Wednesday 15 April 2015

Hack Scenes - The Betrayal

In the past, I've blogged about hack lines - or clams as they're called in our world, at the moment. That's here and here. And Dan Tetsell has mentioned a couple of hack storylines on his sporadic but lovely blog here. But the other day I was reminded of a hack scene or beat which I find very cliched and tired. It goes like this:

Bob and John both like doing a thing together. Let's say fishing. And recently they've found a particular spot, and it's really special. John agrees to go fishing with Ian. And what do you know? They end up in the spot where Bob and John go fishing. That special spot. Bob finds out and confronts Ian. And the conversation plays out as if Bob and John were lovers, and that John has just betrayed him by sleeping with Ian. And we have lines like 'That's our special thing' and 'We only did it once' and 'It didn't mean anything!' and 'I didn't know what I was doing' and 'I was thinking of you the whole time'. And it's all very arch, and overdone, deliberately.

Just like knowing film parody scenes, which I also have a problem with, these scenes can take you out of reality of the sitcom. You're undermining something that you've worked very hard to create. So you need to think very hard before you do that. But, worst of all, it's just not original. It was really funny when Monica and Rachel had this kind of conversation in Friends:

But this is Season 2 of Friends.

That's 1995. Twenty years ago.

So on the twentieth anniversary of Friends nailing this kind of scene, can we retire this one?

Please leave comments or tweet me (@sitcomgeek) about other hack scenes you liked to see retired, pensioned off or humanely destroyed.


  1. Not exactly sitcom-related... but I remember reading an interview with Russell T Davies where he drew up a list of hack scenes from soaps that annoyed him because they just don't happen in the real world. Two examples:

    That moment after two characters have argued when one of them stomps off in a rage, only to turn around just before leaving the room for one last, cutting line. ( Cue Eastenders-style drum beats... )

    Somebody having a phone conversation hangs up without saying goodbye. Who does that? ( That said, I can think of one instance in an early RTD Doctor Who where that does happen... )

    One of my personal bugbears ( love that word! ) is that perennial favourite of cop shows - the mortuary attendant or forensic scientist who chomps on a sandwich while standing over a dead body. Just to show they're mavericks and unafraid of germs. Why oh why etc?

  2. I agree. This type of scene has been done a lot. Brilliantly, in I'm Alan Partridge' when Alan discovers Michael is friends with other men at the petrol station he works at: 'Michael, what the hell's going on?'.