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What Kind Of Lame Power Is Heart Anyway / Live-Action TV

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Overly specific superpowers on live-action TV.

  • David Letterman made a top 10 list about this trope:
    10. Super spelling
    9. Lightning-fast mood swings
    8. Really bendy thumb
    7. Unusually natural smile when posing for photographs
    6. Ability to calm jittery squirrels
    5. Power to shake exactly two aspirins out of a bottle
    4. Ability to get tickets to Goodwill games
    3. Power to score with other superheroes' wives
    2. Ability to communicate with corn.
    1. Magnetic colon

  • The 4400:
    • Kyle Baldwin in season 4 gains an ability where he sees an independently sentient being who regularly tells him what to do next. That's it. However, the writers managed to make it a cornerstone of Jordan Collier's cult.
    • Shannon Reese's (S4 E05) ability to be a super-therapist is not something most people would consider to be special. Luckily she was a therapist before taking promicin so it had value to her nonetheless.
  • Stringfellow Hawke from Airwolf has super-hearing (possibly equal to or greater than his dog), which only comes in useful in that no-one can sneak up on him.
  • The Almighty Johnsons: A lot of the gods' powers are like this, since none of them have full access to their abilities.
    • Ingrid is Snotra, goddess of wisdom. Her primary ability? She's good at organizing stuff, and automatically knows things that it would be prudent to know. For example, when she stays at a hotel, she instantly knows where all the fire exits and vending machines are.
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    • Ty is Höðr, god of everything dark and cold. His ability to survive virtually any temperature extreme, put out any fire, and freeze things with a touch would be awesome... if this were a combat show. Which it's not. He mostly uses his intuitive understanding of cold to fix refrigerators.
    • Poor Stacey is Fulla, handmaiden to the goddess Frigg. Her "power" is that she obeys powerful goddesses. That's it, as far as anyone can tell.
  • Before achieving national fame as "the Science Guy", Bill Nye was a member of the Seattle-based comedy-sketch show Almost Live!. One of his reoccurring characters was a superhero named Speed Walker who fought crime "while maintaining strict adherence to the regulations of the International Speed-Walking Association!" (Heel toe! Heel toe!!)
  • Parodied in a one-time sketch on The Amanda Show which features a class full of teenagers with superpowers. The students include Lisa, a girl who can see the future, Reggie, a boy with the power of "super-burps" (which, while disgusting, are extremely powerful seismic events), an unnamed boy with telekinesis... and Billy, with the gift of "super-rhyming." What makes this even worse is that Billy has no control over his power — he is compelled to speak in rhyme even when he has nothing to contribute to the conversation:
    Lisa: You're giving us a pop quiz?
    Billy: If you spill a soda, you have to... mop... fizz.
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  • In American Horror Story: Apocalypse, witch Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt is initially put out that her power is the ability to detect gluten in supposedly gluten-free foods. The Supreme of her coven suggests that with some training she should be able to detect dangerous things in general.
  • The Boys (2019): The Deep is an Aquaman Expy, whose powers of talking to aquatic creatures and having gills make him the weakest member of The Seven. He's only really called upon for water-adjacent crimes, and the rest of the time, his role on the team is mostly being a Mr. Fanservice on Instagram.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • While Phoebe's power of premonition is certainly not useless, she does experience some angst early on at not having an active power that she can utilize at will. This is what inspires her to learn martial arts. She later gains the active power of levitation, becomes an empath, and learns how to summon premonitions at will. And then she loses all of her powers. How sucky for her. And kinda only gets them back at half power (and empathy not at all).
    • In the season 5 finale, the sisters are given powers of the Greek Gods. Piper becomes the Goddess of Earth, Paige the Goddess of War and Phoebe...the Goddess of Love. Really? To fight a pair of insanely powerful Titans? They couldn't have made her the Goddess of Wisdom perhaps or some other skill that would actually prove useful? And of course Phoebe ultimately does nothing to help in the fight against the Titans, save for providing a load of Fanservice. She does runs a scenario where she seduces both Titans in the hope of pitting them against each other, but it doesn't work.
  • The December 1st, 2015, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah opened with Trevor Noah delivering a rant about Heart being the lamest of the Planeteers' powers.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Doctor Dances", Captain Jack Harkness makes fun of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver in this fashion. In general, the screwdriver does not fit this trope.
    "Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'Ooh, this could be a little more sonic'?"
  • Friends had an episode where it was revealed that Ross, as a child, used to write comics about his own superhero, Science Boy! Blessed with the powers of... a super human thirst for knowledge.
  • On Hero Corp, a lot of the heroes' power are this, from design or from power degeneration.
    • Captain Shampoo can squirt shampoo from his hands. The kind that doesn't even sting the eyes. He used to squirt acid previously, but he had lost this power and only regains it through recovering confidence.
