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Dead TV Remote Gag

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Cyborg: Well, how am I supposed to watch TV without a remote?!
Raven: Simple. You get up and change the channel.
Cyborg: ...Don't even joke like that.

Gasp!! The batteries in the remote control for the TV are dead! The greatest horror of all befalls our hero. Having to actually go up to the TV and change the channels manually! DUN DUN DUN!, or at least that's what your Plucky Sidekick, unaware of the seriousness of the situation, suggested. It should be noted that, since the early 2010s, many modern sets have extremely minimal on-board controls, if they have any at all, so a dead remote really can mean a very considerable loss of functionality. Same for a set-top box, as more and more of them have come to rely entirely on a remote, so watching TV without one actually does become impossible until you change the batteries.

When the trope is Played for Laughs, An Aesop about being lazy or about spending too much time watching TV may occur. Be on the lookout for a gun being used as a substitute for a remote. Compare Lost the TV Remote.


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  • In a commercial for Energizer Batteries, a man who has suffered from a major injury is watching TV. He is channel surfing, until he comes to a very intimate channel. When he hears from his Wife that his Father-in-law is coming to visit, he tries to change the channel, only to find out the batteries in his remote have died. Because he is heavily injured, he can't walk up to the TV and change the channel by hand. He gets caught by his Wife and Father-in-law as the Announcer says, "Should have used Energizer. They keep going and going...", complete with the Energizer Bunny passing by his house.
    • Another Energizer advert features the same gag. Only this time the parents are desperately trying to change the channel because the nature documentary on screen is graphically describing the mating habits of rhinos in front of their two kids.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield:
    • With the batteries in the remote dead, Jon challenges his lazy tabby on how he'll be able to change the channels now. Garfield picks him up by the heels and uses Jon's long body to press the buttons on the TV.
    • In another strip, the remote's batteries die and Jon and Garfield, rather than going to change the channel on the set, decide to go drive to the store and buy new batteries instead. Liz is totally baffled by this.
  • Peter in FoxTrot also faces this dilemma, the batteries are dead and there are no replacements, so he wails about how he'll have to watch the same channel all night, at least until his Mom comes in to tell him his bedtime is in five minutes. "THAT SOON?!"
  • This installment of Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!, eventually, Winky is sent back in time two days earlier to get the remote that has been missing for two days...

    Films — Animation 
  • Toy Story:
    • In Toy Story 2, several toys are watching TV in Andy's room when a commercial for the toy store owned by Woody's kidnapper, featuring the evil chicken voiced by Wayne Knight, comes on. Everyone panics and the batteries fall out. Most of the toys have no idea how to use batteries.
    • Doubles as a Continuity Nod to a similar situation in the first movie. Instead of a remote, it's a baby monitor that loses its batteries, and Woody is the only one who knows how to use them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This trope is how the plot of Pleasantville is caused to happen. Jennifer isn't too worried, commenting that they can just get up and press the buttons on the TV; only for David to explain that this TV doesn't have any buttons on it.

  • In A Good Marriage, protagonist Darcy finds a lot more than she meant to while she was looking for batteries. She finds evidence that her husband is the Serial Killer who's all over the news.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Pilot for The Sarah Silverman Program (though it was actually aired as the last episode of the season) "Batteries" found Sarah scrambling around town for batteries for her remote so she wouldn't have to watch a telethon for sick children. This was after she taped dollar bills to the screen.
  • There was a slightly different TV Remote batteries gag on Coupling. Steve checks the remote to find there aren't any batteries in it at all, points this out to new girlfriend Susan, and is bemused when she goes into her bedside table to get them back... when those are dead too, she opens up a drawer to reveal several huge multipacks of spare batteries.
  • In a bit filmed for Late Night with David Letterman, the gang at Cheers are watching TV and the remote is dead. They all decide that's OK, they'll just watch whatever's on next. Cue Late Night' s Opening Montage. Everybody runs out the door of the bar, including Sam.

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb "Perry Lays An Egg": Candace recounts how going five feet for popcorn is all right, but five feet to change the channel is too much.
  • The Dilbert TV show had an episode that was kicked off when Dogbert complained the remote wasn't working, and Dilbert told him to change the battery. The left one. Also, he bought a battery on the way home from work the day before because he sensed this coming. This was a demonstration of Dilbert's "knack" with electronics, which he goes on to lose later in the episode.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Contrasting Bart and Homer's desire to avoid watching a space shuttle launch with their panic over the complex technology of the TV remote not working (the batteries have fallen out).
    • There was another instance in one of the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes in which Bart crams a stick of glowing radioactive waste into the remote (Marge had taken the batteries to curb the kids excessive viewing) and with a push of the On button sends Bart and Lisa into an "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoon.
  • Toot from Drawn Together demonstrates a novel solution for this: just eat the television.
  • On Rocko's Modern Life, Heffer goes to Heck, and is informed by the demon Peaches that "THERE IS NO REMOTE!!" on the TV From Heck. Cue Big "NO!" from Heffer.
  • The Teen Titans Go! episode "Oil Drums" is all about the Titans losing the remote control, and ends with the Spoof Aesop that getting out and expanding your horizons is what rots your brain, while mindlessly watching television all day is what's good for you.
  • Buddy Thunderstruck "Babysitters, Yo": After spending the entire day looking after the inept Tex Jr. Buddy realizes he forgot to buy batteries for the TV Remote. Darnell suggests they just change it manually, to which Tex Jr. and Buddy express shock that you can do that. Buddy attempts to make Darnell be his personal remote for him, which proves to be the breaking point for Darnell where he realizes Buddy hasn't been mocking Jr's ineptitude all day, he just really is exactly as inept.
  • The Patrick Star Show: In "Lost in Couch", Patrick's remote control is personified as a raging monster called the Remoto Dragon. It ends up attacking Patrick because its batteries are dead. He feeds it some batteries to recharge it, then it shrinks down and licks him affectionately.

    Real Life 
  • Some flatscreen TVs don't have buttons, so the remote is the only option. Fortunately these models are a true minority, as manufacturers do realize the possibility of the batteries dying, or losing the remote. This trope will still be in force if a TV with buttons is mounted out of reach causing the buttons to be inaccessible.
  • A variant of this trope is also possible with some cable boxes.
  • Many modern TVs can be controlled over a home wifi network using a smartphone app (unless the phone is dead too).