Show Within A Show / Western Animation

Examples of type 1 (characters involved in production)

  • Daffy Duck in Hollywood is centered around a pompous film director attempting to rush his latest movie through the pipeline, only for Daffy Duck to come around and constantly sabotage his work. Daffy ends up making and secretly screening his own off the cuff movie, "Gold Is Where You Find It", near the end of the cartoon.
  • The Van Beuren Studios cartoon "Makin' Em Move" is set In a cartoon studio run by cartoon animals, who watch the cartoon they made during the end.
  • One episode of Phineas and Ferb has "Ferb TV", a episode with references to other in canon story lines and other characters (namely Buford and Baljeet) with in it.
    • Earlier on, P&F built an animation studio in order to produce Team Improbable, a cartoon featuring superhero versions of P&F, Buford, Baljeet, and Isabella taking on a supervillain version of Candace.
    • In another episode, pitches Doof 'n Puss, a ridiculous take on They Fight Crime! shows, which was to star Doof and Perry the Platypus. The show eventually makes to air as The Platypus and His Girlfriend, without Doofenshmirtz.
  • The main cast of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic put on a Christmas play for "Hearth's Warming Eve."
  • The Family Guy episode "PTV" featured a number of homemade shows on his pirate TV station, including Midnight Q starring Glenn Quagmire and Peter Griffin's own The Sideboob Hour.
  • Lily Mu within Kappa Mikey.
  • The Wild Thornberrys centers around a family that travels the world making wildlife documentaries.
  • Rusty Venture had his own cartoon in The Venture Bros.. As a result, many people finish his own anecdotes for him - and he's left wondering what were his actual experiences and what were just cartoon episodes.
  • The Binky the Clown Show in Garfield and Friends: Binky was a relatively minor character and Garfield would occasionally end up on the set of the show. Binky would occasionally show up to torment Garfield ("HEEEEEEEY CAT!"), as well as the show coming up in Garfield's channel surfing. There was also the "Screaming With Binky" quickie segments which Garfield narrated or hosted. Both the Garfield and U.S. Acres segments also feature the Buddy Bears, a children's show that emphasizes being a team player to the point of mindless conformity.
  • Coming Attractions in The Critic, hosted by the eponymous critic himself, Jay Sherman. It also appeared in the crossover episode of The Simpsons, cleverly leading to a Leaning on the Fourth Wall moment at the end of the episode:
    Jay: And if you ever want to visit my show —
    Bart: Nah, we're not going to be doing that.
  • Nearly every on-air personality of KBBL has also been portrayed as an ordinary citizen of Springfield.
    • Total Drama Island, Total Drama Action, Total Drama World Tour, Total Drama Revenge of the Island, Total Drama All-Stars, and Total Drama Pahkitew Island are all reality shows within the Total Drama universe.
    • The Action special also featured a TMZ-equse show called Celebrity Manhunt, which tracked down the contestants once Action ended.
    • Blaineley apparently hosts The Puppy Bachelorette.
  • Celebrity Deathmatch pretty much is this Trope. (And for some strange reason, the violent Deadly Game broadcast by Nick and Johnny is considered a "family show" in whatever reality it takes place in.)
  • BoJack Horseman is about BoJack Horseman, an actor who was the star of a popular sitcom in The '90s called Horsin' Around. Horsin' Around was about an unnamed Horse adopting three human children and trying to raise them as a single father. From what we see of the show, it is extremely derivative of Full House. BoJack's fellow actor Mr. Peanutbutter starred in a similar show called Mr. Peanutbutter's House, which seemed to be a ripoff of Horsin' Around.
  • On Rugrats, Susie Carmichael's dad is a writer on The Dummy Bears, a cutesy Care Bears pastiche that showed up in a few episodes.
  • On World of Winx, in order to seek out who is abducting young talented people, the Winx must pose as talent scout for Ace's Reality Talent Show called "WOW!"

