In the past my articles on sitcom cliches have included tropes that often find their way into other kinds of TV. For instance its safe to say soap operas have cornered the market on amnesia. And doppelgangers are used a LOT in drama.
But this one is sort of specifically a sitcom one, and I am amazed Ihaven’t discuseed it before. We are today talking about the cliche of having two characters locked away for an episode, and this has happened MANY TIMES!
The trope has two basic rules. The two characters are usually two who are at odds, and being locked away gives these two a chance to mend fences and have some actual development. The second rules is that whatever development happens has to be canceled out in the end and the status quoe re-established. Sometimes these episodes are played for laughs, and other times can be more serious as the character or characters find themselves in real peril.
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Leave it to Carl Reiner to do things against type. In one episode Laura gets her toe stuck in a bathtub. The funny part of the episode is that Laura is off screen, which makes her siuation funnier since we have to imagine it.
All in the Family
Archie gets the house to himself and ends up locked in the basement. This episode does what this show did best, and tackle serious subjects. In this case not only racism as a black neighbor recuses Archie from freezing to death, but God as well. A different episode has Archie stuck in an elevator with a pregnant Puerto Rican and her husband, an aging hippie, and an erudite black businessman. If you know anything about the character, I don’t think I need to explain how this went.
The Odd Couple
Oacar and Felix are planning on going to a costume ball but instead spend an episode locked in a basement
The Bob Newhart Show
Bob and Emily end up spending the Bicentennial locked in a storage room after a trip to get more party favors doesn’t go well
The Brady Bunch
I already talked about the episode where Greg and Bobby ended locked in Sam’s meat locker.
This one is a perfect example of what I said at the top. In one episode Jack and Mr.Furley end up trapped in a freezer. At one point, thinking they wont make it out, Jack admits he is not gay after all. What happens when they are rescued? Furley insists that Jack was just hallucinating and made it up!
This may be the record holder,Â this show did this almost every season with almost every member of the cast. Ok, here is the list. The whole gang was trapped in a lodge by a snow storm. Benson got trapped in a freezer with Ms Kraus. In a storage room after an earthquake with Clayton. On the roof with the Governor (in an episode that makes no sense). Stranded with Peter, Denise, and Kraus. In an elevator with the governor and a very pregnant Denise.
For such a silly show I am kind of surprised how few times this happened. There was an episode where Dan and Roz end up stuck in an elevator, with two Sumu wrestlers. In another strangely dark episode, Harry ends up locked in a safe and nearly dies!
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
One of my favorite episodes was the one where Will gets locked in a basement room with his girlfriend due to an earthquake. He discovers that his girl wasn’t the perfect person he thought she was.
One memorable episode had Mallory and Skippy locked in a basement for an entire episode. They get the chance to hash out their real feelings for each other. Unlike other examples, the two characters seem to respect each other more in the end though they deny it of course.
A deadly serious episode had Punky’s friend Cheri accidentally locked in a refrigerator. This one is not played for laughs, as Punky has to use CPR to literally save her friends life.
Sometimes this is done as a device for a clip show. While the characters are trapped they reminisce on past events. That was the premise of this two part episode when Webster gets stuck in a secret room. Mr.Belvedere was another show that did this, locking Mr.Belvedere and Wesley in an attic in one clip show.
I almost forgot this one, but you knew there had to be at least one! On the night Jesse is to reopen The Smash ClubÂ he ends up locked in a store room with Kimmy Gibbler! The two bond while the rest of the gang try to run the club without him.
Larry, Balki, and the girls get trapped by a blizzard in one episode. This happens on a lot of sitcoms, when characters are snowed in. Sitcom characters always seem to have the worst luck with mountain cabins!! Considering the nature of this series youÂ might imagine this trope happened often. Larry and Balki have been trapped on a billboard, locked in a flooding basement, stuck in a hot air balloon, and locked in a department store with a very mean guard dog. And that’s just off the top of my head!
Oh, what better way to make Steve even more aggravating then to keep a character from being able to get away from him? He and Carl were locked in a rail car and trapped in a powerless subway car in two different episodes. A fallout shelter in another.
Saved By The Bell
I said Benson covered this trope about every way it can be during that shows whole run. Leave it to Bell to do the same thing in ONE EPISODE. Zack and Tori get trapped in an elevator. Due to an earthquake. Which has also trapped Mr.Belding and Screech in his office. Zack and Tori are trapped with a pregnant Mrs. Belding. Who goes into labor. And Zack has to deliver the baby. Could this episode possibly be anymore type?
Mad About You
Paul and Jamie spend Valentines Day locked in their bathroom in one memorable episode, This was early in the show’s run when it was a good series
The King of Queens
On another Valentines Day Doug and Deacon end up trapped in an aquatic IPS truck along with two live penguins
Fran and C.C. always had a rivalry, mostly for Maxwell’s affections. So it you knew it was only a matter of time before the two ended up locked in something. And they did, ending up locked in the wine cellar for one episode. In the episode C.C. reveals she was always attracted to Maxwell. Even though the two get along during the episode, they are of course hated enemies again in the end. They also make sure Maxwell remains to clueless to C.C’s feelings for him.
Yeah this show did this, of course they did. One episode had Ross, Phoebe, and Susan locked in a closet at the hospital while Carol prepared to give birth. Another episode had Ross and Joey trapped on a roof. Finally, Chandler stole the episode about the blackout when he ended up trapped in an ATM vestible with Jill Goodacre.
The Big Bang Theory
One episode had Sheldon locked out of his apartment and forced to spend the night with Penny.
I’m sure there are plenty of other examples, so please share any I missed. This is one cliche which I think is fading, but then again I don’t watch TV as much anymore. I guess these situations do make for character episodes, and in fact many of these are some of my favorite episodes.