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An episode in which the main character is rendered tragically/comically invisible and wackiness commences to ensue. This can be done to give the lead actor a small break so they can skip principal photography. It also allows an opportunity to give that character unexpected insights into his or her own character via the overheard statements of others, or to do things they wouldn't normally do.
In shows that lean toward comedy, the character will often play pranks on the other characters, often overhearing things they were not prepared for (such as supposed enemies expressing concern about the character being missing, or frustration at aspects of the character's personality).
If the show is geared toward a young adult or older audience, the invisibility will frequently not apply to clothing -- this seems more common if the invisible character is female. If the character has done anything to deserve a karmic backlash during their invisibility, said invisibility will usually wear off at the worst possible time, and in front of the most people possible.
In one variation, characters are placed "out of phase" so they're imperceptible to anyone on the show, but still visible to the audience. They can walk through walls, but they don't fall through the floor. They can't eat, but can still breathe oxygen. Often, if the character is "out of phase," there is one other character (usually a guest star) who can see and/or hear them, but this character has a reputation for "seeing things" that aren't there or has been in a mental institution for years. This variation can be realized as an out-of-body or near-death experience.
See Invisibility for when this is a character power or otherwise longer than a one-shot storyline.
- Patrick Swayze's character in Ghost.
- In the book Things Not Seen, this is the main plot.
- As it is in Memoirs of an Invisible Man
- For most of Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Jason David Frank (playing Dr. Tommy Oliver) was not available for filming, necessitating that he be rendered audio-only for much of the show's run, first by encasing his character in a block of amber, then by rendering him unable to remove his Ranger Suit, and finally by turning him completely invisible.
- In Doctor Who, the First Doctor turns invisible for the serial The Celestial Toymaker. This was actually supposed to set up for an instance of The Nth Doctor by having him become visible again as a different actor, but William Hartnell ended up coming back. The actor change would have to wait until a bit later.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Spoofed in the episode "200", when Jack O'Neill becomes invisible, leading to a Hurricane of Puns and ultimately proves useless as he can no longer signal to his team ("Making hand signals here, people!"), leading to confusion all around. What makes the spoof even more delightful is that it was originally scripted in case Richard Dean Anderson wasn't available for filming... but he finally was, up to the point he acted as his own stand-up in a green suit for a scene involving special effects. The characters hung a big lampshade on this whole trope in the dialogue.
- Subverted and parodied in "The Road Not Taken", where the team assume that Carter is out of phase and spend two weeks keeping her company and talking to her, when she had in fact been transported to an alternate timeline.
- Played straight but still toyed with in "Arthur's Mantle": Carter and Mitchell really are invisible due to being "out of phase" but it takes a while for everyone else to figure that out, first deciding on miniaturization as a likely source of their disappearance.
- Daniel goes out of phase in "Crystal Skull"; the only person who can see him is his grandfather, who's spent the last few decades in an insane asylum.
- Daniel is not only invisible and intangible. He also doesn't experience hunger, thirst, or the need to relieve himself. When he realizes this, he assumes it's because he's dead. Of course, this is never brought up again.
- The "out of phase" scenario was done in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Next Phase" focusing on Geordi and Ro Laren.
- Done in an episode of Round the Twist, titled "Linda Godiva". The title is in reference to the way the Invisible Streaker heroine helps another character win a horse race--after all, Linda is invisible, but her clothing isn't. In the end, the rider accidentally turns her visible again, just in time for her to ride off (nude, hence the episode's title) into the sunset as the credits start.
- In a 1992 episode of Sesame Street, repeated in 1994, Oscar the Grouch spritzes María, then himself, with invisibility spray called Disappear-O. Oscar's pet elephant, Fluffy, provides the antidote.
- In a two-part story in 2004, a magic ukulele makes Snuffy invisible, but he drops the ukulele while invisible and it breaks. He doesn't become visible again until the ukulele is repaired and brought back to Sesame Street.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Gone", Buffy wreaked havoc and had invisible sex with Spike. In "Fear Itself", Xander experienced the visible-to-the-audience variation due to a demon exploiting his fear of being ignored.
- "Gillian of the Spirits" is an example where the out-of-phase character is perceived by another character.
- An episode of Seven Days had Parker unable to be seen or heard, except by one Blind Black Guy.
- In Batman the Brave And The Bold, Gentleman Ghost buries Batman alive. Batman then proceeds to use a trick taught to him by monks, rendering him a ghost that can go back into its still living body. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Peanuts special It's Magic, Charlie Brown, Snoopy turns Charlie Brown invisible during his magic act. At first Charlie laments becoming a "lost soul", but then he discovers that he can kick the football off Lucy's hand before she pulls it away, which he takes advantage of. Naturally, he becomes visible again just as he is attempting the kick a second time.
- One episode of Dexter's Laboratory has the main character turning invisible to discover his birthday gifts.
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon Water, Water Every Hare, Bugs douses himself in vanishing fluid to attempt escape from a Mad Scientist. It backfires when said scientist subsequently uses "Hare Restorer" to render him visible again.
- Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Jimmy did this, in a way, by creating shoes that make him run so fast that nobody can see him. He abuses this ability to play mean tricks on all his friends.
- Fairly Oddparents: Timmy once wishes to make himself invisible to keep from being beat up by the school bully. He uses this opportunity to scare the entire student body.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongebob and Patrick accidentally paint themselves invisible (It Makes Sense in Context) and then try to scare everybody in Bikini Bottom by pretending to be ghosts.
- An odd variation happens in two episodes of South Park, In one Cartman believes he is invisible/dead because everybody is intentionally ignoring him, and another has him use a fake superpower of invisibility. In both episodes, everyone but him knows that he is not invisible.