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Caterer: I'm sorry, but there's, um, been a problem, uh...
Peggy: Spit it out!
Caterer: The refrigeration went out and the chicken and prime rib were spoiled, and your ice cream birthday cake melted.
Dale: [yelling] And there's no food! [everyone groans]
Peggy: Happy freakin' birthday to me.
King of the Hill, "Strangeness on a Train"
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The birthday party is usually fun for all the guests, and it's supposed to be a great day especially for the birthday boy/girl. They are supposed to be the centre of everyone's attention, to receive most sincere birthday wishes for the next year of their life, get nice presents and a huge cake. However, not always. In this case, the cake ends up burnt, the candles melted and all the presents are clothes. Whatever went wrong, a day that's supposed to be sweet has turned sour.

In fiction, especially if the celebrating character is a Butt-Monkey, their birthday party will go wrong in every direction. It should have been their day, but they end up unhappy and crying, dissatisfied or disillusioned, or apathetic if this happens all the time. It may result in them becoming the Birthday Hater who doesn't want a birthday party ever again. Some characters might take it on the chin and at least pretend they don't care.

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This trope sometimes ends with Throw the Dog a Bone. Especially if the birthday person's lucky enough to have a loving and caring family or loyal friends, they'll try their best to cheer them up or make it up to them somehow.

A Birthday, Not a Break is a trope when something terrible or downright tragic happens on a character's birthday, and it's unrelated to the celebration. Ironic Birthday is a sister trope, which is when the person who should be celebrating their birthday experiences something nasty, but they have to pretend they're fine for their guests' sake.

This trope is about ruined parties and the disappointed birthday person. See also a Shoddy Shindig for boring parties and Nasty Party for murderous ones. One-Person Birthday Party is a very lonely subtrope. Not-So-Forgotten Birthday is a variant when it all ends happily after all. Surprise Party may be a reason why it goes badly because it's harder to coordinate everything. This can also occur during a Shock Party or Scary Surprise Party... or even a Birthday Suit Surprise Party. See also Worst Wedding Ever, which is the wedding equivalent of this trope.

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Examples:

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    Films — Live-Action 
  • The climax of Parasite takes place at a rich child's birthday party, where simmering tensions between the various family members and staff lead to bloodshed, traumatizing everyone present.
  • In Problem Child, Junior goes to Lucy Henderson's birthday party. Lucy mistreats him and excludes him from many activities, so Junior takes his revenge on her by doing the following: Filling the pinata with the contents of several pickle jars, throwing her presents in the pool, putting a sprinkler in her room and turning it on, cutting one of a girl's pigtails off, redirecting a kid doing the "pin the tail on the donkey" game into an older lady's ass, putting a live frog in the punch bowl, and replacing the cake's candles with firecrackers (the one step too far that alerts everyone to the fact that Junior was behind the whole thing).
  • In The Sixth Sense, the birthday boy bemoans the fact that his parents forced him to invite the weird kid Cole to his party. When Cole hears a deceased person's voice from upstairs, the boys lock him in the attic. It ruins the party for everyone else and Cole has to go to the doctor.
  • In The Room, Johnny and Mark have a falling out at Johnny's party when Mark and Lisa flaunt their relationship.
  • In Dèmoni 2, Sally is having a birthday party. First, she hates her hair style and dress. Then, her despised ex-boyfriend announces by phone he's showing up at the party, which leads her into a nervous breakdown. And finally, a demon erupts from her TV, attacks her and turns her into a demon who in turn spreads the infection to all the guests, and then to most of the inhabitants of the building. What a party.
  • Cheaper by the Dozen: Despite being grounded, the Baker children sneak into Dylan Shenk's expensive birthday party to which they were invited, causing their angered father Tom to go after them. Pure chaos breaks out, ending with Dylan getting hospitalized but still considering it "my best birthday party ever".
  • Happy Birthday to Me: In the shower, Ginny has a flashback of her mother's death: Her mother, a newly-inducted socialite, invited the Top Ten to Ginny's birthday celebration four years earlier. Instead, the group opted to attend Ann's party. Drunk, her mother drove to the Thomasons' house with Ginny, where she was humiliated by Ann's parents. Enraged, she attempted to drive across the raising drawbridge, resulting in a violent crash which ended in her drowning. Ginny, however, managed to swim to safety.

