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"I love having a dog, and losing Blackie made me really depressed. Plus, having the Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Sounder, Turner and Hooch marathon on TV didn't help."
Everybody Hates Chris, "Everybody Hates Blackie"

Bob is feeling pretty bad. Maybe he's feeling insecure about something. Maybe he just got dumped. Maybe he just had a really bad day. Let's go ahead and say he got dumped. So Bob decides that he just needs a break from it all, and to get his mind off his problems. The best way to do that, of course, is by sitting on his couch and watching some TV.

The problem is, as soon as he turns on the TV, a soap opera turns on where a girl is breaking up with a guy. Of course, this is the last thing Bob needs to get his mind off his break-up. So he changes the station... only to see a stand-up comedian talking about the first time he got dumped. So he changes the channel again, and the first thing he hears is a commercial say "Having relationship problems?" No matter how many times Bob flips the channel, somebody is talking about relationships and break-ups. Eventually, Bob gives up and turns the TV off, at which point the scene usually ends.

This is a quick gag that's pretty common when you're trying to make the audience feel sorry for your character, or prove just how much the universe hates him. It's almost always never mentioned again. Can be justified when the character's circumstances are due to some supernatural agency that is also perfectly capable of controlling the programming on the TV.

A variant is growing where certain things individuals are trying to keep under wraps are revealed by a website advertisement, since these days they are picked by checking the user's browser history.

Compare Coincidental Broadcast and Laser-Guided Broadcast, where this phenomenon is used as a plot device instead of a gag. May coincide with Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere if the thing that keeps popping up on TV or radio is something that the character is trying to quit, or The World Mocks Your Loss if they're upset about losing something or someone. See also Mocking Music (for the radio version) and Vengeful Vending Machine. Only marginally related to My Car Hates Me because both are tech devices that make their owner's life worse.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • This British PIF about paying for your TV Licence.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Crayon Shin-chan:
    • In the short story arc where Misae is currently pregnant with Shin-Chan's kid sister, Himawari, and getting hit rather badly with Morning Sickness. Shin-Chan suggests she watch a movie to calm herself, flipping on the movie channel... and said channel happens to be playing the chest-bursting lunch from Alien. Cue Misae throwing up.
    • Happens again, this time to Shin-Chan himself, after he got rid of his puppy, Shiro, thinking he's tired of having a pet, only to realize how much he missed Shiro. Shin-Chan tries distracting himself with the TV, but all the channels are playing dog-themed shows and commercials.
  • Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl: Played for Drama when Sakuta attempts to watch TV on December 28th, tring to distract himself from his Survivor Guilt over Mai's death four days prior. All four channels he switches to are covering her funeral, causing him to recoil in pain.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes features an example that overlaps with Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere. In episode 46, Big M. and Little M. try to get their minds off of their lack of food by watching TV, but every program they see is related to food in some way.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics:
    • One story had Archie and the gang trying to find some way to escape the heat on a scorching summer day. Eventually they retreat into an air-conditioned movie theatre. the movie showing is called Way Down Below, which they assume will be a Sub Story. It turns out to be set in Fire and Brimstone Hell.
    • In another story Archie has a nightmare that whenever he sees his friends, they start whispering about him and then point and laugh at him. He wakes up just after he turns on the TV and two men on the screen do the same.
  • Played for Drama in The Dark Knight Returns, where the retired (but not for long) Bruce Wayne finds an old Zorro movie - the same one his parents took him to the night of their murder - playing on the tube. At first he tries to tough it out, but when his old trauma comes flooding back he tries to watch something else... and finds every single channel reporting some horrific crime in future!Gotham. One night later, Batman makes his grand return.
  • Tintin:
    • From "Explorers on the Moon":
      Tintin: Moon-Rocket to Earth. We're going to begin the repair work. Give us some music: it will help us keep up our morale.
      Mission Control: Earth to Moon-Rocket. We'll switch on Radio-Klow for you. Keep your spirits up!
      Haddock: Come on, come on, cry-babies! To work! And none of those gloomy thoughts. We're going to have some music. Thundering typhoons, there's nothing like a bit of music to cheer you up!
      Radio-Klow: This is Radio-Klow. Our programme continues with "The Gravedigger" by Schubert.
    • In "Tintin and the Picaros", Captain Haddock inexplicably finds alcohol tastes awful (because Calculus has secretly given him a drug). After a very tiring day, he relaxes in front of the TV, only to find it's showing an ad for Loch Lomond whiskey.
    Haddock: Impossible! They're doing it on purpose — it's a plot!
    TV news announcer: On the subject of plots... Listen!

    Comic Strips 
  • This seems to happen to Garfield every time he's on a diet; the TV seems to have a lot more food commercials. Worst example: He tried to watch TV to take his mind off food, and turned to a program called Bowling for Meatloaf. In the next panel, he and Jon were at the vet's waiting room with the TV lodged in Garfield's mouth.
