A send-up of shows like This Old House, this home improvement series hosted by Tim Allen‘s Tim Taylor was, of course, the show-within-a-show of Home Improvement. Adding hilarity to the mix was Tim’s disastrous overconfidence in his own tools. (“More power!”)
Darkness at Noon
The Florrick family had this detective drama on their DVR on The Good Wife, apparently big fans of the antihero protagonist who spouts philosophical gobbledygook like, “People just think there are black hats and white hats, but there are black hats with white linings. And white hats with black linings. And there are hats that change back and forth between white and black.”
30 Rock‘s sketch show, meanwhile, featured Jane Krakowski‘s increasingly desperate Jenna Maroney and Tracy Morgan‘s increasingly bizarre Tracy Jordan. And with Tina Fey‘s Liz Lemon on the writing staff, we’d tune into the show every week… preferably while working on our night cheese.
Community‘s dynamic duo Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) understandably got hooked on this riff on Doctor Who, a British sci-fi series featuring the titular inspector and his constable companion traveling the dimensions, fighting off Blorgons, and muddling through a disastrous Christmas Special.
Hearts and Scalpels
After Nip/Tuck moved from Miami to Los Angeles, Dr. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) got a job as a medical consultant and supporting player on this medical drama, a clear parody of Grey’s Anatomy featuring Bradley Cooper as a surgeon who at one point uses a patient’s toe to rebuild her, ahem, inner anatomy?
The characters of Dear White People gather en masse to tune into this Scandal clone, which had the Olivia Pope-style fixer confront the President in the Oval Office about pinching her butt at a White House Correspondents Dinner. Cut to: Them having some executive sex right then and there on the floor. Cut to: The fixer’s dad walking in on them. Drama!
Wayne’s World! It’s Wayne’s World! It’s party time! Excellent! After Mike Myers and Dana Carvey played two rock fans producing a low-budget public-access TV show from Wayne’s parents’ basement on Saturday Night Live, the sketch became so popular it spawned a 1992 film and then a 1993 sequel. Schwing!
Television shows love to get meta, featuring fictional shows that characters watch and occasionally get jobs on. And hey, if TV shows are supposed to mirror reality, why wouldn't characters have their own small-screen fixations?
We've rounded up some of our favorite shows-within-shows from the past few decades, many of which are parodies of well-known real-world shows, and many of which are so-bad-they're-good.
Click through for our picks from 30 Rock, Nip/Tuck, Home Improvement, and more.