Lorelai: You didn't plan any activities?
Luke: It's a birthday party. I thought that was the activity.
Lorelai: Oh, Luke.
Luke: Is it normal for kids to fall asleep at a birthday party?
Parties naturally have a lot of stimuli, and they're supposed to be fun. However, sometimes, the host just tosses up some token decorations without bothering to make the venue presentable, or maybe the turnout was far lower than expected, or maybe the cake was a little bland. Regardless, if the audience was expecting a grand celebration and gets something incredibly boring, it feels incredibly underwhelming.
To be this trope, there needs to be buildup to the party; an event that's excessively formal doesn't count unless it was previously advertised as, for example, a wild party with spiked punch. May be a Chekhov's Party under the right circumstances.
- In Revenge of the Nerds, the main characters have a party and invite the sorority girls from Omega Mu. It has all the trappings of a Sad Party (including a wheezing accordion sing-a-long). Until Booger breaks out the weed, and suddenly Michael Jackson's "Thriller" punctuates a radical shift in mood.
- In The Virgin Suicides, the Lisbon family throws a chaperoned party for Cecilia in the hopes of cheering her up after her suicide attempt. Being extremely strict Protestants, they don't really have much experience with throwing parties, and thus it's a dreary affair and Cecilia ends up leaving and hurling herself out of her bedroom window.
- A Season 2 episode of Boy Meets World has Corey wanting him and Shawn to attend a party hosted by a hot girl because he believes those who aren't going to be invited are going to be labeled as geeks for the rest of their high school lives, only to be surprised when he gets an invitation and Shawn doesn't. When Corey arrives at the party, low and behold, he realizes that the only people who got invited to the party were a bunch of geeks.
- An episode of Frasier involves Frasier organizing a party that becomes one of these, but not by Frasier's fault — a blackout affects the building and all of the guests are angsty for one personal reason or another and militantly refuse to have any fun no matter what Frasier offers them. When they finally decide to lighten up and have fun... they all decide to leave Frasier and go to a party that is happening upstairs and hypocritically call Frasier a "party pooper" when he points out that they could just celebrate the party that they're already in. And with this quip, Frasier finally decides to let go of the rage that's been building up all episode.
- Friends, "The One Where the Stripper Cries": The rather formal and classy tea party that Monica throws as a bachelorette party for Phoebe. Monica felt it was appropriate for them as grownups, but Phoebe keeps expecting some action and excitement. So Monica and Rachel try to hire a male stripper at the last minute.
- How I Met Your Mother, "The Sweet Taste of Liberty": Barney is excited that he and Ted have been invited to a party at Sascha's whom he met at the Philly airport. The party ends up being extremely boring. They all sit on a couch, staring at the TV. They have to keep the noise down because Sascha lives with her elderly grandpa. Each guest only gets to drink one hard lemonade and Barney gets shushed when he tries to toast.
- The Inbetweeners: Neil's 18th birthday party. Neil tries and fails to invite 10 friends, and the attendees consist mostly of the least cool people at school, and his elderly relatives. The whole thing is mostly ruined by Will's "girlfriend" causing a scene after Will breaks up with her rather unkindly.
- Gilmore Girls, "Super Cool Party People": Luke offers to throw a birthday party for his newly-found 13-year-old daughter. He's not experienced with kids or teens and doesn't plan any activities. All the guests are super bored and also intimidated by his grumpy personality. Luke's fiancée Lorelai saves the day by taking the girls to a beauty shop and having the girls experiment with make-up. And she also suggests making it a sleepover, which the girls absolutely love.
- Malcolm in the Middle: Hal and the boys (predictably) make a mess of Lois's birthday plans, to the point of driving her out of the house in frustration. They try their best to salvage the situation and (predictably) end up with one of these.
- An episode of Monk ("Mr. Monk Is the Best Man") has Adrian Monk organizing a stag party for his cop friends. Much to their dismay, it turns out that Adrian cannot organize anything worth a damn in terms of fun, taking steps such as (for example) getting Bachelor Party as a movie to watch and buying exactly one beer bottle (and not a very big one, at that. Stottlemeyer even makes the math and says that they will only get a very mild buzz from drinking them) for each guest (which makes all of them decide to invert the Designated Driver trope and give all of the beer to Randy so he will be the "designated drunk"). And then it turns out that the murder investigation of the week interferes with the party, with the murderer setting Stottlemeyer's car on fire.