    • During the 1986 arc where Garfield and Odie run away from home, Jon tries to reassure himself by saying "t's not like they're family or anything". Then the TV plays an "It's 10:00, do you know where your children are?" announcement, and Jon immediately breaks down crying.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Bruce Wayne is trying to live with his retirement, but keeps getting either news reports on the crime wave in Gotham, or the movie that was playing the night his parents were murdered.
  • Practically parodied in Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil. The poor Wolf just keeps flipping channels, and the TV just gets more ridiculously pointed.
  • In Over the Hedge, R.J. discovers that he is being included as a member of the family (who don't know that he is exploiting them to pay back a hungry bear). When he turns on the TV they've given him, a Soap Opera is playing in which a woman says "We let you into our lives and you deceived us!" and so forth. An instance where this trope is both Played for Laughs and used for Character Development.
    TV: Get real, Kevin! 'Cause when you feel like a dirtbag, it's because you're a dirtbag. So just own it! Just say it out loud: (RJ mouths along with TV) I am a dirtbag.
  • In the Patlabor 2: The Movie, a detective has been left handcuffed to a pipe while the bad guys carry out their Evil Plan. He rips the pipe free of the wall and runs for his car only to find it's been immobilized. Seeing airships and helicopter gunships flying off towards Tokyo, and him helpless to warn anyone, he wails: "Why can't I find a phone?!" Standing next to him is a huge billboard of an Pacific island beauty (this is winter in Japan) making a phone call.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 40 Carats, Ann is trying to forget about a man she had a fling with in Greece. The TV plays a Pan-Am ad that invites people to go on vacation to Greece and says, "Go! Go! Go!" Ann snaps, "I went!" and turns the TV off.
  • In the second Body Bags segment, Hair, protagonist Richard is constantly anxious about his middle-age hair loss, and each time he puts on the TV, it shows ads for hair products and implant procedures.
  • Bridget Jones' Diary: Bridget finds out that Daniel is cheating on her and wants to watch some comforting TV. However, the first show has a woman telling her boyfriend that it's her last chance to have a child, the second one features a woman being brutally murdered (it's a scene from Fatal Attraction), and finally, there is a documentary about wild lions: "The male penetrates the female and leaves. Coitus is brief and perfunctory." Poor Bridget!
  • In A Dennis the Menace Christmas, Dennis' attempts to bring Christmas cheer to Mr. Wilson result in the latter being hospitalized, arrested, and having his house set on fire. Because David Bratcher has sold an insurance policy with the Dennis Clause to the Wilsons, this means that Henry and Alice have to pay for all the damages inadvertently caused by Dennis. When the expense for the damages is beyond what they can pay for (approx. $45,000.00), they try to take their mind off it by watching television. Unfortunately for them, the movies playing on TV include Children of the Damned, The Bad Seed (1956), and Rosemary's Baby.
  • Early on in Earth Girls Are Easy, Geena Davis's character throws her doctor fiance out when she finds him cheating with another girl. The next day, as she's weeping at the kitchen table, a soap opera shows a doctor fooling around with a nurse, on top of his comatose wife.
  • Edge of Tomorrow: Cage and Rita make use of an abandoned car by ripping off the doors so they can fit inside wearing Powered Armor. A voice on the car radio advises, "If you are in a vehicle, please lock your doors and stay inside" which is now impossible, especially when a Mimic attacks and forces Cage to rip off the roof so he can stand up and open fire. Shortly before this Cage smashes the radio when it starts talking of how the Mimics have attacked London which he witnessed in the previous "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • Garfield: The Movie has a scene where Garfield watches television after causing Odie to run away and he gets annoyed that he's constantly flipping the channel to TV shows or movies that involve dogs.
  • In the film Houseguest, Sinbad's character has just been slapped and dumped by his girlfriend for his immature behavior. He goes home and turns on the TV and ends up with a marathon of slaps and punches on every channel, including Groundhog Day, The Simpsons, Sam and Diane's epic slap fight, and Mongo punching a horse.
  • In a Deleted Scene of Lolita (1997), Dolores and Humbert are on their road trip with the car radio on, playing the comedy The Bickersons. There's canned laughter as Dolores flirts with Humbert, but when he talks about her going back to school they start arguing with the Bickersons doing likewise. When Humbert says bluntly that their holiday is over, causing Dolores to fall into a sullen silence, the announcer can be heard saying they'll be back after a few commercials for the Bickerson's in "The Honeymoon Is Over".
  • Modern Times has one, even though the movie itself is Older Than Television. In one scene, the Tramp is in a waiting room sitting near a woman with a terrible and noisy gas problem. Eventually, he turns on the radio next to him, to a commercial for antacids. He turns it off quickly.
  • In A New Life 1988, newly-divorced Steve flips channels only to keep seeing the same mattress store ad with the jingle "have more fun in bed!"
