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Medical Drama

Pretty much every medical show features doctors doing the most of the nurses' jobs (well, unless the show is actually about nurses.)
  • The doctors on House often perform all sorts of duties that should've been departmentalized - everything from radiology to surgery. Somewhat justified given that House's boss - the person who runs the hospital - has the hots for him, so he and his team get away with a lot of stuff they really shouldn't.
    • Also justified specifically In-Universe as House has pissed off so many of the hospital staff that most refuse to work with him.
    • What's problematic is that the team performs countless procedures and tests that they are not qualified to do, unless all of them are really in their fifties or so and have spent years upon years training for a large variety of professions and sub-specialties. Also, the show seems to confuse RNs with CNAs, with nurses basically existing merely to clean the patients.
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    • House himself is involved in such a bewildering variety of cases that you could watch dozens of episodes without having a clue that he does, in fact, have a nominal specialty - nephrology (kidneys).
  • While not as bad as it's spiritual predecessor House, The Good Doctor does stray into this. The surgical team spends a lot of time diagnosing issues that other doctors would do before referring the patient to surgery. In one episode, the ER is short-staffed so Shaun and Morgan cover, but there are no other doctors to be seen and the attending is Lim, a surgeon. When an independent review panel was needed to approve a procedure, it was made up of three main characters, including Melendez who is part of the surgery.
  • M*A*S*H is particularly bad. Other surgeons are occasionally mentioned, but rarely seen. This leads to many instances of the four doctors working many hours straight without a break. There is also only one person who does the clerking work (who also works as a stretcher-bearer), when there should be somewhere between two and four, plus an entire administrative staff. In season one, the camp had an anesthesiologist, "Ugly John", who was written out after a few episodes and replaced with whoever was closest to the anesthetics at the time, regardless of their qualifications to administer anesthesia.
    • Perhaps the worst and most confusing is episode "Cementing Relationships". Despite a camp full of lower ranking soldiers with a great deal more experience with manual labor and less to lose from a hand injury, three surgeons, the head nurse, and the camp chaplain are the ones who put the new cement floor in the OR. Unsurprisingly, they screw up their first try. In "MASH Olympics", when an ambulance is overturned, two of the three surgeons, the head nurse and the camp chaplain are tasked with righting it. In the episode Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Hawkeye was "the only one" who could light the heater in the nurse's tent. Resulting in the explosion that left him blind for the episode.
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    • Incidentally, it was this trope that played heavily in Mclean Stevenson (Henry Blake) and Wayne Rogers (Trapper John) leaving the show after season 3. Neither were happy with how Hawkeye-centric the show was leaning, giving him roles and responsibilities that fell well outside what should have been expected. A specific example is turning Hawkeye into the camp's resident Thoracic Surgeon, making him the "most important lifesaver" in the bunch, a role that was held by Trapper in the original novel and movie.
    • Justified in the season 3 episode "Bombed" when a wounded enemy soldier comes in booby trapped with a live grenade. When Frank logically suggests they call in the camp demolitions expert, Trapper points to him on the next operating table; he had been wounded by the artillery barrage plaguing the camp.
  • Grey's Anatomy:
    • The main characters are surgeons yet they perform non-surgical aspects of medical trials, do all the work in the ER, all the work of radiologists and a whole lot of what the nurses are supposed to do. In addition they do all the internal medicine associated with their surgical specialty. This is largely a result of focusing on surgeons, and surgeons only (many plots even pretend that the chief of surgery is in charge of the entire hospital). As a result, after introducing several rounds of interns, attendings and residents, as well as personnel from the season-six merger, plus guest stars who ended up staying, and with few characters ever leaving outright, the show ended up as The Main Characters Do Everything despite its Loads and Loads of Characters. Within the surgical department, the further sub-specializations (general, cardio, plastics etc.) are handled relatively well.
    • In a late-season episode the protagonists get bitten by this: several doctors pool their money to buy the hospital themselves (long story), and the venture capitalist they bring the idea to rejects them out of hand, specifically because they're all surgeons, with "not one administrator among the bunch of you".
  • The Australian soap opera Neighbours did this for many years with Dr. Karl Kennedy. He was a general practitioner, but any medical procedure of whatever kind always seemed to be done by Dr. Karl. Similarly, there have been various characters over the years who were nurses, and any stay in hospital would always see the characters cared for by that particular nurse.
  • Emergency! both averted and played it straight. The paramedics had their own job, but could also act as firefighters since they were firefighter/paramedics. Most hospital stuff, though, was done by one of the three main doctors (Early, Brackett and Morton) and although there were lots of background nurses, Dixie was the most often seen one.

Police Procedural / Forensic Drama

  • The Bill is based in a metropolitan area police station full of people, but conspicuously the 20 main characters are always involved in the cases we see, which despite being a relatively high number for a police procedural, all the other guys do are Ghost Extras who do their own things that we don't get to hear about. It crosses the line from the 'loads of characters doing their jobs' to the characters doing other jobs occasionally, in that one character (say, Sgt Smith) will be seen working as office Sergeant, and in C.A.D., and at custody, all in the same shift.
  • The CSI franchise is very egregious about this.
    • Pretty much the only thing the all-purpose forensic investigators don't do as part of their duties is to give out speeding tickets. And they don't do autopsies, that's the ME's job. The others just often watch parts of it. And in Ray and Hawkes' case, they are trained pathologists. Also, all 3 series have lab techs, though lab work is just as often done by the main cast. On the original series everyone has specialties, but still, real CSIs don't do "lab stuff," only "scene stuff."
    • At least they aren't usually called upon to use guns much, unlike their counterparts in Miami and New York, although they're actually trained police officers with badges in addition to their guns.
    • This is lampshaded in a CSI parody on Schlock Mercenary, where a forensic investigator is asked why he is interrogating a suspect.
    • And gently spoofed in an episode of Law & Order in which one of the forensic team makes a suggestion as to what might have happened at a crime scene, and Lennie Briscoe remarks "These guys think they're cops."
    • For the record, according to one Cracked article, most police forces are strictly forbidden from talking to lab techs about cases for fear of misconduct, since if someone in the lab actually cares about who the perpetrator is, they have been known to end up falsifying evidence because they want to put the bad guy in prison. For the record, lab techs aren't anywhere near the investigation and often don't know the suspect's name because of this possible issue.
  • Hawaii Five-0: they've got a forensics lab that can find addresses from hair-strands, Detective Danno sneaks around like a ninja, and Police Chief McGarett fights criminals and makes arrests at the crime-scene when he's supposed to be minding the store. It's as if they're the only cops in the entire state of Hawaii. However, they are a special police task force reporting directly to the Governor.
