Show Within a Show
A fictional show that takes place within an actual show; or, occasionally, a fictional installment or incarnation of an actual show.
Shows-within-a-show are usually of low quality. This is intentional: the low quality of the show is part of the joke or the misery of the characters involved. As a general rule, the more central the Show Within A Show is to the actual show, the better—or at least higher-gloss—it will be.
Many comedies have short one-off gags where they parody existing shows. Most of the following examples are recurring and they come in up to four varieties (which can be overlapping):
- The characters are involved in the production of the show.
- The characters are fans of the show, or only see it occasionally.
- The show-within-a-show is a plot point.
- The internal show, in either variety, is eerily similar to the real show.
Sometimes these shows can be shown as Separate Scene Storytelling.
For the pre-television history of this trope, once again we must go back to Shakespeare, who featured plays within plays both in comedy; The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe within A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Taming of the Shrew actually is one by means of a Framing Device, and in tragedy (The Murder of Gonzago within Hamlet).
Compare with School Play, Soap Within a Show, Who Would Want to Watch Us?, Fictional Document, Framing Device, Recursive Fiction, Recursive Reality (of the "nested stories" variety), Mutually Fictional, Pushed in Front of the Audience, Post Modernism, Plot Parallel. Having one is a requirement for a Movie Match Up and Her Codename Was Mary Sue.
Examples of type 1 (characters involved in production)
Anime and Manga
- Tsurupika Hagemaru Kun has this. Ever seen the best of 10?
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: Haruhi and her subordinates film a Magical Girl movie for the School Festival with Mikuru and Yuki as the heroine and villain, respectively.
- Axis Powers Hetalia has a strip where Estonia makes a movie starring Estonia (as Estonia), Russia (as Russia) and America (as America). The credits are twelve minutes long (out of a twenty-one minute long movie) and posted to Hetatube.
- Billy Bat has a comic of the same name within itself, and it's actually not until halfway through chapter two that we find out the comic itself isn't the real story.
- Gintaman in Gintama, a self-parody within the story. Also Oshiete Gin-pachi Sensei and Kintama at the start and end of the regular episodes in different seasons.
- Haru wo Daiteita has the two main characters making a movie that actually gets spun off into its over OVA series called Winter Cicada.
- Lucky Star's Lucky Channel. One male character shows up as one of the two characters in the show main, something that gets Lampshaded to all pain by his co-host (who doesn't get that luxury). Lucky Star and Lucky Channel are Mutually Fictional, judging by its appearance in the final episode.
- Lucky Channel is also the name of the reader's column in the magazine Lucky Star serializes on.
- Kodomo no Omocha within Kodomo no Omocha.
- Episode 10 of Macross Frontier features the cast involved in the filming of "Bird Human", an in-universe retelling of the events of Macross Zero.
- In Monster, Bonaparta's son writes and performs a puppet show that parallels the events that are actually happening, but of which does not actually know anything. Also, Grimmer loved the show Magnificent Steiner when he was a kid. He never saw the last episode, though.
- In Naruto "Specials," and at the end of some episodes, the characters are protrayed to be narrating their own show.
- A Type 3 variant would be Jiraiya's novels: "Icha Icha Tactics" was used as a codex, while "Tales of a Gutsy Ninja" is Naruto's namesake. Tales doubles as a Type 4, considering that the hero is an amalgam of Jiraiya and Nagato.
- In Prétear, Sasame is the host of a radio talk show called Sasame's Words Gate, in which he gives listeners advice about their problems they send in on anonymous postcards. Himeno's step-sister Mawata is a fan of the show and frequently sends in her own postcards—which becomes a major plot point, particularly in the anime.
- Sakura Taisen is loaded with these, because of the entire cast's cover identities as part of a theater troupe. In addition to the many, many stage productions they put on, there are also the movies made by the studios owned by Sumire's family (including the infamous Crimson Lizard), and the radio serial Red Lad.
- Sokosoko V, Ditzy Tiger, as well a Magical Girl series, in Yutori-chan. The cast works at an office that's responsible for promoting these series, and commercials for these meta-franchises show up at the start of every episode.
- Tenchi in Tokyo is a mixture of both Type 1 and Type 2. In the former, Mihoshi and Kiyone got jobs playing villains in the TV series, Space Police Policeman, and in the latter, Mihoshi became a big fan of the show.
- Time Journeys and Louis Monde III in Animation Runner Kuromi.
- Bakuman｡, being a manga about writing manga, has tons of these, with the majority of the cast involving themselves in at least two works. The mangan focuses more on the characters' lives than on what's happening in their stories, but gives us occasional glimpses of pages from the characters' series. On one occasion, a special chapter of Bakuman was an entire chapter of an in-universe manga, Otters 11.
- Most of the main characters in Aoi Hana are in their school's drama club, and stage plays for the culture festivals, the ones who aren't in the club help out anyway.
- The Mobile Suit Gundam 00 movie, Gundam 00 a Wakening of The Trailblazer, features a film based on the publicly-known exploits of Celestial Being in years past. As is par for the course, it is grossly inaccurate and features a number of anime and Hollywood cliches.
- In what is likely a Shout-Out to Lucky Star, a few episodes of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei have the characters taking comments from viewers and behaving like actors/tv presenters. In one instance, it's referred to as "Zetsubou Channel".
- From Cromartie High School we are introduced to Pootan, a show that makes less sense than the characters who watch it.
- One of the extras from Black Butler involves the cast putting on a production of Hamlet as a charity event for children. At least that is the play they intended to perform.
- Tiger and Bunny has HeroTV, a combination news-Reality TV show that focuses on the exploits of Sternbild's various corporate-sponsored superheroes.
- Heartcatch Precure has Tsubomi and Erika discover the banchou-type character Ban is making manga. Manga of them. They give him a hand in completing the pages he'd drawn and even help him finish the story he was stuck on by acting out an ending. It's also a Type 3, as Ban's afraid to reveal this to his mother, who grew up without manga and felt that if she knew, she'd hate him.
- THE iDOLM@STER - Has at least three.
- Waiting in the Summer is based around the extremely amateur movie the main characters are working on. It also has some elements of Plot Parallel (Ichika is a recently-arrived alien in both).
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, there is D.D. ESPer Robin (called The Sparrow in the dub), a live-action television science fiction series. The show's star is Fuya Okudaira, who becomes a minor antagonist after falling under the control of a Number (causing him to believe he literally is the heroic character he portrays on the show). His deck as a duelist uses cards that resemble characters on the show, most likely custom-made.
- Johnny C., the crazy main character of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, draws a comic book that is the next "level" of insanity: Happy Noodle Boy.
- The Captain Underpants books frequently feature comics based on the title character created by George Beard and Harold Hutchins. Almost every book begins with George and Harold presenting a comic providing exposition on the series up to that point. The Super Diaper Baby spinoff books have the entire books in the same comic format.
- Watchmen includes excerpts from the autobiography of one of the characters, as well as interviews with various others. Watchmen also includes the meta-comic Tales of the Black Freighter which is drawn by an artist who is missing throughout the story.
- Bolivar Trask's sci-fi pulp series The Sentinels in X-Men Noir. For bonus points, the original series featured chapters from The Sentinels as back-ups. Punisher Noir, meanwhile, has Frank Castelione, Jr.'s favorite radio drama, The Punisher. Iron Man Noir has Marvels: A Magazine of Men's Adventure, a pulp magazine featuring the (heavily fictionalized) exploits of Tony Stark as written by his friend Virgil Munsey and, later, Pepper Potts.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series, Bakura and Zorc star in a sitcom called Zorc and Pals. And don't forget The Suite Life of Zorc and Cody.
- Also the brief appearance of Kill Your Family.
- In Magical Girl Noir Quest, Midori is behind the series Miracle Midori x Murder Mayumi. Unsurprisingly, she is rather embarrassed when the person represented as Murder Mayumi finds out about it.
- In Undocumented Features, anything published by BaconBooks -- be it comic books or hardback self-help -- has probably had Derek Bacon's hand in it somewhere, and not just as the publisher.
Films - Animation
Films - Live-Action
- Matinee (1993), which counts in all four categories due to being structured around the premiere of the atomic monster movie MANT! in Key West—during the Cuban Missile Crisis!
- The film version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has the Players acting out Hamlet for the title characters, while acting out The Murder of Gonzago with puppets who are themselves acting out the play-within-a-play with finger puppets. A show within a show within a show within a show.
- During ¡Three Amigos!, characters watch one of the title character actors' silent films.
- Kiss Me Kate
- Noises Off probably has the highest ratio of Show Within A Show to, well, show in the history of film.
- The Running Man TV show is the setting of most of The Running Man film.
- Moulin Rouge is a musical movie depicting a stage performance of a movie about a man singing about a man writing the story of his involvement in a musical about a man whose involvement in a musical mirrors the writer's. Honestly.
- In the 1998 film Lucia, the protagonists simultaneously prepare to perform the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, while reliving the roles of their characters.
- The film version of Bewitched is about a remake of the original TV series and the people in it—one of whom is an actual witch.
- The fictional Galaxy Quest TV show in the real movie Galaxy Quest falls under each type of this trope, including Type 1; the film centers on the washed up cast members of the show.
- Done in Ararat, a movie about someone making a movie about the Armenian genocide. Most critics and viewers agreed that it represents a rare case of the "movie within a movie" actually being better than the rest of the movie.
- In the Adam Sandler movie Funny People, Jason Schwartzman's character acts in a TV comedy series called Yo Teach.
- In Finding Neverland, the main character and several secondary characters are working on Finding Neverland. Also a Type 3 (see below).
- V for Vendetta has both Lewis Prothero's and Gordon Deitrich's shows, the former being the Voice of London, a part of the facist regime controlling the city, and the latter being a comedy Sketch Show.
- Porn movie Fly Girls is about the guerilla shooting of a porn film on a plane. The actors and actresses all play parodies of themselves. It's actually really funny.
- Scandale (1982) was a hastily-made B-movie which parodied a 1981 Québec provincial scandal. Civil servants were caught using the legislative assembly's video equipment to view and duplicate porn. There was a brief claim, quickly debunked, that the underpaid civil servants were making porn using legislature facilities... so the film runs with this to create Pornobec as a Show Within a Show, with the final product accidentally submitted to the Cannes Film Festival in place of whatever film the Ministry of Culture intended to promote. The movie they're supposedly making serves mostly as a way of Getting Crap Past the Radar by inserting as much porn as possible without the real picture being reclassified from «comédie érotique» to a pornographic film. The whole feature was written in a month, shot in about a month on 16mm film and rushed into distribution before the original scandal was long forgotten. There was a VHS release (in French only) and a heavily-cut version (the Ontario Censor Board in this era being far more draconian than its Québec counterpart) ran in both languages in the wee hours on pay-TV in 1983. There is no DVD. A three-minute cabaret number "Callgirl" sung by regionally-notable mainstream rock star Nanette Workman was the only redeeming moment of an otherwise dreadful film; that one brief Show Within a Show is on sites like YouTube, but finding the original feature film in its entirety is pretty much a lost cause.
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen begins with a play about the eponymous Baron, performing his tall tales in a burned out city; when the real Baron von Munchausen shows up to "correct" their portayal of him and his erstwhile companions, to whom the actors bear a striking resemblance.
- The Tall Guy features Jeff Goldblum as a struggling actor who quits his job as sidekick to popular, and abusive offstage, comedian Ron Anderson (Rowan Atkinson in a hilarious self-parody). He auditions unsuccessfully for parts in several plays, and finally lands the lead role in a musical version of The Elephant Man entitled, according to his agent, "'Elephant', I think; with an exclamation point, presumably".
