The trope is however swiftly subverted, as a stray shot causes the serpent to attack their pursuers instead, prompting a "Thank you, the universe!" from Sokka.
In the two-part episode "The Boiling Rock", the Warden says that no one has ever escaped from his prison. By the end, 5 people have escaped — Sokka, Zuko, Hakoda, Suki and Chit Sang.
Having captured Toph in a metal container, and in the process of carting her home, Xin Fu gets sick of her yelling and taunts her, saying, "You might think you're the greatest earthbender in the world, but even you can't bend metal!" Guess what skill she proceeds to invent, teach herself and use in the next few hours.
At the end of "The Earth King" Aang and Sokka make their way over the plains surrounding Ba Sing Se on Appa, convinced that things are finally going positively for them. They have the Earth king on their side, Long Feng is arrested, Sokka's on his way to see his dad, Aang's on his way to see a Guru who's going to help him master the Avatar State, Toph's on her way to see her mother, and the Kyoshi warriors are coming to Ba Sing Se. Sokka even says "Everything’s gonna work out perfectly, from now on and forever." However, things go wrong in the next few scenes. In prison, a Dai Li agent delivers Long Feng his meal, but also quietly reassures Long Feng that the organization retains loyalty to him, not the King. Toph goes to meet her mother, and ends up being captured in a metal box by Master Yu and Xin Fu. The Kyoshi Warriors arrive before the Earth King, who formally welcomes them, unaware that they are actually Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, disguised in Kyoshi Warrior garments, face paint, and props. And sure enough, two episodes later, things very quickly goFrom Bad to Worse.
In "Harley's Holiday", a semi-rehabilitated Harley Quinn ends up being pursued by the police, as well as Batman and Robin, after a simple misunderstanding. After taking Spoiled Sweet Veronica Vreeland hostage, she then ends up being pursued by gangsters who wish to ransom off the debutante. After Veronica realizes Harley really doesn't mean her any harm, she agrees to drop all charges, provided she gets out of this in one piece. A delighted Harley states: "For the first time today, things are finally looking up!"Enter Veronica's hysterical Army general father, bearing down on them in a tank, Patton-style.
Also, from the episode "Harley and Ivy". At the end Harley and Ivy have escaped both the Joker's gang and the Batman by using the latter to deal with the formers, and Ivy cries that "No man can take us prisoners!". Cue officer Renee Montoya (a woman) taking them prisoners and making it look easy.
In "The Clock King", this is the phrase that establishes Mayor Hill as the designated victim:
Waspinator: Wazzpinator having good day! Not get shot once! (gets shot by Rattrap)
Quickstrike: "Is that all you got, partner?"
Dinobot: "No. It isn't." (blasts him at full power for about half-a-minute straight)
In one episode of The Boondocks, Uncle Ruckus, preaching to a crowd, says, "Now, let us pray. Lord, I have spent my whole life hatin' you for makin' me black, and now I see I must hate myself, and all those like me, and cause them misery just like your servant Ronald Reagan did. And if ANY of my words don't come directly from the Almighty God himself, then may I be struck by lightning right this very instant. Halle-". Three guesses what interrupted him.
In a Looney Tunes short with Tweety and Sylvester, the bulldog is bedridden with a broken leg (having broken it by chasing Sylvester), letting Sylvester have a lot of fun at his expense (making the dog very angry), so long as he doesn't get too close to the guy. Eventually, Tweety runs to the dog for protection:
Bulldog: Stay by me, birdie, he'll have to get to you over my dead body!
Sylvester: Okay, buster, I can arrange that!
Unfortunately for Sylvester, this turns out to be a subversion, because his attempt to drop a safe on the dog results in him dropping it on himself and ending up with even worse injuries.
In another short the ending has Sylvester ending up in a truck to the pound loaded with dogs, and Tweety believes that he won't have to worry about cats anymore. He then sees two cats disguising themselves as lamps, just as Sylvester did at the beginning of the short, and remarks "Of course I could be wrong."