  • Criminal Minds always has the valuable profilers arresting the violent, dangerous psychopaths. Also, the characters deal with everything from serial killers to the mob to terrorists to child abductors. In real life, the FBI has different departments for each of these and would not send the same team on all the cases they get. Justified to some extent as they do need episodes. It is brought occasionally that the individual members do in fact specialise in certain crimes, but this rarely comes up and when it does, it is often incidental (for instance, Morgan was once asked by Rossi to consult on an obsessive killer as his speciality is Obsessions, but it was a coincidence that he was with Rossi at the time to consult at all).
  • NCIS borders on this.
    • McGee, Tony, and Ziva all do field work, but also run down information back in the office. However, McGee almost always does more technical stuff, such as tracking GPS signals and hacking, while the other two tend to look for more accessible info, like bank accounts and call histories. McGee will often be left behind to track a subject while Gibbs, Tony, and Ziva make the actual arrest. Abby, however, does all the forensics (except for pathology, which is handled by Ducky and Palmer), from bullet matching to mass spectrometry, and she even does some computer hacking. This is justified, though, as she is qualified in all these various areas. Ducky eventually gets a degree in psychology so he can be consulted on profiles and the like.
    • This is a Discussed Trope on the show in regards to Abby. Specifically, there are always headhunters looking to hire her away from NCIS due to her wide range of skills and high aptitude in said skills. It's also been mentioned that Abby does way more work than is expected of a forensics lab with only one person. And when they've tried to give her an assistant, it really, really didn't work out.
  • Bones has a forensic anthropologist doing EVERYTHING. There was once an actual Forensic Anthropology teacher who offered extra credit to her students if they watched a single episode of the show and brought in a list of everything wrong with it. Up to a point this is justified by the premise of the show. Bones is one of only two forensic anthropologists in North America (the other is in Quebec) and insists on full participation in investigations as a condition of consulting for the FBI. Of course, the only reason the FBI accepts this instead of calling the Canadian guy is because then there wouldn't be a show.
  • Gotham justifies it slightly: No, Crime Scene Analyst Edward Nygma isn't supposed to do autopsies. He does them anyway because he wants to. The captain more or less ignores it because the actual ME has a habit of declaring people with twenty stab wounds in the back tragic suicides. When the examiner tries to have Nygma fired for it, Edward frames him for stealing body parts. The replacement becomes friends with him and allows him to work in the pathology.
  • The X-Files has Agent Scully serving as a field agent and performing her own autopsies. Justified somewhat due to the fact that she was a medical doctor before she joined the FBI.
  • Fringe is supposed to have the titular Division, a joint task force comprising dozens to hundreds of agents, of which our protagonists are only a few. By season 2, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Fringe Division was headquartered in Walter's lab and was comprised of three FBI agents, two civilian consultants and a cow. Well, Walter is segregated from most of the rest of the division intentionally due to his Science-Related Memetic Disorder frequently crossing the line into the "experiment on whatever human is handy" phase or outright omnicidal mania. I think the viewer is supposed to assume that when the assistant was asked a question and then wasn't around for a few scenes she was off liaising with the department proper. Similarly, they keep Walter's son away from sensitive files and personnel because he's a career criminal and Olivia stays out of contact to maintain the isolation. They're essentially a semi-independent 'cell' of the division kept apart because they're, well, a cancer cell.
  • NUMB3RS features this with Omnidisciplinary Scientist Charlie, somehow a mathematician is the one they go to to handle engineering analysis, geology and whatever other random scientific concepts are necessary for the case of the week. While he does get help from resident Hot Scientist Amita, a computer scientist, and his physicist mentor, Absent-Minded Professor Larry, they are still involved in a much larger number of fields than any real life scientist or mathematician. While occasionally other experts are brought in as necessary, more often than not it fall to the three main characters to do all the work.
  • Castle features this to an extent with Lanie, the medical examiner. While she does do autopsies, fitting her role, she also handles all of the field work and generally is the one to do much of the other forensic analysis despite the fact that there are other specialties for those roles.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., essentially a police procedural in the Marvel movie universe, on a team that has two specialist "field agents" capable of performing technical tasks through comms or even by themselves, doing things as various as confronting Super Soldiers, disarming weather control devices, infiltrating enemy locations, and developing cures for alien diseases. In some ways an inversion of the trope, since the goal seems to be to give every member of The Team equal screen time. Becomes justified after SHIELD is destroyed during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as the main characters are all that's left. Building SHIELD back up from a handful of people Coulson knows and trusts to it's former status as an international peacekeeping organization looks to be one of the main goals of the series.
    • There's also the fact that all medical procedures are performed by one of the two scientists on the team, one of whom is a biochemist (so knowledgeable about human anatomy but by no means a medical doctor, despite almost everyone - including herself - treating her as one from Season 2 onwards), and the other of whom is a physicist and engineer (so... just no, unless his patient is a cyborg, which to be fair is quite often the case). This made sense for a bit as in the beginning they weren't expecting there to be much immediate physical danger on their missions and, later (after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.) they couldn't exactly call in med team reinforcements, but the idea that they still haven't hired any medical specialists by Season 3 despite having their own massive operations base now is stretching credulity just a bit.
  • Flashpoint Strategic Response Unit Team One is called out for a lot of things — not just hostage negotiation and rescue, their most frequent and stated job, but also kidnapping, robbery, a couple of VIP escorts, serving high risk warrants, raids and responding to bomb threats. It is justified, however, in that the SRU teams are intended to respond to any possible situation, and have done a great deal of crosstraining (while Sgt. Greg Parker is the main negotiator, everyone on Team One has ended up having to negotiate with subjects at some point), and specialties are honored, though everyone has two or three, stretching it a bit (Spike is both their bomb tech and tech... tech, Wordy is the pointman, surveillance, and less lethal guy, and so on).
  • Hannibal's forensic team is introduced with the specialties of Beverly on fiber analysis, Jimmy on latent prints, and Zeller on cause of death. All useful skills on an investigation, but they are also shown performing autopsies, profiling killers, and tracing phone calls.
  • Blue Bloods has a tendency to refer every type of legal issue to Erin, even when it's something that would better be handled in civil court and/or by a private-practice attorney specialized in the field (e.g. housing-rights disputes, immigration paperwork). Often this is little more than an excuse to name-drop her in a Danny- or Jamie-focused episode where she'd otherwise have very little to do.
  • Miami Vice: Crockett and Tubbs investigate murders and sex crimes, bust drug rings, and provide airport security.

Medical, Police & Forensic Aversions

  • Averted by Joe Friday and his partners in Dragnet. They didn't have a specific department. Each episode, they'd be experienced officers in whatever department was most central to the real-life case they were depicting - only their off-the-job personalities remained constant. Regardless of the department, the two only did the plainclothes work. If they needed fingerprints or a license plate run, or other tasks outside their regular duties, they'd contact the appropriate section of the police department (part of the much-vaunted "realism" of the show).
