Reality Subtext

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    The Reality Subtext extends past the Fourth Wall to issues surrounding the production itself or on an even larger scale.

    During the creation of a work, the rest of the world and its struggles go on. Maybe the author or actor is having relationship issues, or drug issues, or got pregnant, or someone close to them died. Or something major happened in the world: a disaster, a war, the death or birth of a public figure, a chaotic political climate, what have you.

    Often these events have an effect on the work, but not one that is visible to the viewer or reader unless they are privy to that outside knowledge. Some subtext is only speculative, and some comes from first hand sources such as interviews and DVD Commentary. Either way, it is either not intentionally called out within the work, or the reference is oblique except to those who are 'in on it'.

    By comparison, Real Life Writes the Plot and its Sub Tropes are cases where the effect of real life affects the production in a very visible way.

    See Funny Aneurysm Moment and Hilarious in Hindsight for the accidental versions of this, as Reality Subtext is at least semi-intentional. Also compare Enforced Method Acting, and Throw It In.

    Examples of Reality Subtext include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Hayao Miyazaki made Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea partly as an apology to his son Goro, who he had publicly feuded with during the production of Tales From Earthsea, Goro's first movie. Word of Miyazaki is that Sosuke is modeled after young Goro and his mother after his wife, which by logic would make the father who's always away Miyazaki himself. The Morse code messages the father sends them from his ship when he tells them he's not coming home yet - "I'm sorry and I love you" - are thus meant for Miyazaki's family.
    • The story in Grave of the Fireflies was based closely on the experiences of the writer, Nosaka Akiyuki, in World War II. In Real Life, Nosaka watched his little sister die of starvation the same way the main character of the movie did. That the said main character later starves to death on the floor of JNR Sannomiya Station in the opening of the film should tell you a bit about how he still feels about that.
    • The author of the Light Novel Welcome to The NHK! (a black comedy slice-of-life show about a hikikomori) is an actual Hikikomori, and even admitted in one of his author notes that he's been living off the royalties of the book and delaying his work on other novels. Also, the dub of the anime based on the book cast Chris Patton as the lead character. Patton has admitted to having anxiety issues (including a time in high school where he refused to leave his room). It's hard to tell if this influenced his casting or not, but it certainly helped inform his acting—his work in the show has ended up being one of his most critically praised roles in anime dubbing.
    • Takotsuboya, known for his Dark Fic doujins, comes from a background of soul crushing tragedy of failure after failure as he wanted to become a mangaka but failed in his dreams completely.

    Comic Books

    • According to the introduction to the Fleischer/Aparo The Spectre trade, the only reason the Spectre was revived as a character at all was because then-DC editor Joe Orlando was mugged and the thief got away. This left him to long for a superhero who punished the wicked after every legal recourse has failed. A little research into The Golden Age of Comic Books later, he found some early Spectre stories that were just up that alley, and voila.
    • The Image Comics miniseries Shattered Image was intended to be a reverse Crisis on Infinite Earths, where the characters from the various studios making up Image would be briefly shunted off into separate universes, then joined back together, mostly. The original notion was that the Silvestri characters would get their own 'verse, while the Liefeld characters would stay part of the whole. Instead, due to real-world machinations, the Liefeld characters vanish without anyone noticing partway through the series (replaced by similar heroes from other 'verses), and the Silvestri characters leave in a solemn parting scene... then return suddenly in the very last panel.
    • When Captain Marvel and Superman see each other, they usually end up throwing punches, much more often than is typical for Let's You and Him Fight. This is largely a nod to their very first battle.... in court. DC Comics sued Fawcett over Captain Marvel being too similar to the Man of Steel (and outselling him, too), and eventually got the book canceled. Comic writers have since explored this decades later by having the two of them fight one another in the panels.