    Jokes 
  • There's an urban legend (sometimes told as a joke) known as "The Nude Surprise Party". In one version, a pastor brings all of his wife's friends and family together to his home to throw a surprise birthday party for her. He hears her in the shower of their master bedroom/bath and knocks on the shower door. "I'll be out in a few minutes," she tells him, and he leaves the bedroom. With the lights out, he and the guests wait outside the bedroom door. Suddenly the door opens and there stands the wife in silhouette, naked and dripping wet. "Come and get it while it's clean," she croons. The rest of the story can only be imagined. Other variations can be found here.

    Literature 
  • In Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson, Floss' birthday starts out great but turns out bad when she finds out her mother's family is moving to Australia for six months because of her stepfather's promotion.
  • In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book Dog Days, exaggerated for Greg's birthday. His presents are lame, his birthday money is confiscated, his uncle's dog eats the cake, and his 'make-up' present of a fish is eaten by Rodrick's fish.
  • In the Goosebumps book "The Cuckoo Clock of Doom'', the main character's birthday is ruined by his Annoying Younger Sibling, even falling face first into his own birthday pie. When he starts to travel back through time due to the titular Artifact of Doom, he's forced to relive the same day. While he doesn't make the same mistakes as the day before, his sister just messes it up some other way.
  • In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Peter's mother insists on throwing his toddler brother, Fudge, a birthday party and inviting Fudge's preschool playmates - Ralph, Jenny, and Sam. Things go south pretty quickly - Fudge refuses to wear the suit his mother picked out for him and throws a screaming tantrum, only agreeing to wear the suit if he can wear his bedroom slippers. Ralph and Fudge eat all the frosting roses off Fudge's cake, so none of the slices have any for the other kids. Jenny is so upset by this she bites Peter and his grandmother. Ralph demands a second slice of cake, promptly throws it up, then demands the toy car he got for Fudge's present back. The coup de grace is when Peter shows the children his turtle, Dribble. Jenny asks if Dribble can "make" (read: pee) and proudly declares that she can too. She then pees on the carpet. By the time it's finally over, Peter, his mother, and his grandmother are exhausted.
  • In The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Moriarty's attempt to throw a birthday party for Moran is a subtle version of this. It ends up making Moran aware of his own advancing age, and Moriarty's poor choice of a birthday present for Moran and Moran's inability to come up with anything to say that could heal the resulting rift sums up how neither of them are really capable of a Holmes-and-Watson genuine friendship. It is implied that this helps lead to Moran killing Moriarty during the real events of the Holmes-Moriarty confrontation in "The Final Problem".

    Live-Action TV 
  • All in the Family: The episode "Edith's Fiftieth Birthday"... although the surprise party ends in a way nobody would expect. Edith comes running into Mike and Gloria's house (after fighting off an attempted sexual assault in her own living room) out of breath and everyone starts singing "Happy Birthday," thinking she's just arrived – albeit early – for her party. note 
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Discussed. Sheldon mentions what his birthday parties were like when he was a kid and says it was anguish. It's connected to his general hatred of socializing and his status of genius science-oriented kid. Instead of a titanium centrifuge he wanted to separate radioactive isotopes, his parents got him a motorized dirt bike for his 12th birthday which ruined his party.
      Sheldon: Year after year, I had to endure wearing conical hats while being forced into the crowded sweaty hell of bouncy castles, not to mention being blindfolded and spun towards a grotesque tailless donkey as the other children mocked my disorientation.
    • Leonard mentions he never has a birthday party as a kid and that's why he doesn't celebrate birthdays. Penny, his friendly neighbor (whom he's fallen in love) thinks it's one of the saddest things she's ever heard, so she organizes a kick-ass surprise party for him. However, Howard is tasked to keep him from the apartment for two hours, but he ends up in hospital (eating peanuts to induce an allergic reaction) so Leonard misses the party.
  • In Boston Public, a teacher gains temporary custody of his young niece, while his sister does a stint at rehab for her drug addiction. He knows that the situation is temporary, but his wife is thrilled with the prospect of having a little girl in the house, and throws her a birthday party in a later episode. At the party, a loud argument breaks out between her aunt and her mother about the girl's future.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In keeping with the grand tradition of Buffy's birthday going apocalyptically wrong, "Older and Far Away" has the guests at her birthday party trapped in the house by Dawn's earlier wish to a vengeance demon that she could stop people leaving her. Various characters' issues are brought to a head, such as Dawn's shoplifting secret being exposed and Willow's magic addiction (as Anya demands she come off the wagon to release them) and her breakup with Tara. They're only released when the vengeance demon Dawn made the wish to is summoned to the party, and gets trapped herself.
  • Community, "Mixology Certification": Troy's celebration starts off happy when the study group have a cake for Troy in the study room, but when they learn that Troy is actually of drinking age and they decide to celebrate "properly" and hit the bar. Everyone just ends up getting drunk, miserable, and/or disillusioned with their lives and ruining the celebration. Troy decides not to have a drink, and instead drives his drunken friends home.
  • On Criminal Minds, agent Rossi's coworkers throw a surprise party for him only to find he is a Birthday Hater who doesn't celebrate his birthday. The day has been spoiled for him by a Serial Killer he captured, Tommy Yates, who made a deal with the FBI to reveal one of his victims' locations each year on a specific day—purposely picking Rossi's birthday. Naturally, that leaves him in no mood to celebrate.
  • Dexter, "Return to Sender": Dexter's girlfriend Rita plans a birthday party for her daughter Astor. Astor gets really worried about her party getting ruined when their violent abusive father of a criminal gets released from prison and wants to come to the party. Her brother Cody tells everyone about it and Astor's friends are no longer allowed to come. However, vulnerable Rita actually manages to tell Paul he can't come because of the restraining order. The party turns out fine.
  • A variation is Played for Laughs on an episode of The Drew Carey Show. When Drew and Kate, who are currently dating, are having an argument in front of their friends, Oswald cover his ears and screams "Mom, Dad! You're ruining my birthday party!"
  • In the "Giant Asian Mantises" episode of Everything's Gonna Be Okay, Genevieve tries to throw herself a "low-key" birthday party, but then Nicholas gets involved and overdoes the decorations, while Tellulah raids Genevieve's dad's medicine cabinet and goads Genevieve and Barb into taking prescription drugs with her... which turns out to be high blood pressure medication. Meanwhile, Genevieve banishes Nicholas, Alex, and Matilda to the guest house, where they decide to get trashed on peach schnapps so that Matilda can experience being "white-girl wasted" before going to college.
  • Friends:
    • "The One with Two Parties": Rachel's recently divorced parents both show up at her surprise birthday party, so the friends have to keep them separated otherwise they'll start fighting. Quickly things begin to go wrong. Monica rules over her formal party with an iron fist and wants to play boring games. Most of the guests want to sneak out to Chandler and Joey's second party, started as a distraction, because it is more fun and relaxed. Rachel's boyfriend Ross tries to bond with her parents only to make a fool of himself. Rachel tries to spend time with both her mother and her father who say only nasty things about each other, which is driving Rachel the birthday girl crazy.
    • In "The One with Two Parts, Part 2", Phoebe's Surprise Party doesn't go very well. Ross brings the cake which he drops because others scare him, shouting "Surprise!" prematurely. They try to save the cake somehow and completely miss Phoebe is coming. What's worse, Joey, one of her closest friend whom she really wanted to see, doesn't even show up at the party because he's dating Ursula, Phoebe's Evil Twin.
    • "The One Where They All Turn Thirty":
      • Rachel gets really depressed when her friends throw her a party for her 30th birthday. She feels old and it gets worse when Chandler's birthday card says "grandma" and she realizes she's "behind" regarding her career and mostly her life plan to get married and have a family. Eventually, she breaks up with her 'boy-like' boyfriend Tag, whom she really likes but realizes he's too young and immature.
      • Monica comes home completely wasted because she felt nervous about turning thirty. Turns out Chandler is throwing her a formal party with her parents who have a camcorder. Monica overreacts and makes a huge scene.
      • Joey's party goes wrong because he gets whiny and complaining about getting too old, talking to God that they had a deal about others getting old, not him and his friends.
      • Chandler's party for his 30th birthday gets ruined when Joey once again cries about it not being fair that their gang is getting old.
      • Ross's party is ruined because he has bought himself a red sports car, claiming he's a sports car enthusiast and he shows off his car to his friends. The car gets locked in by two cars in the street. He spends his birthday trying to get out. Finally, his joy is completely spoilt in The Tag when an unattractive and much older man in the very same red car waves at him and greets him with a lame, "How hot are we?"
      • Phoebe looks pretty ok with turning thirty, with her party and crossing off wacky adventures of her bucket list. That is until her twin sister Ursula tells her they are in fact thirty-one. Suddenly Phoebe's plan for things she wanted to accomplish falls apart and she feels depressed.
    • "The One with Phoebe's Birthday Dinner": Phoebe wants to celebrate her birthday with her closest friends in an expensive restaurant. Her boyfriend Mike can't come because he works. Only Joey comes on time and the waiter tries to move them to a table for two. Both Phoebe and Joey are hungry and cranky. When the others finally show up, Monica and Chandler are still visibly angry because of their argument and Rachel is anxious to get back to her baby girl. Then Phoebe announces she's going to see her boyfriend instead who is unexpectedly available. Joey ends up sitting there alone, but completely satisfied because he got to eat six dinners and a cake.
    • "The One with the Cake": Emma's first birthday does not get off to a good start. Emma's asleep when the guests start arriving who then become cranky waiting for her to wake up. Rachel ordered a custom birthday cake in the shape of a rabbit but a screw-up at the bakery leaves her with a cake shaped like male genitalia instead. Rachel and Ross rush to the bakery to try and get it replaced but it's closed by the time they get there. While they're gone everyone but Chandler and Monica bails on the party for other plans. Things start to turn around when Ross works out he can reshape the obscene cake into a bunny shape. Eventually everyone makes it back to the party to celebrate with the finally awake Emma.
  • Subverted in Full House with the two-parter "Happy Birthday Babies". While Michelle is initially unhappy on her fifth birthday upon becoming aware that she's no longer a baby, her family cheers her up by the end of Part One. The actual ''Flintstones''-inspired party delights her and her friends (though it's rough on Danny, playing Dino), and when it turns out that Becky's going into labor, Michelle's thrilled by the news: "This is better than Chuck E. Cheese!" The adults make the frantic mistake of leaving the little kids alone to get Becky to the hospital, but after their initial shock that they're actually home alone they just soldier on with the cake ceremony — only mildly compromised by no one being allowed to play with matches (she has to blow out imaginary candles) or knives (Teddy "cuts" the cake with a karate chop and everybody literally digs in) — before D.J. and Stephanie return to find them messy, but happy.