  • Also averted in Adam-12. Reed and Malloy were patrolmen, their job was to respond to calls and arrest criminals. They worked with the Detective Division, but it was to give them information and provide backup - any investigation was done by the detectives themselves. Once Reed and Malloy arrested someone and brought them in (and did the paperwork), their part was complete and they went out to the next call. Not only was it realistic, it also provided a great variety of stories per episode.
  • The original Law & Order averted this as much as possible. The detectives are virtually never shown doing anything other than detective work. If they need to break into a suspect's house, you can bet there will be uniformed officers or even a SWAT team to take point. The Lieutenant stays in the office, the Pathologist stays in the morgue, and the computer guy stays in front of the computer. The district attorney virtually never leaves his office if it's not an emergency, sending his assistant out to interview witnesses if necessary. The only times these lines were blurred was when there was a good plot-driven reason, and there were bits of dialogue about how this wasn't strictly procedure, but needs must.
  • Also averted in sister series Homicide: Life on the Street. The detectives work murder cases almost exclusively. Other police-work such as medical examinations and forensic analysis is done by trained professionals, usually off-screen. The lieutenant and other higher-ups rarely get involved, unless explicitly needed, and the Detectives almost never make arrests without uniformed officers as backup.
  • This trope is played straight, averted and thoroughly justified in Spiritual Successor The Wire. The show begins when a judge's inquiries prompt the creation of a detail unit charged with investigating one specific case. After the unit's perceived success at the end of the first season, the powers that be decide to turn it into a semi-permanent crime unit with no real definition to its role in the police force. This, coupled with the ruthless politics going on within the police department, inevitably results in the team being reduced to making small-scale drug arrests - much to the team-members' chagrin. All of this was deliberately done by the writers to show how cynical politics and vicious power play can turn even a good thing into crap. Throughout the show, the Baltimore police department is shown as realistically heavily departmentalized - to its own detriment in most cases - and the show has Loads and Loads of Characters to boot.
  • Dexter: The lead character, a forensic investigator, not only is emphatically not a police officer, with no badge or gun, but works specifically doing blood spatter analysis, and rarely if ever deviates from this. In fact, they emphasize this as early as the pilot episode, where, upon seeing a cut up body whose blood has been completely drained, he turns around and walks away, telling Batista "No trabajo" (translation: "Not my job, man.").
  • Monk is an aversion in that we do know about the existence of other SFPD detectives in the Robbery-Homicide detectives besides Stottlemeyer and Disher. The main characters are only seen doing the investigation work at crime scenes, as well as the questioning and arrest of suspect. Occasionally, we do see Monk and the others occasionally visit crime labs for forensic analysis or the morgue to look at bodies (typically in unusual cases).
  • Scrubs averts this as part of its surprising accuracy in how medicine works. They play a lot off the contrasts between medical and surgical, blue scrubs for medical doctors and green scrubs for surgeons. Both J.D. and Elliot have to face choosing a specific field (Elliot especially being pushed towards OB-GYN) and both eventually go for general practitioner. Other episodes involve the characters having to trade favors, bribes or blackmail to get lab results done quicker or a CAT scan done after hours. Turk talks about being rotated to different areas of surgery, from orthopedics and cosmetic, and he later makes a point that he doesn't have experience in pre-natal when asked to assist on one as a favor.
  • ER did a fairly good job at separating doctors' work from nurses' work, and ensuring that the ER staff were kept distinct from the surgeons and other departments of the hospital.
    • The choice of whether to become a surgeon or remain an ER resident was the basis for a whole character arc at one point, and the character in question (Dr. Carter) ended up spending quite a while being unhappily "restricted" to surgery and fighting the urge to overstep the boundaries of his job description to help his former colleagues.
    • The nurses in the ER, particularly, were very defensive of their jobs, and would call out the doctors whenever they went rogue and tried to pull off procedures without their help (and supervision), which admittedly did happen from time to time. It's notable, however, that the hospital's higher-ups were quite unhappy with this, and did take punitive measures on occasion.
    • ER chief Dr. Weaver was portrayed as having a position of authority in the hospital board of directors — possibly a bit too much authority in comparison to Real Life ER chiefs — but always had to come up against the heads of other departments in the struggle over resources and responsibilities. She was never implied to be running the entire hospital, as often happens on other shows.
  • Blue Bloods averts this trope with its police department, making it clear that there are many more beat cops, detectives, and precincts than just Jamie's and Danny's. This is mostly displayed when Frank deals with the internal politics of the NYPD, but also when Danny or Jamie have disputes with departmental peers over procedure or jurisdiction over specific cases.

Space Opera

  • Star Trek is a notorious example.
    • Starfleet officers seem to have a penchant for sending themselves and/or other valuable officers (usually bridge officers, and sometimes ALL OF THEM) on risky away missions, when security forces or specialists are available.note  This is occasionally admitted in the shows themselves. For example, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Riker was hired because he refused to let his previous commanding officer go on a dangerous away mission. In an effort to avert this problem with the Original Series, Riker was supposed to be the guy going on away missions while Picard managed the ship, but even then the first officer would have a multitude of other responsibilities and they would have any number of specialized teams on board for whatever mission is needed (First Contact, geological survey, diplomatic, quarantine, etc).
    • A parody has Kirk saying "We need to beam down to the planet. Now, this could be dangerous, so we'll take every single important person aboard the ship and ... Yeoman Smith. I wonder who's gonna die."
    • You have to feel sorry for the Security Officer. Their job appears to cover everything from threat analysis and weapons targeting in starship combat to responding to an alarm tripping on the cargo deck. On the odd occasion they will delegate their alarm response duties to the Chief Engineer or First Officer.
    • Originally there was No Such Thing as H.R. in Star Trek, but then came the position of ship's counselor, which is basically an entire HR department in one person.
    • If an episode involves our crew beaming down to a civilized, populated planet, it's a crapshoot as to whether you'll get to see more than the bare minimum of locals (sometimes even as few as one) who have a speaking role, authority, and/or any impact on the story. Those few locals will be responsible for all interactions with the main cast. Even if the main characters land at a remote or unintended location, expect one of the locals to immediately act as an authorized representative of his/her entire species. The same thing often applies when the main cast encounters aliens in space.
    • In fact, the starship itself (at least if it's named Enterprise) seems to suffer this trope. We find the Enterprise patrolling the border, mapping the far reaches of space, ferrying VIP's on errands great and small, responding to natural disasters, hauling cargo (usually medical supplies, but still...), investigating weird phenomena, participating in warfare, trying to stop warfare, acting as all-purpose troubleshooter for any ship or station that calls, doing first contacts with alien races, negotiating treaties, AND just plain running into bad luck. This is later justified in stories and in peripheral media as Starfleet generally having a Jack-of-All-Trades approach to ship design and mission profiles, due to factors like maintaining the image of a peacekeeping force and the general bigness, weirdness, and hostility of space. Also justified in that the Enterprise is the Federation flagship, and would therefore be given the highest profile missions, especially those related to diplomacy.
