One good indicator of a Broke Episode is the loss of a commodity or service (usually electricity) due to failure to pay the supplier for it. This usually happens because the person responsible for making the payment couldn't afford it, or forgot to send the payment. The disconnection can take the Magical Computer off line, or cause other Applied Phlebotinum to be unavailable, at the most drama-inducing moment possible.
In other settings, characters may assume their service has been disconnected for non-payment, when in reality sabotage is to blame for the loss of their utility, or they attempt to pay overdue bills within their grace period to avoid losing service.
Until the mid-1980s, utilities such as natural gas and electricity were often paid for by feeding coins into a meter which physically measured the amount of the resource consumed. 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. Modern equivalents use reloadable contactless fobs, which can still leave you royally shafted if the meter is ticking down and you don't have sufficient funds to top it up.
Power Outage Plot may result from this.
- Phantom Quest Corp.: The company nearly goes bankrupt during Incident File 04, thanks to the Hadja stealing all of their clients. Things get so bad that the TV switches off, because the company didn't have the funds to pay their electric bill.
- In the Batman story, "The Joker's Millions" The Joker is trying to "go straight" after inheriting a seeming fortune from a former Mob Boss. Following The Joker's discovery that most of the money is counterfeit and being unwilling to admit in public to being tricked, The Joker is faced with a huge inheritance tax bill and so burns the counterfeit money in the fireplace for warmth because he can't afford to pay for heating.
- 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.
- 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.
- Die Hard: Al Powell makes a joke about this after the FBI cuts off the electricity to the tower the terrorists are inside of.
Big Johnson: Those bastards are probably pissing in their pants right now
Al: Well, what are we gonna do now, arrest them for not paying the electric 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.
- In It's a Disaster!, the host couple react to cable/phone/electric outages by quarreling over who forgot, intentionally or otherwise, to pay the bill, in the process blurting out the news of their impending divorce to their friends.
- Played hilariously straight in the Italian movie My Friends, where a woman tries to commit suicide by letting the gas leak... and fails because her husband didn't pay the bill.
- Smiley Face: Jane has to pay the power bill that day in person, with money left for her by her roommate. Things do not go as planned after Jane eats a whole plate of marijuana cupcakes
- Adrian Mole:
- In Secret Diary, the Moles' electricity is cut off for several days, because Adrian's father cannot pay the bill. Adrian's grandmother discovers him reading Hard Times by his key ring torch.
- In the same book, the phone is cut off after Adrian has taken long reverse-charge calls from Pandora in Tunisia, and tries to hide the bills from his parents.
- In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Penny, who is often broke, asks if she can watch TV at the guy's apartment, because there's something wrong with her cable. When Sheldon asks if she paid her bill, she responds "Ugh- you sound just like the guy from the cable company".
- Referenced in The Bill when Sun Hill police station is afflicted by a power cut. PC Tony Stamp makes a joke about how someone must have forgotten to put another fifty-pence piece in the meter, then shrugs it off as Somebody Else's Problem and goes back to making out with his attractive female colleague, blissfully unaware that some likely lads have caused the power failure as a distraction while they go about setting the building on fire!
- 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.
- Hilariously subverted at the end of the Boy Meets World episode "The Fugitive". After both Cory and Shawn are grounded for a month due to the former hiding the latter in his bedroom after he set off a cherry bomb in a Post Office box outside Alan's store, the electricity in the Matthews Residence is cut off, because Alan mailed the electric bill on the same day Shawn set off the bomb, and said bill was blown to smithereens along with everything else that was about to be mailed.
Cory: [watching a football game with Alan and Morgan] What happpened?!
Eric: [calling a prospective girlfriend] I had her!
Alan: The game!
Morgan: [playing with her Barbie doll and drying its hair] Barbie's hair!
Amy: [working on a spreadsheet] I didn't save!
Cory: Dad, what happpened?!
Amy: Alan, didn't you pay the electric bill?
Alan: Of course, I paid it— a month ago! I put it in the mailbox right... outside my store!
Amy: On cherry bomb day?!
