They fight and bite and fight!
Fight, fight, fight!
Bite, bite, bite!
The Itchy and Scratchy Show!"
A fictional show that takes place within an actual show; or, occasionally, a fictional installment or incarnation of an actual show.
Shows-within-a-show are usually of low quality. This is intentional: the low quality of the show is part of the joke or the misery of the characters involved. As a general rule, the more central the Show Within A Show is to the actual show, the better — or at least higher-gloss — it will be. On the other hand, Finagle's Law dictates that The Show Must Go Wrong, so don't expect to get through it without at least one catastrophe.
Many comedies have short one-off gags where they parody existing shows. Most of the following examples are recurring and they come in up to four varieties (which can be overlapping):
- The characters are involved in the production of the show.
- The characters are fans of the show, or only see it occasionally.
- The show-within-a-show is a plot point.
- The internal show, in either variety, is eerily similar to the real show.
Sometimes these shows can be shown as Separate Scene Storytelling.
For the pre-television history of this trope, once again we must go back to William Shakespeare, who featured plays within plays both in comedy — The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe within A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Taming of the Shrew actually is one by means of a Framing Device — and in tragedy (The Murder of Gonzago within Hamlet).
If producing the show is important to the plot, see Hey, Let's Put on a Show. If the story baits the audience into thinking the Show Within a Show is the actual show, brace yourself for the Proscenium Reveal. If the Show Within a Show ends up being produced in reality as a Spin-Off, see Defictionalisation.
Compare with Framing Device, Mutually Fictional, Plot Parallel, Post-Modernism, Pushed in Front of the Audience, Recursive Fiction, Recursive Reality (of the "nested stories" variety), and Who Would Want to Watch Us?.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Animated Films
- Live-Action Films
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Web Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- The smallest-scale model train is in the window of a toy store—which is in a model village that's part of a model train.
- Family Guy has a miniature working pinball machine on the playfield, which is played by Stewie at key points during the game.
- Shrek, a reskinned version of Family Guy, has "Donkey's Pinball" instead.
- The Video Mode for Theater Of Magic is a video pinball game.
- Lights... Camera... Action! casts the player as a film Director who must finish a blockbuster action film.
- In the bonus rounds of Sonic The Hedgehog Spinball, Sonic operataes an actual pinball table. You can see his reflection in the glass, and his eyes even move as you play.
- All the Talk Shows With Fists.
- The comic book from which Thunderbolt and Lightning originated from in GLOW.
- "Guapos University" and "Fitness con Dark Angel" were among CMLL's. Five episodes of the latter were put on Youtube in 2014.
- Ring of Honor has had Things That Piss Charlie Haas Off, Public Silas Announcement, and Story Time With Adam Cole, among others.
- SHINE Wrestling has "Lucha Family Films(This does not exist)".
- Dog City (the cartoon) in Dog City.
- The Mr. Potato Head Show: This is actually the basic premise: the main cast films episodes of a TV show (not all of which we get to see) for a pair of network executives. However, what this show is or even its genre is different in every episode.
- The Muppet Show on The Muppet Show.
- In an episode of Dinosaurs (the early '90's animatronic puppet show), Earl watches a sock-puppet show where a woman refers to some skanky-looking characters as "cheap hose/ho's." (See Parental Bonus.) He says something close to, "I love this show. It's got one meaning that's funny for grown-ups, and one that's funny for kids!"
- Up Late with Miss Piggy on The Muppets.
- "If you ever find out what you're watching is a show within a show, sit back and hang on for the ride of your life." — Jack Handey
- GURPS Technomancer:
- GURPS Magical Items 3 includes a brief description of a setting where The Fair Folk battle with Magitek Humongous Mecha in the chapter describing such mecha. The vignette for an earlier chapter on magic toys suggests that this setting is a popular kids' TV show in the world of Technomancer, with its own line of living action figures.
- The opening vignette of Technomancer has a police mage channel-surfing while on stakeout. What she finds are mostly news and commercials, but there's a trailer for a show where FBI agents Cat Morrigan and Dara Skuld investigate rumours of The Fair Folk.
- A Pyramid magazine article on combining Technomancer with GURPS Action has a worked example called El Paso Vice, with an explanation that in the regular Technomancer verse it was a popular cop show in the 80s.
- Transhuman Space:
- Many InVid shows are mentioned in the text. The two that get the most attention (or at least a write-up of the fandom) are the space opera Starburst Station and the Arabian technofantasy The Golden Jihad. Starburst fans (described in High Frontier) have created a replica of the station in Earth orbit, where they live according to the (poorly defined) philosophy of the lead characters. Jihadis (described in Toxic Memes) are more into creating fanvids (which the original copyright holders encourage) and are slightly contemptuous of the Starbursters and their devotion to The Original Work.
- The Pyramid article on combining Transhuman Space with GURPS Action uses the characters from Personnel Files: Martingale Security as an example. As with the Technomancer equivalent, it's explained that you can think of this as an action-adventure InVid series called Martingale!
- GURPS Technomancer:
- Mention is made of a popular holoseries in Warhammer 40,000 called Arbitrator Foreboding, a member of the Adeptus Arbites who hunts down mutants and heretics with relish and a very big gun.
- Universal Studios:
- The former Disaster! attraction at Universal Studios Florida was based around the fictitious Disaster Studios, which created "films" such as "Apocageddon", "Das Schurke", "Baboon!", and "300 Knots Landing"; with their upcoming production being "Mutha Nature".
- The premise of Hell's High from Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights 1998 was that the actors of a horror movie being filmed at a school were possessed by murderous ghosts and started killing people for real when the director yelled "Cut".