What is the origin/name of this trope?

I’ve had a look on TV Tropes, and a google search for it, but I really don’t know what I’m searching for. Nothing particularly important really, it’s just been bugging me a little. Also I could have sworn there had been a thread on this before, but couldn’t for the life of me think what the title might be.
The plot device goes as follows:

  1. A person or group of people perform badly at a specific task.
  2. They are offered something, usually a liquid of some sort, that will magically give them the ability to perform the task well.
  3. They take the substance and perform well.
  4. It is revealed that the substance was merely water (or something equally mundane) and that it merely gave them the confidence to succeed.

It crops up a lot in episodic comedies on TV. There’s often twists on this formula for satirical purposes, like the episode of Futurama (30% Iron Chef), where the ‘ordinary water’ that makes Bender’s food taste good actually has LSD in it, and the episode of Flight of the Conchords (New Zealand Town), where it really was the hair gel that made them cool on stage.
A classic example would be Space Jam (that Looney Tunes movie with Michael Jordan in), where Bugs Bunny gives everyone some of Michael’s ‘secret stuff’ in a handy bottle.

First thing I’d like to know, due to some strange desire to learn the origin of various things, is what is the first example of this? I wonder if there’s an example of it in mythology.
Secondly, does this plot device have a name? You would have thought so by now, since it seems like a mandatory plotline in children’s TV programs. I reckon they have a bucket of them that they pull out and work into whatever the series is about.

Placebo effect?

Well it goes back to at least 1832, and Donizetti’s opera L’elisir d’amore (the Elixir of Love or The Love Potion), in which the “task” is winning the woman he loves, and the magic potion is actually wine, not water. Drinking the potion gives him enough confidence to be attractive to women.

If you ever saw Pavarotti in that role . . . he hammed it up enough to totally upstage Kathleen Battle. And in spite of his extreme inebriation, he could still sing. That’s one powerful placebo!

Well, of course, wine can actually do that.

(somewhat off-topic)

I love the TV Tropes site, but it’s not well organised.
It’s rather hard to search thanks to the humorous titles and sometimes rambling descriptions. And it would be good if tropes were somehow weighted by how commonly they are thought to occur.

It is a wiki, so it can be edited if you don’t like it.

Tropes just calls it the Magic Feather, after what gave Dumbo the confidence to fly.

There are also anti-placebos . . . like when Wile E. Coyote discovers he’s stepped off a cliff.

Ha! Yes, or in extreme cases pauses and holds up a sign reading “What on *earth *am I doing?”. The laws of physics do not apply until you realize you are in deep shit. :smiley: