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"Ramirez! Use the Predator Drones!"
—Sergeant Foley to Private James Ramirez, COD:Modern Warfare 2
Bob is a Homicide detective for a large New York police station. After the exposition of a murder crime-scene, and a basic interrogation of a few witnesses, Bob heads down to the morgue for the autopsy.
But, wait, why is Bob performing the autopsy? Is he a detective or a coroner? Where's the coroner? Aren't there people around who should be doing this while Bob heads out, say, to question the suspects and look for clues? Isn't THAT his job?
It seems that on Bob's show, The Main Characters Do Everything. His job in the organization is supposed to be clearly defined and include a set number of tasks and responsibilities, just like similar jobs in real life. Instead, Bob is often seen doing things well beyond the scope of his job. In other words he's doing someone else's job, whenever it suits the story.
And it's not as if he's going against orders either! Bob will often be TOLD to overstep his authority by a superior, and no one will even raise an eyebrow! Or maybe Bob is the boss and still insists on doing the menial tasks instead of finding the most qualified underlings to do it. Whether Bob has the skills necessary for the task or not is irrelevant - the point is it's not (and shouldn't be) part of his job.
This trope happens because writers are faced with a dilemma: in the real world, police and military organizations are heavily departmentalized, which means that each member has a clear-cut set of responsibilities. But following the exploits of a character with limited responsibility can get repetitive; How interesting would it be to watch The Captain pushing papers and managing his crew all day? How many interesting stories can revolve around watching the doctor diagnosing patients in his little office?
Instead of adding Loads and Loads of Characters to follow around, potentially confusing the viewers, most writers prefer increasing the scope of the Main Character's job far beyond realistic limits. So now, the Captain goes out on dangerous away-missions, the general practitioner goes into surgery, and the forensic analyst does interrogations and arrests - whatever serves the drama. And no one else in the organization seems to think that this is a problem.
It is important to note that this may not actually be a bad thing, often being considered one of the many Acceptable Breaks From Reality. It cuts down on the use of Flat Characters and keeps the main characters in focus.
To find out whether this trope applies to Bob, just ask these questions:
- In the real world, would a character with Bob's job be allowed to do what he's doing?
- Are there any characters around whose job it is to do what Bob is doing?
- Are there loads of extras in the background that seem to have absolutely no job, since Bob's doing everything anyway?
- Does Bob constantly place himself in danger despite there being lots of expendables around whose only job it is to confront dangers in his stead?
- Does anybody care that Bob is doing this? Especially, Bob's superiors?
Note that this is rarely confined to one character. It's usually a group of characters who, between them, seem to carry out every possible task in the show. You'll never see the extras doing anything important, it's always one of the Main Characters who gets the task.
Occasionally on shows where The Main Characters Do Everything, a task will be relegated to an off-screen department, but this only happens when showing it being performed wouldn't serve the writers' interests or the drama. If the writers get can any sort of drama by showing a task being done on-screen, it'll always be the Main Characters performing it.
To be clear, The Main Characters Do Everything is an explicit contradiction: In an organization that's presented as specialized and departmentalized, the main characters seem to have no clearly defined job description nor any real limits to their authority. And the boss doesn't seem to mind - In fact, in many cases one of the Main Characters Who Do Everything IS the boss, and still insists on doing practically EVERYTHING by himself.
Closely related to Ghost Extras, as the two tropes are almost always played together. Also connected to Red Shirt; if you're in a series where The Main Characters Do Everything, and suddenly you see someone else participating in the main action, they're there for a specific reason. Expect the main character(s) to be an Omnidisciplinary Scientist or Open Heart Dentist (it's usually an excuse to let him Do Everything).
Somewhat related to Composite Character, where after adaptation one character contains traits (and tasks) that originally belonged to two or more characters.
Compare with Einstein Sue and The Only One, where our main characters do everything because everyone else is apparently incompetent, or just isn't around when you need 'em. Contrast Minimalist Cast, which is when the main characters do everything because there isn't anyone else.
Pretty much every medical show features doctors doing the most of the nurses' jobs (well, unless the show is actually about nurses.)
- The doctors on House often perform all sorts of duties that should've been departmentalized - everything from radiology to surgery.
