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Medium Awareness / Live-Action TV

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  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will Smith's character describes another character to Carlton as "The dude who be spinning me over his head in the opening credits"
    • The episode above ended with Will deciding to stay in Philadelphia. The following episode started with him being kidnapped. Will seems to know the men and asks why they're kidnapping him. The kidnappers respond by saying the show couldn't be called "The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia." He is then shoved into an NBC van.
    • Another episode's Cold Open involved Uncle Phil lecturing his children on how they didn't have to worry about money. As they leave the room, Smith says to the audience, "We so rich, why we can't afford no ceiling?" The camera pans up to reveal the ceiling-less top of the set they're filming in.
      • When Baby Nicky undergoes Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome, Jazz asks Will about it, who mumbles confusedly.
      • Even more amusing, Jazz first asked "Who's playing the mom this year?" (lampshading the previous change in actresses.) Post-SORAS Nicky comes out and answers "It's the same mom!" which prompts Jazz's confusion.
      • The season prior, after the actress switch, Jazz told Vivian that she looked different ever since she had the baby. Will responds with an Aside Glance.
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    • In yet another episode, Will convinces Carlton that one of his pranks has resulted in Will killing a woman, which results in Carlton hysterically running through every set of the episode and finally into the studio audience.
  • Abed, from Community. In the show, it's played off as him being unable to tell life and TV apart (and being a general oddball). However, his comments seem to be just too spot-on sometimes.
    • In one episode, Jeff asks him to stop continually referencing how things they do adhere to TV tropes. Abed's response? "That's sort of my gimmick, but we did lean on that pretty hard last week. I can lay low for an episode." And he plays no further part in that episode's story.
    • Played for Drama in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas". To us, Abed is seeing what we're seeing: the episode is in stop-motion. To his friends, Abed is having a mental breakdown.
    • In the season 1 finale, Abed refuses to let Troy move in with him because it will make them Jump The Shark. Troy is offended, since he thought that was Happy Days' best episode.
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    • In the series 2 finale he pointed out that the show was heading into a Star Wars motif, saying he's disappointed it took so long.
    • A rare non-Abed example, at the end of the series 2 Dungeons And dragons episode the narrator was revealed to be the college cleaning lady, who addresses the camera and says goodnight to the audience.
    • This is Abed's role in the S5 episode "G.I. Jeff" where it's even lampshaded by his GI Joe Expy being called Fourth Wall.
    • And then there's S5's episode "Basic Story" where Abed's Medium Awareness nearly causes him to go insane as he tries to keep the story - and thus the show - from ending. In the second half, "Basic Sandwich" there's even a Leaning on the Fourth Wall moment when he does an Aside Glance to the viewer, causing Annie to wonder who he was looking at.
  • Green Acres liked this trope:
    • In at least one episode the opening credits were painted on the furniture in the main characters' farmhouse.
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    • In another, while both lying in bed, Lisa asks Oliver, "Who are [names of two people featured in the opening credits]? I just had a dream where their names were floating above us."
    • In another episode, Mr. Ziffel waits at Mr Douglas' house while the credits appear behind him, only for them to disappear when he turns around. When Mr. Ziffel manages to turn around on time, he says, "Gotcha!" Mr. Douglas appears and asks, "Got what?" Ziffel says, "The names!"
    • Every time Oliver makes some long-winded, heartfelt speech about life in the country, patriotic fife-and-drum music starts playing, prompting everybody to wonder where it comes from. In one episode, Oliver listened to a recording of himself and murmured in astonishment, "Is that a fife?"
  • Arnie Becker, finding himself in a thorny situation in The Teaser in one episode of L.A. Law, shouts, "Close the trunk!" This leads to the opening credits, which always began with a shot of a car's trunk being closed.
  • An episode of The Facts of Life featured Tootie trying to sneak up on a Serial Killer, only to complain that the loud ominous music was spoiling her stealth. It was All Just a Dream.
