I was watching S4E2 of Shakespeare & Hathaway the other day and the plot involved something that I'd never heard of (see spoiler, below) until it featured as the major plot element of an episode of the Brokenwood Mysteries.

The plots of Brokenwood and S&H both referred to a tontine - a group financial instrument. In Brokenwood the whole case hinged on the tontine, in S&H it appeared to, but in the end didn't.

When one of the characters described the nature of this thing to another character, it was assumed (and stated) that the character in question was looking at his 'phone (held just out of view) and reading a description he's looked up on-line. This made me think it would have been quite amusing for the character to deny looking it up and say he'd got his information from an episode of Brokenwood. This led me to wonder: has any TV show ever directly named, as a plot point, another, completely unrelated TV show?

I know there are crossover shows that reference each other as though they were part of the same real-life universe (Warehouse 13 and Eureka, for example), but I was looking for a TV show that made reference to another show as a TV show, like a character in, say, Holby City (medical soap/procedural) saving a life and saying "I learnt how to do that from an episode of Casualty".

If it just doesn't happen, is there an established reason? Something like trademark infringement or something?

  • 2
    It's funny you should use Holby City and Casualty as examples, because they are also set in the same real-life universe (and have crossed over multiple times).
    – F1Krazy
    Feb 17, 2022 at 17:03
  • Yup, in Holby [RIP] no-one would ever mention Casualty as a TV show… it's set in the same fictional universe, in the same hospital. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holby
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 17, 2022 at 18:37
  • 2
    If you're talking about referencing it as a TV show then examples will be too numerous to list. From TBBT referencing all of nerd culture, to Simpsons referencing episodes it's joking about, to SG-1 cycling itself in a meta-singularity of (mostly cut) jokes about MacGyver (not to mention the notorious episode 200). Feb 17, 2022 at 23:06
  • 1
    Not an unrelated show, but there was that time when DoctorWho (almost) referenced itself as a tv show, where an episode set in 1963 had a scene ending with a TV announcer saying “a new science fiction series, Doc…”
    – racraman
    Feb 18, 2022 at 6:52
  • @F1Krazy - an example there of "not thinking it through"; I knew there was a reason those two shows presented themselves to me as a pair, but, in my defence, I last watched "Casualty" when it was good (late 1980s) and have never watched "Holby City". My bad...
    – Spratty
    Feb 18, 2022 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


Absolutely. It's not uncommon for a TV character to reference another show as a means of fleshing out that character's tastes and personality. As an example, on The Office (US), the character Dwight mentions his love of Battlestar Galactica multiple times, and also discusses his enjoyment of Game of Thrones, leading to a plotline in which he teaches a co-worker how to speak a fictional language developed for that show. Other characters reference their favorite shows at various points, including Grey's Anatomy, Queer as Folk, SNL, The Apprentice, and Lost. These references can help to make characters feel more realistic and grounded in the same reality as us, rather than fictional people in an entirely fictional world.

  • You're absolutely right, of course - I can't believe I couldn't think of a single example myself. Believe it or not I though about this for at least 24 hours before asking the question, and a search for "TV shows that reference other unrelated TV shows" (I think it was) didn't return a single useful hit. I guess I just haven't seen the shows that have done this - there are only so many hours in the day and all that. I'll come back and accept this answer in the next day or so unless someone comes up with a better one (which is unlikely, I think). Thank you :-)
    – Spratty
    Feb 18, 2022 at 9:52
  • Looking at your answer again, I supposed I should have looked more closely at mockumentaries like the Office - they're supposed to be more "real life" than other shows, so if this was going to happen anywhere, it would be there.
    – Spratty
    Feb 18, 2022 at 9:54

It's quite common.

The "Stargate" franchise frequently referenced Star Trek, for example. It was common enough that Star Trek has a rather extensive page on the Stargate fandom wiki: https://stargate.fandom.com/wiki/Star_Trek

Shows like Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory would probably only have enough screen time to fill one or two seasons without references to other shows.

Here's a supercut of references from "The Office" -

"Billions" is pretty well known for this, https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ShoutOut/Billions

There are also many examples where fictional shows cross over to real life ones.

There is an episode of Cheers where Cliff goes on Jeopardy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is..._Cliff_Clavin%3F), an episode of HIMYM where Barney goes on the Price is Right (https://how-i-met-your-mother.fandom.com/wiki/Showdown), and many others.

  • I can't imagine a universe where Star Trek is never referenced by other TV shows. Feb 21, 2022 at 18:34

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