    • The mayor, Cecil, can take the appearance of someone unknown. Useless in a fight, naturally. However he uses it very efficiently to take control of Hero Corp by impersonating a recently deceased tycoon who none of the others knew personally.
    • Stan, a.k.a. Mental, has the power of persuasion. But he claims it only works if the subject agrees with him. He's certainly the closest to having no power at all. Season 3 reveals that it does work, but he has first to built a complex imagery around the suggestion, which can take some time.
    • Araignée Man's power is "being mean", because spiders (araignée in French) are mean.
    • Chauve-souris Man (chauve-souris is the French for bat) is revealed to have the awesome power of... living at night and sleep during the day. But he still needs to sleep at night somehow. And he also seem to have the visual abilities of a bat....
    • Dan is a half-man half-chicken mutant, which means his "power" is having feathers growing out of his lower backside.
    • Fourmi Man (Ant Man)'s power is to carry bread for his pals. And to not be tall.
    • Jennifer is revealed to be a mermaid, which means she gains webbed hands and gills when taking a shower... and can hold her breath underwater for a full 14 seconds.
  • Heroes:
    • Alejandro, whose sole displayed power is the ability to absorb and stop his sister's killing power. Which she learns to do by herself anyway. And then loses her power permanently. Sylar kills him and doesn't even bother to try to learn how he does it.
    • The boy Claire met, whose power is only to breathe underwater. Nevertheless, it was apparently an issue of vital importance to national security that he be locked up.
    • Sylar collects a few of these and never uses them. This includes his first conscious power: liquefying small metal objects.
  • Played with in an episode of House; a patient who at first appears to have the amazingly useful power of perfect memory recall is later discovered to suffer from OCD and actually can't forget bad memories and grudges. Truth in Television. It's called hyperthymesia, and one of the only 20 documented cases is that of actress Marilu Henner of Taxi. Yes, it's believed to be a form of OCD. Yes, it includes the inability to forget bad memories or to push out "bad thoughts" (which is what OCD actually is compared to the version you generally see in fiction).
  • Kamen Rider:
    • The primary conceit of Kamen Rider Decade is that the title hero can use the powers, techniques, and weapons of every previous Kamen Rider. Because Den-O relies entirely on the combat skills of the Imagin who possess him, his powers look kind of useless, leading to a hilarious scene when Decade first uses Den-O's powers and discovers that the attack cards simply make him perform the Imagins' Catch Phrases. Later on it's shown that he also gets the traits of Den-O's forms, such as Ax Form/Kintaros' Super Strength, making it look a lot more useful.
    • Kamen Rider Super-1 subverts this and plays it straight at the same time: Gold Hand is a radar... yeah, not very useful until you get to the fact it can be used as a missile launcher.
    • Super-1's Spiritual Successor Kamen Rider Fourze has the exact same kind of deal; of his forty different equipment modules, one is a radar gauntlet on his left arm. All it does is increase the accuracy of his ranged weapons (like his missile launcher and Gatling) and let him communicate with Mission Control. Of course, Fourze has also completely defied this trope a couple of times...
  • On Legion, Syd falls into this. She has the ability to Body Swap with anyone she touches, whether she wants to or not. Cary also falls into this trope, since his only "power" is having a Literal Split Personality, a woman named Kerry.
  • Played with in Merlin with Morgana's precognitive dreams. For a long time she doesn't understand them, and it's up to Merlin and Gaius to heed their warnings, whilst everyone else treats her as The Cassandra. In later episodes she understands them, but can't do anything to prevent them from unfolding (as in her Flash Forward dream to Guinevere being crowned Queen). If she does take action, they usually turn into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Misfits likes this, although several of them prove to be much more useful once they get used to them. But Alisha's power is to uncontrollably make any guy who touches her try to have sex with her. Nikki's ability to teleport would be good if she could control when it happened or where she went, but as is, is nothing but a liability. The girl who can make people go bald. Still, all of them pale beside the guy whose "power" is to mentally become a dog. This brings no enhanced abilities at all, and is just an especially embarrassing form of sleepwalking (i.e. naked and impersonating a dog whilst running around the streets of London). Subverted with a character who had the power of telekinesis, but only for milk (he called it Lactokenesis). After being roundly mocked, the character found he was able to kill people by filling their wind pipe and lungs with dairy from their own stomach.
    • There was one guy whose power was that he became a tortoise. A completely normal, non-powered tortoise. And he couldn't change back on his own.
    • Taking ecstasy reverses the effects of a person's powers, often turning them into this and Blessed with Suck. For example, anyone who touched Alisha irrationally hated her, Kelly's reversed telepathy made her verbalize all her thoughts, and Nathan's immortality transformed so that he was even more mortal than the average person.
