Out of Job, Into the Plot

One of the trickiest things to deal with in a modern adventure series is how to handle the character's day job. Exactly how much time is your main character taking off work in order to save the world every week? No boss is going to be that understanding forever. Unless your character's job is an integral part of his adventures (such as a police officer starring in a police procedural, etc.) you've got to account for it all somehow.

Of course, there's a fix for it: Shortly before or after the story begins, the protagonist loses his comfortable ordinary job. This provides him with both a strong motivation to find a new source of income and a lot of free time to engage in more adventurous activities. It provides drama and possible story hooks while removing possible limitations on the plot. The downside is, well... how is it that your hero is still living in that gorgeous penthouse apartment two months later?

See "Friends" Rent Control, Standardized Sitcom Housing and Improbable Food Budget for problems this can raise. Compare Who's Watching the Store? for when characters remain employed and still take time off for the plot, with all the Fridge Logic that implies. See also Get Up, Go to School, Save the World for situations in which this is not in effect, and the ramifications can be dire.


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    Comic Books 
  • Batwoman gets kicked out of military academy (job training counts, right?) because she was making out with her girlfriend; this allows her the free time to start training to become Batwoman.

  • In Office Space, the main protagonist doesn't lose his job (by sheer chance) but his two deuteragonists lose theirs, kicking off their scheme.
  • In God Bless America, Frank wakes up, goes to work, and finds out he is fired, adding one more reason for him to go on a killing spree.
  • Aspen Extreme starts with TJ employed as a low-level unskilled machinist. His boss offers him a promotion; TJ takes this as the opportune time to quit his job so he can follow his dream of becoming a ski pro.
  • After the post-intro Time Skip, Mr. Incredible is (presumably) fired by his boss for throwing him through several cubicle walls after said boss yelled at him for helping his clients and refused to let him stop a mugging going on outside.
  • Mrs. Doubtfire begins with Robin Williams' character walking out of a cartoon voice-acting job in protest at the cartoon character smoking.
  • In the 2005 remake of Fun with Dick and Jane, Jane quits her job and Dick's company goes bankrupt due to Enron-style corruption on the same day. Since Dick was used as the scapegoat for the company, he's unable to find work, which drives most of the plot. In the original, only Dick loses his job, since Jane was a housewife.
  • At the beginning of Bruce Almighty, Bruce is fed up with his job as a news reporter because they only give him crappy personal interest stories. He throws a tirade live on the air that ends with an F-Bomb, which immediately gets him fired. This causes Bruce to accuse God of messing up his life, thereby kicking off the main plot of the movie.
  • Daniel Jackson is laughed out of academia at the beginning of Stargate, allowing him to join the super-secret military program.
  • Doctors Venkman, Stantz and Spengler decide to go into business as the Ghostbusters after the NYU Board of Regents cuts their funding and kicks them off campus.
  • Joe quickly leaves the job he hates in Joe Versus the Volcano.

  • Right at the start of Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept cycle of books, the hero, Stile, loses his job as a jockey because he has been nobbled by another stable - they sent a hit-man out to laser his knees and render him useless as a jockey. Stile's Citizen boss then terminates his contract.... all this is to give Stile an incentive to explore the parallel world of Phaze, where he discovers he is the missing Blue Adept.
  • The Millennium Trilogy has Mikael Blomkvist suspended from the magazine giving him the free time to work on the Vangar case, which is how everything gets rolling.
  • In American Gods, Shadow is released from prison and is travelling to his home to a job waiting for him. Unfortunately, his job is gone as the guy who was giving it to him is dead, leaving him free to work as Mr. Wednesday's bag man.
  • This is the main plot of Velveteen Versus. She JUST wants to get to a job interview, but can't quite make it.
  • Near the beginning of Memory, Miles is fired from his job at ImpSec. Then a crisis arises in ImpSec that requires someone with inside knowledge but outside of the normal chain of command.

    Live Action TV 
  • Just Shoot Me!: Maya is fired from her job as a writer at a newscast in the pilot, and is forced to work for her father's fashion magazine.
  • Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 opens with June arriving to her first day of work at a financing firm, but finds it in the midst of shutting down as the boss is being arrested. Thus she is unemployed before she even started work.
  • In the beginning of the Burn Notice pilot, Michael Westen is in the middle of a dangerous mission for the CIA when he discovers that he has been 'burned' by the agency. Not only was he fired, but the CIA also froze all his bank accounts and none of his coworkers and contacts will speak to him now. He is dumped in his home city of Miami and has to find out why he was burned while trying to build a new life for himself.
  • Beginning of Community has Jeff Winger lose his job as a lawyer because he got his Bachelorís degree from Colombia (and now he has to get it in America!), allowing the wacky hijinks of the community college setting to kick off.
  • Sometime before the beginning of the story, but really the catalyst for the whole thing, in Veronica Mars Keith Mars loses his job as the sheriff because of Lily Kane's murder, allowing him to open up his private detective firm and allowing the titular Veronica to start getting experience as a Private Eye
  • On Girls', Hannah Horvath starts the first episode off being cut off from her parents and fired from her internship (when she demands it turn into full time employment). Hilarity Ensues.
  • The whole plot is on The Nanny theme song.
  • Doctor Who. Isn't it convenient that Rose has just lost her employment?
    Rose: I'm only at home because someone blew up my job.

  • Ginger's Bread starts this way, leading Ginger to start her own bakery.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama's "Bender's Big Score" subverts it. First there's an opening montage of what everyone's job is, then the professor says, "You're all fired!" because the company is going out of business (or "cancelled", as part of the movie's thinly veiled Take That to the Fox network); then within minutes, they're rehired.
    • A one-episode example is "The Cryonic Woman", which opens with Fry, Leela and Bender being fired and having to work at a cryogenics lab. They return to Planet Express by the end of the episode.
      • Incidentally, the pilot episode has Leela quitting her old job at that same cryogenics lab.
    • Another example is "Brannigan, Begin Again", with Zapp Brannigan being fired and joining the Planet Express crew. Again, all is back to normal by the end.