TV Never Lies

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"If it says it on television, It Must Be True!"
Garfield and Friends, "It Must Be True!"

People worry about the power of the media. Heck, even the media worry about the power of the media (it makes for good Ratings), especially if it's a new medium that's popular among the younger set. So when Moral Guardians and executives started to worry that impressionable young viewers might take what they saw on TV at face value and never question the veracity of what they're seeing, many kids' shows started to use this as a Stock Aesop.

Usually happens after a particularly Anvilicious episode about either a main character using the school newspaper to print libel to boost circulation (and having it backfire painfully in a Fawlty Towers Plot) or the Alpha Bitch using similar means to besmirch the lead, fool her classmates, or even brainwash the school/town into doing her bidding. After the show proper ends, an epilogue tells the viewers not to believe everything they see on TV. May be Lampshaded or lampooned in comedy shows, after which the main characters tune in to watch their favorite shows uncritically.

Compare This Is Reality. See also Stock Aesops, Truth in Television. Not a rejected title for Tomorrow Never Dies.[1] If this happens in Real Life it can be because Reality Is Unrealistic.

Examples of TV Never Lies include:

Comic Books

  • A Rugrats comic story has Angelica fool the babies into believing that the grownups are bringing home actual elephants from a white elephant sale, but Tommy believes his toy mouse will scare them off. When Angelica points out the problem with his theory:

Angelica: Just a minute! Elephants aren't frightened of mice!
Tommy: Yes they are! I saw it on a cartoon...
Lil: If it was on a cartoon it must be true!

    • Made funnier when the Mythbusters actually proved elephants actually are scared of mice.


  • In Methods of Rationality Harry sits down to read The Quibbler on grounds that, being the only alternative to the establishment/government-backed Daily Prophet, it has the better chance of containing some actual news.


  • The Daily Prophet, the Wizarding World's only "legitimate" newspaper, is a perfect example. Everything in it is taken as gospel truth, especially jarring when it outright contradicts itself: in The Order of the Phoenix, Harry is an insane schizophrenic and Dumbledore is a senile old fool; in Half Blood Prince, Dumbledore is the greatest Wizard EVAH and Harry is a Messianic Archetype; in The Deathly Hallows, Harry is evil and wanted for questioning on Dumbledore's death, and Voldemort is really quite a nice fellow, really, just remember to report any Mudbloods Muggle-borns to the Ministry.
    • It's also a parody of The Daily Mail, which actually does this, yet is still taken seriously by an alarming number of people.
    • The Daily Prophet is Britain's only legitimate wizarding newspaper, as far as we can tell, so it's not that much of a plot hole. Certainly played straight, though.
  • Inverted in the Discworld book Monstrous Regiment - the Borogravian citizens, living in a country where everything they read is propaganda written by the government, cannot figure out how newspapers (or anything written down, for that matter) can be trusted.
  • Don Quixote: This is one of the themes of the novel: a book published at The Cavalier Years, when the press was a relatively recent invention and a lot of people believed that fiction books were real only because they were printed. Juan Palomeque, the Innkeeper, believes that Chivalric Romance stories are real because these are printed in books, making this trope Older Than Steam:

"But consider, brother," said the curate once more, "there never was any Felixmarte of Hircania in the world, nor any Cirongilio of Thrace, or any of the other knights of the same sort, that the books of chivalry talk of; the whole thing is the fabrication and invention of idle wits, devised by them for the purpose you describe of beguiling the time, as your reapers do when they read; for I swear to you in all seriousness there never were any such knights in the world, and no such exploits or nonsense ever happened anywhere."
"Try that bone on another dog," said the innkeeper; "as if I did not know how many make five, and where my shoe pinches me; don't think to feed me with pap, for by God I am no fool. It is a good joke for your worship to try and persuade me that everything these good books say is nonsense and lies, and they printed by the license of the Lords of the Royal Council, as if they were people who would allow such a lot of lies to be printed all together, and so many battles and enchantments that they take away one's senses."