  • One episode of The Golden Girls, aptly titled "A Piece of Cake", explored this trope, with the girls reminiscing about four particular birthday parties that went badly.
    • Dorothy remembers when Rose threw her a surprise bash at a cheap children's restaurant called "Mr. Ha Ha's Hot Dog Hacienda." Things only got worse when it turns out that all of the birthday boys and girls—Dorothy included—had to do things like participate in the "birthday parade" and eat overly sugary desserts. It didn't help that Mr. Ha Ha himself was a Jerkass who enjoyed taunting Dorothy for the situation. Dorothy's mood perked up when a child whose birthday was on the same day hits Mr. Ha Ha with his fudge cake.
    • Rose talks about the last birthday she ever celebrated in St. Olaf, her hometown. She sets everything up and pretends that her husband Charlie planned a surprise for her but it was actually the year after Charlie had already died, so she spends the whole time talking to him as if he's there and telling him that she's decided to sell their home and move to Florida.
    • Blanche, a Birthday Hater, recalls when Rose threw her a surprise birthday party at the house. She despised the idea at first—until it turned out that Rose invited all of the guys in her address book, which was the perfect present for her.
    • Sophia shares the story of when she turned fifty and felt old and unaccomplished (she thought she was turning 48, but her birth certificate had been messed up at Ellis Island). Dorothy encouraged her by pointing out how she's managed to raise three healthy, happy children to successful adulthood while always keeping a positive attitude and food on the table during the Great Depression, which makes her an incredible person.
  • Growing Pains: Ben's birthday celebration gets interrupted by mom Maggie going into labor. The whole family proceeds to basically forget that it's Ben's birthday (not without reason) until after the delivery is finished. Ben is relieved to find that his new baby sister managed to delay entering the world long enough for it to be past midnight, meaning that they don't have to share a birthday. It's never clarified if his party gets a do-over, though.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Ted says he broke up with his girlfriend Natalie over an answering machine right before her birthday. It's revealed it was on her actual birthday and she was having a surprise party. All her friends heard Ted's embarrassing voicemail.
    • Marshall organizes a surprise party on the roof for Ted and tries to lure him there, but Ted keeps not coming. He claims he needs to work. He also ends up beaten by a goat. (The goat has been brought to their apartment by Lily who tries to save Missy from being slaughtered for meat. She's a kindergarten teacher and the goat was shown to kids by a farmer.)
  • House of Anubis: Downplayed with Amber's birthday. Though the mood was ruined by Fabian screaming at and trying to attack Eddie just minutes into the party, Amber still managed to have a decent party thanks to the amount of gifts...most of which she'd bought for herself. She did, however, get frustrated when everyone seemed more concerned with what Fabian was doing, rather than focusing on the celebration.
  • Played with in the B-plot of an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where younger brother Dewey manages to make friends with a new boy in the neighborhood. The boy's parents pull Dewey aside to get his help in planning their son's birthday, wanting to make his first one in a new home special. Dewey instead shanghais the party by changing it to be more to his tastes, replacing the space theme with a cowboy one, getting a bounce house, and even making the cake different. During the party, the birthday boy angrily confronts Dewey about ruining his day, though Dewey is too enamored with his success to care. Unfortunately for him, Malcolm undergoes a minor freakout in the A-plot and attempts to escape back into childhood, accidentally causing the bounce house bust and setting off a domino effect which leads to the party collapsing into panic and chaos. The last scene of the birthday boy has him smiling in satisfaction as everything goes to hell.
    • Dewey's Freudian Excuse for high jacking the boy's birthday is explained in a series of flashbacks: Hal arriving late from golf to a previous birthday and not knowing who's birthday it is; Malcolm and Reese giving him a birthday beating (one punch from each, for every year that Dewey has reached); before he was shipped off to Military School, Francis and Lois spent the whole day having (another) loud argument during Dewey's birthday party.
