Revisiting the Best Charity Auction Episodes of TV Sitcoms

Going once, going twice...

August 10, 2023 6:27 am
Charity auction TV episodes
Who can forget this TV trope?
Danica Killelea

For some, it takes until adulthood to realize how popular TV tropes can influence and ultimately warp our sense of reality and danger. For instance, did you know only a couple of people die per year from wandering into killer quicksand? Similarly, it took me until my mid-thirties to realize Mom and Dad were never going to sit me down and reveal we’re related to all of The Beach Boys. 

That’s the fun of TV formulas; take the charity/bachelor/date auction episode. This classic television trope features a big event like a ball or a dance with a charity auction. Whether it’s a date auction or not, these episodes always include some element of romance and usually end with the cast coming together as one to support whatever charity a room full of coked-up Harvard grads think sounds the noblest. 

Raising money for any number of causes ranging from the environment to new cheerleading uniforms, the charity auction is the perfect place to pair together characters who’d normally never be in the same scenes while making light of buying humans. Sure, they may not be the most insightful or relatable episodes of television, but they always provide the wild antics audiences expect in sitcoms.

Here are seven of the best charity auction episodes from some of our favorite sitcoms.  

The O.C.

“The Risky Business”

At the behest of his wife, Sandy Cohen reluctantly agrees to act as host/auctioneer at another freaking O.C. charity auction. Things go awry when Ryan’s scumbag brother Trey steals an auction exhibit, leading the boys on a wild goose chase after the wayward Atwood and his crystal egg. Ryan and Seth eventually get it back in time for the auction, giving Orange County’s 1% something to salivate over. It’s worth noting this episode does not feature Oliver. 

Arrested Development 

“Charity Drive”

The family’s country club holds a Save the Wetlands Bachelorette Auction, where Lindsay, Lucille Bluth and her arch-nemesis Lucille Ostero eagerly vie for the attention of Newport’s hottest bachelors. In the end, Michael pity-bids on Lindsay while Buster famously bids on his mom, continuing the Bluth family cycle of incest and treason. 


“Can’t Buy Me Love”

After being convinced by Martin to enter into his friend’s charity event, Frasier and Bulldog hit the meat market as bachelors where the former is promptly bought up by a sexy model named Kristina. Things are looking pretty spicy for Frasier and his date until he finds out she’s using him to babysit her kid. 

Saved by the Bell

“Date Auction”

Much to the chagrin of Ms. Jessie Spano, Bayside High hosts a date auction to raise money for new cheerleading uniforms (which just doesn’t seem to be the best allocation of charity cash), but the episodes get very special when an “overweight” girl named Wendy wins a date with Zack. Jessie ends up paired with Screech, while the aforementioned classmate likely develops an inferiority complex and dies young. 

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“The Barber”

Jerry gets a terrible haircut from his usual barber while preparing for an upcoming bachelor auction, throwing him and his dueling barbers into a clandestine game of cat and mouse. Kramer is instead sent to the auction, which… goes about as expected while a surprise viewing of Edward Scissorhands de-escalates the whole barber situation. 

California Dreams

“Can’t Buy Me Love”

At a school fundraiser where — get this — kids are auctioned off to their fellow classmates as servants, Sly tries to win over his love interest/temporary property Julie Pruit as Tony, Matt and the rest of the gang feel the crushing effects of indentured servitude. 

Full House

“A Little Romance”

Aching for a bit of romance, D.J. Tanner meets Ryan at the park while babysitting, launching her into a fast and furious relationship with a boy who’s not in it to win it. Meanwhile, Danny co-hosts and participates in a bachelor auction with Uncle Joey and Uncle Jesse, where a bidding war naturally ensues. Danny and Joey are sold for a laughable $450 (total) which prompts Becky to jump in and win the significantly more competitive bid on Jesse. Everyone ends up happy at the end, except D.J., who gets dumped big time

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