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Wrong Genre Savvy / Live-Action TV

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  • Band of Brothers: When Capt. Winters and Capt. Nixon are discussing possible replacement commanders for Easy Company, Winters dismisses Lt. Shames as a viable option because he's "seen too many war movies" and thinks he needs to yell at his subordinates like a Drill Sergeant Nasty all the time.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • When Walter sets up a meet with a drug dealer at a garbage dump, both Jesse and Tuco mock him for watching too many movies. Sure enough, meeting with a dangerous psychotic in a remote location where no one can hear you scream turns out to be a very bad idea.
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    • When Lydia has a meeting with Mike at a diner, she tries to cover up her identity with tactics she likely knows from spy movies (wearing a face-concealing hat and sunglasses, conversing in back-to-back booths, using fake names), all of which just makes them more and more conspicuous.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In a conversation with Angel, Spike once mentions "the old Anne Rice routine" — telling a woman you're a vampire, convincing her you're a tortured soul who only wants to overcome your curse and be good, then eating her when she lets her guard down.
  • Castle: While Richard Castle's Genre Savvy skills are often an asset to his crime fighting, he also likes to play with being Wrong Genre Savvy.
    • In one example, he acts as though he's in a vampire show instead of a They Fight Crime! procedural:
      Castle: Whoa, whoa, whoa!
      Lanie: What is wrong?
      Castle: If he's a vampire and you pull that [stake] out, he comes back to life!
      Lanie: If he does, then we can all go home early.
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    • After tracking down a serial killer who supposedly rose from his grave:
      Castle: We're going to a cabin in the woods, in the middle of nowhere?
      Beckett: Yeah, so?
      Castle: So... it's like the coed, checking out the strange noise in a basement in a slasher fic. It's a recipe for disaster.
      Beckett: It's not a slasher fic, it's a murder investigation.
    • In one episode, Castle confided that he only pretends to believe he's in the wrong genre because it annoys Beckett.
  • Dr. Drew has stated many of the patients on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew thought they were just doing another celebrity reality show and took a long time to adjust to the fact that they were in an actual rehabilitation center and actually had to do all the things that go along with it.
  • Community:
    • In "Regional Holiday Music", Abed thinks he's in a Very Special Christmas Episode where, with help from a life-affirming musical mentor, he has to stop his killjoy friends from forgetting The True Meaning of Christmas through the Power of Song. He's actually in a Black Comedy parody of Glee where trying to force his friends to be cheerful is played out like an alien mind control Assimilation Plot where they become soulless Stepford Smilers, and the life-affirming musical mentor is a complete maniac.
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    • Another episode had Abed thinking he's in a Whole Plot Reference to Good Will Hunting with Troy and a gift for plumbing standing in for Will's gift for math... but in reality he's in a parody and when he tries to convince Troy to drop out and become a plumber by paraphrasing Ben Affleck's speech about "the best moment of my day is when I hope you've left town (and this crappy lifestyle) without saying goodbye", Troy is instead utterly hurt and insulted that Abed thinks of their friendship that way.
  • In one episode of Continuum, a sci-fi fanboy finds a powered armor suit from the future, and upon accidentally discovering its powers, decides that it makes him a super-hero. Too bad for him, despite the nigh-invulnerability granted by the suit, he's actually in a fairly realistic sci-fi, and the villains, who are looking for said armor, find him and beat him up quite badly before the actual heroine (who has a suit *and* knows how to use it) shows up.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Vampires of Venice": When Amy and Rory are accosted by the "vampire" Francesco, Rory attempts to use two candlesticks to form a cross to drive him away. Francesco just swats them aside, and Amy calls Rory out on that because they already knew the "vampires" were actually fish aliens who wouldn't have that weakness.
  • Farscape: In early episodes, Crichton often allowed himself to be influenced by Captain Kirk and being one of the few members of the crew to do the “right”, more ethical option. He quickly learns how wrong he is, and after a prolonged period of being tortured by the Peacekeepers, he adopts a far more pragmatic and less naive mindset, though he never stops trying to do the right thing.
  • Flight of the Conchords had a weird example when Bret tried to woo a woman with techniques he'd seen in a sitcom. Now, Bret is in a sitcom, but he did stuff that never works even in sitcoms. At one point, Jermaine asks whether what Bret is planning on doing worked in the sitcom he saw it in. Bret says that it didn't, but as this is real life, his chances are better.