- RoboCop has two:
- One an action show about a lawman, T.J. Lazer, which is the favorite show of Murphy's son.
- Another, It's Not My Problem, is a comedy of sorts.
- Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Sarah is the star of Crime Scene - Scene of the Crime. Jason Segel's character also writes music for the show.
- The Holiday features a movie trailer for a fictional film called "Deception" starring James Franco and Lindsay Lohan.
- Friends with Benefits features a romantic comedy starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones.
- Inland Empire centers(?) around the production of the movie On High In Blue Tomorrows, an alleged romance that starts to literally mess with the main character's mind. possibly due to a curse Certain sections of the film deal with Rabbits, another project by David Lynch. As you'd expect from the man, it isn't cute. The absolutely deranged plot of both the show, the fake movie and the Film as a whole ensures you're not sure what level of reality they're on, and makes it hard to distinguish as types 1,3 or 4.
- In Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the main character is watching TV in a bar and asks the owner to change the channel. The owner does so, and the movie playing next is Halloween 2.
- Blazing Saddles has itself as the show-in-a-show: at the end of the film, Sheriff Bart, the Waco Kid and
HedyHedley Lamarr go to a cinema to see how their own film ends.
- Earlier, an in-universe fight breaks the third wall and spills onto the set for an unnamed musical filming in the next soundstage.
- Tropic Thunder begins with a series of trailers for fictional movies starring the film's main characters.
- The Scream movies have their own movies-within-a-movie, "Stab," which first arrived in Scream 2 as a fictionalized account of the events of the first movie. Scream 3 takes place largely on the set of "Stab 3."
- Pretty much any comedy built around a Struggling Broadcaster, in any medium, will have that broadcaster produce a few far-fetched shows within the show.
- For instance, "Weird Al" Yankovic's UHF fills an entire fictional broadcast schedule with these:
- Almighty Janitor: Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse
- Wheel of Decisions: The Wheel of Fish game show.
- Raul's Wild Kingdom. Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers!
- Real Trailer, Fake Movie: Gandhi II
- Parody Commercial: Spatula City
- The U-62 schedule lists a few other shows-within-a-show that exist only as fictional cinema trailers or else don't exist at all, usually with bizarre titles like Those Darn Homos! Effectively, the station is merely a Framing Device used to package a random string of short comedy/parody sketches as a feature-length film.
- Likewise, Network (1976) has the UBS network newscast, complete with "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" editorialising, as a show within a show.
- The Redwall books have Plays Within A Book occasionally, notably in Marlfox with the Duel of Insults.
- The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein. Roger Stone's primary source of income is writing a space opera television serial. The rest of the family "helps" with brainstorming plotlines. At one point, Roger turns over writing duties to grandma Hazel and youngest son Lowell.
- In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Daphne is competing in a dream universe competition with a romantic, fairy-tale universe. Her Laser-Guided Amnesia leads to her being surprised at getting high points for external relevance.
- In Matthew Dicks's Something is Missing, the protagonist, a career burglar who finds himself moved to help his victims after helping himself to their possessions, begins writing a novel about a character with a similar vocation to his own. (If Dicks himself were such a burglar, the recursion would have been perfect.)
- In Rodrigo y el libro sin final (Rodrigo and the unfinished book), the titular character, a nine-year-old boy, helps a novelist suffering from writer's block to find an ending for a book he borrowed from the library. This is also an example of Types Three (because the story revolves around this) Four, because some events in that book (which tells the story of a pirate who reaches old age) can be put in parallel with the writer's own life.
- There are several in the Discworld series: Moving Pictures has a large number of snippets/scenes from the "clicks" (movies) being produced, most of which parody either specific films or film genres; Wyrd Sisters features a Macbeth-like play and a Macbeth-like plot; Maskerade does much the same with Phantom of the Opera; and The Fifth Elephant frequently alludes to an opera about the semi-mythical founders of the dwarven kingdoms.
- Tanya Huff's Smoke and Shadows series involves mostly characters involved in the production of Darkest Night, a show about a vampire private detective. Considering that the protagonist of the novel has an ex who's a vampire, this leads to some interesting situations.
- The Bluth family takes part in a mock trial during the aptly named Mock Trial with J. Reinhold in Arrested Development.
- Sports Night within Sports Night.
- FYI within Murphy Brown.
- The Alan Brady Show within The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- Tool Time within Home Improvement.
- The WJM Six O'Clock News (and also The Happy Homemaker) within The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
- Vermont Today within Newhart.
- Ricky Ricardo's band stage shows in I Love Lucy.
- Silverstone within The Famous Jett Jackson.
- Aaron Sorkin's one-season drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is about the lives of the producers of a Saturday Night Live-style Sketch Show.
- Coming Attractions on The Critic.
- TGS with Tracy Jordan (originally The Girlie Show) within Thirty Rock.
- Some shows are set in a radio station, and have multiple shows on the schedule.
- WKRP in Cincinnati—It's a music station, so all the "shows" are DJ patter.
- News Radio—Various news segments.
- Frasier—Frasier's call-in psychiatric show, and more rarely, Bulldog's sports and Gil's food criticism. And a variety of one-timers.
- Chris in the Morning and Maurice's show in Northern Exposure.
- Martin's show in Martin (and his Word on the Street TV program in later seasons).
- Larry's show on Hello Larry.
- You Can't Do That on Television has a show-within-a-show that shares the same title.
- There was a short-lived American Sitcom named All Is Forgiven, which was about the writers and actors of a soap opera. The soap opera was also named All Is Forgiven.
- The Red Green Show is framed as a men's advice and magazine show, with the men of Possum Lodge offering "helpful" advice, only to usually end up with disastrous results.
- Grosse Pointe has show-within-a-show as its central premise, and advertised it as "Grosse Pointe is a comedy about a drama called Grosse Pointe" or something to that effect.
- Reality Show example: The eponymous show of I Survived a Japanese Gameshow is given its own title, Hai! Majide, pretty much just for effect.
- Glass Mask is a series about acting, so naturally includes a large number of these, some real plays, some created for the story (and one created for the story which was later turned into a Noh play of its own). Also includes a performance of A Midsummer's Night Dream, so technically includes an example of a show within a show within a show.
- The fourth season of Seinfeld had Jerry and George writing a sitcom pilot called Jerry, in a parody of the creation of Seinfeld itself by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, which starred (fictional) Jerry as (even more fictional) himself. The season finale showed a variety of main and supporting characters watching the pilot.
- There were also all the fake movies, the most memetic being Rochelle, Rochelle ("a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk") and the thriller Chunnel ("EVERYONE OUT OF THE CHUNNEL!").
- The play written by the Marquis de Sade and performed by the asylum inmates in Quills.
- When The Whistle Blows, Andy Millman's sitcom in series 2 of Extras.
- So Random! and Mackenzie Falls within Sonny With a Chance. After the actual show's 2nd season So Random overtook it with Sonny having left and Chad taking her place.
- Dead Set is a miniseries in which the entire plot is about zombies attacking the real Big Brother house while the show is being filmed. All the survivors are contestants or employees of Big Brother.
- Jeff Vandermeer's Shriek: An Afterword and City of Saints and Madmen}} both put a huge amount of emphasis on these; appropriate given that many of the characters are academics, artists and the like. Shriek itself is an afterword to a short guide to the early history of Ambergris featured in City of Saints. City of Saints is made up entirely of various shows-within-a-show. Some of them are fake.
- Robbin' Hood in Curtains.
- SCTV, a.k.a. Second City Television, an early-1980s sketch-comedy series set in a low-budget TV station that mainly produced and showed rip-offs or spoofs of real TV shows and films—such as High-Q, Chariots of Eggs, The Days of the Week, Mel's Rock Pile, Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, etc.
- iCarly—Friends Carly, Sam and Freddie run their own webshow.
- A real show-within-a-show: Friends' Joey Tribbiani was a cast member on the soap opera Days of Our Lives.
- Along with several less real examples (like Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E. and Freud!).
- A short-lived semi-documentary UK Saturday Morning Kids' Show on the subject of TV production, Tele Gantic Mega Vision, featured its obligatory gameshow section as if it was an independent production for the channel TGMV, and not a segment within the main programme.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm. They have a season where they're producing a reunion show for Seinfeld, which used to be a real show. Another season has Larry David star in The Producers, which, as mentioned below, has a show within a show (Springtime for Hitler), and Mel Brooks is secretly trying to make The Producers a flop in itself. Furthermore, the second season deals with Larry trying to get a show off the ground (first starring Jason Alexander and later Julia Louis-Dreyfus) that would revolve around the star playing a version of themselves trying to find success after the end of Seinfeld.
- A recurring character in Stargate SG-1 who knows about the Stargate Program creates a campy science fiction series called Wormhole X-Treme!, based on SG-1, which the US Air Force decides to allow because it creates Plausible Deniability in the event of a security leak. As the real show is centered around SG-1, the "fake" show is eerily similar to the real one, and this allows the show to poke fun at itself and at the television industry in general. It also includes numerous cameo performances from the crew.
- The eponymous Larry Sanders Show.
- How I Met Your Mother had Lily's terrible terrible play with allegorical characters such as Greed. Apparently this play somehow then became a Show Within A Show itself.
- Also The Wedding Bride in another episode. This was made by Tony the ex-husband of Ted's ex-fiancee, Stella. This is also an example of 2 and 3 as the other characters in the show are a fan of the movie and it is a plot point.
- Since it's a twisted version of what actually happened to Ted, it's also an example of type 4!
- Robin works on/anchors assorted news programs throughout the series, which are semi-frequently shown--Metro News One, the Japanese news show, and now Come On, Get Up New York! are all in-universe shows.
- As a teenager Robin was on the kid's show "Space Teens" which had Innocent Innuendo Turned Up to Eleven
- Also The Wedding Bride in another episode. This was made by Tony the ex-husband of Ted's ex-fiancee, Stella. This is also an example of 2 and 3 as the other characters in the show are a fan of the movie and it is a plot point.
- In Supernatural they got caught up in another group of ghost hunters show "Ghostfacers".
- There was also that time they got Trapped in TV Land by the Trickster and were sent through a number of different shows, many of which were obvious digs at real shows, such as Knight Rider and Grey's Anatomy.
- Let's not forget 6.15 "The French Mistake", in which Sam and Dean get sent into an alternate universe where they are actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, who subsequently play the characters Sam and Dean in Supernatural. Their castmate is Misha Collins, their bosses are Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble, their director is Bob Singer...
- Wild Palms: The Church Windows show Codie plays in.
- The first series of French and Saunders followed the (fictional) unbelieveably low-budget cringey 'French & Saunders Show' that consisted of frequent epic fails.
- In Community, super-meta Abed writes and directs a campus TV show called The Community College Chronicles with characters based on his study group. Abed's so well-versed in TV Tropes that he can use the show to predict what's going to happen to the study group next, down to Shirley being chased through the library by a werewolf - also making this a type 4.
- "Troy and Abed in the Morning" on 'Community is an example, and subversion of, Type 1 in that it doesn't actually exist.
- Slings and Arrows is about the actors and production personnel at a Canadian Shakespeare festival. Each season they put on a different play (Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear), and the themes of the play relate back to the main backstage plots.
- Funny Boy from Gilligan's Island; this was a musical version of Hamlet, the songs done to music borrowed from Carmen. The castaways wrote it to impress a playwright who discovered them and the island, only for said playwright to steal it and abandon them. It actually didn't seem half-bad.
- GSN (formerly Game Show Network) briefly had a series called "Burt Luddin's Love Buffet" which was a real relationship game show (much like "The Newlywed Game") which after each segment, would go backstage to show host Luddin (played by John Cervenka) talking to his jaded, often highly sarcastic staff...it didn't last too long.
- My Name Is Earl had Estrada Or Nada, a game show where contestants could challenge Erik Estrada to any talent. Knife-throwing, ventriloquism, and "bendy singing" are just a few. Overlaps with Type 3.
- Glee has two televisual examples of this - the recurring but not regularly-featured 'Sue's Corner', which is part of a local late-night news show, and the one-off 'Glee Holiday Spectacular' from Episode 3x09 ('Extraordinary Merry Christmas'), in which Artie, with the help of New Directions, stages an homage to both the Judy Garland Christmas Special and the Star Wars Christmas Special for a local TV station (though in this case, despite how it sounds, Stylistic Suck really does not apply except when Finn is expected to act, and it's all utterly charming). The show also has several theatrical examples in the musicals the students produce (or attempt to produce) each year - in order, Cabaret, The Rocky Horror Show and West Side Story.
- This is the whole point of the NBC show Smash, which is about the behind-the-scenes aspects of writing, producing, and performing a new broadway musical. Naturally scenes from said musical make it into the show.
- In season 4’s "War Stories" of JAG, Admiral Chegwidden while on leave gets persuaded by a Hollywood producer to act as technical advisor on the movie “Fields of Gold” which is a navy-themed action adventure with a court-martial. Chegwidden is a Fish Out of Water as the “real navy” differs quite a lot from the “reel navy”, and Hilarity Ensues.
- The numerous parody serials put on—in every sense of the word—by radio satirists Bob & Ray, as part of their own radio programs. The duo went so far as to invent fictional writers, producers, announcers and cast members, all of whom would frequently argue amongst themselves in the course of an episode.
- Kids' Radio and BTV on Adventures in Odyssey.
- The radio series of The Mighty Boosh briefly features Colobos the Crab, a televesion program of which Vince appears to be a fan, although the content is left both vauge and suitably absurd.
- Shakespeare's work contains quite a bit of meta musing on theater, which takes the form of Show Within A Show several times.
- The play (and later movie) Deathtrap centers around a fictional play of the same name.
- In Pedro Muñoz Seca's theater play Don Mendo's Revenge, exiled Don Mendo reappears in disguise with a troupe and manages a play-in-play reflecting his own, wrongful punishment; some of the people who had wronged him recognize themselves, Hamlet-style.
- Hannibal, Il Muto, and Don Juan Triumphant in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.
- La Princesse Zenobia and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue in On Your Toes.
- The Small House of Uncle Thomas in The King And I.
- The Taming of the Shrew is the show-within-a-show for Kiss Me Kate.
- Adelaide works at the Hotbox in Guys and Dolls; "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink" are actually her performances there.
- Cabaret is set almost completely at the Kit Kat Club, a seedy cabaret in Berlin: in the film, all the songs except "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" are performances at the Kit Kat Club, in the original play, "Wilkommen" "Don't Tell Mama", "Two Ladies", "Sitting Pretty" (or in later productions, "Money Money"), "If You Could See her", and "Cabaret" are, while the rest of the songs are not.
- Lucy's nightclub act in Jekyll and Hyde.
- Several characters in Victor Victoria (both the stage version and the original film, which wasn't an all-out musical).
- The Drowsy Chaperone. The Man in Chair does a significant amount of Lampshade Hanging, though.
- Me and Juliet: the show within a show is also called Me and Juliet.
- |42nd Street
- The abysmally bad Springtime for Hitler is the entire foundation of The Producers.
- Noises Off is a 3-act play about a traveling production of a British comedy called Nothing On. Each act is the same show at different points in the show's run. This type of show is also known as a backstage comedy.
- Opera within an opera: Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, in its first act, has "the richest man in Vienna" commissioning two after-dinner entertainments: a serious, dramatic opera, and a light musical comedy. Shortly before the first is about to begin, the majordomo arrives and informs the two companies that their sponsor has changed his mind: the two are to be performed simultaneously. The second act is the resulting production.
- Louis Nowra's Cosi is a play (and subsequent film) involving the members of a mental asylum rehearsing and (in the final act) performing Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte.
- Anthony Shaffer's play Whodunnit opens it as a bad/obviously satirical parody of an Agatha Christie type mystery (it seems to draw from Christie's Cards on the Table), before revealing that it's actually a play being put on by the characters, who are often very different from their "stage roles".
- Marat/Sade is about a group of inmates doing a play.
- GTA Radio in the Grand Theft Auto games.
- In the Ratchet and Clank series for the Playstation, Clank comes to star in a James Bond-like series called Secret Agent Clank. (Ratchet is consigned to the role of Agent Clank's bumbling chauffeur, to his annoyance.) In the appropriately titled PSP game Secret Agent Clank, Clank actually assumes his television identity to help clear Ratchet when the latter is framed for a crime.
- In the games preceding it, Captain Qwark also has his own show and considerable celebrity although he sold out to the Big Bad to get it.
- The setting for the start of the game Final Fantasy IX revolves around the theater troupe Tantalus performing a play called I Want to be Your Canary (Queen Brahme's favourite) for the birthday of Garnet, princess of Alexandria. In actuality, the performance is merely a front, for Regent Cid of Lindblum's order to 'kidnap' Garnet (who, ironically, wanted to run away, anyway).
- Likewise, Final Fantasy VI had the famous opera scene, where the mother of all contrived coincidences leads to Celes having to play in an opera. It tells something about the skill of everyone involved in that scene that many gamers were moved by the events of the opera, which are fictional even within the fiction they're currently following.
- Also in Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Aeris(or Tifa or Yuffie or Barret, depending on how you play the game) get to play pivotal roles in a brief play during the Gold Saucer segment.
- The relevance of the play "Loveless" in Crisis Core
- Deathwatch, the Lethal Gameshow within MadWorld; Jack is a contestant.
- In a sense, the entirety of Dynamite Headdy is a show-within-a-show. The entire game takes place in a puppet show that has been hijacked by one of the puppets to tell a different story.
- Deb Of Night in Vampire Bloodlines.
- Night Springs in Alan Wake, an obvious parody of Twilight Zone, which Alan wrote a few episodes of before writing novels, as his manager Barry later mentions. It fits type two as well, as Alan gets to watch the show on certain TV sets during the course of the game.
- We also get to read two pages from Alan's most recent novel, The Sudden Stop, a reference to Remedy's earlier Max Payne games. The pages are even written in Max's Private Eye Monologue style and read by his voice actor.
- The Gaiden Game Alan Wake's American Nightmare plays out like an episode of Night Springs. In fact, it is one of Alan's episodes which he tweaked slightly to help him get back to the real world.
- Super Mario Galaxy has Rosalina tell a very sad story about a young girl having to deal with the loss of her family. The girl in the storybook is actually Rosalina herself.
- The Cheat of Homestar Runner stars in a parody of G.I. Joe called Cheat Commandos. Also, another character, Stinkoman, has his own anime series.
- The Strong Bad E-Mails is also a type of show, with Strong Bad giving it a changing opening theme and referring to it as his "E-Mail Show." Also there was The King of Town's Very Own Quite Popular Cartoon Show.
- Homestar Runner also has Teen Girl Squad, an "indie comic" about four "teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 19" dying in humorous ways, crudely drawn and voiced by Strong Bad.
- Don't forget The King of Town's Very Own Quite Popular Cartoon Show! For reals this time!
- Don't Look It Sucks features Star Dork a fictional Sci-Fi series enjoyed by some of the comic's cast.
- Last Res0rt features the reality show of the same name, crossing Survivor with Battle Royale and inadvertently setting up a plot that resembles Professional Wrestling moreso than anything else.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures has Wildy writing a novel about a spy named Janus Bond stopping Mad Scientist Dr. Jyrras's evil plans.
- Housepets sometimes diverts to The Adventures of Spot, a comic by Peanut on a superhero dog.
- Homestuck features several. The most prominent is Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, a Stylistic Suck parody of Two Gamers on a Couch webcomics ostensibly made by Dave Strider; most of the cast often quote it to each other, and segments of it sometimes show up in the narration as part of Homestuck's love of the Meaningful Echo. The three previous MS Paint Adventures series also exist, both as comics and as videogames, as well as a fictional fourth adventure about the Midnight Crew. Also present are Squiddles!, a Tastes Like Diabetes television series which is actually mankind's subconscious representation of certain Eldritch Abominations, Game Bro, a Straw Critic gaming magazine, and Grand Snack Fuckyeah, a thoroughly broken skateboarding game / Product Placement bonanza.
- Much of the early plots of DDG centred on the afterlife gameshow You Bet and Zip's (reluctant) employment as Ms. Fanservice.
- The Gunnerkrigg Court interlude City Face is implied via Fridge Logic to be fictional within the Gunnerverse.
- In the beginning, Ansem Retort was mostly focused on its status as a webcomic about a reality show filled with jerkasses and cloudcuckoolanders who were all addicted to at least 3 illegal drugs each. Cerebus Syndrome has kicked in a bit as the series goes on and things get more serious (well, as serious as that freak show gets, anyway), but they still bring up things like ratings, and in fact often let events occur because they wouldn't have a plot for the next season otherwise.
- Nip and Tuck has "Purloined Letters Productions", a shoestring B-movie/direct-to-video company that has, to date, produced such epic hits as Man on the Border, Rebel Cry, 10,000 Ninjas, Gravedigger, and Scurvy Dogs: The Curse of Blackbeard's Treasure.
- A Tale of Fiction features "Bison and the Boar Boys", a comic with no bearing at all to the main plot (as of yet) and no connection to the characters, but which can nevertheless be accessed from one of the characters' laptops ("dragbook"). Also available on the dragbook is an in-universe blog called "I Am Not Fiction". Only Bison and the Boar Boys is regularly updated as of now, although I Am Not Fiction is likely to soon follow suit.
- 1/0 had "Max's World", a short comic created by Max to illustrate to Marcus what a comic strip is. Since the strip itself (1/0) is about metaphysical issues and the nature of reality, the comic strip characters creating a comic strip may also be an example of Recursive Reality. "Max's World" doesn't last long, though, since the 1/0 characters get jealous of the girlfriend Max drew for his main character and squash him with an anvil in the next panel.
- Plus EV has "The Degenerate." Stylistic Suck included.
- Zombie Ranch is not only the name of the comic but the name of the in-universe Reality TV Show being filmed about the characters' lives. The comic occasionally cuts between the "live" recordings and what seem to be more produced segments being aired sometime in the future.
- The Family Guy episode "Ptv" featured a number of homemade shows on his pirate tv station, including Midnight Q starring Glen Quagmire and Peter Griffin's own The Sideboob Hour
- Lily Mu within Kappa Mikey.
- The Wild Thornberrys centers around a family that travels the world making wildlife documentaries.
- Rusty Venture had his own cartoon in The Venture Brothers. As a result, many people finish his own anecdotes for him - and he's left wondering what were his actual experiences and what were just cartoon episodes.
- The Binky the Clown Show in Garfield and Friends: Binky was a relatively minor character and Garfield would occasionally end up on the set of the show. Binky would occasionally show up to torment Garfield ("HEEEEEEEY CAT!"), as well as the show coming up in Garfield's channel surfing. There was also the "Screaming With Binky" quickie segments which Garfield narrated or hosted.
- Coming Attractions in The Critic, hosted by the eponymous critic himself, Jay Sherman. It also appeared in the crossover episode of The Simpsons, cleverly leading to a Leaning on the Fourth Wall moment at the end of the episode:
Jay: And if you ever want to visit my show --
- Nearly every on-air personality of KBBL has also been portrayed as an ordinary citizen of Springfield.