  • In the all puppet version of the Muppet show Dog City, Ace finds a note from his father that contains a strange postscript, "Dum-Dum-De-Dum." When his girlfriend wonders what that is supposed to mean, they both suddenly hear the equivalent notes played out of nowhere and she realizes that it's a music cue. They suddenly realize the big reveal of the plot and suddenly, and without irony, sing along with the replayed cue, "Dum-Dum-De-Dum!"
  • In an early episode of Roseanne dramatic music plays each time the word "audit" is used. The characters begin waiting for it it to happen and are freaked out by it.
    • One episode of Growing Pains used a similar joke. Mike was explaining something through Flashbacks. When he doesn't immediately continue his story at one point, Maggie asks him what's wrong, and he replies, "I'm waiting for the ripple!"
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000, the Satellite of Love had "Commercial Sign", a light that indicated it was time to begin the commercial break. (The break itself wouldn't start until a character triggered it by touching the light.) For further redundancy, the Magic Voice would count down until the start of each episode's first Commercial Sign. This was dropped in later seasons.
    • It was later revealed by Joel Hodgson that the Mads were taping the events of the series and selling them to Comedy Central. Thus, it is entirely possible that the series events are broadcast live in-universe, and Commercial Sign is simply the necessary extension of this.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Once More With Feeling", after learning that Dawn has been captured, Buffy remarks "....Must be Tuesday". Tuesday is when Buffy aired on UPN.
    • In the same episode Anya comments on their number in the apartment, saying "It was like we were being watched. Like there was a wall missing from our apartment. Like there were only three walls, and not a fourth wall."
  • Similarly to Buffy's Tuesday line, in the Season Finale of season 3 of Arrow, Laurel bursts into her father's office and says the entire city is under threat. Quentin responds "Really? It must be May!" - a reference to the fact the two previous seasons also ended in May with a finale of the entire city being under threat.
    • And in the fifth episode of The Flash (2014) they were already doing it.
      Joe: A human bomb? Must be Tuesday in Central City.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Forest Of The Dead", when Donna is trapped in a computer simulation of ordinary life, she experiences the usual TV-style jump-cuts between scenes as gaps in her memory. At first she's confused and her therapist Dr. Moon has to tell her what happened during the parts we didn't see. Later on she starts filling in the gaps herself: "You said you were tired, so we put the kids to bed and watched TV for a bit, and then we came up to bed." It's clear to the audience that the computer is using this device as a way to fast-forward Donna through several years of virtual life in a few minutes.
    • Though, to be honest, the series has had several bizarre affairs with this trope. A perfect example comes up in "The Caves of Androzani", where the Doctor dies of an exotic poison and regenerates into his sixth incarnation (played by Colin Baker). When Peri asks what happened, Six turns to the camera with a smirk on his face and explains, "Change, m'dear... and it seems not a moment too soon." Of course, later episodes showed that this Doctor may well be borderline insane anyhow, so it could well be explained like that.
    • In the episode "Blink", the behavior of the angels — who can move with blinding speed but are "quantum locked" in stone when anybody looks at them — only makes sense when you realize that the camera counts as an observer. When the audience sees them, they're frozen, even if nobody else is looking at them.
      • Until series five, when in the episode "Flesh and Stone" the camera shows the angels slowly realizing that a blindfolded character can't actually see them. The resulting scene of the supposedly solid statues turning their heads to look at Amy definitely qualifies as terrifying.
      • Don't forget, those Angels moved very slowly...and there's a shutter passing behind the lens of the camera 24 times a second...
    • As with the Buffy example above, the Doctor asks a passing milkman in "The Stolen Earth" what day it is. The Doctor responds with "Saturday. Good. Good, I like Saturdays," which is a nod to the show's main broadcast night on BBC One.
      • Similarly, there is one at the end of the interactive game "Attack of the Graske" that gives a nod to ITV.
