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What The Hell Is That Accent / Live-Action TV

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Bizarre accents on live-action TV.

  • Jamaican accents – and Caribbean accents in general – tend to be butchered by non-Caribbean actors, especially on TV shows. For instance Cheryl, Theo's season 7 girlfriend on The Cosby Show, is supposed to be from Barbados. Barbadian viewers would dispute that.
  • Claudia Black elicits this reaction quite often. However, most of the time she is using her natural mingled Australian and British accent at the request of the director. This trope is completely justified when she plays an American, though.
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  • Americans speak with distinct accents that sometimes have to be put upon by actors. Hugh Laurie does a wonderful American accent, but it would be hard to pin down exactly where in United States Dr. House is from. Canonically, House is a military brat and thus from everywhere and nowhere, providing a Watsonian explanation for the accent. Laurie's accent as House is more-or-less Standard Midwestern and sounds perfectly unremarkable to American ears (one of the producers thought he was American after hearing him at auditions), but Brits have been known to complain about his "outrageously fake" American accent – it's not clear whether this is because they've heard so many ridiculously distorted American regional accents that they believe all Americans are either Southern redneck hicks, California surfer dudes, or Boston Brahmins... or because they know what Laurie normally sounds like so hearing him doing some other accent seems "fake" (or perhaps they're just picking up the occasional word that screams "Oxford!" to British ears but Americans just dismiss as personal idiosyncrasies in pronunciation).
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  • British actor Jamie Bamber is also quite adept at pulling off an American accent, but like Laurie, determining precisely where in the US any of his American characters are from is nigh impossible (He's appeared in shows set all over the country—Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Portland, etc.—but never specifically sounded like he's from any of these regions)). And unusually for him, he fumbles his American accent quite badly in the unaired pilot for 17th Precinct (understandable, as he was just coming off of several years of using his natural British accent on Law & Order: UK and was presumably out of practice) resulting in something that sounds like a hybrid of British, American, and Canadian (possibly explained by the fact that while ostensibly set in an American city, the episode was filmed in Vancouver). Even his British accent runs into this problem when he had to deviate from his natural upper-class one to speak in a working-class one while playing a firefighter on The Smoke.

  • Cousins Charla and Mirna from seasons 5 & 11 of the American The Amazing Race spoke to every foreigner they met with some sort of vague accent that made it sound like they didn’t know how to speak English. They also used the same accent no matter where they went and even in counties where a lot of people speak English.
    Mirna: You have to try to do the right accent. Makes all the difference in the world.
  • 2 Broke Girls: Jennifer Coolidge attempts a Polish accent as Sophie. It's pretty easy to notice that she's not Polish. As the show has gone on the accent has had less and less resemblance to a Polish accent (in contrast to Oleg, whose accent still sounds passably Russian or Ukrainian). Sophie even recites this trope almost word for word when meeting Nashit, the Irish guy Max picked up of the streets because she doesn't understand him.
  • Played for Laughs a couple of times in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Skye is completely unable to come to terms with her British teammates' accents. Brief Accent Imitations of Glaswegian Fitz and South Yorkshire Simmons end up sounding Australian and Cockney, respectively, which they never fail to comment on (with Fitz choosing to adopt an American accent to match Skye's instead). Later, she mistakenly confuses Southern English Hunter for a Scotsman when referencing Trainspotting.
    • Ironically, some American fans of the show initially reacted this way to Fitz-Simmons' real accents (which are just the actors' natural accents), because Reality Is Unrealistic and they weren't speaking in RP.
  • Alias season 3 featured Agent Vaughn's new wife, Lauren, who was supposed to be British. Melissa George was rather lacking in ability in that department. The poor accent was later given a plot based explanation, but it seems unlikely that it was specified as a poor English accent in the original script.
  • Averted by Officer Crabtree in 'Allo 'Allo! where much of the joke is that his supposed "French" is wildly wrong.
  • Dr. Vink in Are You Afraid of the Dark? talks with a bizarre foreign accent that's difficult to pin down. When he laughs, his actor's real voice slips through.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Londo. His aide, Vir, did not speak with the same accent, but the actor playing Lord Refa did decide to copy it, leading the series creator to explain that this was basically the "old money"/aristocratic Centauri accent. Possibly adding to the confusion, J. Michael Straczynski originally didn't want Londo to have an accent at all, but Peter Jurasik (who played Londo) kept on using it anyway. Plus, Centauri Prime is an entire planet, so it would make sense that there would be more than one accent. When pushed by his co-stars to identify exactly what accent it was, Jurasik was known to shrug and announce in an exaggerated version that it was "Eastern European". He claims that he'd lost a part once using this accent and figured that if he's an alien, he at least couldn't be accused of Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping. In a different interview, Jurasik once claimed that the accent was specifically based on an elderly Russian man he'd known as a child, who came from a very aristocratic pre-Revolutionary background and had grown up speaking primarily Russian-accented French.
