important than the whole universe–
        Rory: SHE IS TO ME!
      • All of reality has been uncreated, except the Earth, which is staring to fade out as well, and the Doctor just saved River Song from the exploding TARDIS:
        River: Right then! I have questions. But number one is this: What in the name of sanity have you got on your head?
    • "Asylum of the Daleks":
      • The Doctor, Amy and Rory are trapped on a planet full of battle-scarred Axe-Crazy-even-by-Dalek-standards Daleks, and Amy is infected with a cloud of nanotech that is slowly turning her into a Dalek puppet. "In no particular order, we need to neutralize all the Daleks in this Asylum, rescue Oswin from the wreckage, escape from this planet, and fix Amy and Rory's marriage."
      • The Doctor is also constantly trying to figure out how Oswin gets the ingredients needed for her baking, even in situations when they have more immediate concerns about survival. It turns out to be a vital clue. Given the Doctor's propensity for a) being a Small Steps Hero and b) noticing tiny details and using them to beat the Monster of the Week, both of the above examples are actually entirely justified.
    • From the comedy special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot:
      Davison: Oh, get your priorities right, Sylvester! This is not some flash in the pan $500 million picture! This is important!
    • "Rosa": After the TARDIS crew resolves to find out what's going on with the temporal tampering around the title character and stop it, Graham asks if they can still find another restaurant which isn't going to kick them out so they can have lunch first, and the Doctor tells him there's no time. Graham complains about how often this happens, to which Ryan and Yaz respond with snark. By "It Takes You Away", Graham has started taking sandwiches with him, and says he needs to keep his blood sugar up.
  • Played for Laughs in 2003 sitcom Eve. One episode has a towel-clad Rita stepping out of her house in the morning to grab the paper, and finds a crowd of paparazzi waiting for her. Startled, she ends up losing the towel in front of them. She has a Naked Freak-Out, but instead of using her hands to cover her exposed body, she covers her green-cream-masked-faced.
  • Firefly: In "Safe", Simon lampshades his parents' skewed priorities.
  • A particularly disturbing example from Season 4 of Glee: Newcomer Marley Rose ends up with a case of bulimia and takes to starving herself. The following remark ensues:
    Marley: I'm so hungry, but at least I'll fit into my Sectionals dress.
  • The Gifted: In one episode, Andy tries to use his powers to remove a snack from the vending machine. He ends up blowing it up and tries to make a run for it, but makes sure he gets the snack.
  • The Good Place:
    • Chidi is an ethics professor who has a ridiculously strict sense of ethics which means he agonizes over the simplest of decisions for fear of making the wrong choice. This leads him to often setting things to insane levels of priority. The best example is when he felt he couldn't visit his mother in the hospital as he had agreed to help his landlord's nephew set up his phone.
    • Tahani, being an Upper-Class Twit, tends to focus on irrelevant details, usually related to her and her appearance, such as when a sinkhole opens up and nearly swallows several people. Tahani notes the evening was ruined, her soulmate is (apparently) traumatized so much he may never speak, and her hair is barely cascading down her shoulders.
    • Jason, being mind-bogglingly stupid, can derail conversations with inane questions, often about his favourite football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. In one instance, Eleanor heads this off when he wants to waste time the others don't have asking dozens of questions about the Jaguars by having Janet give him a sparkler.
  • Hang Time: When Rico goes to coach Katowinski late in the episode "The Tall And The Short Of It" after his fallout with his date because of his self-conscious concern over his date being much taller than he, coach Katowinski's first response, upon learning that Rico's date is, in Rico's own words, "Shaq tall", is to ask Rico: "Can she shoot [hoops]?" Rico gives him a "What the Hell?" look in return.
  • A truly amazing example on Hawaii Five-0. Grover's former partner Clay killed his wife and when Grover had him busted, he arranged for a mobster to try and kill Grover and his family. Coming to Chicago to testify against Clay, Grover goes to see some former cop buddies at a bar. To his shock, they regard him coldly as they think Grover is the scumbag for turning Clay in for stealing money from a drug bust years before. Grover realizes these men hold "the Blue Wall" so sacred that they're willing to let Clay slide for killing his wife and nearly killing Grover's family over Grove "breaking the code".
  • Horatio Hornblower: Colonel Moncoutant is very disgruntled to leave off executing half the village when Hornblower insists that he should maybe do something about the attacking Republican forces.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Marshall lists what he thinks the five worst things that could ever possibly happen would be.
      Marshall: Number one, supervolcano. Number two, an asteroid hits the earth. Number three, all footage of Evel Knievel is lost. Number four, Ted calls Karen. Number five, Lily gets eaten by a shark.
      Lily: I'm Lily and I approve the order of that list.