      • The Eleventh Doctor is also a big fan of Saturdays, calling them "Big temporal tipping points where anything could happen!". This fits in with the more timey-wimey nature of new showrunner Steven Moffat's stories.
  • Boston Legal plays with this trope at least once or twice per episode. An interesting thought experiment is to watch the fourth wall breaks and try to work out whether anyone other than Denny can actually see the credits/hear the theme music/etc, or if they're just humoring him. Jerry certainly can. He's sung the theme song twice, after all.
  • The characters of The Basil Brush Show seem to be well aware that they are in a television programme and often reference this.
  • The Monkees did this frequently. Many episodes contain references to the fact that they are characters in a TV show.
  • In the season 2 finale of House, House goes from a hallway shot directly to a stairwell shot, and then stops, looks at the stairwell, and mentions that he has no idea how he appeared in the stairwell. To viewers, it's a scene jump. To poor House, who's leaning against the Fourth Wall it's vanished timenote .
    • In the season 3 opener, Cuddy mentions that House storms into her office 24 times a year, alluding to the usual number of episodes produced per season.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus loves this trope, as well as Breaking the Fourth Wall in general.
    (Exterior shot: a door opens and Sir William appears out of it into the fresh air. He suddenly halts.)
    Sir William: Good Lord. I'm on film. How did that happen?
    (He turns round and disappears into the building again. He reappears through door, crosses set and goes out through another door. Exterior: he appears from the door into the fresh air and then stops.)
    Sir William: It's film again. What's going on?
    (He turns and disappears through the door again. Cut to him inside the building. He crosses to a window and looks out, then turns and says...)
    Sir William: Gentlemen! I have bad news. This room is surrounded by film.
    Members: What! What!
    (Several members run to window and look out. Cut to film of them looking out of a window. Cut to studio: the members run to a door and open it. Cut to film: of them appearing at the door hesitating and then closing door. Cut to studio: with increasing panic they run to the second door. Cut to film: they appear, hesitate, and go back inside. Cut to studio: they run to Sir William in the centre of the room.)
    A Member: We're trapped!
    • The Argument Clinic ends with a policeman trying to arrest everyone for ending the sketch without a proper punchline.
    Second Policeman: Namely, simply ending every bleeding sketch by having a policeman come in and.. wait a moment.
    Third Policeman: Hold it!
    Second Policeman: It's a fair cop!
    (The hand of a fourth policeman then enters frame to seize the third policeman by the shoulder.)
    • When a chemist (Michael Palin) goes off-screen, his customer (Eric Idle) fills the space with:
    Customer: Sorry about this. Normally we try and avoid these little pauses. Longeurs. Only dramatically he's gone down to the basement, you see. 'Course, there isn't really a basement, but he just goes off and we pretend. Actually what happens is he just goes off there, off-camera, and just waits there so it looks as though he's gone down to the basement. Actually, I think he's rather overdoing it. Ah!"
    (The chemist is shown standing on the edge of the set, sees the camera, and rushes to get back into the sketch.)
    Chemist (out of breath): Sorry, Sir. Lot of steps.
    Customer: (Winks at camera)
    • During one of the laboratory scenes for the Science-Fiction Sketch (Men Turning Into Scotsman/Killer Blancmanges), the scientist's Dumb Blonde companion says something dramatic, and it's followed by a sting of dramatic music. It prompts her to look around and ask if there's someone at the door, thinking it might be the doorbell, and the scientist responds it's just the incidental music for the scene.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Every time a one-shot villain's name is said, very dramatic music plays. The family wonders where it comes from. They then find a series of trumpet players hiding in odd places on the set and shoo them off.
  • In the very weird fourth and last season of ‘Til Death, one of the characters realizes that he is in fact a character on a sitcom. He realizes that he can't swear or have sex, and he notices that four different actresses have played his wife.
  • In Sonny with a Chance, Sonny and Tawny are talking when they hear a violin variant of a Scare Chord; Sonny pulls back one of the curtains to reveal that it's Zora's doing. The second time, however...
