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"Who'd want to watch a Powerpuff movie? What a dumb idea."—Professor Utonium, The Powerpuff Girls
The most common gag that leans on the fourth wall is when the characters are associated with a movie or TV production of their own adventures. If the idea is not just laughed off, the adventurous group have Hollywood types wanting to make an adaptation of their exploits. Further fourth wall fun can be had if the production crew within the show are made to resemble the production crew of the show itself, or parodies of them.
Expect Executive Meddling, dismissing of the unrealistic issues, Flanderization of characters, and if the show does get produced, a show that bears little resemblance to the stories we're used to (possibly it creates a rival show as a Take That). A subset of Show Within a Show. Often an excuse for Recursive Canon.
Compare the Documentary Episode and I Should Write a Book About This. Compare and contrast Literary Agent Hypothesis, in which the book/film/show/etc. about the cast's adventures is the actual book/film/show/etc. See also Film Felons, Oh Crap There Are Fanfics of Us.
Anime & Manga
- Sailor Moon, Japanese episode 21, has Usagi (after seeing the Sailor V anime) wishing someone would make an anime of her, to which Luna replies that nobody would be interested. This episode was also a small Take That at the fact there was supposed to be a Real life of a Sailor V anime (or at least an OAV) but the creator was asked to expand the series into a team format and ended up creating Sailor Moon.
- In Haruhi Suzumiya, the characters are the one putting on the production. In this instance, however, Kyon does have a point.
- Dragonball Z
- A Filler bit of the anime has Gohan, to his surprise, run across a movie being made about his superhero alter-ego, the Great Saiyaman. The director mistakes him for Saiyaman's stunt double, and Gohan, being Gohan, decides to go along with it. Until he realizes it's getting late and he still has to visit Krillin, so he flies off.
- There's also the Super Sentai parody/remake (complete with rubber masks and obvious special effects) of the Cell Games shown at the Tenkaichi Budokai that year, which horrified the main characters.
- Twentieth Century Boys features a supporting character who is a manga writer and often comments that the events seem like something out of one of his stories. The best comes halfway through the story, when it seems like everything's over but there are still a few unanswered questions, and he says that if the story stopped now, it would be like a manga that didn't sell well and had to rush its ending.
- In Naruto, during the chunin exam arc, Chouji comments that Naruto could not be the main character of his own life, let alone a series.
- When Asakura of Mahou Sensei Negima first confronts Negi about being a mage, she immediately proposes the scenario of Negi becoming popular enough to have his own TV series, novels, and movies. Naturally, Negi was absolutely horrified about the idea and its repercussions.
- The start of volume 3 of Hidamari Sketch has the four girls discussing Yonkoma manga, the format of their own series. They try their hand at drawing it, with varying results. In the end, Miyako says, "Nothing around here happens that would make a good manga."
- Spider Riders: The episode "Hero Act" has the main characters viewing a play detailing the exploits of a legendary Spider Rider, only the real actors deciede to quite before the next showing. So Hunter (naturally) volunteers himself and Shadow as replacements. And as one would expect Character Exaggeration and bad acting ensues.
- In Rave Master there's a village of "manga-publishing demons", and one of them has a weekly series known as Rave Master, a story about a blond sword fighter with magical stones. It's apparently based off a true story. To the cast's despair, the characters are far from acurate (with the exception of Ruby).
- Parodied in an episode of Keroro Gunsou where they try to make an anime as part of one of Keroro's plans to invade the Earth.
- And Aki Hinata, manga editor, uses Keroro as the basis for a new series. Keroro, his mind and body reactions sped up from the rainy weather, reads one chapter...
Keroro: WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CRAP?! This 'Baron Keroro' character is a bufoon!!!
- In the first season of Slayers, Lina comes across a somewhat insane playwright who is producing a theatrical adaptation of her life. Given that Lina is also known as "The Dragon Spooker" and "The Natural Enemy of All That Live", she is portrayed as a terrifying monster in it.
- In an early episode of Pokémon, Pikachu is cast to star in a movie by an Akira Kurosawa look-alike. Ash is enthused but Misty responds "Who'd want to watch a film about us?" And the kicker? The episode takes place at close to the same time as Pokémon: The First Movie.
- In Monster, a Czech artist who has a puppet show with the premise identical to the series at large bemoans the lack of people's interest in his story, especially since he finds it to be so good.
- In Sket Dance, a manga artist wants to make a manga based on the Sket-dan. Eventually he decides that nobody would read that and does one based on the student council instead.
- Spider-Man was once asked to star in a movie about himself -- the offer turned out to be a trap set (somewhat ironically) by the Green Goblin, who made his debut in that issue.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man finds a movie about himself being made by none other than Sam Raimi, Avi Arad and starring Tobey Maguire. Since he is not an official entity of any kind and is not willing to reveal his secret identity, he is unable to stop the movie from going into production. The movie later becomes a hit, incorporating real life footage from the ensuing Spidey-Doctor Octopus fight, much to Peter Parker's chagrin. He ends up confronting the movie crew about this situation, but unfortunately does so utilizing his powers, mainly leaping about and sticking to things. The director simply has his crew start filming and he thanks Spidey for all the free footage he can now put, at no cost, into his film.
