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Top 10 Shows Within a Show

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Derick McDuff Your favourite television characters have fave shows of their own! Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Shows Within a Show. For this list, we're looking at fictional shows that exist within the universes of actual television shows. Special thanks to our users zendaddy621, kenn1987 and Ryan Boparai for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Derick McDuff

Top 10 Shows Within A Show

Your favourite television characters have fave shows of their own! Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Shows Within a Show.

For this list, we’re looking at fictional shows that exist within the universes of actual television shows. We’re taking into consideration both how interesting the fictional show is and how it features into the plot of the real show. However, real shows that appear within shows, such as “Days of Our Lives” as seen on “Friends,” are excluded, as are shows that exist as sketches.

#10: “Crognard the Barbarian”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2012-)

The turtles have a rich history of airing on Saturday mornings, and their 2012 series pays homage to their roots by having the turtles themselves tuning into cartoon reruns. Leonardo’s favorite is “Space Heroes,” a show that features a fearless captain who inspires Leo to be an equally great leader. However, the show beloved by all the turtles is “Crognard the Barbarian,” based on ‘80s cult classics like “Thundarr the Barbarian,” and “He-Man,” even using a variation of the latter’s catchphrase and employing a slew of wonderful tropes from cheesy Saturday morning cartoons. Most interestingly, the plot on Crognard usually foreshadows struggles to be faced by the Turtles, making this show-within-a-show an interesting story-telling device.

#9: “Ask Mister Lizard”
“Dinosaurs” (1991-94)

TV got a bit weirder when these walking, talking dinosaurs came along – but that wonderful kinda weird that only the Muppets can produce. The Sinclairs enjoy many modern amenities; in fact you could even say they’re a sort of modern, stone-age family. Naturally then, their world includes television, and a little old show called “Ask Mister Lizard” – a program aimed at teaching children basic scientific principles. Inspired by the real world “Watch Mr. Wizard,” Mr. Lizard is always accompanied by a young assistant named Timmy, who’s decapitated, maimed or otherwise eliminated so often, the dinosaurs at home anticipate Mr. Lizard’s catchphrase: [“We’re going to need another Timmy.”]

#8: “When the Whistle Blows”
“Extras” (2005-07)

Struggling actor Andy Millman had been reduced to roles as an extra when he was writing the script for his workplace sitcom “When the Whistle Blows.” The series he’d always envisioned was something similar to the original “The Office” – a show created by, dunno, some guy. Anyway, Millman finally gets his big break when Patrick Stewart endorses his script, which is greenlit by BBC One. Unfortunately for Andy, the show quickly becomes everything he hates about sitcoms. Much to his dismay, studio execs add canned laughter, wigs, goofy costumes and let’s not forget catchphrases, making it loved by audiences and despised by critics.

#7: “Jerry”
“Seinfeld” (1989-98)

“Seinfeld” follows the day to day life of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and it’s fourth season was particularly meta as it tracked Jerry and George’s attempts to get Jerry his own TV show on NBC, with himself in the starring role. Their ongoing pitch to NBC is described as “A show about nothing,” something also frequently said of the real show. The eventual pilot for “Jerry” adds a bit more to its premise so it’s not exactly about nothing, but it’s passed on by the network anyway… until years later when it’s picked up and plays an important role in “Seinfeld”’s own series finale…

#6: “Queen of Jordan”
“30 Rock” (2006-13)

As she’s a comedy writer at NBC, Liz Lemon is around the production of a number of fictional shows. These included “Bitch Hunter,” a quickly cancelled action drama, and of course Liz’s own show, “TGS,” a sketch show starring Tracy Jordan that draws inspiration from Tina Fey’s time at “Saturday Night Live.” However, our favorite is the reality show featuring Jordan’s wife Angie, in a parody of “Real Housewives” and similar shows. “Queen of Jordan” accurately lampoons many of the clichés and over-the-top, often staged antics of the genre, and the minds behind “30 Rock” satirize the style just as perfectly as you’d expect they would.

#5: “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show”
“Parks and Recreation” (2009-15)

Pawnee, Indiana has a lot of interesting programming. Worth noting is “Pawnee Today,” a talk show hosted by the outrageous but highly influential Joan Callamezzo. But even better than Joan is Andy Dwyer, who works his way up from living in a pit to hosting his own television show. The series showcases many of the fictional personas employed by Andy over the years, including Burt Macklin and the titular Johnny Karate, while also featuring many of his friends in new personas like Ben Wyatt as Professor Smart Brain and Jerry as a verbally and physically abused mailman.

#4: “Inspector Spacetime”
“Community” (2009-15)

In the world of “Community,” “Inspector Spacetime” has been on for over fifty years, and has featured a number of different actors in the title role, various companions, horrible special effects, bad acting, a time traveling phone booth, and of course an incredibly devoted, if occasionally even obsessed, fan base. If any of this sounds familiar it may be because “Inspector Spacetime” is an obvious parody of “Doctor Who.” Among “Inspector Spacetime”’s biggest fans are pop culture obsessed Abed and nerd Troy, who sometimes imagine themselves as the inspector and his sidekick the Constable, and at one point even attend InspectaCON.

#3: “Tool Time”
“Home Improvement” (1991-99)

As a former tool salesman, Tim Taylor has a flair for dramatically describing power tools, and as “Tool Time”’s somewhat clumsy and incompetent host he does just that for the show’s sponsor, Binford Tools. The show features Tim alongside his mild mannered sidekick, the forever bearded, always in plaid Al Borland, who always knows the right tool for the job. Unfortunately, Al is frequently overridden by the wrong tool for the job: Tim. Ever on the quest for “more power!” Tim has a penchant for using a bigger, faster, more complicated tool than the job requires and unsurprisingly this macho display often has less than favorable results – albeit hilarious ones.

#2: “The Terrance and Phillip Show”
“South Park” (1997-)

“South Park” has always drawn criticism from censors and angry parents for its excessively and intentionally crude humor, something the show’s writers have taken note of. Canadian comedy pair Terrance and Phillip mirror the crassness of the real show, and cause untold rage in angry parent groups that fail to understand the duo’s humor. Terrance and Phillip are eventually made into scapegoats for many of the problems suffered by the children of South Park, and in the theatrical film they’re even executed for their excessive swearing, providing a commentary on America’s lack of harsh standards on violence in the media when compared to its tight leash on foul language.

Before we unveil our top pick here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Powdered Toast Man”
“The Ren & Stimpy Show” (1991-95)
- “Johnny’s Bananas”
“Entourage” (2004-11)
- “Scandalmakers”
“Arrested Development” (2003-06; 2013-)
- “The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy”
“SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-)
- “All My Circuits”
“Futurama” (1999-2013)
- “Big Shot”
“Cowboy Bebop” (1998-99)

#1: “The Krusty the Clown Show”
“The Simpsons” (1989-)

Bart’s hero worship of Krusty stretches back to “The Simpsons”’ first season, and let us tell you he is one of this clown’s most devoted fans. Although Krusty’s public persona is that of a joyous entertainer, he is a clinically depressed drug and alcohol abuser, and his jokes are often chances for “The Simpsons”’ writers to vent about the industry. However, by far the most popular segment of Krusty’s show is “Itchy and Scratchy,” an extreme parody of shows like “Tom and Jerry.” This show-within-a-show-within-a-show is also an attack on censorship, and it’s filled with some of the most hilarious cartoon violence of all time.

Do you agree with our list? Which is your favorite show within a show? For more entertaining top 10s published daily, be sure to check out

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