- Mr. Bean had an episode where he invited two one-off friends of his to a New Year's Eve party. Problem is, aside from they being the only three guests in attendance at the "party" (along with his teddy bear) and his well-known lack of social graces, he didn't bother to buy food for the party, so his "snacks" consisted of twigs and bird food from a tree outside his apartment window and wine made from white vinegar and sugar. Understandably, they soon bail out of the party by several hours early by fooling him into thinking it was midnight and attend a much more livelier one a neighbor of his is having and end up being the life of the party there.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: In the episode "Not So Sweet 16", Maddie's birthday party plan was scrapped because her brother needed braces, so the only people who showed up were Zack, her family, and some bingo players. London meanwhile was having a giant, elaborate party at the Tipton, which, though an enjoyable time for all of the guests, was a mess for her due to her parents fighting and the number of party crashers. Plus, she actually gets locked out of her own party because she doesn't have an ID, and the doorman mistakes her for multiple other party crashers attempting to masquerade as her.
- Spaced: When Daisy spontaneously decides to have a housewarming party (mostly as an excuse to avoid doing any work on her writing) it quickly turns into this. Decorations made of tin foil, a guest list composed of a handful of people they happen to know, and a tape of '80s hits for music - this is in stark contrast to the actually good party being hosted upstairs, for which almost everyone abandons their own for.
- The Young Ones: Neil's birthday party is one of these since the only people he invites are his three housemates - and he doesn't even invite them until the party has 'started'.
- In "A Complicated Song" from "Weird Al" Yankovic's Poodle Hat, the singer attends a pizza party thrown by his friend, but no-one else shows up. The two are left to sit and sadly eat pizza by themselves, and the singer takes the leftovers home; eating pizza at every meal for the next few days gives him constipation.
- Ninja Sex Party
- Let's Get This Terrible Party Started consisted of Danny hyping up an epic party being thrown once every hundred thousand years, only to be disappointed that it's just a few guys playing Dungeons & Dragons. Nonetheless, he tried making the most of it, assuming that it's just a slow start. When he tried to liven up the mood with a dance break, nobody obliged, leading him to conclude that the party sucks and having Ninja Brian destroy the place with his mind.
- The song and video Danny Don't You Know has child Danny sending out party invites... which is accepted by "all his friend", played by Arin Hanson. The video has them both looking unhappy as a picture is taken and the party banner falls over.
- In the Dinosaurs episode, "Getting to Know You", Fran gets the flu on Charlene's birthday, resulting in Earl throwing Charlene a disastrous birthday party; Earl doesn't invite any of Charlene's friends, but he does invite his friends from work, the guests play poker and plan to watch a video of wrestling bloopers, and give Charlene presents she doesn't really want. Meanwhile, Fran ends up making Charlene a sweater rather than buy her a specific one she wanted.
- Claptrap ends up throwing a One-Person Birthday Party in Borderlands 2. After being rejected by everyone he gives an invite too, you (the vault hunter) are the only one who actually attends. He tries to make the most of it with a noisemaker, some music on the radio, a little dancing, and more pizza than he could ever hope to ever consume even if he had a mouth to eat it.
- GLaDOS's "surprise" in Portal 2: a bit of confetti falls from a vent and she plays a noisemaker sound effect.
- Afterlife (1996): One of the Gluttony punishments is an absolute eternity of crappy parties, ones that promise to be endlessly worse than some already-pretty-awful examples that include accidentally giving out frozen urine samples as treats, catching pneumonia at a rained-on BBQ and even the roof collapsing and crushing partygoers to death.
- In The Sims you can throw a party; the first game would send a mime to let the player know they've thrown a shoddy shindig. The Sims 2 uses a Party Meter to tell you how much fun everyone's having. Like in the first game, not having enough guests, food, or stuff to do will displease the guests who are there and might even ding your friendships.
- Alphablocks, in "Superhero X", a group of letters try to throw a party but find it boring as there is nothing to do. However, X livens it up.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In "Hypno Birthday to You", thanks to Jimmy hypnotizing his parents, they believe every single day to be his birthday, and throw a party each day as well. At first, they're a lot of fun, with even his rivals Cindy and Libby enjoying themselves. A few parties in, however, and things take a turn — in addition to everyone being utterly sick of partying (and cake), the party clown is unable to perform any new tricks, and his parents run out of money to get presents and supplies. The result is a string of miserable parties that leaves the guests bored and unhappy.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "'Tween a Rock and an Ed Place", the Eds attend Johnny's "Arbor Day" party and find it to be a dull affair full of bizarre activities that only Johnny and Plank (and Ed) enjoy.