- This is further touted some arcs later when it is revealed that Magnificent Bastard Kingpin buys the company that produced the Spider-Man film and all merchandising rights. This means that every Spidey T-shirt and toy sold in the Ultimate Universe is funding the Kingpin's operations. And what is worse, Kingpin did it solely to spite Spidey.
- "Next, on Ultimate Spider-Man: Spidey sues the hell outta Sam Raimi for the mess that was Spider-Man 3!"
- In JMS Spider-Man, Aunt May jokes about someone making a movie about Spider-Man. Eventually they go to Los Angeles to visit Mary Jane, who is starring in a moving called "The Amazing Lobster-Man." Production is complicated by the filmmakers' debating whether the title character should be bitten by a radioactive lobster or something more important like a lobster god, and by Dr. Octopus.
- The Fantastic Four have also had this pulled on them; the villain behind it was the Sub-Mariner.
- She Hulk also had this pulled on her; the villain behind it was Warlord Krang. Waitaminute...
- Mojo used films of the X-Men as TV shows on his world. This became a problem when Onslaught had seemingly destroyed them all.
- In Astérix and the Cauldron, Astérix and Obélix are in need of money and discuss what to do:
Obélix: Suppose we tell stories about our adventures? People would pay to listen!
Astérix: I'm not much of a business man, but I have the feeling that that wouldn't work.
Obélix: We could call it The Adventures of Obelix the Gaul and...
Astérix: Oh, shut up.
- In Astérix and the Roman Agent, Impedimenta yells at Vitalstatitistix: "If anyone were fool enough to write the story of our village, you can bet they wouldn't call it The Adventures of Vitalstatistix the Gaul!"
- This is possibly unique among examples on this page in that it is accurate. The previous pitch, where Asterix shoots down the idea for a story about Obelix, is just garden-variety Dramatic Irony like almost everything here: the main characters of the series doubting that one of them is interesting enough to carry the series. Impedimenta and Vitalstatistix, though, really are secondary characters, and apparently they realize it!
- In Astérix and the Roman Agent, Impedimenta yells at Vitalstatitistix: "If anyone were fool enough to write the story of our village, you can bet they wouldn't call it The Adventures of Vitalstatistix the Gaul!"
- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck
- "The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff": At the end of their adventure, Scrooge's uncle (a writer of dime store novels, mostly grossly distorted retellings of his adventures with Scrooge with himself as The Hero) explains the details of his new project: "Imagine this -- my adventures told in a series of drawings, and the dialogue written in some kinda bubbles!"
Uncle Pothole: Nephew, how about if you finance my new magazine! I'd agree to make you one of my new characters!
Scrooge: Not a chance! Not only do I not have the money, no-one would be interested in reading the adventures of a rough and tumble prospector like me.
- In another story where Donald Duck makes some rather pitiful attempts to write a novel, and at first only gets ideas that have already been used in Romeo and Juliet and Moby Dick, which Huey, Dewey and Louie happily point out. Donald eventually turns to them and sarcastically suggests he could write about something no-one has thought of before: an average duck who lives with his three anoying nephews. The nephews are quick to tell him that the idea is simply too bad for anyone to think of it.
- Happens in the Angel sequel comics. After Los Angeles gets dragged to Hell and back, some bright spark gets the idea to do a movie based on Angel's adventures there -- which Angel and Spike go and see in the course of an adventure, and which has a Comic Book Adaptation in our world as an Angel annual.
- In the final issues of Milligan's Shade the Changing Man after DC had decided to cancel, Lenny is describing Shade to her father.
Lenny's father: What is he, Superman?
Lenny: If he were, his comic would probably be canceled.
(both look out of panel)
- In the third issue of Nodwick, Piffany asks Artax if he remembers the evil adventurers they defeated "about two months ago" (ie in #2):
Artax: Why yes, I often mull over that tale! In fact, I wish I had it in a printed form, about 32 pages long, with pictures, clever drawings, and even a letters page. I'd buy as many copies as I could for about three silvers each. They'd be a great gift for people of all ages!
- Y: The Last Man
- A theatre company stages a play called "The Last Man" that resembles the plot. When Yorick hears the ending, in which the last man commits suicide, he comments that it's a terrible ending.
- Later on, the same duo who wrote the play make a comic book about a world where all of the women except one are wiped out. Yorick reads it, and his response is "Meh."
- In the last issue of the 2004 miniseries Batman: Harley and Ivy, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy go to Hollywood and take over a movie of the same title--at first to skim off the production budget and revenge themselves on the leading actresses (who call Harley a "dumb blonde" and endorse perfume made from endangered flowers, respectively), but then Harley takes the director's place and revamps the film to include things like a bling-covered costume for herself and a Chew Toy Batman who requires a procession of stunt doubles. At the end, she's been allowed out of Arkham for long enough to accept an Oscar.
- A Billy & Mandy story in Cartoon Network Block Party has Grim conveniently using his scythe to find out what Nostradamus is talking about, prompting Mandy to turn to the reader and comment "Doesn't this comic have any standards?"
