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Forgot to Pay the Bill

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One good indicator of a Broke Episode is some commodity to be lost due to not having enough money to pay the bill for it, or forgetting to pay the bill at all. Or sometimes it'll simply be a mistake that causes the Magical Computer or some vital piece of Applied Phlebotinum to be unavailable at the most drama-inducing moment possible.

In other settings, characters may think this has happened when actually another factor, such as a someone cutting wires, is to blame.


Truth in Television for some payment plans, particularly for electricity or gas; up until the mid-1980s, the standard method of paying for these in Britain and possibly some other countries was to actually feed coins into a device rather like a parking meter, and someone from the supplier would come round once a month to collect it. 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. The modern equivalent uses RFID-based "keys" that can be charged up with funds at the post office or most convenience stores, leaving you royally shafted if the meter is ticking down and everything's about to shut.



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  • 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.

     Comic Books  

  • 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.
  • 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.


     Newspaper Comics  

  • In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin explains to his teacher that he couldn't do his homework because his parents didn't pay the gravity bill.

     Live Action TV  

  • 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.
  • 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!

     Video Games  


  • 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.

     Web Original  

  • 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.
    • He pays it after, but it doesn't change anything.

     Western Animation  

  • 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 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.
  • 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.


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