But last night's episode hit rock-bottom in writing terms. A young couple are at the dinner table with her parents. An unappealing social event is proposed, and the young man says to his partner 'But what about that thing we're doing?'. She replies, 'The thing? I cancelled it', and he's trapped.
A small thing (literally) you might think. But it isn't. It's the sound of barrels being scraped. How many times have you heard the phrase being used in poor quality TV and film dialogue? I'm very surprised to learn that there's no TV Trope devoted to it. Time to start one - your submissions welcome. Seriously, if your script leaves you with no other option than to reach for one of the most familiar clichés in popular culture, throw it away. Start again. Ask someone else to start again, in fact.
At least Family Guy tries to add some energy to it with minor transgression:
Brian Griffin: Uhh, I don't think that's going to be a possibility, uhhh, I have plans, with Chris! Chris and I have plans this afternoon!
Chris Griffin: [Chris walks by] We do?
Brian Griffin: Yeah, yeah! We're doing that thing, we're doing what you usually do on a Thursday afternoon!
Chris Griffin: Masturbate?
Brian Griffin: That's it, that's what we're going to do together.
Here's a tip, scriptwriters. If you find yourself typing 'you know, the thing' or anything similar, consider buying a ticket to Switzerland and a Dignitas voucher. Because artistically, you're already there.