Nov 12, 2021

The 39 Dumbest Things You See on TV

I've watched a lot of tv, mostly sci-fi and sitcoms.  The set was on all the time when I was a kid.  In adulthood, it's like comfort food, warm, predictable, mildly amusing.  But is it really necessary to have so many plot conventions that strain credulity?  Plus are sexist, heterosexist, or downright homophobic?  Almost makes you want to pick up a book instead.

1. No one ever says a complete sentence; everyone takes turns.  "This looks like the work of..." "Two killers."  "So we should..."  ",,,get backup."

2. Whenever someone says "It's possible that...", as in "It's possible that the signals are coming from Mars" or "It's possible that the killer worked for the FBI," they mean "It's an absolute certainty."

3. Whenever someone says, "The chances against this working are a million to one," they mean, "It will absolutely work."

4. You cannot discuss the plan on the way to the site, even if it takes two hours to get there.  You must always wait until you have arrived.

5. All discussions of plans must begin with the phrase: "And that's the plan.  First we...."

6. Whenever someone asks "What's for dinner?", the answer must always be "Your favorite."

7. The only people who can eat dinner at home are heterosexual nuclear families: The Man in a lumberjack shirt, a son and a daughter under age 10, and The Woman, usually blond.  The Man always says "Great meal, honey."

8. The only people who can eat in restaurants are four young adults, divided into male-female couples.  One is always shown shoving a forkful of food into someone else's mouth.  Sometimes this happens in groups, too.

9. Whenever anyone turns on the tv, they must  hear a news story pertaining to their situation.

10.  If they are shown watching tv alone, it should be an old black and white movie, usually a Western.

11. Except for kids and serial killers, who must always watch public domain cartoons from the 1930s.

12. The only people who can watch tv in groups are heterosexual nuclear families, and they are always cuddling while holding a gigantic bowl of popcorn.  No one in the real world eats popcorn while watching tv.

13. If someone wants to talk to you, they can't call, they must drive across town to get there.

14. And the drive is extremely short.

15. And the door is unlocked, so they just walk in.

16. Whenever you enter a scary place, someone must say "This place gives me the creeps."  But no one in real life ever says this.

17.  People always complain that they don't have enough money to pay bills, but have thousands to spend on expensive props.

18. Poor people live in huge, well-appointed houses.  Middle-class people live in mansions. There is no such thing as an apartment, except in New York.

19. Men may not be shown engaging in any housecleaning activity.  Ever.  They can be asked to cook, to "help their wives out," but they must flub the job and take the kids to McDonald's.

20. The main characters must be white, but the captain, chief, or judge who appears in just one episode should be black, to demonstrate that racism no longer exists.

21. Everyone belongs to a huge number of clubs and organizations, but only for one episode apiece.  Then the club is never mentioned again.

22. Funerals always occur in the rain.

23. All college classes, even advanced seminars, must be taught in giant lecture halls, with never an empty seat.

24. College professors must all be elderly, wear bow ties, and have gigantic offices and personal secretaries.

25. All high school teachers must be bitter and depressed, or sadistic jerks who, in real life, would be fired in 30 seconds.

26. You can struggle with failing grades throughout high school and still get into a top college.  Even the Ivy League.

27. Action-adventure series must always begin with a flashback in which the central character's heterosexual romantic partner is killed.

28. Movie trailers must always contain a heterosexual kiss, even if there aren't any in the actual movie.

29. When a male character dresses in drag, he always does a horrible job, with chest hair and moustache, and he must have a startlingly deep voice.

30. Preteens must always be portrayed as heterosexual and boy- or girl-crazy, no matter what their age.

31. All teenage boys must be portrayed as crazy about sports, rock music, and girls.

32. Single adult heterosexuals must make jokes about how horny they are every five seconds.

33. Married heterosexual men hate their wives, especially having sex with them, and will do anything to avoid it.

34. A transwoman should always like women before transitioning and men after, to ensure viewers that everyone on Earth is heterosexual, regardless of gender identity.

35. Gay men must always be portrayed as swishy queens obsessed with fashion, skin-care products, and show tunes.

36. They rarely have gay friends, but they are crazy about hanging out with heterosexual women.

37. There are no lesbians, just "girls gone wild" who can easily "switch back" to heterosexual again.

38. Men with feminine traits are always evil.

39.  Space explorers always get their shirts ripped off.

See also: 10 Gay Movies I Hated; and 12 Songs I Hated.


  1. 7. He might wear a cheap suit instead.

    9~12. Children having a slumber party are allowed to watch low-budget science fiction and horror movies older than their parents. Also, jump scares are extremely frightening. And popcorn is essential for watching low-budget movies: Nobody ever just grabs a drink and a box of Dots. (Or, this now-defunct drive-in I used to go to, they had nachos, hot dogs, and pizza. You could also get a slushie.)

    18. And NEETs (Not Employed or seeking Education or Training) get two-story apartments with no infestations, somehow having no means of support, but can afford what would be over $1000 a month in a small town and over $3000 in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, or San Francisco. Also, the landlord fixes things right away, even if you caused them.

    19. Exception: Grilling.

    20. And expect no American Indians, even in those rare occasions a show is set outside of a major coastal city.

    24. Probably a holdover from the classic image of wizards like Gandalf.

    25. My favorite admittedly downplayed example is Degrassi. All the writers HATED math. So, the teachers aren't really sadistic, but they just multiply polynomials over and over. Which is so easy. (Basically, you multiply each element from the first polynomial by each element from the second.)

    26. And graduate magna cum laude. While on the subject of colleges, no one is there to learn, not even the underprivileged minority on scholarship.

    31. You forgot cars. Teenage girls must be addicted to the phone. Not even smart phones or 2G flip phones, this trope goes at least back to the 70s. By the 90s, with second phone lines, and eventually the proliferation of cell phones in the 2000s, the "stay off the line" trope finally died.

    36. Gay men also aren't allowed to have heterosexual male friends.

    38. Actually I know the origin of this one. Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where eunuchs are corrupt and evil.

    A few I'd add:

    40. Other than grandparents, extended families don't exist, except for nobility and crime families.

    41. Computers can do anything. AI has been advanced enough since the 70s to mimic human behavior patterns, but more intelligent of somewhat zany.

    42. Similarly, everything is hooked up to the internet. And was even in the 90s, before Silicon Valley got a serious case of stupid. Your wall clock, your calculator, your refrigerator? All of them hooked up to the internet. Even things like water coolers are hooked up to the internet. Your Atari 2600, which antedates the commercial internet by nearly two decades, is hooked up to the internet.

    43. Speakimg of which, video games only exist in a few genres: Atari games, platform games (circa 1985), puzzle games (which always involve falling blocks), space shooters (circa 1988), first-person shooters (circa 1996), and pokémon.

  2. We're watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation," where #1 is particularly annoying. There are bridge crew in charge of engineering, communications, and navigation, as well as the captain and his first officer. When the captain asks about a problem, say, in engineering, they ALL answer, one sentence at a time.

  3. #24: The underachiever who fails course after course through high school but then gets admitted to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and MIT, always chooses the fictional State University in town instead.

  4. #20. Preferably a black woman, so you can claim that racism and sexism both no longer exist.

  5. There are no insects therefore window screens are an entirely unnecessary impediment to entry and exit.

    1. And teenagers always enter through the window directly into their friend or romantic partner's bedroom, even if it's on the second floor, rather than going through the front door.


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