    • Delenn might count too, but that's technically the actress' own Croatian accent.
    • Andreas Katsulas, who played G'Kar, does not actually have a dramatic British accent but adopted one because he felt it was appropriate for the part. There was quite a variety of fake accents among the B5 actors.
    • The Centauri and Minbari, in particular, seem to have a selection of accents. Turhan Bey used his native Austrian accent when portraying the Centauri Emperor, lending some credence to the quasi-Eastern European accent affected by Jurasik as Londo. Theodore Bikel used his native Yiddish accent when playing a Minbari, Reiner Schone as Dukhat used his native German accent, and John Vickery affected a pronounced upper-class British purr as Neroon. In the last case, it was actually pretty useful, as John Vickery played a Human in another episode using a more Mid-Atlantic accent. He has a pretty distinctive voice, so the different accents helped keep the two characters separate.
    • When Bikel played a Russian Jewish rabbi, there were those who claimed that he didn't quite sound Russian.
    • There's also the Centauri maid from the framing scenes of "In the Beginning", who has a French accent. She's a major character in the Centauri Prime trilogy, where her accent is described as "Northern".
  • Raj from The Big Bang Theory asks "What part of America is that accent from?" after meeting Bawwy Kwwike. He's ignored. This trope also pops up whenever someone tries to do an impression of Raj's own Indian accent.
    Raj: Did you have to make me sound like a Simpsons character?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • We have two English potentials, Molly and Annabelle, who are cockney and RP respectively, and seem to have taken personal lessons from Dick Van Dyke. Annabelle pronounces because as "bee-cawwse" and Molly replaces wise with "woiz".
    • Kendra's accent is, according to Word of God, a very region-specific rural Jamaican accent but isn't recognized as such by Jamaicans.(Perhaps unsurprisingly, just where this rural Jamaican region supposedly is has never been revealed.) When Kendra asks Buffy "You tink he tell us?" and Buffy replies "I tink we make him," even Buffy sounds more convincing!
    • Nobody English has ever spoken with Drusilla's wildly bizarre Cockney-meets-Mummerset. She is, on the other hand, crazy. And before she's crazy, she's pretty consistently upper-class.
    • James Marsters' accent as Spike was initially pretty dodgy, but apparently Anthony Head provided informal coaching and in later seasons it becomes pretty convincing. Many people were surprised to learn James Marsters is American.
    • It started on Buffy but the less said about David Boreanaz' "Irish" accent, the better. Lampshaded in the Angel episode "Spin The Bottle": "You don't sound Irish." Notably, he also got a little bit better after being joined by genuine Dubliner Glenn Quinn on Angel, though not by much, and he never even got close to sounding like he was really from Galway.
    • With that said, one time Buffy tries an English accent. She makes Angel sound like a lifelong Irish native in comparison.
  • In the pilot for Burn Notice, English-born actress Gabrielle Anwar used an Irish accent for her character, a former IRA operative. It was quite cringe-worthy, and she adopted a nondescript American accent in the second episode with the explanation that she couldn't sound like a leprechaun if she wanted to blend in around Miami.
  • Castle:
    • The episode "The Limey" has Australian actor Brett Tucker allegedly attempting a Cockney accent. If it weren't for the occasional dropped "h"s one would assume he was Not Even Bothering with the Accent.
    • In "The Blue Butterfly", the cast were also playing the roles of other characters set in 1947. Nathan Fillion's character was a stereotypical private-eye New Yorker with the accent to match, but his accent never could seem to decide if it came from New York City, the American Southwest, Boston, or Canada.
    • Martha. All the time.
  • In Crossbones, John Malkovich plays Blackbeard (who was originally from Bristol, England) with a vaguely Germanic accent which is impossible to place. It does make Blackbeard seem more enigmatic. (I suppose Malkovich could have meant it to reflect the fact that Blackbeard spent his adult life among pirates from different countries.)
  • CSI:
    • A suspect was supposedly from South Africa, but fans familiar with the country's accent found it laughable.
    • One of the recurring characters, Sofia Curtis, was played by an English actress who tried to shoot for a generic, American accent. It... didn't quite work out that well.
    • And, just one word for CSI: NY: Peyton. The actress was British, but the accent apparently still bad. (Jane Parsons did it better.)
  • Pierre from Danger 5 has a Mediterranean accent that incorporates bits of French, Spanish and Italian. He's also the most mysterious member of the team, so this might be intentional.
