Top 10 Television Cliches

In a recent episode of Everybody Hates Chris, a class assignment entailed taking care of an egg as if it were a child. Of course this plot is familiar to those of us who watch more than a modicum of television. Like a light version of cinema’s trains, falling leaves, and sunsets, sitcoms repeatedly invoke their own set of classic vocabulary. Here’s my top-10 list of TV cliche’s…

Drum roll please…

10) Flashback – This cliche seems to be falling out of style in the face of TiVo and increased television selection. But we’ve all seen the episode where the cast recalls moments from the past, delimited by shallow “Do you remember?” dialogue and Wayne and Garth transitions.

9) School Bully – Apparently every sit-com school has a classic bully who chortles at pranks involving lunch being overturned or commandeered. Luckily he’s willing to stop at demanding lunch money! This harkens back to a simpler time, before the era of school shootings and beat-downs captured on cell phone.

8) Blame Game – One sibling gets in trouble with the parents and blames another. The parents believe the accusation until the wrongdoer finally comes clean, and through the sacrifice we realize how close the family really is. And I shed a tear of joy.

7) Under One Roof – Wacky slacker relative crawls out of the woodwork to stay at family home, annoying everyone. This “unwanted” addition shocks everyone and helps the family with some unresolved problem, revealing their heart of gold, and causing us all to take a step back and reflect on our own prejudices.

6) One With Nature – In the great Griswald tradition, the family embarks on a camping trip, but they are beset by all sides; calamity, and laughter, ensue as city folk try to cope with the wilderness. Insert hairdryer joke. Insert joke about getting lost. Insert joke about bears. Cut to commercial and call it a wrap.

5) Egg-Child – Child assigned to take care of an egg for a school project as if it were a baby. The child is unable to convey his/her own immaculate upbringing to the egg, and inevitably misplaces or breaks(!) the egg. But we all take pause to consider the significant responsibility that is parenting. Has anyone actually had to do this in the real world?!

4) Double-Booked – In a last-ditch effort to get a date to The Dance®, the protagonist asks two women. To his delighted dismay, he gets two dates to The Dance®, and plays a delicate balancing act before before the dates realize what’s happening. “Let me go get you some juice!”. End scene…

3) Pregnancy Test – “Mom” thinks she’s pregnant, although it’s just a false alarm (unless the show’s about to jump the shark). Much dialogue is spent on confiding and avoiding the topic among characters. For a truly dramatic angle, the test appears in the trash, and our TV family ponders the infinite possibilities that loom ahead. Wow, I just blew my mind.

2) From F to A – Child gets a bad report card, crudely turns ‘F’ into an ‘A’. Parent may express pride by putting the report card on the fridge. The jig is up at the end, and the more important moral lesson is learned. Funny how it would actually be easier to turn an ‘F’ into a ‘B’.

1) Love in an Elevator – Ensemble cast stuck in an elevator or basement. In the basement scenario, the inside lock often fails, so the already-trapped repeatedly warn “don’t close that…” as they are repeatedly joined by more characters. If the writers really want to punch it up, the entrapped will deliver a baby. Everyone reveals candid truths and they all grow closer as a result.

Come Get Some

Feel free to comment or trackback with any cliche’s I missed. I see some overlap with Wikipedia’s List of common situation comedy plots, but I’m not concerned with NPOV (neutral point-of-view).

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2 Responses to “Top 10 Television Cliches”

  1. JonnyRo says:

    It was though your article that I finally realized what jumping the shark means.

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    Top 10 Television Cliches « Nathan’s Blog

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