Examples of type 2 (characters are fans)

  • In Clarence, there is the Merchandise-Driven Sci-Fi procedural Supreme Court Squad Extreme, which Jeff is an avid viewer of.
  • The Daring Do novels are a Book Series Within a Show in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
  • Sick Sad World within Daria.
  • The hilariously over-the-top Los Dias y Las Noches de Monsignor Martinez on King of the Hill.
  • The Simpsons
    • The Itchy & Scratchy Show, which is a segment of the Krusty the Klown show, making it a show within a show within a show (And at a time, a show within a show within a show within The Tracey Ullman Show...) Further yet, a Type One within a Type Two. Also a regular Type I for the episode in which Homer voices Poochie, a temporary costar to Itchy and Scratchy.
    • Besides the trope-naming news reports, The Simpsons has several other recurring fictional shows, including The Happy Little Elves, Eye On Springfield, I Can't Believe They Invented It!, and Smartline. There was also a slapstick sketch show of some sort starring Mexican comedian Bumblebee Man.
    • The Arnold Schwarzenegger-like film star Rainier Wolfcastle plays the character McBain in a few films within the show's universe, along with several other action/adventure films and once played the role of in-universe comic book character Radioactive Man. (Not all his projects are successes however. His attempts at comedy were viewed as someone what lame, and he hosted a rather politically incorrect show called Up Late with McBain that even Bart thought was horrible.)
    • There were also several shorts that stared has-been B-movie actor Troy McClure. (When voice actor Phil Hartman was murdered by his wife, Troy was Put on a Bus permanently, along with Lionel Hutz, the other character voiced by Hartman. Matt Groening later told Empire magazine that Hartman had been interested in starring in a live action movie about Troy McClure, but while the idea "never got further than enthusiasm" that "it would have been really fun."
    • There is also the Space Mutants movies, a science-fiction/horror franchise, which Bart and his friends occasionally go to see, which at last count consisted of the original movie and eleven sequels, not all of them named.
  • Futurama.
    • All My Circuits. This becomes something of the reverse of the above case when show star Calculon intermittently becomes involved in the main protagonists' lives. Futurama also had the Twilight-Zone-style The Scary Door (directly spoofing The Twilight Zone), and Everybody Loves Hypnotoad, a full episode of which was included as a DVD featALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD.
    • In an unusual extension of this trope, both The Simpsons and Futurama have been shown to be fictional shows in each other's universe, even though they had a crossover, which makes them fictionally defictionalized?
  • Pelican's Island in Darkwing Duck.
  • Ask Mr. Lizard ("We're going to need another Timmy!") and Totally Hidden Predator within Dinosaurs.
  • Terrance and Philip within South Park.
    • Also Russell Crowe's Fightin' Round the World, though just for one episode, and the boys were only watching it for the movie trailer that came at the end.
  • Teen Canyon within The Weekenders.
  • The Ben 10 series has Sumo Slammers, something that Ben is a big fan of.
  • Puppet Pals within Dexter's Laboratory and The Justice Friends. It also turned up on The Powerpuff Girls. The Justice Friends also count as Type 1, as had their own segment on Dexter's Laboratory, and in a couple of cases made appearances in Dexter's stories. A few of them also guest starred on one episode of The Powerpuff Girls.
  • The Quahog local news on Family Guy.
  • The Brown Hornet cartoon on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, also an arcade game
  • Wondrous World of Wonderful Whimsical Willy, and Puppet Pals (in a few episodes) on The Powerpuff Girls
  • Hospital of Horrors, described a few times by the cast of Code Lyoko. Though never shown on-screen, it sounds like a mix of Medical Drama and cheesy horror B-movies.
  • Rugrats featured several. Reptar (an expy of Godzilla) was the most prominent. There was also Mega Hyper Heroes, a superhero show and partial parody of Captain Planet and the Planeteers and, more originally, Oodles the Talking Poodle, about a talking poodle named Oodles.