- In the comic strip Bloom County, Opus gets a job as a cartoonist, and is pitching Milo on ideas for a comic strip:
Opus: It stars two young boys, a guy in a wheelchair, a big-mouthed lawyer with sunglasses, a little hacker, a flightless Antarctic waterfowl, and a long-tongued, occasionally-dead Communist cat who barfs a lot.
Milo: Needs work.
- About the time Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy movie came out, there was a storyline in the comic strip about Tracy getting involved with a movie being made about his life, which somebody is trying to sabotage. The saboteur turns out to be The Blank, who is mad about being left out of the film -- very likely a comment on the fact that the villain of Beatty's film is The Blank In Name Only.
- Mad Magazine has engaged in a lot of this over the years. Often coupled with quite blatant Self-Deprecation.
- When The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out, Disney did a comic advertisement in Disney Adventures featuring the Gargoyles talking about how someone should make a movie or TV show about them. They laugh it off as a crazy idea.
- Dragonball Z Abridged gives us the Ginyu Force's Wheel of Death. The mere concept sends Vegeta's blood pressure through the roof again.
Vegeta: What kind of sadistic retard watches this crap?!
Frieza: Love this show.
- The Cat Tales Fan Fiction series by Chris Dee spends a great deal of time dismissing any Batman/Catwoman continuity the author dislikes as fabrication by a scurrilous tabloid or an equally irresponsible "true" crime writer named Frank Miller. But most recently, one of its spin-off series has had Batman having to protect the makers of a close facsimile of the most recent Batman movie from the Joker, and as usual footage from the resulting fight ends up in the movie.
- The whole series starts because of the Frank Miller continuity on Catwoman, which forces Selina Kyle to defend her good name. In an off-Broadway show.
- Catwoman even gets a chance to get even with "F. Miller" in a later story, with everyone you can think of helping out, including Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Oracle, and Batman. Not to mention Selina having a 'brainstorming' session with Joker, Two-Face, and a couple other Rogues. Hilarity Ensues.
Films -- Live-Action
- Dream On has a couple-episode plot of a movie being made of the protagonist's ex-wife's perfect husband's life. Protagonist falls in love with the woman playing his ex-wife.
- Also happened in Shanghai Knights, where Roy (Owen Wilson) tries to sell Jackie Chan's character, a Chinese cowboy named Chon Wang on the idea of the then-new "moving pictures", even going so far as to suggest, "You could do your own stunts!" In a slight subversion, Chon nods and replies:
Chon: Chon Wang, movie star? It could work.
- In The Two Towers, Sam speculates on what his and Frodo's adventures would look like in songs and tales, and Frodo laughs that off as a ridiculous idea.
- In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, when Jay and Silent Bob confront Holden over image rights for the upcoming Bluntman and Chronic movie, Holden says, "A Jay and Silent Bob movie? Who'd pay to see that?" (All three then glance silently at the camera, one of them nods slightly, Silent Bob grins comically.) Later, Alyssa (the female lead from Chasing Amy) says, "Chasing Amy? That would never work as a movie." At some point, Marshall Willenholly reacts to hearing a rather asinine plot point with, "Sounds like something out of a bad movie."
- Parodied in the Super Mario Bros Movie. Anyone who stuck around after the ending credits was treated to a clip of two Japanese businessmen talking to the two "heroes" offscreen, proposing to make a video game based on their adventure. The "heroes" are then revealed to be Iggy and Spike (King Koopa's nephews), whose suggested title for the game is "The Super Koopa Cousins".
- In the late second/early third act of Top Secret:
Nick Rivers: Listen to me Hillary. I'm not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to her childhood lover who she last saw on a deserted island who then turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground.
Hillary Flammond: I know. It all sounds like some bad movie.
(long pause; both look at camera)
Miri: No-one wants to see us fuck, Zack.
Zack: Everybody wants to see anybody fuck!
- In In Bruges, in a way: the protagonists meet a dwarf who's working on a film which mirrors the ending of In Bruges. He describes the film within the film as "a jumped-up Eurotrash piece of fucking bullshit."
- Pee Wee's Big Adventure ends with a producer turning his story into a movie - an action thriller with James Brolin as "P.W.", Morgan Fairchild as his geeky girl-pal Dottie, and a high-end motorcycle as his bike. He leaves early at the premiere:
Dottie: But Pee-Wee, don't you wanna watch the rest of the movie?
Pee-Wee: I don't have to watch it, Dottie...I've lived it!
- A serious version appears in The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo and Sam spend some time discussing whether or not their adventure would make a good story in the future, and who would be people's favourite character. More importantly, they wonder if it has a happy ending.
- Adrian Mole
- At the end of Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the protagonist's wife asks him why he's starting another diary despite having just ended the previous one saying that "diaries are only for unhappy people". Adrian replies he is thinking of writing an autobiography but his wife says that other people would find him uninteresting.
- This was inverted in Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years where Barry Kent writes a novel named Dork's Diary with a loser protagonist named "Aiden Vole". The book becomes a best selling success, much to Adrian's chagrin.