Abe is running for student body president and getting his butt kicked. Gandhi says "At least things can't get any worse." and Abe berates him because of this trope. As if on cue, Cleo dumps him. Gandhi then says, "Wait... at least things can't get any better." Abe says it doesn't work that way. After Abe leaves the scene, as if on cue, a butterfly flies over and gives Gandhi a dollar.
Parodied wonderfully in the episode where Ponce de León, a character who had never been seen before and was very obviously introduced just so he could be gratuitously killed off, spends the first act of the episode making blatant fate-tempting statements, such as constantly telling his friends he loves them just in case he never sees them again. Sure enough, he is randomly killed by a bunch of litter. He even tempts fate as specifically as possible, as when Joan tells him to stop littering (and to stop encouraging everyone else to litter), he says, "What Joan, is litter gonna kill me?" Right after she leaves, the wind kicks up and the litter kills him.
"Ha ha! Nothing bad ever happens to the Kennedys!"
Any time Jérémie makes an assessment of the situation on Lyoko, something immediately happens to make it the opposite. Thus, optimism leads to nothing but trouble, but saying "It's all over!" appears to summon a Deus ex Machina.
"Kadic Bombshell": Aelita asks Jérémie if he can fix the unexpected problem with the Supercomputer. He worriedly tells her, yes, "but the problem is that it might take a little while, and during that time, XANA could..." BEEP BEEP BEEP "...activate a tower!" XANA never lets an opportunity to let the kids tempt fate slide.
"Bad Connection": Odd complains at the beginning that he never has any conflict with his parents like a normal teenager. After XANA makes them, along with almost everyone else at the academy, Brainwashed and Crazy, they spend most of the episode trying to kill him. When the mob corners him, we get this line:
Odd:(unconcerned/resigned) I promise never to complain about not having conflicts with my parents again.
From the same episode, this textbook exchange:
Jérémie: I'm putting it to sleep. Odd would kill me if the Super Scan went off in the middle of his film. Aelita: At any rate, there's not much chance that XANA would launch an attack during the three minutes the film lasts.
"End of Take":
Sissi: Or else what, a monster's going to squirt goopy goo all over my face, huh, Ulrich? (guess what happens next)
The Titanic reference happened in an episode of Futurama and Totally Spies!. Needless to say, neither vacation turned out very well, although to be fair, the Futurama episode didn't have the Mind Screw that the Totally Spies episode did.
In the U.S. Acres shorts on Garfield and Friends, Booker often hunts worms, an activity which Sheldon declines to participate in, but which he's usually nearby to witness. Consider this exchange:
Booker: You won't get away from me! (the worm gets away) Sheldon: He got away from you!
In an episode of The Garfield Show, Odie manages to win the first round of the pet pageant he's in with Garfield's "help". Garfield comments confidently that "we can't lose", only for the announcer to state that the second round would be the talent competition, causing Garfield, who realizes he spoke too soon, to remark: "Boy, can we lose."
Barely subverted in the House of Mouse episode, "Max's Embarrassing Date", when Max is complaining about everyone making such a huge fuss over his date with Roxanne.
Max: What's next? A marching band?
(cut to a marching band line up in the lobby)
Daisy: Sorry, guys. Gig's off.
Lampshaded in The Jimmy/Timmy Power Hour 2. After Libby says "What, you think a date is just going to come crashing through the roof?", and Timmy Turner does so, she raises her finger and proclaims "I shall use this power for good!"
In "Grudge Match", Huntress and Black Canary face off and against brainwashed superheroines in a Glamour Slam. After breaking Hawkgirl and Vixen out of their brainwashing, Huntress is feeling lucky and shouts "Is that all you've got?" to villainess Roulette — who promptly sends (also brainwashed) Wonder Woman onto the stage. Cue the heroines' Oh Crap expressions.
"Divided We Fall"'s "Are you going to fight me, boy?" (Yeah he's gonna.) Just after Flash disappears, Luthor says "what do you know, I did kill him". After Superman overcomes the temptation to burn Luthor to a crisp, it turns out Flash is actually still alive.