    • In another episode Lily says that, if Ted ever killed her and dumped her body in New Jersey, she'd come back as a ghost and haunt him. Not because he killed her ("I'm sure you had your reasons") but because, as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she just hates New Jersey that much.
    • Barney once promised Marshall ten thousand dollars if he'd let Barney welch on a bet; Marshall refused. Barney then offered to let Marshall slap him in the face instead; this Marshall found difficult to pass up.
  • I Love Lucy: In the episode "Ricky Minds the Baby", Little Ricky manages to wander off while under his father's care. When Ricky discovers what has happened, he seems far more worried about the consequences of Lucy finding out about it than the fact that their son is missing.
  • JAG: In "Brig Break", the group of right-wing militiamen seeking to overthrow the government learn that one of their co-conspirators is a black man, and their leader proceeds to demand that the tall blonde female US military officer (Meg) whose government they are fighting against is protected from him.
  • The central character of Keeping Up Appearances, Hyacinth Bucket, queen of Cloud Cuckoolanders, lives and breathes Skewed Priorities. Perhaps one of the most egregious examples from her is how she keeps convincing her sister Violet to not divorce Bruce — despite the fact that the couple doesn't seem to be able to share air without fighting fiercely and that Violet is obviously miserable. Her reasoning? Bruce is rich and well-connected. Apparently Hyacinth couldn't keep bragging about "Violet's" Mercedes, sauna, and room-for-a-pony if Violet did divorce him.
  • Played for Drama in an episode of Law & Order: SVU. The culprit of the week turned out to be a school guidance counselor who tried to murder a trans girl's father for not allowing her to transition because he didn't understand the disorder and thought making her act like a boy would fix it, which ended up making the girl suicidal. At her trial the prosecutor calls her out for counseling children who were raped, beaten, or otherwise abused by their parents but not caring enough to go this far for them. The counselor's reaction to the accusation leads the prosecutor to realize the counselor's secret: she's a trans woman herself, who became the victim of a hate crime because she couldn't adequately pass as a woman.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle Lois's own Skewed Priorities help expose a Sadist Teacher. When Malcolm writes Reese's homework for him and gets failed, Lois is initially furious that Malcolm helped Reese cheat but then says to the teacher "you gave something [Malcolm] wrote a F!" realising he is out to get Reese.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and Trapper try to get HQ to supply them with an incubator to make diagnosis of disease faster, but an Obstructive Bureaucrat says they can't because it would be considered "a luxury". When Hawkeye tries to reason with him by saying it's not the same thing as a pizza oven or jukebox, the guy replies by saying those he can give them.
  • Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Three Julies", when it's assumed Natalie's daughter is in danger after two other women with her name are killed, the police go to considerable lengths to protect her. Though when Natalie goes up to Julie's room and finds her not taking the risk seriously enough, Julie seems more ticked off at the fact that she might have to have her driver's license test postponed.
      Natalie Teeger: Two dead women named Julie Teeger and all she cares about is her driver's test.
    • In "Mr. Monk Joins a Cult", Ralph Roberts is the leader of the Siblings of the Sun cult, and claims to have perfect health due to his "divine powers". He is accused of murdering a former member, and eventually does establish an alibi, with the doctor who has secretly been treating him for back pain. Mind you, he would have (eventually) gone to jail for fraud (which he did by the time of "Mr. Monk's 100th Case"), but fraud has a much lesser sentence than a murder charge.
  • Mr Wensleydale, the cheese shop owner from Monty Python's "Cheese Shop" sketch, considers his shop to be the finest in the district, since even though he has absolutely no cheese to sell, the shop itself is so clean (and to his credit, it's certainly uncontaminated by cheese).
  • The Muppet Show: Gonzo's priorities are not those of a rational...whatever he is. His first thought when JP Grosse plans to demolish the theatre is that it would make a terrific act, for example.
  • On Mystery Science Theater 3000, Tom Servo invokes this trope in a riff on Touch of Satan when a mob hunts down a man’s daughter under the impression that she’s a witch:
    Servo: Take my daughter, but spare my commemorative plates!
  • One episode of Nash Bridges has the SIU investigating a mass of prisoners who escaped from a prison transport. After Nash looks at the list of escaped prisoners, he walks into a gourmet food store a few yards away and walks out a couple of seconds later with one of the prisoners. The guy apparently decided that fine food was more important than escaping.
  • In the premiere episode of Night Court, as the staff prepares for the arrival of the new judge:
    Sheila: I hope he's got a background in criminal law.
    Dan: I hope he plays chess.
    Sheila: A new man has been appointed to the bench, and all you hope for is someone who can play chess?
  • A sketch on Not the Nine O'Clock News about Question Time being recorded as the Soviets are launching nuclear missiles at the UK—besides one Only Sane Man panellist, they spend the programme bickering about which party's period in government to blame for the crisis.