  • Richard Glanister's American accent in the British show Demons has some of this trope. It's technically correct—vowel sounds right, and rhotic where it should be—but to an American ear it sounds a little too perfect: there's no hint of any regional variation, nor is there any of the inflection or intonations a native speaker usually has ... it sounds a little monotonous, actually, like it's a generic American accent. The writers also seem to have purposely given him a little help by avoiding, in his dialogue, not only any distinctly American words or turns of phrase but even writing around the situations where he'd have to use either them or their British equivalent.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Kleig and Kaftan in "The Tomb of the Cybermen" are... foreign. Kleig has a German name, and is played by an actor from Cyprus whose specialty was playing creepy Egyptians in Gothic Horror movies, and says his dialogue with a sort of Arabic/Eastern European accent. Kaftan is named after an Arabic dress, is blacked up, wears vaguely East Asian clothes and has a Mexican/French/Greek/African/? accent.
    • "The Krotons" features Little Green Man in a Can Tin-Can Robot people who were given what was intended to be South African accents by the voice actors, who wanted to add an Apartheid allegory to the story. Unfortunately, the accents are completely unrecogniseable. Most viewers find they come across as being a cross between Cockney and Birmingham, to the point where complaining about 'Brummie robots' is a cliche.
    • In "The Space Pirates", the space-prospector Milo Clancy's accent goes from American to British to Australian, sometimes in the same sentence.
    • Bruno Taltalian in "The Ambassadors of Death" sounds like he's Russian one minute and French the next. (And the accent disappears in the scenes filmed on location.)
    • The Professor in "The Mutants" has a bizarre Mexican/Russian/South African accent.
    • In "Image of the Fendahl", Dennis Lill plays Doctor Fendelman with... an accent. Good luck guessing what it is (part-Dutch, part-Greek, part-Italian is the best description), although we're helpfully told he isn't Japanese.
    • In "Nightmare of Eden", the character Tryst has an utterly incredible accent, which the actor developed deliberately as a homage to Dr. Strangelove, on the grounds that people on other planets in the future won't have the same accents as people on Earth in the present. It might have worked better if he hadn't been the only person in the story doing it. (And Tom Baker didn't keep visibly cracking up whenever Tryst spoke.)
    • Tegan's actress, Janet Fielding, has a natural Australian accent, but according to the producer it didn't sound quite Australian enough and so she added an exaggerated Brisbane twang to it.
    • For that matter, Peri's American accent is on occasions so atrocious that American viewers have had to Google to try to find out where she's meant to be from.
    • "Tooth and Claw": Rose attempts a Scottish accent that is so atrocious that the Tenth Doctor (coincidentally played by a Scot) tells her to stop. It actually sounds somewhere between English and Canadian of all things.
    • "Turn Left": Billie Piper apparently lost the accent she used as Rose for series 1 and 2, and coupled with a pronounced overbite that is also new results in her speaking with a noticeable lisp and accent that is very odd. Piper claims she sounded like that because her scenes were shot outside in winter and she was cold. Some fans speculate, as she largely takes the role of the Doctor in this episode, that she was intentionally trying to sound like him. Oh, and lest we forget, in the next episode Rose's accent and teeth are back to normal.
    • "Day of the Moon": People were left trying to figure out where exactly the orphanage owner is meant to be from. It's meant to be a Southern US version of a Sycophantic Servant. It's Cajun (i.e. Louisiana). Half Deep South, half French Canadian. For a reference for what he was going for, see Lotso from Toy Story 3.
    • In "A Town Called Mercy", almost all of the Americans are played by Brits... with varying degrees of success. Ben Browder, both an American and a Southerner, uses a VERY over-the-top Spaghetti Western-y accent.
    • Continuing the theme of companions mangling Scottish accents, in "Deep Breath", Clara makes a very brief attempt at a Scottish accent that, fortunately, lasts all of one word. Truth in Television as Jenna Coleman has admitted at fan conventions that her Scottish accent is pretty bad, even though she has Scottish ancestry.
  • In an episode of Drop the Dead Donkey, newsreader Sally Smedley has decided to make a bit of extra money by recording a radio ad. However, advertising by newsreaders is against broadcast regulations, so she tries to hide her involvement by affecting a fake accent, trying first Scottish, then Welsh. Her fellow newsreader, Henry Davenport, is not fooled for a moment, and when the ad hits the airwaves, he plays it for the whole office to hear. Researcher Dave Charnley's reaction sums up how successful her accent was:
    Dave: What the hell kind of accent was that supposed to be?!