- Somewhat justified given that a) House is eccentric about who he trusts to do tests, b) a lot of the procedures done on the show are dangerous, unethical, or illegal, and c) House's boss has the hots for him, so he gets away with a lot of stuff he really shouldn't. Still doesn't change the fact that a lot of the medical procedures on the show take months or years of rigorous study to learn how to do, yet House and his small team are always experts at every single one, regardless of what branch of medicine they specialized in. Those specialisms themselves are as varied as possible (they're essentially a medical Dream Team), presumably to limit the amount this trope pops up.
- Grey's Anatomy is nowhere near as bad an offender as House is, but still fits this trope. The main characters are surgeons yet they perform non-surgical aspects of medical trials, do all the work in the ER, all the work of radiologists and a whole lot of what the nurses are supposed to do. In addition they do all the internal medicine associated with their surgical specialty.
- The Australian soap opera Neighbours did this for many years with Dr Karl Kennedy. He was a general practitioner, but any medical procedure of whatever kind always seemed to be done by Dr Karl. Similarly, there have been various characters over the years who were nurses, and any stay in hospital would always see the characters cared for by that particular nurse.
- The Bill allows us to see a police station full of people, but conspicuously the 20 main characters are always involved in the cases we see, while those other guys mostly seem to do their own things that we don't get to hear about. It crosses the line occasionally in that one character (say, Sgt Smith) will be seen working as office Sergeant, and in C.A.D., and at custody, all in the same shift.
- CSI is very Egregious about this. Pretty much the only thing the all-purpose forensic investigators don't do as part of their police duties is to give out speeding tickets.
- At least they aren't usually called upon to use guns much, unlike their counterparts in Miami. Although they're actually trained police officers with badges in addition to their guns.
- This is lampshaded in a CSI parody on Schlock Mercenary, where a forensic investigator is asked why he is interrogating a suspect.
- And gently spoofed in an episode of Law and Order in which one of the forensic team makes a suggestion as to what might have happened at a crime scene, and Lennie Bristow remarks "These guys think they're cops."
- Hawaii Five-O: they've got a forensics lab that can find addresses from hair-strands, Detective Danno sneaks around like a ninja, and Police Chief McGarett fights criminals and makes arrests at the crime-scene when he's supposed to be minding the store. It's as if they're the only cops in the entire state of Hawaii.
- Criminal Minds always has the valuable profilers arresting the violent, dangerous psychopaths.
- Also, the characters deal with everything from serial killers to the mob to terrorists to child abductors. In real life, the FBI has different departments for each of these and would not send the same team on all the cases they get. Justified to some extent as they do need episodes.
- NCIS borders on this. McGee, Tony, and Ziva all do field work, but also run down information back in the office. However, McGee almost always does more technical stuff, such as tracking GPS signals and hacking, while the other two tend to look for more accessible info, like bank accounts and call histories. McGee will often be left behind to track a subject while Gibbs, Tony, and Ziva make the actual arrest.
- Abby, however, does all the forensics, from bullet matching to mass spectrometry, and she even does some computer hacking. This is justified, though, as she is qualified in all these various areas.
- Bones has a forensic anthropologist doing EVERYTHING. There was once an actual Forensic Anthropology teacher who offered extra credit to her students if they watched a single episode of the show and brought in a list of everything wrong with it.
- The X-Files has Agent Scully serving as a field agent and performing her own autopsies. In fairness, though, the show does imply that everyone else who could potentially help out might be an evil government stooge.
- And those who aren't evil government stooges don't really care what "Spooky" Mulder and his partner do, as long as they don't embarrass the department (too much).
- Fringe is supposed to have the titular Division, a joint task force comprising dozens to hundreds of agents, of which our protagonists are only a few. By season 2, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Fringe Division was headquartered in Walter's lab and was comprised of three FBI agents, two civilian consultants and a cow.
- Numb3rs features this with Omnidisciplinary Scientist Charlie, somehow a mathematician is the one they go to to handle engineering analysis, geology and whatever other random scientific concepts are necessary for the case of the week. While he does get help from resident Hot Scienist Amita, a computer scientist, and his physicist mentor, Absent-Minded Professor Larry, they are still involved in a much larger number of fields than any real life scientist or mathematician. While occasionally other experts are brought in as necessary, more often than not it fall to the three main characters to do all the work.