    • The number of times the Enterprise (whichever one) has to do something it's actually not really prepared/staffed/equipped for because she's the only ship in range really beggars belief too. Okay, just about permissible out on the frontier of known space when they're deliberately going where no-one's gone before – but it happens when she's visiting EARTH for god's sake, the capital world of a sprawling interstellar community. Even assuming Earth is just a designated political capital like Washington DC or Canberra, that's still like finding there's only one taxi cab available for the whole city.
      • Humorously explained in the text commentary for Star Trek: The Motion Picture: whenever the Enterprise shows up, other Federation ships hightail it out of the area, since they know something bad is going to happen soon.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • This may have been Lampshaded in the episode "The Ultimate Computer". When the M-5 computer is asked why it didn't pick Kirk and McCoy for a landing party, it cites them as "unnecessary personnel".
    • It is definitely lampshaded by the fact that McCoy's "I'm a doctor, not a..." protestations were frequent enough to attain catchphrase status.
      • Later partially averted with Dr. M'Benga joining the medical staff; he's better skilled at treating Vulcans and can cover for McCoy as acting CMO when necessary.
    • The episode "Arena" contains a striking example: the Enterprise is under attack in orbit while Kirk is planet-side. Although Kirk is himself under fire, he takes time out to micromanage the space battle over the communicator (with such insightful tactics as "fire phasers" and "fire torpedoes"), rather that just letting Sulu do his job.
    • This appears to be acknowledged In-Universe in "By Any Other Name". When some aliens take over the Enterprise, they decide to only keep around essential personnel; they transform everyone else into small blocks. By the time they're done, the only crew members left untransformed are Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty. According to the aliens, those four are the only people who are truly needed to keep the Enterprise running . . . and the rest of the show doesn't exactly prove them wrong.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • It almost feels like the thousand or so people on board the Enterprise-D serve at most as backup in case one of the officers gets incapacitated. And usually, if all the Main Characters are incapacitated, those ample replacements are also mysteriously absent or incapacitated. There were touches of this in The Original Series as well. Even random or alien phenomena tend to treat Main Characters differently from Extras. If a phenomenon causes people to disappear or die, it'll target the extras first, leaving only the Main Characters around to solve the problem. If a phenomenon is benign, or it teleports people to some interesting scenario, it'll always target the Main Characters only, leaving all of the extras back on the ship.
    • An example of this appears in the very first episode, "Encounter at Farpoint". When Q transports the crew into the court of post-apocalyptic horrors, he leaves O'Brien (at that time still an extra) back on the battle bridge. It is not explained why he chose to take all the others - who are all main characters. Q himself would later lampshade this on DS9:
      Q: Do I know you?
      O'Brien: O'Brien, from the Enterprise.
      Q: Enterprise, ah yes! Weren't you one of the little people?
      • It should be noted that O'Brien was actually something of an aversion during the rest of his run on Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a chief transporter specialist aboard Enterprise—implied, in fact, to be the department head—the main characters usually turned to him to deal with any issues that happened to arise with the ship's transporters. And after the pilot episode, it was extremely rare to see him preform any duties that weren't in some way related to the transporter systems.
    • The strike team from "Chain of Command" is assembled like this in order to get Picard where he needs to be for the torture camp plot. There's a top secret and dangerous commando mission in Cardassian territory that Starfleet Intelligence needs done. Instead of sending specially trained combat troops, they send the captain of the flagship (who has valuable information on the Federation's defense plans), a 45-year-old doctor with no combat training whatsoever, and their only Klingon.
    • In the episode "Remember Me" Dr. Crusher attempts to call two of the other doctors on the ship in to examine a patient and is informed they apparently never existed. Although the viewer is supposed to be just as confused as Dr. Crusher, one must wonder why these other doctors have been so rarely seen before.
    • In the episode "Who Watches the Watchers", Riker and Troi are surgically modified to appear as members of the proto-Vulcan people they need to infiltrate. The Enterprise had been shown to have Vulcan crew members, so it is unclear why two human senior officers need to be disguised to sneak around a species that is physically identical to Vulcans who could blend in naturally.
    • The bridge of the Enterprise is never seen completely staffed by a backup crew. They must exist for the times when you see the main characters in a meeting or in the holodeck, but if there's a scene on the bridge, at least a few of the principals are always on duty.
    • When Tasha Yar, chief of security, dies, who replaces her? Worf, who was in the command division and had no training as a security officer, rather than Yar's second in command. When Data is believed to have died in a shuttle accident, who replaces him as Science Officer? Worf again, despite him having even less qualifications for the position and him lampshading the similarities between this and what happened with Yar. When the writers realized they needed a chief engineer on the show, did they create a new character? No, they just handed the job to Geordi La Forge, who was the helm officer and had never shown any interest in starship engines but was suddenly a genius with them. Even better; to replace him at the helm, they stuck Wesley Crusher in that job, despite the fact that his "rank" of Acting Ensign was completely made up by Picard because the captain saw potential in him and wanted him to have bridge access. In each case, the only real justification was that they're already main characters.
    • The season seven episode "Masks" opens with Deanna Troi – ship's counselor and at the time a newly minted commander with bridge officer training – giving a sculpture class to the ship's schoolchildren. No explanation is given (which does leave open the possibility that it was on her own time).
  • Star Trek: Voyager at least, has two excuses: Half the original crew was killed in the first episode (including the doctor, nurse, chief engineer, lead helmswoman, and first officer), and they can't get specialized personnel from Starfleet. Those left on board have to step up from time to time. Still, some things don't even make sense in that context, such as Janeway frequently sending both herself and her first officer off the ship on routine patrols.
    • SF Debris points out the astounding number of times where Ensign Harry Kim does something well out of his element simply because the writers wanted to give him something to do. In spite of the incredibly open-ended nature of his job description, poor Harry suffered from Limited Advancement Opportunities and remained an ensign for the entirety of Voyager's sojourn in the Delta Quadrant!
    • It's even worse in the case of Tom Paris, who is apparently knowledgable in everything from piloting, engineering, commando tactics, etc. And he's an ex-con. SF Debris even points out a particularly ridiculous instance of this in "Year Of Hell" where within the space of 30 seconds he is describing modifications he made to Voyager's hull (engineering) inspired by the Titanic (history) when he is suddenly called to perform field medicine and, to quote Debris, "none of these things are even his job." (piloting) Debris quickly comes to the conclusion that Paris was held in a prison for savants.
    • Given a tongue-in-cheek lampshading in Bride of Chaotica! Captain Janeway (posing as Queen Arachnia) is trying to get Dr Chaotica to lower his Lightning Shield so Captain Proton (Tom Paris) can attack.
