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  • Monty Python's Flying Circus was arguably the first television show with extensive Vulgar Humor, ribaldry, and sexual references. These are, however, rarely the punchline, but instead incidental or a Funny Background Event. The same goes for the films.
  • By the time Reality TV shows became popular, C.O.P.S. had already established itself as a Long Runner. In addition, while most reality TV shows play up reactions, have slick editing and large production costs, COPS has No Budget, and while the show is edited, it's entirely unscripted and unplanned. The cameramen are often police officers themselves, and there have been times that the cops onscreen not only acknowledge the cameramen, but a few instances where the cameraman puts the camera down to help with an arrest.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • Imagine an episode where a man searches a deserted creepy town looking for any signs of life or civilization, but finds nothing, just signs that someone was there at one point but unable to find anyone who still is, with the implication that he may be the last man on Earth. Then it’s revealed that the whole scenario has a fairly mundane and somewhat plausible explanation; the man hallucinated the whole thing while inside an isolation booth as part of an Air Force experiment. Is this a later episode trying to subvert the show's standard format? No, it's the pilot episode, "Where Is Everybody?".
    • "Five Characters in Search of an Exit", with its famously chilling Twist Ending, would be a deconstruction of Toy Story if it hadn't come out three decades before it. The old question of "what happens to sentient toys when they're abandoned by their owner?" isn't just an unsettling bit of Fridge Horror — it's the entire premise. Five dolls, who aren't aware that they're dolls, wake up in a Salvation Army bin with no way of knowing where they are or how they got there, and the entire episode follows them slowly going insane as they futilely try to escape.
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    • The episode "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You" is an absolutely vicious take on the Unnecessary Makeover trope as a teenage girl who doesn't fit the conventional definition of beauty is repeatedly encouraged to get a surgical procedure to enhance her appearance and make her like everyone else. She repeatedly refuses and cites the importance of knowledge and character over appearance only to be kidnapped and forced into it. The episode's ending with her as an exact copy of her friend and having lost any trace of her original personality is chilling. And it was made in 1963. It comes off as less a Deconstruction and more of a prophecy about the onset of innumerable plastic surgery shows where women are encouraged to cut apart their bodies to be considered acceptable.
  • Star Trek:
    • The concept of the Prime Directive has been reversed over the years. In Star Trek: The Original Series, the idea made a great deal more sense: Starfleet could not interfere with internal politics of any un-Federated civilizations, but exceptions could sometimes be tolerated when another civilization like the Klingons had already interfered, or in the event the civilization in question was in the process of destroying itself or another civilization - the idea of not saving innocent people from a natural disaster would have been unheard of. In later series, Starfleet regularly allows natural disasters to wipe out whole civilizations, but has no problem meddling in someone else's internal politics.
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    • One of the most frequently-mocked flaws of the original series is how, despite the supposed importance of the Prime Directive, Kirk constantly interferes in the politics of primitive cultures to teach them the superiority of human values, and there are never any negative consequences. Yet in "Errand of Mercy", one of the first episodes where Kirk tries to do this, his attitudes are portrayed as ignorant chauvinism, very similar to the barbaric and totalitarian ideology of the Klingons he's fighting. In a twist, the "primitive" natives turn out to be even more advanced than the Federation itself, both technologically and morally, and it's Kirk who ends up learning about the flaws of his own values.
    • Despite Star Trek: The Original Series being the Trope Namer for Red Shirt, very rarely are deaths of any magnitude simply forgotten, or simply considered unimportant to the plot. Even more, quite a few of the characters that died in the series wore blue shirts or gold shirts. The first broadcast episode of the original series ("The Man Trap") has a body count of four minor crewmen, most of whom of course become monster chow shortly after beaming down to the planet. Ironically, the casualties are two blues, a gold and one unknown wearing a hazmat suit. In fact, no red shirt deaths occur until the seventh episode: that dubious honor goes to Crewman Mathews, who is pushed into a bottomless pit in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?". In addition, this trope is completely averted in "A Taste of Armageddon": Kirk, Spock, and three redshirts beam down to Eminiar VII where, upon landing, they are sent to be killed. All of them survive. According to this set of statistics about Star Trek deaths, red shirt deaths actually only make up 58% of the crew deaths in the series. However, since there are so many red shirts, their mortality rate is actually lower than the yellow shirts' (25 of 239 (about 10.5%) compared to 10 of 55 (about 18%)). In fact, even if you go by 43 being the number of red shirt deaths, the yellow shirts still have a slightly higher mortality rate. Lastly, despite some showings of Hollywood Tactics, the Federation's land-based military forces are repeatedly shown to be highly competent. As these scenes demonstrate, later shows had the nameless background characters averting Hollywood Tactics and demonstrating great combat skill and effectiveness, even when very poorly supplied and heavily understaffed.note 
    • The famous Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks" is both the Trope Maker and the Trope Namer for the Lower-Deck Episode, but it's also a deconstruction of the Redshirt trope that's devoted to showing the audience the true perils of life as a low-ranking Starfleet crewman. The episode's four viewpoint characters spend their days constantly fighting for the main characters' respect and assisting on dangerous missions that they're kept in the dark about, and the episode even ends with the death of one of them, using the moment to show that every death on the Enterprise is a tragedy for the ship's captain.
