Looking for examples of unreliable narrators in television shows.

For the unitiated, here’s a good definition of the term. From the link:

I’m looking for examples of this technique in television shows. It needn’t be American television, but it does need to be something made for television. Thus no cinema, no novels, and no short stories, unless you simply cannot control yourself. (And even then I reserve the right to mutter under my breath in feckless vexation.) I’ve already thought of How I Met Your Mother; anything else?

Oh, and one more thing:

If I wanted to go to TVTropes, I would have done so already. :stuck_out_tongue:

The narrator in Arrested Development is his own character, and not so much an impartial viewer.

Kyon has to count, though because of his biased perspective rather than because of any outright lies. Two examples:
(1) He tells us that he hates the name Kyon, but he never tells us his real name – perhaps because he really does like the nickname.
(2) He tells us that he hates being dragged into Haruhi’s world and into the SOS Brigade, but one suspects that he secretly enjoys it, partly because of the company of two pretty girls and one pretty humanoid interface.

Do individual episodes count?

House had the “Three Stories” episode in the first season. Though, I suppose it was a double fake-out, since he made it clear from the beginning that he was making some of the details up. But also doing it in a way to make it seem like he was keeping the essential details correct.

And of course, there was just the “Two Stories” episode, but House was a reliably unreliable narrator in that episode.

I guess a lot of series do Rashomon style episodes, but those aren’t really first person narratives, either.

That’s not how I remember them.

You mention How I Met Your Mother and don’t mention Doogie Howser MD? For shame!

I think the nature of series TV makes an unreliable narrator very unlikely. It can work on an individual episode, but audiences would tire of hearing one every week.

One single-episode version was the episode “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which uses multiple unreliable narrators showing the same events. The contrast between the unreliable stories is great TV.

Coupling did this a few times with multiple flashbacks that showed a slightly different version of things. “The Girl with Two Breasts” “Remember This,” and “Nine and a Half Minutes” all tell the same stories from multiple points of view, where some of the facts don’t agree.

nm. I just got whooshed.

There is an episode of the the BBC Show Coupling, called “You must remember this,” which recounts the meetings of several characters from their own points of view. Very funny.

You can watch it on YouTube:
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

How I Met Your Mother is clearly a counter-example; no bones are made about the fact that the narrator, Future Ted, is leaving out details, misremembering parts of the story, and outright lying at times. And I’d argue that Scrubs was implicitly using the technique as well.

This is what I meant by the difference between a Rashomon story and an unreliable narrator.

An unreliable narrator provides only a single viewpoint. Think “Great Gatsby”. The narrator is obviously besotted with Gatsby. You can trust certain facts and events as true but details and interpretations cannot be wholly trusted. And you have no other recourse but to largely accept the narrator’s account, because there’s no alternative.

A Rashomon story will have several different viewpoints where you may (or may not) be able to piece together a more or less “true” narrative by comparing where the different accounts agree or differ. It offers a narrative outside the single narratives of the individual characters.

Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck seem to fit the bill.

Nothing to add, but that’s one of my favorite episodes. Hell, as crass as that show is, that episode was written extremely well. I’d venture to call that episode one of the better written episodes in TV in general, but that might be overstepping it a bit.

Along those same lines, “Who Pooped the Bed?” was pretty similar IIRC. Another episode requiring Artemis to come in and sort things out.

No, they wouldn’t. They’re not narrators and their programs don’t have narratives in the sense the OP is asking about. (They’re talk shows, not fiction or nonfiction.) Please keep your political comments in the appropriate forums.

Yes – the unreliable narrator is not just a narrator: he or she is also usually a participant in the story, so you are told the story seen through the narrator’s eyes. Another example is Brideshead Revisited, both the novel and the TV series, where you see all the events through the perspective of Charles Ryder. He’s not “unreliable” because he tells lies: it’s because he’s biased, and in this case because Charles is in love with several of the members of the Marchmain family as well as with their way of life.

All in the Family episode #58 “Everybody Tells the Truth”


Not only this, but the narrator does lie (or say things that turn out to be incorrect). I remember the narrator saying that if George Michael and Maeby had a child, it would have been stupid (comparing to a then-current instance of stupidity) because they were cousins – except they turned out not to be biological cousins in the end after all. The narrator’s aware of this before the characters are, as well.

I thought they ended up being cousins in that episode. It was a strange (well written) bit of dialogue and maybe the audience never got the real answer, but I thought she was conceived in a lab, but still biologically Tobias’ and Lindsey’s.

“So your saying she’s not my cousin?”
“I’m saying she already spent her inheritance just getting here”

No, the reason she’s not GM’s cousin is

that Lindsay isn’t George and Lucille’s biological child.