Word of God says that the world of The Walking Dead is a world that lacks the entire history of zombie fiction. In season two Glen offhandedly mentions that he used to play Portal, which suggests that in the world of Walking DeadValve exists, but the Left 4 Dead series does not.
On Diagnosis: Murder, Amanda Bentley has a Contest Winner Cameo on The Young and the Restless and both her colleagues at the hospital and the crew of YatR comment on her resemblance to Victoria Rowell, who actually was a regular cast member of that series.
When Detective Sloan is talking to a TV producer who lists off several shows including Airwolf. The stop for a moment then continue on like nothing happened.
And adding onto the confusion, Catherine had already played Donna Noble, the Doctor's companion in the 2006 Christmas special, who came back full-time for the 2008 series. Apparently Lauren Cooper missed The Runaway Bride and was killed off before she could watch series 4 and notice the woman who looks just like her traveling through space with a Time Lord who looks just like her English teacher.
In season two of House, the title character gets mocked for some of the shows that are saved on his Tivo. One of them, seen briefly but not mentioned, is Blackadder, in which Hugh Laurie played a few major characters twenty years earlier.
And in the series finale, House mentions Dead Poets Society, where a young Robert Sean Leonard (Dr. Wilson) starred. This is particularly strange since there was a whole subplot in a previous episode where House successfully recognizes an actor in a porno as a young Wilson and yet he doesn't comment that the guy in Dead Poets Society looks a lot like him as well...
Similar to above, in a Halloween episode of Castle the title character dresses up as Malcolm Reynolds, who was played by Nathan Fillion. He refers to his costume as a "space cowboy" and his daughter points out that he wore that same costume like five years ago, around the time Serenity was released.
"Don't you think you should move on?"
"I like it."
Also, Castle learned to speak Mandarin Chinese from "from a TV show [he] use to love."
Also referred to as "That Joss Whedon show" in "The Final Frontier" when he's listing sci-fi shows he considers good. Explains his choice in Halloween costumes in a previous episode, at least.
In the same episode, as soon as he finds out about the murder at the 'con, his reply is "Shiny!".
It's also implied that Martha has had at least some of the roles Susan Sullivan has had in real life, explicitly her role in The Incredible Hulk pilot movie. Though Martha is an actress, so one can assume that in-universe she simply played all the roles that Susan Sullivan did.
In one of the Halloween episodes Buffy is mentioned. If Nathan Fillion is not around, who is it that played Caleb in season seven?
Assuming the Richard Castle twitter feed is canon, Fillion DOES exist in the Castle universe and is one of Richard's favorite actors. Presumably, the somewhat egotistical author felt an attachment to the actor who looks like him.
And assuming you consider viral promos as canon, there exists one promo video where Castle tells the viewers, "And if you run into Nathan Fillion, tell him he still owes me money for beating him at poker!"
In the Michael Connelly novel The Drop Bosch's daughter mentioned watching episodes of Castle. One wonder's who Castle plays poker with in that version.
MacGyver starring lead Richard Dean Anderson, is lightly brought up in the very first episode of Stargate SG-1. ("It was difficult, but we were able to MacGyver a solution.")
SG-1 got even more confusing by having a guest appearance by Dan Castellaneta while The Simpsons had a guest appearance by Richard Dean Anderson. In SG-1, Jack is a fan of The Simpsons, but doesn't seem to recognise Dan, even though they specifically bond over The Simpsons. In The Simpsons, Anderson plays himself.
The Stargate Verse has yet another circular dependency: with World of Warcraft. Dr. Lee is a fan of the game (and curiously claimed to have a level 75 character, which was impossible at the time the episode supposedly took place)... while the Champions' Hall in WoW contains NPCs named after SG-1 characters.
In another interesting case, Carter tells O'Neill that they can't call the first X-303-class spaceship "Enterprise" in homage to Star Trek. Given that NASA has already named a spaceship after the fictional Enterprise, were this not a television show — whose creators would certainly be sued by Paramount for their insolence — there would be absolutely no reason not to name the ship Enterprise. Realistically speaking, it would in fact be a virtual certainty.
Although, if we're really overthinking this, they would be unlikely to do so until the current USS Enterprise was retired, freeing up the name for military use.
Speaking of Star Trek, the penultimate episode of Stargate Atlantis has Richard Woolsey mention that Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas had closed. One wonders if Voyager got made in the Stargate verse, and if so, whether anyone's ever told Richard Woolsey that he looks just like the Doctor, who appeared in said ride.
In the remake of Fantasy Island, Dean Cain plays a lawyer suspected of murder. The travel agent is called to the witness box and describes the lawyer as resembling 'the guy that played Superman on TV'.
In the Doctor Who episode "The Idiot's Lantern," the Doctor refers to Kylie Minogue. Kylie later appeared in the Christmas Episode "Voyage of the Damned" playing Astrid Peth opposite the Tenth Doctor. No one seemed to mention this.
Also in Doctor Who, the Harry Potter books exist and have been made into movies. The person playing Barty Crouch Jr. has not been revealed - although The Tenth Doctor is apparently a Harry Potter fan:
The Doctor (to Martha): Wait'll you read Book 7, I cried...
Just to further twist the self-reference, the original series episode "Rememberance of the Daleks" was set a few weeks after the TV show actually launched. (23rd November, 1963) Ace, the companion, turns on a TV, and the announcer is briefly 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, Do-" before it is cut off.
In the episode "Army of Ghosts," EastEnders exists as a fictional television series. The character of Peggy Mitchell bars a ghost she presumes to be Den Watts from The Queen Vic. In the real EastEnders Watts was killed by his wife Chrissie, who is played by Tracy-Ann Oberman. Oberman played Yvonne Hartman in "Army of Ghosts."
A more subtle one in Eleventh Doctor's first season finale The Big Bang. There's a brief segment showing Richard Dawkins. The paradox comes about because Dawkins is married to Lalla Ward, the actress who played the Fourth Doctor's long time companion Romana (specifically the character's second incarnation).
Also, in the Series 7 finale, "The Name of the Doctor", the Eleventh Doctor meets another incarnation of himself, played by John Hurt. However, the Doctor and Toshiko Sato have mentioned John Hurt before, so he obviously exists. Maybe he just looks different?
Perhaps the strangest thing is that the Doctor frequently visits a bizarre alternate London in which the old-fashioned police telephone box is merely an obscure piece of obsolete street furniture, all but forgotten, and not in any way an instantly recognisable cultural icon.
The Doctor mentions Arthur Dent in "The Christmas Invasion", commenting that "he" was a Nice Guy. If this is assumed to be a reference to Douglas Adams instead of the actual Arthur Dent (whose universe is perhaps too silly even for Doctor Who), this is a problem, since Adams got his start writing episodes of Doctor Who during the Tom Baker era.
"Victory of the Daleks" concerns the Doctor being a friend of Winston Churchill. One of the previous Doctors, Jon Pertwee, actually was a top British spy in real life who answered directly to Winston Churchill - and Churchill suggested he become an actor.
In "Robot of Sherwood", the Twelfth Doctor accesses various fictional portrayals of Robin Hood. These include a picture from the TV adaptation starring Patrick Troughton — who, of course, also played the Second Doctor.
Robin Williams does exist, as himself, in the Mork and Mindy universe. And Mork is horrified when people think they look alike. This is actually almost believable, until Mindy mentions he's a star of "TV, film, and nightclubs." Maybe Robin Williams was part of the cast of whatever TV show replaced Mork And Mindy in said universe.
In the pilot episode of The Young Ones, Rick is shown rocking out to the show's theme song, which is being played on the radio. In real life, the song was sung by the series' four principle actors (including the one who portrayed Rick), so who exactly was singing on the radio?
Paul Reiser's Mad About You character, Paul Buchman, has never seen the movie Aliens, which co-starred Paul Reiser.
Specifically, a friend of his (Mark) is discussing chest bursters, and asks Paul if he's ever seen the movies. Paul quickly replies, "Just the first one."
In another episode, Reiser questions why the movie actor game "Back to Bacon" doesn't use Mickey Rourke instead. This change would have minimal impact in real life since Mickey Rourke appeared in Diner with Kevin Bacon, so any connection to Bacon would have at most only one more connection. But since Reiser also appeared in Diner maybe that movie didn't exist on Mad About You.
An even more striking example from the Seinfeld universe comes from the episode "The Boyfriend," when Kramer and Newman express ire at Keith Hernandez having spit at them, Jerry reconstructs their story in a direct parody of the "magic bullet theory" scene from the movie JFK. Later in the episode, Keith Hernandez suggests seeing the movie JFK to Elaine, continuing the joke. The paradox lies in the fact that Wayne Knight, who plays Newman, also appears in the aforementioned scene in JFK. One can only wonder what would have happened had Keith and Elaine actually seen the movie...
Even better, his character in the film has the last name "Numa." And in the same episode, there's a direct Actor Allusion as Knight plays the same role in the "magic loogie" reconstruction as he did in the "magic bullet" reconstruction in the film.
On a more metatextual character level than a literal actor level, Smallville falls particularly afoul of this. In every other incarnation of the Superman mythos (comics, TV, movies, radio etc.) Superman is, by the very nature of his existence, a world-famous figure, probably the most famous person on Earth. Therefore all the kinds of nicknames, catchphrases and allusions to the fictional character in the real world (e.g. "Faster than a speeding bullet," "The Man of Steel" etc.) are equally well known in the various fictional realities where Superman is actually real (with the exception of "And who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter..."). But in Smallville, a prequel show set explicitly in the present day, the viewer is faced with the bizarre dissonance that these characters exist in an early 21st century version of America whose popular culture has not been irrevocably impacted by the existence of Superman (real or fictional), who originated the entire superhero genre and flooded the lexicon with all manner of specific phrases and ideas.
This is rendered even more head-numbingly dissonant by the show's sheer volume of sly references, homages, and shout-outs to the Superman mythos that has yet to actually take place, with constant winking deployment of terms that contextually shouldn't have been coined yet, like "Man of Steel," "Faster than a speeding bullet," "mild-mannered" etc. etc. They have even shown that words/concepts like "superhero" are already in common parlance, despite their actual existence not yet being known to the wider public.
You could argue that most examples are fairly organic; someone sees bullets bounce off Clark and calls him "a man of steel" (not "THE"), etc. We're seeing the in-universe origins of these phrases, not the common use of them.
Partly justified, since superhero comics do exist in the Smallville universe, since Lex was shown to have been a fan of one such comic (featuring a bald protagonist) growing up, called Warrior Angel — ironically a very historically-accurate '90s style archetype. This leads one to wonder who was the first superhero character to be published in the Smallville universe, since it obviously wasn't Superman...
It's since been revealed to be...Warrior Angel, which slots nicely into the same real-world slot as Superman, as well as having some blatant similarities to him characterwise, as well.
The episode "Thirst" establishes Zorro as a franchise in the show's setting (a Zorro outfit is seen).
Another episode intimated the same situation for Luke Skywalker (who derives from Flash Gordon).
Well, with the precedent of Zorro, the Phantom, the Shadow, Doc Savage, the Green Hornet, the Lensmen, the Baron, Blackshirt, the Saint (Simon Templar), Bulldog Drummond, the Baron, the Ringer (Edgar Wallace novels), the Phantom (Curtis Van Loan), the Four Just Men, John Carter, Tarzan, the Lone Ranger, the Gray Seal, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Spring-Heeled Jack, the Spider, Mandrake, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Hugo Danner, Dick Tracy, etc. it may have resulted independently. In fact, in one episode, Zorro explicitly receives mention.
Batman was also a very popular character inspired by the above listed characters made by DC before they even owned Superman so it could be that Batman is the inspiration for most modern super heroes and Bruce Wayne has never appeared in Smallville.
However, there are numerous references in Smallville to Gotham City, and a few indirect references to Batman (Waynetech, and the line that Chloe "met a billionaire with high-tech toys" on her search for other superheroes).
"Kryptonite" has become a common replacement for the expression Achilles' Heel in real life. So it fits that in "Rush" Pete refers to the "Meter Rocks" as Clark's Achilles' Heel.
An odd corollary to the fact that DC Comics don't exist in the Smallville universe is the fact that, apparently, Marvel Comics don't exist either. (It's never directly stated that they don't, for obvious reasons, but the fact that characters are constantly discussing superheroes and super powers and frequently talk about comic books and make pop culture references while describing super-powered mutants without ever once mentioning the X-Men, Spider-Man, etc., would seem to imply that they don't exist, even as fictional characters.
Odder still, in the Marvel continuity both Marvel Comics and DC Comics exist. It's sometimes mentioned that the Marvel books feature retellings of the heroes' "real-life" exploits (Steve Rogers even draws his), to the point where She-Hulk has used them as evidence in court. How the Marvel continuity's DC comics stack up is more of a mystery.
According to The Multiversity, DC Comics exist in The DCU... but at least part of their output is comics about "fictional" superheroes, who actually exist on alternate Earths in The Multiverse. Marvel Comics' DC equivalent is Major Comics, who produce analogues of Marvel's characters (with said characters actually being inspired by the heroes of Earth-7 and Earth-8).
The old 50's B-movies may have still managed to exist in-universe, along with older Golden Age titles; these would provide a basis for the super-powered mutant meme.
Kaito Nakamura could well also be a fan- his car's number plate reads NCC-1701.
Hiro must wonder occasionally about Sylar's uncanny resemblance to the new Spock...
Played with in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Allison Janney of The West Wing appears as herself, guest hosting the eponymous Show Within a Show. Timothy Busfield plays the director of said show. Busfield formerly played Janney's character's love interest/husband on The West Wing, and their interactions in the Studio 60 episode play this up. Note that The West Wing exists in the Studio 60 universe, and fictional Janney was in it, while fictional Busfield apparently wasn't, since he doesn't exist. Confused yet?
This becomes even more confusing when you think about how many other actors were in both shows.
Be glad that the guy who played Josh wasn't in that episode.
Adding another layer of confusion, the fictional Janney is annoyed at being confused with Christine Lahti. The reporter played by Christine Lahti wasn't in that episode, but she hadn't been gone long.
It gets worse: the law firm that Sam worked for on The West Wing also exists on Studio 60.
That's not really a paradox, though. Assuming Studio 60 is the "real" world, a fictional show within that world, such as The West Wing, would be perfectly capable of referencing a real-life law firm.
Fans of The West Wing used to speculate that the show existed in the Bartlet universe, but featured an incompetent Republican president and nobody watched it.
There are also a few backstage shots where, along with all the other set pieces one might use on a sketch comedy show, you can clearly see a "Bartlet For America" campaign poster hanging on the wall.
In the West Wing episode "20 Hours in LA," Donna notices Matthew Perry at a party. A few seasons later, Matthew Perry was on The West Wing in a fairly significant guest role.
In the penultimate episode of The Nanny, Fran Fine meets actress Fran Drescher. She mentions how everyone says she looks like her, and Drescher is not happy. She also comments on her voice, her hair, and on how the episode she's taping is very similar to what's happening in Fine's life at the moment.
Fran once ran into Steve Lawrence in Atlantic City. Lawrence later appeared as Fran's father Morty.
In an episode starring Jay Leno as himself, Fran Fine advertises a book (written by Fran Drescher) and says that "It is a riot. Plus it just came out on audio cassettes!" to what Jay Leno replies "Can't believe they put this voice on audio."
An episode of Scrubs has J.D. mentioning that he thought he noticed the Janitor in the movie version of The Fugitive. Neil Flynn, who plays the Janitor, was indeed in that film. The Janitor later implies that it was indeed him in the movie. Whether this means that all of Neil Flynn's roles in the Scrubsverse are played by The Janitor or if this was a one off is unclear.
Of course, nothing the Janitor says can be taken seriously. It is perfectly plausible that in the Scrubsverse, the Janitor just happens to look like Neil Flynn and was messing with JD/the Audience's head(s).
Or the Janitor is Neil Flynn, fallen on hard times.
Perhaps his constant lying, story-telling and hazing of JD is him practising his comedy skills (Neil Flynn is a consummate improv comedian).
In a non-Janitor related example, the cast of Scrubs frequently make references to Friends, including repeated comparisons of J.D. and Elliot to Ross and Rachel, but don't recognize Matthew Perry when he makes his cameo, or even Courtney Cox who becomes a recurring character.
Scrubs also shares a universe with Cougar Town, as shown with Ted Buckland appearing in an episode, but Zach Braff also exists in the universe. Also, Courtney Cox plays a role in both shows, yet Ted didn't even notice how much Jules looked like Dr. Maddox. Also, Christa Miller plays both Jordan on Scrubs and Ellie on Series/Cougartown.
And the season 2 premiere (I believe? Anyway, it happened) showed Jules watching TV—it was Scrubs. That makes Ted Buckland's existence (as well as other shared actors, such as her best friend and creepy neighbor) a little mind-bending.
The mindscrew continues at the end of a season 2 episode when Sam Llyod (as Ted Buckland) is commenting on how much Sarah Chalke (as Angie) and Christa Miller (as Ellie) resemble people from his old job. Cue Bob Clendnin (Tom/Dr Zeltzer) popping in the window. Ken Jenkins (Chick/Dr Kelso) wanders in, causing Ted to attempt to run through a glass door. Zach Braff asks him if he ordered a pizza, and Rob Maschio offered him an "are you ok?" five.
Celebrity Paradox is played straight, however, when in an episode of Zoey 101, Drake Bell plays a concert for PCA. In Drake & Josh 's Big Damn Movie , Drake and Josh Go Hollywood, Josh shows Drake Parker's performance at PCA (which is the same exact performance) to the record producer.
In one episode of The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton meet Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. This was done by alternating the actors and their roles: Ed meets Gleason just as Ralph is conveniently absent, while Ralph meets Carney while Ed is out.
Friends: Lots of it, given the amount of guest stars.
Ross, Joey, and Chandler are die-hard fans of Die Hard. However, when they meet Paul Stevens (played by Bruce Willis), he doesn't seem to remind them of anyone.
For that matter, considering Joey's love of the Die Hard movies, you'd think he'd recognize his own father as the guy who gave John McClane a parking ticket in the first sequel, as they're both played by Robert Costanzo.
In earlier episodes, Ross has Winona Ryder on his "list," but when Rachel's sorority sister shows up, nobody says, "Wow, you look just like Winona Ryder."
Ross also considers Susan Sarandon for the list. She also turned up in a later episode, not playing herself.
Then Chandler has Jessica Rabbit on his list. Kathleen Turner, who voiced Jessica Rabbit, plays his transgender dad, although maybe Fridge Brilliance in that his dad could have made himself to look like Kathleen Turner...
Also in the episode "The One With the Princess Leia Fantasy", Chandler talks about women he has mental images of during sex, mentioning Elle Macpherson. Elle Macpherson starred in Season 6 as Janine, Joey's roommate.
Jurassic Park is mentioned quite a few times, due to Ross being a paleontologist, yet Jeff Goldblum shows up as a guest in one episode, also not playing himself.
In the second season episode "The One Where Dr. Ramoray Dies", Chandler mentions an ex-girlfriend who thought that 'Sean Penn' was the capital of Cambodia. Sean Penn appeared in two episodes of the eighth season, playing neither himself nor the capital of Cambodia.
Ross mentions Magnum P.I. in an Orphaned Punchline during "TOW No One's Ready"; of course, Tom Selleck had his run as Richard in the previous season (and even provides an uncredited voice cameo in the same episode).
In a fifth season episode, Phoebe's replacement doctor that helps oversee the birth of her brother's triplets initially turns her off due to his constant gushing over Happy Days and Fonzie, and he gets offended when Rachel says she always preferred Mork. Robin Williams had previously made a brief cameo appearance two seasons prior, again not playing himself.
One that borders on Actor Allusion & Meta Casting; in one episode, the owner of a Russian dry cleaners refuses to put up Joey's picture, claiming he makes fun of Russians, with Joey noting he has a picture of Harrison Ford, who killed several Russians in Air Force One, which the dry cleaner admits he's never seen ("you should, it's great"). The dry cleaner is played by actor Ilia Volok who was in fact, in Air Force One and was the first terrorist Ford's character killed. note meaning that the dry cleaner never saw a movie where he gets killed, but Joey, who did see the movie, didn't notice that he looked like one of the terrorists from the film. Brain hurt yet?
Speaking of Air Force One, the main villain of the film was played by Gary Oldman, who showed up in the season finale the following year, but again, not playing himself, even though his character was an actor and appearing in a big budget WWI epic with Joey. You have to wonder if people haven't confused him for Mr. Oldman at some point.
At one point, the Cocoon movies are mentioned by Monica's parents, the second film of which Courtney Cox appeared in.
In That '70s Show, characters are shown to be watching The Brady Bunch. Later, Christopher Knight and Barry Williams appear not as themselves, but as a gay couple. No, really.
Well, it would be hard for them to appear as themselves since they are kind of too old for the part.
Similarly in Hannah Montana, Robbie Ray (played by Billy Ray Cyrus) puts on a mullet wig and claims to be Billy Ray Cyrus. The woman he's talking to thinks he's crazy and quickly leaves.
A throwaway joke in one episode's cold open finds Jackson Stewart changing channels on the remote control of the living room TV, switching the TV to Hannah Montana (as evident by the series' theme song playing) and complaining, "When is this show not on?". So Hannah Montana exists in the Hannah universe, but the show's characters are real.
Also, the existence of Selena Gomez in the Disney Channel series' universe poses some problems. She played a character in Zack and Cody's middle school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and also Mikayla, Hannah Montana's rival twice, but according to the two crossovers, the two shows exist within the same universe. And to top it all off, Gomez stars in Wizards of Waverly Place where she plays the wizard Alex Russo, who appeared in the second Disney Channel crossover. So, either there are three girls who look freakishly like Selena Gomez, or Alex has been using her magic to screw with our heads.
Of course, none of this is mentioning Gomez's guest star role in Sonny With A Chance, where Gomez is famous, but there is no mention of Wizards of Waverly Place being an actual show. Chad speaks of Hannah Montana as a real person. (Although, that might be because of stupidity, because in another episode, after Selena's, Sonny mentions that Chad doesn't know that Hannah and Miley aren't the same person, hinting that Hannah Montana is also a show in that universe.)
Also, within the Sonny With A Chance episode, there is no Camp Rock or Jonas Brothers. (Selena stars in a different version, called "Camp Hip Hop" about dancing - a kind of funny shout out to Another Cinderella Story which stars Gomez - instead of singing, with three Jonas Brothers look alikes, despite the fact that Joe Jonas guest starred as himself in the Christmas episode.)
In the KateModern episode "Fictionality," Ralf Little's character, Gavin, complains that people keep accusing him of being a professional actor.
In the fictional world of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert's other works do exist, but Colbert (the actor) doesn't — all of his roles were played by Kevin Spacey instead.
In The Office (US), Creed Bratton plays a fantastical (and waaay crazy) version of himself. He was the lead guitarist and a vocalist in The Grass Roots in the 60s and 70s, and now (instead of acting) works at a paper company.
This ventures into Adam Westing territory, as Office''!Creed is shown to be a klepto who does a multitude of drugs, and is involved in numerous criminal activities.
It is also implied that he killed the "real" Creed Bratton and stole is identity. "Nobody steals from Creed Bratton and gets away with it. The last person to do this disappeared. His name? Creed Bratton."
In the second Christmas episode, he sings a Grass Roots song on a karaoke machine, which the real Creed Bratton did the vocals for. Wrap your head around that.
A deleted scene has him explaining that he was in a band called "The Grass Roots" back in the late 60s, early 70s.
In another episode Office!Creed says that he avoids debt by transferring it all to another identity named William Charles Schneider. Guess what Real Life!Creed's birth name is.
Michael Scott has mentioned that he is a fan of The Wire, yet does not notice Holly Flax's strong resemblance to Beadie Russell (both played by Amy Ryan). Nor Charles Miner's resemblance to Stringer Bell (both played by Idris Elba). Nor Eric Ward's resemblance to Thomas Klebanow (both played by David Costabile).
Not to mention the numerous references to Michael's beloved Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Saturday Night Live, when the stars of both have appeared as characters on the show, such as Charles "Chip" Esten, Tim Meadows, David Koechner and Nancy Walls, who in addition to being on SNL, is also married to Steve Carell, who plays Michael, in real life.
Michael is also seen critiquing the film Live Free Or Die Hard. In Season 7, Michael hires an excellent traveling salesman played by Timothy Olyphant...who was the villain in the aforementioned Die Hard film.
In season 2, Michael can't help but yell "king of the world" (from Titanic) when he gets on a boat. In season six, Dunder-Mifflin is bought by the Sabre printer company owned by a woman named Jo who looks remarkably like Kathy Bates.
In season 3, several of the staff make joke announcements when Dwight attempts to audio record a meeting in the conference room while Michael is away. Phyllis says "Oh, Jim Carrey just walked in! Dwight, get his autograph for Michael!" After Michael leaves in season 7, one of the applicants interviewed (the unnamed "Finger Lakes Guy") is played by Jim Carrey. (So Jim Carrey eventually DID walk into the conference room. Or did he?)
After the Stamford branch personnel join the Scranton branch in season 3, Michael tries to entertain them by acting out the "Roxbury Guys" characters from Saturday Night Live (with help from Andy). Of course one of the characters was played by Will Farrell who looks just like Michael's would-be successor in season 7, Deangelo Vickers (something neither Michael nor anyone else seems to notice). Further complicating things is the Roxbury Guys were featured in a sketch in 1996 episode of SNL in which Jim Carrey (see above) both hosted and played one the Roxbury guys. On top of that, the sketch featured Nancy Walls (then a regular on SNL), who's not only Steve Carrell's real life wife, but played his girlfriend on The Office at the time of the episode where Michael tried to be one of the Roxbury guys!
The strangest aspect is that the entire Show is set up as a fly-on-the-wall documentary series. The characters know they are on a tv series, with talking heads to camera in the conference room, and "Vance Refrigeration" product placements. But nobody on the show watches their-universe version of the show. This means that, e.g., no character knows the things that people are saying to camera about them. This is sometimes almost averted, e.g. when Jim and Pam are seen getting into a car together, but even here the tv crew show them the footage, they don't see it on tv.
That'd be because throughout the first 8 years of the series, the film crew is only filming and editing. The show doesn't go to air until the ninth season, all of the episodes presumably edited differently than what the real world saw to be able to be condensed into a string of episodes aired during the month of May on PBS. Later episodes in the ninth season show characters commenting on what they did and didn't realize was being filmed. Then the finale is an in-universe "Where Are They Now?"-style follow-up special for the in-universe release of the DVD of the documentary. Inhale.
The UK version plays with this idea a bit. In the Christmas special, the first two seasons of the show have aired on BBC, and (a few) in-show characters recognize David Brent from it. Brent finds it necessary to explain that the documentary's portrayal of him was inaccurate.
Veronica Mars is said to get nightmares when she watches Paris Hilton movies. Quite understandable, as there was a girl at her school played by Paris Hilton.
She also once snarked at her friend Wallace by asking which Gilmore girl he was, even though Gilmore Girls came on right before Veronica Mars on the CW that season. One wonders what show filled that slot in Veronica's world.
The title character in Suddenly Susan finds herself unable to remember Andre Agassi's first wife — because it was Brooke Shields herself.
The main character in The Naked Truth could only remember that David Duchovny's wife was "that goofy blonde sitcom bimbo"... whom we know as Téa Leoni.
Likewise, an episode of Quantum Leap features an heiress played by Brooke Shields, whose resemblance to herself causes no comment from Sam or Al. Then again, in this case it may be a Justified Trope because Sam is amnesiac and the show takes place in a timeline which is (at least at first) significantly different from ours.
On the other hand, there was a horror-themed episode where, throughout the episode, Sam makes references to things like "Christine" (for a car) and "Kujo" for a dog. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that a minor character, a young man named "Stevey" (in front of whom the references were made) was actually Stephen King.