  • Saved by the Bell - the show was so well-known for Zack Morris' talking to the audience - among other things - that 'Time Out!' could be the Trope Namer for this.
  • Classic lines from The Young Ones:
    • "Oil" - after being spun about in a state-of-the-80s-art screen effect:
      Rick: I wish they wouldn't do that!
      Neil: It's the passage of time, Rick.
    • "Summer Holiday":
      Vyv: Oh look, here comes the postman.
      Mike: Vyvyan, why do you keep telling us what's just about to happen?
      Vyv: We're on a small set, Michael. There isn't any room for a long shot.
    • "Sick":
      Neil's mother: Look how flimsy this chair is! [she grabs a chair that falls apart immediately]
      Mike: Actually that's a trick chair that Rick was supposed to get hit in the back with in the next scene.
      [shortly after that a policeman bursts into the room and breaks a real chair on Rick's back]
  • Episode 3 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy begins with a potted history of the Galactic Empire, signified by the coat of arms of the Empire floating in space. Then a spaceship containing a Real Man, a Real Woman and a Real Small Furry Creature from Alpha Centauri crashes into it.
  • Malcolm in the Middle is all about a dysfunctional teen who tells the viewers about his difficulties - at one point, he's called out on "talking to himself", but every other time, people ignore him. This isn't limited to realtime, and he'll often announce a fatal error in-progress and slow the show down to yell "Abort!" (with normal speed) (and resumes making the error anyway, still slowed).
    • Which all implies that the "face the camera" segments are just internal monologue, rather than any real acknowledgement of the fictional universe.
  • One episode of Angel had Lorne speaking directly to what was purportedly a nightclub audience. Then the show cuts to commercials, and when it comes back...
    Lorne: Well, those were some exciting products. Am I right? Mmm. Let's all think about buying some of those.
  • J.D. in Scrubs has elements of this. Sometimes it's just Leaning on the Fourth Wall (like when it looks like he's noticed the ABC logo), sometimes it isn't. In particular, he's shown awareness of (or at least thinks he's imagining) the drums that lead into the opening titles (in one episode he mimes them as they play), the Sentimental Music Cue (in "My Old Friend's New Friend") and the weird sound effect that plays when characters exit (in "My Happy Place").
    • This may not be medium awareness. The show clearly takes place from his perspective, so the music may actually be a part of his imagination. He notes on one occasion that it sounds like that "in his head".
  • The plot of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth.
  • Lilly in Hannah Montana begins to develop some of this in season 3 to go along with her Genre Savvy when she not only knows that her fantasy sequence is about to appear, but is able to point out to Miley where on screen it will be appearing.
  • The episode "Sun Tea" of 30 Rock aired during NBC's 2009 Green Week. Since the show is about the production of a (fictional) show that airs on NBC, naturally the characters are all aware of this fact. At one point it's mentioned that for Green Week the NBC Peacock logo that sits in the corner is turned green, at which point Kenneth looks directly at it in the corner of the screen.
  • Stargate SG-1
    • In "Small Victories" two red shirts on a Russian submarine are investigating a noise. One says to the other in Russian "maybe it's one of the bugs from the other episode."
    • Another episode has Sam humming the theme song in an elevator. Col. O'Niel questions her about it.
      • It was supposed to be the MacGyver theme, but Amanda Tapping couldn't remember how it went. This would have been at least the second reference to MacGyver that Tapping worked into the show, after mentioning "MacGyvering" a problem in the pilot.
    • Yet another has a combo of this and a continuity nod to the movie when the Colonel insists that a reporter get the spelling of his name right, alluding to the fact that the character in the movie and the same character in the TV show spell their names differently. He also mentions that the other Col. O'Neil has no sense of humor, referring to the fact that Kurt Russell was far more serious in the movie.