  • The recurring radio show Danger Woman in TaleSpin.
  • Adventures of Bionic Bunny and Mary Moo Cow in the Arthur cartoon.
  • Though we never actually see the show in question, The Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series had a recurring gag involving the fictional Bernie the Bear, and arguments as to whether a character who drove a car and wore a watch could be considered a bear. Arguments being made by a pair of anthropomorphic ducks.
  • The Misadventures of Mighty Plumber in The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.
  • Sheen Estevez from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is a huge fan of Ultralord.
  • The Fairly Oddparents has The Crimson Chin and Crash Nebula. The second was considered for a Spin-Off, with a Poorly Disguised Pilot airing, but no such luck. In the pilot, there was a magazine with an ad for Danny Phantom. It also has, in the In-Universe "real world", "The Bad Parents Hunter", "C.C. Cruiser and the Hot Rod Squad" and many parodies of real world shows, as "Are You Brighter Than a 6th Grader?", "Poke Eye", "Sleazy and Cheezy", "Dr. Bill" and others, not counting the parodies from "Chanel Chasers", like "Adolescent Genetically Modified Karate Cows", "The Futurellis" and "Maho Mushi". In the Fairy Wolrd they have "All My Biceps", "This is Your Wish", "Dancing With The Elves".
  • Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery from Invader Zim.
    • GIR is a huge fan of the Scary Monkey Show, which consists of nothing but a freakishly looking monkey staring blankly into the cammera.
  • In one episode of Sushi Pack, the Pack members get to go backstage and meet the contestants of their favorite reality show, The World's Mightiest Heroes. Too bad the heroes are all Smug Supers...
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Lawrence Fletcher is fond of watching reruns of his favorite childhood TV show "Pinhead Pierre". There's also an episode dedicated to a Fandom Rivalry between fans of the sci-fi movie franchise Space Adventure and fans of the fantasy movie franchise Stumbleberry Finkbat. Candace is a big fan of children's cartoon character Ducky Momo.
  • One episode of Garfield and Friends featured Garfield watching the game show "Hit The Buzzer, Win A Cookie", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Hello, Megan from Young Justice is Miss Martian's favorite show. It wasn't popular in-universe, however, and only lasted one season.
  • "Agony County", a One Tree Hill-style teen soap referenced on Kim Possible falls in both categories 2 and 4; Kim and Ron are both fans of the show, and the teasing of the lead couple was paralleled by Kim and Ron (the original Grand Finale, "So the Drama", ended with Kim and Ron becoming a couple):
    Ron: Oh please, are they still teasing that Charity and Danny will get together?
    Kim: Like that's ever going to happen. Besides, it would end the series.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! has an interesting example with the Sun Riders, Chiro having been a fan of their show at one point (and who's to say he still isn't?). The show doesn't become relevant to the series, but the characters sure do!
  • The famous Animaniacs skit "Potty Emergency" starts with the Warner siblings in a movie theater watching a science fiction movie called Brain Eaters. (And the skit ends with the movie playing part of the plot too, making it a Bookend.)
  • Steven Universe
    • Steven is is fond of a strange cartoon show called "Crying Breakfast Friends", as well as the medical drama parody Under the Knife.
    • Also, Amethyst and Greg are fans of the fake 80's sitcom Lil' Butler and get hooked on binge watching it in one episode, though it's not quite a plot point as the main point was the way the two of them get caught up in their past, unwilling to make any efforts to move on.
    • In "Log Date 7-15-2", Peridot watches an episode of a cheesy summer-camp drama called Camp Pining Hearts. She repeatedly watches that one episode for over three days straight, over-analyzing the character dynamics and even shipping two characters from the show. Later episodes reveal Peridot has discovered the rest of the series and is still a hard-core fan, even getting Lapis into it.
  • Gun Robot in Trollhunters.
  • Milo Murphy's Law has a Doctor Who parody called "Doctor Zone" with Sara as a huge fan.