    Sally: (feigning ignorance) Well, it sounded like rather good Welsh to me.
    Dave: What!? Welsh crossed with Swedish! And a hint of Pakistani!
  • Antoine de Caunes of Eurotrash fame initially tried dampening down his very, very strong French accent (to the point that he was often suspected of not being French at all and putting the accent on for the sake of comedy) and using an English accent whilst presenting on British television. As he himself admits, the results were not pretty.
  • In Farscape, any time that Crichton, played by Ben Browder, tries to change his accent from his natural variably-strong Southern the results will be hilarious. Particularly notable examples are the "English" accent he adopts when impersonating a Peacekeeper officer in "A Bug's Life", and the "Texan" accent he puts on when trying to play a Sex Slave buyer in "Scratch 'N' Sniff".
  • Frasier:
    • Most mystifying to British ears, the character of Daphne Moon, who speaks a very singular "Manchester" accent. This slips and slides across the north Cheshire plain and every so often touches ground in Sale and Stockport (south-west Manchester area) but is best thought of as a sort of generic north-western accent with hints of everywhere from Widnes and Runcorn right across to Glossop and Leek. The directors of Frasier really gave up when casting Daphne's "Mancunian" family: her parents are Dick Van Dyke cockney, her brothers are respectively Glaswegian, Irish, Australian, cockney and Scottish...
    • Millicent Martin, who played Gertrude Moon, said in interviews that she tried to duplicate Daphne's accent, whatever that was meant to be. Robbie Coltrane managed to cop out altogether by being The Unintelligible.
    • Bit part or one-time actors on Frasier have maintained the show's stellar record for getting non-American accents just right. In one episode a character (a love interest of Niles) is presumed in context to be South African. Her attempt at South Africa is as good as you might expect. And a friend of Daphne's, also meant to be British, speaks with a very apparent Australian accent throughout.
  • Friends:
    • When Ross starts lecturing at NYU he is very nervous and when he begins to talk "this British accent just came out". "Yeah, not a very good one." In the same episode Monica does a Scottish accent to make fun of him and Rachel goes for Indian of all things.
    • Also in-universe is pretty much any time Joey tries to put on an accent; his Southern Accent comes out as Jamaican.
      Joey: Di Sout' will rise again, mon!
    • Another episode has Phoebe and Monica having this reaction to one of their friends coming back from England with a new accent. Monica attempts an awful impression of it ("Monica dah-ling it's U-mah-da cooling"). Chandler remarks "is that meant to be a British accent". Ironically when we see the friend (played by Jennifer Coolidge) her English accent is quite decent. Well, sort of — some of the vowels are correct (for RP, anyway) and consistent. It's probably exactly right considering it's portrayed as irritatingly fake.
  • At one point in Full House, Kimmy says "I'm practicing der Bagpipes for the Scottish musical festival after school" in basically a Scandinavian accent. In her defense, she didn't say she was practicing her accent.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Shae, who is equally mystifying to Tyrion in-universe. She describes her own accent only as "foreign". Her accent is actually German, albeit complicated by the fact that Sibel Kekilli, the actress portraying her, tries to mask her accent by giving it a distinct South-European tinge. Resolved in-universe in Season Two, when Cersei pegs her accent as Lorathi. It helps that Jaqen H'gar, the only other Lorathi character, also uses a German accent.note 
    • Some had this reaction to Melisandre, apparently from Asshai (east of Essos) whose accent is similarly strange. Carice van Houten is simply using her native Dutch accent; unlike the Lorathi (where we conveniently find they speak with German accents), the other person we see from Asshai (a strange lady in Qarth) has an unremarkable native English accent.
    • For that matter, Tyrion himself has a wonderfully bizarre approximation of an accent that can only sometimes be recognized as Received Pronunciation ("Queen's English"), a matter not helped by the fact that Peter Dinklage is Fake Brit surrounded by mostly real Brits.
    • Petyr Baelish, almost memetically so, has an accent so inconsistent that it seems to take a drunken tour of the entire UK throughout the series. He'll be Irish in one scene, Welsh in the next, Scottish in another, etc.
    • From an in-universe perspective it appears that the Lannisters' accents are all over the place: We have the aforementioned RP/approximated British accent by Peter Dinklage's Tyrion, Cersei's (Lena Headey's) native English accent and then there's Danish-born Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) who, while doing a good job in masking his actual accent, speaks with a somewhat mildly American-sounding/Mid-Atlantic accent — definitely not the accent you'd expect from Cersei's brother.