Shawn: Good night, everybody!
- In the Mexican sitcom El Chavo del ocho, one of the show's longest Running Gag was Don Ramon finding ways of avoiding Señor Barriga whenever he comes to collect the rent on account of never having any money. The reason Don Ramon never has any money is because of his refusal to find steady work.
- Happens to Robby in Cobra Kai. He's never received any support from his dad, and his mom disappears for days at a time with random guys. Mom's latest paramour wants to take her on an extended trip and promises to cover their bills while she's gone, but after a while the power in the apartment goes out. This leads to Robby being taken in by the LaRussos.
- In the series about the Theranos scandal, The Dropout, after the first failed test of the machine, the lights go out at Theranos. Elizabeth calls the power company to pay off the bill and has to put it on a credit card other than the one she was using.
- In a Cold Open for an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Hal berates the boys for incurring a fine of dozens of dollars for a DVD they rented (the episode aired in the early 2000s') several weeks before. As Hal says that they need to learn to take care of problems when they happen rather than "let things slide," the electricity is shut off and he wonders out loud if the deadline expired.
- While they almost always have electricity or heating, a Running Gag on Married... with Children is the Bundys getting their water shut off, to the point that getting it TURNED BACK ON is a rare occurrence.
- One episode had Al and Peggy getting a small royal inheritance and celebrate by going out to a fancy expensive restaurant... only to find they forgot to bring that inheritance money with them.
- Modern Family: When various members of the family are trying to help Lily through her first period, Haley reveals that she has been using her period as a reminder to pay her bills. Little after saying this, she realizes that there may be a connection between her current pregnancy and the fact that her credit card has been getting declined.
- 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.
- On My Name Is Earl, Earl and his friends spend New Year's Eve at Donny's sister's house, while she was off with her latest trucker boyfriend, in an attempt to hide out from the Millennium Bug. At midnight, the lights go out, which they attribute to Y2K, although it's really because Donny's sister hadn't paid her electric bill in months. (Either because she couldn't pay, or because she'd been traveling with her boyfriend for just that long.)
- Our Miss Brooks: In "Public Property on Parade", the electricity is disconnected when Mrs. Davis fails to pay the bill. Miss Brooks is forced to type out a speech by the light of a streetlamp.
- 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.
- Frequently happens in both versions of Shameless due to the Gallagher family's Perpetual Poverty.
- In the opening cutscene from Beyond Good & Evil, the shield protecting Jade's house from alien invasion gets shut off because the bill wasn't paid.
- Nazi Zombies: Nikolai Belinski sometimes says this in the beginning of Kino der Toten.
"Who didn't pay electric bill?"
- Randal's Monday: Randal can't pay his rent at game start, causing much of his misfortune.
- In The Sims, Sims have generic "Bills" they have to pay (proportional to the number and quality of items in the house) and failure to pay results in an item in the house being repossessed, often that big-ticket item that made the Bills go up in the first place.
- According to Street Fighter IV, this is why Dan Hibiki missed out on The Second World Warrior Tournament; since he's in Perpetual Poverty, he didn't pay his phone bill. Thus, his childhood friend Blanka was unable to contact Dan and tell him about the tournament.
- Ace Attorney
- Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2: According to Detective Gumshoe, this happened to him once, prompting him to use candles as an alternative means of lighting.
- The Great Ace Attorney: In Case 2 of Resolve, Ryunosuke and Susato discuss this regarding the gas meter in a room and how terrible it must be to miss a payment and having to sleep in the cold without heating.
- 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.
- In PAY DAT RENT!!!1, PDR Guy had forgotten to pay his bill for rent, which causes him to get evicted from his apartment, having this the main reason the webcomic continues.
- Homestar Runner: In "Homestar Presents: Presents", after Coach Z has an imaginary phone call with his parents where he assures them he's not alone on Decemberween, the lights go out. Coach Z laments "Aw, crackles! I forgot to pay my bills again this year."