- Combined with Literary Agent Hypothesis in Jennings Goes to School:
Jennings: [Mr Carter]'s super screwy-squared! Why, I bet you a million pounds no-one would ever want to read about chaps like us!
Mr Carter: (overhearing) Wouldn't they? I'm not so sure...
- In one of the books about The Littles, Lucy Little wrote to an author of books about giants suggesting she write a book about little people with tails. The writer likes the idea of little people, but finds the idea of them having tails silly.
- In Merry Wives of Maggody, a Deadpan Snarker dismisses the possibility that an inquisitive visitor might be writing a book about the town, on the grounds that nobody would want to read one.
- They do this in Walker, Texas Ranger, where Trevet, using another one of his Get Rich Quick Scheme suggests they make a show about their lives as Texas Rangers. The rest of the cast wave him off. However they do play with the idea of who would play their characters if the show was real, ironically using their actual actors names.
- During the first series of Big Brother Australia, the contestants had to write a song about their time in the house. The song ended up revolving around this trope.
- Seinfeld: NBC execs are skeptical about Jerry and George's "show about nothing" idea. Which resulted in a Defictionalization of something that already really existed. Jerry and George's concept represented Seinfeld itself, but later on it became Curb Your Enthusiasm.
- Mid-nineties Venezuelan Soap Opera Los Amores de Anita Peña (roughly "Anita Peña's Beloveds"), after an All Just a Dream revelation, spends half of its last episode with the title protagonist telling a man (the original author and main writer of the show, in a cameo) all her (dreamed) history. Later, the man is seen presenting "his" idea in a meeting with producers and executives of the TV channel which actually produced and broadcast the soap opera... and the meeting ends with the writer literally kicked out, his idea dismissed. Since this show, while very funny and based on the subversion and parody of every trope related to the Latin American take on soap operas, was not as popular as the executives wanted, it can be seen as a subtle revenge or as the awful truth.
- Arrested Development ends with Maeby pitching her story to Ron Howard, who says he doesn't "see it as a series -- maybe a movie." And five years later... the fandom rejoiced.
- In an episode of the lampshade-riffic Community, Abed and Troy use this virtually word-for-word with reference to their fake morning show, "Troy and Abed in the Morning."
- ALF: In one episode, after confessing over the phone using his "real name" Gordon Shumway, to an NBC executive about having manipulated the ratings readings of his favorite show to prevent it from being cancelled, Alf suggests the idea of making a show about "a lovable alien who crashes into Earth and lives with a human family". The exec immediately dismisses the idea claiming it's "too far-fetched".
- Stargate SG-1
- The 100th and 200th episodes of deal with Wormhole X-treme, a TV series created by an alien based upon his subconscious knowledge (his memories had previously been erased) of the Stargate Program. The two Wormhole X-treme episodes are exercises in wall-to-wall Lampshade Hanging (indeed, in "200" the producer character even references that trope, though he calls it "hang[ing] a lantern on it"), taking great and obvious joy in spoofing every Stargate trope they possibly can, and laden with vast numbers of in-jokes and shout outs. Not to mention that the production crew of Wormhole X-treme is actually the crew of Stargate SG-1 too. In a statement that makes you wonder about the entire series, the US Airforce decides not to axe Wormhole X-Treme as it will give them Plausible Deniability. Anyone coming forward with details of the Stargate program or other alien encounters can be accused of having watched the show. Hmmmm...
- Another episode, "Citizen Joe", features a barber receiving psychic flashes of Jack O'Neill's missions and writing them as short stories. He submits them to literary magazines, all of which turn the stories down. However, one can easily tell which episode he is referring to, because his titles, like "Holiday" and "Hathor" are the same as the titles of the episodes all those seasons back. At the end of the episode, the cast realizes that O'Neill has spent the past few years having psychic flashes of being a barber. When asked why he never told them, he answers, "It was relaxing."
- In the last Blackadder the Third episode, despite being unaware of the future medium of television, Edmund nonetheless hopes that "Hundreds of years from now I want episodes from my life to be played out weekly at half past nine by some great heroic actor of the age." (To which Baldrick replies: "And I could be played by a tiny tit in a beard.")
- In one episode of Farscape a producer of virtual reality "game blobs" uses the memories of Crichton to produce a game based upon the adventures of him and Moya's crew... leading to a rather bizzare episode that begins with Crichton being rescued from Scorpius by a minigun-toting Stark and only gets stranger from there.
- The X-Files episode "Hollywood A.D." has "The Lazarus Bowl", an episode where a movie is being made about Mulder and Scully (and getting them very wrong). The real Tea Leoni, David Duchovny's wife, was cast as Scully. When Scully observes that Leoni seems to have a crush on Mulder, he scoffs: "Like Tea Leoni would ever be attracted to me." When discussing about who to cast as Mulder, he suggests Richard Gere. Garry Shandling was cast instead.
- The OC has a long-running in-world version of their show, The Valley. They go out of their way to create similarities between the shows: The Summer character is named April, the Seth character ad-libs his lines, the Seth and Summer actors dated in "real life," until they broke up, a reality show about "The Real Valley" was created after Laguna Beach happened. Was lampshaded in the series finale, when Summer states that The Valley had been picked up for seven more seasons.