      Chaotica: (suspicious) Why this preoccupation with the Shield?
      Janeway: Oh, forgive me. It's just that, as a fellow ruler of the cosmos, I often have to do things myself.
      Chaotica: Ah. Because of the incompetence of your inferiors, no doubt!
    • In addition to Tuvok, and in earlier seasons Kes, there was at least one other Vulcan (Vorik) and a Betazoid (Jarot) amongst the Voyager crew. But they are never available when Janeway needs telepathic support, although it was a plot point in the episode "Counterpoint" that they had to be kept hidden from the telepath-hating Devore.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was extremely bad in this regard, especially considering the station is meant to have a crew of roughly twice a Galaxy Class ship like the Enterprise-D. On several occasions they left the station without its captain, liaison to Bajor (who was second in command of the station but who was explicitly not a member of Starfleet and thus shouldn't be flying around on Starfleet missions and represents a chain of command issue), chief of security (also not a member of Starfleet, and actually a member of the race who were the main antagonists of the series), chief medical officer (not a command rank), the chief science officer, and worst of all, their chief engineer who was also the senior NCO (explicitly not a chain of command officer). And as most armies and navies know, you can take out as many officers as you like, but remove the NCOs and things start falling apart.
    • At least they did have the station falling apart while O'Brien was gone though, and the others trying to keep the station in one piece. Heck, in the earlier seasons it was falling apart even while he was around. However one episode stands out in which O'Brien is sent by Starfleet Intelligence to infiltrate the Orion Syndicate, despite his enormous responsibilities on the station: it happens in the middle of the Dominion War, when O'Brien's duties also include fixing hundreds of starships suffering battle damage.
    • This was a result of introducing the Defiant. The writers decided that the story can't evolve if they're always confined to a single (stationary) space station, so they used the Defiant as an extra excuse to get the crew away from the station as often as possible. Since the Defiant is a tiny warship requiring a crew of 40ish, it also gave an excellent opportunity for all the officers to leave at the same time. Does make one wonder why a warship doesn't get its own command crew to begin with, though.
      • In the first few episodes they had it this was explicitly because the Defiant had so many problems that nobody but Sisko could keep the damn thing running (it's basically an overclocked set of guns strapped to an overclocked engine). They pulled it out of mothballs to let the crew use it. By the time the crew had got the bugs worked out and the Federation started building more of them the war was going on and it was basically just a cheap escort from Starfleet's perspective.
    • After a while, they brought Worf in, and transferred him to Command rather than Security so they could at least avoid some of this trope when they took the Defiant out.
    • Kira Nerys is a Major in the Bajoran military, and the liaison between Bajor and the Federation. She's also the First Officer on board Deep Space Nine. This is fine, because DS9 is a Bajoran station which is simply under Federation administration, so the two jobs fit well. However, once the Defiant is introduced, in at least one episode Kira is the First Officer on the ship. Bajor is not a member of the Federation - half the story revolves around this point. But the Federation apparently has no problem with an officer from a semi-allied foreign military assigned to one of the highest positions on a cutting-edge (and top-secret!) Federation starship, nor does Kira herself have any apparent issue working with Federation starship technology despite her backstory being an underground freedom fighter/terrorist. It's like making a member of the French Resistance the XO of a Russian warship towards the end of World War 2.
      • This isn't so inconceivable. The United States Department of Defense has a Personnel Exchange Program where individuals from over twenty countries can participate in exchange programs, and be fully integrated into the command structure of US units.
    • It should be noted that in-universe Sisko appears to have the last word about anything remotely related to the Defiant - and that in itself is another instance of this trope. It turns out that he was in command of the team that designed it, despite no previous indication that Sisko was an engineer or ship designer.
    • The one dedicated Defiant crewman disappears following the episode she's introduced. She's also not even from Starfleet, but a serving Romulan military officer, which raises a lot of its own questions. Interestingly the reason she never appeared again was specifically because the writers thought the audience wouldn't be interested in a character with just one well-defined job. The trope is played with though: her main job was to operate the Romulan-provided cloaking device, and the first time they tried to use it in combat without her they broke it beyond repair.
    • Odo was chief of Security and nothing more; he was not a soldier, pilot, officer, diplomat, or any such thing - neither for the Bajorans nor the Federation. He was simply the station's top cop. Yet they would bring him along on the Defiant pretty often, sometimes having him sitting on the bridge doing stuff. This would be like putting an NYPD Detective on the bridge of an aircraft carrier. At least Odo could be justified on occasion, when the Defiant was near Dominion space, as Odo's species are considered gods to the Jem'Hadar, the footsoldiers of the Dominion. Run into trouble with the Dominion, you want them to see that one of their gods is on the ship when you hail them. It doesn't cover situations in the Alpha Quadrant, however.
    • This is actually used as a plot point in For The Cause. With most of the senior staff are off-station in the Defiant, Maquis spy Michael Eddington incapacitates Major Kira and takes command of DS9, allowing him to steal a number of industrial replicators bound for Cardassia as humanitarian aid.
    • And in the larger scheme of things, there's the fact that Sisko, an ordinary Starfleet Captain, and his main officers generally seem to have a larger impact on the course and eventual conclusion of the whole Dominion War than all of the Federation's Admirals, politicians, and diplomats combined. By the end of the war Sisko was in de-facto command of the combined Federation, Klingon, and Romulan fleets.
    • This happened among the enemies of Starfleet too, culminating in Damar, the current head of the Cardassian Union, and Weyoun, a high ranking diplomat/ general of the Dominion, personally waiting around in a storage bay to hear from a possible Starfleet traitor. Yeah. Just imagine Mikhail Gorbachev personally waiting in a hotel elevator to hear from a CIA traitor at a peace conference. The best part is Damar actually asks why they're doing this themselves and Weyoun literally tells him Because I Said So.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise takes this problem to astounding levels. The show has absolutely no B-cast at all for the first two seasons despite having some 80 people on board, and none of the main characters share a department. This leads to absurd levels whenever one of the officers needs an assistant, and they call in another main character who has no training in that task. The list includes...
    • Archer serving as a nurse (at least twice).
    • Archer serving as a bomb squad (having to be given instructions by a man who can't get a good look at the alien bomb because he has a spike through his leg).
    • Both Reed (security and weapons) and Hoshi (linguistics and comms), operating the transporter (which is brand spanking new technology, and we know is prone to constant malfunction after 200 years trying to perfect it).
    • Hoshi being constantly sent around the ship to do odd jobs, as though her official title was "Intern". One baffling instance has Archer pull her away from setting up the vital communication relay meant to keep in contact with Earth (part of her actual job), in order to send her on a Snipe Hunt to find out what Reed's favorite food is.