  • The Nutty Professor (1996): When Professor Sherman Klump watches TV, he sees ad after ad for weight-loss products. Amusingly, his father Cletus actually discussed this during a Klump family dinner, saying "Every time you turn it on, somebody talkin' about 'lose weight, get healthy.".
  • Phat Girlz: the main character Jazmine Biltmore is having a bad case of depression due to her love life and her Weight Woe, she turns on the TV where she sees several weight-related programs: a cartoon with a depressed fat man being enticed into pigging out, an ad for a weight-loss clinic, an ad for a type of exercise, and a talk show with a woman crying over her weight and her hopelessness in dieting. This leads to Jazmine from having a Heroic BSoD to a Freak Out.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, Harold is told to take a day off to "do nothing," so he stays at home and watches TV to try to get his mind off of the voice declaring his imminent death. So he turns on nature shows, because he likes animals. Unfortunately, all the nature shows he turns on involve animals killing each other.
  • In Three O'Clock High, one of the first things the main character, a high school student, does one school day is inadvertently offend a bully who promises to beat him up at 3 PM. Before the scheduled fight, our hero goes to his biology class, where he sees a film about how poor defenceless critters like crickets get eaten (with crunching sound effects) by big mean predators.

    Literature 
  • The Adversary Cycle: Used for Gallows Humor in Nightworld, which has a Running Gag in that a particular cable channel is broadcasting horror movies for all the people who have locked themselves in their houses due to The Night That Never Ends and the accompanying swarm of Eldritch Abominations. The list of horror movies get longer as the days get shorter, and the titles always match whatever horror has just been unleashed on the world.
  • Animorphs: The team is somewhat uneasy about morphing flies, having previously had a traumatic time morphing ants. So of course, the day before it happens The Fly (both the 1958 and the 1986 versions) is broadcast, and of course they all watch it.
  • In Bad Monkeys, after Jane's crime-fighting company finds out that she used to sleep with younger men, all she sees on TV is The Mary Kay LeTourneau Story and all she hears is Michael Jackson songs.
  • Between Silk And Cyanide. Leo Marks is exasperated by SOE's pointless Interservice Rivalry with C, the head of British Intelligence. He thinks of going to see a movie to put his mind off it, but as the movie is Follow the Fleet decides it would be best not to listen to Fred Astaire singing about joining the navy to C the C.
  • In an Older Than Radio example, "The Tale of how a Peasant Fed Two Generald" by M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin has two officials stranded upon an uninhabited island. To distract themselves from the hunger, they attempt to read an old newspaper they found... only to find out that it contains nothing but banquet descriptions and food recipes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played for Drama on an episode of Barney Miller ("The Hero"). After Chano kills a suspect in a bank robbery with hostages, he goes home and turns on the radio, where every news station is talking about the crime and his part in it. Even the Spanish-language station.
  • The Boys (2019):
    • After Hughie's girlfriend is accidentally killed by superhero A-Train, he naturally needs a freaking drink but starts to Freak Out in the liquor store because everywhere he turns there's Celebrity Endorsement by A-Train.
    • Lampshaded when Queen Maeve visits a lesbian ex-girlfriend, who's still angry over Maeve dumping her for the life of a celebrity superhero. She points out that while Maeve can move on with her life, she has to put up with images of her former lover on posters and television screens everywhere she goes.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • At the end of "Innocence", in which Buffy's romance with Angel comes to an abrupt end when he turns evil, Buffy quietly watches a black & white romantic movie, in which Alice Faye is singing "Goodnight, My Love".
    • After Buffy's boyfriend Riley leaves her to fight demons in Central America, Buffy complains that the only college class that fits into her schedule is Central American Geopolitics.
  • Come Back Mrs. Noah. The protagonists trapped on the Space Station reassure themselves that the people back home undoubtedly have a plan to get them back down, only to connect to Mission Control as he's saying "I've no idea how we're going to get them back down!" They're then switched to a talk show where an expert is saying that they'll be stranded in space forever before he's quickly hushed by everyone else.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021): The episode "Dog Star Swing" opens with an advertisement for the Walking Sally doll which Jet Black is desperate to buy for his daughter before it sells out. His monitor ends up glitching with the doll saying "Come and get me!" over and over before he manages to shut it off.
    Jet: I swear this doll is mocking me!
  • Friends: During the gang's trip to London, Joey has just told Phoebe (who couldn't come) that he isn't homesick. He turns on the TV which is playing Cheers and the theme song's lyrics about going "where everybody knows your name" make him realise that he actually does miss New York.
  • In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Carlton is depressed since his favorite race horse is gonna be put down. Will tries to take his mind off the horse by turning the TV on, only to find that Mr. Ed just so happens to come on. Carlton takes it as well as expected.
    Carlton:' You Bastard!!!!!!
  • Full House: After Danny's attempt at teaching DJ how to drive ends poorly, Jesse agrees to teach her, over Danny's concerns that he isn't cautious enough. Waiting for them to return, Danny turns on the TV and sees a movie with a wild car chase.
