Every now and then a fictional show emerges that’s nearly as good as the program it appears in. From The Itchy & Scratchy Show on The Simpsons to Tool Time on Home Improvement, these mock programs are so well conceived that they could easily be packaged and sold on their own. Tune in as we look at 10 shows-within-shows that we’d gladly watch.
Los Dias y Las Noches de Monsignor Martinez (King of the Hill)
Some shows are so good that they manage to transcend language and culture. Take Los Dias y Las Noches de Monsignor Martinez, for example. A cross between Rambo and a Billy Graham special, this Spanish-language show became a favourite in the Hill household thanks to its high octane action, graphic violence and scantily clad nuns.
Viking Quest (Entourage)
We’ll freely admit that we’d watch Johnny Drama in anything. Yes, even his cameo appearance on Cop Rock as a singing felon. So it goes without saying that we’d buy the box set for Viking Quest in a heartbeat if such a thing actually existed. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch Drama bellow “Victory!” as he prances around in animal skins and a helmet the size of a small swimming pool. The cheesy show celebrated every imaginable sci-fi excess and became a running joke through Entourage’s exceptional eight-year run.
MILF Island (30 Rock)
Jack Donaghy greenlit many outrageous shows during his tenure as Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming, but none were wilder than MILF Island, a thinly-veiled parody of Survivor that aired during 30 Rock’s second season. Hosted by a Jeff Probst lookalike, this bawdy program tried to match horny teens with yummy mommies. It was crass and overtly sexual and we’d gladly watch it seven nights a week if we could.
What could possibly be better than Seinfeld? How about Seinfeld with a resentful butler? That was the concept behind Jerry, a show “about nothing” developed by Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza. The half-hour sitcom was a fictionalized version of their lives and featured a storyline in which Jerry gets in a car accident with an uninsured driver. Unable to pay for the wreckage, the driver is sentenced to become Jerry’s man servant until his debt is repaid. The concept was solid, but unlike Seinfeld itself, Jerry was canceled less than two minutes after its premiere.
Mock Trial (Arrested Development)
From the first moment we saw him in Fast Times at Ridgemont High we were hooked on Judge Reinhold. That’s why we were thrilled when this 80’s icon popped up on Arrested Development in 2006 as the presiding judge in Mock Trial. Modelled upon shows like People’s Court and Judge Judy, Mock Trial was a fictional court TV show complete with a crusty bailiff and a cacophonous house band led by William Hung. Reinhold ultimately appeared in just two episodes of Arrested Development but we would gladly rule in favour of bringing him – and Mock Trial – back for another round of hearings.
Tool Time (Home Improvement)
Call us immature, but we’ve always enjoyed watching people get hit in the groin with a two by four. That’s just one of the reasons why we loved Tool Time, the show-within-a-show on Home Improvement. Co-starring Tim Taylor and Al Borland, this meta program featured some of the finest slapstick we’ve seen since the Three Stooges as Taylor continually let his arrogance get in the way of his common sense. In many ways, Tool Time was far better than Home Improvement since it played to the strengths of Tim Allen without having to advance the show’s plot. It was humour for the sake of humour and we still wish it had its very own time slot.
The Itchy & Scratchy Show (The Simpsons)
TV’s most famous fictional program, The Itchy & Scratchy Show has appeared in over 95 episodes of The Simpsons and has proven so popular with viewers that it has spawned a pair of successful video games. Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening even toyed with the idea of giving Itchy and Scratchy their own half hour series but found that audiences “were stunned after a minute and a half” of watching his gratuitously violent pilot.
The Days of the Week (SCTV)
The problem with most soap operas is that they never go far enough with their ludicrous plots. Fortunately that was never an issue on The Days of the Week, an unapologetically over-the-top spoof that aired on SCTV. Co-starring future A-listers John Candy and Martin Short, this hilarious melodrama married the cast’s knack for playing outrageous characters with the writer’s keen understanding of satire. The result was a show-within-a-show that pushed standard soap opera conventions to their inevitable breaking point.
Estrada or Nada (My Name is Earl)
My Name is Earl cranked up the hilarity in 2009 when it included a brief snippet of Estrada or Nada, a gameshow in which contestants could challenge CHiPs star Erik Estrada to any competition imaginable including hot dog eating, mathematics or lumberjacking. The show was hosted by American Idol reject Brian Dunkleman and had a judge’s panel featuring a Hollywood stuntman, a former Olympian and a wacky morning DJ. Estrada or Nada only appeared on two episode of My Name is Earl, but it proved so popular that NBC created a corresponding website with photos, videos and interviews from the fictional show.
The Terrance and Phillip Show (South Park)
There are some times when you just want to turn on and tune out, and there’s no better program to watch when you’re in that mind frame than The Terrence and Phillip Show. A favourite among the kids at South Park Elementary, this fart-fueled extravaganza featured more flatulence than a beer and bratwurst convention. Sure, it could be a little base and immature, but it was also the perfect form of entertainment for those times when you just wanted to put your mind into neutral.