- Castle features this to an extent with Lanie, the medical examiner. While she does do autopsies, fitting her role, she also handles all of the field work and generally is the one to do much of the other forensic analysis despite the fact that there are other specialties for those roles.
Police & Forensic Aversions
- Averted by Joe Friday and his partner Bill Gannon in Dragnet. They didn't have a specific department. Each episode, they'd be experienced officers in whatever department most central to the real-life case that they're depicting- only their off-the-job personalities remained constant. Regardless of the department, the two only did the plainclothes work. If they needed fingerprints or a license plate run, or other tasks outside their regular duties, they'd contact the appropriate section of the police department (part of the much-vaunted "realism" of the show).
- The original Law and Order averted this as much as possible. The detectives are virtually never shown doing anything other than detective work. If they need to break into a suspect's house, you can bet there will be uniformed officers or even a SWAT team to take point. The Lieutenant stays in the office, the Pathologist stays in the morgue, and the computer guy stays in front of the computer. The district attorney virtually never leaves his office if it's not an emergency, sending his assistant out to interview witnesses if necessary.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Robert Goren, however, often tries to conduct forensic work before the coroner gets to the scene. Being based on the character Sherlock Holmes in a Police Procedural is a warning sign for this trope.
- On the other hand, in all iterations of the franchise, District Attorneys are often shown doing interrogations. While there's no rule strictly preventing this, DAs almost never do this in real life because a) they are extremely busy and b) they can't call themselves to testify about what the defendant said.
- Also averted in sister series Homicide: Life On the Street. The detectives work murder cases almost exclusively. Other police-work such as medical examinations and forensic analysis is done by trained professionals, usually off-screen. The lieutenant and other higher-ups rarely get involved, unless explicitly needed, and the Detectives almost never make arrests without uniformed officers as backup.
- This trope is played straight, averted and thoroughly justified in Spiritual Successor The Wire. The entire premise of the show is that a judge's inquiries prompt the creation of a detail unit charged with investigating one specific case, which later becomes established as a semi-permanent crime unit with no real definition to its role in the police force. This later results in the team being reduced to making small-scale drug arrests due to in-office politics - much to the team-members' protest. Nonetheless, the Baltimore police department is shown as realistically heavily departmentalized - to its own detriment in most cases - and the show has Loads and Loads of Characters to boot.
- Dexter: The lead character, a forensic investigator, not only is emphatically not a police officer, with no badge or gun, but works specifically doing blood spatter analysis, and rarely if ever deviates from this. In fact, they emphasize this as early as the pilot episode, where, upon seeing a cut up body whose blood has been completely drained, he turns around and walks away, telling Batista "No trabajo."
- Star Trek is a notorious offender. Starfleet officers seem to have a penchant for sending themselves and/or other valuable officers (usually bridge officers, and sometimes ALL OF THEM) on the riskiest missions, when security forces or specialists are available.
- It's implied to be a problem even beyond the featured ships and characters of the series. Part of the reason Riker caught Picard's attention when he was reviewing potential first officers was because Riker was willing to demand that his previous commanding officer not be present on a dangerous away mission. That's right. This was considered notable enough to land Riker the gig as first officer of the new flagship.
- You have to feel sorry for the Security Officer. Their job appears to cover everything from threat analysis and weapons targeting in starship combat to responding to an alarm tripping on the cargo deck. On the odd occasion they will delegate their alarm response duties to the Chief Engineer or First Officer.
- Originally there was No Such Thing as HR in Star Trek, but then came the position of ship's counselor, which is basically an entire HR department in one person.
- Star Trek the Original Series: This may have been Lamp Shaded in the episode "The Ultimate Computer". When the M-5 computer is asked why it didn't pick Kirk and McCoy for a landing party, it cites them as "unnecessary personnel".
- In Star Trek the Next Generation it almost feels like the thousand or so people on board the Enterprise-D serve at most as backup in case one of the officers gets incapacitated. And usually, if all the Main Characters are incapacitated, those ample replacements are also mysteriously absent or incapacitated. There were touches of this in The Original Series as well.
- Even random or alien phenomena tend to treat Main Characters differently from Extras. If a phenomenon causes people to disappear or die, it'll target the extras first, leaving only the Main Characters around to solve the problem. If a phenomenon is benign, or it teleports people to some interesting scenario, it'll always target the Main Characters only, leaving all of the extras back on the ship.