    • Euron Greyjoy is played by Danish actor Pilou Asbæk, who doesn't fully hide his accent while playing Euron, even though the ironborn speak with the same accent as the mainland (because they're the same Andal/First Men mix — except Theon, but he spent years living in the North and picked up their accent). This is probably justified in that Euron has been away from both the Iron Islands and Westeros for years, as he says, sailing the world oceans from Oldtown to Qarth, even raiding in the distant Jade Sea — logically, he's probably been speaking in a dozen different foreign languages for years and it must have affected his own accent.
  • Hannibal stars Brit Hugh Dancy as American profiler Will Graham. For the most part, he can approximate an American accent... a Californian one, to be precise, when Graham is from Louisiana. It also stars Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal, employing a slightly exaggerated version of his own Danish accent to the "wtf?" of many a viewer with an untrained ear.
  • Samuel Sullivan in Heroes pretty much goes on a tour of every American and British regional accent in practically every sentence. Robert Knepper explained that it was meant to reflect how much he'd traveled.
  • Amy in In Treatment, played by South African Embeth Davidtz, begins the series with a weird combination of South African/British/American. She settles down into a subdued version of the actress's native accent as the show goes on.
  • Jen in one episode of The IT Crowd struggles with her telephone tech support due to the operator's completely incomprehensible accent. It sounds like the guy was raised in every single country in Europe simultaneously.
  • Lieutenant Commander Mic Brumby in JAG is supposed to be Australian, but his accent is from nowhere near the land down under. The actor Trevor Goddard was English, but often claimed to be Australian as there were more parts available for Aussies. That he found work playing Australian characters without anyone picking him up on the accent is literally mind-boggling.
  • There's an in-universe example in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Chinoiserie", in which actor George Weems is conned into playing the role of "Lord Pembridge" and taking part in a crime under the guise of performance art. It actually takes Weems a few minutes to realize that the cops aren't part of the "show".
    Goren: Isn't that the worst English accent you've ever heard?
    Eames: Next to the Irish Spring guy, it's the worst accent, period.
    Weems:(in bad accent) I beg your pardon!
    Goren: The mishmash of Cockney, Welsh. But miraculously, I think I heard a shred of the north of England in one of your R's.
    Eames: There are so many sounds in there, how can you tell?
    • Weems later defends it as "a perfectly acceptable English music hall accent".
  • In an episode of Legend of the Seeker, Rahl runs into a woman who claims to be The Creator of all things. Possibly to add credibility to this, she speaks in a completely undefinable accent.
  • Leverage:
    • Several of the accents, but it's most glaring in the season three finale, "The San Lorenzo Job". Everybody had a vaguely European-sounding accent. Not one person had the same accent as any other person. Also doubles as Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping.
    • Most of the accents the team put on, regardless of quality, can be pinned down as a recognizable accent. Then there's the one Hardison puts on in "The Iceman Job", which swings between sounding vaguely European to sounding borderline South African.
    • In-universe, this is Sophie's reaction to the attempts of the other characters to do her accent in "The Rashomon Job" (Sophie's natural accent is the same English accent as her actress, Gina Bellman). Eliot gave her a Cockney accent Eliza Doolittle would call overdone, Hardison gave her a Scottish one, and Parker only heard indecipherable gibberish.)
      Flashback!Sophie: Ai, wai'er, I was vey wunnerin' 'fyou could yea' und' my dingaling.
      Present!Sophie: ...I hate you all.
  • From The Man in the High Castle we have Timothy Murphy as Adolf Eichmann. Timothy Murphy is originally from Ireland. Speaking his English lines he sounds like he has a somewhat over-the-top German accent, and while it isn't always convincing it is at least passable in that it doesn't pull you out of the story. Speaking his German lines, however, the man sounds like he has a brain injury. There's no way around it: it's awful. Even American viewers who don't speak German have described it as the worst accent they've ever heard, while German viewers confirm his "German" is nigh incomprehensible. It's shockingly bad.
  • Lampshaded and Played for Laughs in the first episode of Misfits, when Nathan claims to be completely unable to understand anything Kelly says. She's actually speaking in her actress's natural Derbyshire accent, but due to the real lack of East Midlands accents even on British TV, it's probably what a lot of viewers who don't know the region were thinking too. Occasionally other characters will have some trouble understanding her compared to the ease with which they converse with each other.
  • While Leonard Nimoy spoke with his natural American accent on Star Trek: The Original Series, in his role on Mission: Impossible as master of disguise Paris he had this brilliant moment.
  • The Lumberjack Song from an early episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. The "Canadian" mounties and the lumberjack himself sound nothing like actual Canadians. You'd think they were just using their natural English accents but then they throw Rs onto the end of everything, including where they absolutely don't belong. ("I wish I'd been er girlie, just like my dear Mamarrrr")
    • They also rhyme "scone" with "on", while Canadians generally follow American English and say it like it's spelled.