- Total Drama Island takes this to Mind Screw levels. Even now fans are utterly confused as to what's part of the show and what's part of the Show Within A Show. Made even more confusing by the fact that the Show Within A Show shares the exact same name as the show itself.
- A simpler example would be the gossip network, Celebrity Manhunt which dishes out information about the contestants of Total Drama and Total Drama Aftermath which was hosted by Geoff and Bridgette during Action.
Examples of type 2 (characters are fans)
Anime and Manga
- The titular character of Crayon Shin-chan loves to watch Action Kamen. Some episodes of the series are dedicated to him, only showing his adventures, and then they show Shin-chan laughing like Action Kamen while watching the episode on TV.
- In the gag dub, it is called Action Bastard
- He also likes to watch Quantum Robot
- Bamboo Blade's Tama is a fan of the toku show Chouken Sentai Blade Braver. Another show called Materia Puzzle also makes a short appearance.
- Mogenta in Fruits Basket is about this boy and his sidekick Mogenta, a creature thing, who go around fighting monsters. There are many references made to it: Kyo, Yuki, Tohru and Kagura go on a Double Date to one of the movies, Yuki goes out of his way to buy Machi a paperweight and later a soft toy and Kisa, Hiro and Momiji watch the show while at the Sohma summer home.
- Hand Maid May has an incredibly cheesy and overdone soap opera. Its tropes are turned Up to Eleven.
- Kujibiki Unbalance within Genshiken (which eventually spun off as its own show).
- An "anime within an anime", the fictional anime series Liddo-kun no Daibouken (and the stuffed Liddo-kun toy owned by Naru) figures significantly into Love Hina.
- Martian Successor Nadesico, a Mecha anime, has the fake mecha anime Gekigangar 3 in it, which parodies old mecha anime and their fandom (especially Mazinger Z). The anime itself parodies mecha anime as well, but becomes more serious as the show progresses. In Episode 14, the Show Within A Show trope is Inverted with the characters from Gekigangar watching Martian Successor Nadesico and complaining that the episode is merely a Filler recap episode, hanging quite a Lampshade.
- Nadesico also flirts with the first variety with Magical Princess Natural Lychee, for which one of the characters is a voice actress.
- An Abridged Series replaced Gekiganger 3 with Gekiganger 3: The Abridged Series. Hilarity Ensues.
- Martian Successor Nadesico within Gekiganger 3, but only in the Recap Episode of Nadesico... ow, my head.
- Gekiganger 3 moved from a "characters are fans" example to a "Plot Parallel" example to a "Show Within a Show is a plot point" example through the course of Martian Successor Nadesico. And then Gekiganger 3 was defictionalized...
- Detective Kunkun within Rozen Maiden (may actually fall into the "eerily similar" category in some respects, as it's a puppet-based show watched by the Rozen Maiden dolls, who are convinced it is reality). The irony of the characters watching a dark and edgy cartoon involving dolls does not go unnoticed.
- School Rumble has The Three Slashed and Hatenkou Robo Dojibiron.
- The unnamed alien Soap Opera that most of the Masaki household watches at one time or another in Tenchi Muyo!
- Also, in Mihoshi's first appearance, she is watching an alien Boke and Tsukkomi Routine.
- Welcome to The NHK has Puru Puru Pururin, which is believed by the show's protagonist to be the forefront of a conspiracy. Despite its show-within-a-show nature, it has a real website.
- Sensei and Ninomiya-kun, the soap opera that the Minami sisters watch in Minami-ke.
- In Penguin Musume Heart, Sakura is a fangirl of the Sunday morning Magical Girl show Takenoko-chan. That Kujira looks like the main character is partially responsible for Sakura starting her crazy antics.
- Mighty general Lü Bu in Ryofuko-chan is fan of the Lovely Angels-show PaPiCo—but since he got turned into an 8-year-old girl, he's off the hook.
- Takumi of Chaos;Head is a fan of the show Blood Tune. It appears to be some type of Magical Girl show—or at least a moe one, given the sheer amount of figures he has of lead character Seira. Creepier, though, is that he's deluded enough to see Seira in his room and talking to him.
- Pootan from Cromartie High School.
- The bizarre Binkan Salaryman in the even more bizarre Bludgeoning Angel Dokurochan.
- Mahou Shoujo Biblion, a Magical Girl Warrior series in Mahou Sensei Negima, which the series's own Cosplay Otaku Girl often dresses as.
- Princess Tutu: In two different episodes the school puts on a ballet and a dramatic play, each mimicking the plot & themes of those particular episodes.
- The story of The Prince and The Raven guides the characters both thematically and, in some cases, literally. It exists as both a living narrative and an actual novel that various characters read.
- Hidamari Sketch has Fashionable Detective Lovely Chocolat in its anime version.
- Sailor Moon features the Sailor V franchise, which started out as a video game Artemis came up with to train Minako in Codename: Sailor V. The kicker is that Sailor V is a real person, but apparently has shows and merchandising anyway that she clearly has nothing to do with. The show itself is never seen, but an entire episode of the first season of Sailor Moon features the production studio for Sailor V and was basically an excuse for the entire Sailor Moon animation studio making fun of themselves.
- We later see evidence—a plush doll of Sailor Moon herself—that similar exploitation of the Senshi is taking place.
- This may be subverted and parodied in the live action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, where Minako (Sailor V) is a recording superstar and media juggernaut who apparently creates all her own promotional campaigns.
- It's definitely parodied. Minako's current hit song in the series is "C'est La Vie", which is phonetically identical to "Sailor V" in Japanese. It comes off an album entitled "Venus", and includes lines like "As long as I am me, C'est la vie". Another song off the same album is named "Venus Over My Shoulder".
- Cowboy Bebop has Big Shot!, which features information for bounty hunters on the latest rewards posted for the capture of criminals. Possibly a pirate show, since the picture is always grainy and flickering.
- Or more likely the fact that the main characters are usually watching it several million miles from the nearest inhabited planet has something to do with the flickering image. Not to mention that the whole show has deliberate retro quality.
- After Big Shot! is canceled late in the series, the male host has a cameo (sans accent and costume), which makes Cowboy Bebop similar to variety one.
- Nodame Cantabile has that Puri Gorota show, that Nodame is an Otaku about (even to collect the figures of it).
- One teacher uses her addiction to bring hear to the classes she kept missing!
- It borders type 3 because Nodame uses it as example to teach Chiaki a lesson. In Paris, Frank was trying to record the french dub of it when Nodame notices it and watches several dozens of times in order to learn French.
- Ladies versus Butlers! has Magical Diva, a Magical Girl who solves problems with violence and her trusty hammer.
- Most of the real kids in Detective Conan are fans of Kamen Yaiba, a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo version of Kamen Rider (which takes the name "Yaiba" from another of the Conan mangaka's works). A number of times, Conan & company solve mysteries at sets, stunt shows, production offices, or production studios associated with the franchise (and in one case at a costume party where cosplayers showed up in intricate Kamen Yaiba outfits).
- Oreimo has Stardust Witch Meruru, a Magical Girl Show, and Kirino is a fan of the show. In one episode, she made Kanako dress up as Meruru, and Kanako won the contest!
- In the comic book Young Justice, the characters watched a TV show called Wendy the Werewolf Stalker, a parody of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Watchmen has Tales of the Black Freighter, a comic book told almost in its entirety within the graphic novel. Its author shows up in a couple scenes, and it ends up eerily paralleling a certain character's fate.
- In the Super Mario Bros.. comic books, Mario is a huge fan of comic-book-within-a-comic-book Dirk Drain-Head, which is hated by the other good guys (including Luigi, who ironically looks exactly like Dirk), but loved also by Bowser's minions.
- One issue of Hack Slash has Cassie and Vlad battling a slasher at a comic book convention; needless to say, there are a few comics within the comic.
- Justice Girl is a comic within a comic in The Maze Agency (and, in universe, spawned a short-lived TV series). jen was a huge fan of Justice Girl when she was younger.
- Several in Aeon Natum Engel:
- Kyon: Big Damn Hero has a Trope-tan anime and movie, with shades of Type 3 and possibly 4 mixed in as well.
- In The Dance of Shiva the reader will learn the names of a lot of programs and films that are current or in the setting's recent past, like The New Adventures of Astroboy; Nick Hatchett, Heroic Robot Fighter; Angelfire, Queen of the Faeries; Magical Princess Evangelia; Mayonnaise Boy; Tales of the Past; Mystery Boomer Theater 2034; A Clockwork Boomer; Sleepless in Shikoku; The ADPolice Files; Dread Space Pirate Bailesu; Dragon Ball PDQ; Hime-chan no Anvil; Dirty Pair Ultrakawaii Flash; Sailor V Gundam; ADPolice Academy II, and an untitled Gundam movie. There's also mention of something that sounds like a Reality Show of some sort, called You Thought It Couldn't Happen to You. Every one of these has at least one character in the story who's a fan or regular watcher.
- Undocumented Features (given that it's a Mega Crossover and spans at least five centuries) has many, often spawned from the works that make it up, including the Battlecruiser Vengeance franchise (a long-running Klingon TV show/movie property with many different films and sequel series), The Adventures of Red Lad, the Crimson Lizard series of movies, Avalon Chopper, Dalek 207, and the New Century Zatoichi films. "TV listings" for New Avalon are occasionally posted to the EPU forums listing even more programs, along with fun capsule descriptions.
- Special mention should be made of Professor Enigma, a BBC-TV series that has been running almost continuously for 500 years. Based on the adventures of the "real" Doctor -- who has actually made a guest appearance on the show -- its current Professor is played by actress and former Companion Rose Tyler; its production staff travels around the galaxy in a real, if decrepit, TARDIS to film on location.)
- The Secret Return of Alex Mack makes frequent reference to a children's program called The Fuzzy Family of which Alex and several other characters are fans.
Films - Animation
- The Disney animated One Hundred and One Dalmatians has two. The dogs watch the dog-hero show Thunderbolt, and the criminal sidekicks watch What's My Crime?
- Cars 2 has The Mel Dorado Show, which is a talk show hosted by a brown Cadillac who for some reason wears glasses over his windshield (eyes) and Tire Talky, a Japanese talk show sponsored by a purple truck who constantly carries a giant Jumbotron on his trailer (the episode shown on the truck's screen is one where Francesco Bernoulli is shown demonstrating his soccer skills in front of the show's host (a Scion XB)).
Films - Live-Action
- In Idiocracy, the idiotic populace of 2505 watches Ow, My Balls, which is one Groin Attack after another. We see the unfortunate star of the show twice during the movie (other than in his show), and on both occasions, he suffers very painful "tributes" from fans who attempt to emulate the show.
- Home Alone has the gangster movies Angels with Filthy Souls and Angels with Even Filthier Souls.
- Starcrossed is a spoof, No Fourth Wall-type Speculative Fiction series loosely based on Stargate, in the independent movie A Dog's Breakfast, written and directed by actor David Hewlett, who is better known for his role as Rodney McKay in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Hewlett intends to turn Starcrossed into a real web series.
- In Hairspray, Tracy and Penny are huge fans of the Corny Collins Show, a regional American Bandstand-type show. This overlaps with Type 1 when Tracy gets a part on the show and supports Corny's dreams of integrating the show(instead of only permitting black performers to appear on "Negro Day").
- In the film version of Matilda, Matilda's family is a huge fan of Million Dollar Sticky, a game show hosted by (or whose host is played by) Jon Lovitz, where contestants are painted with honey and then invited to roll around in money. Whatever cash sticks to them they get to keep.
- The plot of the film Galaxy Quest involves certain "fans" of the show, namely a race of aliens who erroneously believe the show is real and worship the characters as heroes. Incidentally, the actions of said aliens are also what cause the film to fall under the other three types of this trope.
- The film also has a couple of traditional fanboy types. They later turn out to be Chekhov's Gunmen
- CSA: Confederate States of America has several. "Runaways" is a parody of |Cops where police track down escaped slaves. "Leave it to Beulah" is a parody of old black-and-white sitcoms.
- The story of Kelly Link's award-winning novella, Magic for Beginners, describes one episode of an unnamed (presumably) television series about an ordinary boy named Jeremy Mars and his circle of friends, who are obsessively devoted to a pirate-television fantasy series called The Library. This show-within-a-show is broadcast irregularly on the otherwise "snowy" channels. Each episode is portrayed by different, non-credited actors and features advertisements for non-existent products. Much of the plot involves the actions and resulting interactions between the two shows.
- Several in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
- As a child, Miles Vorkosigan was a big fan of a holovid action/drama serial about Lord Vorthalia the Bold, Legendary Hero from the Time of Isolation. As an adult, he can remember most of the 9 verses of the theme song. It's likely that he picked up some of his Knight Errant tendencies from this.
- Avoiding type 1, a Marilacan production company attempted to hire Admiral Naismith as an consultant for a holovid docudrama about the Dagoola IV breakout. For security reasons, Miles declined to participate.
- Nikolai Vorsoisson is fond of holovids featuring Captain Vortalon, a jump pilot who has galactic adventures with Prince Xav, smuggling arms to the Resistance during the Cetagandan invasion.
- Beta Colony produced a film based on the Escobaran War and Cordelia Naismith's role in it called The Thin Blue Line. Their portrayal of Prince Serg upsets Elena Bothari, because most Barrayarans view Prince Serg as a hero, not as a Caligula.
- Don Quixote: "The Ill-Advised Curiosity" is a true indepent novel within the novel of Don Quixote, and the curate found it in the Inn and reads it to all the guests completely through two entire chapters of the first part.
- Played with in the Torchwood novel Border Princes. Throughout the novel, frequent mention is made of the band Torn Curtain, the animated series Andy Pinkus, Rhamphorhynchus and the science fiction drama Eternity Base. It turns out this is all created by a subconcious Reality Warper, evidenced when Gwen leaves Cardiff, and suddenly a magazine article about Glenn Robbins of Eternity Base becomes about Jolene Blaylock and Star Trek: Enterprise.
- The Valley within The OC.
- Rebo and Zooty and ISN News on Babylon 5.
- The soap opera watched by the Suarez family in Ugly Betty.
- Densha Otoko featured a TV show called Getsumen to Heiki Mina, which eventually became its own anime series.
- Red Dwarf had Androids, a soap opera about robots.
- Married... with Children: Al Bundy is a big fan of Psycho Dad, and even went so far as to travel to Washington D.C. to complain to Congress when Marcy had it cancelled.
- In the Angel episode "Birthday", Cordelia is shown an Alternate Timeline where she didn't meet Angel and has her own TV show, the Friends-a-like Cordy.
- Also, the kids' puppet show Smile Time in the episode of the same name.
- On Oz, the prisoners are often shown watching Miss Sally's Schoolyard and lusting after the buxom children's show host. Also a type 3 in that stalking the buxom show host is why Busmalis gets caught and returned to Oz after an escape attempt.
- Tides of the Heart was a soap opera that was originally just watched by the characters on Shortland Street, at least until it was revealed that a character who had previously been Put on a Bus was now the star of the show. The aforementioned character's best friend eventually received a gig on the show as a writer, though this all occurred offscreen.
- Inspector Spacetime, an affectionate Doctor Who parody - and Cougarton Abbey, a fictional British progenitor of Cougartown in the style of Downton Abbey were mentioned on the season 3 premiere of the NBC sitcom Community.
- Every episode of Twitch City was titled after that episode's subject of The Rex Reilly Show, a Take That on Jerry Springer that shows up at least in a short promotional.
- The residents of Brookside would often watch The Magic Rabbits.
- A mixture of the two first types, plus meta-references, has occurred on Lost: Nikki turns out to be an actress who has just completed an arc on a show called Exposé. The show is about a duo of strippers/detectives who fight crime with the help of their club-owner/mentor (played by Billy Dee Williams) who is actually The Cobra, the show's Big Bad. Hurley is a fan of the show, and it plays on TV sets in a Locke flashback (that aired before the episode fully introducing it), briefly in a Sun flashforward, and was watched by Hurley's dad in the real-time action of "The Lie". In the Lost episode "Exposé", Nikki's Exposé character is killed off in a flashback—and then Nikki is killed off in Lost.
- It's mentioned that she's a guest star and "we all know what happens to guest stars". Strangely, this meta joke falls flat, because while they were originally planned to be guest stars the actors who played Nikki and Paulo were instead billed as main cast until their characters died.
- Hurley describes the show and mentions a villain whose "identity has been shrouded in mystery for four seasons," who turned out to be someone the audience thought was a good guy. This inspired fans of Lost to hypothesize that an original Lostie will turn out to be the Big Bad.
- Which is, in a way, what happened.
- Twin Peaks provides an example of this in its "Invitation to Love" soap opera that is seen in many of the earlier episodes. It also serves as an example of type 4, as Lynch used the soap opera to comment on the larger storyline.
- On How I Met Your Mother, The Wedding Bride. The other characters in the show (other than Ted) are fans of the movie. This is also an example of Type 1 and 3 as it was made by a character in the show and it is a plot point.
- Since it's a twisted version of what actually happened to Ted, it's also an example of type 4!
- Dean Winchester of Supernatural is a big (though secret) fan of the House-like Dr. Sexy, MD.
- In an unusual case, a real show was the show-within-a-show on Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- Spike was a fan of the Soap Opera Passions, and was shown watching -- or trying to watch -- it on several occasions.
- Al Capp's classic comic strip Li'l Abner had the comic-strip-within-a-comic-strip Fearless Fosdick, which was a parody of Dick Tracy that became almost as popular as Li'l Abner itself. Later Capp did a similar parody of Peanuts called Pee Wee.
- The comic strip Garfield sometimes has Garfield watching the kid's shows "Uncle Roy [dead link]" and "Binky The Clown [dead link]", parodies of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and The Bozo Show, respectively.
- Travis Touchdown's favorite anime in No More Heroes is Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly, which appears to be a Magical Girl Mecha series. We never see the show itself, but he has a T-shirt with the main characters on it (and more can be bought), there are posters of it all over his motel room (including one that he presses to and sighs, Moe~), he seems to have stolen his attack names from it, and he plays an upward-scrolling SHMUP based on the series to pass the time on the subway on his way to one of the game's boss encounters.
- Suda51 has expressed a little interest in Defictionalization of the show if the opportunity comes up. Presumably it would be a scathing parody of anime tropes... or just plain Mind Screw. Or both.
- The Max Payne series features shows like the cartoon Captain BaseballBat-Boy, the psychological thriller Address Unknown, the costume drama/soap opera Lords and Ladies, and even a blaxploitation send-up of Max Payne called Dick Justice.
- Telltale Games's Sam and Max features a variety of shows from WarpTV, including the sitcom Midtown Cowboys, talk show Myra!, and celebrity tell-all program Oh, Is He Still Alive?. Turn into Type 1 when the two protagonists get embroiled in them in "Situation: Comedy".
- In the Harvest Moon series, there are often shows that one can watch on the TV in their farm-house, in addition to weather and news channels.
- In the Pokémon games, there are several shows that can be watched on the TVs, in NPCs houses.
- "There's a movie on TV. Four boys are walking on railroad tracks.... I'd better go, too."
- "There's a movie on TV. A girl in pigtails is walking down a yellow brick road.... I'd better go, too.
- From Pokémon Gold and Silver onwards, you can listen to radio shows on the Pokégear, including one from Professor Oak.
- One of the shadow dungeons in the RPG Persona 4 is "Void Quest", an RPG-themed castle straight out of the 8-bit Dragon Quest days, complete with blocky graphics, chintzy beeping music, and menu options just floating in the air at the entrance. The bitter, angry young man who subconsciously created it makes himself the hero he could never be in real life. Mind you, Persona 4 is one of those games where you control a Heroic Mime, and have plenty of leeway for projecting your own personality onto him, turning the whole scenario downright meta.
- The Deb of Night in Vampire Bloodlines gets a special mention for being a Radio show within a video game. You can hear it on any radio you find in the game, which basically plays pre-recorded dialogues (which ones, depends on how far your progressed with the main quest) between the hostess Deb and people who call her.
- Tokimeki Memorial 2 is the host of several Shows Within a Show: "Super Dragon Warrior" (Chou Senshi Dragon, a Hot-Blooded Super Sentai series), "Go-Driller" (a Hot-Blooded Super Robot anime), "Space Idol Love-Love Star" (Uchuu Idol Love-Love Star, a Magical Girl series), and "Protuding-navel Kero Kero" (Kero Kero Debeso, an anime). Homura Akai is a big fan of the first two, to the point of mimicing the Dragon Warrior's special kick and wielding drills just like Go-Driller ; Mei Ijuin likes the second too ; Miyuki Kotobuki is an avid fan of the third ; and Miho Shirayuki adores the fourth.
- This overlaps with Type 3, as "Go-Driller" and "Space Idol Love-Love Star" become plot points in the storylines of the Substories games Leaping School Festival and Dancing Summer Vacation respectively.
- In Super Robot Wars Alpha, Ryusei Date is fan of mech simulator game call Burning PT, which is actally used by military to recuit pilot. It's only mention in dialogue and players never actually see the game until anime adaption of Super Robot Wars Original Generation though. In the end of Super Robot Wars Original Generation Gaiden, he end up watching his favourite anime Banblade with his Unwanted Harem, but players never actally see how the anime look like. Also in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, he give Mylene Jenius a rare copy of Super Dimension Fortress Macross : Legend of Lyn Minmei as birthday present.
- Some of the Grand Theft Auto games have a number of different (all rather raunchy) shows that the player can watch.
- In Cucumber Quest: The TV Show Punisher Pumice. Little is shown about it, but we know that Almond is a Fan Girl.
- In the webcomic El Goonish Shive, the characters are fans of the Lucky Bunny Bounty Show.
- Kitten Kaboodle: Space Ranger in The Suburban Jungle.
- My Life at War: Vulture is a fan of a show about a mercenary mecha pilot called The Southpaw.
- Questionable Content: Marigold and Hannelore are fans of the manga/anime Magical Love Gentleman.
- Okay, little bit of an odd example. Ansem Retort is a webcomic about a reality show. Darth Maul, one of the cast members, likes to watch said show. Yes, this includes watching himself watch the show.
Darth Maul: That's some paradoxical shit right there!
- As The Sneef Boils in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire.
- Selkie has The Adventures of Sue and Kathryn, characters from one of the author's previous comics. They are a ten-year-old zombie and wraith, respectively.
- Girly features Action Up The Butt, which is what happens when you take the concept of Highlander (where killing someone gives you their power), make all the characters 19th century authors (with Sir Walter Scott as the main character), then give them all guns. It was Too Good to Last, though; it was cancelled after the second season.
Mark Twain: So, you've heard those rumours about me, have you?
- Magical Princess Sailor Rose Wand (the exact name varies from use to use) in Sailor Nothing, a thinly-veiled spoof of Sailor Moon that apparently crams even more Magical Girl tropes than the original (which, apparently, doesn't exist in the Sailor Nothingverse). Used to constantly compare "reality" to TV.
- The Reading Room has the hugely popular soap opera The Bird and the Birdiful, an over the top parody of The Bold and the Beautiful.
- Two of Brad Jones' other shows, The Big Box and Kung Tai Ted, are watched in-universe by The Cinema Snob as regular TV shows.
- Daring Do is a Book Within a Show on My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic.
- Sick Sad World within Daria.
- The hilariously over-the-top Los Dias y Las Noches de Monsignor Martinez on King of the Hill.
- The Simpsons
- The Itchy and Scratchy Show, which is a segment of the Krusty the Klown show, making it a show within a show within a show. Further yet, a Type One within a Type Two.
- Besides the trope-naming news reports, The Simpsons has several other recurring fictional shows, including The Happy Little Elves, Eye On Springfield, I Can't Believe They Invented It!, and Smartline. There was also a slapstick sketch show of some sort starring the Bumblebee Guy.
- Also a regular Type I for the episode where Lisa suggested a new character be added and Homer ended up voicing the new character.
- All My Circuits within Futurama. This becomes something of the reverse of the above case when show star Calculon intermittently becomes involved in the main protagonists' lives. Futurama also had the Twilight-Zone-style The Scary Door, and Everybody Loves Hypnotoad, a full episode of which was included as a DVD featALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD.
- Pelican's Island in Darkwing Duck.
- Ask Mr. Lizard ("We're going to need another Timmy!") and Totally Hidden Predator within Dinosaurs.
- Terrance and Philip within South Park.
- Also Russell Crowe's Fightin' Round the World, though just for one episode, and the boys were only watching it for the movie trailer that came at the end.
- Teen Canyon within The Weekenders.
- Puppet Pals within Dexters Laboratory and The Justice Friends. It also turned up on The Powerpuff Girls.
- The Quahog local news on Family Guy.
- The Brown Hornet cartoon on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.
- Wondrous World of Wonderful Whimsical Willy, and Puppet Pals (in a few episodes) on The Powerpuff Girls
- Hospital of Horrors, described a few times by the cast of Code Lyoko. Though never shown on-screen, it sounds like a mix of Medical Drama and cheesy horror B-movies.
- Rugrats featured several. Reptar (an Expy of Godzilla) was the most prominent.
- The recurring radio show Danger Woman in Tale Spin.
- Adventures of Bionic Bunny and Mary Moo Cow in the Arthur cartoon.
- Though we never actually see the show in question, The Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series had a recurring gag involving the fictional Bernie the Bear, and arguments as to whether a character who drove a car and wore a watch could be considered a bear. Arguments being made by a pair of anthropomorphic ducks.
- The Misadventures of Mighty Plumber in The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.
- Sheen Estevez from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron is a huge fan of Ultralord.
- The Fairly OddParents has The Crimson Chin and Crash Nebula. The second was considered for a Spin-Off, with a Poorly-Disguised Pilot airing, but no such luck. In the pilot, there was a magazine with an ad for Danny Phantom.
- Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery from Invader Zim. And the Angry Monkey Show.
- In one episode of Sushi Pack, the Pack members get to go backstage and meet the contestants of their favorite reality show, The World's Mightiest Heroes. Too bad the heroes are all Smug Supers...
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987 series) has the movie Snow White and the Seven Samurai. Clearly a blockbuster, Michelangelo has to fight through a mob at the video store in order to rent it.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 series) Casey's favorite movie is Rio Gato, a "spaghetti western" that, according to Casey, was so popular it was remade several times.
- On Phineas and Ferb, Lawrence Fletcher is fond of watching reruns of his favorite childhood TV show "Pinhead Pierre". There's also an episode dedicated to a Fandom Rivalry between fans of the sci-fi movie franchise Space Adventure and fans of the fantasy movie franchise Stumbleberry Finkbat.
- One episode of Garfield and Friends featured Garfield watching the game show "Hit The Buzzer, Win A Cookie", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Duck Detective on Gravity Falls, a show loved by the whole cast; it is described as a show initially intended for a child audience, but Grunkle Stan notes how it also caters to adults and has a lot of hidden meanings intended for mature audiences... In other words, much like Gravity Falls itself.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 version) had a different one each season:
- Season one, Mikey's favorite show is Space Heroes, a cartoon with 80s-style animation that is an obvious parody of Star Trek.
- Season Two, the foursome watch Super Robo Mecha Force Five Team Five Go an anime similar 80s style that parodies Voltron and Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!
- Season Three, Mikey watches Crognard the Barbarian, a parody of Thundarr the Barbarian
- Season four Mikey starts watching Chris Bradford's 2 Ruff Krew, a show staring Chris Bradford (a villain on the show) that seems similar to Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos with some of The A-Team mixed in.
- Season five, they watch Space Heroes: The Next Generation, clearly a Sequel Series to the show in the first season based on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Examples of type 3 (SWAS is plot point)
Anime and Manga
- In (Zoku) Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei episode 3, we see Harumi undergo the process of drawing her yaoi doujin one summer night while listening to a radio show with the other characters talking about acting their age. These are two separate stories, though they occasionally overlap with cut shots and her comments. Note that the radio show is the actual adaptation of the manga chapter, while the night in the life of Harumi is anime-specific.
- The next episode goes even further. The first third of the episode involves an alien invasion of Japan, but the alien commanders become distracted by what happens in the last third of the episode. We also get to see the last third in full, juxtaposed against the first third with picture-in-picture and cut shots. Thus the show within a show goes full circle.
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya! features its own television channel. Said channel generally only contains shows made by King Dedede himself, and is often used to start off or elaborate the plot.
- Dedede took a shot at adding anime to his channel. Shows made include Dedede Of The Stars, an anime where Dedede trades roles with Kirby, but which fell victim to QUALITY animation and odd dubbing (While Meta Knight was the narrator, he found the script too ridiculous to finish) and Fumu-Tan of the Stars which was made by some of Fumu's unwanted fans featuring an aged-up Fumu. She was not pleased.
- Chobits -- A City Without People, drawn by Chi's original creator. It Hangs a Lampshade on the problems Persocoms are causing and drops hints on Chi's nature and eventual internal struggle.
- Tenchi Universe gives us one program that distracts Mihoshi so badly that Washu's Mecha Washu-Mihoshi runs off to watch it mid-fight. That show? Moldiver.
- A show-within-a-comic plays a pivotal role in Ronin.
Films - Animation
Films - Live-Action
- In The View Askewniverse, there is Bluntman and Chronic, a fictionalized superhero comic book version of Jay and Silent Bob. The two went to Hollywood in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in order to prevent its leap to the big screen.
- All of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries follow this trope: the musical Red, White, and Blaine in Waiting for Guffman, the dog show in Best in Show, the memorial concert in A Mighty Wind, and the Home for Purim movie in For Your Consideration.
- Zebraman is a Japanese film that features a cancelled television series by the same name.
- The very premise of the film Galaxy Quest revolves around the fictional show of the same name. The plot centers around the cast members of the eponymous show, who are abducted by a race of aliens erroneously believing the show is real and worshiping the cast members as heroes.
- Nation's Pride, a pro-Nazi movie, is a plot point in Inglourious Basterds, as it serves as a draw to top Nazi officials including Hitler being in a certain movie theater in Nazi-occupied France... making them the perfect target for not one but two assassination plots.
- In Finding Neverland, the production of Peter Pan ends up marking a turning point for the characters, both on opening night (for James and Peter) and as part of a later, special production (for Emma, Sylvia, and Sylvia's other sons). Also a Type 1 (see above).
- German director Sönke Wortmann took this Up to Eleven with the movie he made at film school. It's about a film student who makes a movie about a film student who himself makes a movie at film school. Appropriately, it's called "Drei D" (Three D). The Movie within the movie is called "Zwei D" (Two D).
- All three Dream Park novels take place during complex live-action adventure games, which a park security man must join to conduct a murder investigation. Successfully playing out the game in-character is necessary to solve the mystery, and each game's outcome is impacted by the investigators' and perpetrators' hidden agenda.
- Laurence Sterne's novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is the eponymous character trying to relate his life story to the reader. However, he is rather poor at explaining things, and thus ends up on a tangent so frequently - the net result of this running joke being that there's very little of Shandy's own life in it. In a nine-volume set published over ten years, we finally reach his birth in the third.
- This formed the central joke in A Cock And Bull Story, which is about the making of a film adaptation of the novel (widely considered unfilmable), thereby becoming a recursive instance of this trope—a film-within-a-film whose subject is a book-within-a-book.
- The quiz show in Slumdog Millionaire.
- Jim Springman and the Realm of Glory has The Realm of Glory, a wildly popular fantasy story written by Jim Springman's sister. The story involve's Jim's hometown merging with the fantasy world of The Realm of Glory. Hilarity Ensues.
- The Jack O'Connell novel The Resurrectionist features a comic book series about a carnival freak show in fantasy Central Europe called "Limbo." "Limbo" is a multimedia franchise in the book's world, and the hero's comatose son was fascinated by it. The word is also an arc word outside of the comic.
- In An Elegy for the Still-living, the author interrupts his character's journey to tell him a story. That story also contains a story within it.
- In the Roald Dahl story "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar", the title character discovers a Fictional Document which is an account of a doctor in British India and how he encountered a man with real yogi powers: said document is quoted in full, as a story-within-a-story. Furthermore, the document itself includes the complete life story of the yogi himself, making that a story-within-a-story-within-a-story.
- The romance novels of "Rosie M. Banks" in The Inimitable Jeeves. Since they're all centered around inter-class love affairs, Jeeves advises Bingo Little to read them to his uncle, in the hopes that the power of suggestion will prepare him to fund Bingo's pending marriage to a lowly waitress. Hilarity Ensues when the uncle becomes a huge fan, and Bingo furthers the Zany Scheme by introducing Bertie to him as the author. And when the real author turns up, Bingo ends up marrying her instead.
- Wormhole X-Treme! within Stargate SG-1.
- Like the in-universe The X-Files film, it's designed to look as cheap, campy and tacky as possible.
- The Adventures of Captain Proton! within Star Trek: Voyager (this one also has a bit of the first variety in it as well).
- Mostly, Captain Proton! was Type II, but became Type III in the episode where extradimensional aliens mistook it for reality because in THEIR dimension life is pohotonic.
- Captain Janeway's relaxation program with Leonardo da Vinchi abruptly turns to this when he ends up wandering on his own in The Doctor's holoemitter. A major element of the story is her attempts to retrieve him and how his inventions are essential to their mutual escape.
- The Doctor Who episode Bad Wolf has the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack find themselves trapped in lethal versions of popular British reality shows; Big Brother, The Weakest Link and What Not To Wear. The Doctor's reaction when he finds himself on the Big Brother set: "You have got to be kidding!"
- Also, there's The Shakespeare Code, where a lost Shakespearean play, "Love's Labour Won" is part of an evil alien plot.
- In The Mighty Boosh episode "The Nighmare of Milky Joe", Vince and Howard become stranded on a desert island while on their way to perform on The Pieface Showcase. This intention, combined with Milky Joe's later appearance, also make it a Type 1.
- On How I Met Your Mother, The Wedding Bride. An episode revolves around Ted seeing the movie with his newest girlfriend. This is also an example of 1 and 2 as a character in the show wrote the movie and the other character's are fans of the movie.
- Since it's a twisted version of what actually happened to Ted, it's also an example of type 4!