Subverted in an episode of Mission Hill when Andy French makes a deliberate comment about how he pays the electric bill. The lights flicker off soon as the words are out of his mouth... then flicker right back on, Andy smugly repeating that he did, indeed, pay the electric bill.
Played with in The Mummy animated series, where the family is pursued on waters by the Scarab King:
Egon Spengler of The Real Ghostbusters once remarked, "Sometimes I think the universe just waits for me to get cocky."
In Robot ChickenStar Wars Episode II, Lando's deal with Vader gets worse and worse as he keeps complaining about it. Eventually he gets Genre Savvy enough to quit while he's ahead.
And later in that same special, Palpatine's borderline Humiliation Conga of problems (including his tray table breaking and spilling coffee in his lap, the airport losing his luggage, his new chair bolted to the floor and right under an air conditioning vent) ends with him saying to a guard, "Hey, wanna see me tempt fate?: Could this day get ANY worse? I did it ironically, so I think I'm safe." When next we see him, Vader is throwing him down to his death.
Parodied when the family find themselves competing in a torturous Japanese game-show, Homer tempts fate by saying that he prefers their current predicament to the "lightning round"; he gets struck by lightning. Then, recognising the pattern, he hopefully wonders whether there'll be an "ice-cream round"... and gets struck by lightning again.
When Mr. Burns rounds up an all-star baseball team to defeat the Shelbyville plant, he challenges fate to have them all befall nine separate misfortunes. This turns out to be a subversion because only 7 of his players do. (Tropes being tropes, the one who doesn't have a misfortune, Darryl Strawberry, is the one who's taking Homer's spot in the lineup.)
Burns also has this line in "Lisa the Vegetarian":
Burns: You know, Smithers, I think I'll donate a million dollars to the local orphanage... when pigs fly! (they laugh; the pig sails across the sky before them) Smithers: Will you be donating that million dollars now, Sir? Burns: Nooo, I'd still prefer not.
In "No Loan Again, Naturally", Marge is crying after landlord Ned Flanders has evicted the family from their home:
Homer: Don't be upset, Marge. At least it's not raining! (after a pause... nothing happens) See?
"Cape Feare", wherein the last thing Sideshow Bob says before being trampled by a parade (which includes elephants) is, "Surely there's no harm in lying in the middle of a public street?"
"When two best friends work together, not even God Himself can stop them!"
"Take your best shot! I'm wearing seventeen layers!"
In "Brother, Can you spare two dimes," after his friends express concern to Homer about the recent destruction of his couch, Homer states "there is no way this day can get any worse". Instead of something happening his friends just stand around awkwardly until Homer repeats the phrase again. This time Smithers comes over the loud speaker and orders him to see Mr. Burns.
In "Children of a Lesser Clod", Homer has kidnapped several children and is driving them in a stolen paddy wagon.
Ralph: Where are we going, Mr. Simpson?
Homer: I'll tell you where we're not going: jail.
Milhouse: Then you better turn around.
(Homer sees he's heading straight for the jail wall)
"Dial Meg for Murder" subverts this trope into a comment on the audience's racist assumptions: When Brian talks Meg out of robbing Mort Goldman's pharmacy and the two leave, Mort comments, "Well, at least I didn't get robbed!" Then, "How can I help you four fine black gentlemen today?" The show then cuts away to continue the story, leaving the viewer's familiarity with the trope and with common racial stereotyping to conclude the scene.
In "Brian Writes a Bestseller", when Stewie sees that he can't take a cab as he planned because he has no money, he exclaims: "Well, at least it's not raining." He immediately gets knifed in the back and left for dead on the sidewalk.