  • In Rick and Morty, the main character watch a lot of these in the episodes "Rixty Minutes" and "Interdimensional Cable 2". They range from the mildly absurd to Squick to absolute Mind Screw. Rick and Morty seem to particularly like one named Ball Fondlers, an action series resembling The A-Team.

Examples of type 3 (SWAS is plot point)

  • Used a couple of times in Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In "The Gray Ghost", the villain's MO is patterned after that of a villain in the show The Gray Ghost; Bats also ends up teaming up with the show's hero, who's played by Adam West of all people.
    • In "Baby Doll", there is a rash of kidnappings, and all the victims are the stars of a particular old sitcom — Bats and Robin end up watching parts of and researching the show for clues as to who would have held a grudge against them.
    • In "Christmas With The Joker", the Joker hijacks the TV channels to present his version of a jolly Christmas special, in which he gives Batman and Robin cues designed to send them racing against time to stop him from killing people or to lead them into traps.
  • The Rocko's Modern Life episode "I Have No Son" created Rocko and Filburt's favorite Ren and Stimpy-esque grossout nonsense show, The Fatheads. Then, in a variety-one example, in the fan-beloved sequel episode "Wacky Delly", the creator of The Fatheads cancels the show and lets the main characters ghost-write the eponymous and unintentionally Dadaist cartoon so it can be cancelled and he can retire. It Doesn't Work.
  • Hard Times for Haggis from The Ren & Stimpy Show is a truly mind-bending example. The protagonist is the stereotypically Scottish Haggis McHaggis, whose variety-one show-within-a-show "The Scotsman" is cancelled and replaced by... the "The Ren and Stimpy Show". Irate, Haggis gets revenge on Ren and Stimpy by hijacking their show with a crude sock-puppet simulacrum performed by his hired thugs. Haggis' plan backfires when the sock-puppets become an instant smash-hit and him, Ren and Stimpy being thrown out on the street. Also, Stimpy's favorite show, the Muddy Mudskipper Show, fits into this trope.
  • The Red Badger of Courage and Flash the Wonder Dog in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, both of which Dale is a fan of. Each of these shows only appears in one episode, but the Rangers manage to save the latter and clear the main actor from false criminal evidence.
  • The Replacements features The Majestic Horse, Monkey Cop, Rainbow Jumper, and Splatter Train, among others. The Majestic Horse could be seen as an example of Type 4 in the first episode in which it appears (although it's more that the events after the movie is shown parody the movie or subvert its premise), and at least one episode involves the Darings in the production of a movie.
  • Teen Titans has an episode in which our heroes are Trapped in TV Land and must navigate the troperiffic parodyscape of gameshows, soap operas, sports programming, ominous swamps, the black-and-white fifties and Star Destroyers.
  • In The Venture Bros. episode O.R.B. featured the Rusty Venture Show DVDs in which a critical clue to the orb mystery was hidden in a single frame of a sniper rifle shot. It was a URL for a google map of the Venture compound.
  • Dora the Explorer is a Show Within a Show. The intro explicitly shows that it's a 90s computer game. This explains the Fake Interactivity and other features. Later seasons abandoned the notion it is a game.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? is set in a 1990s computer game, just like the source. The characters even know this, speaking to the game's player frequently. Carmen always ends the episode with teasing the Player.
  • In The Fairly OddParents! season 5 finale, after being fooled by Norm, the Genie, Cosmo and Wanda quit being Timmy's Godparents, and a singing contest named "Fairy Idol" is held in Fairy World to determine who gets to replace Timmy's godparents.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Rappin' Drakken", Dr. Drakken tries to sell his brainwashing shampoo by singing a rap song about it on "American Starmaker".
    • In "And the Mole Rat Will Be CGI", a producer plans to make a movie about Team Possible, which results in a confrontation with the Seniors when Señor Senior Junior tries to force his way into the starring role.