  • Parks and Recreation:
    • Leslie's priorities are a bit out of whack.
      Leslie: We need to remember what's important in life. Friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter. But work is third.
    • In another episode:
      April: I could get fired. Or even worse, Leslie might give me a lecture on responsibility again.
  • In Psych, Shawn and Gus are about to eat nachos, but realize they can't leave as a bomb has just been activated and will go off if they move. Once they're safe, they rush to eat the nachos.
    • Not only that, they tried to direct the bomb squad's robot to give them the nachos before it defused the bomb.
    • One more than one occasion, Shawn and/or Gus have been seen eating food from a murder victim's home when they're supposed to be searching for clues.
    • On another occasion, they were wearing hazmat suits while investigating a potential biological weapon. Before putting on the suit, however, Gus had borrowed Shawn's sweatshirt, and Shawn had left his corn nuts in the pocket. Gus was left with the choice of staying in the suit with the smell of the corn nuts or removing it and potentially exposing himself to a deadly virus. He made the right choice, but he had to consider the matter for a while.
  • In Red Dwarf, it's a running gag that the Cat cares more about clothing than about his safety.
    • For example, in "Meltdown" when he and Lister are captured by Nazis, Lister suggests stealing a guard's uniform to escape execution, and his reaction is: "Are you insane? You seriously expect me to wear grey out of season? I'd rather hang!"
    • In "Dimension Jump", after being in a crash and getting his leg crushed, he was more upset about the red blood clashing with his apricot trousers than his injuries.
    • In "Rimmerworld" he was more worried that a simulant holding him at gunpoint would notice he was wearing the same outfit from the last time they met than being killed.
    • "Confidence and Paranoia", contains a non-clothing related example for Cat. Lister has fainted, due to pneumonia, but Cat won't do anything to help, as he is eating. Rimmer (who can't do anything to help, due being a hologram) angrily asks Cat whether his lunch or Lister's life is more important, and an offended Cat replies "That doesn't even deserve an answer!"... and then continues to eat.
  • A couple instances in Sabrina the Teenage Witch:
    • Sabrina's Evil Twin causes a bit of drama that Sabrina gets blamed for. Morgan says she'll forgive her for kissing her boyfriend but it'll take a long time to forgive what was said about her outfit.
    • When Sabrina went to Hawaii for Christmas with her friends to stay at her friend Leonard's condo (Salem sneaking along when Leonard refused to let him come), the condo was robbed and it was believed that Roxie's recently-paroled mother was responsible for it. After learning that it was really Roxie's mother's boyfriend Zack, Sabrina sets up a trap to expose him. When he gets caught in the closet with the goods after Salem triggers his allergies, Leonard made this speech:
      Leonard: I don't believe this. This is an invasion. I feel totally violated. [to Sabrina] How could you bring that cat back in here?
      Sabrina: Uh, Leonard, bigger issues?
  • This is the main element of the Saturday Night Live character MacGruber, a parody of MacGyver. In each sketch, MacGruber's always too distracted by his own personal issues to even bother with defusing the bomb that's about to detonate. Such distractions include alcoholism, fear of aging, his co-workers talking behind his back, the 2008 Recession wiping out all his money, etc.
  • Parodied in Scrubs when JD imagines life as a Sitcom. When one patient finds out he has terminal lung cancer, he says "at least I don't have to eat my wife's cooking any more".
  • In one episode of Seinfeld, George greatly enjoys the fact that his Girl of the Week is a Big Eater who somehow manages to stay thin and attractive. Elaine puts forward the theory that she could be bulimic, and George then realizes that she always goes to the bathroom to "freshen up" immediately after she finishes eating. He suddenly becomes very concerned... that she is wasting his money by throwing up all the food he's been paying for.
  • The Shannara Chronicles:
    • In "Breakline", Amberle and Eretria run from some elf hunters and fall through a hole and find themselves in some old human ruins (a buried high school, to be exact). Eretria grabs some leftover decorations and begins cobbling together a rope out of it. When she tries to throw the rope through the hole so they can climb out, she comes up short. If Amberle were being sensible, she might help Eretria, since the Elf Hunters are still after them and thus, the situation is time sensitive. Instead, she devotes her time to wandering around looking at old pictures.
    • Amberle gets hit with this again in "Utopia", where she is accused of being more concerned with recovering an important map than rescuing Eretria from danger. She is genuinely shocked at the accusation, having forgotten that the map was even missing.
  • On Slings & Arrows, Kate shows up for a performance half an hour late only to find out that the director is dead and the performance has been canceled. Her first reaction is, "You mean I'm not fired?" To her credit, she immediately realizes how insensitive this is.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "Body Parts", Quark is diagnosed with a terminal illness. He and his brother, Rom, are planning the funeral when Dr. Bashir delivers a message that the diagnosis was incorrect.