SpongeBob: Barnacles, what could be worse than a giant paint bubble?! Patrick: Ooh! I know! (produces a bubble wand, dips in into the paint, and blows another giant paint bubble)Two giant paint bubbles! SpongeBob: No! (the bubbles collide and form one massive paint bubble) SpongeBob: Patrick? Patrick: Yeah, SpongeBob? SpongeBob: I don't think this bubble could get any bigger. Patrick: Nonsense! (produces a bike pump to hook up to the paint bubble, inflating it further)
SpongeBob: I'm every bit as cool as Larry. And if I'm not, let me be struck by... (thunder clap) ...a flying ice cream truck. (Cue falling ice cream truck.) AND LIVE! (Ice cream truck suspends in mid-air just above SpongeBob, then falls on him.)
In "Slide Whistle Stooges" after Squidward destroys the Chum Bucket on his rampage through Bikini Bottom in a stolen truck, Mr. Krabs pokes fun of Plankton and Squidward promptly drives through the Krusty Krab. Similarly in "That Sinking Feeling" after SpongeBob and Patrick's tunnel system goes under the Krusty Krab and causes it to fall underground, Plankton gloats that the Chum Bucket is now the only restaurant in town and it too ends up underground.
In "Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm", when Sandy manages to lasso herself and SpongeBob onto the Alaskan bull worm she claims that up there they'll be safe, then a second later the worm dives into a trench.
In "That Sinking Feeling", when SpongeBob and Patrick's digging causes the Krusty Krab to fall underground, Plankton gloats that the Chum Bucket is now the only restaurant in town. The Chum Bucket promptly also falls underground, and when he sees what happened he lets out a dejected "Nuts."
"The Bird! The Bird!", Toad is whisked away by a Birdo with extremely bad vision, who thinks he's her baby. This leads the Mario Brothers and the Princess up the tallest mountain in an already snowy land to bring him back. At one point, Mario says that "it could be worse". When Luigi asks how, an Albatoss drops a Bob-Omb nearby. It and the next 4 Bob-Ombs are easily disposed of before they go off, but the next three are dropped farther up the path, setting off an avalanche.
In "King Mario of Cramalot", Mario, Luigi, The Princess, and Toad are manacled in a dungeon with a small circumference but a (temporarily) high ceiling. Mario says things could be worse, and Luigi asks how. Mario gives the example that the ceiling could start lowering until it crushed them. No points for guessing what starts to happen, but extra credit if you guessed that the ceiling would be pointy. Mario then says that the room could start filling up with water. It does... start, anyway. When Mario is about to think of another way that things could be worse, Luigi shuts him up.
In the beginning of Kole, Dr. Light invokes this. "Here in the Arctic Circle, nobody will ever come to stop me." Cue Titans.
On The Venture Bros., Henchman #24 used to be a perfect example of a Mauve Shirt, but once he and #21 started commenting on how they never die, he was finally killed off.
X-Men: Evolution: In the episode "Cruise Control", the X-Men are taking a vacation on a cruise ship. When Boom-Boom is going to breakfast, Storm says to her, "Remember, low profile." Boom-Boom says, "It's just breakfast. What could happen?" Cue the breakfast scene, in which the X-Men accidentally reveal their powers to the passengers and cause a huge mess. Also it's Boom-Boom who starts the whole mess by throwing one of her bombs, although it's Jean using her powers to put out the fire caused by Boom-Boom's bomb that tips off the passengers. Later in the episode, when they're on an island Boom-Boom says the same line ("What could happen?"), right before the volcano acts up.
In the 90's X-Men animated series, the X-Men break into a government compound to destroy many of the files of several mutants before attempting to escape the compound. Morph says the line, "Didn't I tell you? Clear sailing all~ the way!" Cue the Sentinels marching through the trees. Quoth the Beast: "Oh dear". Beast is captured, Morph dies.
Camp Lazlo: One of the mini-shorts has a camper raking a big pile of leaves and saying "I can't imagine having to do that again." The plot of the short has Skip and Chip driving an out of control speedboat, so we expect the speedboat to ram into the leaves. Instead, it rams into another campmate who happens to walk by.
In the 2nd episode of Slacker Cats Buckley and Eddie are arguing about who will steer the car and who will do the breaks. They both decide to steer.
Buckley: That'll work.
