The quintessential board game used in television to indicate, first, a test of skills among characters to see which one is the smartest, and second, an excuse for hilarious bickering as players argue over whether someone is winning because he's actually smarter or because he's getting ludicrously easy questions. In shorthand, while many board games are treated as luck-based missions for which the winner is of little ultimate consequence, Trivial Pursuit will be a matter of Serious Business. The irony will not be lost on those who realize that the game's title is a pun on the old expression "trivial pursuits"; i.e, pointless adventures that never accomplish anything.
The rules to this game are almost always irrelevant in terms of its use on television, but for what it's worth, the object is to collect six different colored wedges, each color corresponding to a different general interest category, and put them into the player's game piece, a wheel. Because of their shape, the wedges are often referred to as 'pieces of cheese' or 'pie pieces'. After collecting all six colors, the player must journey to the center of the board for a final question in a category chosen by the opponents. A correct answer wins the game; otherwise, rinse and repeat.
The popularity (and nature) of this game is also such that it shows up semi-regularly as a Game Show. To date, different versions have appeared in the United States (one version from Jay Wolpert in 1987 didn't make it to series; the others were a series on The Family Channel, produced and hosted by Wink Martindale from 1993-94 with call-in components, and Trivial Pursuit: America Plays, a series from 2008 that utilized people and webcams to record questions), the United Kingdom (a carbon copy of the Martindale series, also produced by him and aired on their Family Channel equivalent, now Challenge TV), and Spain. There is also a 1980s arcade game by Bally Sente.
This board game includes examples of the following tropes:
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The game's six categories, which themselves depend on the card set used. These usually if not always come with guide cards listing said categories and their corresponding colors.
- Expansion Pack: Plenty to choose from, featuring categories of different themes, official and not-so-much.
- Extra Turn: The grey "Roll Again" spaces.
- Gotta Catch 'Em All: The "pie" pieces.
This board game has been a plot point in the following shows:
- The Seinfeld episode "The Bubble Boy" has George playing a game of this with the titular boy. The Bubble Boy being an obnoxious know-it-all, George seizes upon a famous typo (one answer card incorrectly states that the "Moops" conquered Spain) to refuse the Bubble Boy access to the history spoke. This goes downhill until George accidentally destroys the Bubble Boy's bubble.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- During the making of Hercules and the Captive Women, one blooper showed Joel rolling the die and announcing the scripted result, ignoring the roll. He's told to just take the roll. His next roll? He announces '9'. This can be seen in Poopie!.
- In Gorgo, Mike tries to play the William Sylvester version of Trivial Pursuit, but the bots don't care for it.
- In the Wings episode "Sports and Leisure," the airport gang plays a game of Trivial Pursuit. Roy ends up teamed with Lowell, who insists on answering "Ann-Margret" to every single question.
- Cheers: In "Strange Bedfellows, Part 2", none other than Senator Gary Hart is revealed to be Sam's Trivial Pursuit partner. Sam helped Hart on the sports trivia, and Hart helped Sam on "everything else".
- The Family Guy episode "Petarded" starts off with resident idiot Peter Griffin winning a game of this (because Lois used questions from the preschool edition, and even then he still struggled with them), and naturally takes it as evidence that he's a genius. Annoyed by this, Brian ends up showing Peter that, rather than being a genius, he's actually legally mentally retarded. This stops Peter's bragging, but his behavior doesn't exactly improve.