When movies or TV shows need an establishing shot of the characters watching TV, especially when it has no bearing on the plot, the producers will often try to save money by having the characters watch something whose rights they don't have to license.

So all too often, what you'll see is people incongruously watching old, old, ''old'' programming that hasn't even been shown in UsefulNotes/{{syndication}} since the late 1980s, like silent movies or, more often, ancient [[Creator/FleischerStudios Max Fleischer]] or [[Creator/{{Terrytoons}} Paul Terry]] cartoons for that extra visual kick. For bonus incongruity, sometimes it will be out of character for the character to even be watching the show in question.

Though they often occur for different reasons, this trope is sometimes related to PacManFever. May sometimes overlap with TheresNoBInMovie, as cheapie genre films from before 1964 are particularly likely to have lapsed into the PublicDomain. So have some telefilms, such as ''[[http://www.archive.org/details/The_Woman_Hunter.avi The Woman Hunter]]'' from 1972.


[[folder: Film ]]

* Will Ferrell's character in ''Film/WeddingCrashers'' is introduced watching old cartoons in his mother's house.
* ''Film/KillBillVol2'' ends with a character watching a 1946 Heckle and Jeckle cartoon.
* A kid watches the old cartoon "Balloon Land" in ''Film/MerlinsShopOfMysticalWonders''.
* A teenager watches Creator/HaroldLloyd's ''Film/TheFreshman'' in an early scene in ''The Haunting In Connecticut''.
* Many characters are seen watching ''Film/NightOfTheLivingDead1968'' in ''Film/HalloweenII1981''.
** Laurie Strode watches more PDTV in ''[[Film/HalloweenII2009 Rob Zombie's Halloween II]]''.
* In ''Film/TheGarbagePailKidsMovie'', the title characters sneak into a movie theater showing Film/TheThreeStooges shorts. The movie was made (and set) in 1987.
* In the movie ''Film/KillingZoe'', during the early sex scene between protagonists Zed and Zoe, the hotel television plays the silent classic ''Film/{{Nosferatu}}''.
* Creator/AnthonyHopkins is seen watching ''Film/NightOfTheLivingDead1968'' in the film ''Film/{{Proof}}''.
* The Three Stooges short ''[[Recap/TheThreeStoogesBridelessGroom Brideless Groom]]'' (one of the four that fell into public domain) is seen in ''Film/PulpFiction'', being watched by Eric Stoltz's character. Interestingly enough, Quentin Tarantino wasn't allowed to show The Three Stooges onscreen since their likenesses were copyrighted; he used the scene where Emil Sitka has a birdcage smashed on his head. Sitka even gets a mention in the closing credits as "Hold Hands, You Love Birds!" (his line in the excerpt shown).
* Cici Cooper (Creator/SarahMichelleGellar) was watching this in ''Film/{{Scream 2}}'', including the original silent ''Film/{{Nosferatu}}''.
* ''Film/GhostDogTheWayOfTheSamurai'' has old cartoons playing somewhere in almost every scene featuring [[TheMafia the Vargo family]], symbolic of their bumbling and (relative) toothlessness. [[spoiler:After Louise takes over and has Ghost Dog killed, her last act in the film is to turn them off.]]
* ''Film/BubbaHoTep'' has an interesting example. At one point, a TV is showing an ad for a marathon of Elvis movies. But the movie was too low-budget to afford Elvis movies, and so it's a bunch of Elvis-looking public domain clips.
* Appears near the end of ''Film/{{Thankskilling}}''
* Two segments in ''Film/CampfireTales1991'' feature public domain films playing on television sets. The one about the dangerous weed appropiately has the characters watching ''Film/ReeferMadness'' at one point.
* ''Film/TwilightZoneTheMovie'' features a clip from a Heckle and Jeckle cartoon on TV at one point. This one is a bit more justified, due to the fact that [[RealityWarper Anthony]] could just will the TV into automatically playing old school cartoons.
* ''Film/ShortCircuit'' has Number 5 watching a Three Stooges short on TV while he tries to make pancakes for Stephanie.