    • A commonplace trope in Star Trek fanfiction is the MarySue - a guest character who appears in a story set in a familiar franchise, and proceeds to wow everyone with his or her superior talents, impresses the Captain, and often enjoys a romantic interlude with one of the established characters. It was in fact a Trek fanfic story from 1973 which introduced the term Mary-Sue, although the term quickly spread beyond Trek. Wesley Crusher is a Canon Example of such a character, being 15 like the prototype. Star Trek itself had an excellent analysis and deconstruction of this concept, in the second episode ever broadcast. In the 1966 episode "Charlie X", Charlie is a 17-year-old who is roundly praised by the characters introducing him, just like they would a Mary-Sue. He has amazing talents, just like a Mary-Sue. But he has limited social skills, and his attempts to deal with Janice Rand as a 'girl' go as you might expect, despite her patience. Kirk, far from being wowed by him or his talents, tries his best to steer his behaviour. In the end it is realised that he can't function in society so is removed from it, back to the aliens who gave him his powers. If this was made today, it would look exactly like a deconstruction of the concept of Mary-Sue, showing what would really happen if a superhuman came aboard and tried to run the ship himself. But this was seven years before Mary-Sue was invented.
    • The TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror" helped to popularize the Mirror Universe trope, but showed that the universes weren't really all that different as the later Mirror Universe episodes in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Enterprise, and Star Trek: Discovery would show them to be. Even though his mirror counterpart had a Beard of Evil, Spock was, as the show put it, "A man of honor in both universes", and not strictly evil in the mirror universe despite clearly being on the side of the angels in the primary reality. Also, the Aliens of the Week, the Halkans, were Actual Pacifists in both universes.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A commonly remarked-upon part of the show's premise is that it's about an old, sinister, extremely powerful man who goes travelling extra-legally with naive, sexy young women and holds total power over whether they come with him, get abandoned or die... and that this is played for Wish Fulfillment rather than as a particularly creepy variant of the Dirty Old Man. In the very first episode, it's clear that the reason Ian and Barbara are scared for Susan's safety is because they think her mysterious grandfather, the Doctor, is keeping her locked up in a police box in a junkyard, and refusing to let her see the outside world. Even after they are taken into the TARDIS, they believe that her grandfather has brainwashed her into believing they are aliens in order to keep her distressed and dependent on him, and Barbara attempts to explain to her that it is a game that he is playing with her. (The production team deliberately made Susan his granddaughter in order to make their relationship less questionable.)
    • There's an ongoing joke that Daleks cannot take over the universe because their impractical design means that they can't climb stairs, even though the Daleks everyone remembers can fly. Nevertheless, the very first Dalek serial, "The Daleks", deals with this restriction seriously – not only can they not climb stairs (which is irrelevant, as they exclusively use lifts to get around their city) they die if they ever lose contact with the floor, relying on electricity channelled through metal floors to power them. The TARDIS crew kill a Dalek by blinding it and forcing it to roll over a coat, cutting off the connection and its life support system, and later the Doctor kills every Dalek in the city by shorting out the power. This story also dealt with Daleks being rather sad, pathetic beings, and even features the main cast making fun of the Daleks' monotone, distorted voices, with Susan laughing out loud when she first hears a Dalek attempt to say her name. It also deconstructs the way that the Doctor's inquisitive nature leads him and his companions into danger: The Doctor wants to explore a city on another planet but his companions refuse. He sabotages the TARDIS, forcing them to search the city. They are captured, as usual, but almost die from radiation poisoning as the meter wasn't checked.