    • The reason Mandy Patinkin's Heroic Resolve was so convincing in The Princess Bride is a bit of very dedicated method acting: he thought of Rugen in that scene as being the cancer that killed Patinkin's own Real Life father.
    • Medium Cool, a Mockumentary shot and filmed during the Chicago 1968 riots outside the Democratic National Convention. It was supposed to be a film about poverty and media manipulation, and it was contemplated that the finale would be MLK's planned March on Poverty, but the director had it on word from friends in Chicago that a massive demonstration was about to take place, and then MLK and RFK got assassinated during filming, which were incorporated into the plot. Oh, and the film is shot entirely on-location while events took place.
    • In the director's cut of the Watchmen film, an FBI agent offers Laurie a smoke and Laurie responds by glaring at him. In real life Warner Bros barred her character from smoking for fear of promoting the habit, much to the chagrin of fans and Laurie's actress.
    • Most of the cast and crew of The Front had been blacklisted - their dates of blacklisting are listed under their names during the end credits, including Zero Mostel and director Martin Ritt.
    • Robert De Niro alerted his friend and director Martin Scorsese to boxing biopic Raging Bull in the hope that engaging with the project would help Scorsese address his own self destructive impulses.
    • Charlton Heston appears in Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes as Thade's father. Heston's character, an ape on his deathbed, gives a gun to his son Thade, saying that it has "the power of a thousand swords." His last words, a nod to Heston's original role as the protagonist in the original 1968 film, were "Damn them all to hell" regarding the humans (Heston's character in the original was a human who said the same line regarding the apes). In real life, Charlton Heston was also president of the National Rifle Association.
      • The original line was also directed at the humans who blew up Earth, not at the apes who rose as a result.
    • Similarly, in Soylent Green the tears that Thorn sheds for Sol near the climax are real, as Charlton Heston is crying for Edward G Robinson who was dying of cancer at the time (this was Robinson's last film).
    • The family's eldest daughter is entirely missing from the second and third Poltergeist movies, as Dominique Dunne, the actress who played her, had been murdered in 1982. The role was not re-cast and the absence of the character was not mentioned, almost a Brother Chuck. Ms. Dunne also appeared in an episode of Hill Street Blues playing an abuse victim, but many of the bruises on her face were genuine, inflicted by her boyfriend (her eventual killer).
      • The actor who played the evil preacher was actually that gaunt: he was dying of cancer and didn't need that much makeup to look like a skeleton.
      • Heather O'Rourke, who played Carol Anne, was noticeable chubby in the third movie due to the medication for her Crohn's disease. She would later die from surgical complications after filming completed in 1988 at twelve years old.
    • When Tyler Durden, in his rant about Fight Club, says "We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars," he glances at Jared Leto's character. Jared Leto had just formed his own rock band, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Tyler's actor, Brad Pitt, is a "movie god" in his own right.
    • In From Russia with Love, Pedro Armendáriz, who played Bond's Turkish sidekick Ali Kerim Bey, was dying of cancer during the production and eventually committed suicide to stop the pain. This makes it particularly poignant when his character makes a Heroic Sacrifice and disappears from the film.
    • Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, a family movie made by recycling bits of footage from a horror anthology rejected by the studio features Ernest Borgnine as a grandfather who tells his grandson stories from a horror anthology he wrote that the studio rejected.
    • The scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy just shot the bad guy would never have happened had Harrison Ford not been suffering from a nasty case of dysentery. The exact sequence of real-life events is disputed, but the scene as finally filmed replaced an elaborate "whip vs. sword" duel that Ford wasn't up to shooting.
      • According to the Making of Indiana Jones book they did actual finish shooting the fight but a test screening where the audience loved the shooting the swordsman bit convinced George Lucas to use it.
      • The Temple of Doom's darker tone was due to Lucas' and Spielberg's real-life breakups with their wives. Which explains having a bad guy who rips out people's hearts.
    • Brandon Lee's fatal shooting with a prop gun during the filming of The Crow made his portrayal of a musician who was shot to death and came back from the dead for revenge very poignant. The scene in the movie where Eric Draven was killed was heavily edited to change it from an explicit view of Draven being shot to a fast cut of Funboy firing a gun at him, but it couldn't be removed completely because it was the basis of the movie's plot.
      • Part of this was pragmatic, of course, to hide the double's face.
    • One of the innumerable executive nightmares surrounding the production of Apocalypse Now was Martin Sheen having a heart attack due the stress of filming, suspending filming of all his prominent scenes and making his brother double for him.
      • Then there were the helicopters that the Philippine military lent to Coppola for the famous "air cavalry" scene against a village held by communist Viet Cong insurgents. Those were frequently taken back, interrupting filming, to do actual air cavalry work for the Philippine military units engaged in combat with real communist insurgents.
    • Invasion of the Body Snatchers is often cited as a portrait of Red Scare America. Trust no one; for your neighbors, your friends, even your wife could become one of them. a godless Commi—er, pod person!
      • By the same token it's also a view of McCarthyism, with a suspicious Hoover and the FBI keeping Americans under watch.
      • Regardless of any of this, the movie actually averts the trope. Word of God stated repeatedly that they were just making a movie and were not going for any social/political commentary.
    • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the President of the United States is voiced by Stephen Colbert. Of course, Colbert was famous for launching (and dropping out of) a bid for the 2008 American presidency. The President character even looks like Colbert, albeit with a bigger chin and a more stylish hairdo.
    • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen wrote in a bit where Shia LaBeouf's character Sam gets his hand injured, due to Shia actually injuring his hand when in a car accident during filming. Considering the nature of the movie, it didn't affect filming much at all.
    • The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was to have starred Heath Ledger, but he died before filming was completed. In a show of support, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell finished the film in his place with the help of a magic mirror (according to an IMDB poster, Ledger has 45 mins of screen-time (out of ~120 total), Law and Farrell 15 each, and Depp 10).
    • The Farrelly Brothers had to completely rewrite the ending to Fever Pitch after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. They were able to actually film at the last game of the series because both Farrelly Brothers and star Jimmy Fallon are actual Sox fans and had personal tickets to the games. Their filming was actually caught live on Fox's broadcast of the actual game!
      • Then again, Fox also produced the film. People unaware of the production probably thought Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore had a thing for each other.
      • This turned out to mirror the true events of Nick Hornby's book from which a directly adapted film was made; the film—made years after the events—ends with Arsenal winning a First Division title on the last game of the season, the first in 12 years.
    • The flashback at the end of The Godfather Part II where the family is together for Vito Corleone's birthday was supposed to have him enter at the end, but Marlon Brando couldn't be gotten back, and instead the scene ends with an announcement that he's there and everybody but Michael rushing out to greet him offscreen. Francis Ford Coppola decided he actually liked it better with Vito remaining unseen, since it created a ghostly feeling that the family as it was then, under Vito, is gone forever.
    • At the end of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Spencer Tracy's character says, "...there is nothing, absolutely nothing, you feel for each other that I didn't feel for Christina.... the memories are still there, and they'll be there if I live to be a hundred and ten.... and if it's half of what we felt, it's everything." The tears in Katharine Hepburn's eyes are real - Spencer Tracy was dying, and she and Tracy had been together for twenty-five years. He died soon after, and she never saw the finished film, saying that the memories of Tracy were too painful.
    • Space Jam: The subplot with Michael Jordan playing baseball is based very loosely on his real life semi-retirement. It's essential to the plot because it means the aliens don't think to steal his basketball skills and this incident in turn leads to him returning to basketball which he also did in real life making this a sort-of fictional autobiographical account. They even go so far as to acknowledge in film that Jordan is a subpar baseball player and is only being indulged because of his celebrity.
      • And for those wondering why the hell Bill Murray is in the film trying to play basketball? That's actually a reference to the series of promo ads Murray did for the league circa 1995 claiming he was going to play NBA ball.
    • In Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond, a forgotten silent film star is played by Gloria Swanson, a forgotten silent film star herself. Her butler, Max, who was a leading director in the silent film era, is played by Erich von Stroheim, who was a leading director in the silent film era. For bonus points, the Stock Footage of a younger Swanson chosen to represent Norma Desmond as she was as a silent film star was from the obscure feature Queen Kelly, which was directed by von Stroheim. Norma also used to work with Cecil B. DeMille, who appears in the film playing himself; in real life, he did work with Swanson several times.
    • A major backstory in Metropolis involves Corrupt Corporate Executive Joh Fredersen seducing and marrying Hel, the wife of his best friend Rotwang. Much has been made of this subplot in light of the fact that Thea von Harbou (the scriptwriter) had an affair with and then married Fritz Lang (the director), divorcing then-husband Rudolf Kelin-Rogge (the actor who plays Rotwang) in the process. That said, Lang and Klein-Rogge reportedly remained good friends for years after the incident, and Lang repeatedly denied that his films reflected his personal life.
    • The scene in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back where Luke is attacked by a Wampa was created solely to explain the scars on Mark Hamill's face from a bad car accident Hamill was in towards the end of filming Star Wars: A New Hope.
    • It is believed that following 9/11, an entire scene was cut from the first Spider-Man film where Spidey strings a huge web in between the World Trade towers. There was a trailer composed of this scene (which was, obviously, pulled after the attacks), but whether this scene was from the movie or created specifically for the trailer is less certain.
    • When Al Michaels reprised his Real Life role as the broadcaster of the US-Soviet Union hockey game in Miracle, most of his lines were scripted. However, the last seconds of the game featured the Real Life call from 1980 on the belief that Michaels could never duplicate that same emotion.
    • Cannibal! The Musical features a subplot about Alferd Packer and his horse, Liane, who runs away and, he later learns, has been ridden by every man in town. The movie was made by Trey Parker shortly after he found out his fiancee Liane had cheated on him.
    • The Oracle in The Matrix had to be played by a different actor during the last movie, as the previous actor died from complications of diabetes. Hence that strange scene right before she sends the main characters to the Merovingian.
    • Both the first and last Rocky films mirror Sylvester Stallone's story of making them quite movingly. He had over 30 failed screenplays to his name before MGM took a chance on Rocky, and he was instantly catapulted to fame and fortune. Then when Stallone tried to make Rocky Balboa, it was at a time when he was a laughingstock after several poor career moves, and no one thought the film could be anything but a disaster. Yet when the film was released, the fans all trumpeted it as a worthy conclusion to the story.
    • In The Train, it was necessary to add a scene where Burt Lancaster's character was shot and injured while crossing a bridge because the actor had injured his knee playing golf and could only walk with a limp.
    • Coincidentally (it is the exact citation from book, but in the original it may be connected with WWI) this exchange in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, which came out in November 2001:

    Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
    Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil.

    • The Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line starts out with the tragic death of Johnny's older brother when he was a kid. Joaquin Phoenix, who played the adult Cash, said it was very hard to film scenes that dealt with this, because of his own brother's death years earlier.
    • In the movie Push, Dakota Fanning plays a girl with psychic precognitive powers. What makes this particularly funny is Ms. Fanning's apparent extreme intelligence which has lead to some jokes about her having actual "powers".
    • The famous Marseillaise scene in Casablanca features a close up of a woman crying while singing. The film was produced during World War II. Many of the actors, including that woman, were forced to flee Europe due to the German invasion. The emotion in that scene was not faked.
    • In Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Vincent Price and Robert Quarry play antagonists. According to insiders, the enmity onscreen was not fake: this was Price's last film for API, as he was being pushed aside for a younger actor. His replacement? Robert Quarry.
    • The interest in masked characters (i.e. V, Racer X) in the Wachowskis' films might have something to do with their reclusiveness and Lana having to live most of her life as Larry.
    • The classic 1947 film Gentleman's Agreement has a scene of a meeting where the merits of having the hero pose as a Jewish man to learn first-hand about antisemitism is discussed with senior staff of the magazine. Much of the dialog came directly from meetings of senior executives of Fox Studios discussing the merits of adapting the novel into a film. (It was both a commercial and critical hit and likely was partly the inspiration for John Howard Griffin to pose as a black man in real life in 1959 to learn about racism again blacks, which was the basis of the book and film Black Like Me.)
    • In The Kids Are All Right, Mark Ruffalo incorporated many of his younger brother's personality traits into his performance. His brother had been shot to death in an unsolved homicide a few years prior, and Ruffalo has stated he regarded the character as a way to pay tribute to his brother.
    • In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the titular Former Child Star and her rival sister who got success as an adult before an accident where both were involved cut that short were interpreted by Bette Davis and Joan Crawford respectively. In real life, both actress were vicious rivals since the beginning of their careers in the 1930s and utterly despised each other — much of the animosity between them in their confrontation scenes wasn't acted. In his Great Movies essay on the film, Roger Ebert speculated that "it's possible that each agreed to do the picture only because she was jealous of the other's starring role."