- Speaking of TNG: Hey, there's a top secret and dangerous commando mission we need done. Instead of sending specially trained combat troops, we'll send a ship captain with valuable information on our defense plans, some doctor, and a Klingon. This isn't a huge risk to both the people involved and the Federation itself at all.
- Picard is apparently a starship captain, detective, attorney, and diplomat all in one. That last one is partially justified since he's the captain of Starfleet's flagship. The Enterprise is shown to be as much a diplomatic tool for the Federation as it is a tool for exploration or combat.
- Still, the number of episodes where Picard's various duties conflict with each other is very high. With the ship being used so often for diplomacy, and is already carrying over 1,000 people, the Enterprise should've had a dedicated diplomat on board. Starfleet is holding the Idiot Ball on that.
- Star Trek Voyager is particularly bad at this, with Janeway frequently sending both herself and her first officer off the ship on routine patrols.
- SF Debris points out the astounding number of times where Ensign Harry Kim does something well out of his element simply because the writers wanted to give him something to do.
- Star Trek Deep Space Nine was absolutely horrible about this. On several occasions they left the station without its captain, liaison to Bajor, chief of security and chief medical officer at the same time.
- And their Senior NCO chief engineer and the chief science officer often as well. And as most armies and navies know, you can take out as many officers as you like, but remove the NCOs and things start falling apart. This would essentially drop command to the 5th or 6th ranking officer.
- At least they did have the station falling apart while O'Brien was gone though, and the others trying to keep the station in one piece. Heck, in the earlier seasons it was falling apart even while he was around.
- This was a result of introducing the Defiant. The writers decided that the story can't evolve if they're always confined to a single (stationary) space station, so they used the Defiant as an extra excuse to get the crew away from the station as often as possible. Since Defiant is a fairly large warship requiring a fairly large crew, it also gave an excellent opportunity for all the officers to leave at the same time. Does make one wonder why a warship doesn't get its own command crew to begin with, though.
- After a while, they brought Worf in, and transferred him to Command rather than Security so they could at least avoid some of this trope when they took the Defiant out.
- Kira Nerys is a Major in the Bajoran military, and the liaison between Bajor and the Federation. She's also the First Officer on board Deep Space Nine. This is fine, because DS9 is a Bajoran station which is simply under Federation administration, so the two jobs fit well. However, once the Defiant is introduced, in at least one episode Kira is the First Officer on the ship. Remember, Bajor is not a member of the Federation - half the story revolves around this point. But the Federation apparently has no problem with an officer from a semi-allied foreign military assigned to one of the highest positions on a cutting-edge (and top-secret!) Federation starship. Of course it should be noted that in-universe, Sisko appears to have the last word about anything remotely related to the Defiant - and that in itself is another instance of this trope.
- Odo was worst. Odo was chief of Security and nothing more; he was not a soldier, pilot, officer, diplomat, or any such thing - neither for the Bajorans nor the Federation. He was simply the station's top cop. Yet they would bring him along on the Defiant pretty often, sometimes having him sitting on the bridge doing stuff. This would be like putting an NYPD Detective on the bridge of an aircraft carrier.
- And their Senior NCO chief engineer and the chief science officer often as well. And as most armies and navies know, you can take out as many officers as you like, but remove the NCOs and things start falling apart. This would essentially drop command to the 5th or 6th ranking officer.
- Star Trek Enterprise takes this problem to astounding levels. The show has absolutely no B-cast at all for the first two seasons, and none of the main characters share a department. This leads to absurd levels whenever one of the officers needs an assistant, and they call in another main character who has no training in that task. The list includes...
- Archer serving as a nurse (at least twice).
- Archer serving as a bomb squad (Having to be given instructions by a man who can't get a good look at the alien bomb because he has a spike through his leg).
- Both Reed (Security and weapons) and Hoshi (Linguistics and comms), operating the transporter (which is brand spanking new technology, and we know is prone to constant malfunction after 200 years trying to perfect it).
- Hoshi being constantly sent around the ship to do odd jobs, as though her official title was "go-fer".
