Top 10 TV conventions that make no sense

If you watch enough television, you’ll recognise certain story-telling conventions which crop up repeatedly that are necessary to facilitate the narrative but probably leave you scratching your head as to whether they would ever possibly happen in real life.

You know the sort of thing: the large viewer-friendly LED display on the bomb that our heroes always deactivate with one second left. Here are ten more.

1. User-unfriendly

In any programme set in the future, why does it always seem to take at least five button presses to carry out even the most basic function, such as opening a door or switching something on? I can update my Facebook status or break into a safe faster than that.

See any Star Trek incarnation or other sci-fi series.

Very impressive, Mr Sulu, but where exactly is the 'go' button? (Image: Memory Alhpa Star Trek Wiki)

Very impressive, Mr Sulu, but where exactly is the ‘go’ button? (Image: Memory Alhpa Star Trek Wiki)

2. Ready, aim, miss

We all know that bad guys can’t shoot. But why is it that the good guys have unerring aim when it comes to taking out non-speaking henchmen but suddenly go all Mr Magoo when it comes to hitting the Big Bad?

See any procedural, espionage or sci-fi action series.

3. Is this loud enough for you?

No matter how loud the bar/club/jet engine is, people can always hear their mobile phone ring. I’d love to know what their ringtone is.

See pretty any much non-reality TV programme.

4. You call that fast?

In car chases, why does our hero – who is always a highly skilled driver in a souped-up sports car – always seem to lose the bad guys, who are usually driving a regular family car?

See Knight Rider and most other action series for examples.

How did the bad guys manage to give KITT and Michael the slip so often? (Image: Knight Rider Wiki)

How did the bad guys manage to give KITT and Michael the slip so often? (Image: Knight Rider Wiki)

6. Go on, you’ll never guess

We’re all familiar with system logins and websites which require us to have increasingly secure and complex passwords. You know, the ones which have to include a mix of lower and uppercase letters (including ones from both the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets), the value of pi to at least eight decimal places and be at least 140 characters in length. So why are passwords in top-secret facilities always something like the name of the family dog that can be easily deduced?

See Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville or any police/private eye/espionage show.

6. Equal opportunities characters

All lead characters must have among their inner circle friends who tick each of the following boxes: ethnic, gay/bisexual/confused (whether open or implied), disabled (preferred but not mandatory), socially dysfunctional (must also be quirkily sympathetic), the joker, the serious one, the one with A Secret Past Trauma™. But never ugly.

See any show with an ensemble cast.

7. Moving at the speed of plot

It’s possible to travel across an entire country with no discernible passage of time if the story requires it.

See Heroes, Alias and many other multi-location procedurals and dramas.

Heroes' Noah Bennet's superpower appeared to be the ability to travel across the US in the blink of an eye (Image: NBC)

Heroes’ Noah Bennet’s superpower appeared to be the ability to travel across the US in the blink of an eye (Image: NBC)

8. The cost of living

TV characters can be a coffee shop waitress, an unemployed actor, a rookie cop or have one of any number of lowly paid jobs, but somehow they always seem to live in large, spacious loft apartments in sought-after city centre locations, have expensive designer wardrobes and spend their entire lives in trendy but pricey restaurants.

See Friends and most other sitcoms and dramas.

9. Memorising the A-Z (1)

Why is every TV cop familiar with any location anyone ever mentions in their city? “The Scumbag Dive Bar? You mean the one tucked in that back alley near 953rd and 50th that only opened for business 17 minutes ago? Yeah, I know it.”

See any police/private eye procedural.

10. Memorising the A-Z (2)

In a similar vein, why does no one ever get lost on TV, even though none of their cars ever have a sat-nav?

See pretty much any show.

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6 Comments on Top 10 TV conventions that make no sense

  1. Oh damn, I wish I could think of some! I will, I’ll think of some and I’ll be back!

  2. You missed the really useful/friendly/sympathetic co-worker/boss/relative who turns out to be the villain of the piece. And of course, my favourite: in TV, everyone leaves the scene/room with a pithy closing comment/remark/putdown.

    • That last one is annoying – not least because in real life I only ever think of those comments about 30 seconds after I’ve left the room!

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