- Robin considers becoming a "Currency Rotation Specialist" on "Million Dollar Heads Or Tails", hosted at various times by Regis Philbin and Alex Trebek.
- ISN News from Babylon 5 will be a Type 3 from time to time, typically when the news centers around the station itself, or in season 4, To show how EarthGov was spinning the news to villianize Babylon 5 as much as possible after they seceded from the Earth Alliance. Also in the finale, "Sleeping in Light", where it is implied that the episode, and by extension the entire series, was an ISN documentary.
- The semi-final X Files episode centered around The Brady Bunch.
- I Love Lucy was a fan of this: Ricky's nightclub performances were frequently discussed...and Lucy was always trying to get to perform in the acts.
- Played with by Evermore's song "Hey Boys and Girls", from the concept album Truth of the World: Welcome to the Show. As part of the album's plot, it's a broadcast by the eponymous radio station. But it was also released as a single, and when it's played alone on the radio, with the opening line "We're interrupting transmission... welcome to the show" - it looks like Truth of the World just took over your radio station. The show-within-a-show has broken out of The Show and is now running the show...
- "If you ever find out what you're watching is a show within a show, sit back and hang on for the ride of your life."—Jack Handey
- Theater critic Mortimer Brewster describes in depth a show he has just seen in Arsenic and Old Lace with unfortunate implications. This leads to him having to hear about another imaginary show penned by Officer Klein.
- Stage Blood by Charles Ludlam is a little bit extreme in this. The whole plot is an adaptation of Hamlet that takes place during a production of Hamlet, while another show (an experimental play written by one of the characters) is performed in place of The Mousetrap Scene.
- Cyrano De Bergerac -- "The Clorise", the play presented at the Hotel de Bourgougne in the first act, is a real play (that gets interrumpted at the third line by the protagonist!). The first act is titled "A Representation at the Hotel de Bourgogne", where actors are playing The Clorise. The Hotel de Bourgogne was the oldest and most famous stage in Paris during that time and The Clorise was a real play written by Balthazar Baro, a real author of the time Cyrano de Bergerac is settled on. Balthazar Baro's theatrical output includes the innovative play Célinde (1628), which makes imaginative use of the play-within-the-play, as Edmund Rostand, a french theatre scholar himself, was aware. So the play within a play is a real play that was popular in his time, but now is obscure at the very least. Is even lampshaded (and mocked) by this dialogue:
ACT I, SCENE I:
- Nixon in China, where in act II Nixon, his wife, and Henry Kissinger attend a ballet and sing the opinions of the ballet dancers in a manner highly suggestive of a strawman of their own views. Based on an actual ballet staged by Chairman Mao's wife, who yells at the dancers en scene when they mess up.
- The Drowsy Chaperone, again. Man in Chair mentions that his mother gave him the record before his father left him. "He didn't leave because of the record, although I'm sure it didn't help."
- A major point of Assassin's Creed is that you are playing as Desmond Miles, who spends most of his time in the game participating in an interactive simulation of his ancestor's memories. In other words, Desmond is playing a video game.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Maya is a big fan of the Toku series The Steel Samurai (Tonosaman in the Japanese version). The star of the series, Will Powers, is later arrested for murder. Ace Attorney: Justice For All reveals that toku series are Serious Business in the Ace Attorney universe, to the point one case revolves around an awards show. Ace Attorney Investigations has an embassy host a Steel Samurai/Pink Princess stage show as part of its celebrations its holding. Edgeworth fanboyism for the series also manages to show itself somewhat.
- Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core has both the book and the play version of Loveless, which has already been established as a play in the original game. Resident Villain Sue Genesis is a huge fan of the book, to the point of basing his rebellion around it and wandering dangerously close to having Otakukin type thoughts regarding he and his friends reliving the story. In an interesting case of Truth in Video Games, the player can meet up with fans of the book who complain about the Adaptation Decay and Misaimed Fandom of the play version.
- Alan Wake twists this in all sorts of ways: Alan (a novelist) apparently wrote the story-within-the-story, but he can't remember it, and the events of the story-within-the-story start predicting events in the outside story, except it turns out the events of the outside story are happening that way because of the story-within-the-story being written under the influence of an Eldritch Abomination, and then the story-within-the-story starts referencing the story-within-the-story in the context of the outside story and now I've gone cross-eyed.
- The Mushroom Kingdom News occasionally seen on There Will Be Brawl serves for dropping plot points to Luigi.
- The Legend of Hayaoh in Tasakeru. Overlaps with Type 4.
- The play Thalia sponsors at the Pythian Games in Thalia's Musings. It provides a safe means of revealing Eros and Psyche's whereabouts, repenting to Aphrodite, and asking that Psyche be made immortal. Aphrodite and Hera take to the stage to grant both requests.
- The characters of Marble Hornets were originally creating a movie called Marble Hornets. Finding out what happened while the movie was being shot is an important part of the plot. Overlaps with type 2.
- Used a couple times in Batman: The Animated Series:
- In "The Gray Ghost", the villain's MO is patterned after that of a villain in the show The Gray Ghost; Bats also ends up teaming up with the show's hero, who's played by Adam West of all people.
- In "Baby Doll", there is a rash of kidnappings, and all the victims are the stars of a particular old sitcom—Bats and Robin end up watching parts of and researching the show for clues as to who would have held a grudge against them.
- The Rocko's Modern Life episode "I Have No Son" created Rocko and Filburt's favorite Ren and Stimpy-esque grossout nonsense show, The Fatheads. Then, in a variety-one example, in the fan-beloved sequel episode "Wacky Delly", the creator of The Fatheads cancels the show and lets the main characters ghost-write the eponymous and unintentionally Dadaist cartoon so it can be cancelled and he can retire. It Doesn't Work.
- Hard Times for Haggis from The Ren and Stimpy Show is a truly mind-bending example. The protagonist is the stereotypically Scottish Haggis McHaggis, whose variety-one show-within-a-show "The Scotsman" is cancelled and replaced by... the "The Ren and Stimpy Show". Irate, Haggis gets revenge on Ren and Stimpy by hijacking their show with a crude sock-puppet simulacrum performed by his hired thugs. Haggis' plan backfires when the sock-puppets become an instant smash-hit and him, Ren and Stimpy being thrown out on the street. Also, Stimpy's favorite show, the Muddy Mudskipper Show, fits into this trope.
- The Red Badger of Courage and Flash the Wonder Dog in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, both of which Dale is a fan of. Each of these shows only appears in one episode, but the Rangers manage to save the latter and clear the main actor from false criminal evidence.
- The Replacements features The Majestic Horse, Monkey Cop, Rainbow Jumper, and Splatter Train, among others. The Majestic Horse could be seen as an example of Type 4 in the first episode in which it appears (although it's more that the events after the movie is shown parody the movie or subvert its premise), and at least one episode involves the Darings in the production of a movie.
- Teen Titans has an episode in which our heroes are Trapped in TV Land and must navigate the troperiffic parodyscape of gameshows, soap operas, sports programming, ominous swamps, the black-and-white fifties and Star Destroyers.
- In the Venture Brothers episode O.R.B. featured the Rusty Venture Show DVDs in which a critical clue to the orb mystery was hidden in a single frame of a sniper rifle shot. It was a URL for a google map of the Venture compound.
- Dora the Explorer is a Show Within a Show. The intro explicitly shows that it's a computer game.
- Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? is set in a 90s computer game, just like the source.
- In the Kim Possible episode "Rappin' Drakken", Dr. Drakken tries to sell his brainwashing shampoo by singing a rap song about it on "American Starmaker".
- In the Dennis the Menace UK TV series the episode "The Day TV was Banned" involves Dennis attempting to watch his favourite TV Show Nick Kelly. What's also notable about this is the Nick Kelly was a character from The Topper a comic from the publishers (DC Thomson) who also publish The Beano which Dennis the Menace UK appears in. This makes Nick Kelly one of the few DC Thomson strips to have an Animated Adaptation alongside Banana Man, Marvo the Wonder Chicken (from The Dandy) and the aforementioned Dennis the Menace UK.
- In Miraculous Ladybug, one episode revolves around a black and white movie called Solitude. Produced by Adrian's father Gabriel, it stars his - presumably now-dead - mother in her last acting role. Gabriel prevented it from being mass-released, presumably out of grief, and Adrian is trying to view the limited release showing without being mobbed by fellow students who have seen him in recent ads.
Examples of type 4 (Plot Parallel)
Anime and Manga
- The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, the Non-Indicative First Episode (sort of) of The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya produced by the main characters, foreshadows the weird goings on (most notably the existence of aliens, time travelers, and espers) that are the focus of the rest of the series.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion there are frequently radio and TV talk shows subtly playing in the background that mirror psychological issues being dealt with in the show. Especially prevalent in the first half of the show.
- Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has a variation, in which Urara plays a character on an as-yet-unnamed TV show. By all indications, said show appears to be essentially a live-action version of... Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star, the previous Pretty Cure series.
- Just to make things more complicated, a question on an English test seen in an episode of Splash Star suggests that that series has the original Futari wa Pretty Cure as a show-within-a-show. Although it's probably just an Easter Egg, a number of fans (including this editor) have taken both of these as gospel and sincerely hope that this trend continues with later Pretty Cure shows.
- Some of Mamoru's classmates in GaoGaiGar are fans of a show called GaGaGatchi, which stars a little gnome robot who bears suspicious similarities to GGG himself. When Sixth Ranger King J-Der shows up, he gets his own GaGaGatchi Expy in the form of The Rival "King Snow".
- Admiral Geroro in Keroro Gunsou, although Geroro sounds as though he has more luck than Keroro.
- In the universe of Digimon Tamers, "Digimon" is a popular franchise, implied to even have a T.V. show. The cards, specifically, were very useful. Note that the Saban English dub wrongly assumed (it's contradicted in-universe and by Word of God) that the TV series were the prior two series of the franchise (collectively known as Digimon Adventure), which irked plenty of fans.
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya! has done this a few times. One is when King Dedede convinces everyone in Cappy Town to get him his own anime series. Of course, since nobody has had any professional training, and each animator has a different style, it comes out looking shoddy and inconsistent (in one case, Dedede and Escargoon are drawn hyper-realistically). Since Kirby is just a baby, his scenes are just scribbles. Another is when Dedede creates his own TV channel that he uses to convince people that Kirby is evil. There's also the Otakings' anime featuring Bouncy Tiff...
- In Saint Beast the Poison Saint show plays on earth, which basically has Super-Deformed versions of the characters doing things that just happened in the show. The actual characters fail to acknowledge it's about them even despite the fact one of them watches it avidly.
- In chapter 37 of the Omamori Himari manga, there's a single panel showing Yuuto playing a video game—of Himari fighting Shizuku.
- Taken to Mind Screwy heights in Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue, where the internal show's plot seems to mirror reality so impossibly well that the line becomes impossible to find. There's a part at the height of the confusion where there's a sequence of scenes which all look like they're about the main character's real life struggles, including a scene where she's declared to have multiple personality disorder and to falsely believe she's an actress, only for someone to yell "Cut!", several times (while she's suffering identity crises of her own thanks to her stalker/impostor). The viewer is left questioning whether that really was just part of the show. The show also pushes itself onto reality with the rape scene, which Mima tries to play off as no big deal except as a boost to her career but in reality took very hard).
- Similarly played with (but mostly without the horror aspect) in another of Satoshi Kon's movies, Millennium Actress. The movie depicts the life of a retired actress through a series of long flashbacks, which are intertwined with scenes from her movies. Of course, this being a Satoshi Kon movie, it's rarely entirely clear what's from a movie and what was her actual life. Either she was typecast in a ludicrously specific role, which happened to very closely mirror her actual life, or...
