At first I thought this would be a tough one because these don’t stand out a dramatically as others I have covered. But when I started thinking about it examples just started coming to me.
Another of my favorite plot devices! The plan can take a few forms. The most popular is that a character on the show, a regular or a guest star, is out of line but not aware of it. So the other characters hatch a plan to get the characer to realize the errors of his ways. Sometimes the plan can be simple but usually the plan is elaborate and, to be fair, far fetched. It can also be used as a practical joke just meant for laughs and not to deliver a message.Â It’s fun because it gives the characters a chance to break out a bit, beyond their normal roles. This shouldn’t be confused with The Misunderstanding. That is another topic my friends.
Here are some examples:
The Brady Bunch
Sometimes this is used to convince a regular that something they believe is incorrect. In this case, Alice has decided that with Carol around, she no longer has a place and will leave. The Brady’s rally to convince her that she is veryÂ much needed with an elaborate plan. Suddenly the house goes into chaos as Mike and Carol try to get ready for a last minute engagement, the Marcia realizes she forgot a club meeting, Peter comes in to report that Tiger is missing, Greg needs a ride home, Cindy and Bobby are fighting, all while trying to get dinner made, and for no reason Bobby and Peter come in and splatter mud all over Mike’s tuxedo. It’s the last one which makes Alice realize she is being tricked, and acknowledge she may still be needed after all. Season 1 of this show mostly sucked, but this episode is one of the few stand outs.
Not as bad at the last article, but still this show really liked this one. Here are some examples. One episode has Ms.Kraus get scammed by a record label. In order to get her money back, Benson concocts and elaborate plan by pretending to a Calypso singer. In another episode, Denise goes on a date with the son of a friend of the governors. The date ends badly, Denise is almost raped which is a bit dark, so once again a plan is put into motion to scare the guy into confessing he is a jerk. Benson pretends to be a detective looking for Denise who has been missing. The plan is almost botched but all works in the end. Another episode involves Benson getting revenge on the condo owner who scammed him by moving into the show condo and threatening to blow a prospective new renter by telling the new tenants how awful his real place is. Finally, when a the governor starts to rely to much on a cool new robot who has taken over every job in the mansion (have I ever mentioned how weird this show could be?) Benson plans to teach the governor a lesson by simply having all the employees gone and the governor realizes he can’t trust the robot to do everything.
The Cosby Show
Ah yes, my favorite episode of aboslutely anything ever. This is the famous episode where Theo has been developing bad habits with his finances. He insists that when he gets out into the real world, he will be all set because of his modeling career. So Cliff concocts a crazy plan to show Theo what the real world is like. And what a plan, I mean was there a script to this somewhere? There is blocking, costumes, characters…they go all out! Even Cockroach gets in on the act. They even clearing out Theo’s room since it’s an “unfurnished apartment”. The best is little Rudy as the owner of the bank, priceless! But in the end Theo learns his lesson, that the real world isn’t that easy. And I adore this episode. Of course the plan has come in many other times on this series, like the episode where they try to convince an elderly neighbor she should take the pills that she insists that she doesn’t have to. By showing that just “feeling fine” isn’t a good enough reason to ignore a doctors directions. How about the episode where Clair put Theo on trial in the Huxtable living room when she can’t get him to be honest. The truth comes out, and it’s a little dark maybe that’s why Theo wouldn’t admit it. Another episode had the kids thinking Clair was losing it because she started Menopause. So Cliff and Clair put on a little show for them, which I can’t describe it has to be seen. Very funny! Finally, when Vanessa and Theo lose Rudy in the mall Cliff gets them to see the error of their ways by pretending to not care. When Vanessa mentions that something could happen to Rudy, she’s only 6, Cliff yells “Then why didn’t you think of that before you let her roam all over the mall!”. Great stuff. There are more, but i think I made my point.
This one was handled pretty well since this show wouldn’t do standard sitcom
fare. But this episode did a nice job. The idea was that the network was trying to sneak in a replacement for Jim. So Murphy and Frank create a plan to make him look bad on the air. Simply, when it’s time for the interview Murphy suddenly coughs and has to leave the set. Miller Redfield, the replacement, then gets thrown the interview and looks like a total dufus. Jim’s job is secure, and Murphy thanks Miles for helping by ensuring Miller took over the interview. One of my favorite episodes.
Everybody Loves Raymond
I was very, very disappointed to see this show of all shows to use this trope. This series prides itself on trying to be real, and not engaging in typical sitcom tripe. Here is a big exception, though it’s not to bad an episode. After season 6 ended with Marie and Debra so angry with each other they have stopped speaking entirely, we open season 7 to find the cahso has caused Robert to join a cult. The cult is mostly a scam but Robert and Ray concoct a plan to use that to scare Debra and Marie back into talking with each other. They convince them Robert will leave forever, and when Robert asks why he should stay when Marie can’t even talk to Debra, Marie says she can and will. The two then make up on the spot, and only Frank is given any grief for tricking the ladies. This episode is corny but I hated that feud so much I was just happy it was done with.
You would expect this to appear here on the other hand. I said before sometimes these are not “lessons” as much as fun practical jokes. For instance one of my favorite Halloween episodes is the one where Jill creates a crazy stalker fan for Tim. It’s just clever especially the way everyone works together to get even with prankster Tim. But that doesn’t mean the lesson has never been used, for instance in one episode when Tim and Jill discover Randy and Brad smoked one of Tim’s old cigars. They trick the boys into believing the cigars would make them sick, and of course this makes them confess. But the best example has to be from early in season one. Brad and Randy have convinced Mark they are aliens and the mother ship is coming for them. Tim plans to get even using a strobe light and rock music, and an old outfit which looks like a strange costume, to scare the boys straight! This was a great scene.
This one was great because the audience never sees it coming! It starts in a Halloween episopde when Gary tricks Sam into believing that Sam killed Gary. Turns out it was all a prank, but the entire Cheers bar was in on it! So what did Sam do to get even? Well we got an episode where we are told Gary retired and sold the bar. The gang decide to prank the new owner, only to have it turned out the owner is a mob boss. The federal witness protection program then says they want to move out the gang so they can testify after they were threatened. Carla, Woody, Norm, and Cliff end up in the middle of nowhere, and we find out the whole thing was payback from Sam for teh Halloween incident. I love this episode.
There had to be some for this show! I guess it says something that episodes never stick out, I always have to look them up. However, I did come up with a couple. For example the episode where Stephanie is writing down what Steve and D.J. are doing, and manipulating things to make her story better. D.J. and Steve pretend to get engaged to teach her a lesson. In another episode Michelle runs away to punish Jesse for disciplining her. Jessee and Danny pretend to be ok with it and tell Michelle she doesn’t live at their house anymore. Of course this works and Michelle wants to come home and promises to never do that again.
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
I bet anyone who is a fan of this show knows what episode I am going to mention. Will dates a woman named Lisa who claims she is in a society who find men inferior. Turns out this was all an elaborate prank by Carlton. When this is revealed, Will gets Carlton back by pretending that Lisa went crazy and Will had to kill her. This leads to a famous scene of Carlton, or Alfonso RIbeiro really, running around the set screaming No!!
I couldn’t let it go without saying that Larry’s saying “I have a plan!” was one of his few ctachphrases. It was always met with Balki rolling his eyes, knowing that bad things were surely coming.
Leave it to Seinfeld to find a way to do this with a twist. In one episode Jerry wants to switch his girlfriend with her roommate. The roommate switch! George then suggests and elaborate plan involving Jerry telling his girlfriend that he wants a menage a toi with her and the roommate. This is supposed to piss the girlfriend off, while turning on the roommate. However, when Jerry tries it the girlfriend says she is into it! Unfortunately Jerry can’t do it because he isn’t ready to become an orgy guy.
One of the worst examples was an early episode of Roseanne. Roseanne finds some cigarettes in Darlene’s clothes, and when Dan suggests having a little talk with her Roseanne give the “follow my lead line”. The idea is to trick Darlene into thinking they approve of her smoking, but I am really not sure what the goal was and the scene fails.
This probably happened a lot but I have not seen many episodes. One episode I did see was a Thanksgiving show where Frasier’s son Frederick wants to scam his parents into getting him a minibike He hatches an elaborate scheme to make Frasier and Lilith think that they both want to get back together. The idea being that when they tell Frederick it isn’t going to happen they will feel so guilty they will get him anything he wants. Good plan but Lilith is one step ahead of her son and ends up catching him.
Saved By The Bell
This happened a few times, and as you may guess it was Zack who was usually the target. In fact this was usually how is wild schemes ended, especially the early days. One episode I remember when the gang realizes that Zack has been spying on the girls they let him think Kelly has mental problems. After finding out, Kelly corners Zack in a classroom and acts of crazy to scare him off. Another episode had Zack reveal that Screech knew the answers to a test. When Screech did not, he tries to hatch a scheme to keep the teacher away so he could substitute the test with the answers he had given eberyone. But zack wasn’t the only target, like one episode when a plan is hatched to gety revenge on a nerd with an ego problem. Finally, one late series episode had the gang get back at Zack when he turns the yearbook into a dating video with an elaborate plan.
Just Shoot Me!
I don’t get to talk about this series enough. One episode has Finch trying to set up Maya with a female model in the hopes that he will somehow get them kissing, or more. When the two women catch on to this they decide to trick Finch. First they make him think they are interested in each other, and even want Finch to watch them. After making him do a whole laundry list of chores the two women pretend to fight and break it off, leaving Finch a very frustrated person.
One of the best episodes of the series is the one where Phoebe discovers that Chandler and Monica are sleeping together. Rather than just confront them with this, she hatches a plan with Rachel to have a little fun with them. Phoebe then flirts with Chandler, and when Chandler and Monica realize what is going on they come up with a little plan of their own. Chandler and Phoebe then go on a fake date until Chandler finally crakcs, and admits he loves Monica.
Will & Grace
I love this because they actually lampshade this very thing in one episode! The episode has Grace staying over with Karen because this is after her husband has been locked up. Grace ends up enjoying the rich life, and stays even though Karen is better. So we get a scene were Karen is talking to her maid Rosario about what they should do. Karen says they could come up with a wild plan to make Grace see the error of her ways involving hiding in a closet and wearing special shoes! Rosario replies they could go simpler, and the next scene is Grace literally being thrown out.
Sadly I had to do most of these by memory since it was to broad a subject to search online. I just couldn’t find many good examples. So if I missed any classic examples, please feel free to fill me in.