- Boy Meets World has an episode where Eric becomes an actor on a Boy Meets Word-style sitcom. The sets from Boy Meets World are shown as actual sets, and it is explained that the classroom is made to look bigger through camera angles.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys has two episodes that used this premise as a plot: "Yes Viriginia, There is a Hercules" from season 4 and "For Those Of You Just Joining Us" from season 5.
- In one episode of The Lucy Show, Lucy mistakes actor/producer Sheldon Leonard for a bank robber and sets traps for him. After the requisite hijinks and clearing-up of misunderstandings, Leonard confesses that Lucy's antics gave him an idea for a new TV show about a "kooky redheaded girl" who "gets into all sorts of impossible situations" but instantly dismisses it as too unbelievable. This was in 1967, making it a fairly old example.
- Early Edition Chuck tries pitching a series about a guy who gets tomorrow's newspaper with no success.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Far Beyond the Stars" does some Fourth Wall busting by presenting a Black sci-fi writer in the 1950's who comes up with a great idea about an alien space station commanded by a Black man. Of course, his editors reject the stories.
- In Corner Gas, Hank describes what Brent's life would be like if it were a TV show, causing him to respond:
- In the Kamen Rider Den-O Spin-Off Imagin Anime, one episode of the second season has the Taros' cast as the staff of their own show, coming up with the idea for it while sleep deprived, bored and desperate. The short ends with a card stating "Who knew the show would still be on the air two years later?"
- Both Married... with Children and Sanford and Son had plots in which unscrupulous TV executives stole their lives and made a sitcom out of it.
- In Sanford and Son's case, a cousin of Rollo's creates a show about a Jewish version of Fred's life. When asked why he didn't just make it a black version, the cousin replied this trope's title as Fred turns to the camera in disbelief. Of course the Sanfords already are the "black version", of the English Steptoe and Son.
- It turns out that a prophet has been writing a book series about Sam and Dean (with titles the same as those of the respective episodes). It was only popular with a cult following, and got cancelled after "No Rest for the Wicked" (the book). In "The Real Ghostbusters", Chuck says the book series is going to be revived. That's about a third of the way through Season 5.
- There's also a couple of incompetent ghost hunters who make a film including Sam and Dean, and on one occasion Sam and Dean rescue a Hollywood director from a ghost and he gets inspiration for his movie from that.
- And again when Sam and Dean are transported to an alternate universe... where they're actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles on a TV show called Supernatural.
Dean: Why would anybody want to watch our lives?
Sam: Well, I mean, according to the interviewer, not very many people do.
- In That's So Raven, when Eddy gains psychic powers and one of his many friends he gained with this suggests that he gets his own show, Raven comments: "That is ridiculous! Who'd want to watch a show about a teenage psychic?" along with an Aside Glance.
- In Flight of the Conchords, the last episode has the protagonists appearing in a musical as themselves. The real Bret and Jemaine play themselves in the show, so it's two guys playing themselves playing themselves.
- In the Numb3rs episode "Graphic", after Don and Charlie have returned a rare comic to its artist, said artist begins drawing them and suggests a complete comic series about an FBI agent and his Mathematician brother. Cue Don's line of "Aw, no-one would believe it."
- A long-running plot in The L Word concerns Jenny's writing of a novel which is a thinly-disguised autobiography with very unflattering (though fairly accurate) depictions of all the other characters. It's a huge success, and gets picked up to be made into a film, which leads to a very confusing fifth season in which we see the original characters hanging out with the actresses playing the fictional versions of the characters, and also some reconstructions of the events of the first season played out with different actresses and slightly different dialogue... designed to make Jenny look good, of course.
- Recent promos for USA Network's Psych have Shawn and Gus wrestling with this question.
- At the end of one Murder, She Wrote episode set around a TV studio, one of the characters proposes The J.B. Fletcher Mystery Hour, a series based on the true-life adventures of a crime-solving author.
Jessica: I don't write gunfights, car chases or bedroom scenes, so who would watch?
- Series/Baywatch spent an episode on this. In the end the show isn't picked up for national broadcast but does get sold to foreign markets.
- On a notoriously anvilicious episode of Saved by the Bell, "No Hope with Dope", someone from NBC suggested producing a show about high school kids while creating an anti-drug use PSA with the gang. They all remarked that it was a bad idea. Saved by the Bell was on, of course, NBC.
- One episode of One Foot in the Grave has the Meldrews' cleaner writing a play about their life, which is then acted out on stage by actors suspiciously similar to the real Meldrews. Everything that happens in the play actually happened to the "real" Meldrews, including the utterly unexplained appearance of a giant, lifelike housefly, but a producer who has come to watch the show claims it's utterly unrealistic and silly, and refuses to endorse it for a "proper" theatre.
- Black Books:
(discussing what film to see at the cinema)
Bernard: Whats this? "Blue Tunes - Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver...
Fran: Oh, I hate her.