    • The third First Doctor story, "The Edge of Destruction", is an absurdly dark look at how miserable and paranoid it would be to be unworldly humans living aboard a Sapient Ship that travels semi-autonomously across time and space with a mysterious alien at the helm. By this point, Ian and Barbara's hatred of the Doctor is enough that both think the other may have tried to murder him (and they did not choose to be his companions either, instead being kidnapped by him), the Doctor hates Ian and Barbara for being human interlopers who may be trying to steal or hurt his ship, and Susan, while appearing to be The Ingenue, is just as inscrutable and alien as her grandfather and has a violent mental breakdown, babbling about creatures living inside her, and attacking Ian with a pair of surgical scissors. During all of this, they are dealing with a Negative Space Wedgie, the effects of which are so unlike anything that they have seen before that they constantly wonder if this is actually a malevolent force or something the TARDIS, which has a mind of its own impossible to understand outside of its species, is doing for their sake. Another aspect is that the TARDIS being unreliable and the Doctor being unable to control it is usually portrayed comically. However this serial shows how dangerous it could really be when the TARDIS goes wrong - here a spring coming loose on the console nearly destroys the ship by throwing it back in time to the creation of a galaxy. Meanwhile, the Doctor being unable to control the ship was a major plot point as it meant he was unable to return his companions home.
    • In "The Aztecs", the third historical story, Barbara tries and fails to save Aztec civilisation by ending human sacrifice. The ending is, at best, bittersweet, in which the High Priest of Sacrifice ending up in control and the only consolation is that the High Priest of Art leaves society to meditate on his faith.
    • The first time we see a human space empire is in "The Sensorites", where the humans coming to the Sense-Sphere is treated as a bad thing, as a previous mission is hiding on the planet and poisoning the inhabitants in an attempt to steal their minerals. The Sensorites themselves are portrayed sympathetically, trying to protect themselves while the main villain is the scheming City Administrator. The story could also be seen as a slight Deconstructive Parody of Ditto Aliens, as the Sensorites can only recognise each other by their clothes, enabling the villain to take the place of one simply by killing them and stealing their clothes. Even so he avoids getting close to anybody who knew this Sensorite well and points out his disguise only works on those who saw the Sensorite at a distance or in passing.
    • "The Rescue" is a deconstruction of the show's whole modus operandi. The TARDIS team land on a planet where a young woman, Vicki, in a crashed spaceship is waiting to be saved by a rescue vessel, while also being kept prisoner by an alien named Koquillion who has killed the rest of the crew. Barbara murders the young woman's pet monster, assuming it was trying to eat her, and the Doctor talks to the other survivor of the crash about dealing with Koquillion, after which he points out that they have nothing to gain from doing that, as the rescue ship is already coming. This culminates in Vicki telling them all that they have no right to go around landing on other people's planets assuming they know exactly what to do when they aren't living there and have no real idea what's going on or if their attempts to fix it are just making everything worse, that she hates them, and that they should all just leave. It is all fixed in the end, but only because the Doctor had already visited the planet previous to the story, listens to Vicki's point of view while still questioning things she's too entrenched in her own ways to question herself, and because the natives of the planet eventually take matters into their own hands and deal with Koquillion. Furthermore, Koquillion isn't an alien at all, he is the other survivor who invented a phony alien plot to cover up his murder of the rest of the crew.
    • "The Daleks' Master Plan" and "Mission to the Unknown", which preceded it, seem like a Darker and Edgier version of Star Trek-style Space Opera. Marc Cory of the Space Security Service finds out about the Dalek plan to invade the Solar System but is trapped on the planet, he records a message and is able to warn Earth in a Heroic Sacrifice... No, he gets killed just before he can send the message. Bret Vyon comes across as a bit of a jerk from his determination to his mission, for the first time a companion of the Doctor dies, and then a second one! Bret is killed by another agent, his sister Sara Kingdom is killed with the Daleks in a potentially Senseless Sacrifice. The main villain, along with the Daleks, is Guardian of the Solar System and The Quisling Mavic Chen and the Head of the SSS is also a Quisling. The story ends without a feeling of triumph, Steven reminding the Doctor of those who died and the Doctor saying "What a waste... What a terrible waste." These stories both aired in 1965 (though Master Plan ran to 1966), before Star Trek premièred.
    • Steven Moffat's run of the new series is often praised for deconstructing the Doctor's legend and personality, and the relationship between the Doctor and his companions. The show's first attempts at doing this were actually in Season 3, which had two stories ("The Massacre" and "The Savages") which examined these themes. "The Massacre" features a situation in which Steven sees someone who appears to be the Doctor in disguise arranging a Final Solution, assumes that the Doctor must be planning something, ends up unable to save any of the victims due to his misguided attempts to help with whatever the Doctor must be planning, and the real Doctor refuses to save anyone under his belief that history cannot be changed (leading to a What the Hell, Hero? moment and Steven even attempting to quit). "The Savages" is the first time the Doctor finds a planet that not only knows who he is but venerates him – a culture that drains life energy from an underclass to power the machines they use to watch his adventures.