Winx Club season 3 arguably would have been better off not subverting this trope: Stella says, of saving someone from her own homerealm to get her Enchantix, "I hope I don't have to save Chimera." When push comes to shove, she ends up saving her dad, left by Chimera and her mom escaping in his vehicle. So instead of maybe getting Chimera coming over to Stella's side, we end up getting Chimera being ignominiously defeated in an anticlimactic battle.
An episode of Rocko's Modern Life has a flashback where Ed Bighead has two balls left to win a bowling game. He throws the first one away as he claims he doesn't need two balls. As he uses the final ball, the announcer says that only something terrible that would haunt him for the rest of his life would cause this to not go perfectly. Ed then accidently destroys the entire building... and still doesn't get a single pin down.
"Pirates from Below". The enemy leader is waiting for a mine attached to the Quest's underwater probe to detonate. Unfortunately for him, Race Bannon has removed the mine and let it drift up to the leader's ship.
Enemy leader: Their time is almost up. It is just a matter of seconds. (BOOM!)
"Turu the Terrible". Dr. Quest and Race Bannon are sitting in front of a campfire.
Race Bannon: Well, so far so good, eh doctor? Dr. Quest: And surprisingly peaceful. Turu the Terrible:(detects them and starts making its warning call, then attacks)
"The Devil's Tower". Klaus is dive-bombing the Quests with grenades but repeatedly misses. He then yells "This time I cannot miss!" His next grenade ends up in the wing of the biplane he's flying, blowing up the wing and sending him spiraling down to his doom.
In "A Hard Day's Knight", Candace agrees to dress up like a princess for their medieval fair. After a few moments she wonders "Wait a sec. Could this be one of those things that backfires horribly on me? Nah." Throughout the rest of the episode, she suffers indignity after indignity.
In "Doof Side of the Moon", Candace teams up with Irving's brother Albert to bust Phineas and Ferb for their latest project, a skyscraper so gigantic that it reaches to the moon. Albert assures Candace that the tower is so huge, "no force on Earth" could get rid of it before her mom comes home. This is only technically true, as Dr. Doofenshmirtz's Lunar Rotate-inator causes the moon to turn around, dragging the tower away in the process.
In the very first episode, Twilight Sparkle brushes off Princess Celestia's advice to make some friends, saying "The fate of all Equestria doesn't depend on me making friends". By the next episode, it's clear that actually, it does.
Probably the best, and most lasting, example, also from the pilot: "All the ponies in this town are crazy!" Over the course of the season, all the members of the Mane Six have at least one Freak Out.
In "Look Before You Sleep," Twilight ends up lecturing Applejack and Rarity after their bickering spoils Twilight's first slumber party, and ends her rant with "Is there anything else that could possibly go wrong?!" The thunderstorm outside swiftly worsens, and a lightning bolt strikes a nearby tree and threatens to send it crashing into Twilight's house.
The Japanese dub has a line that's an even bigger example, as Twilight snaps "If you two are going to fight, I'd rather be struck by lightning!"
In "Owl's Well that Ends Well," Spike causes trouble because of his jealousy over Owlowiscious the owl, and ends up running away from home after getting a lecture from Twilight. As he trudges, alone and feeling unloved, through the Everfree Forest, he asks himself "Can it get any worse?" It almost immediately starts raining.
"The Best Night Ever" pretty much starts with this, with the Mane Six indulging in a Crowd Song about how all their hopes and dreams for the Grand Galloping Gala are about to come true. Naturally, they don't. Then near the end of the episode, Celestia and Twilight Sparkle step into the main hall and find that the others have laid waste to the entire party. Thinking she's been utterly humiliated in front of her mentor, Twilight remarks "At least things can't get any worse..." A moment later, a horde of wild animals stampedes into the room with an insanely frustrated Fluttershy on their heels.
In "A Canterlot Wedding", the song "BBBFF" contains the line "Never had a single fight." I'm going to give you one guess as to what happened by the end of the episode.
"Magical Mystery Cure" begins with Twilight singing "Can things ever go wrong? I don't think that they will." She doesn't even get to finish the song before disaster strikes.
