Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Check out some of the painfully ridiculous things that ALWAYS happen on TV

Shaun Harrison
1 of 12 ABC

The Post-Coital Bed Sheet

We know that broadcasters have to uphold the FCC's standards for decency, but this classic is often laughable. It's almost as if TV's lovers shop exclusively at a store that sells L-shaped sheets designed to perfectly drape over a woman's entire body while leaving her male partner exposed from the waist up. Sex is never so neat and orderly. At least Desperate Housewives occasionally takes some steps to rearrange the tried-and-true positioning.
2 of 12 Harper Smith/NBC

Bottle Episodes

This is a classic money-saving technique producers use when they've gone over-budget in the middle of a season. Bottle episodes usually contain no guest stars and the action takes place almost entirely on an existing set. Community lampooned the trope in Season 2's "Cooperative Calligraphy," when no one could leave the study room until Annie's missing pen was found. Yes, the set-ups are often silly and transparent, but when done right — Friends' "The One Where No One's Ready", and Breaking Bad's "Fly," for example — the episodes can actually become rather memorable.
3 of 12 Robert Voets/CBS

Phone Exposition

If phone conversations in real life were anything like the ones on TV, each call would be a repetitive mess. Just look at NCIS or any crime procedural that relies heavily on investigators chatting on their cell phones. Since viewers usually only see one side of the conversation, the scenes are often filled with clunky dialogue to fill in the gaps. ("What? There's a bomb in the convention center? You're sending your team there now? OK, we will meet you there in five minutes, and yes, we'll bring the bomb-sniffing dogs.") And while we're on the subject of phone etiquette, why do TV characters never say "goodbye" before hanging up?
4 of 12 FX

Girl-on-Girl Kisses

Two girls kissing — shocking! It's baffling how many shows still try to exploit a sapphic lip-lock for shock value. Sometimes it's a ratings grab (Heroes), and sometimes the writers run out of things for characters to do (90210). But even on a show as hyper-sexual as American Horror Story, the trope feels decidedly lazy and desperate. Perhaps that's a sign that the cliché has finally lost some of its power.
5 of 12 Jordin Althaus/ABC

An Ex Returns

If there's one rule to live by on TV it's this: As soon as your favorite will-they, won't-they couple hits a happy patch, an ex will undoubtedly surface to create trouble. Sure, it's often temporary and it ends up strengthening the central couple's bond, but it's also a colossal waste of time. You hear that, Castle? Doing that very thing with Gina at the end of Season 2 was a colossal waste of time.
6 of 12 Sonja Flemming/CBS


Cars That Explode the Second After the Passenger Is Pulled to Safety We love a good explosion, but we just hate how TV has made them so utterly predictable. Whether the scene lasts 30 seconds or 30 minutes, there's one thing you can count on: The crashed, burning car our helpless victim is trapped in will explode mere seconds after our hero pulls him or her to safety. Want to make us really believe in the danger, NCIS: Los Angeles? Have the firebomb go off early. Or better yet, save the victim and let us watch as the firemen hose down the smoking, non-exploded wreckage.
7 of 12 ABC

Love Triangles

OK, we're kind of a sucker for the classic love triangle. We stop caring as much when the triangle becomes a big, tangled web of lies and emotion that we can't sort through. Consider ABC's Revenge. Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) moves to the Hamptons and instantly attaches herself to Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman), the son of the woman (Madeleine Stowe) who disgraced Emily's father's name. But Emily and Daniel's love affair is complicated by Emily's old feelings for blue-collar bar owner Jack (Nick Wechsler), who Emily fell for when she as a young girl named Amanda Clarke. To make matters worse, the real Emily (Margarita Levieva) has shown up masquerading as long-lost Amanda and is wooing Jack. It's like they say: Revenge is a dish best served confusing.
8 of 12 John P. Johnson/HBO

It Was All Just a Dream

In general, dream sequences are used less often as a fake-out device and they have become much easier to detect. So when True Blood's Sookie spends a night of pleasure with both Bill and Eric, we're pretty much instantly aware that something's not right. However, that doesn't make the dream sequences any less maddening. Viewers have chosen sides in the battle for Sookie's heart, so why haven't the show's writers?
9 of 12 Vince Valitutti/FOX

The Mole

24 may be gone, but its favorite tired plot twist is still alive and well. Revealing a traitor or learning that someone has a secret identity can make for loads of entertainment when properly executed (and used sparingly). A good example: Showtime's Homeland (created by former 24 producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa), which hinted at a mole in the CIA but has yet to reveal his or her identity or confirm if the theory is even correct. A bad example: Terra Nova's Skye (Allison Miller), who committed the most annoying sin in mole-related plot lines. As soon as she was revealed to the audience to be the Sixers' spy, her traitorous efforts became painfully obvious and silly. As Jack Bauer would say, "Dammit."
10 of 12 Ray Mickshaw/Fox

Red Herrings

This is the fatal flaw of procedurals. The first four or five suspects the cops talk to are almost certainly not the killer/rapist/kidnapper. (No, no, that reveal must come in the final five minutes!) This style of storytelling is even more frustrating on Fox's House, which follows its doctors as they play the diagnosis game. While each doc tries to outsmart the other (and with House sometimes willfully not revealing what he knows to be the true illness) it seems like the show forgets that the patient is dying. So much for urgent care, huh?
11 of 12 Patrick Wymore/The CW

High Schoolers Drinking

TV has always played fast and loose with the drinking age, especially where high school dramas are concerned. But the CW's 90210 has become especially egregious. Yes, we're sure that lots of teens — especially the privileged kids of Beverly Hills — imbibe before they turn 21. But are we really supposed to believe that Liam could buy and run a bar his very first year out of high school?
12 of 12 FX

Dramatic Musical Montages

When a TV show needs to convey a lot of emotion/information before the hour is up, there's a simple solution: Throw on a nice backing track and cut to quick, wordless scenes that depict how the main cast is reacting to the episode's events. Don't get us wrong, this is often an efficient, moving way to tell a story. Clearly someone at FX's Sons of Anarchy has gotten the memo, because that show seems to offer up musical montages every couple of episodes — and in the Season 4 premiere, there were two.