Bernard: "...Grouchy Leonard Blue runs a second hand record shop with his half-wit mustachioed assistant Danny. (Manny tuts) When this zany pair team up with bitchy, neurotic neighbour Pam things are sure to be a riot of laughs". Where do they get this crap?
- The Power Rangers Dino Thunder episode "Lost and Found in Translation" plays with this, turning an episode of Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger into a Japanese TV series based off of the Dino Thunder Rangers. Conner initially dislikes it because he thinks they're making fun of the Rangers, but eventually he recognizes it as different, but not bad. This was intended as a poke at the "Sentai purists" who despise Power Rangers as an embarassment to Super Sentai; ironically, their attitude towards this episode was nearly identical to Conner's In-Universe reaction.
- In Blossom, a friend of the family who's a producer tries to start a show based on their lives, called "Rosie". Blossom's best friend Six gets cast as the lead, causing a good bit of jealousy, but several rounds of Executive Meddling distort the show to where it eventually becomes a show about a crime-solving chimpanzee.
- In one episode of Drake and Josh, Drake watches a TV show called Drew and Jerry (who were their friends) with Josh. The actual show had the EXACT SAME premise as the fictional one. They end up laughing at how stupid it was and saying "Who would watch this?"
- In the beginning of an episode of Coach, the coaching staff is discussing their lives as a TV show. When Hayden asks who'd want to watch a show about Minnesota football coaches, Luther and Dauber both say they'd watch it. Hayden immediately points out they're both Minnesota football coaches.
- The game show Clash (Ha!/Comedy Central, 1991) had host Billy Kimball addressing an issue about a question asked "because if we don't, we're going to get a letter from our viewer."
- In the Zero Mostel episode of The Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf watch television. They change channels, and:
Statler: WHAT is THAT?!
Waldorf: It looks like two ancient old guys sitting in a theatre box watching television!
Statler: That's crazy! No one would watch junk like that!
- In a more meta-example, in the Senor Wences episode, upon hearing Kermit's explanation on puppets (dolls being made to move about), Gonzo comments on how stupid that sounds and that he would never try it.
- In Thunderbirds, Scott and Virgil are offered a chance to star in a movie about Martians, to which Scott replies "I guess we're not the movie star type." Despite this, they became stars in not one but two movies afterwards.
- In Season 3 of Bleak Expectations, Pip writes his autobiography: My Life And Some Or Indeed Most Of The Things That Have Happened In It Up To A Certain Point By Pip Bin. The publisher likes it, but isn't sure about the title:
Printy Bookington: Let's change it to something a bit more snappy like, er, Bleak Expectations.
Pip Bin: Doesn't work.
- The musical Avenue Q, about a recent college graduate named Princeton looking for his purpose in life while struggling through post-college poverty, ends with another recent college graduate showing up. Princeton realizes he could really teach this person something about life after college, and realizes his purpose is to take everything he's learned and put it into a Broadway show. Brian comments "Are you high?" and the kid flips him off and runs away.
- The epilogue to Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door shows White Dwarf Starlet Flurrie making a triumphant return to the stage in a stage adaptation of the game's events. We see her and a Mario stand-in AKA Doopliss fighting a battle on a stage (which looks identical to every other battle in the game, all which inexplicably take place on a stage in front of an audience).
- Guild Wars Nightfall
- The Player Character is invited to a play based on the plot of the first campaign, Prophecies.
- And if you finish Nightfall, your companion Norgu (an actor and playwright) invites you to see his latest work, "Norgu's Nightfall".
- The hero of Shining Force comes across an (extremely) short play about himself. Except this is in an neutral nation, and he's cast as a weakling. Once he saves the village, though, the play is rewritten with him as the hero.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater: Snake Eater, in a conversation about films, Para-Medic tells Snake that in the future there will be films where you control the characters. Snake responds by expressing his disbelief.
- Mass Effect 2 uses this for a brief gag. While passing through cities, you can hear advertisements for Citadel, a movie adaptation of the events of the first game. From the snippets we hear... it's not good.
Actor: THEY'RE SEALING THE STATION!!!
- Bang turns down the hermit's offer for an apprenticeship at the end of Clash at Demonhead so he can make a game based on his adventure.
- Mentioned in Red vs. Blue. As Tucker puts it, who'd want to watch them, as all they ever do is stand around and talk.
- Used in this strip, where Jazz and Bumblebee of the Transformers watch Pixar's Cars and complain about the silliness of a planet of vehicles without any drivers.
- There's a followup gag strip for Cars 2 in which they also poke fun at a race of machines with two genders but a seeming 20:1 male:female ratio.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Zoe retells her friends' adventures on the radio, only changing their names slightly (Gwen instead of Gwynn, for example). Her friends are all humiliated by this, with Riff being extra-pissed that she claims he threw poop at a monkey. He actually built a poop-hurling ballista (giant crossbow).
- Gene Catlow uses it in the last two panels of this strip.
- This strip of Brawl in the Family has taken this and manages to make it even more meta- than it already is.