[[folder: Live-Action TV ]]

* ''Series/{{Lost}}'':
** When they hold Jack prisoner, The Others let him watch an old Heckle and Jeckle cartoon on a TV set they provide.
** In the fifth season premiere Aaron is shown watching an episode of the public domain [[WesternAnimation/SupermanTheatricalCartoons Superman]] shorts.
* Bobbi Stakowski is shown watching an old Three Stooges clip in the pilot episode of ''Series/{{Profit}}''. The creators admit it wasn't a likely choice for her character but they didn't have a licensing budget.
* In a related move, many TV documentaries and biography shows will use footage from a theatrical trailer rather than the film itself. Even if studios carefully protected the copyrights for their movies, most of the trailers were ignored and fell into public domain.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'' pulled this all the damn time. In the episode "[[Recap/TheXFilesS03E13Syzygy Syzygy]]" the televisions in Mulder and Scully's hotel rooms play nothing but ''[[Creator/KeystoneStudios The Keystone Kops]]'' 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on every single channel. This is implied to have been caused by the [[MonsterOfTheWeek supernatural forces of the week]], and gives the distinct impression that the TV is deliberately mocking our heroes.
* In ''Series/{{Buffy|the Vampire Slayer}}'', Faith was often watching old movies in her motel room.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The TV movie shows the morgue guard watching ''Film/{{Frankenstein|1931}}'', which seems to match the trope, but the movie was used for a reason (to compare to the Doctor coming back to life) and the movie is not public domain -- the rights are owned by Universal, who produced the TV movie.
** In [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E10Midnight "Midnight"]], the entertainment screens on the shuttle bus only show old black-and-white movies. Unlike most examples of the trope, the characters are aware that they're old movies, and aren't especially entertained.
** In the opening [[Recap/DoctorWhoS32E1TheImpossibleAstronaut "The Impossible Astronaut"]], Rory is watching a Creator/LaurelAndHardy movie, ''Film/TheFlyingDeuces'', which is out of copyright. Presumably this has something to do with the fact that the Doctor shows up in it briefly to wave at him -- getting permission to alter something under copyright is going to be a lot more difficult than merely getting permission to show a clip from it. The other reason is probably because of the [[CoolHat fezzes]].
* Christopher Moltisanti watches an episode of ''Film/TheLittleRascals'' while getting high on ''Series/TheSopranos''.
* This was a regular occurence on Series/PeeWeesPlayhouse, with the "King of Cartoons" (although some early season one episodes called him "King Cartoon"), although he was eventually dropped towards the end of the series, with later episodes just playing cartoons.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* In ''VideoGame/TheDarkness'', there are several televisions around the area. On one of the channels, an old Max Fleischer cartoon is playing. Near the start of the game, you can watch the ''entirety'' of ''Film/ToKillAMockingbird'' in the love interest's apartment. You can watch ''Film/TheStreetfighter'' in its entirety as well.
* In ''VideoGame/TheXFilesGame'', you could turn on televisions which showed ''The Keystone Kops'', which is a [[CallBack reference to a much earlier episode]], "[[Recap/TheXFilesS03E13Syzygy Syzygy]]". There, the old movie was actually a metaphor for how off-base the agents were in their investigation.


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* The opening title sequence of ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'' always included a different clip of an old cartoon.
** Though in one episode they used a clip from ''Series/TheTraceyUllmanShow'' era ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' shorts, and in another they used the TitleSequence of the show itself.
* Tn the ''WesternAnimation/JimmyNeutron'' episode "The Incredible Shrinking Town", everyone tries to adjust to their new heights in various ways. One scene has Jimmy's parents watching a "drive-in movie" in a toy car, the movie being ''[[WesternAnimation/MaxFleischersGulliversTravels Gulliver's Travels]]''.


[[folder: Real Life ]]

* American Creator/{{PBS}} stations in the 1980s and early '90s effectively became this trope around Christmastime, thanks to the constant broadcasts of ''It's a Wonderful Life'', which was in the public domain at the time.
** This tradition ended when it was found that the story on which it was based, ''The Greatest Gift'', is still copyrighted. Now Creator/{{NBC}} is the sole home of the film, which only plays it around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
* ''ChillerTV'' sometimes runs ''Film/NightOfTheLivingDead1968'' and ''Film/HouseOnHauntedHill1959'' to plug in time slots.