  • In the Dennis the Menace (UK) TV series, the episode "The Day TV Was Banned" involves Dennis attempting to watch his favourite TV show, Nick Kelly. What's also notable about this is that Nick Kelly was a character from The Topper, a comic from the publishers [DC Thomson] who also publish The Beano, in which Dennis the Menace UK appears. This makes Nick Kelly one of the few DC Thomson strips to have an Animated Adaptation, alongside Bananaman, Marvo the Wonder Chicken (from The Dandy) and the aforementioned Dennis the Menace UK.
  • DuckTales, "Where No Duck Has Gone Before": Courage of the Cosmos is a sci-fi show that the nephews and Doofus are wild over. The boys go on the show and are blind to the fact that their hero is just a vain, egotistical actor.
  • In The Little Rascals second-season episode "The Zero Hero", Darla is selected for a date with her favorite TV superhero, Captain Muscles (apparently a spoof of George Reeves' portrayal of Superman).
  • Dipper and Mabel of Gravity Falls have been seen watching such shows as Tiger Fist and Duck-Tective. In "The Inconveniencing" Grunkle Stan gets stuck watching the "Black And White Period Piece Old Lady Boring Movie Channel" when he can't find the TV remote, and winds up really getting into a movie called The Duchess Approves.
  • In Regular Show, there is an anime titled "Planet Chasers: Starlight Excellent", which has hypnotic properties, causing people who watch it to enter a world of their memories. Mordecai and the other main characters have to use the show to erase his memory of naked Pops.
    • There's also a season 5 episode titled "Expert or Liar" which is the title of the show within a show itself. In there, a host named Bert Coleman disguises as just an average everyday living person, and whenever he hears there's an expert on the topic he's doing an episode for, he yells: "We've got an expert!" and pulls his disguise off. After that, he explains the purpose of the show. Rigby gets humiliated in that show by claiming he's an expert on flowers and already getting the first out of 10 questions wrong, therefore becoming a complete liar. And his friends watched the footage, laughing at him in the end. Rigby then decides to redeem himself in order to get rid of the shame of humiliation on TV, and so he does afterall, because he's a total video games expert. Not sandwiches.
  • The TV world of Phineas and Ferb has a reality TV show Bust 'Em, made to bust little brothers who break things, harrass their elder siblings and get away with it because no one ever catches them at it. Of course, the show fails when Candace tries to enlist its help and gets cancelled.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Historical Friction", Steven helps would-be actor Jamie the mailman put on a play about the founding of Beach City. Steven isn't happy that Mayor Dewey, who wrote the script, cast his ancestor William Dewey as a nigh-invulnerable Tall Tale hero, and he goes to Pearl for the real story when he learns the Crystal Gems were around for William Dewey's arrival.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Rarity Takes Manehattan", Rarity tries to get her friends tickets to a musical called Hinny of the Hills while they're in Manehattan for Fashion Week. While they miss the first performance due to having to work to help Rarity out of a pinch, she manages to get them a private performance by doing a favor for the costume designer.
  • Inversion in Danger Mouse: "Demons Aren't Dull" had DM running onto a TV stage where he is the guest subject on a "This Is Your Life"-type testimonial show. But the show goes on to humiliate DM by pointing out his shortcomings to the point where DM tries to resign. (Turns out the show was never transmitted. It was all a Baron Greenback set-up.)

Examples of Type 4 (Plot Parallel)

  • The Ember Island Players in Avatar: The Last Airbender parody the contents of the show up to that point, including exaggerated versions of the main cast. They also do other productions, like Love Amongst the Dragons.
  • Weird World in The Secret Saturdays is, arguably, a mix of all four types. 1.) The Big Bad, Argost, is the host of Weird World; 2.) Zak, the Kid Hero, is a huge fan of the show, with 3.) Zak's knowledge of Argost's house coming from the show and helping the family survive their rescue mission inside, and 4.) both shows heavily feature cryptids and follow their respective main characters' search for the Kur Stone.
