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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Frequently happens in both versions of Shameless due to the Gallagher family's Perpetual Poverty.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 occurence.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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".
- 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.
- In the Mexican sitcom El Chavo del ocho, one of the show's longest Running Gag was Don Ramon finding ways of avoiding Senor Barriga whenver 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nazi Zombies: Nikolai Belinski sometimes says this in the beginning of Kino der Toten.
"Who didn't pay electric bill?"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Webcomic/Pay Dat Rent, 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."
- 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 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.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Subverted. SpongeBob thinks Gary did this when the electricity goes out, but it was actually caused by the Blue Jellyfish cutting the wires.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Simpsons: Homer once forgot to pay for the insurance. When he remembered, he left an envelope with the money at the insurance company, where he found a message saying they'd not return until 15:00. He was then worried something would happen before then.
- A similar thing happened in the King of the Hill episode "Mutual of Omabwah!"
- A common variant used in many cartoons was someone calling the power or gas company and saying that they could not or refused to pay their utility bills. Said service would be cut off before the caller could hang up the phone.
- 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.
- Speaking of Rocko, in another Joe Murray cartoon called Camp Lazlo, "Prickly Pining Dining" has Lumpus taking out the campers to a restaurant to eat after their chef goes sick thanks to his own cooking that gave him food poisoning. Lumpus realizes he forgot to bring cash and tries wringing loot out of the campers (all they have are frogs, lollipops and pocket lint) and Lumpus resorts to ditching the restaurant. They only get away when the bear's already cutting down their bus doors.. then they realize they left the Jelly Trio back there.
- 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 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.