    • Of course some of the rhymes are painful even in an English accent. "Flower" and "bar" only rhyme if you are veddy British and around 90 years old, and Michael Palin forgot to say the R in flower so it doesn't rhyme anyway.
  • Murder, She Wrote's Amos Tupper was supposedly from Maine. Tom Bosley, who played him, used an accent that has never existed anywhere on earth, let alone Maine.
  • Examples of this trope pop up in many of the movies mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Catalina Caper — "Oh, what are you, Creepy Girl?...are you French, or Italian, or one of those swarthy Gypsy types, heh heh?" In point of fact, Tom's wrong on all counts. The character of Katrina "Creepy Girl" Corelli was in fact played by Ulla Strömstedt, a Swede.
    • Natalie, the female protagonist from Werewolf, and several other characters from that film to varying degrees.note 
  • MythBusters: Any time Adam and Jamie are doing a myth that has to do with pirates, Adam will affect a "pirate" accent that... doesn't really sound like the stereotypical pirate accent at all. If anything, his accent is a poor imitation of a British rock star or something like that. Maybe he's doing an impression of Captain Jack Sparrow?
  • Cote de Pablo — Chilean born and Miami raised — plays an Israeli on NCIS, only her accent is still South American and she mangles whatever Hebrew they give her.
  • On The Air: Mr. Zoblotnik, as well as his nephew Valdja Gochktch, have completely unidentifiable accents replete with unintelligible vowel and even impossible consonant shifts. The characters are intended to be from some unknown foreign place, which ends up sounding like a cross between Swedish and Latvian. The accent is so alien, none of the other characters can understand it.
    Zoblotnik: Wah hoove oo het in err honds! (We have a hit on our hands!)
    Everyone: ...What?!
    Gochktch: Kahn oo scram? (Can you scream?)
    Betty Hudson: ...You want me to leave?
  • Orange Is the New Black: "Badison", an inmate introduced in Season 6, has a horrifically bad accent that is nominally Boston but mostly just confuses viewers. Combined with her Jerkass tendencies, it made her an instant Scrappy.
  • Orphan Black: In-universe. When the clones (who include an American, two Canadians, an English immigrant to Canada, a German and a Ukrainian) try to impersonate each other they don't always get it right. In particular, Alison's impersonation of Sarah in the fourth episode. Actually pretty good acting on Tatiana Maslany's part.
  • Patty Duke, playing a character who was supposed to be a Scot in The Patty Duke Show, writes in her autobiography that she researched and practiced an appropriate accent, but the show's producers made her play Cathy Lane as a sort of generic-European:
    I learned a true Scottish burr, and then everyone got nervous that the viewers wouldn't like or understand it so they decided on a general European nothing accent, a kind of "anyplace but America" speech.
  • On the short-lived reality competition show Pirate Master, contestant Azmyth, after being made the captain of his crew, inexplicably adopted a British-style accent, perplexing some of his crew and shocking the normally unflappable host, Cameron Daddo, at that night's Pirate Court.
  • During the Disney years of Power Rangers, especially later on, the casting directors often cast largely New Zealand and Australian actors to save money on airfare and had most of them do American accents. A good number of them could pass decently, but a few, James Napier and James Maclurcan in particular, couldn't always hold them, or hold them at all, to save their lives a good portion of the time, thus resulting in strange mixes of both their native accents and American. Subverted with Zander from Mystic Force, whose actor is Australian, but does more of a Kiwi accent.
    • The most baffling of all though, has to be from Samurai, in-universe. Any time the Rangers are shown as young kids, they're played by actors from the country it's filmed in, New Zealand, and, bless them for trying, but the kids couldn't do American accents or act for that matter, to save their lives, but the main actors for the Rangers sound American, thus leading to the question of where exactly Samurai is supposed to take place in the world, even though it's supposed to be America. Even Mentor Ji doesn't have a discernible accent, even though his actor is Kiwi.
    • It was supposed to be subverted again with James Davies in the Neo Saban Dino Charge series, as the character and actor are both from New Zealand, but he sounded more Australian than Kiwi and, when they had a few episodes set in New Zealand and the extras do a better job at their native accent than he does, it became somewhat jarring. Partially justified because James Davies had been living in Europe for several years at the time, though him sounding Australian is odd.