    • Interestingly, perhaps because they have not yet reached the egalitarian utopianism of the later series, the NX-01 has room for personnel such as stewards! Archer usually takes his meals in a private dining room with only T'Pol and Trip (second and third in command respectively), waited on by steward-cum-Time Police Agent Daniels! So, essentially, waiters are considered higher-priority personnel than, for example, a transporter specialist! Likewise, Phlox does not even have a nurse practitioner to assist him!
    • And then there are all the times when most of the main characters are off doing whatever, leaving The Bridge manned by only one or two people (usually Travis).
    • The situation is reined in somewhat in the third season with the introduction of the MACOs—essentially Star Trek's answer to the Marine Corps. The detachment's commanding officer insists that his team handle a combat situation on the ground so that the senior staff will be on the ship to deal with a hostile incoming ship, and Starfleet security personnel are available if Enterprise is boarded. The same season starts doing a better job of showing background extras manning bridge stations when the main characters are unavailable.
  • The Orville, being an Affectionate Parody of Star Trek, follows the trope closely in almost every way described above. This includes the higher officers having multiple duties on board the ship, going on away-missions (usually with no Red Shirt guards whatsoever), and flaunting fleet authority on a whim with no repercussions.
    • In a twist on the "who's left to command the ship when all the other officers go gallivanting?" problem often seen in Star Trek, The USS Orville has a Second Officer, Bortus, whose only job is to command the ship when they're gone (and sometimes do other stuff on the bridge).
    • One episode had Chief of Security Alara take command when no one else was available. Not only is she not involved in command at all, she's also stated to be 25, making her remarkably young to be head of a whole department. The episode shows that she's way overwhelmed and has trouble dealing with the authority thrust upon her.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) also delves into this, though it's partially justified what with having so few people left who are trained in all the necessary disciplines. Still, with thousands of people in the fleet, it seems that the same dozen characters are responsible for pretty much everything that goes on. This is especially blatant with Pilot/Rebel/Commando/Vigilante/Criminal Investigator/Starship Captain/Lawyer/Politician/President Lee Adama - sometimes all in the same episode! The series would really have benefitted from at least one marine main character.
    • It's equally bad with the Cylons, except they have no excuse. Despite having a society where there are millions of every model of Cylon, making them practically interchangeable, the story features the same handful of Cylon individuals in all key positions.
    • They avert in some areas, though. Adama goes on an "away mission" once in the whole series (when he checks out the munitions at Ragnar Anchorage - not a situation where they expecting danger) and if you ever see him in a Viper fighting the Cylons himself, it's only in a flashback to his own days as a pilot.
      • Adama also went down to Kobol in "Home" part 2. After major surgery.
    • Taken to insane levels on the algae planet when the small algae harvesting facility is being operated only by the top pilots and the crew of the flight deck - all of whom should probably still be recovering from the insane flying they had to do in the previous episode to get there.
  • Space: Above and Beyond - are they space marines, or fighter pilots? Lampshaded in the series itself, wherein one character chastises the cast for voicing that complaint off-screen, informing them that, as Marines, their job is simply to follow whatever orders they recieve (a not-so-subtle Take That! at the letters they had recieved on the matter).
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • SG-1 actually averts this trope to an extent, which is impressive given that the four main characters are the focus of 90% of every episode. The term SG-1 refers to their primary First Contact crew that they send first through an established stargate connection and is composed of the main characters, and is just one team of many. While it does seem like SG-1 does everything, this is because their team is designed to be generalist - it always has a military leader, scientist, archeologist, and alien warrior. We frequently hear of or see other teams which have more specialist duties (the original SG-3 led by Colonel Makepeace is an all Marines unit charged with high risk missions or providing armed backup to other teams, for example). A lot of episodes start with SG-1 following up on some other team's work.
    • General Hammond never seems to go home. Possibly justified with the major threats that the teams encounter likely keeping him on permanent call, while his wife is mentioned to have died in Season 1, giving Hammond a few good reasons to throw himself into his work.
    • Once O'Neill gets promoted to lead the entire Stargate Command, he finds himself coming up against this trope, as he wants to be out there where the action is instead of staying behind his desk and making sure the base runs smoothly. In fact, his predecessor, General Hammond, despite being the fifth main character, only ever uses the Stargate twice.
    • O'Neill is big offender through whole show. He leads foot-based squad of people fighting with assault rifles. But when the new experimental fighter jet is built? O'Neill with Teal'c go test it. (Teal'c is fully justified in this one as the fighter was a retro-engineered Death Glider and he's the only person on Earth who's flown a Death Glider before, whereas O'Neill is trained as a pilot, but not a regular test pilot and isn't trained in piloting spacecraft.) When the next prototype is built and is needed for saving the world? O'Neill and Carter. Attacking on Anubis flagship Star Wars style? You can guess. Also when there is some conspiracy back on Earth, it's SG1 who investigates...
    • Stargate Command also has a dedicated team of scientists and medical staff who will work on tasks in the background, like studying alien technology that SG-1 have brought back, or finding a cure to a disease. This trope still occurs however, as aside from recurring character Dr. Frasier it's extremely rare that anyone besides Carter and Daniel can actually find the solution to any given problem that these background characters are supposed to be trying to solve.
    • This trope is still lampshaded in "Ripple Effect" when Dr. Lee asks why all of the teams from alternate realities are strictly SG1s. Sam justifies it by saying that, since they're only letting in teams who are under fire, it makes sense that the front line team would show up with more frequency.
    • All said though, the vast majority of the time even when any other SG team is in a given episode they do nothing useful except die in droves so the actual main characters don't have to, and that's if they do anything at all.
  • Stargate Atlantis, however, follows the trope more closely. Only Sheppard's team + whoever is in charge of Atlantis that season + the doctor of the season ever get to do ANYTHING or are ever SHOWN to do anything. In fact, it gets silly as they will treat Rodney McKay being disabled as their entire science crew - save Zelenka - being disabled, despite the existence of 20 or so other scientists on his team who are some of the most brilliant ones alive.
  • Babylon 5. Exactly why does the Earth ambassador and commander of the Babylon Five station have to go out with the Starfury wing/security team and put himself in the line of fire every time there is a crisis? Ivanova and Garibaldi are also quite bad at this, but not nearly as much as Sheridan/Sinclair. At least they did manage to justify it in most of the cases:
    • Sinclair pretty much out of survivor guilt and seeking out a heroic death. Garibaldi actually calls him out on this during the closing scenes of the episode Infection.
    • Sheridan, always having served on an Earth Alliance ship, gets the feeling of being trapped when too long on the space station, so he takes every opportunity he can. However, Sheriden does mention that if he doesn't do at least some time in a Starfury he will lose his flight pay. Thus the tendency of the senior officers to go out probably has to do with the mundane issue of salary.
