Fictional universes colliding! Dogs and cats living together!
November 12, 2010 3:47 AM   Subscribe

Watching last night's The Office, where the series Glee exists in the fictional universe of Dunder Mifflin, I was wondering if there are any examples of two fictional universes 'collide'?

What I mean is not a Shared fictional universe or a crossover like The Practice / Ally McBeal, ..., but an example where two TV shows, movies, ... mention each other, with the other being fiction *within* the universe of the former. For example, Glee is watched in The Office, and The Office would be watched / mentioned on Glee. Has this ever happened?
posted by lodev to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There's the Six degrees of St. Elsewhere theory, which like something out of Borges is expanding to encompass all of fictional television...
posted by oh pollo! at 4:02 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]

On "Mad About You" Jamie's mother told her that Aunt Lally used to work for Alan Brady on the "Alan Brady Show." Alan Brady was the TV host the writers on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" wrote for.

I don't watch "30 Rock" but AIUI, Liz's mother worked for Sterling Cooper, the original ad agency in "Mad Men."

On "Criminal Minds" Rossi and Morgan were idly watching a soap opera. The audience couldn't see the TV, but they said the show was "The Young and the Restless." Shemar Moore, the actor who plays Morgan, left Y&R for "Criminal Minds."
posted by jgirl at 4:08 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Simpsons Already Did It episode of Southpark.
posted by solotoro at 4:22 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Doctor once claimed to be from the Scottish town of Balamory.
posted by permafrost at 4:23 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

I know there was an epsiode of Rosanne where people were watching Bewitched. But that may have been a tongue-in-cheek reference to them changing a cast member, because they'd just recently hired Sarah Chalke as Becky themselves.

Agent Mulder also once sarcastically alluded to It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on an X-Files episode (which made me giggle uncontrollably).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:24 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Doctor once claimed to be from the Scottish town of Balamory.

Has Dr Who been mentioned on Balamory? Because if not, that example doesn't fit this question.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:27 AM on November 12, 2010

Community, particularly through Abed, makes near-constant references to other TV shows and movies.
posted by Su at 4:29 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Archie is clearly a future, slightly senile, incarnation of the Doctor in retirement.
posted by crocomancer at 4:30 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's "Mutually Fictional" and there's a TVTropes page about that.

Examples include a character of EastEnders being a Doctor Who fan while a character in Doctor Who is an EastEnders fan, and characters on Buffy The Vampire Slayer watching the daytime soap Passions, then characters on Passions returning the favor watching Buffy. No "Tommy Westphal" required.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:31 AM on November 12, 2010 [12 favorites]

Minor follow-up on my Community comment: they're not just intertextual references. They're specifically dealt with as TV shows, and Abed has been reminded that it's not real, etc.
posted by Su at 4:34 AM on November 12, 2010

Best answer: Every now and then you'd see someone on the Heathcliff cartoon watching Inspector Gadget, and vice versa. Same production company, I believe.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:37 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pheobe's twin sister Ursula from Friends used to be a character in a cafe set in Mad About You.

There was this one episode where Jamie (Helen Hunt) and Fran show up at Central Perk (the coffee shop in Friends) and then mistake Pheobe for Ursula. Pheobe of course doesn't know them and her response when they ask for coffee confirms their suspicion that she is the flakey Ursula.

I love Friends.
posted by like_neon at 4:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

A few years ago, Doctor Who actually did this recursively in Time Crash, where David Tennant's Doctor meets the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison and refers to him as "his" Doctor(ie. the one he watched growing up) around 6:30.
posted by Su at 4:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh crap sorry my example actually does not fit your description.

To make up for it, there's the South Park episode where it's all about Family Guy. (Cartoon Wars Part I and II)
posted by like_neon at 4:41 AM on November 12, 2010

John Munch links the world together. First appeared in Homicide, Life on the Streets, then moved over to Law and Order after Homicide was finished. Had a cameo in the last season of the Wire.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:52 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wait, damn, misread. Ignore me, please.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:53 AM on November 12, 2010


The series finale for Newhart is famous for revealing the entire series to be a dream of Bob Newhart's character from The Bob Newhart Show.

Personally, I believe every series finale should end with Bob Newhart waking from a dream.
posted by sambosambo at 5:09 AM on November 12, 2010 [21 favorites]

Also, in the movie Super Troopers Mac asks, "Hey Farva what's the name of that restaurant you like with all the goofy shit on the walls and the mozzarella sticks?"

Of course we all know the name of the restuarant is Shenanigans, but that also happens to be the name of the restuarant in Waiting...
posted by sambosambo at 5:23 AM on November 12, 2010

Characters from Eureka have made business trips to Warehouse 13, and vice versa.
posted by COD at 5:25 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

More Doctor Who. The 1998 episode "Remembrance of the Daleks" starring Sylvester McCoy as The Doctor is set in November 1963, which is the date the first ever episode of Doctor Who was broadcast. (The first episode was "An Unearthly Child" which at the time was supposed to be taking place in the present day.)

At one point, just when they are leaving a house, a television is on in the background, and the continuity announcer is saying "This is BBC television, the time is quarter past five and Saturday viewing continues with an adventure in the new science fiction series Do..." at which point it cuts to another scene.

This was also the first time a Dalek was shown climbing stairs. It was terrifying.
posted by Mwongozi at 5:50 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]

There was an episode of Emergency! where one of the minor comedy sub-plots dealt with the paramedics having to go out on a call and missing part of an Adam-12 episode, then trying to find out what happened.

There was also an Emergency!/Adam-12 cross-over episode, which has led to decades of agonizing over which episode is non-canonical.

Both shows were produced by R. A. Cinader.

Yeah, I'm a nerd.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:51 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fletch and Flynn, both fictional detectives meet in Confess, Fletch.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:57 AM on November 12, 2010

Turns out that according to this site, there are more than 280 series that are interrelated through the multiverse.

It all started with Tommy Westphall dreaming the entire series of St. Elsewhere...
posted by Gridlock Joe at 5:59 AM on November 12, 2010

Are you only interested in TV? Because it seems like any time anyone reads fiction onscreen would probably work. Or any time a real movie is mentioned in a work of fiction or on TV...
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:27 AM on November 12, 2010

Most people responding here are not reading the "More Inside" of the question carefully. lodev is asking for instances where show A is fictional within the universe of show B, and show B is fictional within the universe of show A. Not for instances where only one show is fictional within the universe of the other (but not vice versa), nor for instances where two shows are in the same universe.

onefellswoop's and Metroid Baby's answers appear to be the only two so far which fit the request.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and to actually provide an answer to the question: In The Simpsons episode My Big Fat Geek Wedding, Matt Groening appears at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con as the creator of Futurama. In the Futurama episode Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences Matt Groening's head is on a discussion panel at Comic-Con 3010, and Bender asks when he's going to do a second Simpsons movie.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:48 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sorry for misunderstanding your question OP. It was the "fictional universes colliding" that threw me off. I'd almost be tempted to describe what you're looking for as "product placement."
posted by sambosambo at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2010

Best answer: In last night's episode of The Office, one of the characters also references Friday Night Lights (while watching Glee). In an early episode of Friday Night Lights, two of the characters watch an episode of The Office.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think the reason that people are getting confused - apart from not reading the question a hundred percent - is that this is actually so common as to be not worth noticing, unless you're a big fan of the two shows or films involved. Glee getting mentioned on The Office is exciting, I think, because unlike Titanic, Gandhi, Philadelphia, The Nutty Professor, The Lord of the Rings, and much of the other pop culture stuff the show has referred to, Glee is hugely popular and on TV right now, and yet so frivolous that it's a weird thrill to see it acknowledged and enshrined for all time on an episode of a comedy with a more serious, realistic tone. It's like when you were 12 and your school principal made a pop culture reference and everybody was slightly shocked and impressed because they didn't expect her to be conversant with the same things as them - but when you think about it, well, of course she knows who Justin Timberlake is.

I can relate, though - I had a similar feeling when an Office episode had Michael driving into work blasting Lady Gaga's Just Dance - like wow, this isn't very Office-like. It's interesting and a little unexpected to learn that any one of the Office characters listens to Gaga or watches Glee. But this kind of thing happens. Remember that episode where Jim and Pam convince Dwight it's Friday morning by pretending they both watched the Apprentice the night before? Or Dwight and Creed both dress as the Joker from The Dark Knight for Halloween? As for other shows, off the top of my head, Gilmore Girls was one giant pop culture reference. The Nanny was always mentioning soap operas, like House does today. A big one is Days of Our Lives being so fictional in the Friends universe that the character of Joey worked on it as an actor. There's an episode of Golden Girls where the four ladies arrange the funeral of a hated neighbour around what night the Cosby Show will be on. The guy from Psych is always watching TV. 30 Rock has acknowledged True Blood - and so has The Office! Even on Mad Men, just a few weeks ago little Sally got so into an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E that she started touching herself.

It's true, of course, that there are many shows that are so wrapped up in themselves, or so careful not to date themselves, or just set so far apart from the world of modern media consumption that they don't engage in these shenanigans. But for the most part this is normal. My suggestion is to go to any IMDB page for a show you like and look up its Connections page, and you'll get a ton of places where it's been referenced. :)
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:16 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think this happens visually, very subtly, in a few Pixar movies. For sure in Wall-E's garbage dump, there are toys from other Pixar movies; it would only make sense that there's a Wall-E reference or two hidden in the background of Toy Story 2 & 3, although I didn't specifically notice any as I watched. Toy Story would be a good place for the mutual fiction to show its mutuality since it has two sequels.

Oh here: The megabrand in Wall-E's world is Buy-N-Large; batteries of this brand appear in Toy Story 3 (#6 on that list). Meanwhile, Toy Story's Pizza Planet truck, Rex (dinosaur) and Hamm (piggybank) all appear in the backgrounds of Wall-E.

I know this isn't exactly what you meant b/c the characters don't watch each other's shows, but seeing as how everything in these worlds was deliberately created, I thought overlaps in their worlds kind of counted.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2010

Jesus Christ, I can't believe that I also misunderstood your question after writing all that. Hahaha... sorry!
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, I was thrown by "with the other being fiction *within* the universe of the former," when I think you meant "with each being fiction within the universe of the other." In any case this comment and my other are probably noise.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:25 AM on November 12, 2010

Yup, I blew it.
posted by jgirl at 9:05 AM on November 12, 2010

Dharma and Greg had an episode devoted to the finale of Seinfeld. Knowing that absolutely everyone would be inside watching the finale, the pair went around the city trying to find the perfect spot to make love in a public place.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:05 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

A few weeks ago the Family Guy episode with Rush Limbaugh referenced The Office.
posted by special-k at 9:06 AM on November 12, 2010

This one is a bit blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but in the movie A Nightmare On Elm Street a character is watching the Evil Dead on TV, and in Evil Dead 2 there's a torn-up poster for A Nightmare On Elm Street briefly visible in the background.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 9:25 AM on November 12, 2010

Family guy had a reference to Dallas where the live action characters from Dallas woke at the end of a Family Guy episode a la Bob Newhart to see that it was all a dream.

Fom Wiki
The episode then ends in a live-action sequence, in which Pamela Barnes Ewing wakes to find her husband, Bobby, in the shower. Surprised to see her in the bathroom, Pamela begins telling him about the episode, which was apparently a dream, thus retconning the entire episode. Although after she tells him about the dream, her husband responds by asking "What's Family Guy?", with both then proceeding to turn and look confused directly at the camera.
posted by Gungho at 10:06 AM on November 12, 2010

In The Phantom Menace, there's moment during one of the interminable Galactic Senate scenes where you can see members of E.T.'s species in the audience. Meanwhile, back in the movie E.T., there's a scene where E.T. encounters kids trick-or-treating in Star Wars costumes (and has a particularly interesting reaction to a Yoda mask). There are a couple more cross-universe ties involving Star Wars and E.T. that the expanded universe stuff touches on; you can read about it in the Star Wars wiki.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:31 AM on November 12, 2010

Posting more for the derail that for the OP's question; the 90's NBC 'Must-See-TV' block was an entirely shared fictional New York.
Friend's Phoebe's (evil) twin sister Ursula was the recurring waitress on Mad About You.
Mad About You's Paul Reiser moved in with Helen Hunt; he sublet his old apartment to Seinfeld's Cosmo Cramer.
There are half a dozen more interconnections, but the one I enjoyed most was one night where all of the set-in-NYC shows were all obviously happening simultaneously because there was a blackout in their shared fictional NYC, affecting each show in its own way.
posted by bartleby at 10:39 AM on November 12, 2010

the 90's NBC 'Must-See-TV' block was an entirely shared fictional New York.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the ER-Friends crossover. Rachel and Monica had a double-date with Dr. Ross (George Clooney) and Carter, who were visiting NYC for some medical convention.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2010

Response by poster: My wording was a bit off, but I was indeed thinking about:

a) Character in show A watches / mentions show B. (ie., show B is *fictional* within the 'supposedly real' fictional universe of show A.)
b) Character in show B watches / mentions show A. (ie., show A is *fictional* within the 'supposedly real' fictional universe of show B.)
... at the same time, not shows that happen in the same fictional universe (of which there are indeed plenty of references).

TVtropes calls this Mutually Fictional. (Warning: tv tropes link. Timesink!)

Not that I don't like TV-nerds getting all excited for an opportunity to show off their vast knowledge of their favorite show :)
posted by lodev at 11:29 AM on November 12, 2010

Mod note: Folks, please give lodev's clarification a careful read and try to confine your answers to the specific confines of that request. TV shows are awesome but this isn't a chatroom.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:15 PM on November 12, 2010

There's an Arrested Development episode in which George Michael invites Maeby to watch an off-network teen detective show on DVD.
posted by Ponsonby Britt at 8:08 PM on November 12, 2010

Well, it happened again. I really should know better by now. I followed oneswellfoop's (sorry I unspoonerized your name before) link to TV Tropes, and predictably, I ended up spending hours over there.

But it was not a total loss, as I found another answer to the question, hiding out on the Actor Allusion entry:

In an episode of The Simpsons, Lisa responds to Marge's inquiry about her evil laugh by claiming she was thinking of a joke she saw on Herman's Head. In an episode of Herman's Head, Yeardley Smith's character wonders if she sounds like "that girl who voices Lisa Simpson."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:15 AM on November 13, 2010

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