  • In an episode of Friends, Joey receives a visit from an unhinged, obsessed fan. Anticipating violence, he grabs a frying pan. Chandler suggests that he comes up with a backup plan in case she isn't a cartoon character.
    • In another episode, after watching porn non-stop for too long, Joey and Chandler find that they're surprised when women don't try to have sex with them.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Sansa Stark was raised on heroic ballads of noble knights and fair ladies, and often justifies this or that course of action because it's how they would do things "in the songs." She thinks she is in a fairy tale with herself as the Princess Classic and Joffrey as the Prince Charming. Petyr Baelish calls her on this rather early, telling her "life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that someday, to your sorrow." She gets more savvy and cynical as her experiences show her the error of her ways, such as when Joffrey executes her father. In Season 3, she begins to slip back into this a little as a defense mechanism. However, this is shattered when she learns of the Red Wedding.
    • Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish recounts the story of how, as a boy, he challenged the older and stronger Brandon Stark to a duel for the hand of Catelyn Tully because he had a head full of songs and stories of the small underdog emerging triumphant over the big bully. Unfortunately for him, he's in a much darker sort of fantasy story, and Brandon nearly kills him. Petyr takes the lesson to heart, and resolves not to fight his battles through honor and violence (both of which he's very bad at) but through underhanded trickery (which he's very good at).
  • On The Good Guys Dan thinks he's a Cowboy Cop in a high-octane action movie (in-universe there actually was such a movie made based on an old case of his), while Jack thinks he's in a Police Procedural. They're both wrong, they're actually in a buddy-cop action-comedy.
  • Grey's Anatomy had a young foster kid who thought herself a superhero, reasoning that she was a orphan who could do things normal people couldn't. However, her "super-power" is an inability to feel pain and she is badly injured as a result.
  • Have Gun – Will Travel has this as Paladin's defining character moment. In essence, he thought he was the White Hat hired by the local leader-type to fight off the Desert Bandits. In reality, he was the muscle hired by the evil fat cat Cattle Baron to put pressure on the Determined Homesteaders.
  • Nobuo from Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, being an Otaku in a show that directly parodies Super Sentai , has been Wrong Genre Savvy on multiple occasions, including the first episode where he expects Make My Monster Grow to take place, only for he and the other Akibarangers to be sitting around waiting till sunset, and when the ghost of Yumeria's mother comes to visit her for her birthday, Nobuo thinks she'd disapprove of Yumeria's hobbies, and that they'll have to hide everything in her apartment and create an elaborate ruse, but then when Yumeria's mother actually arrives, she turns out to be an even bigger Cosplay Otaku Girl (okay, maybe "Cosplay Otaku Woman") than Yumeria herself!
  • The basic premise of The Joe Schmo Show. The non-actors think they are on some wacky run-of-the-mill reality show contest show, when in fact they ARE the show, everyone else is an actor specifically playing a character to the genre, the game is rigged to them, and the main idea of the show is to see how far they can take it without the Joe finding out. In season two, one contestant subverted this by being Genre Savvy enough to figure out the show was not what it seemed; they ended up doing The Reveal to her early in the show (there was another Joe on the show and another Joe, er Jane, brought in to replace her) and convinced her to keep playing along.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Mona thinks that her Star-Crossed Lovers relationship with a wolfman demigod is an epic romance with a happy ending, like the Rebecca Silver novels she reads. Mick, the one who actually writes those novels, has to explain that the relationship does not end well, and hers won't either.
  • In Lost Girl, Bo at one point encounters a Lich. After being told that he stores his soul in something, she suspects that he did so in a picture of himself ala Dorian Gray. When she destroys the picture, he just laughs at her. Fortunately, she figures out where it actually is later.
  • Magnum, P.I.: An old enemy of Higgins has a habit of setting up complicated schemes based on classic movies, so Magnum spends most of the episode trying to figure out what movie he's supposed to be in, eventually settling on the 40s serial Perils Of Nyoka. The viewers knew it was Raiders of the Lost Ark from the very first scene. This whole episode was an Actor Allusion to Tom Selleck being Spielberg and Lucas's first choice for playing Indiana Jones, but he had to turn it down because the studio wouldn't let him out of his contract. (A clip from Tom Selleck's audition is included in the special features of the Raiders of the Lost Ark boxset, proving that Selleck would have made a damn fine Indiana Jones.)