    • When mystery author Howard Engel suffered a stroke that left him with alexia sine agraphia (a neurological condition where he is unable to read words while retaining the ability to write), he decided to give his protagonist the same condition in the following novels.
    • Stephen King wrote in his accident with a hit-and-run driver into The Dark Tower series, where his Author Avatar suffered the same accident.
      • Heck, Stephen King's work in general is one giant Reality Subtext. He's a teacher who used to work at an industrial laundry? His first novel deals with school life with a protagonist whose mother works at an industrial laundry. He makes it big as a writer? Salem's Lot has a writer protagonist (as do many of his other stories) and The Shining has a teacher-turned-writer protagonist. He lives in Maine? His stories take place in Maine. He moves to Colorado? His stories take place in Colorado. He becomes an alcoholic and addicted to different meds? His stories start featuring metaphors for addiction or outright addiction. Seriously, just track the recurring features in his work and you've basically written a biography for him.
    • The Dementors in Harry Potter are the personified result of Rowling's own battle with depression.
    • Actress Clara Salaman wrote her novel Shame on You based on her own experiences of growing up in a religious cult, reported by some sources to be the St James School of The School Of Economic Science.
    • In the Kay Scarpetta series of novels by Patricia Cornwell Scarpetta's niece Lucy is a lesbian who has several different relationships with women while working with the FBI. The Reality Subtext is that Cornwell herself was having an affair with a married female FBI agent, and the affair came to light when the agent's former husband tried to murder her. Lucy also suffers from anorexia nervosa, something Cornwell has also struggled with. An incident in The Body Farm where Lucy is in a drunk car crash in Scarpetta's Mercedes was also based on something that happened to Cornwell.
    • Tamora Pierce stated at a note at the end of the final book in the Protector of the Small series, Lady Knight, that Haven being destroyed was based off of 9/11, since Pierce lived in New York City at the time.
    • In an essay, Jorge Luis Borges presents us with various literary works whose tone and material seem like forerunners of Franz Kafka. Before Kafka, though, no one would have said they had much in common. Borges argues that the reality of the author's later career created its precursors, retroactively making them similar to each other!
    • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was about the death of Robert Pirsig's son by his own description. This was left as subtext to the philosophical allegory and analysis, all the way up to the ending scene of closure.
    • Many reviewers of the Twilight saga consider the relationships described in the story to be based off of Stephenie Meyer's own upbringing and life.
    • Cecelia Galante's The Patron Saint of Butterflies, about a group of kids who grow up in an abusive Christian cult, is based on Cecilia's own experiences growing up in a cult. In fact, when her father read it he thought she was trying to insult him.
    • In A Clockwork Orange, the scenes of ultraviolence were written based on Burgess' memories of his wife's rape. Apparently, he was pretty consistently drunk during this period, and always regretted that the book became most remembered for the violence.