    Quark: Do you know what this means, Rom?
    Rom: It means you're gonna live!
    Quark: It means I get to sue Dr. Orpax for malpractice! And I'm gonna live.
    • Happens with Quark every time he's spent or committed money to something that has been overtaken by bigger events. It is his species' hat after all.
      • Lampshaded by Rom when Quark hires a Ferengi assassin who cares more about the thrill and challenge of the job than the paycheck (but isn't completely uncaring).
  • Star Trek: Enterprise:
    • In the notorious "A Night in Sickbay", Archer is so worked up about the illness his dog has contracted on an alien planet that he's willing to risk dooming his entire ship to a long and agonising trip back to Earth at impulse, rather than apologise to those aliens for taking a dog to visit a stand of sacred trees.
    • In "Singularity", most of the crew become fixated on small things (e.g. Trip on fixing the captain's chair, Hoshi on making an old family recipe).
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Fair Haven", the ship is facing destruction and needs all power diverted. When ordered to divert power from the holodeck, which the show had established to be impossible, Ensign Kim warns they'll lose the titular holodeck program that they've been running for the last few days. Yes, a computer game is more important than their own lives.
  • Deliberately invoked by Mr Moseby in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody when he finds out the twins have been climbing through the air vents. "They could have damaged the vents!"
  • Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles gets upset after a breakin. Why? Not for the breakin itself, or the stolen money, food or valuables. Not because their fake IDs are out there and John is at risk. Not even because Riley did not set the alarm. No, The Terminator is upset because her leather jacket is stolen. She keeps asking suspects about it and when she spots who did take it points a gun at him. Girl's seriously Hell-Bent for Leather.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look:
    • A sketch about Scott's Antarctic expedition in which Scott insists on only eating holiday foods on their appropriate holidays — thus, even though they're out of other food, they can't eat the Christmas pudding, because it's only August.
      Bowers: Sir, we are starving to death!
      Scott: And we are doing so with due deference to the English celebrational calendar.
    • In another sketch, a woman reacts with mild annoyance when her husband indifferently admits to having an affair with a beautiful work colleague. The two go on to have a slightly tetchy but otherwise matter-of-fact conversation about the wife's gambling addiction and their lack of mutual desire for a baby before getting into a heated, passionate shouting match about the terrible event that broke the wife's heart and almost destroyed their marriage: the time he accidentally left the fridge door open, resulting in a quiche and some milk going bad and having to be thrown away.
    • In another sketch, the owner of the Laboratoire Garnier cosmetics line knowingly destroys research into a cure for Alzheimer's because he expects the scientists in his employ to develop new types of shampoo rather than medicine.
  • Top Gear:
    • One challenge involved driving trucks at their top (limited) speeds through some obstacles and then braking. The prize for the shortest braking distance would win a year's supply of pies.
      Hammond: What do they mean by "obstacle"?
      Clarkson: Doesn't say.
      May: What sort of pies?
    • Then, in the same challenge:
      Clarkson: Exactly! You'll win! You'll be killed, but you'll win!
    • Clarkson, of course, feels that having an argument is more urgent than seeing the paramedics after he crashes through his obstacle.
  • In Two and a Half Men, Evelyn's new husband is found dead before the wedding reception is even over. The first thing she does is pull out her phone and call her travel agent to exchange their honeymoon flight tickets. This comes back to bite her during the subsequent police investigation.
  • Victorious: After Beck breaks up with Jade, the latter enlists Tori to get him back. The two get a dog because Beck likes dogs and try to sneak it in the trailer he sleeps in at night. However, the dog ends up attacking Beck's dad (whom they initially mistake for Beck). While Tori is appropriately horrified, Jade's first instinct is to say "Now he'll never want me back!"
  • In one episode of The West Wing, the White House conducts a poll asking whether Americans would be bothered if the government moved the White House press corps across the street. Unfortunately, the poll actually calls a White House reporter. Josh and Sam try to figure out the odds of randomly dialing a reporter, leaving an exasperated CJ to exclaim, "Would the two of you please stop being amazed by the mathematics!"
  • In Wolf Hall, a suspicious fire breaks out in Anne Boleyn's bedroom. It's extinguished quickly and she's unharmed, but rather than ask why there was no attendant with her, why her bedside jug of water was dry, and whether it was an unattended candle or arson (all questions that Thomas Cromwell is asking), Henry is lamenting that such a good set of bed hangings was burned.
  • Fairly common on The Young Ones, as when a late-night visitor triggers an explosive device Vyvyan had connected to the doorbell, and Rick complains about the visitor's bad manners in coming around so late.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: