One good indicator of a Broke Episode
is some commodity to be lost due to not having enough money to pay the bill for it, or forgetting to pay the bill at all. Or sometimes it'll simply be a mistake that causes the Magical Computer
or some vital piece of Applied Phlebotinum
to be unavailable at the most drama-inducing moment possible.
Truth in Television
for some payment plans, particularly for electricity or gas; up until the mid-1980s, the standard method of paying for these in Britain and possibly some other countries was to actually feed coins into a device rather like a parking meter, and someone from the supplier would come round once a month to collect it. Hilarity ensuing
as the protagonist fumbles around trying to put a coin into the meter and turn the handle by torchlight was once a Sitcom
staple. The modern equivalent uses RFID-based "keys" that can be charged up with funds at the post office or most convenience stores, leaving you royally shafted if the meter is ticking down and everything's about to shut.
- One issue of Judge Dredd taking place on the moon has a band of robbers suffocating because they hadn't paid the oxygen bill for their hideout.
- Played hilariously straight in the Italian movie Amici Miei (My Friends), where a woman tries to commit suicide by letting the gas leak... and fails because her husband didn't pay the bill.
- When Harry and Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber finally noticed a sign of someone desiring to harm them, (and it's a miracle they did, since they believed their pet bird's head fell off its body) they assumed it was over the unpaid gas bill.
- Happens in The Dark Knight Rises after Bane ruins Bruce's fortune. Electricity to Wayne Manor is shut off not long after, because he can't afford it anymore.
- In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin explains to his teacher that he couldn't do his homework because his parents didn't pay the gravity bill.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: in one episode the BBC ran out of money, and the gas & heat had been turned off in the flat they used as their studio. The narrator is pleased to announce that the pawn shop has accepted to buy his watch, which should get them a few more minutes of broadcasting.
- Frequently happens in Shameless.
- It was the basis for a whole episode of Bottom, where the TV rental money got spent elsewhere and Richie and Eddie had to resort to playing chess - with hilarious consequences, as usual.
- In the first episode of Scorpion, the gang is illegally tapping into the local power grid because Sylvester got wrapped up in his work and forgot to pay the electric bill. It's heavily implied that this is normal for them.
- In Mac Hall, Ian neglects to pay the electric bill in lieu of buying some new video games. Oops. (Of course, in a later strip when the power goes out again, Ian is immediately blamed, even though that time it isn't his fault)
- A pair of aristocrats joke that this is the cause of a skeleton falling out of the sky in one Mountain Time comic.
- The plot of the Mickey Mouse short "Moving Day" is set in motion by the fact that Mickey and Donald Duck haven't paid the rent in six months.
- Sponge Bob Square Pants: Subverted. SpongeBob thinks Gary did this when the electricity goes out, but it was actually caused by the Blue Jellyfish cutting the wires.
- Subverted in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Super Squatter". Master Shake refuses to pay the bills because they're too expensive and flushes them down the toilet. Frylock ends up giving him a talking down to when their electricity, water and heat get shut off.
- It gets better - Shake, being immune to learning lessons, solves the problem by stealing power from Carl's house, which burns down due to "bad wiring" (Carl is too wasted to care).
- Megas XLR: one episode was devoted to Coop trying to figure out why his TV wasn't working, and after "juicing" and destroying a planet-sized monster to save a satellite, his mother asks him if he paid the bill.
- In the "Joker's Millions" episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Joker's running out of everything. No money for bullets, gas, gadgets, and so on.
- The Real Ghostbusters:
- In one episode, the Ghostmaster curses the Ghostbusters so no plumbing or electrical devices within forty feet from any of them would work. After they defeated him and broke the curse, they were watching television to celebrate until it stopped working because Peter forgot to pay the electric bill.
- In another episode, a ghost family moves inside the Ghostbusters' headquarters. When the busters return and find themselves unable to open the front door. Peter asked if they forgot to pay the rent and Egon answered that the place is theirs and they don't have to pay rent.
- The Simpsons: Homer once forgot to pay for the insurance. When he remembered, he left an envelope with the money at the insurance company, where he found a message saying they'd not return until 15:00. He was then worried something would happen before then.