- Battlestar Galactica Reimagined also delves into this, though it's partially justified what with having so few people left who are trained in all the necessary disciplines. Still, with thousands of people in the fleet, it seems that the same dozen characters are responsible for pretty much everything that goes on. This is especially blatant with Pilot/Rebel/Commando/Vigilante/Criminal Investigator/Starship Captain/Lawyer/Politician/President Lee Adama - sometimes all in the same episode!
- It's equally bad with the Cylons, except they have no excuse. Despite having a society where there are millions of every model of Cylon, making them practically interchangeable, the story features the same handful of Cylon individuals in all key positions.
- Space: Above and Beyond - are they space marines, or fighter pilots?
- Stargate SG-1: SG-1 actually averts this trope to an extent, which is impressive given that the four main characters are the focus of 90% of every episode. The show makes it clear from the start that SG-1 is just one team of many. While it does seem like SG-1 does everything, this is because their team is designed to be generalist - it always has a military leader, scientist, archeologist, and alien warrior. We frequently hear of or see other teams which have more specialist duties (SG-3 led by Colonel Makepeace is an all Marines unit charged with high risk missions or providing armed backup to other teams, for example). A lot of episodes start with SG-1 following up on some other team's work.
- Once O'Neill gets promoted to lead the entire Stargate Command, he finds himself coming up against this trope, as he wants to be out there where the action is instead of staying behind his desk and making sure the base runs smoothly. In fact, his predecessor, General Hammond, despite being the fifth main character, only ever uses the stargate twice.
- Stargate Command also has a dedicated team of scientists and medical staff who will work on tasks in the background, like studying alien technology that SG-1 have brought back, or finding a cure to a disease.
- Stargate Atlantis, however, follows the trope more closely. Only Sheppard's team + whoever is in charge of Atlantis that season + the doctor of the season ever get to do ANYTHING or are ever SHOWN to do anything. In fact, it gets silly as they will treat Rodney McKay being disabled as their entire science crew - save Zelenka - being disabled, despite the existence of 20 or so other scientists on his team who are some of the most brilliant ones alive.
- Babylon 5. Exactly why does the Earth ambassador and commander of the Babylon Five station have to go out with the starfury wing/security team and put himself in the line of fire every time there is a crisis? Ivanova and Garibaldi are also quite bad at this, but not nearly as much as Sheridan/Sinclair.
- Sinclair pretty much out of survivor guilt and seeking out a heroic death. Garibaldi actually calls him out on this during the closing scenes of the episode Infection.
- Sheridan, always having served on an Earth Alliance ship, gets the feeling of being trapped when too long on the space station, so he takes every opportunity he can.
- Ivanova goes in place of her commanding officer once because she hasn't piloted a 'fury in a long, long time. Then stuff happens with enemies making a visit and well... she and her craft barely survived. Ivanova considered it a hell of a fun ride though, not understanding all the fuss about her 'fury basically being in repairs for a long while.
- Garibaldi, well... he is the odd one out in this case. But seeing as B5 barely surviving without him, and him being able to arrange everything it comes as no surprise that he gets spaceborne once in a while. He even got his own custom paint job on his own spacefury. Last time he went out though, he ran until a bit of a problem.
- There was a cast member who was basically pushed on the show, an ace Star Fury pilot. Well... he didn't last until the end of the season.
Other Live Action
- Possibly done in Yes Minister - Hacker has dealt with hospitals, transport infrastructure, finance, smoking, gender equality, and everything else you can name. I think it was on the DVD Commentary that the writers said they deliberately gave him a fictional department (Administrative Affairs--basically anything that involves bureaucrats and red tape is in its purview) in order to get him involved in as many issues as they could.
- On several occasions (such as the Burandan episode, and the one with I.D. cards), Hacker queries whether a matter really is within their remit, and is told there are administrative issues that mean it is theirs, which Hacker once refers to as others 'passing the parcel' of an unpopular policy on to them. As the department is almost axed for essentially doing nothing that cannot be done by other departments, it seems like it was created by Whitehall for the sole purpose of offloading unpopular policies.
- Other episodes either have certain issues fobbed onto the DAA because the department which would normally handle that remit doesn't want to touch it with a bargepole (the episode focusing on the Unified National Transport Policy comes to mind) or because the DAA is essentially the department handling the Civil Service (the joke being that a new complex bureaucratic structure clogged with red tape has been set up in order to deal with pre-existing complex bureaucratic structures clogged with red tape).