    Live-Action TV

    • Piper Halliwell was pregnant twice throughout the run of Charmed, the first time just the character, the second time both character and actress. Because the actress knew more about being pregnant and having children, Piper's second pregnancy was a lot more realistic than her first: she wasn't on her feet as much, she didn't fight any demons, she talked about breastfeeding and maternity more, and Holly Marie Combs was noticeably more maternal with her onscreen children.
    • Lynne Thigpen's sudden death in 2003 caused much disruption to production of The District. When production resumed, the memorial service for her character coincided with Mannion's removal from the Washington police force.
    • When Bill Owen died, his character also died offscreen in Last of the Summer Wine and the next several episodes were centered around his funeral.
    • There have been several Star Trek pregnancies:
      • Gates McFadden in Next Generation and Roxann Dawson in Voyager were pregnant in their respective fourth seasons, and in each case the character began wearing a jacket to hide the pregnancy for as long as possible. (Dawson got a break in the two-part "The Killing Game", where B'Elanna's holodeck character was pregnant; apparently the holodeck simulates these things very thoroughly.)
      • Nana Visitor of Deep Space Nine was pregnant with Alexander Siddig's baby in the fifth season. Since Kira was the show's female lead, this would have been hard to hide, so the writers resorted to an insane plot twist: another character's baby had to be transplanted into Kira to save its life after an accident, and then (because of Kira's biology) couldn't be taken back out before the due date. While highly sharky, this storyline avoided months of awkward filming—and made possible the immortal Reality Subtext moment where she yells "This pregnancy is all your fault!"
        • The best part was probably in the episode where the baby is actually born. Visitor gets the line "YOU DID THIS TO ME!" Common enough in media, where the woman in labor shouts at the father. Why is it wrapped in layers of excellence? She was shouting at Bashir, the doctor who implanted the baby in her...who is played by Siddig.
      • Denise Crosby felt she was underused and asked to be let go abruptly. They managed to squeeze her death into an episode, but she was to film another episode that was going to air first. In the final moments of the last episode she filmed you can see her waving goodbye. This made things a little more complicated when she had a change of heart and wanted to come back in some way.
    • On the original Star Trek: The Original Series, the episode "The Ultimate Computer" stars William Marshall as Anti-Villain Richard Daystrom, a prideful and ultimately fanatical computer designer. His eventual Villainous Breakdown carries a haunting subtext: Daystrom delivers a heartbreaking monologue about how he's been mocked and ridiculed and underestimated by people who did not understand him or his genius. In real life, Marshall was a classically trained actor and opera singer who likely suffered similar indignities and a shortage of opportunities because he was African-American.
    • In The West Wing, actor John Spencer died during production of the seventh season where his character, Leo McGarry, had a significant role as the vice presidential candidate for the Democratic party in the presidential election. Scripts were massively rewritten to deal with it. Specifically, the outcome of the election was changed - Republican moderate Arnold Vinick was intended to win, but the writers felt it would be too cruel for the Democratic characters to lose both Leo and the election.
      • Made even worse due to the fact that it had happened immediately after a dramatic storyline where Leo had a heart attack and was in very poor condition, done to parallel the actor's misfortune.
      • Actress Kristin Chenoweth's tears (as Leo's something-more-than-a-friend Annabeth) were extremely real; Kristin and John Spencer were very, very close in real life.
    • One of the most famous episodes of Sesame Street was a 1983 episode that dealt with the death of Mr. Hooper. Will Lee, the actor who played Mr. Hooper, died the year before.
    • Several shows have had to get around the unfortunate passing of their main character. News Radio lasted one season after Phil Hartman died, and 8 Simple Rules lasted two seasons after John Ritter died.
    • After six series in six years, Red Dwarf took a three-year hiatus between 1994 and 1996 as Craig Charles (Lister) had been arrested, and then cleared, of rape. Co-creator Rob Grant also left for undisclosed reasons. Only two more series (16 episodes) have been made since then, though a recent set of specials suggests the franchise is not quite dead, though certainly its halt at the top of its momentum did not help.
    • How I Met Your Mother: A month after actor Neil Patrick Harris came out as gay, the show introduced Barney's gay brother (played by Wayne Brady), who makes a lifestyle choice with which Barney initially disagrees. Said lifestyle choice being getting married instead of living the life of promiscuity that Barney favours.
      • The show also hid the pregnancies of Cobie Smulders and Alyson Hannigan using large, baggy shirts, but towards the end of the season, Hannigan was too big to hide and needed to go on maternity leave, so the writers created a joke that would offend Hannigan's character Lily so much that she wouldn't speak to the rest of the group for a month.
        • This also led to a line in the next season premierre when Marshall asks Robin and Lily if they have lost weight to distract them from a previous comment he had made. Both women's babies had been born during the summer hiatus.
      • However, during season, several months after Lily became pregnant, Alyson Hannigan announced she was pregnant again.
    • Grey's Anatomy: Actor Isaiah Washington (Preston Burke) was canned from the show at the end of the season 3, causing his character's romantic storyline with Sandra Oh's Christina Yang to end rather abruptly, with her stood up at the altar and going to his apartment to find out he'd cleaned house and left. Also, the sudden disappearance of Dr. Erica Hahn was due to the unexplainable firing of actress Brooke Smith.
      • Season 6 has had to do quite a bit of covering up-- George was killed in a bus accident when T.R. Knight wished to leave the show, Katherine Heigl has been written out for some episodes in order to shoot a movie and spend time with her recently-adopted baby, and Meredith had a storyline that required her to be bedridden to cover up Ellen Pompeo's pregnancy.
        • And the maternity leave of Jessica Capshaw (Arizona) led to a hugely important arc: Arizona leaves for Africa, she and Callie break up, Callie sleeps with Mark and gets pregnant, Arizona returns and they reunite and decide to raise the baby all together, Arizona ends up proposing and Callie says yes immediately after a near-fatal car accident. A rather extreme example of Real Life Writes the Plot.
    • Two subtexts for the price of one on the sixth season premiere of Reba: First, Melissa Peterman's weight loss is written into the script, as Barbara Jean's been seeing a personal trainer. Second, the first (and only) line for Kyra in the episode is "I just went out to get something to eat!" The line references actress Scarlett Pomers' battle with anorexia (and explains away her absence for the last quarter of the fifth season).
    • Malcolm's family from Malcolm in the Middle ended up with another child after real-life actress Jane Kaczmareck became pregnant.
      • Fifty years prior, Little Ricky was the result of Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball not wanting to trick-shoot the show to hide the latter's pregnancy.
        • Several episodes during this time were Whole Episode Flashbacks - with Ricky et. al. recalling some wacky hijinx. They were filmed while Lucy was still able to appear, but production intended them to air during her downtime after the birth.
    • Sarah Shahi of the series Life has a Middle Eastern background and can speak Farsi in real life. The episode "A Civil War" revealed that her character, Dani Reese, can speak Farsi.
      • Also, during production on the last season, she became pregnant, which resulted in the last five episodes being rewritten so her character would be recruited for an FBI joint taskforce and only able to communicate with the main character by phone, requiring the casting of Gabrielle Union as a replacement partner.
    • Doctor Who:
      • One of the show's most famous story devices, regeneration - in which the Doctor and other Time Lords transform into completely new people when injured or near death - was created expressly to explain the change in actors from William Hartnell, who was ill, to Patrick Troughton.
        • Hartnell's illness also affected his appearance in "The Three Doctors" 7 years later, as it made him unable to join Troughton and Pertwee's Doctors on the same stage. This was written into the story as the First Doctor being "trapped in a time eddy" and only being able to communicate with his successors through a viewscreen in the TARDIS. On top of that, it wasn't just his last appearance as the First Doctor but his last acting appearance ever.
      • During the production of the Second Doctor serial "The Mind Robber", Frazer Hines (Jamie) contracted chicken pox. This resulted in a last-minute rewrite of the serial, which allowed another actor (Hamish Wilson) to play Jamie's part for episode 2 of the serial.
      • In 1970, Doctor Who made the switch from black and white to colour. At the same time, the production team came up with a Story Arc where the Doctor gets exiled to Earth in the 1970s, which allowed them to save the money that would ordinarily get spent on exotic settings. The producers considered having him face off a number of alien invasions; however, it was felt the sheer number of invasions would push Willing Suspension of Disbelief too far, and so the Master was introduced as a recurring villain.
        • Furthermore, the Master was originally slated to die saving the Doctor's life. Instead, Roger Delgado died in a tragic car accident. Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor) left the show partly due to this... and the Master got new life later, played by other actors. These events make certain events of the Tenth Doctor's finale a fourth-wall-straddling date with destiny.
          • And Delgado's final serial was commissioned due to Delgado's concerns that his time as a de facto regular on Doctor Who (The Master had been the main or secondary villain in all the serials of the 1971 season, and a large chunk of the serials in 1972) was scaring away casting directors who might be willing to give him work on the side. Delgado had asked to be released from the series.
      • In a similar way, many fans believe that the characters of the Doctor and Romana (whose actors developed a real life romance and married during that time, though they divorced shortly afterwards) had a sexual relationship.
        • Lalla Ward believes it: she's said in an interview that it worked the other way; she and Tom Baker believed they were in love because the Doctor and Romana were.
        • And speaking of Romana, she regenerated from Romana I (Mary Tamm) to Romana II (Lalla Ward, who had previously played Princess Astra in an earlier serial) when it became impossible to hide Tamm's pregnancy. - The producer JNT came up with the story, but Mary Tamm has denied that this is the case as she left the show before she was pregnant. She even mentioned in an interview that she had to change her wikipedia article to correct the information.
      • In the second episode of the new series, Billie Piper, as Rose, rants at the "bitchy trampoline" Cassandra that "she'd rather die!" than have any of the cosmetic modifications Cassandra suggests. The very powerful subtext at work here is that, years earlier, Billie Piper had anorexia.
      • A mild case, but it seems very likely that the Tenth Doctor's last line before he regenerates into his eleventh incarnation is as much his actor speaking as he is, as said actor, David Tennant, got into acting to play the Doctor and, more or less, was considered one of the best Doctors ever. The line?

    Doctor: I don't want to go.