    • The Doctor is usually portrayed as an Insufferable Genius which is often played as a cute, charming quirk, especially in the new series. In Classic Who, the First Doctor was shown to be almost unbearable because of this – as he mellowed out, he would occasionally lapse back into this manner of thinking, and then have a short scene afterwards where he would apologise for being rude, admitting he has No Social Skills. The Second Doctor averted the trope entirely, but when it was revived for the Third, Liz Shaw's reason given for quitting being the Doctor's The Watson is because she can't stand his massive ego any more, feeling he only uses her as a prop to make him look clever. It's not really until Tom Baker shows up that this part of his nature is played as just adorkable, because his natural presence was likeable enough he could say the most horrible things and make them sound harmless. (There is at least one theory which suggests that the Doctor is able to adjust his personality at the moment of regeneration with some degree of purpose based on the anticipated needs of his current companions.)
    • The stereotypical depiction of the Companion is someone pretty, with long hair, in a short skirt, who is well meaning but very stupid, has Ship Tease with the Doctor that never goes anywhere, constantly talks about how clever the Doctor is, and gets into trouble and clings onto people a lot. This is an exact description of Second Doctor companion Jamie, who is male (and wears a kilt, not a skirt, but that's beside the point).
    • Victoria's main trait is being the Screaming Woman, but rather than being The Load, her capacity for screaming is a useful tactic on several occasions (most memorably, it is weaponised to murder the Monster of the Week in "Fury From the Deep" and to stun a man pointing a gun at her in "The Tomb of the Cybermen", among others). Her screaming is also approached realistically as she admits that she's terrified all the time travelling with the Doctor, and leaves the TARDIS for a more peaceful life. (Although it would have been a bit more realistic for her to have done so one episode earlier.)
    • The Pertwee era is sometimes criticized for portraying the idea of the Doctor working with the military in a positive light, even though he's against most of their methods of accomplishing anything and it seems rather against his anti-authoritarian morality. The Pertwee era started out portraying this situation very uneasily, with the Doctor openly thinking of the Brigadier as an idiot and even trying to steal from him and lie to him to go around behind his back (and only being forced into working with him due to his TARDIS not working). In the second story of this era, the Brigadier commits a genocide, with the Doctor looking down on the explosion and calling it 'murder'. However the series does show a case of Jerkass Has a Point, as the Brigadier destroying the Silurian base prevents one of them from reviving the others, which could have started the problem all over again.
    • The Time Lords are generally portrayed as isolationist and out of touch, allowing horrible things to happen around the Universe out of a pledge for non-interference and using the Doctor to do their work. However, their first full appearance in "The War Games" showed them willing to interfere directly in stopping a plan to conquer the Galaxy involving time travel that was being assisted by a renegade of their race. Later, they apparently exile the Doctor to Earth partially so he can help protect the planet. They are also much more reasonable and caring, when the War Lord's men take the Doctor and his companions hostage they don't intervene as they don't want innocents to be hurt. Later appearances Flanderized them into the pompous uncaring jerks they are usually portrayed as.
  • The standard hero of a Paranormal Investigation show is a brooding fanservicing badass motivated by justice or Revenge. The Ur-Example of this type of show, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, has its title character be a bumbling, middle aged tabloid reporter with questionable taste in fashion, is uninterested in romance, usually defeats the Monster of the Week by sheer dumb luck, and is largely in it for the fame and fortune that exposing the supernatural would bring him.
  • Even the Standard '50s Father is unbuilt. People forget that in the very earliest sitcoms from the late 1940s and early '50s, the father was often not smart or competent; the sitcom Life of Riley established the caricature of the Bumbling Dad for television. (And for that matter, the idea of the wife and/or mother being The Ditz instead of a perfect mom did not begin with Edith Bunker or Marge Simpson.) Our idea of the Standard Fifties Father more or less owes its existence to Robert Young, who, in the mid-1950s, agreed to star in Father Knows Best only on the condition that his character would be portrayed as competent.
  • Libby Chessler in Sabrina the Teenage Witch is the Former Trope Namer for the Alpha Bitch and is something of a Trope Codifier (even if the character type had been around already in various 80s teen movies). Ironically she doesn't fit many of the usual requirements: she's not blonde, she's not any more rich than the others, she doesn't have a Beta Bitch. She's also Hollywood Pudgy compared to Sabrina. The only common traits she does fit are being The Cheerleader, having a Girl Posse and of course being mean. In fact one episode has Sabrina attempting to make Libby into a Fallen Princess by turning her into a Geek - but Libby just turns the geeks into an elite squad and bullies the cheerleaders.