  • Hang Time: A twist in that it's also Your Book Hates You; in the episode "Fighting for Your Dreams," Kristy tries to take Antonio's mind off of blowing a shot at getting into the University of Kentucky after injuring his knee by watching TV... only to turn on the Kentucky Derby, and then a commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken (although she turns off the TV before the announcer says the full name). She then reads a mystery book to him, in which the character remembers the summers he spent in... you know where this is going.
  • Hannah Montana:
    • A similar scenario to the Barney Miller example occurs on an early episode. Looking to get her mind off of flubbing the national anthem at a sporting event, Miley finds that every news outlet is running that specific story, including the Spanish one.
    • In another episode, Miley is trying to keep Lillie from finding a gossip article about her attending a party she lied about being canceled, as she didn't want Lillie to attend where she can embarrass her. Miley tries turning on a tv, only to find a news report playign about the article.
  • Married... with Children:
    • This happens repeatedly to Al. He sits down to watch TV but only shows he hates are on: Oprah, Facts of Life, etc. This trope is averted in the episode where he has built himself a man's bathroom (with a mighty Fergusen - Bar-WHOOOOSH!). He just finished it, and went in to 'christen' it, but was constipated. He turned on the television and the array of programs loosened him right up.
    • Al's family gets hit by this trope as well, if less frequently. An example happens at the start of the episode "Hot Off the Grill", where a reporter is in Fort Lauderdale on the day before Labor Day talking about the beach-goers having one last hurrah before the summer months end and claiming that "only a real no-life" would be stuck at home at a time like this, before the scene pans to Al's family watching TV, followed by his wife turning it off out of sheer annoyance.
    • In "She's Having My Baby", Al is viewing several baby-related programs on television after Peg reveals she's pregnant, all which culminates in a news report that "babies have invaded Lithuania" and Al screaming in agony.
    • "Dud Bowl II" features Terry Bradshaw receiving a scoreboard at Polk High that Al believes he should get and then watches episodes of Family Matters where Terry is revealed to be Urkel's long-lost father and Jeopardy where he's so popular, he receives his own answer column.
    • When Griff ends up getting to carry the Olympic torch in "Torch Song Duet" due to a radio contest that Al provided the answers for, the former is then featured in programs where "[he] asks O.J. the tough questions" and on an episode of Barney (while the dinosaur sings "We love Griff") which causes a jealous Al to complain "that should be me hugging that big, purple idiot!"
  • It happens to Fran and Maxwell on The Nanny when she loses his Shakespeare original (manuscript) after being mugged. They were treated to Shakespeare plays on their TV channels.
  • The Partridge Family: Danny watches TV to take his mind off his upcoming tonsillectomy, which Shirley assures him will be a simple operation. The first show he sees features a man saying into a telephone, "Have you told your son the truth yet, Mrs. Carstairs? I know it's difficult, he's so young. Well, maybe it is better if he does think it's only a simple operation. The truth won't make the end any easier."
  • Pie in the Sky: In the first episode, there's a scene where the television is turned on to a press conference being given by ACC Fisher. What he says isn't meaningful to the plot (or indeed at all, being a fine example of PR platitude-speak), but it metaphorically represents that Fisher is haunting Crabbe's thoughts at this point.
  • Roundhouse:
    • A Very Special Episode about gangs has a montage of this type, with show parodies such as Northern Explosion and The Cartridge Family.
    • Another instance exaggerates this as the shows that Lisa watches to get her mind off not being able to get a date for the school dance seem to be about... her not being able to get a date for the school dance.
  • In the Sherlock episode "The Hounds of Baskerville", the man whose father was apparently killed by a wolf keeps getting wolf-related channels. There's a justification: he's under the influence of a fear-inducing drug.
  • Supernatural. An unwitting version occurs in "The Girl Next Door", with Dean Winchester snoozing on the couch while the TV shows a wildlife program.
    "The wilderbeest lounges, lazy and self-content, and is oblivious to the fierce predator that stalks him from the shadows..."
  • True Blood has a moment where Jason — who's just been violently dumped by his current girlfriend, in part because he's jealous of the vampire she let bite her — starts gloomily channel-surfing and finding that every station is talking about vampires, including a nature documentary about vampire bats.
  • Wiseguy. After Frank McPike is thrown out of his house by his wife, he's Drowning My Sorrows in a bar when the jukebox starts playing "Hit The Road, Jack" (and don't come back no more no more no more, etc). Frank calmly walks over to the jukebox and shoots it.

    Web Animation 
  • This YouTube Poop "The Age-Old Mask Device" uses this trope, featuring examples of Latex Perfection on every channel.
  • AstroLOLogy: The "overlaps with Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere" variant appears in "Food for The Cure", where Taurus is stuck in a hospital bed and can't eat any food. He tries to see what's on television to get his mind off it, but all the programs he finds have food in them.