- In the same way as Yes Minister, The Thick of It invented a similar department that could meddle in many different areas: the Department Of Social Affairs (or Department Of Social Affairs & Citizenship later on). It is hand waved in the show by the fact that even the department's own members don't seem to know what their primary job is. Beyond that it is clear that they mostly get the jobs that the rest of the government doesn't want.
- Band of Brothers sits on the edge of this trope. Easy Company is always at the thick of things, in every major battle on every front. Of course, this is a case of Reality Is Unrealistic since that's actually what happened to airborne divisions during the invasion of Europe, and them being a unit-sized Composite Character made up of what was originally several different airborne companies. However it also delves into cases of The Only One, thanks to Easy being apparently the only company that doesn't screw up on a regular basis. Looks like Easy has to Do Everything because no one else is competent enough to do their own damn jobs.
- Angel's fifth season is both one of the most overt and most justified examples of this trope: Angel and co. now control one of the most powerful organizations imaginable, with literally thousands of underlings, paramilitary teams, doctors, scientists, etc. But they will go to extreme lengths and take absurd risks not to use them, because all of those people are irredeemably evil while the heroes... aren't. They get called out on this often.
- What's depressing is that Buffy's Slayer Organization doesn't trust him.
- News Radio is about a busy New York City radio station, but the eight main characters seem to do every job at the station, with the electrician sitting in on story meetings and sometimes going on the air, and with the owner of a huge media empire spending most of his time there. The show originally had non-speaking extras in the background to suggest that there were other employees, but eventually gave up on that.
- Since Boy Meets World's John Adams High was a Two-Teacher School, the few existing faculty members had their hands pretty full. By the fifth season, Mr. Feeny was the one and only teacher, leading to this admission:
Feeny: I teach English, history and film, and I run the lost and found.
(And he was the principal on top of all that.)
Anime and Manga
- Happens in Phoenix, particularly with the two speaking-part forensic scientists.
- Monty Python and The Holy Grail has King Arthur personally recruiting a small group of knights, then diving headfirst into every kind of danger, without gathering the rest of his army until the very end.
- Books generally suffer from this less because they can handle large numbers of minor characters better, but the villains in the Left Behind series seem to have an HR problem: Nicolae Carpathia rules the world with only a former flight attendant, a botanist, a disgraced ex-seminarian, and a newspaper editor to help him. But then again, Carpathia is literally Satan, Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies and the Prince of darkness, it's not as if he needed the human underlings.
- Stationery Voyagers: The Voyagers are supposed to be "recon diplomats" by their job descriptions. Yet, their hosts always expect them to perform additional duties to what the Xylien Society trained them for. And the plot itself often forces them to do things in addition to their primary tasks. Instead of simply meeting with foreign dignitaries; they are often rescuing hostages from lunatics, protecting innocents from deranged mobs, saving each other from whatever Monster of the Week is harassing them, saving schoolchildren from dishonest "educators" who are handing out disease-tainted condoms, reclaiming a space launch center from a Robotic Psychopath, etc.
- And the Edge Skidders have it even worse. They are supposed to rein in rogue robots. Period. Instead, Garret and Katrina often end up having to fight through hordes of la-Qualda members before they can get back to their original targets. And are then sometimes forced to do jobs that make you wonder what happened to the cops. And far from simply Mechie busting, they have to interrogate subjects on their own as well more often than not.
- Used to an extent in the Ender's Game series; the three Wiggin siblings, between them; unite humanity, found a major religion, destroy an alien race, save 3 alien races, become the most hated person in history, become the most loved person in history, make faster-than-light travel possible, and manage to do all this without their true identities being revealed to more than half a dozen people.
- Discworld novels featuring the Ankh-Morpork Times, to an extent. William de Word still acts like an Intrepid Reporter in Monstrous Regiment, even though he's supposed to be the managing editor. In Unseen Academicals, he insists on reporting on the football match, although he assigned a sports reporter at the end of The Truth. If it's not him, it's his wife, Sacharissa, as seen in the Moist von Lipwig books. Justified since William invented newspapers on the Disc, and therefore his job works however he says it does.
