Identify this reality-bending TV show episode
August 24, 2013 11:59 PM   Subscribe

I once saw a show, which I remember as being from The Outer Limits, where two people discover that reality isn't as they thought.

They discover that the world they know is a false front for the real world, where a band of plucky revolutionaries fight to destroy the machinery of simulacra. But they eventually discover that the world of the revolutionaries is also false, designed to give rebellious types something to do. Another level down is just cardboard boxes labeled 'sofa', 'TV', etc. And so on, until they discover the core reality, which is just a night watchman-type guy monitoring everything. If I remember right, they manage to accidentally turn the whole thing off, wiping themselves out of existence.

It sounds a lot like the plot of The 13th Floor, but I remember it definitely being a TV show, and I don't think The 13th Floor has those specific elements.

Not sure it was Outer Limits, but it was a similar TV show (maybe the Twilight Zone reboot?), and from the 90s, if I remember right.
posted by jiawen to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Twilight Zone, "A Matter of Minutes"? 1986, but has the time keeper/couple traveling through realities elements.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:32 AM on August 25, 2013

Response by poster: It sounds like that had only two layers of reality, while the show I watched had about a half-dozen. The protagonists kept waking up to what they thought was the true reality, only to find that there was still another layer left. It was the most thoroughgoing approach I've seen to the "what if there's another reality behind this one?" type of reality-bending that was popular in the 90s.
posted by jiawen at 8:01 AM on August 25, 2013

Anything from tv tropes "recursive reality" fit?
posted by gregglind at 10:58 AM on August 25, 2013

Response by poster: I actually checked that Trope as part of writing the question. Didn't see the show I'm thinking of in there.
posted by jiawen at 11:43 AM on August 25, 2013

This has been driving me nuts! Are you sure that it was recent enough to be a colour- tv episode of a show, or is it possible that it was a colourized old b&w show?
posted by windykites at 12:41 PM on August 25, 2013

Response by poster: Pretty certain it was in color. I suppose it could've been colorized, though it seemed pretty current with the reality-bending trend of the 90s.
posted by jiawen at 12:45 PM on August 25, 2013

Even the earliest twilight zones occasionally had those kinds of elements, though.

The only Outer Limits I can think of offhand with rebels who turn out to be fake is "The Deprogrammers", which doesn't suit any of your other criteria. The wikipedia list of Outer Limits episodes from that time period doesn't have anything that quite matches your description. I'll look around, but let me know if you find anything. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive episode list for OL, you might recognize something.
posted by windykites at 1:27 PM on August 25, 2013

Response by poster: It doesn't sound like "The Deprogrammers", you're right. And I did check the list of Outer Limits episodes, and yeah, nothing seemed to match.

I was wondering if it was maybe a Sci Fi Channel movie, but none of those seem to be it, either.
posted by jiawen at 4:16 PM on August 25, 2013

Best answer: I remember this, it's Virtual Nightmare (imdb). Or so says stackexchange and google answers.
posted by zinon at 6:33 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes, that sounds like it. Right time period, the plot outlines sound right... Now I just have to find a way to watch it so I can confirm!
posted by jiawen at 4:10 AM on August 26, 2013

Response by poster: Confirmed; that's definitely it. The reality levels don't quite as deep as I'd thought, but it's still a bit deeper than many. Good stuff.

And it costars John Noble as a father whose son is having alternate reality problems. Interesting!
posted by jiawen at 6:37 PM on August 26, 2013

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