      • The short special "Time Crash" showed the Tenth Doctor meeting the Fifth and practically gushing over the earlier incarnation. That's because David Tennant grew up on the Fifth's serials, considers the Fifth his favorite Doctor, and cites Peter Davison as the reason he wanted to become an actor and eventually play the Doctor. That's Tennant's fanboying you see throughout the whole thing.
        • Not just Tennant's; Steven Moffat, who wrote it, is also an unabashed Davison fanboy.
      • "Victory of the Daleks", for the first time, justifies the change in default Dalek props in-universe: Three Daleks who have miraculously survived the Dalek genocide of "Journey's End" (and are thus represented by the Russell T. Davies props) create a new Dalek breed, technicolor, taller and more powerful than them. The old Daleks declare their unworthiness in comparison to the new ones and are promptly disintegrated by them. The actual production reason for the switch is that the RTD Dalek props were built so that they can go eyestalk-to-eye with Billie Piper (Rose), so the Steven Moffat props were conversely made to match the much taller Karen Gillan (Amy).
      • When Matthew Waterhouse was 16, his older brother committed suicide, just two years before Matthew got the part of Adric. What happens in Adric's introductory story? His older brother is yanked out of his grasp to his death.
    • Combining Reality Subtext and Fanon, many Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fans believe that Trini, the original Yellow Ranger, is dead, since her actress, Thuy Trang, died in a car accident. Her death has never been mentioned on-screen, but since Power Rangers shows are usually independent of each other, this is not surprising. However, this one's purely Fanon. Reunion Shows involving characters who knew her have never mentioned anything bad having happened to her.
      • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Jason David Frank - playing veteran ranger and mentor Tommy - had prior commitments in the USA in the middle of filming (which takes place in New Zealand), and so the producers arranged to have Tommy first trapped in amber, then stuck in his Ranger suit, and then finally invisible (so that Frank could provide voice-overs without having to be present on set).
      • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: Kendrix, the Pink Galaxy Ranger, makes a Heroic Sacrifice in a Dying Moment of Awesome near the end of the teamup with the Space Rangers. Her actress had to leave the show to undergo leukemia treatments. She was written out in this manner so that if the treatments were unsuccessful (as is all too often the case) people would have a grand heroic deed to remember her by. Fortunately, the treatments worked, and as a result Kendrix was revived at the end.
    • A Diagnosis: Murder episode shows Dick Van Dyke as the character of Mark Sloan watching home movie footage of himself playing 'cowboys' with his son Steve (played by real life son Barry). This is in fact real footage of Dick Van Dyke presumably playing 'cowboys' with a toddler age Barry though it could conceivably be another family member.
    • A.J. Langer came down with the chicken pox during filming of the My So-Called Life episode "Life of Brian" (which has nothing to do with the Monty Python film). This resulted not only in her very limited screen time in that episode, but also in all of the makeup having to be thrown out.
    • For the first three or four seasons of Married... with Children, the character of Marcy was married to a materialistic banker named Steve Rhoades, played by David Garrison. When Garrison grew tired of television and did not want to continue the series, he and the producers mutually agreed to write off his character. Over the course of several episodes, Steve would be phased out of the show, culminating in his going to jail and Marcy's divorcing him. Garrison would, however, return to play the role of Steve several times during the rest of the show's run.
      • Another example came from Katey Segal's first pregnancy. The writers fully embraced it as material for that season, and had Peg in-show getting pregnant as well. Unfortunately, this plan did not materialize as perfectly as the writers hoped. Right before the pre-determined birth, Katey suffered a miscarriage. This forced the writers to give the season an All Just a Dream ending. Fans were initially displeased, but after the writers explained the tragic situation behind the season finale, they cooled down and expressed their condolences to Katey Segal. Even though the actress got pregnant again before Married... with Children ended, the previous experience scared them away from creating a tie-in plot, and instead opted for a Hide Your Pregnancy approach instead.
    • There's a lot of this in Blackadder Goes Forth with General Melchett, played by Invisible to Gaydar actor Stephen Fry. There's his habit of addressing Captain Kevin Darling as just "Darling"—and then there's "Major Star," in which he falls for Hugh Laurie in drag yet finds "Bob" (a female passing for male) in "drag" utterly repulsive.
      • However, it is Hugh Laurie in drag. So Melchett, gay or not, is perfectly justified in falling for him. Face it, you would too.
      • In Blackadder Goes Forth, Blackadder uncovers a spy by reciting the 'great universities': "Oxford, Cambridge, Hull." General Melchett chimes in that Oxford is a complete dump. Melchett's actor, Stephen Fry, was an alumni of Cambridge, whereas Blackadder's actor, Rowan Atkinson, attended Oxford.
      • There's a bit of this in the A Bit Of Fry And Laurie sketch where Fry plays a British officer, Major Donaldson, and Hugh Laurie plays a Nazi officer. Fry is captured by the Nazis and is tortured to make him reveal information about the invasion of Normandy. He hasn't cracked under the torture. But as soon as he sees Hugh, he's smitten with the German officer and reveals the information, and begs for a kiss. (The German says, "Well, maybe a little one.")
    • David Henrie (Justin Russo) and Selena Gomez (Alex Russo), who play brother and sister in Wizards of Waverly Place, liked each other in Real Life (and they still probably do) and it affected their characters' relationship, fact implied by the looks they gave one another while they were performing the roles and by the way they acted around each other. Their obvious chemistry was commented by many fans, critics and even by their friends and families. Much to some people's relief and to a vast part of the fandom's dismay they didn't act upon their crushes.
    • Cordelia's pregnancy in season 4 of Angel coincided with Charisma Carpenter's real-life pregnancy, and also threw out an idea to have the season end with a fight between Angel and Cordelia.
    • When Angel breaks up with Buffy in the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the tears are real. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who considers Angel and Buffy soulmates, apparently cried for so long that the set had to be shut down briefly.
      • Similarly, in the episode of Angel where Angel becomes human and he and Buffy have 24 hours of perfect bliss before he voluntarily gives it all up (S1E8, "I Will Remember You"), Gellar was so distraught by the plotting that viewers can actually hear actor David Boreanaz consoling Sarah (by name) rather than Angel comforting Buffy.
      • In season six, Warren Mears accidentally kills Tara Maclay. At the time, the actors, Adam Busch and Amber Benson, respectively, were dating, and Joss Whedon actually told Adam, "You're gonna kill your girlfriend," to which the reply was "Warren gets a girlfriend?" "No, I mean your real girlfriend." Eight years later, by the way, they're still together. This relationship was actually the inspiration somewhat for the Buffy fanfic Difficult to Fight Against Anger.
      • Cordelia's fall onto a piece of rebar in "Lover's Walk" was based on a similar incident that occurred to Charisma Carpenter in real life.
    • David Duchovny forced production of The X-Files to move from Vancouver to Los Angeles, in part to further his wife Tea Leoni's acting career. Vancouver is rainy, forested, and has similar architecture to the Eastern US. Los Angeles mostly looks like Los Angeles. As a result, there were substantially more episodes set in the American Southwest, which LA can credibly replicate.
      • The X-Files first did this when Gillian Anderson first became pregnant. For a good while her character Dana Scully was wearing her trenchcoat and sitting behind desks a lot more, until she was abducted by aliens and was gone for the length of Anderson's maternity leave.
      • Not only that, but when Scully returned she was in a coma for most of an episode. Due to complications from the pregnancy, her pallor didn't need a lot of make-up.
    • When Peter Sellers guest starred on The Muppet Show, there was a brief bit where Kermit told him that he could feel free to drop his personas while backstage and be himself. Sellers' response was, "There is no me; I do not exist. There used to be a me... but I had it surgically removed." He meant it.
      • Sellers' claim that he existed as only what others wanted him to be was based on feeling his real self wasn't sufficiently able to make others or himself happy (and a desire to protect his privacy). In any case, his fascination with being others and never himself was what caused him to identify so much with Chance the Gardener in the novel Being There, to the point of spending much of his final years getting a film adaptation made so he could play Chance. Indeed, his family and friends have argued that of all of Peter's characters, Chance is by far the closest to who he actually was as a person.
      • When Gene Kelly guest starred, Scooter predicted the world would end and Beauregard was certain it was true. This was the last episode to be produced (though - at least in America - not the last one aired).
    • When Jared Padalecki broke his wrist partway through filming an episode of Supernatural, Sam Winchester had to break his wrist in a fight. There then follows at least one episode where Sam doesn't seem to do much while Jared deals with the pain and painkillers.
    • In an episode of Witchblade, Sara lectures the coroner about alcoholism when she spots booze in the room. In real life, Yancy Butler is an alcoholic.
    • On Sports Night, Robert Guillaume's real-life stroke was written into the story line as a stroke suffered by his character, executive producer Isaac Jaffee. This led to some very emotional scenes upon his return. Likewise, the on-screen portrayal of Executive Meddling throughout season 2, was almost certainly Aaron Sorkin somewhat pissy reaction to the same. The latter theme would reappear in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
    • Babylon 5:
      • Vir Cotto got a lot slimmer halfway through the series, which fit with the character developing from mostly comic relief to playing a more serious role in the show. In reality, Stephen Furst had been ordered to lose weight after becoming diabetic.
      • Zack Allan's complaints about his ill-fitting uniform were based - in some cases word for word - on that character's actor, Jeff Conaway, complaining about his ill-fitting costume. (When he later gets a change of costume, it is a notably better fit.)
      • Delenn's scathing dressing-down of the Grey Council in "Severed Dreams" was infused with her Croatian actress Mira Furlan's own considerable fury with the European powers who failed to help as the Balkans went to hell. The result is a awesome moment for both Delenn and Mira.
      • Babylon 5 enjoyed that sort of thing. Word of God is that Mr. Garibaldi's occasional speeches in favor of the death penalty were put in because actor Jerry Doyle was a fervent supporter of capital punishment in real life.
    • The main character of Bones is an anthropologist/writer named Temperance Brennan. She writes mysteries about an anthropologist named Kathy Reichs. Back in reality Kathy Reichs is an anthropologist/writer who writes mysteries about an anthropologist named Temperance Brennan. Also, when actress Emily Deschanel was pregnant, her character was too.
    • In the Law & Order franchise:
      • Olivia Benson's stint undercover (leading to her temporary disappearance from the show) in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was because the actress was pregnant.
      • Jerry Orbach died of prostate cancer just after joining the cast of Law & Order: Trial by Jury, after spending twelve years on the mothership show as Detective Lennie Briscoe. Trial By Jury was cancelled in its first season due to low ratings, and Briscoe is stated to have died off screen sometime thereafter.
        • A rather haunting episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent revealed that Mike Logan, Briscoe's first onscreen partner, imagined that he could still see Lenny. It wouldn't be surprising if there were a lot of Chris Noth's emotions in there.
    • Supposedly Rachel Green's pregnancy was written into the plot of Friends because Jennifer Aniston expressed her plan to start a family with Brad Pitt.
    • Latka's Split Personality problem in Season 4 of Taxi was conceived to relieve Andy Kaufman's boredom with the role, making him The Cast Showoff in the process. Andy was extremely fond of assuming alternate identities in real life, which was to be incorporated into a first season episode where his Alter Ego Acting persona Tony Clifton would serve as the guest star while Andy/Latka was didn't work because Tony treated everyone like dirt, to the point he was not only fired, but escorted from the Paramount lot.
    • In Only Fools and Horses, the deaths of the actors playing four characters were written into the show: Grandad and Uncle Albert were said to have died (and their funerals shown), Mike Fisher was said to be in prison for embezzlement (leading to Sid taking over the Nag's Head), and Denzil's wife Corrine was said to have finally divorced him.
    • Scrubs
      • Both of Dr. Cox and Jordan's children in were written in because Christa Miller became pregnant, as was Sarah Chalke's pregnancy in the final season.
      • In "My Cake", Scrubs paid proper homage to John Ritter's death by having J.D.'s father (who, of course, was played by John Ritter a couple years previous) die of a massive heart attack.
    • When Prison Break actress Sarah Wayne Callies' pregnancy overlapped with the first few episodes of season three, the writers plotted around her maternity leave. The Fox Network refused to sign off on the proposed plotline of season 3, forcing the writers to redo everything, and their new season arc came to involve the death of Callies' character. The actress refused to return to work just to be killed off, hence her offscreen death in the fourth episode of season three. But she came Back from the Dead in season four anyway.
    • In the Bolivian Army Ending of Kamen Rider Decade, the original Heisei Kamen Riders appear and attack Decade, except for Kuuga, who in this case is the Alternate Universe version. Joe Odagiri, the actor who portrayed the original Kuuga, declared that he considers Kuuga to be an Old Shame after he moved on to more serious works, and refuses to talk about his time with the franchise. This is also believed by fans to be a large reason why the alternate Kuuga was so prominent in Decade, and even moreso was played by Ryota Murai, a Promoted Fanboy who was a huge fan of Kuuga and Odagiri when he was younger.
    • During the production halt observed for the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, Battlestar Galactica's Michael Trucco (Samuel Anders) was involved in a near-fatal car accident. He miraculously survived the event with little lasting damage except a rather large scar down the back of his neck. To allow him to recover but still be an active part of the show for its final season the writers came up with a scenario involving Anders being struck by a bullet and suffering massive brain trauma and being immobile for the remainder of the show but still an integral part of the final arc. By the time the post-script move The Plan went into production, he was back on his feet and back to doing the kind of stuff his character was known for.