  • Phil of the Future sometimes played with this trope. One example had Pym pondering about something her father, Lloyd, had said to her earlier in the episode, with Lloyd appearing in a "thought balloon" and repeating his earlier line. After Pym continues to reflect silently for some length of time, her father impatiently addresses her from within the insert:
    Lloyd: Look, are you about done with this flashback? 'Cause I have stuff to do...
  • In several episodes of Psych, either Shawn or Gus has observed, "We solve a murder a week. And usually one around Christmas."
  • On an episode of Seinfeld George says "All you see on TV these days is four morons sitting in an apartment whining about their dates!"
    • Even more so when Jerry was introducing the Clip Shows, he would address the camera, in character.
      Jerry: You know it seems like every week a whole new set of problems would spring up over night, except for the summer, where nothing would happen for months at a time.
  • In newer episodes, Adam Savage will have one-sided conversations with the MythBusters editors, asking them to replay a clip or put two scenes together in split-screen.
    • Even in older episodes, Adam would often predict how the episode would be cut. He did this as early as the first "What Is Bulletproof" episode, where he predicted a cut to Jamie (in season one) saying that their blast screens would "stop a bullet".
  • In one Christmas Episode of Married... with Children, Al and Peggy try to watch TV together and both hate anything the other one wants to watch. Halfway through, Al goes to the bathroom, turns to the camera...
    Al: And I really hate this commercial!
    [commercial break]
  • An extremely subtle one in Firefly, with this exchange:
    River: (Jayne)'s scared of us. Scared we'll know.
    Simon: Since when?
    River: Since Ariel.
    • 'Ariel' being the name of the episode where Jayne betrayed them. Okay, so it could equally be that River means 'Ariel'-the-planet where the action happened, as in 'since we were on Ariel'). But the no-fourth-walliness intention of the phrasing is confirmed by Word Of Joss on the commentary. This is after all the science fiction show with the following exchange:
    Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
    Zoe: We live on a spaceship, dear.
  • In one episode of Boy Meets World, Cory gets caught in a Two-Timer Date scenario and Shawn teaches him to play it out like Fred did in one episode of The Flintstones, leading to this exchange:
    Shawn: ...and Fred never spent more than 75 seconds at either location.
    Cory: Shawn, that was a cartoon, time was compressed, we're real, we're in real time.
    Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
    Cory: No it's not. You see a television show can cover many days in only one half-hour program.
    Shawn: Trust me, it's the same thing.
    Cory: (shrugging) Okay!
  • The characters of How I Met Your Mother occasionally seem to know that they exist only in Future!Ted's memories, or otherwise go on with the story even though Ted was never around for the event or simply forgot how the story went.
    • Especially obvious in "The Mermaid Theory", where Future!Ted forgets what happened in the middle of a story, and when his narration trails off into "no that's not right...hang on a minute...let me think..." Barney and Lily, who are frozen mid-conversation on the couch glance anxiously into the camera, break character completely and scowl in exasperation, and impatiently check their watches as Future!Ted continues to flounder.
    • In "How I Met Everyone Else" Ted brings a Girl of the Week to meet the group and Future!Ted has to pause as he realizes he forgot her name. So that the story can continue he names her "Blah-blah" and the characters call her Blah-Blah as though it is a normal name. "I'm just here to make Robin jealous and when she takes you back you probably won't even remember my name!" "Come on Blah-Blah, it's not like that!" He remembers her name as Carol in one of the last episodes of the series.
    • Especially notable in the Day in the Limelight episodes where someone other than Future!Ted is narrating, as that's when they become a lot more aware of the conventions of the show. Robin's court mandated therapy where she explains what happened to lead up to an assault has the therapist constantly asking why she's diverting into other stories and she insists that it will come back around.