  • Parks and Recreation
    • "Eagleton": Leslie thankfully takes care that Ron's actual birthday party is to his liking (a quiet evening alone eating a nice steak dinner, drinking his favorite whiskey, and watching his favorite movies), he does mention an instance we don't get to see of an attempted surprise birthday party his ex-wife Tammy set up for him. It went so wrong it didn't even get started, because Ron saw people hiding in his house and called the cops on everyone.
    • "Sweet Sixteen": Leslie tries to set up a birthday party for Jerry (whose birthday falls on the Leap Day) but as she's been overworking herself, multiple things fall through the cracks. She manages to bring Jerry to the party she's set up at Donna's family's lakeside house, but by then, everyone's either passed out asleep or looking for Andy and April's dog that ran off into the forest, with Leslie herself passing out asleep on Jerry's shoulder. Jerry was nonetheless touched by her effort.
  • Probe's "Quit-It": Karen Strawn has just been released from a mental institution, in time for her birthday, so her parents plan a big neighborhood block party, but she runs off when she thinks her parents have all been replaced. She convinces Austin and Mickey to chaperone her, to make sure she's safe, but they lose sight of her during the party and when they find her again, she doesn't know why they're here. note 
  • Raising Dion: In "Days Of Marks Future Past", Dion and Andre, Dion's best friend before he was forced to move, collectively celebrate their birthdays at Andre's house so Dion can see his old friends again. However; first the cool kids Dion hoped to invite all fail to show up, leaving him with only Esperanza as a guest (whom he still considers annoying). Then he finds out Andre and his other old friends outgrew the game Reptile Repo, which Dion himself still loves; he even had his birthday cake modeled after it. Then he is mocked for said birthday cake, and he storms off in frustration. The final nail in the coffin is when, in his anger, Dion suffers an asthma attack, and when he telepathically summons his inhaler, it perforates the bouncy castle Andre's mother rented for the party, causing it to deflate. There is some silver lining at the end of the episode, when Dion finally warms up to Esperanza and they eat his birthday cake together.
  • Skins: Pandora's only Pandora-centric episode of the series revolves around her birthday party, which goes horribly wrong when Effy derails it with her usual destructive ways. She ends up having sex with Cook to Effy's disapproval, which in turn causes Pandora to give Effy a "Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has this with Maddie and London's Sweet 16 parties. London holds her Sweet 16 party six months after her sixteenth birthday on the same day as Maddie's, and steals away all of Maddie's guests by promising gift bags filled with expensive gifts like flatscreen TVs. Maddie's attempted party at a fancy restaurant is ruined because her parents shanghai her party money to get braces for her Annoying Younger Sibling, causing it to be held at a bingo hall. At the actual parties, because of London no one comes to Maddie's except her grandmother, parents (who argue, loudly, the entire time), and Zack, while her brother mocks her, and then the party is hijacked by the bingo game for the night. On London's end she's constantly running back and forth from one side of the party to the other to spend time with her parents without any time for herself, party crashers are constantly attempting to show up, her ice sculpture makes her look fat, and she eventually gets locked out of her own party because she doesn't have an ID and there are multiple impersonators of her trying to get in, leaving her at the "venue" for Maddie's party. Thankfully both parties work out when they start to mix together, allowing everyone to have fun (and also punishing Maddie's brother when one of Maddie's friends stomps on his foot).
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch revolved around a surprise birthday party being thrown for Sherlock Holmes (played by host, Jeremy Irons), but he manages to ruin everything by first, revealing that he knows it’s a surprise party before everyone can jump out, deducing that the candles on his birthday cake are gag candles that can’t be blown out, and guessing everyone’s gifts before opening them. Eventually, everyone is left frustrated and tell him off, saying he could have at least pretended to be surprised instead of putting a damper on everyone’s fun.