    • Warrick Brown's murder on CSI occurred shortly after Gary Dourdan was released from the show.
    • Firefly: In "The Message", the funeral scene is a pretty charged moment on its own; then you realize that, not only had the show been canceled, but the cast had also just found out when they filmed those scenes, making some of the sorrow quite real.
    • Glee:
      • In one episode, Kurt wants to sing "Defying Gravity" from Wicked, but runs into some trouble because it's traditionally sung by a girl. Kurt's actor, Chris Colfer, had wanted all throughout high school to sing the song at the talent show, but was denied.
      • Kurt and Mercedes are best friends on the show; Chris Colfer (Kurt) and Amber Riley (Mercedes) are best friends in real life.
      • In the episode "Furt," Sue Sylvester just happens to be acting principal of McKinley and undergoes Character Development that makes her more sympathetic to Kurt's bullying problem. Sue also realizes her own mother is a bully as well, as evidenced by continued disapproval and Passive-Aggressive Kombat over Sue's plan to marry herself. Jane Lynch is an outspoken gay icon in real life who recently married her girlfriend, so someone behind the scenes may have decided the episode's Gay Aesops (about bullying and marriage) were more poignant coming from her.
    • Arrested Development loves these. In particular, a number of episodes in the final season explicitly refer to the show's struggle to stay on air and meet executive demands. Then there's the case of Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) replacing Gary Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler) as the family's lawyer...
    • In the 1983 adaptation of Jin Yong's story Return of the Condor Heroes, numerous people applauded the performance of how love-struck and romantic Andy Lau (who played Yang Guo) was towards Idy Chan (who played the character's love, Xiao Long Nu). Apparently, Andy Lau has since admitted that he harbored a huge crush on Idy Chan. To quote him, "When I collaborated in Return of the Condor Heroes with her, I really felt that she's my girlfriend. When we go home after work, I would be worried about her and think of her. Then when we collaborated again in Casino Raiders where she played Alan Tam's girlfriend, I felt unhappy about it."
    • Alaina Huffman's pregnancy has apparently been written into Stargate Universe. In fact the Stargate canon has never (in 16 seasons of television starring at least one and usually two or more women) included a pregnancy it wasn't forced into by actress pregnancies. The best one is probably the first, Sha're's pregnancy with the Harcesis, which actually came about because Vaitiare Bandera was pregnant. The father was Michael Shanks, who played Sha're's husband, Daniel. Less important for the series but the same father, Dr. Lam/Lexa Doig. Note to producers: keep Michael away from your actresses.
      • Later on Amanda Tapping was in Area 51 for 6 episodes at the beginning of the ninth season because of her pregnancy - lots of cunning video-conferencing with conveniently placed computers. While she was away Claudia Black did a guest spot on the show to inject some estrogen. At the end of the ninth season Black's character, Vala, returns...and she's pregnant, because Black was.
      • Teyla's pregnancy on Stargate Atlantis was because of Rachel Luttrell's real-life pregnancy. (But Michael Shanks wasn't even on that show!)
      • And a non-pregnancy Stargate one—in the episode "Nemesis" Daniel Jackson is mostly out of the picture because he has appendicitis...because Michael Shanks was recovering from appendicitis.
      • Also, Jack O'Neill was transferred to the Pentagon to head Homeworld Command when Richard Dean Anderson decided he wanted to retire. Later on in the show, his replacement Cameron Mitchell (Ben Browder), complains about shows who lose their lead actors and just replace him with a younger version of the same guy.
      • General Hammond died of a heart attack because of the death of his actor, Don S. Davis. The Daedalus-class battlecruiser George Hammond in one of the movies and Stargate Universe was renamed in his honor.
    • Make It or Break It actress Chelsea Hobbs (Emily Kmetko) was pregnant so this was written into her character's story arc.
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000's final season opens with an episode where Joel Hodgson (the creator and original host) made a cameo after leaving five seasons before. Replacement host Mike Nelson becomes jealous that he got to escape and have a normal life, and Tom cautions him "Don't compare yourself. It ain't healthy." This line is a Fandom Nod to the "Joel vs. Mike" debates that raged over the Internet when Hodgson first left the series, debates that still go on to this day over a decade later (despite the fact that Hodgson and Nelson are good friends).
      • During an Season Seven episode, Crow goes through a hassle trying to get his film made and marketed. This mirrors the tough times getting the Mystery Science Theater 3000 film made and marketed.
    • During the filming of the Psych pilot, Kirsten Nelson (Chief Vick) was pregnant. While she gave birth before the filming started proper, they never hid it in the pilot, and her character continued to be pregnant until halfway through the first season.
    • On Frasier, Jane Leeves' pregnancy was written into the show. The guilt Daphne suffers as a result of leaving Donnie at the altar, and the difficulties in Daphne and Niles' new relationship, cause Daphne to begin overeating. She gains sixty pounds, but Niles is so blinded by love he doesn't notice until Daphne falls to the floor and is too heavy to get up without the help of Frasier, Niles and Martin (who remarks "it took three Cranes to lift you"). The weight problem was written into the show to allow Leeves to continue working while pregnant. Daphne then left for several weeks to attend "fat camp" and returned with her figure restored. During the episode "It Takes Two to Tangle" in which she did not appear while at the resort, Niles tells Roz that Daphne had lost 9 pounds, 12 ounces (the weight of Leeves' baby in real life). Leeves' second pregnancy, in the 11th season, was written into the show as her character getting pregnant, though.
    • JJ's eponymous final episode for Criminal Minds is practically this. The cast and crew's sentiments about the decision to fire A.J. Cook were expressed very subtly and emotions of the other characters during JJ's farewell weren't just acting, they were real.
      • And the reason that JJ has to leave the BAU is extremely close to the reason that AJ Cook had to leave the show: mandates from those higher up.
      • Prentiss' departure was also forced by the same mandate, requiring the producers to fire Paget Brewster. Both ladies made it back after one season and a very aggressive fan campaign.
      • Matthew Grey Gubler injured his knee while filming 500 Days of Summer and so his character Spencer Reid had to be shot in the leg to explain this.
        • In fact, earlier in the show, a wrist injury on Gubler's part required Reid to go through the same.
      • The episode Coda centers around Reid and Rossi trying to communicate with a young autistic witness. One of Joe Mantenga (Rossi)'s daughters is autistic. (Interesting sidebar: his other daughter appears in the episode 3rd Life.)
      • Reid saving the day with a magic trick in Derailed way back in the first season was written in because Gubler is accomplished at sleight of hand. It's since become a reoccurring character quirk. In fact, fans often debate how much of what we're seeing onscreen is Reid and how much is Gubler as a profiler.
    • Following John Ritter's tragic and sudden death (he collapsed on set), his show 8 Simple Rules aired a sobering episode about his character dying in an accident and his family dealing with it. The episode was produced without a live audience or laugh track.
      • Scrubs also had an episode centered around Ritter's death in which his character, JD's father (who was a very infrequently reoccurring character and could have been written off without a fuss) dies and JD and his friends deal with this.
    • In the Seinfeld episode "The Jacket", Jerry and George meet Elaine's father, Alton, and they're very intimidated by him. Lawrence Tierney, the actor who played Alton scared the Seinfeld cast and crew just as much with his offscreen behavior (he stole a butcher knife from the set and hid it under his jacket), which is why the character never appeared again.
    • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Larry David's divorce with his real life wife led to Season 6 onwards being about Larry and Cheryl's gradually worsening relationship. In Season 8, they actually get divorced. This has considerably changed how the series might have continued.
    • Shane Conor's drug problems and alleged violence on the set of Neighbours led to him being fired from the show, so his character Joe Scully implausibly disappeared to run a farm in Bendigo.
    • Mr. Humphries of Are You Being Served? was eventually promoted to Senior Salesman because the producers were tired of casting elderly actors who subsequently died. In turn, actor John Inman asked for Humphries' promotion not to be formally acknowledged, because he was superstitious about all those dead actors before him.
    • Then there is the insanity that is the show formerly known as Valerie. Star Valerie Harper was let go after the first season amid accusations of demanding too much money and being hard to work with; her character was killed off and replaced with Sandy Duncan, and the title was changed to Valerie's Family. Then Harper won a defamation suit against the studio, forcing them to change the title again to The Hogan Family.
    • In the middle of filming the second season of Titus, Cynthia Watros became pregnant. Their way of hiding it was rather ingenious; during the early stages, her character wore a lot of baggy, shabby clothes, as she had temporarily gone back to her parents and pretty much given up on her dreams after Christopher started drinking again (long story), and she was still getting over that. Later, as she got bigger, her character broke her leg chasing after a burglar, and spent the bulk of the rest of the season in a wheelchair. They did also work the pregnancy into a cutaway gag; Erin wins a pie-eating contest, then stands up triumphantly, revealing a swollen belly.
    • Following the death of Phil Hartman, the first episode of the next season of News Radio had the WNYX staff dealing with the death of his character, Bill McNeal of a heart attack in front of the TV. Apparently the actors weren't acting. Their responses to Bill's death mirror the actor's actual responses to Phil's death, including, apparently, Beth (Vicki Lewis) standing outside Bill's apartment, drunk, calling his name, and Matthew (Andy Dick) believing Bill's gonna come back somehow. Of course, that puts an extra subtext on Dick's fucked-up behavior the last few years (particularly the incident that caused Jon Lovitz to beat the crap out of him).
    • Sonny With a Chance was retooled into So Random! due to the departure of star Demi Lovato following her rehabilitation from eating disorders, self-harm and depression.
    • During the fourth season of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hercules received less screentime. Iolaus and Autolycus got more to do, a Autolycus/Salmoneus episode (which Herc doesn't even appear in) and several Young Hercules episodes were produced. This was due to Kevin Sorbo's health problems that year and production worked to accomodate while he recovered. The Clip Show "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Hercules" is quite obviously Leaning on the Fourth Wall, as it shows a production team desperately trying to do the show when Sorbo is suddenly unavailable.
      • During the Xena Crossover "Prometheus", Michael Hurst injured his arm during a fight sequence. In "Cast A Giant Shadow", Iolaus' arm is subsequently injured and shown in a cast for a couple episodes.
      • "Regrets... I've Had A Few" was filmed at the end of Season 3. Kevin Sorbo was eager to start his vacation, so the writing staff decided to give him less to do and plug the Young Hercules pilot at the same time.
      • In "For Those Of You Just Joining Us," Rob Tapert announces his plan to kill off Iolaus in the fifth season to generate interest in the series. He mockingly says this Paul Coyle, who is being played by Michael Hurst. The real-life Tapert actually did do this with Hurst for those reasons, though presumably in a far kinder way, of course.
    • Early into the second season of Xena: Warrior Princess, Lucy Lawless broke her pelvis during a stunt accident on The Tonight Show. More so than with Sorbo the following year, production jumped through hoops to make it work. Xena's bodyswitch with Callisto in "Intimate Stranger" carried on into "Ten Little Warlords," she now died at the end of "Destiny" and new Xena-lite scripts were produced (such as "The Quest," "Necessary Evil" and "For Him the Bell Tolls") to give Lawless time to recover.
    • The breakup of Penny & Leonard on The Big Bang Theory was certainly not inspired by the fact that Kaley Cuoco & Johnny Galecki broke up in real life around the same time. Surely!
      • Also, several episodes featured Penny tending bar at work and not much of her being seen from the waist down. This coincided with Kaley Cuoco's leg being in a cast after she was seriously injured while horseback riding.
    • The TV series Max Headroom was about an investigative reporter fighting Mega Corps using the power of pirate broadcasting. Seven months after its American debut, we got this.
    • Tim Allen's new sitcom Last Man Standing sees his first lines including "I'm back!" and "It's good to be home" - referencing his return to TV and network ABC over ten years after Home Improvement ended.
    • In Leverage, Sophie disappears to go "find herself". This is because of actress Gina Bellman's real-life pregnancy.
      • Several episodes are centered around examples of the Cast Showoff. The Schehearade Job involves Alec Hardison playing the violin, which Aldis Hodge can do in real life. The Studio Job centers entirely around Eliot performing country music, while Christina Kane has his own country band.
    • Because of the intense, complicated nature of their storylines, this is often seen on soap operas. One actress' Real Life struggle with losing her pregnancy weight was turned into a storyline for her character (though her Real Life methods never became as extreme as her character, who turned to diet pills), while several others decision to have plastic surgery was also played out on the show. But the most prominent example has been with onscreen romances eventually transcending to Real Life. Two especially eerie examples include two characters who were involved in an extramarital affair—the actors eventually left their spouses to marry each other, while at least two others had a couple's Real Life love story virtually parallel their onscreen one—meeting, dating, marriage, children. . .and divorce.
    • By the fourth and final season of Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus adopted a more mature image (she was 18-going-on-19), and had already released the reflective and (slightly) Hotter and Sexier album Can't Be Tamed earlier in 2010. Many of the plots and themes in Hannah seemed to address this change, from Miley wincing at the girlish look of the new room her dad put together for her, to Hannah trying new styles of music and getting backlash for it, to Miley Stewart wondering if fans would accept the real Miley without the wigs and flashy clothing after she revealed her identity and performed as herself.


