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Episode focusing on the cast trying to achieve some basic living function despite being seemingly without money. May have to ironically settle for a Bulk-Buy Only.

Can function as Lampshade Hanging to explain a character's inexplicable income or explain the irony of a character who does make quite a bit of money but never seems to enjoy it for long.

May also be a Cultural Trope in reference to the high living expenses in Japan.

If this is a common theme then it may be a case of Perpetual Poverty. See also Forgot to Pay the Bill.

Not to be confused with A Day At the Bizarro or BLAM Episode, which are both completely different.

Examples of Broke Episode include:


Anime and Manga

  • Tenchi Muyo had an episode like this, also highlighting the fact most of the Pretty Freeloaders had no visible means of support. Further played around with in Tenchi Universe where Kiyone and Mihoshi have to work multiple part time jobs just to afford to stay on Earth, and later in the same series where the group is forced to open a bar in Kiyone's space cruiser just to raise money for fuel, all while on the run as the most wanted criminals in the universe.
    • This may however be justifiable, given that all of the characters who come from off-Earth would possess mainly currency that Earth governments would not recognize. Kiyone and Mihoshi's Galaxy Police salaries, then, would be unspendable on Earth, while Tenchi's family would have only Japanese yen, not recognized in the rest of the galaxy.
    • This happens in one episode of Tenchi in Tokyo, in which the girls head out to Tokyo with meager amounts of money to work there. By the end of the episode, it was Sasami who made the most money, thanks to a street act she performed with Ryo-Ohki.
    • And further played with in the manga series, especially volume 9 of the first, where the cast explicitly sails off for a treasure hunt. Stow away those questions about your first true love, there's gold in them thar planets!
  • Cowboy Bebop's characters are frequently wanting for money and especially food, despite their occasional lucrative bounties. Faye was the worst offender, constantly rummaging the ship for the other character's stashes of food or valuables. She also had a habit of gambling away her bounties at the track as soon as she cashed them in.
    • Almost every episode was a Broke Episode. What keeps this show from the definition of Perpetual Poverty was that they never seemed to have any shortages of bullets, cigarettes, or oxygen, commodities that must surely have been pricey for an interplanetary lifestyle.
      • It's even mentioned in one episode by Spike that bounty hunting is a lousy way to live, since depending on the funds from hunting people down is no way to make a reliable living. Some weeks may be great, but other times there may be a dry spell of people to pick up and turn in. Not only that, but the show also showed that sometimes due to the high risk nature of their "business," sometimes the bounties didn't live long enough to BE cashed in. In addition, most of the time we just saw Spike and his crew go after the BIG bounties, the ones that would put them on easy street. When we did see Spike and his crew deal with minor criminals, the payday was quite modest.
        • It's even mentioned in one episode that there are also "costs" to being a bounty hunter. paying off all the collateral damage done.
      • To be precise, it was basically a rule of the show that the crew would never collect a significant bounty. Ever.
  • Outlaw Star is almost as much about Broke Episodes as Cowboy Bebop. Like with Cowboy Bebop, most of the money is spent on the upkeep of their spaceship, such as docking fees, repairs and ammunition. It does not help that Gene's ego refuses to let him accept jobs unless they're suitably dramatic or high-paying enough.
  • One of the three major episode situations of Samurai Champloo, the Spiritual Successor to Cowboy Bebop. Usually the responsibility for getting money/food/other necessary items fell on Jin; Mugen and Fuu forced him to pawn his swords at least twice, and his glasses once.
  • The Paper Sisters from Read or Die were frequently broke, especially in the manga. This is because they would spend all of their food money on books. If only there were some way to make money out of paper...
    • Their powers over paper don't include being able to print things on it however. On the other hand if you've seen the OVA, there are interesting things done with actual paper money...
  • A good portion of Patlabor's plots focused on obtaining food at the out-of-town police HQ.
  • Trigun, in the episode where they meet Wolfwood.
  • Honey and Clover could be called one big broke series for some of the characters. As is life for people at college.
  • Love Hina: in episode 14, where everyone in the apartments has to provide 10,000 yen for bills. Also to a lesser degree in episode 6 where Shinobu and Motoko have to fund their 'rescue mission' by doing odd jobs.
  • Ichigo Mashimaro has Nobue often seeking a job to make money for cigarettes, although she is hardly above stealing yen from her younger sister, blatantly.
  • Trinity Blood: Abel, being the disorganized person that he normally is, never has enough money when he needs it.
    • He states at least once during the series that this is because of a vow of poverty he took. He is not allowed to have more than a few coins at a time.
  • The GetBackers are constantly broke to the point of showering in fountains and mooching food from vagrants. If they make an insane amount of money on a job, expect them to lose it all almost immediately. If they have a little left over, expect their car to get towed.
  • Every episode of Nerima Daikon Brothers focuses on the efforts of the title trio to get some easy cash, usually by stealing it from some con artist or other crooked character. By the end of the episode, the money was gone, either lost to the winds or confiscated by the mark's original victims.
  • While never exactly the theme of the episode, Slayers plots involving Lina and company doing some service for money were common. Given their eating habits which often amount to "two of everything on the menu, please" per meal, per person, Lina's mercenary nature regarding being paid for doing almost anything inconvenient to her is potentially explainable. A lampshade was hung on this in the third series, TRY, where despite the fact that the entire group has enough money for their meal, Filia is the only one with local currency, hence her tearful exit leaving them unable to pay for their meal. Further referenced later in the series when they're unable to pay for something and Filia notes that if they didn't eat so much, they'd have money. There is also a brief point where Lina orders an even more extravagant amount of food than normal and tells the restaurant to charge everything to Amelia, who is outraged at the rudeness of eating on another person's credit.
  • In Grenadier, Rushuna and Yatchan are often broke and hungry, and in one episode resort to performing entertaining stunts in the street for money, with little success.
  • Bleach manages some of the most amusing Lampshade Hanging and subversion of this. At one point two minor characters are shown taking jobs at a convenience store to get by, ducking the manager to rush out and assist the heroes in their battle. Later, several of the incredibly powerful cast manage to find reason to let their hair down and do things like join in a little kids' soccer game, bake cakes under the direction of an expert chef ghost, etc. Of course, The Lancer Renji Abarai, being a freeloader at the Urahara shop, is frequently pushed into helping with the menial tasks associated with such an establishment.
  • The two sisters in Binbou Shimai Monogatari are usually broke or pretty nearly so, which forms the subject of a lot of episodes. In fact, the entire series can be described as a "Broke Series".
  • Train's group in Black Cat never have enough money to pay for a halfway decent meal (mooching off of the waitress' kindness of giving them bread crusts). And if they do get millions from a particularly good sweep, Train uses it up on all the damages he causes or on the vast amount of food he eats.
  • The entire plot of Yamada Tarou Monagatari (Yamada Tarou's Story) revolves around the titular character's sunny outlook on life despite abject poverty that forces him to work multiple part-time jobs to support his mother and many younger siblings. He's also incredibly smart and attends a prestigious school on a full scholarship, though he has to be convinced to pursue higher education despite his obvious talents because he worries what his family will do without him around.
  • Makino Tsukushi in Hana Yori Dango often seems to be the only sane member of her family, and usually has to step in to solve her family's financial woes (often brought on by her nitwit father) by getting part-time jobs. She tells her family that she would gladly attend a school OTHER than the monumentally expensive Eitoku (which she loathes), but they refuse because it's so prestigious and makes them look good in addition to giving her greater opportunities for the future.
    • Despite eventually dating the richest guy in Japan (Domyouji Tsukasa) and pal-ing around with his uber-rich clique (The Flower Four), Makino routinely refuses to request their financial support. This doesn't stop them from helping her out in a pinch, though.
  • The fourth One Piece film Dead End Adventure is started by this Trope: the Straw Hats enter a race to win enough money to tide them over until their next adventure, which you'd think would come into play more often given Luffy's appetite.
    • But it does- offscreen. When Luffy complains how the crew doesn't have much money, they're immediate response is to show him the food bill.


Comic Books

  • The Avengers, despite usually having Tony Stark's funds, once had to work for a millionaire to pay the bills. When they found the millionaire was dishonest, they refused to be paid by him.
  • Likewise, the Fantastic Four get most of their money from a) licensing and merchandise or b) Reed's patents. When either of these get negatively impacted by bad PR, lawsuits, massive destruction, or whatever other crap gets thrown at them this year, they usually have a huge scramble, since they pour all their money into scientific research and building interdimensional stardrives/soul jars made of pocket universes/robotic toasters, not to mention a ridiculous amount of defense mechanisms; and repossession, etc, of their junk is as catastrophic as any supervillain attack.
  • A few Italian Uncle Scrooge stories suggests that Scrooge would be flat broke if the Beagle Boys successfully managed to steal all of his cash money. For this to sound plausible, you have to ignore the fact that he'd still own thousands of shops, factories, and mines.
    • Actually, he usually only claims of being broke when that happens, in order to guilt-trip Donald into helping him (and offering him some free meals). When his business doesn't go perfectly right (temporary decrase of 0,01% in proficts, for example) he even claims he's going to become broke... in a few centuries time. It's more about his personality than about being broke at all.


Live Action TV

  • Because of the deliberately limited funds provided to the cast, just about every season of MTV's Road Rules had an episode where the team ran low on money.
  • Firefly is essentially centered around this, both with the main arc involving the original crew of Serenity transporting passengers, and in most individual episodes, where the group pulls off various "jobs", legal or otherwise.
  • For more Joss Whedon fun, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has "Flooded".
    • And don't forget "Doublemeat Palace"!
      • Pretty much the entirety of season 6.
  • Yet more: Angel, whose main characters ran a detective agency that was often short of cash. One episode, "Provider", saw Angel become particularly anxious about money now that he had a son to support; he began to take dubious actions in search of profit.
    • It was actually just making sure Connor was provided for for his future. It was shown that Angel did have some reserves of money to draw upon, and some favors that he could call in. But like all things, it's not a reliable source of income.
  • Seen in The Goodies' special "The Goodies and the Beanstalk" where the Goodies fall on hard times and are forced to sell their beloved bike for a can of baked beans.
    • Also seen brieftly at the start of Bunfight at the Ok Tearooms, and it turns out the reason for them being broke was because Graeme had spent all their money on gold prospecting equipment.
  • The Young Ones, being students in Thatcher's Britain, never have much money, but in the episode "Cash" they're forced to burn all their furniture for heat.
  • Played with on The Colbert Report. During the 2009 economic depression, the normally focused on opulence-related toys and stories segment "Colbert Platinum" was replaced with "Colbert Aluminum".

  Stephen Colbert: "Remember, this segment is for Aluminum Members only. So if you haven't had a yacht repossessed in the last 3 months, change the channel."

  • Malcolm in the Middle has these out the wazoo (starting with the episode in which Lois is fired from her job at the Lucky Aide drugstore after Dewey steals a bottle of cognac and Lois's boss calls her out on not fixing the mistake on her inventory). One even combines it with a Christmas Episode.
  • A Different World has two episodes: Kimberly is offered a full scholarship but then finds out that the company sponsoring it still has connections to apartheid so she gives it up, forcing her to work three jobs to pay her tuition. Walter and Freddie find another scholarship for Kimberly and even though it's not the full one she turned down, it's enough for her to quit 2 of her jobs. In the other episode, Whitley's dad remarries and cuts her off financially, forcing her to get a job and move in with Jalessa. When Whitley and Dwayne get married, they both live in Perpetual Poverty as she works a variety of low-paying jobs and he is a graduate assistant.
  • The Steve Harvey Show finds newlyweds Cedric and Lovita on the good end of an $8000 bank error. Even though Lovita is uneasy about spending the money at first, she and Cedric have the requisite spending spree once he confirms with the bank that the money is theirs to keep. When Lovita's conscience won't allow her to enjoy their ill-gotten purchases, Cedric goes back to the bank and they do realize the error and takes the money back. Cedric and Lovita go back to their Perpetual Poverty status by the end of the episode and Lovita couldn't be happier.
  • Considering that nearly all of of them were made during the Great Depression, quite a few Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and Keystone Kops shorts, among countless other films produced during the era, began with the characters as downtrodden bums trying to make a buck.
  • One episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide centers around the protagonists trying to earn enough money to be able to visit a concert. Hilarity Ensues.
  • An Episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has Frank lose all his money and, by extension, the rest of the gang face being even more poverty. Cue the scams.
  • Played with in The West Wing: many, many episodes are about the U.S. government not having enough money in the budget to pass the bills/provisions of bills the White House wants to pass (usually due to pork projects sponsored by self-interested members of congress), and the characters' attempts to jump through hoops to find some way to manage. These episodes differ from non-budget-related episodes in that the conflict is usually personal and character-based, rather than ideological and issue-based.
  • In the Sesame Street Christmas Episode Elmo Saves Christmas, Elmo wishes for every day to be Christmas, and the whole town ends up out of work.
  • Crippling poverty is stock-in-trade at the Bundy household on Married... with Children; some episodes focus heavier on it than others. A possible lowlight: The season six episode, "Psychic Avengers," in which an electric bill price hike leaves the Bundys too poor to buy a TV Guide.
  • In an episode of Scrubs, Turk becomes very concerned about money when Carla wants to quit her job. This despite the fact that he presumably makes significantly more than her nurse's salary, and their relatively modest lifestyle (small 2 bedroom apartment, 1 reasonable car) should be easy to maintain on the money he makes as a freaking surgeon.
    • Not to mention that Elliot and JD are both homeless for a while. You know, with really no explanation of where all the money they make as doctors is going.
      • This makes sense for the first four seasons, during which they're all interns or residents. By the time JD is an attending, this seems less plausible. although JD at least does have medical school student loans to pay off, which might eat up a lot of his income.
  • As the title suggests, just about every episode of Two Broke Girls is one of these, although "And the Rich People Problems" is an interesting inversion: Caroline and Max break into Caroline's old townhouse, which had been sealed off by the feds when her father's assets were all frozen, and are able to spend a few hours living wealthily.


Literature

  • The Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser story "Lean Times in Lankhmar", after a period of very little money the usually Heterosexual Life Partners main characters get into and argument and go their separate ways. The Mouser ends up as a gangster’s goon and Fafhrd becomes an acolyte for a fairly unsuccessful religion, Isaac of the Jug. Their jobs soon become entangled when Fafhrd’s boisterous sermons attract new followers and The Mouser’s boss wants to extort the popular new faith, but also due to some sort of emotional breakdown ends up genuinely believing in the religion. This is probably one of the funniest stories in the series.


Role Playing Games


Truth in Television

  • You will have this episode at least once in your lifetime. Probably sometime in your 20s, maybe that car repair bill and paycheck have opposing dates, maybe your dream career demands unpaid internships after college just when your student loans start to sting, or maybe you shouldn't have gone out drinking last night and bought the bar a round.
  • Given the 'current economic climate' television shows are featuring lots of 'make do and mend ideas' including a school teacher paid a proper wage, who paid her rent and bills and then lived on £1 a day.


Web Comics


Web Original


Western Animation

  • Even the Richest Duck in the World can't buy his way out of this trope. One DuckTales episode, "Down and Out in Duckburg", had Scrooge McDuck lose all his possessions on a technicality, leaving him and his family to eke out a living on the streets. Scrooge even has a nightmare about a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous parody covering his dire straits. Fortunately, Scrooge manages to get his assets back by the end of the episode by fulfilling the contract that had cost him his fortune.
  • The Real Ghostbusters suffered from this. Thanks to things like Egon's experiments, the cost of maintaining their equipment and Slimer's food bill, the Ghostbusters often found themselves strapped for cash. Anytime they got a job with a potentially big pay off, they would get stiffed on the bill for some reason or another, as how it tends to happen with this trope.
  • Many episodes of the cartoon series Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy are broke episodes, with the title characters attempting to make money by selling dubious goods or services to the other kids.
  • Catscratch has Waffle accidentally bankrupt the family by buying vases to get the included bubblewrap. They eventually return the vases with the receipts.
  • The titular Zeta from The Zeta Project is a robot assassin capable of generating as much money as he needs- in one episode, this feature is disabled, leaving Zeta stranded in a transport hub.
  • Without Ofdensen around to protect them, Dethklok of Metalocalypse find themselves cut off from their money by the record company until they renegotiate their contract
  • Biker Mice From Mars had one for the villains: after another foiled scheme causes an explosion in the Plutarkians' resource pit, the High Chairman cuts off Limburger's funds, forcing him and his henchmen to move to a trailer park. They decide to get into the Chairman's good graces again by adding his face to Mount Rushmore and teleporting it to Plutark. Thanks to the protagonists' actions, only the Chairman's head is teleported away and this, combined with the fact that it landed on top of his wife or mother in law (don't recall which) pleases the chairman who starts funding them again. Unfortunately for Limburger, because his funds didn't return on time to honor the check he gave to the Villain of the Week, said villain destroyed Limburger Plaza in retaliation.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Lucius losing his entire fortune thanks to Beezy and being forced to room with Jimmy and get menial jobs.
  • Regular Show features two:
    • Free Cake involves Mordecai and Rigby hatching schemes to get free cake after they find out that they don't even have enough money to buy one box of chocolate cake mix.
    • Caffeinated Concert Tickets involves Mordecai and Rigby working as much overtime as they can to score money for concert tickets.
  • The Looney Tunes Show, "Peel of Fortune". Bugs gets his money from royalties from the carrot peeler he invented. But when Daffy steals Bugs' plans for an electric carrot peeler, the market for regular peelers dries up and Bugs ends up losing all his money. The Reset Button is pressed when the electric carrot peeler is recalled and Bugs invents a Time Machine to keep all this from happening.
  • Adventures from the Book of Virtues: In "Integrity", Zach and Annie attempt to earn money by selling special homemade weathervanes to people, but they just sell them very fast because Annie cut the corners. Unfortunately, their customers didn't like the weathervanes, so they form an angry mob wanting their money back. This makes Zach and Annie retreat to Plato for help.
    • In "Honesty" (1998), Annie attempts to have Zach pay her fifteen dollars when they paint Annie's mother's fence, but after they get done, Zach is irritated at Annie so he won't pay her.
  • Mickey's Good Deed, a Depression-era cartoon, has Mickey Mouse as a poor street musician who doesn't get a cent from passers-by, and lets a rich guy buy his beloved Pluto for his Spoiled Brat son so he can play Santa to a destitute family. Pluto escapes the kid's clutches and happily reunites with Mickey.
  • My Dad the Rock Star episode "Going for Broke" featured the Zillas losing their wealth when a mistake from a member of the IRS caused it to be confiscated. They moved into Quincy's home, driving his father insane. It turned out Quincy's father was the responsible for the mistake. The Zillas got their money back and keep no hard feelings.
  • Hey Arnold had notorious rich girl and diva Rhonda Wellington-Lloyd's family go bankrupt, causing them to move into Arnold's boarding house and keeping it a secret.
  • Family Guy had Carter gone broke from a lawsuit settlement from publishing Peter's erotic magazines and his wife divorced him. Unable to live as a regular person, he and Peter commit unsuccessful robberies. By the end of the episode, Barbara divorced Ted Turner and obtained half his assets and the Pewterschmidts are wealthy again.
  • An episode of Doug had the rich girl Beebe's family go bankrupt from a bad investment on a foreign crop that got completely destroyed in a storm.
  • The Beatles cartoon episode "Please Mr. Postman" had the boys penniless after Ringo blows all their money on rings and then he loses the rings shaking hands with fans. They have to find a way to contact Brian (Epstein) in London for more money.
  • Kim Possible episode "Triple S" featured a con artist who scammed the Seniors out of their vast fortune. When said con artist was worried about retaliation from Senior, he offered $2 billion for Senior's capture. Junior claimed the money to buy back Senior Island.
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