- In Schlock Mercenary, the title amorph sells the image rights to make a TV show about Tagon's Toughs. No-one's too impressed to begin with; less so when it turns out they went with a kids' show where the Toughs are melonheaded cartoon characters enacting plots that have almost nothing to do with actual events. Comes back to bite them once when Schlock tries to join a circus as part of an undercover operation only to find out that the circus had amorphs who are now all out of work because none of them can compete with what his cartoon alter-ego can do.
- In Sabrina Online, Sabrina is either oblivious or in complete denial that her webcomic is a thinly-veiled retelling of the eponymous webcomic.
- The Powerpuff Girls: An episode features a con-artist "director" allegedly making a movie about the girls. (The initial broadcast of this episode was suspiciously close to the release of the actual movie.)
- Kaeloo and Stumpy discuss Stumpy's bedtime story the morning after in Let's Play Once Upon a Time, eliciting this response from Mr. Cat.
Kaeloo: You know, Stumpy, I'm really happy you made me a superhero!
Stumpy: I was thinking... Frog, transforms, when she gets mad... I think it'd make a pretty dope kids' show.
Mr. Cat: (looks up from newspaper at viewer) Who in their right mind would watch crap like that?
- A Kim Possible episode called "And the Molerat Will Be CGI". Written around the then-planned live-action KP movie, which eventually became "So the Drama". Kim is surprised that anyone would want to make a movie about her, and not at all bothered when it gets cancelled at the end of the episode.
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In the episode called "Who's Running the Show?", Ted Turner (playing himself) proposes making a series about the central pollution-fighting hero team. Wheeler replies, "It has a nice ring to it."
- Codename: Kids Next Door offers a variant: "Cable TV" sees a guy giving the KND a TV show, which turns out be a saccharine Variety Show. They end up having to stop the guy from turning everyone into children (long story) using his de-aging device and their satellite network -- he offered the KND a show to get access to the satellites.
- In Re Boot, they had a group called the Mainframe Strolling Players, who would re-enact moments of the series as "True Stories of Mainframe". A Running Gag that averted the general use of this trope, but done most memorably at the end of the third season with a musical recap of the season that parodied "The Major General Song" from The Pirates of Penzance.
- In Men in Black the series, an episode ends with the Worm characters shown to have gone to Hollywood to make a movie called Men In Black. The clip of it has a Jay and Kay made to resemble more their movie counterparts. Unlike the real movie, though, the Worms themselves took a lead role....
K: Looks like we have to neuralize Hollywood. Again.
J: So that's why they keep making the same movies over and over!
- Done twice in Jackie Chan Adventures, both involving Jade pitching the idea of a show based on her uncle's kung-fu hijinks. Jackie however doesn't want to be a Hollywood star (a contrast to the real Jackie Chan) and in the end things happen that stall any talk of a show.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: "The Ember Island Players" has the main characters viewing a play detailing their exploits up to that point, as based on the accounts of "singing nomads, pirates, prisoners of war, and a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage". Their displeasure begins with their own Character Exaggeration:
- Aang as a Woman (actually a small woman playing a boy a la Peter Pan -- and in a case of life imitating art, a woman did many of Aang's stunts in the live-action movie);
- Katara as a much older (and chubbier/fuller) melodramatic ham;
- Sokka as an idiot only concerned with food; Sokka's only offended that his punchlines aren't more varied.
- some obvious Ho Yay;
- and putting Zuko's scar on the wrong side of his face, along with an obsession with Honor... well more than the real thing.
- As for the playwright's Shipping habits, Zutara makes The Hero cry and the characters in question cringe. Hilarity Ensues. And so do grief and regret.
- However, Toph, being such a Tomboy, was completely fine with being portrayed as a huge hulking man. Which was also a minor Mythology Gag, since "huge hulking man" was the original plan for Toph. (The character design was reused as The Boulder, a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of professional wrestler The Rock.)
- It should be noted the whole thing was basically a propaganda play for the Fire Nation. Characters like Ozai and Azula are portrayed as heroes. (Though the play isn't done from their perspective. If anything, the Gaang is portrayed as comedic Villain Protagonists.) The play itself ends with the Gaang being killed and the Fire Nation taking over the world, which is met with wild cheers from the audience. The real Gaang is quite disturbed once they realize this.
- Darkwing Duck episode "Kung Fooled" ends with Darkwing discussing an offer he received to do a thirty-minute martial arts instuctional home video, to which Gosalyn responds: "Who would wanna watch you for a half an hour?"
- One episode of the extremely creepy stop-motion comedy What Its Like Being Alone has the character Aldous having nightmares that she was a stop-motion animated doll. We also got a shot of who was "behind" the fourth wall: puppeteers in black top hats, with monocles and long cigarette-holders, cackling maniacally.
- The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: Juniper Lee gets cast for a TV show about herself fighting monsters in "Star Quality".
- Alias the Jester had a tongue-in-cheek version in which robbers pose as a documentary film crew to get access to the castle. Almost too late, the time-traveller protagonist realises what's been bothering him all episode: this is the Middle Ages, so film hasn't been invented yet!
- Batman Beyond: In "Out of the Past", Terry takes Bruce to watch Batman the Musical. He is not amused, not least because it more resembles the '60s TV show than his own life.
