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Soap Within a Show
"Yugi, I think I'm pregnant — And you're the father!"
Tristan (who is male), Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series

When a Soap Opera appears as a Show Within a Show in another genre, it is nearly always done as an over-the-top parody of the genre or at least as a quick portrayal of cliched forms of its tropes, including (but by no means limited to):

  1. Love Triangle (overlaps with nearly everything here, often becoming a lot more complicated)
  2. Murder the Hypotenuse, usually stemming from the Love Triangle
  3. Comas (as per 1, Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!)
  4. People who are unknowingly related, including Luke, I Am Your Father and Surprise Incest
  5. And, conversely, unknown relatives showing up, including Luke, You Are My Father
  6. Twin Siblings (often evil, and characters are often involved, sometimes unknowningly, in an affair with them)
  7. As a result of 1, confusion over who a baby's parents are
  8. As a result of the above, a completely incomprehensible family tree
  9. A big twist that everyone looks forward to
  10. Back from the Dead (yet again 1)
  11. Easy Amnesia (Q: Let me get this straight...is there anyone here who doesn't have amnesia? A: I forget...)
  12. Deus Angst Machina
  13. A roguish, Troubled, but Cute hunk that all of the women want (often wearing an Eyepatch of Power).
  14. I'm pregnant
  15. In 50 or more episodes, I'll die from an incurable disease
  16. Oh, John! Oh, Marsha! (a reference to the classic Stan Freberg routine)
  17. Kids growing up within three episodes due to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome
  18. Live Episode
  19. Split Personality
    Calculon: Son of a bit. This is my house. But that means I'm blackmailing myself.
    Monique: Oh, Calculon, I'm afraid you have a fourth personality the other three don't know about... And it and I are lovers!
  20. In some versions, the theme music and various stingers will be melodramatically organ-based (akin to radio and early television soap operas)
  21. Australian accents are common if the show itself is British (or Australian).
  22. By the same token, it's common if the show itself is American for the soap opera to be a Spanish-language telenovela.
  23. A few Big No's might get sprinkled in
  24. And none of the above would be complete without liberal use of GASP!!

At least one character in the main cast will be a regular viewer of the show, and likely be forced to explain it.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • The series of Japanese Fanta Commercials featured a series of improbable and terrible teachers that the students had to put up with. One of them was Ms. "Rose Princess," a soap-opera-esque lady teacher whose class was interrupted first by her long-lost suitor suddenly reappearing in her life, then by her mother accusing her of husband-snatching.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Minami-ke has Sensei and Ninomiya-kun, a Show Within a Show in which every episode seems to feature somebody getting amnesia, wandering out into the street, and getting hit by a car.
  • In Tenchi in Tokyo Princess Ayeka in one episode gets down to watch what she claims is her favorite soap opera: "Everyone has amnesia!"
    • In the Tenchi Muyo! OAV the girls all watch a strange alien soap opera, but it doesn't get much actual screen time.
  • In an episode of Stitch! Gantu is seen watching a soap opera which involves a woman that has been married 25 times, and most of her previous husbands are apparently in a coma.

    Comics 

    Eastern European Animation 
  • In Technotise Edit I Ja, terrible soap operas exist in the future too, with a twist. The woman's "a robot... my heart is made of metal!" and the man reveals... "I am in fact... an alien! I don't even have a heart!" as a shocking twist.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • The movie Soapdish was all about this.
  • The Daytime Drama that is the setting of Tootsie fills this out, so much so that the main character's real world Reveal is assumed to just be part of the show.
  • Rene Zellweger's title character in Nurse Betty has a brain snap after watching her husband's brutal murder and thinks she's a character on her favorite soap opera, and drives cross-country to work at the hospital the show is based in (or at least one in Los Angeles with a similar name). The DVD even includes episodes of the show in their entirety. They're only five minutes long and exist just to show clips during the movie, but there's a coherent plot running through them. Expectedly, all the soap cliches are shown in full, right down to that damn fuzzy camera.
  • One of the main characters in The Real Blonde acts in an insipid daytime soap opera despite being a classically trained actor. He hates it, but likes the money enough to stay. He eventually leverages his character's popularity to get his ex-girlfriend's character killed.
  • 28 Days had one, called Santa Cruz, which has just about every cliche in spades. Hilariously portrayed because everyone in the cast who swore not to become addicted to it got hooked.
  • The Australian film, You and Your Stupid Mate had the protagonists trying to get their favourite soup opera, a Neighbours parody, uncancelled. In the end they fail and start watching a Home and Away parody instead.
  • Enchanted has one that shows up when Edward and Nathaniel are channel-surfing. For bonus points it features a cameo of Paige O'Hara, who voiced Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
  • Stay-at-home dad Jack in Mr. Mom becomes so addicted to soap operas that he starts dreaming of having an affair with his neighbor Joan, with the situation played out between him, Joan, and his wife Caroline like a soap opera.

    Literature 
  • Cobbers, another Neighbours parody in Johnny and the Dead, enjoyed by Johnny's grandad and the ghosts.
  • The novelas described in Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa are supposedly not too far removed from actual South American radio dramas of the time. Until, that is, the plots of the separate novelas start to merge into one...
  • The Northern Barstows in the Kim Newman Diogenes Club story "The Serial Murders", a parody of Coronation Street. Richard Jeperson is horrified to find he's the only member of the team who doesn't watch it. After watching a bunch of episodes as research for a case, he's even more horrified to realize he wants to know what happens next.
  • Amid the various British TV parodies in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Time of Your Life is Jubilee Towers, a soap that saves its budget by being mostly set in and around a TV studio...

    Live-Action TV 
  • House has the episode "Living the Dream", where House, a regular viewer of the hospital soap Prescription: Passion, notices a symptom in one of the actors. He then kidnaps him in order to cure him.
  • One episode of Psych has the the titular agency investigate a stabbing that was the result of a prop knife being swapped for a real one. Over the course of the episode nearly all cast members except Shawn and Lassiter are revealed as viewers. Even better, it was a Spanish-language telenovela, themselves known for being over-the-top.
    • The end of the episode makes the whole thing hilarious, as the only two non-viewers, Shawn and Lassiter, end up on the show. Shawn runs with it, Lassiter tries. Oh, how he tries. And fails.
    • What really set it over the top was the opening theme song was done in Spanish! All of this makes a little more sense when you realize that James Roday (Shawn) is actually James Rodríguez, and is of Mexican descent.
  • Red Dwarf has a Neighbours parody with androids.
    Kelly: I wasn't with Simone that night, Brooke. I spent the night with Garry.
    Brooke: Garry? Your ex-husband Garry? My business rival? What are you telling me Kelly?
    Kelly: It's Brooke Jr.
    Brooke: What about Brooke Jr?
    Kelly: He isn't your android.
  • The telenovela in Ugly Betty, which has the added bonus in that non-Spanish speakers will have an even harder time understanding what's going on.
  • The popular Quebecer TV Show Le Coeur à ses raisons (which means "The heart has its reasons") was all about that. It featured two twin sisters with HUGE breasts and no brain, Criquette and Ashley (played by the same actress, so when they were in the same room they used over the top gags to hide the face of one of the two characters). It also included triplets all played by the same actor, a doctor (Brett), his evil twin brother (Brad) and his evil sister (Brenda) who appears in the second season. Oh, and that's their mom. The show was mainly an accumulation of clichés that you usually see in soap operas. They even had a dog, Flatsy, who they all understood. And it's all played for laughs. This is was it looked like most of the time.
  • An episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch had her inspired by Aunt Hilda's favourite soap Burden of Desire and so opens a "Can of Worms" to make her life more interesting. Highlights include Harvey getting amnesia, a hunky janitor with an eyepatch, Libby framing Sabrina for stealing an engagement ring and two minor characters discovering they are long lost brother and sister.
  • Twin Peaks had one called Invitation to Love in which the action closely mirrored the story of the show. A lot was filmed, but most was cut away in post production.
  • Moody's Point on The Amanda Show. Bonus points for ending on a never-resolved Cliff Hanger.
  • Joey's soap in Friends is not strictly fictional (being Days of Our Lives) but the Show Within a Show stuff we see fits perfectly anyway... It's outlandish even for a Soap Opera (brain transplants?!)...
    • Not that outlandish to anyone whoever watched Days of Our Lives regularly.
    • Some other gem lines:
    Rachel: (discussing how Joey may not win a soap opera award) "Come on Joey. You're going up against the guy who survived his own cremation!"
    • An early episode also featured the gang watching a telenovela and making their own story as they didn't know what was going on. The scene had two women fighting and ended with one of them being thrown down a flight of stairs.
    • In "The One Where the Monkey Gets Away", Rachel is watching a nameless soap opera with Marcel and explaining the gist of the plot to him.
  • Besos y Lagrimas, a sketch parodying telenovelas on SNL.
  • Parodied like many other tropes in the 200th episode of Stargate SG-1; one concept for the rebooted Wormhole X-Treme! was a Beverly Hills 90210-like Darker and Edgier soap with young, beautiful model-actors. (It should be noted, that was before they started Stargate Universe.)
  • 30 Rock had a lot of fun with this one. The standout here is the Season 3 episode "Generalissimo," in which Jack has to deal with the fact that his Puerto Rican girlfriend's senile abuela watches the Mexican telenovela Los Amantes Clandestinos, whose villain, the Generalissimo, looks exactly like him.
  • Done to the extreme in the That 70s Show season 2 episode "Vanstock".
  • In Arrested Development, there is the telenovela El Amor Prohibido which stars GOB's girlfriend Marta.
  • Star Trek: Voyager had an episode where the crew went back in time to Earth. Staying on board the ship, Neelix and Kes got hooked on several soap operas.
  • Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show has Noches de Pasión con Señor O'Brien.
  • Classic Doctor Who had one of these... FROM ANOTHER PLANET!
  • Acorn Antiques from Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV was a parody of everything that was bad about UK soaps of the period. Mostly Crossroads (the episode where the antique shop is suddenly a health spa with no explanation is a reference to something very similar happening to the Crossroads Motel), but with a few digs at EastEnders (such as the tie-in single "Anyone Can Break a Vase").
  • Similar to the example from Friends, Dan and Becs had Becs land an important role on real-life Irish soap Fair City, which rapidly transformed into a soap fitting of this trope, with Eastern European sex slaves, hitherto-unknown fatal illnesses and al Qaeda terrorist bombings (in a tiny Dublin bistro).
  • In Sonny With A Chance, one of the main characters is the star of a Dawson's Creek-esque soap opera called Mackenzie Falls.
  • One of these was even a major plot point of the fifth season of Nip/Tuck. Just the name tells you everything: Hearts'n'Scalpels
  • MADtv had a parody of K-Dramas entitled Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive, or Taedo. It featured accidental Brother-Sister Incest, assassins, Fun with Subtitles, doppelgangers, Incurable Cough of Death, and Edge.
  • An episode of ALF had ALF writing for a soap opera, with a lot of the storylines taken from the Tanners day-to-day life, but soapified. Then the family asked him to stop using them for material, and his scripts got blander ... so the executives soapified them further. Cue the family suspecting that the outrageous stuff now in the soap really happened.
    ALF: I even cut out the sex...
    Kate: What sex? Who had sex?
    ALF: I said I cut it out!
  • In the sixth season of the popular Israeli satire show Eretz Nehederet, every episode ended with a Gag Dub of some Arabic soap opera. The series was titled En Gvul laAhava (‘Love Is Boundless’), written with a font resembling Arabic script. A rather casual Crowning Moment of Funny was when one of the character’s daughter called her father ‘pathet’ (a word coined by Eretz Nehederet in a series of sketches joking about Israeli teens), and her father complained it’s ‘all because of television’.
  • Soap.
  • Stephen Colbert was discussing how some soap operas are now including (obscenely obvious) product placement, and the segment rapidly devolved into this with the appearance of his evil twin.
  • SCTV's ongoing soap opera parody The Days of the Week was a surprisingly understated example of this trope.
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie has a sketch that purports to be an Australian soap opera. It gets increasingly surreal, ending with Fry's character admitting to Laurie's that they've been having an affair ("You mean we've been sleeping together all this time... behind my back?") and then giving as an excuse that he'd just discovered that he was his own father.
  • A season 7 episode of 7th Heaven had Eric, who was off from work recovering after open-heart surgery, sitting around the house watching a soap opera about a woman named Maria with alien DNA in her stomach.
  • Spoof news programme The Day Today does occasional features on The Bureau, a spoof soap opera set in a bureau-de-change of all places, where the staff all sleep with each other, get savagely beaten up, have drug overdoses and get fired as a matter of routine. All in less than 6 minutes of clips.
  • Good Luck Charlie had three of the characters suddenly become engrossed in a soap called Tears of Tomorrow and then move on to another soap when the first got cancelled (not-so-coincidentally at a time when cancelling long-running soaps was making headlines). The Credits Gag is a reenactment of Tears of Tomorrow, which crams in a lot of the soap conventions mentioned in the main article within a space of 30 seconds.
  • Season 5 of Rupaul's Drag Race included a Telenovela challenge where the queens had to act out scenes from a mock Latin soap, Chewing the Scenery like there's no tomorrow.
  • The Bowmans in the Hancock's Half Hour episode of the same name, which as the title suggests, is blatantly The Archers. When Tony's character proves to be the most popular thing in it after the writers Dropped a Bridge on Him, they quickly give him a Backup Twin.
  • Seducción Salvaje in the Warehouse Thirteen episode of the same name, is an over-the-top telenovella, which leads inevitably to a Trapped in TV Land plot.
  • Implied in Sherlock in the episode "The Great Game", where Sherlock watches day-time tv and winds up yelling at it.
    Sherlock: No, no, NOOOOOO! OF COURSE he's not the boy's father! Look at the turn-ups on his jeans!
  • Hope And Faith features an actress who was just fired from her soap "The Sacred and the Sinful" and replaced with The Other Darrin. The season 1 finale parodies this even further, featuring a soap style plan to humiliate Faith on live TV.
  • Lorenna in The Brothers Garcia is addicted to telenovellas as a Running Gag. One episode even has her trying to set the world record for longest time spent watching them.

    Music 
  • Technically, it's a Soap Within a Music Video, but the music video for Foo Fighters' "Long Road to Ruin" contains one of these, where the members of the band and Rashida Jones portray both the characters and the actors who play the characters. So really, it's a Soap Within a Show Within a Music Video...?
  • Eminem has an interlude aptly named "Soap" on his first album, The Slim Shady LP.
"Squire Montgomery!"
"What do you want from me Roger?!"
"I knew it was you all along messing around with my dear Veronica..."
"Wait a minute, you hold it right there, me and that woman love each other"
"-LOVE?! What do you know of love?"
"We were destined to be together, I met her on the beach.."
"Are you out to destroy me?"
"No Roger, that's not what I want to do. I LOVE HER! And we're going to be together."
"Never..."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The daytime television show that Calvin watched in one strip of Calvin and Hobbes.
    "Oh, Mary, you look ravishing in that skimpy negligee!
    Mmm ... darling, don't you wish we were married?
    But we are! ... or did you mean to each other?
    I've got to have you! Let's murder our spouses!
    Murder?! You sick animal! I love it when you talk that way! Come here!"
    • Calvin then commented that he learns things staying home that he would never find out about in school.

    Radio 
  • Medical Center of Love on Adventures in Odyssey. Just one scene includes two reveal twists and 3 characters declaring the secrets they've discovered from reading other people's diaries. By the end of the episode/virtual reality adventure in the Room of Consequences, Erica is practically pulling her hair out in frustration. "How do you soap opera people live like this day in and day out?!"
  • Ed Reardon's Week: The main character's friend is a director whose latest blockbuster films are a trilogy about a dolphin named Dermot, who is in love with his human trainer. The clips the audience hears are all melodramatic twaddle. The trainer goes blind at one point ... and then Dermot donates his corneas to her.

    Videogames 
  • Max Payne has Lords and Ladies.
    • And in Max Payne 3, there's Amor e Damas, a parody of Latin American telenovelas.
  • In Ratchet & Clank, Dr. Nefarious tends to short out and channel one of these whenever he gets angry.
    • In one of the vid-comics, Quark is watching one when he's interrupted by the arrival of his trainer, Helga. Hilariously, it seems to be the exact same one Nefarious broadcasts.
    • Tools of Destruction later named the show "Lance & Janice", and implied it to be a very popular Long Runner.
  • On the Silver Strip in Dead Rising, you can go to the cinema and see a film which is practically every cliché line by line. It is incredibly funny.
  • The intro to Command & Conquer: Tiberium Dawn flips though several TV channels, one featuring two people who yell at each other, slap each other in the face and then kiss to swelling music.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner's Caleb Rentpayer has shades of this, particularly in regards to its soundtrack and time slot. The only drama shown, however, is a spoof of Dallas' "Who Shot J.R.?" episode, though the resolution is suitably absurd (it was Homestar).

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama's All My Circuits. (Formerly the Trope Namer.)
  • The Simpsons from the episode "Bart's Dog Gets an F":
    A disheveled priest interrupts two lovers (male boss and female employee) in an office.
    Woman: Father Mcgrath, I thought you were dead!
    Father Mcgrath: I was!
    • Bumblebee Man is a regular character in a Mexican Spanish-language soap, and his character appears to suffer divorce, infidelity, property damage with the expected melodrama.
    • The series 11 episode "Pygmoelian" revolves around a soap called It Never Ends.
    • During the teachers' strike in season six, Jimbo watches a soap with his mom:
    (sobbing) I just can't believe Stark would stoop to that right in the middle of Montana and Dakota's wedding.
  • The long-lost 1990 Saturday morning cartoon series Gravedale High has Trudy and the Beast, which stars wolf-man actor Billy Headstone as the eponymous Beast, who seems to be having an affair with a married woman. Cleofatra loves to watch TatB since she has a crush on Billy.
  • Totally Spies! has Beautiful People, Horrible Lives.
  • Fairly OddParents has All My Parents' Offspring (parody of All My Children), Kissy Kissy Goo Goo and All My Biceps (Jorgen's favorite show starring Wanda's identical but somehow hotter sister Blonda).
  • DuckTales has The Young and the Featherless.
  • The Loved and the Loveless on Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, which the entire cast watches.
  • King of the Hill had one with a gun toting Mexican priest/assassin (Los Dias y Las Noches de Monsignor Martinez). It looked awesome.
  • In American Dad!, Roger watches what's supposed to be Dynasty, but the only scene we ever see is the two main women slapping each other and calling each other "bitch" in turn. The scenery changes sometimes, but they are always doing the same thing.
  • Everyone in the Kim Possible episode "Sick Day" passes around a cold, and while recovering, they all watch the same soap opera:
    Killigan: Can you believe Belisha and Brock switched brains?
    Drakken: I know! So does that mean the wedding's off?
    • In another episode, Kim and Ron are bemusedly watching a Ship Tease scene that parallels their own pre-Official Couple situation at the time:
    Ron: Oh please, are they still teasing that Charity and Dannie are gonna get together?
    Kim: Like that's ever gonna happen. It would end the series.
  • In the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, Krang is shown to have a specific fondness for a soap opera of the "Oh John! Oh Marsha!" variety. In fact, that's pretty much all the show seems to be.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Perry the Platypus watches an unnamed soap opera on his days off. What we see of it definitely fits the trope.
  • The Autobots of The Transformers were partial to As the Kitchen Sinks, which features drama such as an affair between Donna and Gordon, Sheryl's will (which Jack apparently didn't know about), and (in a deleted line), the will actually belonging to Bob, who named Katy as his successor!
  • In one episode of Jimmy Neutron, the kids end up on a deadly game show on an alien planet, while their parents back home frantically try to rescue them (having found out via Earth's sudden reception of all nine billion galactic TV channels) and berate Jimmy's dad Hugh for watching Andromeda 90210 instead of the game show. Naturally, he ends up on the set at the very end and saves the day by answering the trivia question correctly:
    Meldar: How many evil twins were hatched from Dakota's birth sac on the popular daytime drama Andromeda 90210?
    Hugh: It's impossible to answer, because Dakota's evil twin wasn't hatched, she was cloned by Dr. Meldak's jealous wife's ex-husband's former lovechild! Duh!
  • Grim of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is addicted to the show My Troubled Pony. Two Stock Parodies for the price of one!
    • Another episode had him watching "Love Problems".
    "I love you... but I have a problem."
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode, "Star Crossed Circuits", Darkwing's new super computer is convinced that "she's" a character from a Soap Opera called, "The Young and the Brainless" and that she's in love with Darkwing.
  • In an episode of The Wild Thornberrys, the only TV channel they can get shows Russian soap operas, which Debbie feels... none-too-excited about, at first. Later, when Eliza comes to ask her something:
    Debbie: Shh! Yuri just told Svetlana that he's leaving her for Olga!
    Eliza: You don't speak Russian.
    Debbie: You are so young — the language of soap opera is universal.
  • The "Customer Service" episode of The Looney Tunes Show has Speedy becoming hooked on a Spanish soap opera.
    Speedy: Dr. Jimenez has a twin brother? What will Lindsey say? She already sold her hacienda. She has enough on her plate already.
    Daffy: Is Dr. Jimenez the bad guy?
    Speedy: No, Philip is the bad guy. Dr. Jimenez is wonderful! He's a father!
  • Jetsons: The Movie: Jane, Rosie and Astro are watching "All My Androids". All three are in tears as "Galaxina threatens to pull the plug on her romance".
  • Gravity Falls, "The Inconveniencing": Grunkle Stan becomes an unlikely fan of a soap called The Duchess Approves, which airs on the Black and White Period Piece Old Lady Boring Movie Channel.
  • Generator Rex features the telenovela El Amor De La Pasión El Amor, of which Rex is a fan and whose actors are seen in one episode to be just as overly dramatic as the characters they portray.
  • The Rugrats episode "Kid TV" has Phil and Lil act out a soap opera titled, The Teeny and the Tiny. The plot of the story shown apparently involves Lil preparing to have her brain removed, while Phil tries to talk her out of the operation. Angelica mistakes this for a different kind of opera, and plays a singing waitress dressed as a Valkyrie.

    Other 
  • Italian comedy program "Mai Dire Reality" ("Never Say Reality [Show]") spoofed this with the reality show-spoof "Il divano scomodo" ("The Uncomfortable Sofa"), that has its participants forced to stay on an uncomfortable sofa during the whole show when one of its participants, Bamma, a whore girl with the hobby of prostitution suddenly jumps off the couch for no other reason than switching the TV on, in order to watch an episode of The Bold And The Beautiful (since it's still inexplicably popular in Italy). Cue the Gag Dub:
    Ridge Forrester: "Brooke... I'm your grandpa."
  • The whole plot of the Donald Duck comic series by Silvia Ziche, "Il Papero Del Mistero" (Duck Mystery). Scrooge McDuck wants to renew his TV channel's program so he employs the whole Duck and friends family to star in a soap opera with an over-the-top plot based on improvisation.
  • Paperinik New Adventures has "Patemi" (Worries). It includes, among other things, cyber-ninjas. To be honest, this was after the director was, essentially, sligthly mentally zombified.
  • Harold, Batman's mechanic, was once shown to be a fan of a soap, something that the prim and proper Alfred chastised him for. Later shown to be Hypocritical Humor as Alfred begins riffing on the show, with obvious knowledge of previous plot points.


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alternative title(s): All My Circuits
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