Not sure that applies to this trope as that's more of a circular paradox. i.e. Sam reads books by King, travels through time, King happens to use these names when writing said books later in life.
Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan (both recurring) aka Captain Janeway and 7 of 9 from Star Trek: Voyager. Just to name a few.
One episode of Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye had Sue (the character) meeting Sue (the real FBI agent that sparked the series); IIRC, one of them said she'd always wanted to be an FBI agent while the other said she'd always wanted to be an actress.
Sue the Character is an actress playing an FBI agent who said she always wanted to be an actress. Sue the Real Person is an FBI agent who's character on the show is an actress who said she always wanted to be an FBI agent.
In one episode, Liz and Tracy argue about Wayne Brady. A few episodes later, Wayne Brady appeared on the show as a character.
In an early episode, Jack mentions watching Friends and asks about Ross and Rachel. Both David Schwimmer ("Ross") and Jennifer Aniston ("Rachel") later guest starred. And in an episode after Aniston's appearance, Jenna mentioned her (the actress, not the character).
Not to mention the fact that Alec Baldwin once guest starred in an episode of Friends as an almost fourth wall breaking character. Constantly commenting on the characters almost as if he watched them on TV...
This MySpace page someone created for Liz Lemon lists Tina Fey as one of Liz's heroes.
Liz is a big Star Wars fan and references the films frequently. So it's a little odd that when Carrie Fisher appears as a guest star in the episode "Rosemary's Baby," Liz doesn't recognise her as Princess Leia. (The episode did include the requisite movie reference: "Help me, Liz Lemon, you're my only hope!")
In one episode Liz wonders who played "the white guy in Invictus" — in our world it was Matt Damon, who played Liz's boyfriend Carol.
In "Kidnapped by Danger", Jenna appears on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon is best known for co-anchoring "Weekend Update" with Tina Fey. He's also believed to the basis for the 30 Rock character Josh Girard.
This got even more bizarre when Jimmy Fallon played a young Jack Donaghy in a flashback during the series' second live episode.
The ad agency Sterling Cooper from Mad Men apparently exists in the 30 Rock universe (Liz's mother was a secretary there in the sixties), but Jon Hamm appears as Drew, one of Liz's boyfriends. Also, like Jimmy Fallon and several other actors including the main cast, Hamm plays a few roles in the live episodes in "clips" from fictional TV shows past.
Kenneth makes Rule of Funny references implying he is attached to the mythologies of both Mad Men and LOST, yelling, "My real name is Dick Whitman!" as well as talking to Jacob more than once. Lost exists as a TV show on 30 Rock, while the Mad Men one is extra-nonsensical for the above-mentioned reasons.
When trying to prove that NBC isn't racist, Jack says he was too busy trying to remember the name of the black kid on Community, too which Liz proudly answers "Donald Glover". Donald Glover is a former 30 Rock writer.
The series finale just went for it and had Jack include "Baldwin" in a list of his enemies.
Aversion: Both Spin City and Just Shoot Me! have celebrities appear in regular roles as well as themselves, though no celebrity has ever done both.
Averted in The Young Ones, where the characters are quite aware they are in a sitcom which is being broadcast. In fact, in one episode Neil's parents upbraid him for appearing in such an offensive sitcom and asked why he couldn't be in something nice like The Good Life.
In one episode, the cast asks the Big Giant Head how his flight was & he replies that it was terrible. He says there was something on the wing and no one would believe him. Dick assures The Big Giant Head that the same thing had happened to him. Of course, John Lithgow and William Shatner played the same part, in the Movie and the series respectively.
A companion book to the series includes an introduction by John Lithgow despite the book being written in an in-universe manner. Attached to the introduction is a note purportedly written by Dick in which he says he has no idea why the introduction is there, and refers to Lithgow as an Earth actor from "some helicopter movie."
In the real world, the first (test) Space Shuttle was named "Enterprise" in honor of Star Trek. That Enterprise does appear among the models of earlier ships to bear the name that Picard keeps in his ready room, and appears in the montage during the opening credits to Star Trek: Enterprise, though the reason for its name is presumably different (presumably, the same reason as Kirk's Enterprise: "Enterprise" is a name with a long naval history).
In Star Trek: Enterprise, the second Warp-5 ship was named the Columbia by the shows writers in tribute to crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia who had recently died in the Columbia Disaster. The in universe reason given for this name, was that it was taken from the second space shuttle, with the implication that the Starship Enterprise is supposed to be named for the space shuttle.
Proving that Tina Fey exists in the same universe as Sarah Palin.
On Will and Grace, Britney Spears is referenced many times by the characters, particularly Jack, who has memorized her dance moves and even swears on her name ("Britney Spears Federline!"). Yet when she appears as a special guest star as Jack's new co-host, he doesn't comment on how much she looks like his idol.
Similarly, Jack says, "Me digs Taye Diggs," in one episode. When Grace later married Will's boyfriend James, Jack never noted the resemblance.
On the other hand, when he meets Cher, he initially assumes she's a drag queen dressed as Cher.
Also there's the paradox presented by Bernadette Peters. One episode opens with Jack holding up a lock of her hair that he recently acquired for a "Broadway Diva Wig" (leading to a confrontation with Patti LuPone), but then in a later episode she plays Karen's sister Gin.
In the season one finale, Tim Daly makes an appearance as himself. Sharona mentions that he was in the show Wings. So who plays Antonio in Monk land? If it's Tony Shalhoub, Monk must be pretty sick of people telling him how much he looks like Antonio.
This same logic could be assumed. If The Silence of the Lambs exists in the Monk world, do people tell Captain Stottlemeyer that he sounds and looks like Buffalo Bill?
We only have to assume what would happen if Dirty Work or one of the sitcoms that Traylor Howard appeared on existed in this world, because Natalie would often be mistaken for those characters.
Sharona is shocked that Monk had never heard of the show, so it's somewhat lampshaded.
An odd variation on this occurred in an episode of Green Acres. The cast decided to put on a play based on the "popular television show", The Beverly Hillbillies. That would be fine, except The Beverly Hillbillies takes place in the same universe as Green Acres, along with Petticoat Junction, with characters frequently crossing over from one show to another. Which means that in The Beverly Hillbillies universe, there is a TV show called The Beverly Hillbillies, featuring the characters of Jed, Jethro, Granny and Elly May, which those same characters could then watch. One wonders who played the characters on the show, and if the advertisements for it referred to it as being Ripped from the Headlines.
Also, one of Lisa's talents is doing Zsa Zsa Gabor impressions. No word on whether she does Eva.
An episode of The Beverly Hillbillies featured Jed Clampett (played by Buddy Ebsen) reminiscing about how he'd seen Buddy Ebsen's song and dance act.
Which contradicted another episode where Granny notes Jed's resemblance to Buddy Ebsen. Jed responds with "Who?"
Invoked by LOST, possibly intentionally: Sawyer calls Karl "Cheech," and then Cheech Marin shows up playing Hurley's father a scant two episodes later.
In a similar case that also serves as an Actor Allusion, in a first-season episode Boone asks Locke if he's ever seen Star Trek. Terry O'Quinn guest-starred in an episode of The Next Generation. You have to wonder who played Riker's former CO in the Lost universe.
The original version contains John Simm (who played the Master and in this programme is playing a character whose surname was influenced by Doctor Who) making a reference to Doctor Who.
In the Kings episode "Judgment Day," Prince Jack says, "Everyone wants an old-school lord and master. Cutting a few babies in half." in a reference to the Judgment of Solomon... except that since Kings is a retelling of the story of Solomon's father, King David, the original Judgment of Solomon story shouldn't exist in their universe.
Alternatively, that universe has the same Bible we do. This would explain why a newspaper thinks the headline DAVID SLAYS GOLIATH means anything. But the parallel between the Bible story and the modern David's career would start to freak people out eventually.
Played with on Las Vegas when "Big Ed" Deline, played by James Caan, is shooting a commercial for the Montecito, and can't act. The director tries to get him to act more naturally by referencing a conversation with Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. Ed looks confused for a second before saying he has no idea what the director is talking about.
On the sitcom Hope And Gloria Alan Thicke played both himself and a talk show host named Dennis Dupree who despises Thicke for looking just like him. This eventually leads to a fistfight between the two during a Growing Pains reunion on Dupree's show.
Willow's boyfriend in season 2-4 is Oz, played by Seth Green. In one of the non-canon novels Buffy asks Willow why she couldn't be into someone current, like Seth Green.
In the episode "The Prom" Tucker Wells has trained hell hounds to attack people wearing formal wear. He has done so by showing them various movies, including Pump Up The Volume — which features Juliet Landau (Drusilla) and Seth Green (Oz).
In "What's my line, part two" Buffy warns Kendra not to watch the in-flight movie if it's got dogs or Chevy Chase in it, referencing the film Funny Farm, which Sarah Michelle Gellar had an uncredited cameo in.
In Season 8's "Time of Your Life", The Doctor and Rose make a brief appearance. In "In Perfect Harmony" from the Season 9 comics, David Tennant and Billie Piper appear.
An episode of 8 Simple Rules confirmed that Three's Company definitely exists in-universe, but Paul Hennessy's remarkable resemblance to Jack Tripper is never commented on. To make things even more bizarre, Paul then has a dream sequence resembling Three's Company wherein he plays the part of not Jack, but Mr. Roper.
In Step by Step, Carol is played by Suzanne Somers, who also played Chrissy. Carol was watching Three's Company and laughing, saying that Chrissy was her favorite, and tried to "imitate" Chrissy's trademark laugh. Nobody pointed out the resemblance, though.
In Kids Incorporated, they did a cover version of "More Than You Know" by Martika, herself a former star of the series, making one wonder if she exists in the KI universe.
Almost every character in the series was The Danza, playing a character of the same name as the actor, so one might suppose that the character and the actor were meant to be the same person. Ironically, Martika was one of the few characters who wasn't (her character was named Gloria).
Bonus point in that said cover was performed by Stacy Ferguson, who by the 1989 season was the last cast member left who had worked with her.
A complete aversion occurs in the unaired pilot Heat Vision and Jack — character actor Ron Silver plays character actor/assassin Ron Silver. At one point, while chasing the protagonist, he's stopped by an autograph-seeker who "loved [him] in Timecop."
An inversion exists in Supernatural. In the continuity of the show, a series of novels exists starring the Winchester brothers (the author is a confused prophet, or possibly the Judeo-Christian God pretending to be a confused prophet). And yes, there is Internet slashfic.
Sam and Dean are taking a movie studio tour at the beginning of season 2's "Hollywood Babylon." When the tour guide mentions that the next stop is the set for Gilmore Girls, Sam looks uncomfortable and hops off the tram. No one on the tour seems to notice that the guy who just jumped off looks exactly like Rory Gilmore's first- and second-season boyfriend, Dean Forester (who was also played by Jared Padalecki).
In the season 5 episode "Fallen Idols" a shape-shifting god takes the form of Paris Hilton. As Dean rants at the shifter about how shallow idolizing Hilton is — to which Hilton's character seems to agree — he says he has never seen the recent remake of the horror film House of Wax. At this news Sam looks startled, and a bit disappointed, as both Jared Padalecki (who plays Sam) and Paris Hilton were in House of Wax.
An even more odd inversion occurs in season six, in an episode where the Winchesters are cast into a parallel universe where the actors who play them do exist, but Supernatural is a TV show and the Winchesters are fictional characters. Hilarity Ensues, at least until a douchebagangel follows them and proceeds to start killing the cast and crew. Although some people still found that pretty funny.
To further add to the confusion, during the initial airing of this episode, Misha Collins tweeted the exact same things that he tweets in the episode, at the exact same time.
Also played straight. Dean is a fan of The X-Files yet does not recognize the guy from "Scarecrow" as Cigarette Smoking Man, or even notice his grandfather inhabits the same body as Mulder and Scully's boss.
Or that Crowley looks remarkably similar to the character "Bob the Caretaker" from the X-Files episode "Fire."
Well, all of them were much older when they guest-starred, so people could be forgiven for not knowing what they looked like even in real life. In fact, another '80s teen star, Jennifer Grey, found that after she got her nose job, nobody knew what she looked like.
In Ugly Betty, the Posthumous Character Fey Sommers of Mode is clearly based on the real-life Anna Wintour of Vogue (even their names pun: summer/winter). But later episodes mention Wintour as a separate person.
In the universe of Fringe, Star Trek is referenced occasionally. In fact, one delusional character believes that he is a reincarnation of Spock. However, nobody in-universe seems to comment on the fact that ultra-rich industrialist William Bell is played by Leonard Nimoy.
Red Dwarf plays with it. The plot of Back to Earth has Rimmer, Kryten and Cat encounter Craig Charles (Lister) on the set of Coronation Street. Of course, Craig assumes it's a joke and that they're simply his fellow actors — until Lister arrives. And it's explained at the end — they were in a false reality where Red Dwarf is fiction.
Straight example in Back in the Red. The Alien series is alluded to in a game of charades early in the story. A few minutes later, Mac McDonald — Commander Simpson in Aliens — is reintroduced as Captain Hollister.
In There Is No Carry On In EastEnders, Chris Moyles discusses the many, many things that can't exist in the EastEnders universe because of this trope, which may go some way to explaining why the series is such a Crapsack World.
On the same subject: in reference to the quote on the Quote Page, British soaps tend to throw another soap in the slot where they should be in real life; i.e. the soap that goes out every weekday at 7pm in the Emmerdale universe is called Castle Bridge.
On the other hand, anyone watching TV in EastEnders always seems to be watching a comedy, a documentary, a movie... anything but a soap opera.
Except in one instance where long-standing character Dot Cotton announced that she never misses rival soap opera Coronation Street. This was a friendly nod to the fact that Coronation Street was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.
Which makes me wonder if Dot ever remarks on how much the owner of the Rovers Return looks like that nasty Cindy Beale (both characters played by Michelle Collins).
The show also had a reference to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, yet it has a fictional president in the same episode. So the 2008 election was exactly the same but with some random white guy winning instead of Obama?
Played with in Sonny With A Chance where Sonny (Demi Lovato) meets Selena Gomez, as Selena Gomez, who apparently no longer has a BFF named Demi Lovato, or if she does probably would have mentioned "Hey, my BFF looks so exactly like you it's uncanny." At the end, they tease the idea that Sonny would become Selena's new BFF. It was a very strange episode.
Chaos (played by Wil Wheaton) once asks Hardison to get Sophie to dress up as Counselor Troi.
Played with a bit in Bones. In real life, Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, who writes novels about a fictional forensic anthropologist named Temperance Brennan. In Bones, Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, who writes novels about a fictional forensic anthropologist — named Kathy Reichs. (Word of God explains that Bones is really an Author Avatar more than a direct adaptation of the novels Temperance, and Reichs describes her as more or less a "younger" version) However, in the first episode, Bones mentions that the next closest forensic anthropologist besides herself is in Montreal — where Temperance Brennan works in the novels. Also played more typically straight in a few episodes:
Intern-of-the-week Fisher mentions that he's a ''Buffy fan, without mentioning how much Booth looks like Angel.
In the episode "The Gamer in the Grease," three of the lab techs take turns camping out for the premiere of Avatar, a movie starring Joel David Moore, who also plays Fisher. Must be intentionally invoked, because Moore is only occasionally a guest star on the show, and he appears in this episode.
Very early in the show, Hodgins comments to Zack - "Your robot is like you. You tell it to walk, it jumps. You tell it to jump, it rolls. You tell it to take out the garbage, it watches old reruns of Firefly." This is pre-Cam, who is played by Tamara Taylor, who has a bit part in The Big Damn Movie, but any Whedon reference in a show starring David Boreanez is amusing.
Cyndi Lauper appeared in a fifth season ep, "The Harbingers In The Fountain" as Avalon, Angela's tarot card reader. In Season 3, Brennan admitted that she was fond of Cyndi Lauper's 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun', and even sang it on-stage.
In the upcoming Season 9 there may be more potential for this trope; Freddie Prinze Jr, real-life husband of Sarah Michelle Gellar, will play a recurring villain. No doubt we'll be treated to at least one line regarding his character and Booth "having similar taste in women".
In Glee, Kristin Chenoweth guests stars as April Rhodes, leaving at the end of the episode and making a comment about trying to get into Broadway. A few episodes later, Rachel and Kurt audition for the solo part of "Defying Gravity." If there is no Kristin Chenoweth, then who originated the role of Glinda? Plus Idina Menzel's later appearance. Who was Elphaba?
Rachel also later sings Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent, which was originally sung by Idina Menzel who plays her mother. Additionally, she and Kurt have been confirmed to sing "For Good," which was of course sung by both of them.
Early in the show Emma makes a comment on how people like John Stamos get famous without talent. I guess her future husband Carl just happens to look a lot like him.
In season one Finn mentions Gwyneth Paltrow. Guess who becomes a recurring guest-star in season two?
In the season two finale Mr Schue sings a cover of Matthew Morrison's own song "Still Got Tonight". Such a paradox.
In an episode of MADtv, House (played by Michael McDonald) actually watches an episode of MADtv featuring Stuart (also played by Michael McDonald) and says that he looks a lot like him.
An episode of The Muppet Show made fun of this. It featured Luke Skywalker going into the Muppet studio and claiming that Mark Hamill (the actor who played him) was his "cousin." The two made several appearances in the episode, but not on screen together. The end of the episode, however, reveals that Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker are in fact separate people.
In one episode of NCIS, Kate asks Gibbs what Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard looked like when he was younger. Gibbs' response? Illya Kuryakin. Both characters are played by David McCallum.
And in the episode when the agents go to Ducky's house, his mother has a picture of him as a young man on the mantle. That picture is a promotional picture of McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.
In another episode, Tony (the team's resident movie buff) mentions "Al Pacino and Chris O'Donnell in Scent of a Woman." Chris O'Donnell currently plays lead character Callen on NCIS: Los Angeles, and has guest starred as Callen on regular NCIS.
In one episode, Tony remarks that he has "a better chance of hooking up with Jessica Alba" than some criminals have infiltrating someplace. One wonders if Tony is aware of an actor that looks just like him named Michael Weatherly, who was once engaged to Ms. Alba (and was her co-star on Dark Angel).
Tony's movie references cause all kinds of Celebrity Paradoxes after the fact. He directly referenced True Lies in the season 7 opener, yet Jamie Lee Curtis has a recurring role as Samantha Ryan starting in season 9.
McGee is obviously a fan of Doctor Who, since he mentions the TARDIS in one episode. Yet when he meets Gibbs' CI Miranda Pennebaker (played by Alex Kingston) in the tenth season, he doesn't notice that she looks exactly like River Song. In addition, in a season eight episode, he doesn't notice that a suspect's mother looks exactly like Dr. Grace Holloway.
Bobby Flay cameoed in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as a TV chef who's enough like real Bobby Flay that if he wasn't playing himself he might as well have been. He had cheated on his wife—only since Flay is married to Stephanie March (Alex Cabot on SVU) in Real Life, on the show he had no wife to cheat on.
In the Law & Order episode "Turnaround," involving the murder of a studio executive, Briscoe mentions movie star Julia Roberts. The actress would guest star two years later as Katrina Ludlow in the episode "Empire." Unlike Ocean's Twelve, however, no one seems to notice the resemblance.
Law & Order characters have frequently referenced the O.J. Simpson trial, despite having an earlyish episode that plays off it (which itself got a sequel years after during the "If I did it" period). No one has mentioned Capricorn One, which co-starred an actor who looked a lot like a younger Jack McCoy.
Larry Miller appeared as himself on Law & Order in 2003. Detective Briscoe never mentioned Miller's resemblance to comedy club owner Michael Dobson, whom Briscoe arrested for murder twice.
Chuck features a very prominent TRON poster in the main character's bedroom. It also features Bruce Boxleitner as "Woody" Woodcomb, father of one of the main cast. The poster is the real thing, with Boxleitner listed as the star, but nobody ever brings it up.
Also, Tricia Helfer has guested on the show as a fellow government agent, but Sarah has been spotted with a "Go Frak Yourself" T-shirt. Who played Six in the Chuck-verse? And now we find out that Romo freakin' Lampkin works for The Ring?
In one episode, Sarah and Chuck are watching Spies Like Us and Chuck specifically mentions Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase, he failed to notice that Chevy Chase looks a lot like season two villain, Ted Roark.
Chuck mentions Die Hard in a season four episode, though a season two episode had previously featured Reginald Vel Johnson as Sgt. Al Powell. Not a similar character. Sgt. Al Powell.
In one season 4 episode, Chuck tells Sarah he feels like he should be James Bond, to which Sarah responds that she didn't fall in love with James Bond, but with him. Later in that same episode, Sarah goes undercover working for the season's Big Bad, Alexei Volkoff, played by Bond actor Timothy Dalton.
Season 5 plays with it even more: Bo Derek and Stan Lee appear in episodes of Season 5 as themselves. In the Chuckverse, both are secretly spies (Stan Lee with the CIA, Bo Derek working with Nicholas Quinn.
Night Court exists in the Chuck-universe (a clip from it can be seen in season one). John Larroquette just happens to play retired spy Roan Montgomery, and wouldn't you know it, there isn't a single mention of him looking a lot like Dan Fielding.
An episode of Happy Days had the Cunningham family watching the movie The Music Man. Mrs. Cunningham says that one of the boys in the movie looks like Richie while Mr. Cunningham finds that silly. A much younger Ron Howard did indeed have a prominent role in that movie.
On The Wire Wu-Tang Clan songs have been heard playing on stereos, and yet Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man has a recurring role on the show as gangster Cheese Wagstaff.
The infamous Real Life Baltimore drug dealer "Little Melvin" Williams (who was the partial inspiration for Avon Barksdale) is also acknowledged as a real figure at one point. Williams, who has served prison time and reformed since his criminal days, has a small recurring role as Bunny Colvin's friend the Deacon, but no one comments on his resemblance to Little Melvin.
In the Cold Case episode "Creatures of the Night" Barry Bostwick plays a serial killer. The crime in question involved a 1977 murder and one of the main plot points had the killer and suspected victim attending a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show which starred a much-younger Barry Bostwick. So, flashbacks showed the younger version of Bostwick's character watching a movie starring a character played by a younger Barry Bostwick. Confused yet?
Now, if only Rush had called the killer "Asshole"...
A bit of The Breakfast Club confusion. Some kids watch the movie in an early season two episode and a character mentions it by name in season three, yet Paul Gleason appeared as a character in another season three episode.
We're treated to an interesting take of this in the Summer Glau episode. Sheldon speculates that if Skynet were real, then the best strategy would be for them to copy and impersonate actors who have played Terminators on film.
In one episode in season 1, the characters have a discussion about how Mayim Bialik and Danica McKellar are serious academics as well as actresses. It would've been weird enough if just one of them had shown up later in the series, but both actresses would end up playing fictional guest parts in season 3, and Bialik's character Amy has since become one of the show's main characters.
Despite being huge fans of Star Trek, Raj never notices his father looks like Dr Bashir's father. He's also a fan of The Good Wife, yet hasn't noticed that Leonard's mother looks like one of the main characters.
Simon Helberg once cameoed in The Guild, which exists in this world, implying Howard has a doppleganger.
At least Leonard and Sheldon are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but they don't notice that the FBI agent who does Howard's background check looks a lot like Eliza Dushku.
Thirtysomething, in its final season, featured a copy of John Updike's Rabbit at Rest as stage dressing. Guess what show the characters in Rabbit at Rest watch frequently.
Most of the cast members of Growing Pains haven't had much of a career afterwards. Alan Thicke's career consists mostly of playing himself, and Kirk Cameron has gone on to Christian Fundie work. Leonardo DiCaprio, however, has fared much better, which may be why he wasn't in the reunion movie. In the movie, the characters make reference to the missing Leonardo.
Entourage clearly exists in a contemporary Hollywood, with many actors and prominent movie industry personalities appearing and referenced but the main characters aren't recognised for their actors - no-one mistakes Eric for Kevin Connolly, or thinks Johnny Drama looks like Matt Dillon (actor Kevin Dillon's more successful brother)
Ally McBeal is set in the same universe as other David E. Kelley shows including The Practice, and in fact those two shows crossed over on at least one occasion. However, another episode has Ally watching TV (although the audience can only hear the sound, not see the screen) and the famous "head in the bag" scene from The Practice is playing.
An episode of Lucille Ball's '70s sitcom Here's Lucy has her character entering a Lucille Ball lookalike contest, and meeting - you guessed it - Lucille Ball.
What makes this even odder, of course, is that Dick Loudon and the entire Newhart series are eventually revealed to have been a bad dream conjured up by that selfsame shrink.
In the TV movie "Degrassi Takes Manhattan," a TVM reporter mentions an interview with rap superstar Drake, who originally became famous for the role of Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation.
The previous film, Degrassi Goes Hollywood mentions meeting Shenae Grimes at a 90210 after party. Who appeared in that season playing Darcy Edwards for the last time.
Also, celebrity guest stars fall in various sides of this trope. A few appear as themselves, making this a non-issue (Kevin Smith, Jay Manuel), but others appeared as random extras (Billy Ray Cyrus, Colin Mochrie). Nobody comments on how familiar they look.
Abed: Don Draper from Mad Men. What did you think?
In the Community episode "Contemporary Impressionists", French Stewart plays a French Stewart impersonator.
In the episode "Basic Genealogy", Jeff and Pierce agree they dislike Glee. Iqbal Theba, who plays Principal Figgins in Glee, appears in the same episode as Abed's father.
Here's a paradox capable of destroying the universe (or at least our own galaxy): Jaleel White appeared in an episode of Full House as Steve Urkel, where he met Uncle Jesse (played by John Stamos). White also appeared on Step by Step as Urkel, where he met Carol (played by Suzanne Somers). But then John Stamos appears on Step by Step as himself, where he meets Carol, and he mentions Full House! That means that in the Step by Step universe, Urkel is both a fictional character (having appeared on Full House) AND a real person, having appeared in person before their very eyes. Try getting your head around that.
It's possible that Urkel happened to land an acting gig on Full House as a part of some sort of contest or something.
Oh, and while we're at it, DJ's boyfriend Steve also meets Suzanne Somers on an episode of Full House, just in case it wasn't paradoxical enough already.
Played with in Furuhata Ninzaburou - big name celebrity actors make appearances on the show as victims and murderers, and no mention of whether or not they look like famous people, but the titular detective actually does butt heads with the J Pop group SMAP (one of whom already cameoed as a suspect in an earlier episode).
Averted on The Larry Sanders Show. Actor Garry Shandling exists alongside Larry Sanders In-Universe (and, according to guest Sean Penn, is a terrible and insecure actor.)
In The X-Files episode "Hollywood A.D.," Scully is played by Téa Leoni, who is actor David Duchovny's wife in real life.
Another episode has Alex Trebek play an M.I.B. agent, who is described as looking "like Alex Trebek."
The paradox is averted by this second example, though, as the character underwent extensive plastic surgery for the sake of looking like Alex Trebek. This was so anyone who saw him doing M.I.B. type things (i.e., trying to cover up the evidence of aliens a witness claimed to see) wouldn't be believed. And everything about the character we only get through the testimony of people claiming to have seen UFO's.
In a 2010 episode of Two and a Half Men, Charlie goes to his psychiatrist (played by Jane Lynch). As he and Alan later watch Glee, he says "that tall blonde in the red tracksuit is freaking me out."
In an episode of Happy Endings, Brad, played by Damon Wayans Jr., mentions that before they were married, his wife used a picture of "one of the guys from In Living Color!" as a placeholder for him. In Living Color was created by and starred Damon Wayans Sr. as well as his brothers and sister.
In the fourth season of Primeval, Abbey, played by former S-Club 7 member Hannah Spearritt, distracts a dinosaur in an arena with a light and sound system by turning the music onto max and the lights on... The song playing being Don't Stop Movin'.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Ashley Banks is a fan of both Tevin Campbell and in-universe teen heart-throb Little T (played by Tevin Campbell).
Will not only repeatedly references The Cosby Show, and Malcolm Jamal-Warner specifically, but in one episode, he tells a detailed story claiming that Jamal-Warner is a close, personal friend of his who calls him for advice on women. A later episode has Jamal-Warner playing Hilary's boyfriend Eric.
In "Kiss My Butler", Will references Ben Vereen by name when he talks about Geoffrey's attire. Vereen would later portray Will's father, Lou, in "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse".
In another episode, Hilary references a magazine that has "that supermodel Tyra" (who was then going by Only One Name) on the cover. During the show's fourth season, Tyra played Jackie Ames, one of Will's love interests.
In Hawaii Five-0, Steve and Danny are watching CHiPs, comparing their lives to Erik Estrada's and Larry Wilcox's characters. Apparently they never watched Hawaii Five-O when they were younger. They should avoid Kahala Mall, where there is a sculpture of Jack Lord.
Hawaii Five-0 also crossed over with NCIS: Los Angeles. NCIS:LA takes place in the same universe as regular NCIS, which referenced the original Five-O in the 2009 episode "Power Down." Meaning that there's a Five-O squad with a Danno in a universe with a classic TV show that has the very same things.
Gibbs: Book 'em, Dan-ozzo. DiNozzo: Nice Hawaii Five-O reference, boss.
In Absolutely Fabulous both Joanna Lumley and Patsy Stone were minor Bond Girls. It remains unknown whether or not they were the same minor bond girl.
Millennium and The X-Files nominally take place in the same universe: A minor character, Jose Chung, appeared in two X-Files episodes before meeting his end in an episode of Millennium. Likewise, Millennium's Fully Absorbed Finale was an episode of The X-Files. Mulder and Scully actually met Frank Black. Despite this though, one episode of Millennium has a very obvious reference to The X-Files (complete with the X-Files theme) note Episode in question involved a crazed Moral Guardian trying to censor everything as much as possible where it's only a TV show and in another episode, The X-Files can be heard from the TV as Frank is searching an apartment.
In Farscape (a Jim Henson Company production), the Halosians were modified Skeksis costumes from The Dark Crystal. In a later episode, John actually refers to them as Skeksis.
Moesha met Brandy (the latter of whom plays the former) in one episode.
An episode of Married... with Children had Al and Peg walk into a video store featuring a display for the movie Dutch, starring Ed O Neil (though his face was covered up by a "new release" sticker). Peg picked up the copy briefly, only to put it back with a disgusted reaction.
Goodfellas is also mentioned at least once. Goodfellas stars Frank Vincent and Lorraine Bracco, who play Phil Leotardo and Dr. Melfi, respectively. Michael Imperioli, who plays Christopher, also has a minor role as the poor busboy who gets blown away by Joe Pesci, and Vincent Pastore, who plays Big Pussy, is briefly onscreen.
In one Season 3 episode, Noah Tenenbaum's father (a big-name entertainment lawyer in Hollywood) impresses Meadow by claiming that he's met the actor Tim Daly before. Daly would later join the cast of The Sopranos in Season 5, as the recurring character J.T. Dolan.
Since the show takes place in New Jersey, various characters (understandably) reference the music of Bruce Springsteen quite frequently. No one seems to notice that Silvio Dante is played by "Miami Steve" Van Zandt, the guitarist of the E Street Band.
There's also numerous mentions of The Godfather despite the fact that Dominic Chianese, who plays Uncle Junior, appeared in Part II as Johnny Ola.
And of course the resemblances between Tony's situation and Analyze This doesn't go unnoticed, but no one notices that Max Casella, who plays Christopher's friend Benny, has a small part in it. Nor do they comment on the sequel, where De Niro's character becomes a consultant on a show obviously modeled on The Sopranos.
In a season 8 episode, Mickey Aldrin mentions his plans to watch Breaking Bad. The main character from the show, Bryan Cranston, appeared as Ted's boss in Season 2. Bob Odenkirk, who played Saul Goodman on the same show, also appeared as Marshall's boss a few seasons earlier.
In the summer of 2011, it was discovered that reruns of the show contained retroactive product placement - ads for timely 2011 products inserted into old episodes. This included a scene where Marshall stood in front of an ad for Bad Teacher, a film starring Jason Segel.
Richard Nixon is the most recent Real Life president to be referenced in The West Wing. All of the presidents between Nixon and Bartlett, as well as Bartlett himself, are fictional. This begs the question, then, of who was Nixon's vice-president, who presumably assumed office upon his resignation? Did this fictional president then pardon Nixon, which led to this fictional president losing reelection to another fictional president two years later?
Alternately, given that elections in The West Wing are two years out of sync with the real world, it's possible that Nixon's resignation prompted a special election in 1974, with a regular four year cycle picking up at that point.
Just to complicate things further, in one episode of Hercules spin-off Xena: Warrior Princess, "The Xena Scrolls," the real Rob Tapert appears as himself and gets the idea for XWP from a series of ancient scrolls actor Ted Raimi, who would play Joxer, found in his grandfather's attic (his grandfather is apparently Jack Kleinman, aka Jacques S'er, who was present when the scrolls were discovered). Of course, Ted originally pitches the series with a focus on Joxer, but Rob only has ears for Xena. And apparently Hercules: The Legendary Journeys doesn't even exist in this version of the modern world (which seems to parallel the way XWP eclipsed the series of which it was a spin-off) or at least it has no role in the origins of XWP.
Normally, this trope wouldn’t even be an issue on Xena: Warrior Princess because the show is set in the distant past. However, the show has a few episodes set in our own time, and to further complicate matters, the series itself is watched by characters in those episodes. In "Déjà Vu All Over Again" and "Send in the Clones,” the celebrity paradox is lampshaded for the audience even though none of the characters notice it.
Prior to either of these episodes (in “The Xena Scrolls”), the series has established that the XWP series we know and love was based on ancient scrolls (discovered by descendants of Xena and Gabrielle) that were written by the historical Gabrielle. In “Déjà Vu All Over Again,” set in the late 20th century, Annie (Lucy Lawless) is a big fan of the in-verse series Xena: Warrior Princess (in fact, she suspects she might unknowingly be the Xena vigilante who’s currently making big news; this seems reasonable to her because she thinks was the historical Xena in a past life and is now being temporarily possessed by her spirit). Annie has a life-size stand-up Xena (Lucy Lawless) in her bedroom, so we know that Annie looks exactly like Xena from the in-verse series. The presence of the stand-up lampshades the paradox for the audience, but no one in-verse mentions Annie’s startling resemblance to the actress who plays Xena. Also, the series uses the celebrity paradox to set up audience expectation in preparation for a kind of twist ending: it’s not Annie who was Xena in a past life but her boyfriend Harry (Ted Raimi, XWP’s Joxer).
“Send in the Clones” is also set in the above version of our world of the late 20th century, which boasts its own XWP series. An evil scientist, a modern incarnation of Alti, clones the historical Xena and Gabrielle and, with the help of some hardcore fans of the in-verse series, shows the clones clips of the show to “stimulate their latent memories. It works and so the clones essentially are the historical Xena and Gabrielle; they have their own memories of their lives rather than just memories of what they’ve been shown—and as a result, they have some problems with the series, as evidenced by this exchange: “They have taken liberties with my scrolls.” “Yeah, and what are they tryin’ to say about our relationship anyway?” (Les Yay! Also a nod to the fans who've been debating that very question for six seasons, with a touch of Self-Deprecation acknowledging the PTB's insistence on ambiguity.) Indeed, it appears the in-verse series they’re watching is not quite the same series we know; our series is more accurate. Yet Clone Xena finds one positive thing to say about the in-verse series; after watching clips of the fictional Xena (Lucy Lawless), Clone Xena (Lucy Lawless) comments with a leer . . .
Clone Xena: I like the one who plays me. She’s kinda sexy.
Thus the show draws audience attention to the celebrity paradox, lampshading it, without anyone in-verse apparently noticing it.
In “Soul Possession,” just to remind the audience of the celebrity paradox, the writers have one of the secondary characters in the modern world refer to one of the actors of their in-verse XWP series by name—and it’s the actor who plays Autolycus in the actual XWP, Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell isn’t even in the episode, not as a modern character and not as Autolycus in the parts of the episode set in the regular world of the actual XWP, so mention of him lampshades the paradox. Further, this mention happens when Ares (Kevin Smith) rides into the C.H.A.K.R.A.M. conference on a motorcycle because the conference MC apparently recognizes that Ares resembles Kevin Smith:
MC: Did you schedule any celebrity appearances?
Delaney: Well, we contacted Bruce Campbell, but he was too much money.
If Smith and Campbell play roles in the in-verse series, it’s reasonable to assume that other XWP actors also have roles in that series, and we know from “Déjà vu All Over Again” that Annie looks just like the actress who plays Xena, and yet still no one mentions that Annie, Mattie, and Harry look just like Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor, and Ted Raimi, not even the hardcore fans of the in-verse series who badger Annie about what it felt like to learn she was Joxer reincarnated and bring her to tears by asking what happened after Harry and Mattie realized they were Xena and Gabrielle (“They got hitched”—Les Yay!).
Perhaps Annie and the in-verse Lucy Lawless are look-alikes, much like Diana, Meg, and Leah are Xena look-alikes. Based on "character" prominence in naming, Annie would have to be a Lucy look-alike instead of the other way around.
