Three Normal Things Movie and TV Characters Never Do

In case you hadn’t already put this together, I’m a huge fan of movies and television. Give me some good dialogue, a well-crafted plot, and I’m on board… whether it’s Breaking Bad or Gravity Falls.

But after watching all of these make-believe little universes, I’ve noticed certain quirky conventions common across all genres.  We’re so used to seeing them, we don’t even think about how unrealistic they are.

Like cartoon characters only having 4 fingers per hand

I’m not talking about corpses reanimating into dangerous zombies or aliens taking over the Earth, either. Those are part of a wild premise you’re supposed to accept from the start.

No, I’m talking about everyday, run-of-the-mill oddities that are hard to un-see once someone points them out:

1  No one ever pays for anything

You might see someone order food or drinks or get into a cab sometimes, but you’ll never see money changing hands unless it’s specifically part of a plot device.

By this, I mean you could see someone ordering a round for everyone in the building while holding fistfuls of cash and tipping wildly to show how rich he is, or someone’s card being declined to show how his life is slowly unraveling to the rock-bottom point.

You might even see a group of people divvying up the check at a restaurant to give us insight into which characters are stingy and which are inclined to mooch off their friends.

What you never see, however, is the routine settling of bills that’s part of everyone else’s daily life experience. Usually, movie people just hop out of the cab or leave the restaurant like it’s an acceptable thing to do.

2.  No one finishes their drinks

We like the ambience provided by pink cocktails when looking shocked

While we’re on the subject of leaving restaurants, have you ever noticed how often a couple of TV characters order drinks and then don’t drink them?

Usually, a server walks by their table to set down the beer/wine/vodka that our characters ordered, then something dramatic happens, prompting one or both to leave the table…

With their untouched drinks just sitting there.

Just once, I’d love for the restaurant manager to come running after them, yelling, “WHAT!? You just order some drinks and then take off? Who’s gonna pay for that?”

3.  No one says “Goodbye” before hanging up

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that most movie characters never sign off before ending conversations on the phone.

That would make sense if they were having an argument, but it seems to happen all the time.

I don’t know about you, but if I were on the other side of the line, that would seem pretty abrupt. I would wonder what I did or said to make someone slam the phone down on me, or even whether something bad might’ve just happened to them.

But not so in the bizarre world of film or television, where characters just stop the conversation as soon as they’re done. No one ever seems to mind. No one ever calls back, wondering why the hell the phone line just went dead.

Actually though, I do have a real-life example of someone who did this: my grandfather.

I don’t know if it’s because he grew up in a household where they didn’t have phones and then never familiarized himself with normal social rules for phone transactions, or if he just lived by the beat of his own drum, but he would hang up the phone without warning after any random exchange.

oldphoneA typical phone call with him sounded something like this:

I call him… [Ring! Ring!]

Grandpa: Hello?

Me: Hi grandpa! It’s Erin. Is grandma there?

Grandpa: Nope.


After a minute, I call him back… [Ring! Ring!]

Grandpa: Hello?

Me: Hi grandpa, it’s me again. Do you know when grandma is going to be back?

Grandpa: Well, she went to the grocery store, so ’bout an hour.



I would’ve thought he was furious at me if I didn’t know any better, but that was just how grandpa talked on the phone. He seemed to confuse it for a telegram.

And the strangeness of this encounter kind of illustrates what it would really be like if people used phones the way film and TV characters do.

At any rate, these weird behaviors, taken together, show us what an oddly centered universe we find in the world of fictional entertainment. No one truly exists except the characters we are watching at the time… No one needs to be paid, or told you don’t plan on drinking the full pints you left at your table, or given explanations for your abrupt departure on the phone.

Now the next time someone orders drinks on your favorite show, watch to see if they actually finish them. I bet they won’t, unless it’s the whole point of the episode.




24 thoughts on “Three Normal Things Movie and TV Characters Never Do

  1. I haven’t thought about any of those things before, so I’ll definitely be paying closer attention now! I did notice awhile back that all shows about families (as opposed to shows about friend groups or certain jobs) have the families living in a two-story house. It is very rare to see a television family living in a one-story – even if the family is supposedly lower or middle class.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, you’re right… I can’t think of a TV family that doesn’t live in a two-story house.

      On TV, one story = single and two stories = family.

      Never noticed that, but will see it forever more, haha

      Wait–Walter White’s house on Breaking Bad was one story, I think. BUT, that might be considered a plot device, since they were emphasizing how he’s a genius yet doesn’t make enough to support his family comfortably.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you posted this. It has always bothered me that characters never finish their drinks! AND never saying goodbye, adios, or kiss my fanny when they hang up. It has always bothered me. Glad to know it bothers someone else. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve noticed it too?? Isn’t it weird?

      People are always leaving full drinks on the table. Seems rare for them to even take a sip. It’s like they hate drinking but want to look cool, haha

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha, I get where you’re coming from! Every time someone orders a drink now, I can’t help but watch to see of they actually drink it. 99 times out of 100, they don’t.

          It’s crazy! It’s like setting fire to 20 dollar bills, crazy TV people

          Liked by 1 person

              1. I apologize for being indirect, my dear. Have you noticed how, in film and television, the characters seem to understand one another implicitly, yet we the viewers are left confused?

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I’m sure I would’ve understood if I had been in the right mental place…

                  Yes! That can be frustrating.

                  Also, there are so, so many plots that would be quickly resolved if the characters would only communicate. Usually, someone has the wrong idea about something because of a vital missing piece of information, and the character with said information prefers giving meaningful looks to speaking up!

                  Liked by 1 person

                    1. Well… Often a character is aware of another character’s confusion but frustratingly refuses to speak up, without having any apparent reason to remain quiet.

                      Lots of shenanigans ensue and it always seems like a waste of time, since all Character A has to do is tell Character B about X.

                      Now, if there’s a reason to stay silent, that makes more sense. As in: Character A can’t tell Character B about X without throwing Character C under the bus.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. I see. Your consternation lies in the fact that these actions are seemingly unnecessary. They lack purpose or correlation with the story itself. That’s understandable, and I agree.
                      The consensus seems to be that we are in another Golden Age for visual mediums. I would disagree. There IS a mass influx of idea, yet not enough to propel it into the realm of good story-telling. Sad to say.
                      Would you agree, my dear?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Exactly. It feels like an easy trick to create conflicts that would probably quickly resolve in real life.

                      Well, I think there are always excellent creative works to find, but maybe the current Golden Age idea comes from better CGI and special effects than improved storylines.

                      I feel that attention spans are shorter and there is more emphasis on action, visuals… I’m a bigger fan of character development and dialogue, so effects only impress me if I already like the storyline.

                      Liked by 1 person

  3. That is exactly how Geandpa was on the phone. I think his concern was cost, especially if it was long distance, the closest I ever got to a “bye” from him was “well this is long distance” …click.

    Liked by 1 person

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