    • Ivanova goes in place of her commanding officer once because she hasn't piloted a 'fury in a long, long time. Then stuff happens with enemies making a visit and well... she and her craft barely survived. Ivanova considered it a hell of a fun ride though, not understanding all the fuss about her 'fury basically being in repairs for a long while. Mostly because, well, you should have seen the other guy (she tore apart a dozen or so raider ships off-screen).
    • Garibaldi, well... he is the odd one out in this case. But seeing as B5 barely surviving without him, and him being able to arrange everything it comes as no surprise that he gets spaceborne once in a while. He even got his own custom paint job on his own Starfury. Last time he went out though, he ran into a bit of a problem
  • Either averted or justified in the Crusade spin-off, although Gideon will still put himself in danger, despite being The Captain. Given that he only has 4 years to cure the population of Earth, his willingness to put his life on the line may be a necessity. Matheson mostly sticks to being his Number Two (despite the fact that he's a lieutenant not a commander) and rarely uses his telepathic abilities (mostly due to much stricter regulations in the post-Telepathic War world). Chambers pretty much sticks to medicine, and Eilerson (although he's a civilian) sticks to archaeology and linguistics). Dureena and Galen aren't really members of the crew (or even EarthForce), so they don't count. Dureena is a thief, and Galen just comes and goes as he pleases, and hardly anyone questions a technomage.
  • Everything, literally everything, in Andromeda is handled by one of the eight characters (only six of whom ever serve concurrently). Justified in the first season where there are only six characters on board the eponymous ship, with no hope of back-up. However after they succeed in creating the Commonwealth, they bring on a crew of over 1000 people; and yet the non-commissioned random people that Dylan picked up serve as department heads, go on all the dangerous away missions, and generally forget about all the extra crew whenever the script requires it.
  • John Koenig, the Commander of the Moonbase in Space: 1999 frequently flies an Eagle on reconnaissance and survey missions. Neatly justified as he is an experienced astronaut and most of Alpha's actual pilots were killed in the first episode.
  • Justified in Raumpatrouille, where a typical spaceship crew consisted of five or six persons and it had to be possible to fill every position by one of the other members of the crew in case the original holder was incapacitated or away on an off-ship mission.

Other Live Action

  • Game of Thrones: The books were written to avert this trope hard with its large cast and Hyperlink Story. While still an ensemble, the show has generally been reluctant to readily introduce new characters past Season 3, and instead combines and composites characters and situations so that the regular cast is involved. Examples include Jaime going to Dorne in Season 5 rather than Ser Arys Oakheart and Ser Balon Swann, and the point of view character Arianne Martell who was the protagonist of that section but ended up being Adapted Out as well as Sansa taking over Jeyne Poole's role in Book 5. In the books, it is Stannis who rallies the North, liberates them from the Ironborn remnants, attracts the Glovers, the Mormonts and other houses to his side. In the show, Stannis suffers Death by Adaptation and this arc is taken over by Jon Snow and Sansa in Season 6. The sellsword Bronn has been getting this treatment more and more as the series goes on, to the point that by season 7 even he is complaining about how many hats he's wearing (everything from personal trainer to effectively managing the Lannister armies for them) when technically he's just Jamie's bodyguard and hasn't even been paid for that. In the 8th season he finally gets pushed too far when they try to use him as a pawn against each other, and sits the entire resolution of the series out on the condition that the winner finally pays up.
  • In Yes, Minister, Hacker has dealt with hospitals, transport infrastructure, finance, smoking, gender equality, and everything else you can name. On the DVD Commentary the writers said they deliberately gave him a fictional department (Administrative Affairs—basically anything that involves bureaucrats and red tape is in its purview) in order to get him involved in as many issues as they could.
    • On several occasions (such as the Burandan episode, and the one with I.D. cards), Hacker queries whether a matter really is within their remit, and is told there are administrative issues that mean it is theirs, which Hacker once refers to as others 'passing the parcel' of an unpopular policy on to them. As the department is almost axed for essentially doing nothing that cannot be done by other departments, it seems like it was created by Whitehall for the sole purpose of offloading unpopular policies.
    • Other episodes either have certain issues fobbed onto the DAA because the department which would normally handle that remit doesn't want to touch it with a bargepole (the episode focusing on the Unified National Transport Policy comes to mind) or because the DAA is essentially the department handling the Civil Service (the joke being that a new complex bureaucratic structure clogged with red tape has been set up in order to deal with pre-existing complex bureaucratic structures clogged with red tape).
  • In the same way as Yes, Minister, The Thick of It invented a similar department that could meddle in many different areas: the Department Of Social Affairs (or Department Of Social Affairs & Citizenship later on). It is hand waved in the show by the fact that even the department's own members don't seem to know what their primary job is. Beyond that it is clear that they mostly get the jobs that the rest of the government doesn't want.
  • Band of Brothers sits on the edge of this trope. Easy Company is always in the thick of things, in every major battle on every front. Of course, this is a case of Reality Is Unrealistic since that's actually the company actually did during the invasion of Europe. However it also delves into cases of The Only One, thanks to Easy being apparently the only company that doesn't screw up on a regular basis. According to the book, Easy company had the finest performance record out of every company in the 101st, so they got picked to do everything.
  • Angel's fifth season is both one of the most overt and most justified examples of this trope: Angel and co. now control one of the most powerful organizations imaginable, with literally thousands of underlings, paramilitary teams, doctors, scientists, etc. But they will go to extreme lengths and take absurd risks not to use them, because all of those people are irredeemably evil while the heroes... aren't. They get called out on this often.
  • NewsRadio is about a busy New York City radio station, but the eight main characters seem to do every job at the station, with the electrician sitting in on story meetings and sometimes going on the air, and with the owner of a huge media empire spending most of his time there. The show originally had non-speaking extras in the background to suggest that there were other employees, but eventually gave up on that.
  • Since Boy Meets World's John Adams High was a Two-Teacher School, the few existing faculty members had their hands pretty full. By the fifth season, Mr. Feeny was the one and only teacher, leading to this admission:
    Feeny: I teach English, history and film, and I run the lost and found.
    • (And he was the principal on top of all that.)
  • In JAG, Harm and Mac gets to do a lot more while on duty than just plain boring litigation...
  • Dr Henry Deacon from Eureka: Omnidisciplinary Scientist, Mechanic, Mayor, Coroner, officiates weddings...
    • Rarely did whichever scientist that created the scientific problem of the week, who was generally stated to be the absolute top mind in their field, play any significant role in fixing what they did. Instead it always fell to main cast to solve. The main science cast consisted of an Engineer (Henry), a Medical Doctor (Allison), an AI programmer who dabbled in bio-tech (Fargo), a Physicist (Stark), and a String Theorist (Zane). Even when an Achievement In Ignorance, the top mind in a field should be better equipped to undo things then a ragtag band of mismatched scientists, with Every-Man Carter giving them "common man logic" help.
