Over the weekend, much of the world’s population dutifully set its clocks one hour ahead in adherence with daylight saving time, that mandatory act of “springing forward” in order to... something about farmers. Or coal. Or whatever. As a popular Last Week Tonight With John Oliver segment pointed out, most of us don’t actually know why daylight saving time exists, or more pointedly, why it’s still around. (The answers: Germans, and who knows.) What we do know is that, twice a year, everyone suddenly has to remember how to set the clocks in their cars, toddlers scream extra loudly about bedtime, and the number of accidents goes up because everyone’s groggy and confused. Daylight saving time is one giant, inexplicable headache, right down to its name: It’s daylight saving, singular, even though “daylight savings” just sounds right. It’s like one big, fucking “Actually...” from the government.
That said, daylight saving time rarely has any real, dramatic impact on our lives, so stories where it plays any sort of significant role are understandably rare. Here are nine exceptions.
The “adventures” part of The Adventures Of Pete & Pete is not meant in jest: The live-action Nickelodeon series granted the experiences and mysteries of youth an epic sense of proportion, conversely making it one of TV’s most authentic depictions of adolescence. What happens to the ice-cream truck driver at the end of summer? Who’s responsible for those “inspected by” tags on your underwear? And where does that extra hour go every fall? The third question forms the basis of season two’s “Time Tunnel,” which traces a beloved Wrigley family tradition: Big Pete (Michael Maronna) and Little Pete (Danny Tamberelli) traveling one hour into the past at the end of daylight saving time. Trouble is, on the fateful Saturday depicted in “Time Tunnel,” Big Pete has his mind on the future, too eager to find out if his buddy Ellen (Alison Fanelli) is a girl and a friend who could also be his girlfriend. Ditching a kid sibling in favor of a date is the stuff of classic TV conflict, but it’s also a poignant comment on growing up. In “Time Tunnel,” the Petes are at a stage in their lives where their age differences are becoming much more pronounced, a time warp that no amount of Riboflavin can protect against. (Says Big Pete in voice-over: “Without a megadose of Riboflavin, you can end up stuck in the time vortex.”) Wise beyond his years, Little Pete recognizes this, and he sacrifices time-traveling with his older brother so that Big Pete can reverse his callow treatment of Ellen. He’s rewarded for it, thanks to another mystery of time and space: By crossing time zones during a climactic chase with bully “Endless Mike” Hellstrom (Rick Gomez), Little Pete gets to wind the clock back two whole hours. [Erik Adams]
Cartoon Network’s superhero satire Teen Titans Go! has been known to offer some useful, purely educational episodes from time to time—like the one where Robin teaches everyone about equity. “Titan Saving Time” carries on this tradition with an adventure that’s all about how daylight saving time works. When the Titans become frustrated that the 2 o’clock hour keeps disappearing while they’re sleeping, they set off to investigate the de facto villains behind any daylight saving time story: farmers. The trail of the missing time eventually leads them to Old MacDonald’s farm, where they discover that the namesake evil farmer has literally kidnapped Time, here personified by a clock, in order to ruin the sleep of detested “city slickers.” Luckily, just as the Titans are about to be crushed by the farmer’s dog (Bingo is his name-o), Time is literally saved by Daylight—an especially muscular Sun in spandex. And that, kids, is where daylight saving time gets its name. [Sam Barsanti]
As the intro to one-season wonder Eerie, Indiana explains, the series concerns teenager Marshall Teller, who moves to a strange Midwestern town where he often runs into trouble whenever he doesn’t abide by its bizarre rules. In “The Lost Hour” (one of three Eerie episodes directed by actor Bob Balaban), Marshall refuses to accept the fact that Indiana—in the 1990s, at least—doesn’t abide by daylight saving time. Declaring “I want my hour!” Marshall sets his watch back anyway. In Eerie, of course, this small act results in a rip in the space-time continuum, thrusting Marshall into a surreal dimension, called The Lost Hour, where almost everyone in town has disappeared. That is, except a runaway teenage girl, a group of homicidal garbagemen, and one really familiar-looking old milkman, who wears the same key around his neck as Marshall. Marshall eventually escapes The Lost Hour, but not before the milkman tells him he’ll return there someday, setting up an overarching mythology for the show that suggests Eerie and Marshall are forever linked. Unfortunately, Eerie, Indiana only lasted nine more episodes, so we never got to see that arc play out. But suffice it to say, daylight saving time has never had such universe-destroying consequences. [Gwen Ihnat]
“Have a ball, baby / Let the party begin / It’s daylight savings, where we get to sleep in!” sing Mordecai and Rigby at the beginning of “Saving Time,” a season five episode from Cartoon Network’s Regular Show. Unfortunately, all their excitement over that extra hour of sleep—including pounding sodas before bedtime, and Rigby waking up exclaiming, “Man, I wish every day was daylight savings!”—is all just a mistake. They’re a day early, and as punishment for their tardiness to the park where they work as groundskeepers, their manager forces the pair to stay up until 2 a.m. to manually change all the clocks. When the duo decides to prank him by setting the clocks back two hours instead of one, the entire park manually separates from the Earth to relocate to the correct time zone. It turns out time isn’t just the bullshit construct Rigby thinks it is. [Kyle Ryan]
Seinfeld’s season eight episode “The Susie” focuses on a coworker who mistakes Elaine for someone named Susie (not Suze), but its requisite Kramer subplot is driven by Kramer getting impatient about daylight saving time. “I’m sick of waiting,” he tells Jerry. “I’m springing ahead right now.” Naturally, setting his watch forward prematurely becomes a constant source of complication throughout. Kramer almost immediately makes his friend Mike think he’s tardy, then later heads to see the Knicks, where he becomes incensed that “for some reason, they started the game an hour late.” This leads to him getting involved in a fight between Spike Lee and Reggie Miller, which ends with them all winding up at a strip club together. Finally, Kramer misses his chance to parlay Jerry’s gambling wins because he thinks the OTB is closed. The whole thing is just a minor running gag, of course, but—as is so often the case with Seinfeld—it’s illustrative of how not abiding by one of life’s piddling little rules, like daylight saving time, can so quickly put you out of step with society. [Kyle Ryan]
Homer has a long history with daylight saving time, blaming it for all the days he’s showed up late to work in the classic “King-Size Homer.” Simpsons Comics expanded on this fractious relationship with a story in which the time change once again causes Homer to be tardy, leading to his pay being docked. When Homer leads a typically hot-headed charge to abolish daylight saving time once and for all, it catches on with the rest of Springfield, but in typically half-assed fashion: The new anti-daylight saving law basically allows people to decide the time for themselves. Naturally, chaos ensues as Springfieldians exploit the loophole—like Barney forcing Moe’s to have a never-ending happy hour. The Simpsons’ usual voice of reason, Lisa, unites with an unlikely ally, Apu, to undo the law by using the loophole against it, and turn back the clock to the hour before it was passed. Once again, Homer has to go back to cursing all those “lousy farmers.” [Kyle Ryan]
Daylight saving time often gets a bad rap (see: the entire rest of this Inventory.) But every once in a while, it really can save the day, as in this 1999 episode of Craig McCracken’s beloved cartoon The Powerpuff Girls. In “Daylight Savings,” the city of Townsville is left in the lurch when its titular, pint-sized superheroes are saddled with an overly restrictive curfew. Thank goodness, then, for The Time Channel (and its Tom Kenny-voiced announcer, Sonny Dial) for reminding the girls’ father figure, Professor Utonium, that he’d actually forgotten to take the time change into account when he sent his little heroes to bed. Because of that last-minute intervention of DST, all the villains get properly beaten up before bedtime, once again. [William Hughes]
With the commencement of each daylight saving time comes a dawn chorus of people shouting that it sucks, that it’s not worth the hassle, and that it should be repealed already. It’s a sentiment expressed in an annual flood of petitions and polls—74 percent of Americans want it gone, according to one conducted in 2017—which makes getting rid of DST the kind of simplistic, populist idea some idiot could ride to easy political victory. For example, Zach Galifianakis’ bumbling wannabe-congressman Marty Huggins, who makes it a key part of his platform in Jay Roach’s 2012 satire The Campaign, “because I hate when it gets dark early!” Ditto Veep’s Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), who, in the season six episode “Justice,” takes the House floor to stump for freeing America from a “bossy babysitter government” who forces everyone to remember to set its clocks twice a year, just because. The enthusiastic public response to Marty and Jonah’s crusades takes them further than either might have gone without it. Jonah—who started railing against DST after it made him late to meetings with potential donors—even ends up impressing a wealthy backer who sets him up for a 2020 presidential run. Truth be told, if a real-life candidate ran a single-issue campaign built on abolishing daylight saving time, he’d probably win. [Sean O’Neal]