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"If that's the Happiness Hotel, I'd hate to see what the sad one looks like."—Fozzie, The Great Muppet Caper
A gag in comedy. The characters go on vacation, but they find out the brochure pretty much lied about... well, everything. It promised them that the "Ultra Cool Inn" would be a luxury four-star hotel, but instead they find a crumbling cottage with a dangling, faded sign reading "Ultra Cool Inn", which is filled with cobwebs and has roaches living inside the refrigerator.
Sometimes you'll see the characters holding up the advert, and then revealing the actual place behind it. The elements will correspond, but will be very different. So the swimming pool will be in the same place, but the real one will be dirty brown, with stink lines coming off it.
Unfortunately, sometimes Truth in Television. Not just for vacations, either.
- Played with in the old "Joe Isuzu" ads run by Isuzu in the 1980's, where Joe would make outlandish and frequently impossible claims about Isuzu vehicles, with subtitles giving actual information. "It has as many seats as the Astrodome!" "(Note: actually seats six.)"
- The Beach Episode in Magical Pokaan starts with the girls holding an ad for a sunny, crowded beach. Cut to the same beach in the middle of a typhoon.
- The second Hot Springs Episode of Wagaya no Oinari-sama. has Noboru realize that the brochure for the inn he went to used this. The place is cheap and broken-down, but Kuu loves it regardless.
- The protagonist of Ranma ½ fell prey to this due to vague language, not to deliberate malice. When the prize for a good performance as Romeo was "Win a trip to see China!" he was excited at the chance to return to the Jusenkyo springs to cure his curse. As it turns out, "China" was the first name of Furinkan High's Romeo & Juliet producer. And Ranma got to see him. In the Swedish translation, they told him he could win "en resa till Kina" (a trip to China), but later Ranma found out that what he really won was the homophonic Enres Atiltjina, the producer of the Furinkan High play. Atiltjina's comment? "Thank you for winning me."
- The mid-eighties Robin Williams vehicle Club Paradise involved the protagonists intentionally opening such a hotel. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Great Muppet Caper, quoted above. To the hotel's credit, though, the people living in the hotel are indeed happy... Although this says more about the muppets than the the hotel.
- In National Lampoon's Vacation, the Griswolds discover their London accommodations to be... less than what the Pig In A Poke producers had promised.
- Oh no. They were promised a top-quality British hotel and they did indeed get the best quality British hotel.
- The Hotel Coral Essex in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paridise.
- In Dharma and Greg, a bed'n'breakfast which promised a stately veranda, a breathtaking view of the sunset, and a whole host of other things, turned out to be a trailer behind a guy's house.
- Happens in a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode, involving a timeshare.
- Lane's honeymoon in Mexico in Gilmore Girls turned out like this.
So did the rest of her marriage.
- In the Dinosaurs series, when the Sinclair family visits Wesaysoland.
- One Are You Being Served episode had the entire staff forced to take their vacation time simultaneously and at a Grace Brothers approved resort. As Mr. Rumboldt read off the tourist descriptions, he showed a slide show of the resort's features; the first one matched the hype, but none of the rest did. ("The beach is only twenty minutes away." "By jet?")
- The "holding up the advert" variant is used with Todd's much-crappier-than-expected apartment in The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.
- A flock of priests go to have a drink at their local "Tea Bar". The half-broken neon marquee reveals that the building is actually a "Striptease Cabaret", and the priests are quite (pleasantly) shocked with their visit. Such is the Benny Hill Show.
- An episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody that saw Maddie temporarily Put on a Bus had Sister Dominique showing her a camp brochure with a waterfall and various other natural wonders...then the camp turns out to be horrible (they once had leech cobbler as a meal and are across the road from a slaughterhouse).
- In the Victorious special "Locked Up", Yerba is this. For clarification, the Yerba wesbite depticts a beautiful country with white sandy beaches, but this turns out to be a scan of a picture hanging on the wall in a local hotel. The actual Yerba is a 3rd world hellhole with a easily angered dictator for a ruler.
- In Bewitched, Darrin and Samantha go on holiday to a "beautiful cabin" Larry has in the hills... which turns out to be a decaying, crumbling mess. When a storm sets in, Sam magics it into the cabin that was described. Trouble starts when Larry then shows up...
- Happens on Martin with Martin and Gina's vacation getaway. To make matters worse, they fell out with their best friends, Beta Couple Tommy and Pam, who ended up staying there too. They made up just in time to fight a dog-sized rat.
- Dilbert and Dogbert went on a trip to Clyde Canyon, which turned out to be a ditch. Subverted when, as they left, another hiker asked them, "Why were you hanging out in that ditch? Beautiful Clyde Canyon is just over that ridge."
- FoxTrot has Andrea swearing that next time, she's gonna be the one in charge of vacation plans. This comes after the revelation that there's going to be a mock hurricane ("I wondered why everything was velcroed to the walls"). Roger is still clueless: "Uh, honey, your eye twitches like that when you're happy, right?"
