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Lost the TV Remote

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Joey: Hey, Phoebs.
Phoebe: How come you're watching a rabbi play electric guitar?
Joey: I can't find the remote. [Phoebe turns off the TV] Thank you.
Friends, "The One Where Ross Finds Out"

You want to watch some TV, but can't find the TV Remote. Time to turn the room (and probably the building) upside down looking for it. Which brings the question, why not use that same effort in changing the channel manually?


Although typically used as the punchline of a joke concerning a character's perceived laziness, this trope is slowly falling out of favour as many modern entertainment devices really can only be operated using their designated remote controls. There are ways to work around a lost remote, but they are for the most part not practical in the immediate sense — ordering a new remote takes days, for instance.

Compare Dead TV Remote Gag.



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  • Jim Gaffigan has a bit about this: "Have you ever been sitting on the couch and you suddenly lose the remote? How does that happen? 'I haven't even got up! And I don't remember throwing it...'"


  • In Click, Michael is just trying to find the TV remote, but accidentally ends up using a remote for his kids' toys and a remote that controls the garage door. He decides that he's just going to go buy a universal remote so that it won't take forever trying to find the one that they need. And so it all begins...

     Live Action TV  

  • This was the basis for a skit from Blue Collar TV. Probably comes from one of Jeff Foxworthy's standup jokes: "... and it's always in the last place I look" "well duh."
  • If there's one thing guaranteed to drive Doug Heffernan nuts in The King of Queens, it's losing the remote.
  • In The Royle Family, Dad Royle is reduced to rage to discover the batteries have been taken out of his beloved remote to power Nana Royle's hand-held fan.
  • One Zoey 101 episode begins with the cast unable to change the TV from a boring documentary. Nicole actually suggests changing the TV with its standard channel buttons but unfortunately that particular TV didn't have them.


     Newspaper Comics  

  • Garfield
    • A strip had Garfield finding things in the couch, such as a pencil, some change, a comb, and a fork before finding the remote control.
    • In other strips, he's forced to watch boring shows like "The History of Norwegian Flowerpots", because the remote is lost, doesn't work, or he's just too lazy to reach it.
  • A short arc in The Boondocks occurs when Riley loses the TV remote, and is too lazy to find it. Huey, who has found the remote, chooses to try to force him into action by changing the channel to The Discovery Channel and C-SPAN.
  • In one strip for The Bucketts, there is a variation on this trope. Toby plays a prank on Grandpa Buckett by hiding the remote. He is quite confused when Grandpa changes the channels using the TV itself.

     Video Games 
  • Yo Kai Watch: Count Zapaway is the living personification of this trope, being an anthropomorphic TV remote Yokai who whisks TV remotes on romantic dates, and leaves them in the strangest places. At least, according to the in-game description.


  • In Sluggy Freelance, vampires kidnap Torg, and he had the TV remote in his pocket. Getting back the remote is the only reason Bun-Bun is willing to help rescue him.
  • Hex and Zeno of Charby the Vampirate cobble together a giant horned dog-like beast to wait by the TV and press the buttons when they can't find the remote. Tony has found it by the time they are finished.

     Western Animation  

  • The Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: C.O.U.C.H." involved the TV remote getting lost in the sofa, prompting Numbuh Four to go down and retrieve it, only for him to find an entirely Greek-influenced civilization (which is populated by Animal House-Esque frat boys) in possession of the remote.
  • Teen Titans: the first episode had Cyborg looking for the TV remote, doing things like holding up the couch, in the beginning and end.
  • There is an episode of The Simpsons, of course, that mentions this trope. Homer has to yell to Bart through a megaphone, and is told the true location of his remote:
    Homer: Bart! Do you know...where the remote is? I've looked all over for it.
    Bart: Did you check your pocket?
    • Often comes up with Grampa and Jasper when they find something on TV they don't like for example Mr Burns's campaign video for governor
    Grampa: I don't wanna watch this Jasper change the channel.
    Jasper: You change the channel.
    Grampa: Fine be a jerk, we'll just sit here and watch this.
    • Then in another episode he asked for the remote but when he saw it on the floor just out of reach he declared "it might as well be in china".
  • Gravity Falls: This was Grunkle Stan's excuse for throwing the TV out the window when Dipper and Mabel return at the end of "The Inconveniencing". Even better is that he really couldn't find the remote, and simply got caught up in the movie he was stuck watching.
    Stan: Kids! I can't find the remote and I refuse to get up!
  • This happens to Toot in an episode of Drawn Together, her solution being to eat the television. Apparently she does this with everything that doesn't work.
  • Played with in ReBoot. Apparently, Mike the TV was so annoying that his remote ran away. Since Mike has no built-in controls, that means no one can shut him up.
  • In the What A Cartoon short, Godfrey and Zeek the title characters accidentally flush their remote down their toilet and have to go to the sewage treatment plant to find it.

     Web Video 

  • Joseph's Machines: Defied in "5 inventions that are surprisingly useful" when Joseph creates a machine to ensure that the remote is never lost.

     Real Life 

  • Avoiding this is the advertised purpose of jumbo sized remote controls too big to hold in ones hands.
    • The "use the on-set controls" solution is sadly becoming less and less of an option. Few DVD players have on-board menu navigation buttons anymore, and TVs are reducing their controls as well, awkwardly tying everything to a single wheel/button.
  • Some modern sets and devices can avoid the problem by connecting to the home network and being controllable via smartphone apps. (It's harder to lose a phone as long as you can get to another phone to call and make the first phone ring.)


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