  • It's Garry Shandling's Show is arguably the ur-example of all things Breaking the Fourth Wall-related, and the entire premise behind the Lampshade-eriffic show. The theme song was made up entirely of lyrics like "This is the music that you hear/When you watch the credits." Garry would talk to — and with — the crew and audience; move between scenes by walking around the walls of the sets (or driving by golf cart); declare time lapses if he didn't feel like waiting for something (and once missed a visit from a guest because another character did a time lapse without his permission). One episode featured Gilda Radner (her last role before her untimely death), and Garry chastised her for looking into the camera. Only he was allowed to Break The Fourth Wall.

  • Wizards of Waverly Place:
    • Alex from declares the start and end of her Falling-in-Love Montage with Mason, and in another episode, stops talking for about a minute to prove that comedies are unfunny without dialog.
    • In the episode "Magic Unmasqued", Alex starts to have a flashback and tells it to go away.
  • Thank God You're Here does this sometimes, particularly when Shaun Micaleff is on. In one sketch he enters a scene looks at the fourth wall and audience and says to another character, "I love what you've done with the place, you've had this wall taken out and all these people put in."
  • During the Saturday Night Live B-movie spoof "Attack Of The Terrible Snapping Creatures", the unfortunate women (Gail Matthius and Jamie Lee Curtis) realize they're facing imminent danger, because there's suddenly scary music playing in their apartment.
    • A sketch later in that season involves Bill Murray trying to write a romance novel, as its characters act out the novel-in-progress behind him.... which becomes more and more difficult when he hits writer's block (and they're left standing around impatiently waiting for a cue); and at one point quickly rereads everything he just wrote, forcing the characters to reenact the entire scene at breakneck speed.
  • In Farscape, after John Crichton finally reached the absolute nadir of his progressing insanity, he would occasionally hum along with the show's score.
    • The Jack Benny Show had similiar interaction, since Jack would start out on the stage and walk into the set after speaking with the audience. Including walking through the missing literal fourth wall so he could hand something to someone who walked out the front door.
    • The Burns And Allen Show started the same year (1950) and George Burns especially would talk to the camera and announcer. Also the commercials were built into the show itself and George would sometimes watch what Gracie was doing on their TV set.
  • In the first episode of Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, Dongalor and Barnabas are having a conversation when the Narrator interrupts, then continue as though they had heard the Narrator, then become confused about just who had been talking.
  • The Norwegian Brødrene Dal used it shamelessly. Hence, this snippet from the third series:
    But how do we fit in the (big) picture?
    I will tell you. If the camera moves backwards, you will fit in the picture.
    (All three brothers look behind them and straight at the camera, which pulls backwards).
  • A Real Life example happened in Mexican show Otro Rollo with Will Smith. He was being interviewed and out of nowhere he started minding the translator for the audience.
  • In Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena whistles the show's theme song while fishing (and ignoring Gabrielle's cries for help) in the episode "Fins, Femmes, and Gems."
  • Sesame Street: At the beginning of the special The Street We Live On, Grover bumps into the executive producer credit ("Oh, pardon me, I did not see you there!").
  • The central character of Fleabag breaks the fourth wall constantly, until eventually it becomes apparent that the reason for this is that she's using the viewer as a Living Emotional Crutch. After five and a half episodes of constant aside glances and comments, she finally retreats behind the fourth wall after a scene in the final episode where she turns away from us, only to find that we're watching her from the reverse angle as well. It's this realization that she cannot escape from us, as much as anything happening in-universe, which prompts her breakdown.
  • Briefly invoked on Late Night with Conan O'Brien; during a sketch where Conan and his sidekicks were making on-air confessions (deeming it safe to do so since everyone else was watching the Winter Olympics on CBS), Conan confessed that he didn't like the NBC logo in the corner of the screen, so he killed it with bug spray.
  • The mostly serious tone of WKRP in Cincinnati's Yet Another Christmas Carol episode is leavened with wry invocations of this trope.
    Arthur: This isn't going to be one of those Charles Dickens Christmas Carol things, is it?
    Arthur: (on returning from the past to the dimly lit radio station) I'm alone. And in bad lighting again.

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