  • Project Runway Season 9 had Olivier Green, whose accent baffled fellow contestants and the audience. It was so all over the place that people began to speculate he was faking it, though it seemed to fluctuate based on his mood.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • The accent used by the second version of Kryten has been described as a cross between American and Scottish. It was apparently supposed to be Canadian when he started out. It is also worth noting that Kryten keeps three spare heads in a locker in case of emergencies. Two speak his unique North American accent, but the third is different - blunter and coarser than the rest, it talks pure Yorkshire, notes its circuit boards are shot to buggery and comes over like Geoffrey Boycott on a good day. Somewhat justified in that this accent was shown to be part of Kryten's "corrupted" personality, and so may not suppose to be any specific accent we're familiar with. When he got temporarily memory-wiped in season eight his accent reverted back to an upper-class British accent.
    • The Inquisitor speaks with a growling, dramatic accent which seems to represent every constituent country of the UK. It's described on the DVD commentary as 'Scotto-American'.
  • In the filmed pilot for the series Rex is Not Our Lawyer, David Tennant tries desperately to curb his native Scottish to sound American, but overcompensates, particularly on the r's, and the result is utterly hilarious, even if you respect him as an actor. It's no discernible American accent that anyone could recognize. He did better several years later when he filmed Gracepoint after he'd taken accent lessons, but his first attempt is just bad. Hear it for yourself from a released clip.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch:
    • An episode has a supposedly British drummer (well he says he was born in London) whom Morgan thinks talks cute.
    • One of the last episodes features an "Australian" sports team with what appears to be a fading cockney accent with Aussie mannerisms.
  • Saturday Night Live:
  • On Schitt's Creek the character of Moira Rose speaks in an affected, unrecognizable accent that is remarked upon by several characters. Since Moira came from a small town not unlike Schitt's Creek, it is presumed she developed this accent, and her bizarre, arcane vocabulary, in an attempt to appear more sophisticated.
  • Foreign Accent Syndrome (See Real Life section below) is referenced on an episode of Scrubs. J.D. is really bad at doing accents.
  • SCTV's Andrea Martin had two prominent characters built around this trope. Perini Scleroso, the station's cleaning woman, occasional on-air "talent", and recipient of the coveted People's Global Golden Choice Award for "Best Foreign Personality", has both a thin grasp of the English language and a bizarre, unplaceable accent. Mojo, the maid on "The Days of the Week", had a better command of English, but a different bizarre, unplaceable accent.
  • Isabelle from Shadowhunters has an accent that can be hard pinpoint because her actress is Latina and grew up in Texas. Isabelle's accent is especially noticeable because none of her brothers or parents have any accent at all.
  • Shake it Up has Gunther and Tinka, who appear to speak with different accents from "the old country". (Gunther's is more German/Austrian; Tinka's is more Eastern European).
  • In Smallville, the actor cast as the father of Kelly Brook's character Victoria (who played her part as RP English) used an accent which caused one British genre magazine to dub him a South African Irish Cockney.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Craig Ferguson once commented that nobody in Scotland understood Scotty. "It was like an Arab had an epileptic seizure." James Doohan himself explained that in auditions, he tried various authentic Scottish accents – he could, in fact, do a very good Aberdonian and other regional accents – but the producers were absolutely appalled, especially when he read the part in broad Glaswegian. Fearing that Americans would not understand any genuine Scots accent without subtitles, the mangled accent was an unsatisfactory compromise between reality and the demands of American television.
    • NOOKLEARRH. WESSELS. Interestingly, Anton Yelchin, the Russian-born but American-bred actor who played Chekov in Star Trek (2009) made a game attempt at approximating Chekov's accent, even though he apparently commented that it sounded like no Russian accent he had ever heard.
      • Walter Koenig said that he got the v pronounced like w thing from his father, who had the same difficulty (although not to the extent Chekov did) - Walter doesn't talk like that in real life (he doesn't have much of an accent in real life, he was the son of Russian immigrants but he was born in Chicago). The story goes that he did a realistic Russian accent in an audition for Star Trek, but Gene Roddenberry said it wasn't strong enough and instructed him to "ham it up". So he made the accent over the top and did the v/w swap, and Roddenberry then approved.
    • Mauve Shirt Transporter Chief Kyle had a kinda-English accent (which makes sense as the actor who played him, John Winston, is British), but it was "off" enough that a DC Comics bio had him born in Australia.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Troi. Marina Sirtis said that she purposefully tried to make an alien accent since she was half-Human/half-Betazoid, and especially in the earlier seasons, you can almost see her struggling to keep it up. The fact that none of the Betazoid characters used anything even slightly similar also drew attention to it. That accent was replaced by something closer to a British accent (which is her native accent) in later seasons and then dropped altogether in the movie. Marina Sirtis was brought up in London to a Greek Cypriot family. It has been suggested that she was deliberately speaking in the sort of British accent first-generation Greek immigrants would have used: a hybrid of Cockney and Cyprus.

