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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.
Compare Coincidental 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. See also Mocking Music for the radio version.
- Similar to the Hey Arnold! below, one story in Archie Comics 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 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 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!" An instance where this trope is both Played for Laughs and used for Character Development.
- In Bedtime Stories, Adam Sandler's character gets told, through one of his bedtime stories told to his niece and nephew, that he's going to have some sort of close encounter with fire. Naturally, the songs he hears on the radio the following morning include such hits as "I'm On Fire," "Fire," and "Disco Inferno."
- In A New Life, newly-divorced Steve flips channels only to keep seeing the same mattress store ad with the jingle "have more fun in bed!"
- Practically parodied in Hoodwinked Too. The poor Wolf just keeps flipping channels, and the TV just gets more ridiculously pointed.
- 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.
- In Oh, God!, God wants Jerry Landers to build an Ark for an impending flood. Jerry is resistant, and at one point he sits in his car and all that's on the radio are songs that involve the word "rain."
- 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 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.
- This happens once to Fez on That '70s Show.
- A similar example occurred to Eric, though it was more Your Radio Hates You. When he broke up with Donna, the next morning every song on the radio station was about breaking up.
- It also happens to Fran and Maxwell on The Nanny when she loses his Shakespeare original after being mugged. They were treated to Shakespeare plays, on their channels.
- In Lithuania, TV3 had a program called Dar pažiūrėsim (translation: We'll see it again) which acted as a parody of all the other Lithuanian TV shows and well-known movies like The Matrix, with channel changing written into the script, making this trope.
- 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.
- Your Radio Hates You occurs in Basehead's song "Not Over You", where one of Michael Ivey's friends is trying to cheer him up after he breaks up with his girlfriend, by putting on the radio, which is playing nothing but love and breakup songs.
- Ditto "Songs About Rain."
- In the Rocko's Modern Life 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".
- In the episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, "Idiot Box", Squidward is trying to forget about SpongeBob and Patrick playing in their box, but everything on TV is about boxes, even boxing.
- The Looney Tunes 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.
- In the first episode of Ren and Stimpy, 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.
- In the Pilot Movie of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo has just learned that Mac has to give him up, and as he changes the channels late at night, every show is about having "the blues". One show even talks about the Grand Canyon being a "deep depression".
- Happens in The Simpsons episode "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..."
- Also happens on The Simpsons episode "Homer Badman." After being publicly accused of molesting a college-aged baby sitter, Homer watches TV in the 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!"
- In the episode "Arnold's Hat" in Hey Arnold!, 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.
- 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.
- One episode of Arthur had a character with a bed-wetting problem invited to Muffy's sleep over and with no way to politely decline. She's 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 and talk of sealing leaks.
- In 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.
- In the Family Guy episode "Stewie Loves Lois", Peter feels sexually violated after his prostate exam and Brian tries to console him by turning on the TV, but every channel is about fingers and fingering.