Western Animation

  • In Family Guy, when Meg joins the school newspaper to pad out her extra-curricular activities, her father Peter "improves" a story of hers by outright fabricating a story saying "Luke Perry is Gay". This works wonders for Meg at first until Luke Perry reads a copy of the paper. Turns out he was gay. With Mayor Adam West...
  • In the Teen Titans Trapped in TV Land episode, "Do Not Adjust Your Set", after defeating Control Freak's scheme, the Titans at the end resolve that watching too much TV is not necessarily a good thing, while at the same time noting that Beast Boy's ridiculously extensive knowledge of TV trivia helped them beat Control Freak. They conclude that there really isn't any moral to the adventure, and then close with an "Everybody Laughs" Ending.
  • Powerpuff Girls had the Wondorous World of Wonderful Whimsical Willy, basically an Aesop episode to teach children not to believe everything they see on TV. Near the end however, they seem to realize that they are encouraging kids against watching THEIR show, and the episode ends with the girls asking the viewers to trust television in a zombie-like manner.
  • Gargoyles did one of these in one of their first post-pilot episodes, where they met the Pack, who were heroes on TV but mercenaries in real life. To be fair, the gargoyles were from the Middle Ages and still adjusting to the twentieth century and its media.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Homer Badman" The sensationalist news media turns the whole town against Homer, convincing everyone that he sexually harassed his kids' babysitter.

Homer: Maybe TV's right, TV's always right.

    • Later...

Godfrey Jones: (after admitting his show has made some mistakes) Tomorrow, on "Rock Bottom": he's a foreigner who takes perverted videos of you when you least expect it. He's "Rowdy Roddy Peeper"...
Homer: Oh, that man is sick!
Marge: Groundskeeper Willy saved you, Homer.
Homer: But listen to the music! He's evil!
Marge: Hasn't this experience taught you you can't believe everything you hear?
Homer: Marge, my friend, I haven't learned a thing.

  • The Garfield and Friends episode "It Must Be True!" has a TV show which shows absurd facts (such as "There's no such thing as Wyoming" and "Raisins are shrunk bowling balls") because of this trope. But when Garfield says "Dogs have no brains", an all-dog audience beats him up.
  • Of course Mr. Krabs has to learn things the hard way on SpongeBob SquarePants. After printing several scandalous issues of the Krusty Krab's own Krusty Khronicle, which features nothing but wild rumors, he incurs the wrath of everyone in town but refuses to stop the presses. Then SpongeBob prints another issue focusing solely on Mr. Krabs himself. Then It Gets Worse.
  • In an episode of Ned's Newt, Ned's parents called off a trip to New York after watching a programme about dangerous alligators living in the NY sewers. When Ned tried to persuade them that it's just an urban legend, and pointed out that the programme was called "This Program Is Hogwash" (or something), his parents replied with this trope. "Son, if they said so on TV, it must be true."

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: The CSI Effect, which many lawyers say have spoiled many potential jury pools with unrealistic expectations of forensic science..
  • An advertisement for some kind of weight-loss pill, while explaining its effects, explicitly said "We couldn't say it on TV if it wasn't true!" That would be the point of advertising laws, of course.
  • The MythBusters are occasionally wrong, rarely censored, and routinely facetious, but they've never out-and-out lied to the viewer (lying to Adam and Tory is okay though, because it's funny when they injure themselves).
    • British knockoff Brainiac: Science Abuse, by contrast, has been known to fudge results in the name of Rule of Funny (and, on one occasion, to collect on a rather sizable golf bet when an experiment in probability fails to obey the law of averages).
  • The inverse to this is explored by Dave Barry in a column, who says that Russians (today it would probably be Chinese) always know what's going on by reading their newspapers and assuming that the exact opposite is true. They thus have an advantage over Americans, who can't tell which parts of the newspapers are true and which are complete lies.
    • The above statement was actually true in the USSR. Everyone with half a brain "read between the lines" - searched for hidden meaning behind the official version printed in the newspapers and broadcast on TV. It was generally assumed that TV and Other Media Always Lie In Some Way. Even inverted, this trope managed to backfire though: the collapsing USSR took the Propaganda Machine with itself, and the assorted media has since become identical to that of any other developed country; this gives those who haven't dropped their habits some great times trying to guess what the hell is going on, as different channels/newspapers/etc tend to have different points of view. Then there's the Internet...
      • Good thing Putin is working so hard to restore media order than.
  1. although it would have worked for The World Is Not Enough...