  • The MeatCanyon video Bloo Cloo has Steve turn on the TV at one point to distract himself from Blue leaving clues everywhere. The TV shows a girl hugging her dog and telling the viewer to pamper and be proud of their dog. The same program is playing when Steve snaps out of his hallucination and realizes he stomped his completely normal dog to death.

    Webcomics 

    Web Video 
  • This is why The Rap Critic suggests you should never listen to the Hip-Hop station if you've just found out that your partner cheated on you. Odds are, you'll find a litany of songs in which the rapper brags about how he had sex with your woman.
  • SuperMarioLogan: In "BroKen!", Cody becomes depressed after he accidentally breaks his Ken doll in half, so Junior tries to get his mind off of it by having him watch television. Unfortunately, he turns the TV on to a show called Cutting Stuff in Half.
    Cody: Why would that even be a show?!

    Western Animation 
  • The Angry Beavers: Norbert is trying to get his mind off Daggett being taller than he. When he watches TV, everything suggests that being short means being a loser.
  • Arthur:
    • One episode had Jenna, who has a bed-wetting problem, invited to Muffy's sleepover with no way to politely decline. Jenna is too embarrassed to put on her pull-up, so she stays awake most of the night worrying. She turns on the television, only to be presented with images of running water, an ad with a Scot advertising a wee patch for wee leaks, and a kids' show sponsored by the letter "P".
    • In a later episode, we see Francine trying to make it through her first fast during Yom Kippur. When she gets hungry midway through the day, she tries to watch TV only to see a cooking show about sweet rolls, a commercial for a chicken restaurant, and then a sitcom with a girl eating sloppy joes. Instead of watching TV, Francine decides reading is a better option, only to be confronted by books including "Food of the Gods", "Breakfast at Tiffany's", and "Who Moved My Cheese?" She picks "Little Dorrit" by Charles Dickens, only to be confronted by a paragraph on roast beef.note 
    • Then, in an episode where Arthur is trying to just forget about his piano lessons for a while, every show on TV is about someone playing the piano.
    • In "April 9th", Binky gets traumatized when he witnesses a fire break out at the school, and he later gets scared watching an episode of Bionic Bunny featuring a fire-themed supervillain named Hothead.
  • As Told by Ginger: In the finale "The Wedding Frame", Ginger, who is still reeling from her break-up with Darren and is hesitant about entering into a new relationship, is at home watching a music video where the curly and titian haired chanteuse is singing about being abandoned by the man she loves. Ginger soon imagines herself and Darren in place of the characters in the song and she finally drowns.
  • Bonkers: The episode "Stressed to Kill" has one scene where a stressed out Lucky Piquel tries to watch some television to ease himself over his trouble in capturing the Mole, only for every channel to mention moles or feature characters that look like the Mole.
  • The Boondocks has this happen to Robert Freeman twice:
    • In "Granddad's Fight", after Colonel H. Stinkmeaner (who's blind) beats up Robert with a cane, Robert's grandson Riley gives him the mocking nickname of "Señor Piñata". Later when Robert switches on the TV, he finds that all the news channels are reporting his humiliating story, including a Mexican anchorman who also calls him "Señor Piñata".
    • In "The Story of Lando Freeman", after Robert and his (allegedly) long-lost son Lando appear on The Steve Wilkos Show, where Wilkos seems to confirm Lando's claims and shames Robert about it.
      Robert: After all this time, a son.
      Huey: Granddad, it's not all your fault. It doesn't make you a horrible person.
      Steve Wilkos: (on TV) IT'S ALL YOUR FUCKING FAULT! YOU'RE A HORRIBLE FUCKING PERSON!
  • Doug: In an episode when Porkchop disappears, once Doug has given up searching for him, he tries to take his mind off with some TV. A folk singer can be heard singing "Every boy needs a dawg, every dawg needs a boy, a puppy dawg is just—" before Doug turns it off.
  • In the Disney short Duck Pimples, Donald Duck tries to relax on a stormy night by listening to the radio. Given his usual bad luck, all the radio programs he listens to are either horror stories or violent crime dramas.
  • Family Guy:
    • In "The Son Also Draws", Peter needs to go to the bathroom while on a road trip. He tries holding it in, but he keeps getting reminded with messages such as a sign stating "Dump Next Left", a trailer passing them with the notice "Wide Load", a nearby furniture store advertising "All Stools Must Go!", another car with a bumper sticker about how its driver loves their Shih Tzu, and another sign advertising "Bob's House of Feces" ("Oh come on, that one's not even real!"). He finally pulls over when he sees a billboard for a casino reading "Craps! Craps! Craps!"
    • In "Screwed the Pooch", Brian's having trouble curbing his sexual urges, and he opts to stay home and relax while the family visits Lois' parents for the weekend. But when he tries to watch TV, he finds that FOX is showing World's Sluttiest Dogs, and he immediately bolts and chases down the car.
    • In "Stewie Loves Lois", Peter feels sexually violated after getting a prostate exam and Brian tries to console him by turning on the TV, but every channel is about fingers and fingering.
    • In "The Munchurian Candidate", Lois hypnotizes Peter to give her oral sex whenever he hears the Extra theme, which backfires when he hears it and eats Lois' mother out instead. Embarrassed by what they've done, they try to ease the tension in the car by turning on the radio, only to turn it off upon hearing the song "Eat It".
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the Pilot Movie House of Bloo's, Bloo has just learned that Mac has to give him up, and as he changes the channels late at night, every show is about being lonely, saying goodbye, or having "the blues". One show even talks about the Grand Canyon being a "deep depression".
  • Frisky Dingo: Killface, brooding over the betrayal of his friendship by 'Barnaby Jones' (in reality Xander Crewes), tries to take his mind of things by watching TV, except that every single channel is either about Xander Crewes, Barnaby Jones, friendship, or spells out 'Xander Crews' or 'Barnaby Jones' by judicious use of channel flipping. Eventually he just shoots the TV.
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • In "Taste Makes Waist", after feeding Garfield, Jon slumps in front of the television:
      Jon: Boy, I'm hungry, but I need to go on a diet.
      TV Announcer: Do you need to go on a diet?!
      Jon: How come my TV always knows what I'm thinking?
    • The episode "Video Airlines" has Jon, Garfield and Odie wanting to watch a movie. They turn on the TV and find a movie called Kung Fu Creatures on the Rampage 2. They don't like it, so they change the channel... and discover that Kung Fu Creatures on the Rampage 2 is playing on every channel (even the Spanish one!). They decide to rent a movie at the video store, but there's only one video left. Jon buys it without knowing what movie it is, and when the three get home they discover that it's Kung Fu Creatures on the Rampage 2. Thus, they head to the movie theater and get tickets to a movie. Before he, Garfield and Odie head in, Jon asks the usher if the movie being shown is Kung Fu Creatures on the Rampage 2 to make sure they're not stuck with seeing the movie there, either. Upon learning that it's not, they head inside... and discover that the movie playing is Kung Fu Creatures on the Rampage 3.
    • In another episode, Jon accidentally buys a fern that turns out to be a Man-Eating Plant. After he, Garfield, and Odie are rescued from it by the store owner, they decide to watch a movie Garfield has been waiting to see, which turns out to be a science fiction movie about invading alien plants. They quickly change the channel.
  • Something similar happened in Garfield's Halloween Adventure. After he and Odie escape a mob of Ghost Pirates from a haunted house, Garfield decides to watch TV before going to bed, and turns to a channel showing the old man from the haunted house hosting an all-night pirate movie festival. He turns it off quickly.
  • The Garfield Show episode "The Last Word" has Garfield make a bet with Nermal that he can go an entire hour without eating anything. At one point, Garfield tries to distract himself from his hunger by watching TV, only to see an episode of Eddie Gourmand's cooking show, a parody of Casablanca where Rick and Ilsa share a cheeseburger and a commercial for Vito's pizzeria.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • In the episode "Arnold's Hat", our hero is depressed because he lost his hat. To take his mind off it, he turns on the TV and sees that it's Hat Day at the local ballpark, and everyone in the stadium is wearing one. It doesn't help.
    • In the episode "Suspended", Harold tries to spend part of his first day at home by watching cartoons, scary movies, and "those dumb talk shows", but as soon as he turns on the TV a cartoon is interrupted by news coverage of the World Economic Conference from Kyoto, Japan. Much to his horror, he finds it playing on every channel.
    • Turns into a case of Your Movie Theatre Hates You in the episode "Heat". Trying to find relief in the cool movie theatre during a heat wave, the only movies playing are The Day the Sun Exploded, Invasion of the People Melters and Hotter Than the Sun, though there's also a long line anyway.
    • Another movie theater example: In "Hooky", Arnold and Gerald skip school and spend the whole episode narrowly avoiding getting caught, they take refuge in the movie theater and before the movie starts; A PSA is played of a politician telling kids to "stay in school".
    • One more movie theater example in "The List". Arnold takes the day off to finally accomplish a bucket list of things he's always wanted to do, one of them being to see a new movie. After losing his ticket, he sneaks inside the theater and finally makes it inside only for the film playing the movie to break and the showing to be cancelled.
    • "Sid's Revenge" had an inverted example. Sid vows revenge after Principal Wartz gives him a week's detention for something he didn't do. That night, his television seems to commiserate. He encounters a soap opera with a vengeful lead, a commercial for Sweet Revenge chocolate, and finally a National Geographic-esque program featuring the use of voodoo revenge dolls, which inspires Sid to make one in the likeness of Principal Wartz, using soap.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: In the episode "Yumi Saves Kaz", Yumi tries to escape from being bothered by Kaz trying to help her to show his gratitude for saving his life by watching some television. Somehow, every channel she watches has Kaz voice his praise for her heroism.
  • House of Mouse:
    • The cartoon "Hickory Dickory Mickey" has Mickey becoming annoyed by Goofy's loudly-ticking alarm clock and decides to block it out with music. He turns to the "all-tick station" and the "all-tock station", then turning on the TV to "The Tick-Tock Channel".
    • The short "Donald's Goofy World" has Donald dreaming that everyone and everything is turning into Goofy. When he watches TV, he gets nothing but shows starring Goofy, culminating in Goofy's Goof Works (a reference to the precursor to House of Mouse, Mickey Mouse Works).
    • In another cartoon, "Pluto's Magic Paws", Pluto is looking for something dog-related to watch, only to find that every channel is showing cat-centric programming.
  • Looney Tunes: The short "Birds Anonymous", in which Sylvester tries to swear off eating birds. He turns on the TV, and there's a cooking show featuring a chef cutting into some poultry. The radio hates him, too: The playlist features "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along". Talk about Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere.
  • The Loud House: in the episode "Candy Crushed", Lola makes a bet with Rita to swear off sweets for a week so she'll buy an expensive pageant dress for her. Lola tries to watch tv as a distraction, but it keeps playing candy commercials.
  • Oggy and the Cockroaches: Briefly used in the episode "Docu-Mentally". Oggy flips through the channels and finds the exact same thing: the cockroaches messing with his body. Even a television on an airplane hates him, and lots of people are seeing the madness and LAUGHING AT HIM.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In "Daylight Savings", the Professor institutes a 7:30 curfew for the girls, giving all the villains and monsters a perfect opportunity to wreak havoc on Townsville. He tries to get his mind off of the temptation to lift the curfew by watching TV, but every channel is news about how Townsville is getting destroyed. The Professor finally finds solace in the time channel... where he realizes that he forgot to set the clocks back an hour, leading him to realize the girls have time to save the day. The trope is finally inverted when he flips through the channels again to hear that things are getting back to normal.
  • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo featured and played with this in the opening scene to "The Were-Doo of Doo Manor." During Shaggy's sleepover at Scooby-Doo's luxurious doghouse, they decide to watch some TV. But the first thing they see on the screen is the opening to Monster Theater, which of course scares them. They change the channel, only to find Yuck Cinema starting up (showcasing red slime oozing down the screen), and then change the channel to find Walter the Wonder Pup, one of Scooby's favorite shows, starting up. But this week's episode involves lots of "monsters and yuck", to which Shaggy and Scooby rush to turn the set off.
  • Recess: In "A Career to Remember", several Third Street School alumni have come to talk about their professions on Career Day, which inspires the main gang to talk about their potential careers. Most of the kids have decided what they want to be when they grow up, but Spinelli hasn't. She tries to keep her mind off what her future career will be by watching television, but every channel she turns to has something related to careers.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: In the first episode, Stimpy leaves to become a big TV star, leaving Ren all alone. To take his mind off it, he turns on the TV... and wouldn't you know it, Stimpy's on every channel.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In the episode "Tickled Pinky", Rocko is in a hospital bed where he is going to get his appendix cut out. He turns on the TV to take his mind off of it and sees an ad for a kitchen device called the Cut-O-Matic that looks like a mini guillotine, a chain saw competition, and a detective show with a seedy man taking out scissors to "cut someone out".
  • SheZow: This happens to Guy Hamdon of all people in the episode "Super Sidekick", when Shaverine is stealing the limelight away from SheZow, (and much like the above Barney Miller example) even on the Spanish channel.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Brush With Greatness", the Simpsons go to the Mount Splashmore water park where Homer was stuck inside the "H2Whoa!" water slide. After he gets helped out of and they go home, they see the TV news coverage, most of which involves mocking his weight.
    • In "Krusty Gets Kancelled", Krusty is trying to get back in shape by sparring with Homer, but he's too depressed to punch. Then Maggie touches the remote, and The Gabbo Show (which is what caused Krusty's show to be cancelled) comes on; Krusty becomes angry, and starts punching Homer furiously. Then Maggie hits the button again, and a news report comes on saying the price of pork has gone up. Now Homer is just as angry, and starts punching Krusty just as hard.
    • In "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" after Chief Wiggum is kicked out of the titular group, he tries to forget about it by watching TV but all the shows he was watching showed comedians mocking him.
    • In "The Last Temptation of Homer": Homer is attracted to a sexy female co-worker; back at home he tries his best to not think about cheating on his wife. When he tries to distract himself with watching TV, he cycles though several channels about sex and cheating — first a news special about the affairs of various notable Presidents, then a nature documentary about a fly which has thousands of sex partners and suffers "virtually no guilt", and then a program where the only words Homer hears upon changing the channel are "Just do it!" (It's a ringworm PSA.)
    • In "Deep Space Homer", Homer, after losing an award to an "inanimate carbon rod" and being ridiculed by his family, sits down to watch TV, saying "TV respects me. It laughs with me. Not at me." He turns it on and the first thing that appears on screen is a man pointing at the camera laughing hysterically and saying "You stupid..."
    • In "Homer Loves Flanders", Homer fails to win tickets to a football game and angrily hits his radio, which starts playing Two Tickets To Paradise by Eddie Money. Homer misses the irony and is actually cheered up by the song.
    • In "Homer Badman", after being publicly accused of molesting a college-aged baby sitter, Homer watches TV in the Troubled Fetal Position while David Letterman remarks "...and the number one reference I am running into the ground is...Homer Simpson!" followed by an episode of the Mexican Bumblebee Man's sitcom, in which the Bumblebee Man gets pinched in the butt while smelling a flower and yells, "Ai-yi-yi! Es Homer Simpson!" However, Homer finds solace in An Evening at the Improv, whose comedians are stuck in the 80's.
    • In "I Don't Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", Marge makes a promise to a bank robber, whose mother abandoned him as a child, to visit him in prison of he turns himself in, only to get cold feet and rescind on it by distracting herself. Later that night, she starts feeling guilty about it while watching an old movie about a prisoner who holds out hope that his mom will show up to witness his execution; she doesn't.
    • In "YOLO"note , Homer feels trapped in his mundane life and that it's already wasted. (He was okay, but Kirk van Houten showed up in a new sports car with a skateboard and having just enrolled to a rapping course. They laughed at him with Marge, but she later upset him with emphasizing how his life will never ever change.) He watches TV and surfs through channels. The work titles were telling: "Same Time Next Year", "Life Stinks", "No Exit", "Point of No Return", "Dead End", and "Little League World Series".
    • The series also has a variant featuring the family trying to get help from a phone line with the hold music that plays relating to whatever problem they have, causing them to break down in tears. Examples include Marge calling the mental institution to which Homer has been committed in "Stark Raving Dad" and having to listen to an easy-listening version of Patsy Cline's "Crazy", or Homer calling the missing child hotline after Maggie runs away in "Homer Alone" and being subjected to Player's "Baby Come Back".
    • In "Duffless", after getting ticketed for a DUI, Homer to spend 1 month without beer. On day 1, Homer sits down at the TV and immediately sees a commercial for Duff Beer.
      Homer: TV, have you turned on me?
  • South Park: In the episode "The Simpsons Already Did It", the boys believe they accidentally killed their teacher by putting sea monkeys in her coffee. To get their mind off of it, they watch The Terrance and Philip Show, but the episode happens to be about Terrance accidentally killing Celine Dion and Phillip telling him that murder is never an accident. They change the channel, only to come across a news report about finding semen in the teacher's stomach, which the boys believe is "sea-men."
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the episode "Idiot Box", Squidward is trying to forget about SpongeBob and Patrick playing in their box, but everything on TV is about boxes, even boxing.
    Squidward: ...I give up.
  • Steven Universe: Future: In "Growing Pains", after an intensely embarrassing and distressing situation where Steven clumsily and impulsively tries to propose to Connie, only to get turned down, Steven flips on his TV and sees a Dogcopter movie where the main character proposes to their partner and gets Happily Married. He doesn't take that well.
  • Taz-Mania: There's one episode where Taz has been told by his mother to not touch the Sea Bird she's planning to cook for dinner that evening. Taz goes to watch TV and finds that every station — even the western channel — is showing something that's somehow connected to Sea Birds.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): After the heroes fought a long, grueling battle against Krang for the first time during the Five-Episode Pilot, they turned on their TV to relax, turning on a science fiction movie called The Evil Brain From Dimension X. (Followed by groans, shouting, forehead slapping, and Michelangelo demanding to change the channel to cartoons.)
  • Transformers: Prime: In the episode "Operation: Bumblebee (Part One)", 'Bee has his Transformation Cog — the biomechanism that allows a Cybertronian to transform — stolen by the paramilitary group MECH. Miko and Raf invite Bumblebee to play videogames with them because he's stuck in the base, but they happen to be playing a racing game with a yellow car. Miko recognizes the faux pas and suggests watching TV instead, but the first thing they see is a car commercial for the exact same model Bumblebee's alt-mode is based on. To add insult to injury, the tagline for the car is "It won't just rock your world. It will transform it."
  • Yin Yang Yo!: In one episode, Carl (the Evil Cockroach Wizard) returns home in disgrace after Yin's insult ("bugly") causes the whole town to laugh at him. He switches on the TV to relax because it never lets him down, only for the first thing to pop onscreen being a news reporter giving a story about "bugly" taking the world by storm.
  • Young Justice (2010): In "Coldhearted", Kid Flash has to run across the entire country to deliver a donor heart and is desperate to replenish his calories, at one point running down a street filled with signs advertising fast food outlets.

 
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Hickory Dickory Mickey

Fed up with the constant tick-tocking of Goofy's alarm clock, Mickey attempts to block out its sound with the radio and television, but to no avail.

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