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus occasionally features an army colonel who comes so very close to being genuinely Genre Savvy. He knows he's in a comedy sketch show all right. Unfortunately he doesn't realize which one, and so he thinks that sketches should have clearly-defined jokes in them, with vaguely plausible premises, and punchlines. As a result he calls an end to many a sketch which he considers to be far too silly, generally to provide at least some kind of closure to a sketch that is, frankly, totally off the rails by the time he appears with no stopping place in sight.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Kinga wants to create big sweep weeks style ratings events, hoping to use the show's ratings to sell to Disney and make a billion dollars. She can't seem to understand that Netflix doesn't use traditional ratings and so her network style ratings stunts are pointless, no matter how many times it's pointed out to her.
  • The Office (US):
    • Dwight Schrute is apparently convinced he's in an action movie of some sort. Some specific occasions:
      • He calls upon vampire tropes when he thinks Jim was bitten by a bat (sharpened stake, etc).
      • He panics when people start calling Voldemort by name, afraid it will make him appear.
      • His family beet farm doubles as a survival training camp, where he's prepared for every After the End scenario you can imagine, from nuclear war to a zombie breakout. There's weapons stashed everywhere, and a crossbow range. He's also concealed weapons all over the office.
      • When some Human Resources executives arrive to the office on one episode, he assumes that the means through which they will decide who stays and who gets fired will involve elimination tests, a la Survivor.
  • Detective Carlton Lassiter on Psych is best summed up by a promo showing how he goes through cases believing he's in a dead-serious procedural drama, complete with sexual tension with partner Jules (who has no feelings for him whatsoever).
  • Used hilariously on Scrubs when J.D. tries to escape the hospital in a body bag and med student Doug wheels him into an elevator.
    J.D.: Can you press Lobby please?
    [Doug screams, beats on J.D. with a fire extinguisher until J.D. unzips the bag]
    J.D.: Doug! Why were you hitting me?
    Doug: 'Cause I thought you were a dead guy coming back to life!
    J.D.: [beat] Then why were you hitting me?!
    Doug: Dead people should be dead!
  • Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos tends to live his life like he's in a gangster movie. Technically he is, but The Sopranos is a series that deconstructs most of the tropes the genre is known for rather than plays them straight. For example, he thinks that once he's a made man, he'll be living on easy street like the characters in The Godfather and Goodfellas. Instead, he discovers that he has a lot more responsibilities and is under more pressure to earn money. The other gangsters even chastise him for watching 'too many movies'' on a few occasions, like when he thought his made ceremony was a ruse to whack him.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Quest, Part 2", Cam Mitchell decides to throw a large chunk of C-4 under a dragon since "that's where dragons are weakest". It's not that kind of dragon.
  • Supernatural: The Winchester brothers and other Hunters occasionally encounter amateur hunters or Vampire Vannabes who base their knowledge of monsters on popular books like Twilight. The Hunters treat these amateurs with derision and reveal real monsters are nothing like their books, so they'll likely get themselves killed.
  • The central premise of You is how Joe believes he's the hero in a rom-com with a little drama thrown in. He's really in a psychological thriller...where he's the sociopathic stalker and killer.
    • The series excels in showing how scores of situations rom-coms play for laughs can be easily twisted into a darker theme as Joe's pursuit of Beck crosses the line of "romantic gestures" into outright criminal actions.
    • When he's nearly caught while in Beck's apartment, Joe notes he's seen enough romantic comedies where the protagonist gets out of this okay when he just broke in.
    • When he runs to see Beck, Joe thinks of the moment in a rom-com where the hero races through the rain to proclaim his love. It's not raining and when he throws a rock at her window, it smashes through it.
    • Beck uses this in the finale after being held prisoner by Joe by tricking him into letting her out by saying this is the part where they'd kiss with swelling music.
    • Season 2 has Joe once more thinking himself the nice guy getting with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Love...only to learn in the finale that Love is just as twisted a killer as he is and was using him all along. Joe thus finally does grasp he's in a dark thriller...only he considers himself the "victim" in it all.

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