    Music 
  • The song "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore. The birthday girl discovers her boyfriend Johnny snogging another girl, Judy. She's not happy about it.
    • It has a sequel, called "It's Judy's Turn to Cry." Said birthday girl attends someone else's party and sees Johnny and Judy kissing. the singer proceeds to kiss another guy, whom the cheating boyfriend decides to punch out of jealousy. He then dumps Judy and goes back to the birthday girl, who welcomes him with open arms. Two parties turned upside down by this awkward Love Triangle.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Your Horoscope for Today" informs Geminis that "Your birthday party will be ruined once again by your explosive flatulence."

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY Chibi:
    • Ruby seems to have a chronic case of throwing these for other people, as demonstrated in one skit that has a montage of her throwing surprise parties that keep going wrong (Jaune gets Blown Across the Room when Ruby uses a bullhorn, Yang uses her gauntlets to explode the cake all over everyone because Ruby baked it into the shape of a Beowulf Grimm, Professor Port ends up with a heart attack).
    • Downplayed for Ruby's birthday, which falls on Halloween so she uses it as an excuse to get extra candy and even take candy from her friends. When she requests her friends get her a costume to wear to the Halloween party that night, the friends get their revenge by dressing her up as a trash can, leaving her frustrated and upset at the party.

    Web Comics 
  • Ménage à 3 has a highly NSFW instance in a flashback, when Zii attempts to organize a surprise birthday orgy for Yuki. Zii did not previously know that Yuki’s weird psychological issues would mean that the sight of naked men would turn her into a violent raging maniac.

