Feeling Stuck? The Top 6 ‘Locked in a ______’ TV Episodes
You’ve seen it before: A character is going on about their day and suddenly, as what happens in situational comedies, something goes wrong and they’re trapped. No matter how they got stuck, the hilarity that follows includes claustrophobia, insanity, and some of the times, pregnancy.
Among all the TV episodes that feature the classic TV trope of being locked in a room, we picked the top six.
All in the Family, Season 2 Episode 14: “The Elevator Story”
Airing in 1971, this episode debuted the “stuck in an elevator with a pregnant woman on the brink of labor” trope, as if being trapped in an elevator wasn’t enough. Before attending Edith’s birthday dinner, the assertive and notoriously prejudiced Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) stops by the insurance agent’s office and gets stuck in an elevator with a condescending lawyer, a ditzy/hypochondriac secretary, the building’s janitor and his very pregnant wife. Tensions rise between the very different characters (mostly caused by Archie) until the janitor’s wife starts giving birth. Archie becomes uneasy at the sight of the birth and steps aside to avoid the commotion. In the final scene, which was improvised by O’Connor, Archie longingly looks at the newborn baby boy and realizes the miracle of birth and probably the amazing story he now has to tell at dinner.
Friends, Season 1 Episode 23: “The One with the Birth”
It wouldn’t be a sitcom if a character wasn’t trapped during one of the most important moments of his life. While in labor, Carol (Ross Geller’s ex-wife) kicks out Ross and her lesbian lover Susan for arguing. Continuing to fight in the hallway, Phoebe pushes them in a janitor’s closet to sort it out, and (you guessed it) they’re locked inside. Ross and Susan finally stop fighting when Phoebe says that she had no one to love her when she was young, and the unborn baby already has three parents fighting over it. We love this scene for Ross’ undeniably ridiculous way of arguing but also for Phoebe’s touching point that bring the two together.
Full House, Season 3, Episode 10: “The Greatest Birthday On Earth”
For Michelle Tanner’s 3rd birthday, Danny, Jesse and Joey planned the most spectacular circus-themed party: clowns, friends, a lion (aka Comet) and the best birthday cake a girl could imagine. Before the party starts, Uncle Jesse takes Stephanie and Michelle to the gas station to fix Danny’s car, and are locked inside. Despite missing her party, Uncle Jesse and Stephanie make the best by creating their own circus at the gas station using oil as clown paint, tires for costumes, and a makeshift cake out of Twinkies. By the time the gas station is unlocked and they arrive home, all of Michelle’s friends are gone, except one: an elephant! A gas station isn’t the best place to have a birthday party, but ultimately it was the greatest birthday ever.
Modern Family, Season 8 Episode 2: “A Stereotypical Day”
What seemed like a typical day for Phil Dunphy turns into a trialing 18 hours trapped in a closet after an open house. In a short montage, Modern Family hits classic movie references as Phil tries to “Matilda” his way out by using telekinesis to open the door and makes his own Wilson from Cast Away with a pot lid. Phil eventually escapes the closet but suffers major PTSD the rest of the episode. Hilarious yet dark, Modern Family heightens “trapped in the closet” to a level you would’ve never thought.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Season 2 Episode 1: “Did the Earth Move For You?”
Secrets come out when an earthquake hits Bel-Air and traps Will and his girlfriend Kathleen (Tisha Campbell-Martin) in the basement. As time passes, the two get on each other’s nerves and discover they might’ve rushed into things before getting to know each other. Between Kathleen’s fake nails, hair and eyelashes and Will’s obsession for “breaf mints”, Will and Kathleen are entertaining as a couple can be when first starting to date. We only wished the two would’ve worked out just to see more of Tisha Campbell-Martin on the show.
Community, Season 2 Episode 4: “Basic Rocket Science”
Starting with a slow-motion power walk in white jumpsuits, this trapped episode is unlike any other. As punishment for making a flag for Greendale that resembles a butthole, the study group must clean space simulator called “The Kentucky Fried Chicken Eleven Herbs and Space Experience.” After Dean Pelton gives specific instructions to not go inside, the group goes inside and accidentally starts the simulation, locking the doors. With a confined, crazed Pierce and help from Abed, who’s leading the Greendale control room, the team works together to flies the spaceship back to campus. This study group has the ability to reach the stars when they stick their minds to it.