  • Mutant X, an action show that obviously was based on X-Men, has a guy who can shoot lightning from his hands, a girl who is crazy cat-like, a dude who can either ghost himself or make himself as hard as a statue and a girl who... has weak telepath powers. The last is often kept back at base. In later seasons they all get upgrades, and the telepath gains a weird "mental missile" attack that does manage to take out whoever it hit (but having no effect on the surrounding area); she still gets left behind, though. Emma's powers eventually grows to the point where she can erase memories with a thought and can keep an army from discovering a weird-looking jet in a jungle clearing. As she explains to Jesse, to do this she has to remove all safeguards from her mind, meaning she won't be blocking anybody's thoughts. While she's saying that, she's wearing an outfit with lots of cleavage, which Jesse just happens to look at. Her reaction to his thoughts shows that she's not pleased. Apparently, the writers thought this made her too powerful, requiring a bridge to be dropped.
  • Parodied in Mystery Science Theater 3000 in which Crow creates a superhero identity for himself. While he concedes that his super power is completely useless, he jumps into the role of superhero wholeheartedly, even creating a super costume and announcing himself in a deep booming voice. His name? Turkey Volume Guessing Man. His power? To estimate how many turkeys could conceivably fill any given space. Mike then immediately takes the wind out of his sails by demonstrating that he has the same power.
  • Out of This World (1987): On her 16th birthday, Evie is told by her father Troy that she can gain a new power from ten different choices. One of the choices is the ability to change shoes quickly. Troy admits "We don't get a lot of requests for that one..."
  • The BBC character profiles for Robin Hood lists Kate's specialized weapon as "her imagination". In the eleven episodes in which she appeared, the most imaginative thing she ever did was to use a sword to drag a key toward her whilst she was locked in a cell. So not only is it a Lame Power, but it's an Informed Ability as well. In case you were wondering, she was indeed The Scrappy.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • A sketch featured "The Interesting Four": Weather Woman, who could change the air temperature of the room she was in by up to eight degrees in either direction; Staple, whose thumb was a stapler; Seiko, who, by pressing a button on his watch, would go back in time by one second one second one second one second (this continued until someone else snapped him out of it); and Mister Wonderful. He doesn't have any powers, he's just Mister Wonderful!
    • Another sketch had more conventional superheroes, where The Flash was clearly underwhelmed by Ant-Man's powers.
  • It's hard not to feel this way about Riley Blue in Sense8. While the rest of the sensates contribute various skills (fighting, acting, police experience, kick-boxing, hacking, scientific know-how) to the group, Riley's special skill is music. This creates some of the deepest and most profound moments of bonding between the eight sensates (who share a sort of hive mind with each other) but it's no coincidence that Riley is the one who ends up the Damsel in Distress in the final episode, contributing nothing to her rescue while all the others have pivotal roles to play.
  • Stan Lee's Superhumans, a program on the History Channel (US) is all about this trope, including your basic human calculators and the like, along with a Discovery Channel documentary entitled The Real Superhumans which featured, among others, a man whose heightened core metabolism has left him nearly impervious to cold, which he sought to prove by running a half-marathon nearly naked barefoot in the Arctic. He made it. It also featured a man born with skin so smooth and sleek that objects can be stuck to it as if his belly was a suction cup.
  • One of the players on Survivor: Samoa made a direct and detailed reference to the original Captain Planet and the Planeteers instance of this trope in describing his feelings of weakness and fatigue.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look:
    • Parodied in a recurring sketch which features the exploits of the crime-fighting duo BMX Bandit (who can ride a BMX bike really well) and the Angel Summoner (who can summon a horde of celestial superbeings to do his bidding); each adventure would begin with BMX Bandit suggesting an over-complicated strategy to use his BMX skills to defeat the villains, only for Angel Summoner to reluctantly point out that it'd be a lot easier if he just summoned a horde of angels to do it instead. Needless to say, the latter usually proves a lot more useful... which gives Bandit a severe inferiority complex. When the duo faces a particularly dangerous criminal group, Angel Summoner insists that BMX Bandit get to participate. The suddenly less-optimistic BMX Bandit ends up getting killed. One suspects that BMX Bandit's replacement, Gymkhana Girl, is similarly useless.
    • Also parodied in a sketch about a man with telekinesis — but it only works on biscuits. Downplayed by the fact that his companion thinks it is an awesome power (after all, ordinary humans can't cause biscuits to fly around with their mind), and that the man's problem with the power isn't that it is lame, but that he tends to inadvertently kill people when using it.
  • This trope is the entire point of the Whose Line Is It Anyway? game "Superheroes". From just one playing: Suicide Boy, Yodeling-Pogo-Stick Man, Captain Bloodloss, and Cowboy Stunt-Rider. Other examples include Caught-In-A-Wind-Tunnel Boy, The Jitterbug Kid, Captain Coward (who promptly hid behind the other superheroes) and Captain Obvious, among many others.
    • This one, with guest star Robin Williams, features heroes Run Away From Danger Man, Paranoid Man, and Captain Pork.
    • An explicit lampshading when Colin Mocherie was brought on as "Ballerina Man". He performed a pirouette before realising "Oh, I'm no use at all" and walking off again.


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