In "Filli Vanilli," Rarity says, "It is wonderful when a plan comes together without any sort of drama, isn't it?" Cut to the next scene, in which the plan unravels and much drama ensues.
The original My Little Pony cartoon used this in the pilot episode's opening theme song. The lines "No sign of trouble in sight" and "May all your days be bright" prove to be tempting fate because soon after the ponies are attacked by the goons of a villain seeking to bring about The Night That Never Ends.
One Tom and Jerry cartoon was about a white laboratory mouse that had consumed several volatile explosives, escaped, and is threatening to destroy everything in its path once it explodes. Tom, after hearing about the exploding white mouse on the radio, encounters said mouse, but it turns out to be his archnemesis Jerry, who disguised himself as the white mouse by covering himself with flour just to give Tom a scare. Shortly after Jerry's disguise is accidentally washed off, the real white mouse arrives, at which point Tom hears over the radio that the explosives inside the mouse have deteriorated and is no longer dangerous, "the white mouse will not explode." Tom decides to triumphantly drop-kick the white mouse out the front door, causing it to explode for real and level the house.
Radio: We repeat: the white mouse will not explode. (Tom emerges from the rubble) Tom: DOOON'T YOOOU BELIEVE IT.
Stunt Dawgs: Every time Lucky makes a comment on how things could have become worse, they DO become worse just like he said they would. He also falls victim of the trope whenever it's commented on how nothing bad has happened to him lately. One would think that, after all the times he said things could have been worse without hinting on how and nothing making things worse, he'd learn to avoid the trope.
In "Marjorine", Butters is forced by the other boys to fake his death as part of a plan to infiltrate the girls. His parents are grief-stricken, at which point a random old man suddenly shows up to try and convince Butters's Dad not to rebury him at an old Indian burial ground in a bid to bring him back. Mr. Stotch wasn't even aware of the burial ground, so all the man did was give him the idea.
Danny Phantom, episode Reign Storm, after Danny stuffed Dash's locker full with toilet paper:
Sam: Nice. Using your powers to stuff toilet paper into a locker. He's gonna find out it's you.
Danny: Have you seen his grades? (together with Tuck)Never gonna happen.
Dash: Hey! This is Fenton wipe! *glares at Danny*
Sam: "Never" is karma's doorbell. Ding-dong, it's for you.
Archer: Sterling and Katya go on the run, and Archer assures her "We'll always be one step ahead of them. No matter who's hunting us. Even if it's, oh, I don't know, a criminally insane cyborg." Cut to Barry, a criminally insane cyborg out for revenge on Archer.
In an episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated when Fred and Daphne are tied to chairs in an empty swimming pool Fred mocks their captor saying that the pool doesn't have any water in it. Immediately after he says this it starts to fill.
In Young Justice, after being retired from crime-fighting for a while, Artemis decides to return for a one off mission, even though her boyfriend (Kid Flash) is against it. She assures him by saying "What could possibly go wrong?" As if to gleefully laugh at the audience shouting "WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?!?", the scene immediately cuts to Artemis dying on that mission. Actually subverted. The death was faked.
Jimmy: No more candy, no more problems. What are they gonna do? Riot?
Crowd: DOWN WITH JIMMY! DOWN WITH JIMMY!
Danger Mouse: Episode 3 of "Day Of The Suds" has DM capturing and destroying Baron Greenback's army of renegade washing machines, as the sizzle of a spark emits. The reporter grilling him on London's loss of washers asks about it:
DM: That's just the Baron's secret fuel leaking into the soap compartment and being irradiated by sparking in the circuits.
Reporter: That sounds awful!
DM: Oh, no no no. The worst that can happen is that you'd get the evolution of a hideous mutated monster. (loud bang occurs; a giant mutant soap monster appears)
In the American Dad! episode "For Black Eyes Only" where the characters are in a pastiche of the James Bond films, Roger's character alludes to the previous James Bond-style episode saying that he survived falling into a volcano when he gets dropped off of a helicopter, then he gets impaled on a swordfish.