While most problems in real-life are solved through open and direct communication — in theory, anyway — TV characters try to use every possible method at their disposal to avoid this approach, instead opting to craft an elaborate life hack or otherwise crazy scheme to try and correct their problems. While this approach usually doesn’t end as well, it has yet to stop any of them from trying. To celebrate some of these uniquely disastrous moments, here’s a look at some of the most notorious sitcom life hacks that would fail you miserably in real life.
Dennis and Dee’s welfare scam – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Problem: Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and his sister, Dee (Kaitlin Olson), feel unfulfilled by their jobs at Paddy’s Pub and quit. They still need to find a way to support themselves, though.
Solution: First, the two of them sign up for unemployment, only to learn they make more that way than they did working at the bar. Then, they try to move onto welfare under false pretenses, just until they get their careers off the ground.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: Though they ultimately fail in their effort to live off the public dime with welfare and actually wind up addicted to crack, Dennis and Dee do get to live it up on unemployment for a time after quitting their jobs at the bar. In actuality, quitting your job makes it incredibly hard to secure unemployment benefits. In Pennsylvania, an applicant needs to prove that they had a “necessitous and compelling” reason why they quit their job. Pursuing one’s dreams probably doesn’t qualify.
Creating a fake college class…for real credit – Community
Problem: Jeff (Joel McHale) is desperate to graduate from Greendale Community College and return to his life as a lawyer.
Solution: To speed this process along, he creates a fake class, Conspiracy Theories in American History, in order to earn a real credit.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: Granted, while most colleges might not be the epitome of efficiency, none would be able to compare to the state of complete disarray that Greendale was in (we hope). At some point, it’d be inevitable that some faculty member would notice there’s no class in the curriculum called Conspiracy Theory In American History, much less an entire fabricated night school and if a student did attempt to game the system in such a way, they’d be expelled.
Mixing Pop Rocks & soda does not a hand grenade make – The Simpsons
Problem: You need to make a big, daring escape from the annual candy convention (or another similarly confectionary establishment).
Solution: Simply mix some Pop Rocks with a highly-carbonated can of soda, then get ready to dive for safety.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: Despite the mega-popular suburban legend that may have gotten the idea in your head, mixing Pop Rocks with a soft drink will not create anything significant enough to cause a blast radius. This myth has been around since as long as Pop Rocks have been on the market, and the legend of their lethal combination with soda was so widespread that it was even rumored to have caused the ‘Mikey likes it‘ kid who endorsed Life cereal many years ago to meet his untimely fate. No, if you try this notorious sitcom life hack, all you’re really going to end up with is a sticky, sugary mess on the floor.
Jerry’s makeshift menage-a-trois – Seinfeld
Problem: Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) wants to dump his current girlfriend so he can start dating her roommate.
Solution: Jerry proposes a three-way with his girlfriend and her roommate, which he thinks will disgust his current girlfriend, causing her to break up with him while flattering the roommate and convincing her that she should date him.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: This should be obvious enough, but there’s very little — if any — chance that this would work out the way Jerry has it planned out in his head. It’s nearly impossible to predict the emotional outcome of two different people, especially considering you don’t know one of them at all.
Would the roommate really be so quick to engage in her friend’s creep-o castoff? Would Jerry’s now-ex accept such a thing without objection? Unsurprisingly, Jerry (and his behind-the-scenes co-plotter, George) don’t allow for the awkwardness and jealousy that would likely tear apart a friendship to enter into their equation. And the actual resolution — a mutual interest from all parties — seems statistically unlikely. A 2004 ABC News poll found that only 21 percent of adults fantasized about being in a threesome. Imagine where those numbers were in the more sexually conservative ’90s when Congress almost castrated the president for getting a blow job and everyone wore three layers of flannel all the time.
Michael Scott’s bogus cause for “charity” – The Office
Problem: In the mind of Michael Scott (Steve Carell), the problem is somewhere between a rabies epidemic and an ancient curse on Dunder-Mifflin, although it really boils down to him hitting Meredith (Kate Flannery) with his car on his way into work.
Solution: Michael decides to hold a 5K fun run for “charity” during work hours, forcing the office staff to participate.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: Obviously, Michael’s never one to pass up an opportunity to blow something completely out of proportion. That being said, the idea of forcing your staff to drop their work to first make phone calls for donations to a cause that’s already been cured, and then run five kilometers, seems insensitive to say the least. And collecting money for a not-legit charity, even when done with the best intentions — would probably get you into some trouble. Which means that after taking money out for a giant check and a stripping nurse, you’d also have to account for the cost of an attorney.
Barney’s family-for-hire – How I Met Your Mother
Problem: Barney (Neil Patrick-Harris) wants his mother (Frances Conroy) to be proud of him, and he’s afraid she wouldn’t approve of his womanizing lifestyle.
Solution: He regularly hires the same two actors to play his wife and child in order to fool his mother into thinking he’s settled down.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: Like a lot of examples on this list, there are simply too many variables here that could tank the entire thing should one go wrong. You’ve also got to consider the prohibitive cost involved in hiring two professional actors — hard up for work or not — and taking the time to write out their storylines, contend with their creative impulses, along with their inability to learn lines (Tyler!). And this is all before your friends inevitably find out about this. All of this will culminate in a guaranteed disaster for everyone involved.
The entire premise – Bosom Buddies
Problem: The apartment building where Kip (Tom Hanks) and Henry (Peter Scolari) live gets demolished while they’re sleeping.
Solution: They get another apartment at the Susan B. Anthony Hotel, but to live there they have to dress as women and create two separate personas to get around the building’s “no men” rule.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: There’s a significant investment in deceit here. Sure, everyone needs a place to live, but to create two all new personalities simply to get in and out of your home seems… excessive. Not to mention the complications that’ll arise given that you’re bound to meet people dressed in drag, which will only add layers upon layers to the lie, making the eventual fallout that much more severe.
Backing into a party – The Detour
Problem: Nate and Robin are on the outside looking in at a NASCAR party.
Solution: Robin confesses to Nate that she has a fair amount of experience sneaking into places and tries to get him to follow her lead as she walks backwards in through the exit to create an optical illusion. Nate tries to do the same and is immediately caught.
Why this wouldn’t work in real life: Nate’s failure to pull this off isn’t on him and Robin’s success is a miracle. If you try to walk backwards past a guard with normal sight in the middle of the day, you are going to get busted and most likely evicted from the venue altogether.
Catch ‘The Detour’ on Mondays at 9/8c on TBS.