- Pencilmation: Apparently happens in "I Know What You Did Last Number." Pencilmate leaves a Chinese restaurant after eating, but an employee gives him a fortune cookie. The fortune says "7718," which Pencilmate believes to be a bad omen. Soon after, he is captured by the restaurant employees and taken to their manager who shows him this number. Turns out "7718" was actually "bill" upside down. Pencilmate just neglected to pay for his food. After paying, he is given another fortune that says he didn't tip.
- Pokémon The 'Bridged Series, when the Power Plant shuts down.
Worker 1: Did you forget to pay the electric bill?
Worker 2: We ARE the electric bill.
Worker 1: Yeah, OK. But did you pay it?
Worker 2: No.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Referenced in "Who's Your Mommy?", when Hugh complains to the utility company about his latest bill at the same time an energy-sucking alien arrives on Earth.
Hugh: This electricity bill is outrageous, and I won't pay it! (all the power in town goes out) Ooh, I didn't know you were so strapped for cash. Will you take a check?
- The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Founder" is kickstarted by the Wattersons being late on their cable bill and having to pay it in person, since their internet is cut off.
- 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).
- In another episode Shake once again fails to pay the cable bill. That spurs him and Meatwad to take on a hitman job, while Frylock takes a menial job at a fast food place. Shake abandons Meatwad with the mob boss they were supposed to kill to watch cable at the Better Buy until he's thrown out at closing time, and Frylock just bribes Carl into illegally turning the cable back on after quitting.
- 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.
- Classic Disney Shorts: In the Donald Duck short "Drip Dippy Donald," Donald Duck has been bothered by a loud dripping faucet all night, ultimately creating a Rube Goldberg Machine to get the water to drip onto sponges instead...and he receives a call from the water company saying that they're shutting his water off because he hasn't paid the bill.
- In a House of Mouse episode, this is just barely averted—while Mickey did spend the rent money on cheese (again), he manages to raise enough to replace it before Pete shuts the club down.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plastic Man: the episode "The Many and the Fowl" has Plastic Man going to pay his overdue electric bill by mail, but runs into several villains on his way to the mailbox.
- In The Proud Family episode "Crouching Trudy, Hidden Penny", in this case, it's forgot to mail the bill. Uncle Bobby warned Oscar not to push a certain button that would turn his car into a post office box, which enables Bobby to avoid getting parking tickets, but Oscar disobeyed, until Bobby cleared everything up. After demonstrating how the button works, Bobby then takes out all the mail hidden in his car and hands it to Oscar before driving off, telling him to put it in a real post office box, and then the power in the Proud Residence goes out, because among the mail is the payment for the electric bill.
- 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.
- Rocko's Modern Life uses the parking meters variant when Rocko loses his job in the episode "Canned". Even the oxygen has one! The electricity meter expires, and Rocko is unable to put in another quarter, so the lights go out. Rocko looks over the want ads by the light from a match.
- The Simpsons:
- In "Mother Simpson", Homer fakes his own death, leading to the house's electricity getting cut off because he's the one who pays for it.
Marge: Uh, excuse me, sir! I think there's been a mistake!Electrician: Oh, no. No mistake. Your electricity's in the name of Homer J. Simpson, deceased. The juice stays off 'til you get a job or a generator. Oh, and, uh, my deepest sympathies.
- In "Future Drama", Bart uses Professor Frank's future-telling device to see a possible future with a middle-aged Lisa in a miserable marriage to Milhouse.
Lisa: You know, I was thinking of taking a poetry class at the community college.Milhouse: Forget it. I had to sell all my marrow to pay the light bill. (the lights go out) I didn't have much marrow.
- In "How the Test Was Won", Homer forgets to pay for the insurance. When he remembers and leaves an envelope with the money at the insurance company, he finds a message saying they'd not return until 3:00, leaving him worried that something will happen before then.
- In "Mother Simpson", Homer fakes his own death, leading to the house's electricity getting cut off because he's the one who pays for it.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Subverted in "Jellyfish Hunter". SpongeBob thinks Gary did this when the electricity goes out, but it was actually caused by the Blue Jellyfish cutting the wires.