- Technically more of a subversion, as the dialogue implies that the brochure was pretty much honest; Roger's just that stupid.
- And to be fair, everyone else had a good time.
- A private version happens in an early story in For Better or For Worse when the family uses a friend's cottage and finds it a wreck, but they make the best of it. When they get back from their comically unpleasant stay, their friend asks how they liked the TV and the jacuzzi, which were definitely not at the cottage they used. To that, Elly roars at John "You idiot! We went to the wrong cabin!!"
- A running gag in Frank and Ernest involves the guys, in one form or another, advertising something. Frank will point out that the ad is entirely false, and Ernest will explain how all the supposedly good stuff he wrote about is really bad.
- The beginning of Luigi's Mansion.
- Pre-release gameplay videos for Metal Gear Solid 2.
- Justified in that NOT lying would ruin a big surprise (which was ruined anyway, but that's not the point).
- And it pissed off the fans, which was arguably the entire purpose of the game, with the Raiden being a parody of people who want to be just like Snake.
- This commercial for Action 52 makes it look much better than it actually is by showing as little of each game as possible.
- In Garfield and Friends, episode 34: "Housebreak Hotel", a pet hotel promised a luxury stay. When Jon left, Garfield discovered that the sleeping accommodations were stacked cages in rooms, and the food was worse than raisins. In episode 53: "Wonderful World", the titular amusement park is discovered to have fallen into disrepair... much to the eventual ire of the founder... In episode 73: "Rainy Day Robot", a robot, advertised as being able to bring about any weather on command, never actually causes rain to fall from the sky, although a number of other things do... including 27 pianos.
- Earlier, in the Garfield in Paradise special, their accommodations fail to live up to expectations:
Jon: "Beach. You know -- sand... with water along it... this is the Seaside Motel, isn't it?"
Desk Clerk: "Mr. Arbuckle... what's in a name?"
- There's a flashback scene in Arthur in which the titular character recalls seeing a billboard advertising "Santa's Workshop: Come share a sundae with Santa and his reindeer!" When the family actually arrive at that location, they find a completely mundane house with a man in a low-quality Santa Claus suit who demands to know whether they brought any sundaes to share with him. "How can you share a sundae with Santa, if you don't bring a sundae to Santa?"
- Hermes and his wife go on a holiday to "the spa planet", which turns out to be a forced labour camp, complete with perky fitness instructor/slave driver.
- Somewhat inverted in "The Series Has Landed"- Fry is eager to visit the moon for the first time, only to end up visiting a large theme park with cheesy attractions. He hijacks a lunar rover to break out and see the "real" moon, which ends up almost killing him.
- The Simpsons:
- The 'Sleep Eazy Motel', which due to light failure seemed to be called 'Sleazy Motel'.
- Also from The Simpsons is Kamp Krusty.
- The Simpsons Movie seemed like it might be heading for this when the Simpsons head for Alaska, Homer's idea of a map is to plaster the poster advertising Alaska to the car windshield. When they get there Alaska is great and actually has the exact same view as the poster.
- The wine-making estate when Bart visits France.
- Bart and his classmates took a spring break trip to visit the World's Fair based on a 14-year-old brochure.
- Lionel Hutz' advertising as a lawyer. "Works on contingency.?No,money down". At which point he eats the Bar Association logo.
- The contestants on Total Drama Island were told that they would be staying at a luxury resort, not at an abandoned campground in Northern Ontario. Subverted when we see that they do eventually go to the resort -- after they're voted off.
- This happens to the Scooby gang in The Secret of Shark Island. Not only did the brochure fail to mention the run-down hotel and general dereliction of the island, it also forgot to talk about the shark-infested waters. Appropriately, as it turns out.
- In a recent, real-life example, a British leisure park in the New Forest advertised a "British Lapland" complete with real log cabins, huskies, reindeer, a Christmas market, nativity scene and a tunnel of light. In reality, once visitors paid the £25 entry fee, they found that the log cabins were B&Q garden sheds, the nativity scene was a poster on a billboard in a field of mud, and the tunnel of light was actually a handful of lights stung across some dead trees. Stallholders in the "market" weren't paid, and Santa was reportedly beaten up by angry visitors.
- The majority of frozen meals, complete with the opportunity to compare the tantalizing gourmet repast on the box picture with the puny, viscous, nuked mess on the inside. This blog that does just that.
- Advertising laws require any food being sold be something that's actually in the package. The solution? Get a couple truckloads of the food product, find the best bits from thousands of packages, and doctor them: additives are a big no-no, but using a charcoal lighter to burn grill marks is fine.
- Meccano had a model blocksetter crane pictured on the box lid of every set. However, not even the massive Set 10 (the largest) came with all the parts required to build the model (it was missing some gears), to say nothing of the tiny Set 1 (the smallest)--which also pictured the model.