    • Most of Queen's later songs are about the futility of life and the inevitability of death. At the time Freddie Mercury was dying of AIDS.
    • In 1991, most of Reba McEntire's road band was killed in a plane crash. The next album she released, titled For My Broken Heart, was a collection of heartbreaking songs. McEntire explicitly stated that the project was intended to help her and her team through their grief.
    • The most famous Ur Example for a generation may be Alanis Morrisette's biggest hit, You Oughta Know, based on a former bad relationship of the Canadian singer. It's still debated who that guy was, with pro hockey players and Full House's Dave Coulier being the most popular choices.
    • From the same generation comes Eric Clapton's song "Tears in Heaven". It was written in the immediate aftermath of his young son's death, and the song quickly became far more famous as his personal response to that tragedy than for ostensibly being a soundtrack song for the movie Rush.
    • Similarly, the song "All My Love" from Led Zeppelin's album In Through The Out Door, was about front-man Robert Plant's son's sudden death from a stomach infection.
    • Much of Rush's 2002 album Vapor Trails deals with overcoming tragedy. This is based on two events: First, lyricist Neil Peart's wife and daughter dying within a year of each other, shortly after the release of their previous album, Test For Echo(particularly "Ghost Rider"), and second, the 9/11 attacks the previous year(most blatantly "Peaceable Kingdom").
    • David Bowie's 1993 song "Jump They Say" was inspired by the suicide of his schizophrenic half-brother Terry in 1985.
    • Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is about Billie Joe Armstrong's father's death from cancer when Billie was 10. The funeral was at the beginning of September, and when he came home from it with his mum, Billie locked himself in his bedroom, telling his mum to wake him up when the month ended.
    • Harry Chapin's song "Cat's In The Cradle" was based off of a poem his wife wrote and was inspired by not being there for his son's birth.
    • BTS, both as a band and as individuals on their personal projects, tend to process their issues through their albums.
      • The last album on their Love Yourself trilogy, the compilation LY: Answer, has its structure and most of its new songs modeled around a breakup. It was later revealed that, at the time of production, the band members were seriously considering separating and dissolve the group due to exhaustion.
      • "Pied Piper", a song to their fans whose lyrics can be summed as "we are grateful you love us, but don't you have other things to do too?", was written around the time the group was beginning to have actual international success, as they realized how much influence they actually had over their fast-growing fan base.
      • V's SoundCloud released song "Winter Bear" was actually a farewell to his deceased grandmother, who died while he was on tour about a couple of years before the song's release.
      • During the Festa dinner where they announced their 2022 group activities hiatus, the members said that, had the COVID-19 pandemic not happened, they would have taken said hiatus after the Map of The Soul Tour originally programmed for 2020, giving a chilling Harsher in Hindsight vibe to songs like "Black Swan" and "My Time" (both from MOTS: 7) and "Blue and Gray" (from BE, but originally a song dropped from the MOTS albums) which are all about burnout.