- Yes Minister's spiritual predecessor (though it featured only civil servants), The Men From the Ministry, was set at the even less realistic Department of General Assistance, with the remit that they were there to 'just help out' any other department which was overloaded (in fact it had only 3 civil servants working there, two of whom would get involved with absurdly small detail of the tasks in hand.)
- Early Final Fantasy games used this quite a bit. No matter what job the main characters typically held, the second the Call to Adventure rang, they answered. A prominent example is Final Fantasy V, in which four of the five player characters are royalty, and the second anything goes awry, they strike out on a quest to figure out what's going on. Alone. Even when they have entire armies, platoons, and teams of scholars at their command. No wonder one of them end up dead.
- Played straight in Battlefield 3 When Sgt. Miller (Tank driver) blows a road block and takes out an IED under gunfire because the bomb squad guy is too cowardly to do it. His partner lampshades it by saying "you should get that guys paycheck, 'cuz you just did his fucking job". Averted, however, by switching to Miller and the female pilot for scenes Blackthorne (Marine Recon) was not at or could not feasibly do.
- Real time strategy games. The player is high ranking military brass, from battlefield commander to general or commander of all military forces of a country. But is also responsible for base layout, skirmish tactics, aiming weapons and generally micromanaging every move and action of every combat unit, up to and including ordering miners to actually mine the minerals they are standing right next to.
- Seven Days a Skeptic and Six Days a Sacrifice have been accused of this. In the former, the ship's counselor is forced to do things like machinery maintenance and going EVA to investigate the comm array, while the engineer who's supposed to do these things loiter in the mess hall. In the latter, the protagonist has fallen down an elevator shaft, and has so many fractures and concussions that a wrong movement could kill him. Yet he's forced to hobble around the area carrying out fetch quests and interrogating prisoners while his uninjured allies hide in their rooms. The game maker has admitted to this, but saw no other option.
- Valkyria Chronicles, especially in the anime version, would have you believe only Squad 7 actually did anything that moved the war forward and that the Gallian Regulars only existed so we could watch guys in the underdog army die. This gets even more hilarious when you consider the absurdly small size of Squad 7 and the massive size of the Imperial Army by comparison. However, in the game/anime's defense, the Gallian commanders were so inept at their jobs this trope might very well have been true.
- Which makes their enemies even worst for not zerg rushing/artillery firing/flanking/ANYTHING Squad 7 or simply going around them.
- The Call of Duty series repeatedly has soldiers who are not only capable of using every piece of military equipment imaginable, but repeatedly ordered to use weapons that, by their military rank, they should not be let anywhere near.
- Parodied/justified on Agents of Cracked. Their boss doesn't remember the phone extensions for any of the other employees.
- While G.I. Joe had hundreds of characters (about one per every task that might need doing) it was extremely common to see one specialist doing the job of another. That's mainly due to never featuring all characters in the same episode.
- In particular, nearly every member of the team was apparently qualified in flying modern jet fighters, and did so often. Perhaps this is why they ended up causing so much damage to the cities they were assigned to protect from Cobra.
- In The Simpsons, members of the Family tend to get involved in affairs of other characters, with varying degrees of justification. One blatant example is in "Eight Misbehavin'", where Homer helps Apu steal back his children from the Zoo, with no explanation given except possibly that Homer is up for any kind of hijinks.
- Lampshaded in "Lisa's Date with Density", where Chief Wiggum says "You know, in most cities, the Chief of Police doesn't even go out on calls like these."
- In "Insane Clown Poppy" after Krusty bets and loses his daughter's violin to the mob and has to get it back, the Simpsons are inexplicably the first people he goes to for help.
- Often, one Simpson is the cause of, and another is the solution to, the problem that befalls Springfield:
- In "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment", Prohibition gets started because Bart drinks at the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, and Homer works to reverse it.
- In "Sweets and Sour marge", Homer indirectly, and Marge directly, causes the sugar ban, and Homer works to reverse it.
- Apparently enforced, according to the DVD Commentary for "Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2"; one writer suggested it should be Barney, but it was decided that it should be someone from the family.
- "Nuts to this; I'll just get Homer Simpson."
- In Futurama, the Planet Express team gets commissioned to do various improbable things, such as in "A Big Ball of Garbage", where they are put in charge of planting a bomb on the titular ball. Flimsily justified by reference to the fact that they're the only people willing/contractually obligated to take on such as suicidal mission.