    Originally, Denise Crosby was chosen after reading the part of Troi, the empath, and Sirtis read for Commie Land descendant and security-focused Tasha Yar (...yiiiikes). By the time season one began, they had accents that might have made sense if their roles hadn't been swapped. Troi's mother was cast as if this change hadn't happened at all. There was a fan-theory for a while that Troi had a peculiar Earth accent she'd picked up from her father ...then Ian Troi appeared in a flashback and he didn't have it either.
    • Handwaved later on by a comment Lwaxana made: telling Deanna that she should have been around more when she was growing up, so she didn't spend so much time with her nanny, because she picked up the nanny's accent.
  • Supernatural example: what the hell (pun intended) kind of accent is Alistair affecting? None of the other demons speak the way he does; the closest any of the others get is Crowley and he just sounds generically-British.
  • Josh Thomas from Talkin' 'bout Your Generation has a bizarre indecipherable accent, despite being born and raised in Australia. Even host Shaun Micallef accidentally slipped into a speech pattern more characteristic of Josh at one point in the show. His accent sounds kind of British.
  • That '70s Show:
    • Wilmer Valderrama has said that he purposely created an accent that couldn't be identified (think a mixture of "40 percent Cuban" and "60 percent homosexual"), and his lack of specific national origin is a running joke on the show. Lampshaded in an episode in which the adults try to imagine what the kids say when they are not around, and they have Fez himself not knowing what country he's from.
    • Fez's friend from the other side of the island has a British accent, which makes everything more confusing.
  • Zoey's Daughter Ava from Two and a Half Men starts out British just like her mother, but slowly her accent changes from living in America, but not quite, so she has some inflections that are still British. The actress herself, as described on the show's character's wiki page, is American, but can apparently do a British accent so well that the producers had her mix the two, so this was deliberately invoked.
  • In Van Helsing (2016), Sam's accent is extremely hard to place. Possibly explained in that Sam lost his hearing as a child and only regained it when he became a vampire in middle age, and he's had to relearn how to speak while on the run.
  • Nora on When Calls the Heart has an inscrutable accent that swings between Midwestern, Southern, New England, and Western. On top of all that, the character is Canadian.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? is infamous for this; any time the players have to portray a nationality, there's maybe a 10% chance at best that the accent will even remotely resemble what it's supposed to be. Especially if it's Colin or Ryan attempting the accent. Its generally lampshaded to no end. Ryan usually claims the accent is "Dutch".
    • The only accent Ryan seems to be able to stick with is some sort of terrible Italian blend. On two separate occasions, he was supposed to be French in the scene, but drifted into this Italian thing. At one point, he even stops talking and asks, "Am I Italian, or French-y?"
    • One sketch had Ryan's character blaming his roaming accent on moving a lot as a child.
    • Greg once beautifully described Colin's wandering accents as "taking a train across Europe."
    • Any of Colin's attempts at a Scottish accent become doubly hilarious if you know he was actually born in Scotland.
    • One edition of the show had "World's Worst Infomercials" as the final round. Wayne Brady came up with "Colin Mochrie's Guide to Dialects:"
      "French: (adopts unidentifiable accent) Helloo!"
      "Spanish: (in same accent) Helloo!"
      "Indonesian: (ditto) Helloo!"
    • One game of "Hollywood Director" had the cast acting out a Zorro-style scene. Kathy Greenwood quickly adopted an accent that probably doesn't exist anywhere outside of the show, leading to in-game speculation that she was Canadian-Swedish. Not that anyone else's accent was at all appropriate for the setting. Ryan started off vaguely Spanish before lapsing into his trusty pseudo-Italian.
      Ryan: Funny how we all come from a different part of Spain.
  • In one episode of The Wire, Officer McNulty attempts to go undercover with a horribly bad British accent, provoking hilarity among his fellow cops. (It's good enough for the job, since he's trying to fool non-native-English speakers.) Overlaps with Actor Allusion, since Dominic West (who plays McNulty) is, in fact, English.
  • Julia Ormond tries to tamp down her English accent while playing an American on Witches of East End, which unfortunately gives her a very strange accent, although as her character is immortal, she could have been an Englishwoman who moved to North America. Her similarly immortal younger sister notably speaks with a totally normal American accent.
  • In the Hawaii Five-O season 9 premiere "Nine Dragons" provides a salient lesson in the dangers faced by English actors who spend the majority of their careers playing a Fake American. Machael Anderson Jr. plays a CID man in Hong Kong whose English accent wavers distractingly. (He made other appearances, each time playing a Fake American.