    Western Animation 
  • The main plot of the Arthur special "D.W. and the Beastly Birthday" is started by D.W. having a lousy birthday party. It's raining outside, the cake isn't the flavor she wanted, the party guests are annoying her (although they don't know it), she didn't get the gift she really wanted, and her brother Arthur isn't attending. She goes to hide in an area beneath the stairs, where her imaginary friend takes her to an island called Ukubonga, which she enjoys. She soon gets tired of Ukubonga and realizes that her own friends are lame and that she should hang out with Arthur because he's more interesting; Arthur soon arrives with the present she was expecting, and she teaches him a song she learned on Ukubonga.
  • In The Berenstain Bears episode "Too Much Birthday", based on the book of the same name, Sister Bear has a bad sixth birthday because she loses at musical chairs, her friends tease her for her shyness during Spin the Bottle, she doesn't get the prize for winning pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey because it's her party, the pony she rides on gave her a bumpy ride, the merry-go-round gives her motion sickness, and it takes her six tries to blow out her candles, which makes her friends claim she's going to have six cubs when she grows up and she only wants three.
  • Bob's Burgers: Holden hates his The Great Gatsby themed birthday party because it was forced upon him by his parents when he just wanted a simple pizza party. The party is less about him than about his parents having lots of photos for social media because they felt pressure from other parents and the elaborate birthday parties they threw for their kids. The kids feel that Holden is a smug, greedy kid who just wants to get to his presents, and plan to replace their gift with Gene's smelly socks. Then Louise talks to Holden and learns that the elaborate party was his parents' idea and only wants to open his presents sooner so he could get the party done and over with. Louise decides to help Holden by sabotaging the group photo.
  • Diane of Bojack Horseman celebrates her birthday with her husband Mr Peanutbutter. She comes home at the end of the day saying what a perfect day it's been, that anything more would be "too much". and all she wants to do now is crawl into bed and go to sleep. Unfortunately, Mr Peanutbutter has arranged a ridiculously over-the-top surprise party for her, which starts a fight while the would-be guests try to come up with excuses and sneak out. It's precisely as awkward as it sounds.
  • On The Flintstones episode "Pebbles' Birthday Party", Fred arranges both his daughter's b-day party and the Water Buffalo lodge's stag party with the same caterer. The apathetic "only caterer in town" carelessly mixes them up, sending a clown to the lodge, and a troupe of dancing girls to the kiddie party.
  • Harvey Street Kids: In the season 3 finale, the Harvey Girls throw Richie Rich a birthday party (which he never celebrated before since he didn't feel the need to). While the party goes exactly as they planned, it still ends on a sour note when all the emotions prove too much for Richie to handle (since he never experienced the joy of a birthday before), and he runs away from Harvey Street, forsaking the concept of childhood. This ends the season on a cliffhanger, with the girls having to convince Richie to come back at the start of season 4.
  • The Hey Arnold! episode "Eugene's Birthday" has Eugene go through several failed birthday parties. Nobody except for Arnold went to his first one because the invitations were lost, Arnold then throws a makeup party at the aquarium with Gerald but the other kids don't attend because Sid and Stinky (who were responsible for inviting the other kids) got the venue wrong and had a party at the roller rink. Finally, Arnold sets up a third party at his backyard with all the other kids, except for Eugene who refuses to attend because he worries the third party will just be a screw up like the last two. He eventually comes around and shows up only for the party to be rained out, but Eugene expresses his gratitude towards Arnold making such an effort to make him happy.
  • King of the Hill: In "Strangeness on a Train", it is revealed that Peggy's birthday parties have always been colossal disasters. This year she arranges a murder mystery Themed Party on a train, but that gets ruined by Luanne accidentally revealing the ending and a broken refrigerator spoiling the food (plus no alcohol). Distraught, Peggy goes into the bathroom crying, Hank follows her, and they wind up having sex while everyone else is dealing with the Shoddy Shindig. At first this uncharacteristic act leaves them both cheered up, but then the other guests discover evidence that someone had sex in there and decide that this is the new mystery to be solved. Hank and Peggy spend the rest of the train ride trying to destroy the evidence before people can tie it to them.
    Peggy: Ugh, I have had nothing but lousy birthdays. But getting robbed last year at Captain Bear's was the worst.
    Bobby: Worse than the flash flood or the food poisoning or the year you got hit in the neck by a foul ball?
  • Defied in The Loud House episode "No Spoilers": the kids (except Leni , because they think she'll spoil the surprise, and Lily) are making a surprise birthday party for their mother Rita. However, things don't work out: Lana uses toilet paper, gum, and brown balloons (which Lynn thinks look like poop) as decorations, Lynn's subs she provides are covered in Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce, Lola's cake is too sweet, Luan's jokes are all about Rita being old, Luna can't think of a song Rita would like, and Lisa has invited three men Rita doesn't like. However, this all happens before Rita gets home and when they realise things are going south, they get Leni over, who throws a successful party for Rita.
  • Mickey Mouse: Mickey explains to his friends that he does not want a surprise birthday party, because the surprise frequently just ends up scaring him. In an attempt to make up for this, Minnie decides to make the birthday party as big as she can, and the friends spend the whole day making a massive birthday cake. Mickey, not being able to find anyone, is left in a constant state of fear all day, just waiting for the surprise. When he finds out what they are up to, the cake-making has gotten so out of hand that the cake is growing so big that it endangers Mickey and friends' lives.
  • Subverted in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together", where Dr. Doofenshmirtz arranges a birthday party for his daughter Vanessa and invites all her friends. She hates it because she feels she has outgrown all the hearts and ponies. However, the place gets trashed when Perry the Platypus escapes, and Vanessa's friends are impressed by the result.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In the season 2 episode "Birthday Bash", the girls celebrate their birthday with all of Townsville. However, Mojo Jojo, Princess and HIM all seize the opportunity to attack and hopefully kill the girls with their "gifts" (Mojo sends a giant robot, Princess a missile, and HIM a giant, living pinata). The Amoeba Boys also make an attempt to harm the girls with Voodoo Dolls, but screw up as usual.
  • The Recess episode "Bonky Fever" involves Mikey's tenth birthday, with Mikey reverting to kindergartener-like behavior and becoming obsessed with Bonky, a Barney Expy. His friends are horrified among arriving at Mikey's birthday party (thinking he's snapped out of his phase) to see a bunch of kindergartners attending and the whole party having a Bonky theme. And then Bonky comes out to dance with Mikey and the kindergarteners. In a desperate attempt to bring Mikey back to normal, the rest of the gang pounces on Bonky and unmasks him to reveal Mikey's mother Mrs. Blumberg in a Bonky Goofy Suit. Mikey claims his head hurts and he runs out into the backyard to be alone, and then one of the kindergarteners says to T.J. "Now we play Pin Tail on Big Kid!" and chase him.
  • A ruined birthday celebration is discussed briefly in Rugrats when Stu mentions Dil spitting up on his birthday cake.
  • In the The Simpsons episode "Radio Bart", Bart's birthday party ends up being underwhelming when his presents are really lame (such as a label maker, a cactus, and a matching suit) and he doesn't like some of the guests who attend.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Whale of a Birthday" is about Mr. Krabs throwing a very cheap birthday party for Pearl. This includes a banner reading "IT'S A BOY!" with the "boy" crossed out and "girl" written above it, a statue of Pearl made of raw meat, dishwater served as drinks, a cake made of cardboard, and one of Mr. Krabs's employees singing as entertainment. Pearl is very unhappy with this until SpongeBob gets her a bunch of presents she wants, using Mr. Krabs's credit card.
  • In the Tangled: The Series special "Cassandra's Revenge", it is Eugene's birthday, but the party goes wrong when Cassandra crashes the scene.
 
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Junior trashes Lucy's birthday party.

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