- There are several in the comic Y: The Last Man. The Last Man is a play written and performed by the Fish & Bicycles acting troupe (Yorick, the real last man is not happy to discover that the play ends with him dying). The same people are seen several years later (unsuccessfully) trying to make an action movie about the radical man-hating Daughters of the Amazon, then finally end up creating a successful comic series about the last woman on Earth (Yorick is equally unimpressed with it). And when the protagonists are in Japan they watch traditional Noh theatre featuring a demon called Hitogoroshi (Manslaughter).
- In the Marvel Universe, there's an actual Marvel Comics company that produces licensed comics based on the real-life adventures of the heroes. This started as early as Fantastic Four #10, January 1963. The She-Hulk series uses these in-universe comics in the title character's legal cases. DC Comics, after abandoning Earth-Prime, took this idea into their own canon.
- Amusingly, since in most cases the superheroes themselves gain licensing money and are actually somewhat involved in the comic's production, it's implied that the in-universe Marvel comics are slightly more skewered to portray the heroes in a better light than our real-world versions of the same comics. The heroes themselves usually answer the fanmail in the comics too, which leads to some really odd things being said—like Reed Richards wanting to get rid of fashion and force everyone in the world to wear Fantastic Four-style uniforms.
- At one point, the Marvel Universe Marvel Comics company hired a new artist for their Captain America comic... named Steve Rogers.
- Which brings up another amusing point about he comics: While some heroes, like the aforementioned She-Hulk and Fantastic Four, are public figures in the Marvel Universe, others, like Spider-Man or Daredevil, aren't about to spill their secret identities on newsstands, so their comics-within-a-comic are only accurate as far as the superheroics go, and make up the heroes' personal lives and origin stories out of whole cloth.
- Marvel once printed a series of one-shots, called Marvels Comics, which were supposed to be the comics that exist in the 616 universe.
- Watchmen also has Tales of the Black Freighter, a dark pirate comic (since superhero comics didn't catch on in a world with real superheroes, pirate comics became common instead) which is used as a metaphor for various parts of the story and the characters' plights.
- Daniel Clowes' comic David Boring has the protagonist find "The Yellow Streak," a one shot comic by his father that seems to suggest why his parents divorced, while individual panels are used in the main story to suggest David's reactions.
Films - Live-Action
- The opening credits of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid feature a silent film of the Hole in the Wall gang's exploits.
- Sherlock, Jr. (1924) stars Buster Keaton, who falls asleep and dreams while working as a theater projectionist—the movie plays a more upscale version of a real life theft he's wrongly accused of. He literally walks into the movie through the screen, and plays the brilliant detective he aspires to be.
- The film Galaxy Quest is something of a literal inversion of this in that the characters find themselves in a real life situation eerily resembling the show they starred in. Though there doesn't appear to be any direct Plot Parallel.
- The Passion Play in the novel Christ Recrucified, by Nikos Kazantzakis, reflects the fate of all characters who take part in it.
- A major plot point in VALIS. Kevin convinces his friends Horselover Fat and Philip K. Dick to go watch a movie named Valis, and the three of them realize that the events in the film parallel the bizarre visions that Fat has been having. Before, they had been able to dismiss these visions as hallucinations, but seeing the film convinces them that someone really was contacting Fat, and this same someone had also contacted the filmmaker.
- The Star Trek Expanded Universe has "Battlecruiser Vengeance", a Klingon space opera featuring the adventures of a Klingon starship captain and crew.
- Wormhole X-Treme! within Stargate SG-1.
- Drake and Josh has Drew And Jerry, which was basically Drake and Josh's life being put into a tv show. As an aside, it also opens up the potential for a universe busting aversion of Celebrity Paradox, by making Drake and Josh, iCarly, Victorious and Zoey 101 all 'real' an existing in the same 'universe' as the actor's who play all the characters. For example, this means in that universe, there are four versions of Miranda Cosgrove.
- Diane's play in Frasier.
- Though in this case, it's eerily similar to Cheers rather than Frasier itself.
- Invitation to Love within Twin Peaks.
- Jerry: The Sitcom within Seinfeld.
- Rosie -- C.H.I.M.P. on Blossom (well, it started out similar, before the Executive Meddling).
- The Doctor Who episode "Remembrance of the Daleks" almost breaks the Fourth Wall with one (unseen) show-within-a-show. There is a scene with a television in the background, on which a continuity announcer can be heard saying "This is BBC television, the time is quarter past five, and Saturday viewing continues with an adventure in the new science fiction series Doc-" at which point the scene ends.
- The Expanded Universe novels claim this series was called Professor X. The similarities between the Professor (who travels through time and space in a pillar box, and battles Cybertrons) and the Doctor have never been explained, and are rarely noticed by the characters, even when they're fans.
- The anthropomorphic comic Rocketship Rodents (itself a parody of Buck Rodgers) has its own Doctor Who Show Within A Show parody called Professor Chronofur... And as it's an anthropomorphic comic, I'm pretty sure you know where it leads.
- Sifl and Olly were big fans of the show Peto & Flek, which seems to be a complete distillation of the concept: two faces in a void, screeching to a phantom audience. Peto was the "straight man" while Flek only ever said "Guh-guh-guh-guh!"
- In Absolutely Fabulous, Saffron writes an autobiographical play entitled The Self-Raising Flower, which uses actual dialogue from previous episodes.
- Apparently, a TV movie featuring two characters who look and act suspiciously like bad copies of Mulder and Scully exists within The X-Files and Millennium universe. In the X-Files episode "Hollywood A.D." (s07e18), Mulder and Scully meet their "actor" counterparts on the set. A scene of what looks like this fake X-Files movie is running on a TV screen in the background during one Millenium episode. In both cases, the show-within-the-show was made to be deliberately cheap-looking and campy.
- Those would be Garry Shandling and Tea Leoni (who was married to David Duchovny).
- Similarly, there was an episode of the TV show Nowhere Man that featured a cheaply produced, poorly acted cable-TV-esque version of the main events of the series, which included the events of the episode itself.
- The Adventures of FATMAN, the show-within-a-show in The Weird Al Show, tells of a man who can change into a fat man with the power to lift heavy objects, withstand scalding liquids, and fly, though slower than cars. Harvey the hamster can stand and talk in this show, and is generally cleverer than "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Announcer: Due to a rare GLANDULAR PROBLEM, an ordinary, jelly-filled, glazed donut turns mild-mannered Donut World employee AL YANKOVIC into the crime-fighting superhero known as FATMAN.
- The Valley, Summer's favourite show on The OC, had suspicious similarities to The OC itself. This was really played up when the characters got to meet the "actors". Seth and Summer found out that two of them were dating (as Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson were at the time), and Ryan was amazed that the male lead could still "play high school" at his age (Ben McKenzie was ten years older than his character).
- Father Ben is pretty popular with Father Ted and Father Dougal on Father Ted
- Ghostfacers within Supernatural.
- But much more so with the book-within-a-show. The book series Supernatural introduced in the episode actually is the first few seasons of the show, and its Take Thats at the fans are exquisite. Turns out the series was written by the prophet Chuck, chronicling what will eventually become the Winchester Gospel. That title is incredibly ambiguous as to whether it will feature one or both of them.
- Even more so with 6.15 'The French Mistake', in which Sam and Dean get sent into an alternate universe where they are actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, who subsequently play the characters Sam and Dean in Supernatural. Their castmate is Misha Collins, their bosses are Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble, their director is Bob Singer...
- Masked Rider has been retconned to be a show-within-a-show when Nadira in Power Rangers Time Force was shown watching it.
- One episode of Queer as Folk features the rather farcical Gay as Blazes, which sarcastically parodies common criticisms of the show.
- The Murder of Gonzago in Hamlet is performed because it mirrors the suspected crime of Claudius. Hamlet organizes the performance to see how he reacts. The quality of the writing (and, in most competent performances of Hamlet, the acting) in The Murder is much less naturalistic than that of the "outer play", to the point of seeming truly stilted to modern audiences. But there's a genius even in the wince-worthy lines: it's a remarkably spot-on imitation of the writing style of the pre-Renaissance morality plays put on by that type of strolling players.
- Taken to extremes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which makes Gonzago even closer to the plot of Hamlet, including, of course, the deaths of two old friends of the young prince, which in the outer play hasn't happened yet. Ros and Guil recognise there's something familiar about the situation, but don't make the connection.
- Canio, protagonist in Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci and a commedia dell'arte actor, resolves not to submit to the same fate as his show-within-show character Pagliacci: Canio will not allow himself to be cuckolded and humiliated, and the end, he brings on stage his revenge against his wife and her lover.
- The Japanese and European releases of Metal Gear: Ghost Babel features as an Easter Egg a hidden Codec frequency that launches a fictional radio drama titled Idea Spy 2.5, which has an actual Audio Adaptation in 2007 (with Hideo Kojima in the title role).
- In Mass Effect 2, one advertisement on the Citadel is for a film, Citadel, based on the events of the first game. Unlike many of the above examples, there is no eeriness to this - most of the events of the first game are public knowledge.
- In the Max Payne series, Dick Justice is a Self-Parody of the first game. Address Unknown is eerily close enough Max Payne's story to feed his paranoia and guilt over the death of his wife; although he avoids making the association to himself in waking monologue, it does haunt his dreams.
- The Ember Island Players in Avatar: The Last Airbender parodies pretty much the entire contents of the show up to that point, including exaggerated versions of the entire main cast. They also do other productions like Love Amongsts the Dragons.
- Weird World in The Secret Saturdays is, arguably, a mix of all 4 types. 1.) The Big Bad, Argost, is the host of Weird World; 2.) Zak, the Kid Hero, is a huge fan of the show, with 3.) Zak's knowledge of Argost's house coming from the show and helping the family survive their rescue mission inside, and 4.) both shows heavily feature cryptids and follow their respective main characters' search for the Kur Stone.
- As the Kitchen Sinks in Transformers Generation 1 is a soap opera show that the Autobots are seen watching on Teletraan-1.
- Humorously enough, when Optimus was called to fight, he actually groaned when this happened. That's right, the most Badass robot there is wanted to see what happened next.
- The Puppet Pals, which is a Slapstick puppet show both in Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls. Both shows were made by the same creators. In one episode the trope is Inverted with the actual show being All Just a Dream of one of the Puppet Pals. *BONK!*
- Invader Zim boasts two -- Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery, and Probing the Membrane of Science With Professor Membrane.
- Futurama featured the head of Matt Groenig presenting his new show Futurella at the 3010 Comicon. It got cancelled 3 seconds into the opening sequence.
Matt Groenig's head: Wow, FOX has really streamlined the process.
- The Arthur episode "the Contest" (the one with the South Park and Dr. Katz parodies), had the kids watching Andy and friends which starred a crudely drawn rat Expy of Arthur.
Muffy: (regarding Andy) Why does he always call for his mother? It's like she's his slave.
- In South Park, the Terrance and Phillip show revolves around vulgar potty humor -- something South Park's detractors often fault it for.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series WandaVision, streamed on Disney+, presents a bizarre hybrid of types 1 and 4. Wanda Maximoff, driven near-mad by grief, imposes a sitcom "reality" over a small New Jersey town, which she lives in with her husband the Vision, and in the process (unconsciously?) broadcasts actual episodes of the sitcom version of their lives together—also called WandaVision—through the cosmic microwave background radiation of the universe (type 1). The internal show parallels and addresses the traumas and loss Wanda has experienced as a way for her to process them, thus providing the eerie parallel aspect (type 4).