  • On Dollhouse, although there are more than 20 "Actives" in the L.A. Dollhouse, any assignment that turns out to involve the Myth Arc will go to one of the four main characters. It's justified with Echo, since she's the house's #1 Active and therefore the one requested most often, but there's no reason why all the non-Echo assignments go to the other three.
  • In Community, everything in Greendale Community College somehow seems to revolve around the main cast, whether it be giant pillow fights, giving birth during exams, or massive riots. This is all much to the resentment of the various background characters.
    • In a bottle episode, when Shirley's water breaks, one of those recurring background characters points this out to another.
      Vicky: (to Fat Neil) "We came so close to having one class that wasn't all about them."
  • The Musketeers: Athos, d'Artagnan, Aramis and Porthos are pretty much the only Musketeers ever shown doing anything, even though their regiment is made of of many more soldiers.
    • In one episode, the bulk of the Musketeers are away, but they need men for a mission. So they end up using the older Musketeers, and the green newbies too young to shave.
  • Lampshaded in Lost by Arzt, who is annoyed by the main characters always trekking off on important missions together.
    Arzt: I know a clique when I see it. I teach high school, pal-y. You know, you people think you're the only ones on this Island doing anything of value. I've got news for you. There were 40 other survivors of this plane crash. And we are all people, too.
    • It was also lampshaded in the Nikki and Paolo episode, which explained that the reason no one recognized them was that they mostly interacted with minor characters like Arzt.
  • On The West Wing it was never clear what exactly were the job descriptions of Josh, Toby, C.J., Sam, and Will. Depending on the episode, they might be dealing with personnel problems, drafting laws, writing speeches, briefing the press, investigating some problem, negotiating with members of Congress, or appearing as spokesmen on television shows. In a real presidential administration, these would all be specialized skills and different people would perform them.
  • In The Last Ship, the Nathan James has a crew of more than 200, roughly a dozen of whom seem to do all the important off-ship missions. That dozen does not even include all of the ship's SEAL complement. In one early episode they send a five-man team ashore to hunt monkeys. Said team consists of the captain, XO, master chief petty officer, SEAL team leader, and a semi-disposable crew member to add suspense. Bear in mind that they're sending the three most essential members of the ship's crew into the middle of a virulent pandemic. They do end up developing a regular 6 man ground assault team who do most of the land based work, but Captain Chandler is always finding an excuse to get involved. Chandler performs as well as the Navy SEALS on these land based combat missions.
    • The zenith of this trope is undoubtedly the final episode of season 4. As the hero ship cannot just sink an opposing Greek warship because the MacGuffin is on-board, they come up with a plan to send a small boarding party to sabotage it. As the ground assault team is out of action due to being on an important mission, Captain Nathan Chandler volunteers to be one of the party. Which turns out to be just him, and Sasha, who at least is a specially trained secret agent & field operative.
      • After the Nathan James rams the opposing ship, a volunteer force of the crew goes over the side to board and suppress the OpFor (while Chandler and Sasha go for the main objective). Along with the XO there are several minor characters, including the Air Warfare Officer who spends the entire series sitting in a chair shooting missiles, and the Chief Navigator, who shoots two enemies in the blink of an eye. When everyone stares, he says he was an expert marksman at the Naval Academy, but no-one ever asked.
  • The Games definitely fits, no part of the Sydney Olympics seems to not involve John, Gina and/or Bryan. Gina herself lampshades this in an interview, when she says if they all stuck to their job descriptions, nothing would ever get done.
  • Partly averted in The Flash (2014).
    • When Barry, a CSI, shows up on the scene of an armoured truck robbery, he interrupts Captain Singh and tells the detectives that there were more robbers than assumed. The Captain looks at him in annoyance and tells him sarcastically, "Thank you, Detective Allen." Of course, the reason Barry knows it is because he was there at the time of the robbery as the Flash. For that matter, why is the Captain even at the scene, when the lead detective on the case, Joe, is already there? It's not exactly a high-profile case. He should be minding the store, not be out in the field.
    • Additionally, in a true CSI fashion, Barry is also shown performing lab work (although, that's mostly to show him using his Super Speed as a Mundane Utility when his centrifuge breaks down in a nod to the 1990 series). He also appears to be the only CSI in the entire department, except for a random extra in some scenes. The entire upper floor of the precinct appears to be his lab with only him in it until season 3 when he has to share it with coworker Julian Albert. One wonders how he got work done before he had super speed.
    • Albert complains to the Captain about having to pick up Barry's slack all the time (because, unbeknownst to Albert, he's running off to be the Flash).
    • The police department in general is useless when it comes to dealing with any given threat of the week. In many cases this is justified by the threat being superhuman thus there's not really much of anything they can do, but even when it's just a normal human with some sci-fi tech like Captain Cold and Heatwave even Detective Joe, a main character is helpless to actually do anything about it, which is strange, since the metahuman villain of the very first episode was eventually dealt with by Joe shooting him.
  • In an episode of Supergirl, cop Maggie suffers a minor injury from Cyborg Superman. A few scenes later we see love interest Alex stitching up the wound. Alex was not present at the scene so there is no reason why she should be the one to perform this procedure instead of one of Maggie's squadmates or indeed a proper medical professional. Even if Cyborg Superman's eye beam caused some form of exotic damage that required the specialist alien knowledge of the DEO it is unlikely that Alex would be the most qualified to administer treatment given that she had displayed no particular aptitude for medicine prior to this point. It's eventually revealed that Alex went to med school, although she, apparently, dropped out when J'onn approached her about joining DEO. Still, one would think an organization like DEO would have qualified medical professionals on staff.
  • Torchwood did this by virtue of being an Oddly Small Organization. Despite having no apparent budget constraints, Jack does not hire genuine support staff. The closest thing they have is Ianto, who is at least as qualified an agent as anyone else on the team, and even he often goes off with everyone else leaving their base completely unoccupied! The only backup for any position is the assumption that one of the other main characters has at least some of the necessary skills to cover for somebody else.
  • During 2014-15, Hollyoaks had a large focus on the Dee Valley Hospital, with five characters (Lindsey, Kim, Celine, Tegan, and Dr S'Avage) as seemingly the only staff. They worked across every department from maternity to surgery to oncology, with little discernible difference in the roles of the doctors vs the nurses. The few featured background extras did nothing, and when the team dropped down to four (first when Tegan went to jail and was later hospitalised herself; and again when S'Avage was murdered) the remaining staff carried on as usual, without anyone else being hired.
  • Seinfeld: United States postal worker Newman was usually a letter carrier, but he was also seen performing whatever other post-office job was relevant to the plot, the most ridiculous example being the episode where he investigates Jerry for “mail fraud” (actually filing a false insurance claim for a damaged parcel).


Example of: