Recurring in-jokes/motifs in film and tv?
August 4, 2006 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Examples of recurring in-jokes or motifs in film and television? Examples I can think of are the appearances of "1138" in George Lucas's movies (referring, of course, to THX-1138), and the numbers 1013 and 1121 (and, subsequently, the times 10:13 and 11:21) in The X-Files, being the birthdates of Chris Carter and his wife.
posted by Robot Johnny to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Kubrick put CRM-114 in a few of his movies. On that note, the Coen brothers other reference Kubrick's "purity of essence" ("POE") line in their films.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 AM on August 4, 2006

Didn't John Landis always sneak in "See You Next Wednesday" in his work?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:03 AM on August 4, 2006

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:04 AM on August 4, 2006

Futurama has 1729 in it multiple times.

Klaatu barada nikto is used many places.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:07 AM on August 4, 2006

The Wilhelm scream?
posted by jozxyqk at 11:10 AM on August 4, 2006

Kieslowski would often have one of his characters mention van den Budenmayer, a fictional Dutch composer.
posted by catesbie at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2006

LucasArts always included an image of Max the Rabbit in every interactive computer game they produced.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2006

Hitchcock always did a cameo in every one of his films.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2006

Seinfeld -- supposedly had the Superman logo somewhere in every episode

ALIAS - the number 47 used repeatedly in the show, including the opening credits

The West Wing -- Every time CJ Cregg's goldfish, Gail, appears on the show, there's a custom-made object in her fish bowl which relates to the episode's events. These are almost never clearly visible on camera; they were made mostly for the amusement of the cast and crew. And according to one DVD commentary, they were displayed at the Smithsonian for awhile as part of a larger exhibit on The White House in American culture (if I remember that correctly).
posted by junkbox at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2006

Sam Raimi includes his 1973 Oldsmobile in most of his films. Wikipedia on Sam Raimi's director trademarks
posted by cadge at 11:16 AM on August 4, 2006

Does Martin Scorsese putting his mother in a bunch of his movies count as an in-joke? Catherine Scorsese
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:19 AM on August 4, 2006

References to Superman and other superheroes in Seinfeld episodes.
posted by ericb at 11:22 AM on August 4, 2006

There's A113 - a reference to CalArts, found in many Pixar and other movies.
posted by Meagan at 11:22 AM on August 4, 2006

i think David Lynch has a thing for red curtains.
posted by the painkiller at 11:22 AM on August 4, 2006

M. Night Shamalamading-dong does the cameo thing too.

Wes Anderson (almost) always uses the font Futura in his movies.

Pixar's tradition of animated "bloopers" during the end credits plays around with the idea of meta-theatricality as an in-joke.

I was REALLY hoping to be the first to bring up the Wilhelm Scream.
posted by Milkman Dan at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2006

47 isn't just Alias.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2006

Joe Dante always casts this guy his films.
posted by popcassady at 11:29 AM on August 4, 2006

Oh, and Les Nessman's bandage.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2006

24601 (Jean ValJean's prisoner number from Les Miserables) appears frequently in the Simpsons and other shows. According to
  • Sideshow Bob's prisoner number in The Simpsons episode 8F20 – "Black Widower"
  • The number on Principal Skinner's helmet in The Simpsons episode 9F21 – "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" It is possible that this number has appeared at other points in the series as well.
  • The employee number of the hacker/player character in System Shock
  • In South Park episode 4.02 – "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000", a prison guard refers to Eric Cartman as 24601 even though his prison uniform says 23654.
  • In Drawn Together episode #206 ("Ghostesses in the Slot Machine"), Captain Hero's indiscretion before the League of Friends is cited as "24601"
  • In Arrested Development, Oscar Bluth's prison number is 24601.
  • In the comicbook GrimJack issue #73, the main character's prison number is 24601.
  • The Black Canyon School (a juvenile detention facility for girls) in Phoenix, Arizona is located at 24601 North 29th Avenue. There is nothing else abutting that remote mile of frontage road, so the state could have chosen any address number within range for it; that they would choose to locate a "prison" at 24601 demonstrates some literary humor on the part of somebody with the Arizona Department of Corrections.

posted by justkevin at 11:31 AM on August 4, 2006

Ron Howard casts his younger brother Clint in almost all his projects, including Arrested Development, which packs more in-jokes into each episode than just about any other show on television.
posted by junkbox at 11:40 AM on August 4, 2006

Pixar includes the Pizza Planet truck in almost everyone of their films (I still can't find it on The Incredibles,) along with the letter-number sequence A113
posted by icontemplate at 11:43 AM on August 4, 2006

In the TV show Scrubs, they often refer back to jokes they've made in previous episodes. Seems like a continuity thing maybe? Dr. Mickhead, Dr. Acula, and Colonel Doctor come to mind.
posted by bDiddy at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2006

4 8 15 16 23 42 from Lost.
posted by Addlepated at 11:50 AM on August 4, 2006

The Wilhelm Scream.
posted by jtfowl0 at 11:54 AM on August 4, 2006

Doh! Already posted, but the video is comical nonetheless.
posted by jtfowl0 at 11:57 AM on August 4, 2006

Pixar includes the Pizza Planet truck in almost everyone

Pixar includes references to all of their previous films (and sometimes, films in production just as that film wrapped up) in each of their films. Look for Toys in Bug's Life, look for Toys and Bugs in Monsters, Inc., etc.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:57 AM on August 4, 2006

The film Magnolia makes many veiled references to Exodus 8:2.
Exodus 8:2 reads: "And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs".

The numbers 8 and 2 appear throughout the film:
weather forecast: 82% chance of rain
a gambler needs a 2 in blackjack but gets an 8
the coil of rope when the boy commits suicide
the first temperature reading
the poster in the TV show audience
the movie poster at the bus stop on Magnolia Blvd
the placard on the hanged convicts
Jim Kurring's box number at the date hotline
Sydney Barringer's mother and father's apartment number is 682
the forensic science convention starts at 8:20
Delmer Darion flips over a stack of cards to reveal the 8 through 2 of diamonds
right after Jim Kurring sees Donnie Smith climbing up the building, you can see a flash of a sign on the side of the road that says "Exodus 8:2" (it's visible again when the frogs fall and hit Kurring's car)
the number on the firefighter's plane.
in Marcy's mugshots, her criminal record number is 82082082082
in the bar scene there is a chalkboard with two teams, the frog and the clouds, the score is 8 to 2
spray painted on the cement as graffiti next to the boy.
member of the game show crowd holds a placard with Exodus 8:2 written on it
the kids were two days away from entering their eighth week as champions.
Quiz Kid Donnie Smith won his 100 000 dollars on 28 April 1968
The first two numbers of the Seduce and Destroy Hotline (1-877-TAME-HER) are 82.
one of the hanged men has the 82 on his clothes
Claudia proposes 8:00 for a date with Jim, but Jim says he doesn't get off work until 10:00, so the date is set for 10:00, 2 hours later than the original proposal 2 hours later for a date
At the police station in the beginning of the movie, the clock says 8:02.
When Jim Kurring notices Quiz Kid Donnie Smith climbing on the Solomon & Solomon building he drives past a luminous sign saying "Exodus 8:2".

On "Friends", the wipeboard on Joey and Chandler's door always has something to do with what is happening on that episode.
posted by ColdChef at 12:05 PM on August 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Burt Reynolds often used a friend of his, Dr. Augustino (Gus) Carlucci as a character in his films. He was only on-screen in a couple of them, but his name was used as an off-screen character several times (obstetrician in Paternity, for example). Dr. Carlucci was internist in Augusta, GA who went to prison in the 1980's for his prescribing habits and died a few yeaars ago.

Then while researching this comment I discovered that Anacott Steel is both the name for one of the fictional football teams in the original The Longest Yard and a fictional company in Wall Street. The trivia section on IMBD has a bunch of this sort of thing.
posted by TedW at 12:08 PM on August 4, 2006

Many episodes of X-Files had a number - 11:35, or something - that was either Chris Carter's birthday or that of his wife. It most often appeared on clocks. Also, and I don't know if this counts, but Dana Scully is named for Vin Scully, because Carter is (unfortunately) a die-had Los Angeles Dodgers fan.

Serenity, the spaceship from the Firefly TV show (and the movie named for the ship) appears in the mini-series pilot of the new Battlestar Galactica. The same FX crew worked on both.

There are several Star Wars cross-references in the Indiana Jones movies, such as 3P0 and R2 appearing on the wall behind the idol in the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the opening sequence of Temple of Doom taking place in Club Obi-Wan.

A few more specific examples of the Pixar cross-reference mentioned by thanotopsis is the presence of a Buzz Lightyear doll on the floor of the dentist's office in Finding Nemo; the presence of one of the bugs from Bug's Life on a leaf in Toy Story 2, and of course a good chuck on the closing credits sequence in Cars.
posted by robhuddles at 12:12 PM on August 4, 2006

See You Next Wednesday [Wikipedia]
posted by kirkaracha at 12:16 PM on August 4, 2006

The book Love in the Time of Cholera appears in every John Cusack movie, either physically or referentially.
posted by yogurtisgenocide at 12:17 PM on August 4, 2006

The O.C. occasionally throws in pointless references to Marissa Cooper's younger sister's pony, China, that had alopecia.

Also, the characters continually reference/mock the fictitious the O.C.-like series "The Valley" in a self-aware manner. (something like "Death Cab is on "The Valley"? Ew, I'm never listening to them again.")
posted by penchant at 12:41 PM on August 4, 2006

The book Love in the Time of Cholera appears in every John Cusack movie, either physically or referentially.

I'm calling bogus on this one unless you can cite a reference.

Hitchcock always did a cameo in every one of his films.

I don't think he did it in every one, but certainly in most. He also had Brandy (the drink) in almost all of his sound films.
posted by dobbs at 12:41 PM on August 4, 2006

In Coming to America, Eddie Murphy's character gives money to the now-homeless Mortimer and Randolph Duke, the wretched commodities brokers who toyed with Eddie's life in Trading Places. I suppose this is well-known enough that I could have just said "Mortimer and Randolph Duke." Wikipedia calls this example "shared universe."
posted by Aghast. at 12:48 PM on August 4, 2006

All of Kevin Smith's movies (don't hurt me!) contain hockey somewhere in them. Nearly all of Douglas Adams' novels' titles were quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:59 PM on August 4, 2006

Wes Anderson (almost) always uses the font Futura in his movies.

Kubrick was into Futura too.
posted by octothorpe at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2006

A number of TV shows have made satirical reference to The Prisoner though I don't know if that counts as an in-joke. Though maybe it was just that one episode of the Simpsons. Certainly The Prisoner repeats the same images/tropes over and over again, though it's perhaps simply repetitive as opposed to being an ironic in-joke.
posted by GuyZero at 1:20 PM on August 4, 2006

Quentin Tarantino uses the fictional Red Apple cigarette brand in most of his movies. Also, Vic Vega (aka Mr. Blonde) in Reservoir Dogs, is the brother of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.
posted by sbrollins at 1:23 PM on August 4, 2006

Lynch has a lot of recurring motifs:

- The disfigured man behind the scenes who controls the world
- The woman slowly emerging from complete darkness
- As mentioned before, the red curtains
- Opposing/complementary blonde & brunette female characters
- Torch songs
posted by mattholomew at 2:11 PM on August 4, 2006

Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach. In "His Girl Friday", Grant's character suggests that he's killed a fellow named Archie Leach. In "Arsenic and Old Lace", Grant's character sits by the tombstone of a dear departed Archie Leach. In both of these as well as other films, Grant was known to throw in little ad libs as joke meta-commentary, such as telling Peter Lorre to quit underacting!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:31 PM on August 4, 2006

Alan Smithee
posted by TheRaven at 3:20 PM on August 4, 2006

The title sequence in every Woody Allen film since "Annie Hall" has been done in the same style.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:04 PM on August 4, 2006

Re 24601: I'd credit the Post Office; I'm not sure, but I believe they usually assign the addresses.

Re Scrubs: See the episode My Deja Vu Deja Vu.
posted by baylink at 5:32 PM on August 4, 2006

About sixteen thousand recurring names, symbols, etc. from Lost, check Lostpedia for lists. The 4 8 15 16 23 42 mentioned above also appeared in a Veronica Mars episode as the "lucky numbers" on a fortune cookie.

No one has mentioned the (tacky) doves from most every Woo flick. Probably not meant as a joke, but still.
posted by absalom at 6:08 PM on August 4, 2006

Several of Wong Kar-Wai's films contain recurring character names and numbers as subtle thematic link indicators. See the names of female characters in Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love, or the cop ID numbers in Chungking Express.
posted by shortfuse at 6:14 PM on August 4, 2006

Most of the time that you saw a conduit or air duct in The original Star Trek series, it was labeled "GNDN-xxx" - where GNDN means "goes nowhere does nothing".

In Star Trek Next Generation there were several in-jokes that could sometimes be seen - one of the ones I remember well was spotting "Medical Insurance Remaining" on one of the sickbay diagnostic consoles.
posted by disclaimer at 7:28 PM on August 4, 2006

I will second that Arrested Development was one of the most active hotbeds of in-jokes and self refernces ever. That show just made its own gravy.
posted by Gilbert at 7:37 PM on August 4, 2006

BTW -- announced this week:
Microsoft Corp. will run free episodes of the quirky TV comedy “Arrested Development” through its MSN Video service this year, making the show available online for the first time.

MSN, the software maker’s Internet unit, said this week it will run display and video ads instead of charging viewers to watch the critically lauded show that was a hit with a relatively small but fiercely loyal audience.

“On TV, ‘Arrested Development’ created an incredibly passionate and dedicated fan base, and we’re thrilled to bring this series to the global MSN audience,” Rob Bennett, MSN’s general manager of entertainment and video services, said in a statement announcing the deal.

MSN will have exclusive portal rights to syndicate the show’s 53 episodes for three years.

Making recent TV shows available online for free is rare.

...Beside the MSN showing, HDNet will begin airing “Arrested Development” episodes in September on its high-definition network, which is offered on some cable and satellite systems. It will have exclusive HD television access to the series for three years.

Meanwhile, G4, a network that targets the coveted 18- to 34-year-old male demographic, has acquired basic cable rights for the series for three years and will begin airing it in October.
posted by ericb at 8:03 PM on August 4, 2006

For some reason, Steven Bochco always seems to cast Barbara Bosson in his TV shows.
posted by Kibbutz at 8:38 PM on August 4, 2006

There's this Usenet FAQ, which is fairly old. I could swear there's another, similar one, that breaks the trivia out by person rather than film- a lot of "-- often casts XXXX". This was from before IMDB assuming that mantle. Anyone else remember this?
posted by mkultra at 9:00 AM on August 5, 2006

Mulder's apartment number was 42, if I remember correctly.

Hitchcock always did a cameo in every one of his films.

My mother took a film class when I was a kid in which she wrote a paper about a Hitchcock film "Lifeboat" (?) -- the whole thing takes place in, you guessed it, a lifeboat. And yet he still manages a cameo: in a magazine page floating in the water, with an ad for some diet program, as the "before" picture. Cracked me up.
posted by epersonae at 5:01 PM on August 5, 2006

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