- King of the Hill: In "Strangeness on a Train", Peggy plans a Themed Party on a train: a murder mystery theater train ride with a '70s disco theme. Hank is not sure it's such a great idea, especially the disco part, but agrees to make Peggy happy. The mystery is revealed in two minutes and the actors leave. Then the train caterer announces that the refrigeration has gone out and spoiled their dinner and they can't serve any alcohol. They have no food except cheese-and-crackers packets, no alcohol, and no entertainment. Everybody is grouching in the dining car. Peggy and Hank have sex in the bathroom which cheers her up. Others soon discover that someone had sex and decide to try to find out this mystery to entertain themselves.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- Mr. Krabs throws his daughter Pearl the cheapest birthday parties ever, best exemplified in "Whale of a Birthday". When Pearl was little, he made her and all the party guests share one balloon, and the pony ride was a cheap stick pony that easily fell apart. On Pearl's 16th birthday, despite promising Pearl he wouldn't be cheap, he throws her a party that cuts every corner; the banner is recycled from Pearl's baby shower, refreshments include a cake that is made out of cardboard and frosting, stale popcorn, and dishwater, a statue of Pearl is made of raw Krabby Patty meat instead of ice, and Squidward substitutes for Pearl's favorite band, Boys Who Cry. Fortunately, Spongebob turns things around for Pearl by buying her everything she wants for her birthday with Mr. Krabs' credit card.
- In "Party Pooper Pants", Spongebob decides to throw a party and invites everyone in town. It starts out as a disaster thanks to his strict adherence to schedule and his insistence that everyone uses random cards to base discussions on. When he locks himself out by mistake (and later gets arrested by the police because they weren't invited), things improve tremendously.
- The 2017 Fyre Festival was doomed from the word "go". Two dueling documentaries released in 2019 (Netflix's Fyre and Hulu's Fyre Fraud) provide an explanation of how everything went wrong by the people who tried to make it happen. Fyre Festival was falsely advertised from the get-go; the advertisement video for the event said that the island where the Festival was going to take place was owned by Pablo Escobar — not only was it not owned by Escobar, but the island's current owner explicitly forbid the Fyre organization from mentioning Escobar, then kicked them out when they mentioned him anyway. This forced Fyre to use another nearby island, and from there, things just went From Bad to Worse. Promised artists that weren't booked, supplies that didn't arrive because the island's Customs authorities weren't paid, and even rain on the night before the Festival's opening that turned the shoddy "guest area" into a swamp. To top it all off, it later turned out that the man who conceived the Festival to begin with was a con artist. The Internet Historian shares his thoughts on the matter herenote and Swindled has an episode on the disastrous festival here.
- Dashcon, a convention made by Tumblr users for Tumblr users, promising to give its attendees the con of their life. In a way, they delivered. The organizers all had little to no experience running a convention and got greedy thinking Dashcon would be the next big con. They booked too big and expensive of a venue, the Renaissance Mariott in Chicago note , charged too much to get in — sixty dollars for a new convention, which is absurdly high — and spent their money unwisely. They promised acts and panels that had never agreed to show up and even sold tickets for these nonexistent events; Dashcon quietly cancelled these events while attendees were waiting for the acts to start, with a "no refunds" in place as an insult to injury. They ended up not having enough money to pay the hotel, had to beg the con-goers for $17,000 to keep the con going, then lied that the hotel had increased the price at last minute because they were racist/misogynist/homophobic/transphobic; in reality, the Marriott had been exceedingly nice to them by allowing them a chance to collect door revenue before paying the bill. After the seventeen grand was raised, nobody had any money to spend on the vendors, so the vendors started to pack up and leave once they noticed no-one was buying anything. The acts that did show up were not paid, and most of them left early — the fact that they performed at all was extraordinarily generous, given that someone from Dashcon had removed the company credit card from the hotel's front desk (after promising it'd be there), and thus forced the talents to pay their own hotel bills. They also failed to secure licensing to show movies they had promised and ended up having to cancel those as well. To compensate, all of the con-goers were provided a comically undersized inflatable ball pit to play in while waiting around during the many canceled events. Even this was ruined when someone urinated in the pit. To top it off, leaked financial data suggest the organizers overstated the amount of money they needed to raise and walked out with over ten grand between them, plus their already generous salaries that they set for themselves. In the end, Dashcon was an unmitigated disaster that essentially killed the idea of a Tumblr-based convention before it was even truly born. The Internet Historian has further analysis of the event here and here.