  • The Farscape episode that named Humanity Is Superior is a subversion/deconstruction of the very trope it titled. Crichton is only "superior" in the sense that his incredibly poor eyesight allows him to avoid being killed instantly by the Monster of the Week. His ranting about how awesome humans are just ends up making him look like an even bigger idiot and the rest of Moya's crew just roll their eyes at him.
  • The Sopranos is still regularly cited as one of the biggest Genre Turning Points in the history of television, managing to effectively blur the line between highbrow drama and lowbrow genre fiction with its nuanced character study of the gangster Tony Soprano and his family. In particular, Tony himself—a brilliant and charismatic (but fascinatingly unsympathetic) masculine archetype who caused constant drama with his many morally questionable acts—is notable for pushing the boundaries of antiheroic characters in American television, to the point that he probably paved the way for later characters like Don Draper, Nucky Thompson, Vic Mackey and Walter White. But by today's standards, Tony can seem like an angry Deconstruction of the kinds of characters that he inspired. Unlike his imitators, he has no real moral rationalization or Freudian Excuse that makes his violent acts seem less reprehensible, he never even tries to redeem himself, and his story is not a Protagonist Journey to Villain plot. Instead, he was born into a life of crime, he lives by violence because he doesn't know anything else, and he begins and ends the story as an amoral thug hungry for power. Word of God from David Chase has emphasized this: for all his complexities, Tony was always meant to be irredeemably evil from the very beginning.
  • The Office (UK) was one of the first shows that used a Mockumentary format for a sitcom about ordinary people, but it (and its American remake, to a lesser extent) actually examined its quirks and implications far more than most of its imitators, like Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, and The Muppets. While many later shows just used the format as an excuse to have the characters deliver jokes to the audience through interview segments, The Office is explicitly a documentary about a British corporate office, and the characters occasionally acknowledge that they're being filmed. It also gets a lot of its Black Humor from the premise: part of the joke is that Wernham-Hogg is the kind of dreadfully boring place that nobody would ever want to watch a documentary about, and the behind-the-scenes look at the company just shows what idiotic assholes its employees really are.
  • A subgenre of British reality TV shows in the 2000s involved teenagers being disciplined 1950s style - inspired by Lads' Army. The latter however did not feature teens - its contestants were in the 18-24 demographic - and was more about helping twenty-somethings find some kind of routine and discipline, as opposed to punishing them for being young.
  • You know how in basically every Toku show featuring Kaiju or monsters that grow into giants that Defeat Equals Explosion? Well, not in the first Ultraman show. Whenever Ultraman defeated the Monster of the Week, it just... kind of... fell down and laid there. This became a plot point in one episode when a monster had eaten tons of gold. After its defeat, the characters were able to take all of the gold from the monster because the body was still intact.
  • Kamen Rider Kuuga was the first Heisei series to introduce a constant evolution in powerups as the main Rider grew, with subsequent series following suit. However, Kuuga also depicted the horror coming with the escalation of power, as when it keeps going, it doesn't stop. Kuuga grows from your typical tokusatsu explosions for the MotW into a Person of Mass Destruction that levels entire city blocks with just a kick and even further, until his Super Mode is said to have the capability to kill all life on Earth. What's more, unlike other Riders afterward who end up using their final forms liberally in the last quarter or so of their series to challenge stronger opponents and are presented as bright, amazing heroes at their zenith, Kuuga only uses Ultimate in the final episode and it's designed to be a more monstrous form of Kuuga to show the potential he has to become a monster like the Big Bad. The fact that Kuuga never uses his full power in Ultimate form is presented not as a sign of his weakness, but having the inner strength not to become the force of destruction his enemy wants him to become.
  • Dana Scully of The X-Files is this for the trope she named. Unlike many later examples, she's not a Flat-Earth Atheist, or even a religious skeptic at all; she's devoutly Christian, and in some situations, it's implied she's skeptical of Mulder because she doesn't want him to be right. When that's not an issue, her skepticism is due to a lack of evidence; she was always more of an advocate for Occam's Razor than a true unbeliever. To top it off, it's implied that she's very often right off-camera.
  • J. Michael Straczynski's determination that the story arcs in Babylon 5 be resolved could be seen as a deconstruction of the lack of resolution so common in Noughties Drama Series if not for the fact that B5 aired in the '90s.


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