A blackout is the worst. The nature of them means you’re always caught unawares. One minute you’re in the middle of cooking dinner, the next you’re padding around in the dark, looking for a candle. And some matches. And then you’ve struck the match, it’s burning away, but, wait a second, the candle has no wick! The hell? This never happens in movies or TV shows!
In fact, whenever there’s a blackout in a TV show or movie – and let’s be honest, it’s one of the most common TV tropes, aside from being stuck in an elevator – someone always seems to have a roomful of candles that have been placed in the precise location that provides maximum lighting, with a box of matches nearby.
Top 6 blackouts from movies & TV
Even though blackouts are lame in real life, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy them on TV, because there have been plenty of blackouts in TV shows and movies. Here are just six of them – and, yes, they’re mostly from TV shows.
Jurassic Park, 1993
How else to inflict a little drama, suspense and, you know, general soul-crushing terror, than to have a dinosaur park that operates almost entirely on a computer-driven security system experience a power outage (albeit one that was deliberately caused by the park owner’s rival)? Oh, by having a dinosaur park with an almost entirely computer-driven security system that doesn’t have a back-up generator experience a power outage.
Grey’s Anatomy ‘Bring the Pain’, 2005
As is the case in real life, crazytown storms in Grey’s Anatomy’s Seattle cause mass casualties; people have car accidents, are electrocuted, get trapped under things. Naturally, Grey’s had to up the ante a bit by having the storm cause a blackout that sees the power go down at the precise moment George O’Malley is in an elevator taking a patient to the OR for emergency heart surgery (because, again, no back up generator?). It’s Grey’s, though, so George performs heart surgery on the patient in the elevator and, just as he finishes said emergency surgery, the power comes on and the elevator doors open. All is right in the world once more.
This was a TV show built entirely on the premise that people had been living for fifteen years without any electricity whatsoever, due to a sustained global blackout. No computers, no Internet, no hot showers, no anything. For. Fifteen. Years. In this new, post-apocalyptic land, public order had collapsed entirely, presumably because people were bored and if you can’t binge something on Netflix, you might as well form a militia. Except, wouldn’t you just find a way to power your computer using wind turbines or solar energy? Just sayin’.
The L Word ‘Liquid Heat’, 2009
It’s saying something when one of the more believable storylines on this show involved a series of rolling blackouts – which actually do occur in California as frequently as earthquakes – that caused the two main characters to get in trapped in an elevator together (again with the elevator!) and confess their love for each other. Elsewhere, two other characters also accidentally kissed in the dark (because why not pack as many clichés into one episode as possible) and someone else has an argument with someone else.
Friends ‘The One With The Blackout’, 1994
Unlike most other TV shows, Friends tried a different tack and used a blackout to create, not drama, but hilarity. In this episode, Chandler is trapped in an ATM vestibule with a Victoria’s Secret model and nearly chokes on his gum trying to impress her with his ‘boyish charm’; Ross is attacked by a cat just as he (Ross, not that cat) begins to confess his feelings to Rachel, which leads to Rachel meeting another guy, Paolo; and Phoebe composes what would become her signature song, Smelly Cat. It’s also one of the first episodes of Friends to crossover with Mad About You
Mad About You ‘Pandora’s Box’, 1994
Once upon a time (1994), in a land far, far away (America), some people (NBC network execs) didn’t think Friends would be too popular, so they had it piggy back off the success of one of its other shows (Mad About You), until they realised that Friends was actually far more popular and beloved than Mad About You, at which point they stopped. In this episode, which followed the Friends episode ‘The One With The Blackout’, we learn the cause of that citywide blackout in New York: Jamie (Helen Hunt) tried stealing cable from her neighbour, causing a blackout in the process. Ha ha ha.
Honourable mentions go to Charmed’s ‘Power Outage’ episode from 2000 and Grey’s Anatomy’s second blackout-themed ‘Perfect Storm’ episode from 2009, where Chief Webber is electrocuted by electricity-conducting water! He doesn’t die, though. Phew!