    Newspaper Comics

    • One strip of Calvin and Hobbes features Calvin getting upset over going to bed, because it means that he can't play with Hobbes. Then he realizes that going to sleep doesn't have to mean being apart, because they can always play together in their dreams. Bill Watterson wrote the strip because his cat—who served as the inspiration for Hobbes—had just died, and what made him feel better was realizing that they could always be together in his dreams.
      • There's a Calvin and Hobbes sunday strip where Calvin's father says he sees everything in black and white, which leads Calvin to vividly imagine such a situation, and another with the same premise except with Calvin's father saying the boy doesn't have any sense of perspective, leading to Calvin being trapped in a world with no vanishing points. Both strips are based on Watterson's arguments with his agent on merchandising, where the agent would accuse the cartoonist of seeing no shades of grey and having no perspective.
    • A series of Heart of the City strips focused on one of the main characters having a pet cat who's so sick that his parents are about to have him put to sleep, but in the end, in turns out that it's a dog with the same name as the cat, and the cat is going to recover. The last strip of the series reveals that the cat who inspired the comic version has died.


    • In the early days of The Lone Ranger, Reid's voice actor, Earle Graser, died in a car accident. As a result, The Lone Ranger was laid low for about a week and a half, and could only speak in whispers, until they found Brace Beamer, who would keep the role for the rest of the radio run.
    • On the Superman radio show, Collyer's vacation times were covered by having the series focus on Batman and Robin instead.
    • When Barton Yarborough died, Ben Romero, his character on Dragnet, died as well. Notable in that Romero wasn't killed in the line of duty, but rather died at home, in his sleep, of a heart attack. The entire cast responds to his death and spends the next several episodes grieving.
    • Adventures in Odyssey, "The Triangled Web" features a reunion of a number of the original kids. It is mentioned that Jack and Lucy went to the same college in Texas and got married by the end of the episode, reflecting how their voice actors Donald Long and Genni Mullen got married and moved to Texas as well.
    • Done many times in The Archers: it's such a long-runner that a number of characters have been around long enough to become elderly - as have their actors. Dan Archer (the original patriarch), Tom Forrest and Mrs Antrobus were all given radio deaths because the actor had died of old age. This hasn't always been played straight; when the actor playing Nelson Gabriel died, the character was Put on a Bus instead and other characters continued to refer to him as alive for some months. (News of his death was eventually mentioned.) A non-death example is that sometimes actors become well-known and aren't often available: Tamsin Greig's character, Debbie, has moved abroad, but comes back every so often. However, in the similar situation with Lucy Davies (Dawn from The Office UK, Shaun of the Dead) her character, Hayley, was recast.


    • Some Shakespeare historians think the decidedly grim tone of his play Hamlet may stem from the recent death of his infant son, Hamnet. (Note the name similarity.)
      • Not that the Kill'Em All trope is exactly uncommon in Shakespeare's tragedies.
        • In fact, Kill'Em All endings are the distinguishing feature of his tragedies.
    • Marat/Sade is about Marquis de Sade getting inmates of Charenton, a mental institution, to put on a play. There's some truth behind this.


    • The main author for the Bionicle media, Greg Farshtey, when asked why the Humongous Mecha Mata Nui never paid any attention to the fact that some of the tiny beings inside him were plotting to take over his body, would often use the analogy of a normal person who goes about their daily life, focusing on the outside world rather than paying attention to what the cells in their body were doing. However, he said, if that person was to have a health scare, then they would feel more inclined to keep an eye on what was happening inside them. Greg later revealed that he himself had been diagnosed with diabetes.

    Video Games

    • The time gap between the release of the original Kid Icarus game in Europe and North America and the release of its sequel for the Nintendo 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising, is a whooping 25 years, month up month down. This is referenced in the plot of the sequel, which takes place 25 years after the events of the original.
    • It was also a long time since the original Back to The Future and the video game released in 2011, but they managed to get much of the cast back. In the interim years, for instance, Christopher Lloyd had gone (mostly) bald. The plot involves Marty feeling lonely and depressed after Doc leaves at the end of Part III, and he eventually meets an alternate version of Doc Brown, who's got the same balding as Lloyd in real life.

    Western Animation

    • In The Simpsons episode "The Joy of Sect", the Reality Subtext is that Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) is a member of the Church of Scientology.
    • Isaac Hayes, another member of the Church of Scientology, left the show South Park after an episode ("Trapped in the Closet") parodied it. The following episode "Return of Chef" used splicing to ridicule it much much more, as well as killing Chef off.
      • "Behind the Blow" has a lot of hidden references to actual South Park fans' reactions to Terrance and Philip, such as people being confused whether they're supposed to be animated characters or real people and "Not Without My Anus" preempting a popular TV show (see the entry on the April Fools' Day page for an explanation of that one)
    • In As Told by Ginger, in the episode "No Hope For Courtney", Mrs. Gordon passes on. In actuality, the voice actress, Kathleen Freeman died and the episode was dedicated to her.
    • During the production of An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Steven Spielberg had just finished a nasty divorce with Amy Irving, voice actress of Miss Kitty. What does the film introduce Miss Kitty doing? Breaking up with Tiger.
    • Several Family Guy episodes have poked fun at Chris (Seth Green's character) about Robot Chicken. In "Something, Something, Something Darkside" Chris proclaims he won't let it get to him.

    Peter: OK, I have another story. It's called Without A Paddle.
    Chris: Fuck you dad!

    • In Transformers Prime, Megatron's first line is "Decepticons! I have returned!", drawing attention to Frank Welker assuming the role in a TF series for the first time since the original '80s animated series. Welker did voice the character in video games based on the Michael Bay movies before Prime premiered, but that's not quite the same - especially since he auditioned for the movie itself, but didn't get the part. Previously getting turned down to voice the character that he himself originated adds to the subtext quite nicely.