Bruce: (deadpan) You hate me, don't you.
Terry: Come on, lighten up, it's your birthday.
Bruce: Don't remind me.
Terry: Hey, it took me weeks to get tickets to this show. It's shway!
Bruce: It's shw-arbage.
- A particularly recursive example: The Real Ghostbusters has an episode called "Take Two", in which the first Ghostbusters movie is supposedly being made. Points that were altered in the animated series are lampshaded as "inaccuracies" in a fictionalized account of the main characters' adventures. The broadcast version even used actual clips from the film to represent the movie, although these were later cut for syndication.
Peter Venkman: That guy [[[Bill Murray]]] doesn't look a thing like me.
- In the episode "The Making of Arthur", an animalized version of Matt Damon comes to Elwood City after a video contest, which Arthur loses. Interested in Arthur's life, he has an idea for a new show. Cue the theme song.
- "Buster's Growing Grudge" used this literally, with Buster and Binky speculating that their comedy skills could get them their own TV show:
Buster: You and me and Arthur...
Binky: Us maybe. But I don't know about Arthur. Who'd want to watch him on TV?
- In the Code Lyoko episode "Contact", Odd offers to Sissi a role in his next film, which is about "... a girl, driven by a mysterious being, who tries to make contact with humans, all of which takes place in a virtual universe full of danger." (which is what just happened in the episode). Sissi's response: "No-one would ever believe such a ridiculous story."
- Cat Dog once did a gag revolving around the popularity of its characters. One character is told that no-one likes him. Cut to some (live-action) children watching the show saying "We do!".
- Subverted; The Drinky Crow Show has the characters inventing theatre (it's that kind of show) after realizing that Drinky's story of losing his girlfriend is captivating, in a tragic way. The local townspeople LOVE it.
- The Simpsons have flirted with this at various times.
- Either the family gets famous ("A Simpson on a tee-shirt? I never thought I'd see the day") or the Simpsons is symbolized by Itchy and Scratchy ("What? Cartoons don't have any meaning. It's just stuff that happens, like people getting hurt and stuff. Stuff like that. OUCH!")
- To say nothing of the many potshots taken at Fox.
- The Movie: "I can't believe we're paying to see something we get on TV for free! If you ask me, everybody in this theater is a giant sucker! Especially you!"
- A gag in Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi features the girls sitting down for a rest after a long day of trying to please an unseen producer who wanted to change their cartoon in verious ways. They turn on the TV and see their live-action counterparts sitting with their animated manager. The girls wonder who those two women are, and who would want to watch a show with them in it.
- "Someday maybe I'll have my own TV show like Edgar Eagle. We'll call it Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog!"
- Pinky and The Brain:
Brain: Pinky, who would want to read about two lab mice trying to take over the world? Who would want to read about my failures?
Pinky: Oh, believe me, Brain, to a human, our nightly exploits would be a humorous diversion that would magically transmute the dreary workaday world into a fanciful realm of zany hijinks!
- In another episode, Brain is trying to take over the world with a new TV pilot. At the end, their main competitors end up with the job, and create a show about 2 lab mice trying to take over the world.
- After watching a cartoon he couldn't stand, Johnny Test asks the question, "A cartoon about a boy, his dog, and his genius older twins? Who would watch that?" Then he and Dukey look at the screen.
- Time Squad: The episode, "Child's Play" had Shakespeare create children's plays. While looking for a new idea, the Time Squad introduce themselves, with Shakespeare replying that, while the premise isn't exactly new, the characters are interesting. His plays end up being ruined by Larry (who acts as a Moral Guardian) and Shakespeare's agent wanting the plays to be merchandise-driven.
- Episode 19 of Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated has the Rodney Dangerfield-like producer of a reality show muse about the potential of a show about meddling kids and their dog trapping knuckleheads in rubber masks; the gang's response is to laugh and say "Naaahhhh!!!" in unison after which the man says that nobody in their right minds would want to see that.
- A blink and you'll miss it example in Danny Phantom, where Danny, after his identity is exposed, finds that a comic about his exploits has already been released. He complains about how no one asked for his approval.
- A sorta-kinda example in an episode of Rocko's Modern Life; After Peaces fails to bring Heifer to Heck, he is punished by being forced to star in a show called "Peaches' Modern Life". Rocko, Heifer and Filbert watch the program and mention how lousy it is.
- This was actually used in a 1963 Krazy Kat animated series. Kokonino Kounty is bankrupt and characters start throwing suggestions on how to gain money. Ignatz suggest that they sell themselves to television. Officer Pup laughs it out, only for Ignatz to throw a brick at him and say "Go ahead and laugh! They laughed at Al Brodax, too!"
- In an episode of Johnny Test, Johnny mocks the idea of "a show about a kid whose sisters do weird experiments on him."
- At the end of the Mr. Magoo short "When Magoo Flew", Magoo remarks that there was no cartoon with the movie he was watching (actually an airplane flight).
Magoo: Do you ever run those cartoons about that ridiculous, little, nearsighted old man? You know the one that goes...(performs his trademark grumble).
What a mess. Who'd want to read this page?