  • As the Kitchen Sinks in Transformers: Generation 1 is a soap opera show that the Autobots are seen watching on Teletraan-1.
    • Humorously enough, when Optimus was called to fight, he actually groaned when this happened. That's right, the most badass robot there is wanted to see what happened next.
  • The Puppet Pals, which is a slapstick puppet show both in Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls. Both shows were made by the same creators. In one episode the trope is inverted with the actual show being All Just a Dream of one of the Puppet Pals. *BONK!*
    • The Powerpuff Girls had the season five episode "Neighbor Hood," which had Bubbles as a loyal viewer of a children's TV show that enticed kids to send "magic paper" from their parents' wallets to the show to keep it alive (a reference to a stunt Soupy Sales pulled on his show in the 1960s). This was intened to be a season one episode, but the staff was afraid of a lawsuit from Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers' Neighborhood) so the storyline was given to DC Comics to make as the story "Remote Controlled" (issue #7).
  • Invader Zim boasts two — Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery, and Probing the Membrane of Science With Professor Membrane.
  • The Gravity Falls episode Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons uses the TV show Ducktective as a Self-Parody, with Soos as the Straw Fan:
    Mabel: (about the season finale) He had a twin brother all along? That's the big twist we've been waiting for!?
    Grenda: What a rip-off!
    Soos: I predicted that like a year ago.
  • Futurama featured the head of Matt Groening presenting his new show Futurella at the 3010 Comicon. It got cancelled 3 seconds into the opening sequence.
  • The Arthur episode "The Contest" (the one with the South Park and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist parodies) had the kids watching Andy and Friends, which starred a crudely drawn rat Expy of Arthur.
    Muffy: (regarding Andy) Why does he always call for his mother? It's like she's his slave.
    Brain: If they're animals, does their cafeteria serve bugs and garbage for lunch?
    Francine: Why does a mouse have a pet dog? Wouldn't it eat him?
    Arthur: Andy's not a mouse, he's... I'm not sure.
  • In South Park, the Terrance and Phillip show revolves around vulgar potty humor — something for which South Park's detractors often fault it.
  • Young Justice has "Hello Megan", an '80s sitcom from which Miss Martian took her human name and physical appearance. It's revealed that she suggested Superboy's civilian identity of "Conner Kent" because Megan's love interest on the show was named Conner. Superboy is understandably weirded out when he learns this.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) Kraang is occasionally seen watching a soap opera called "John and Marsha" which seems to be nothing but the two leads saying each other's names over and over again.
  • In each season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), the turtles discover a new cheesy 1980s cartoon and become fans of it. These cartoons are parodies of real-life 1980s cartoons, and the episodes shown usually end up reflecting whatever's happening to the turtles at the time. In order, the parodies are Space Heroes, Super Robo Mecha Force Five, Crognard the Barbarian, and Chris Bradford's 2 Ruff Krew.
  • Johnny Test has "Dawg and Bone", a show starring two expies of Johnny and Dukey, featuring male versions of Susan and Mary, and a female version of Gil Nexdor (albeit offscreen). Dukey keeps stating that the show's premise seems familiar, but Johnny is too stupid to notice.
  • "The X-Treme Adventures of Brandon and Mallory". Try imagining The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy as a Totally Radical anime (with a monkey to boot) and you should get the idea.
    Mandy: "The X-Treme Adventures of Brandon and Mallory"...Who could relate to this junk?
    Billy: Ooooh! Brandon and Mallory are so COOL! I wish we could go on extreme adventures like them all the time!
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In "Bam Ui Pati!", Pony Head becomes hooked on the eponymous K-drama, about a pop star who has a crush on a vampire, after a humiliating defeat at the hands of Miss Heinous. After Pony Head spends the whole episode avoiding her sisters and Star, she catches the end of the episode and realizes, much like the star of the show, she can't hide away and mope because of her failures and her problems.