Related to a literature example up above, Sherlock contains a very minor but completely headwrecking reference to Arthur Conan Doyle, when a tabloid article about Sherlock Holmes contains the line "in a twist worthy of a Conan Doyle novella..." This implies that in-universe ACD wrote stories that had the same cultural impact as Sherlock Holmes but couldn't possibly have been Sherlock Holmes, or even anything too similar or it would surely have been referenced more often in the detective's rise to fame.
In a real-life version of this trope, Steven Moffat admitted on one of the commentary tracks that he couldn't actually film on the real Baker Street at least in part due to the massive amounts of real-world Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and tourist markers.
It also namedrops Spock, which, considering Spock himself referenced Sherlock Holmes, makes you wonder....
In a first-season episode of Due South, Constable Fraser (Paul Gross) mentions that Constable Buck Frobisher bears a striking resemblance to "noted Canadian character actor Leslie Nielsen. Frobisher is played by Nielsen.
Raising Hope contains multiple ways for My Name Is Earl throughout the series (Both shows created by Greg Garcia). Not only was My Name is Earl a show in universe (Burt even kicks a NBC excutive in the groin for cancelling it), characters from Earl show up in Raising Hope (like Pattie the daytime hooker) suggesting they happen in the same universe and several actors from Earl appear as recurring characters or guest stars on Raising Hope complete with Actor Allusions.
A Deleted Scene from reveals Peter Mannion MP's wife's dowdy appearance has been mocked on Have I Got News for You. A number of actors from The Thick of It have appeared in episodes of Have I Got News For You, including Rebecca Front (Nicola Murray MP) Chris Addison (Olly Reader) and Miles Jupp (John Duggan). Presumably those episodes in The Verse feature a different array of comedians cracking jokes about the politicians of The Thick of It.
The scenes in Malcolm Tucker's house have the blink-and-you'll-miss-it detail that Malcolm owns boxsets of The Thick Of It. Not surprising, but who are the cast in the in-universe version?
Doctor Who exists in the universe of The Thick Of It, with Olly complaining about a bunch of water cooler bottles that "this is like something out of fucking Doctor Who", and Malcolm Tucker himself referencing it in The Missing DoSAC Files (suggesting The Telegraph print "Dr Who's assistant in a St. Trinian's uniform" instead of a coke scandal he wants to bury), and a BBC executive suggesting he have a chat show where he can interview a Dalek. Fortunately, the series ended before Malcolm was forced to witness a version of the Doctor who looked exactly like him...
At one point, Malcolm insults his assistant Olly by calling him "Bonnie Langford", the actress best known for playing the Sixth/Seventh Doctor assistant Mel.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The episode "The Gang Wrestles for the Troops" opens with the gang watching a WWF wrestling match and expressing their fandom for the wrestlers of the '80s, mentioning many real-life WWF wrestlers. Later in the episode, Dennis, Mac, and Charlie attend a local amateur wrestling show and hire the star of the show, Da'Maniac, to be in their own show. Da'Maniac is played by professional wrestler Roddy Piper, who was very big in the '80s. Despite this, he is treated like a completely different person.
Similar to the above, one of the live action segments of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show guest starred Captain Lou Albano (who also played Mario). Mario says that Lou Albano is his favorite wrestler and he can't wait to meet him, but it turns out the two keep missing each other and are never in the same room together.
Jesse Mc Cartney played J.R. on All My Children for three years. Five years later, after becoming a popular recording artist, he returned as himself. His appearance was a birthday surprise for Colby, J.R.'s sister. It was somewhat justified because another actor was playing J.R. by this point so he couldn't just reprise his role.
In Brazilian sitcom Os Normais, an episode had the characters doing a plug for a movie being released, O Homem que Copiava. They list the cast... except for Selton Mello, as he played one of the main characters of the show.
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace: The Show Within a Show was conceived and written by horror writer Garth Marenghi, who also plays the lead character. Characters in the show are shown reading Marenghi's books. This is just another way for him to stroke his ego, especially given the positive comments the characters (which he himself wrote) make about his books.
Happened on the Are We There Yet? series. In one episode, Nick gets his kids interested in A Different World, which he mentions being a fan of, Sinbad in particular. Several episodes later, Sinbad pops up playing a judge, and Nick doesn't notice the resemblance.
Happens in A Different World itself (a spinoff of The Cosby Show). Dwayne and Whitely go to L.A. for their honeymoon and encounter a cut out of Bill Cosby. No one seems to wonder about the uncanny resemblance with Cliff Huxtable.
Justfied because although they know most of the Huxtables they never met Cliff.
Another Disney Channel show that has this trope in play is Shake It Up Between the two of them Bella Thorne and Zendaya Coleman have five songs that have been played on the show during dance numbers, yet no one in the Shake It Up universe wonders why CeCe and Rocky look like them. Could be explained by the fact that the singers of those songs are only heard and never seen, so there's no reason to believe anyone in-universe actually knows what they look like. Also, the song "Show Ya How" is by Adam and Kenton (Deuce and Gunther respectively) in "Protest It Up"
Like Bella and Zendaya, Caroline Sunshine (Tinka) has a song that has been played during a dance number (specifically during the opening Shake it Up Chicago segment in "Embarass it Up") but at least this one could be a "pass" as her singing voice isn't exactly identifiable as Tinka's.
In Coronation Street, nobody ever watches TV. Certainly not at 7:30 every weekday evening. None of the magazine titles in Norris's newsagents are those of recognisable publications in this world. And nobody in the street seems to have noticed a sudden infestation of meerkats, a species native to South Africa, and are asking whether this merits intervention by the zoo, the RSPCA, or Rentokil (An insurance company using anthropomorphic meerkats as mascots is "sponsoring" the show, with commercials at the start and finish of each segment.These feature the lovable animals drinking in the Rovers, dining in Roy's café, and doing other cute meerkat things).
Suits acknowledge the existense of Game of Thrones yet don't notice that Conleth Hill (Varys) and now Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) are in their universe. This actually gets played up in the season 3 "Game of Suits" promos.
In a Season 5 episode of Breaking Bad, a Deadwood DVD is found on on a shelf in Hank's house. Deadwood featured Anna Gunn, who plays Walt's wife, Skyler. The same episode mentions Babylon 5, which Bryan Cranston (who plays Walter White) played a small part as Ranger Captain Ericsson in the episode "The Long Night".
In an earlier episode, Walter White and Walt Jr. are seen watching Scarface (1983), which both Mark Morgolis (Who plays Hector Salamanca) and Steven Bauer (Who plays Don Eladio) acted in.
In Nashville, the recurring character of Peggy is played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley, the wife of real-life country singer Brad Paisley. Paisley plays himself in "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" and "I'll Keep Climbing," which begs the question of who he's married to in the show's universe.
In "The Instincts", Rossi and Morgan are waiting for Reid in Reid's hotel room, where they're watching "The Young & The Restless". It's an obvious allusion to Shemar Moore- who played Y&R's Malcolm Winters as well as CM's Morgan- but it raised an interesting conundrum: at the time the episode aired, no one else had played Winters and no one noticed Morgan's resemblance to him. This only leads to the question of who played Winters in the CM universe, since we never see anyone notice how similar Morgan looks to Winters.
The show is also quite fond of hiring actors from StarTrek, including notable UnSub roles for Will Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes and Raphael Sbarge. However, in "The Big Game", we hear Reid discussing Star Trek with a bar patron, indicating that he is a fan of the series- yet, in "The Uncanny Valley", we see him in a room with Arthur Malcolm (played by Frakes) and he never notices the resemblance to Commander Riker. Yes, it may be true that Reid only referenced The Original Series in "The Big Game" indicating that he may only be a fan of the original, but we do also see him attend a cosplay convention in "Hit", so at the very least, he'd be familiar with the character of Riker.
The show- as expected- makes constant references to famous serial killers of yesteryear, but not once do they reference the pioneers of criminal profiling itself, such as Robert Ressler or John Douglas. The show implies that the real life figures played no role in the BAU at all, in that the characters of the show- especially the grizzled veterans Rossi and Hotch- were the ones who really did all the work in establishing profiling as a legitimate crime fighting technique. Which leads to the question- do the real life "profilers" exist in other capacities, such as, perhaps, underlings to the show's BAU? Or are they absent from the show's universe entirely? The paradox gains another dimension when you learn that Ressler was the one who coined the term "serial killer", a term the show uses frequently- if Ressler does not exist, who created the term?
In The League of Gentlemen, the local cave system ("Stump Hole Caverns") was supposed to have been used as a BBC Quarry during Tom Baker's era on Doctor Who, with the tour guide saying that down there in the 70s you couldn't move for Cybermen. Two of the actors in the main cast had prominent roles in the reboot series of Doctor Who (one even being a writer who helped reboot it in the first place!), one even played Patrick Troughton in An Adventure in Space and Time, and a more minor character is played by Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston.
Justified has an episode in which Art Mullen comments that he never found Julia Roberts that hot because "she looked too much like Eric." In Season 5, we meet a character played by Eric Roberts.
In one early episode, Blanche wants the girls to watch Another World. Rue McLanahan, who played Blanche, appeared on that particular soap years before The Golden Girls began.
Dorothy, upon hearing that another bizarre St. Olaf festival is occurring, begins singing "Sunrise, Sunset," a song from Fiddler on the Roof. Guess who played Yente in the original Broadway cast of that musical? Apparently, Dorothy had a successful stage career before becoming a substitute teacher...
One episode of Dad's Army has a scene in a cinema, with a poster on the wall for the film The Edge of the World, starring John Lawrie - aka the platoon's Private Fraser.