In an era of lazy adaptations and slapped-together reality shows, it's cool to see creators go above and beyond, inserting Easter eggs into their work that they know 99 percent of viewers won't even notice. We've made it our mission to stop and appreciate these hidden little nuggets -- we've covered movie Easter eggs, video game Easter eggs, and even Easter eggs in famous literary publications.
With television, though, you almost have to admire it more when creators make the effort, considering the vast majority of TV viewers are barely paying attention, leaving the TV on in the background while they eat, masturbate, or wrestle with the dog (or all three at once). So for all of you who missed them the first time ...
#6. Community's Hidden Jokes Span Across Years, and Networks
There is a reason shows like Arrested Development (yes, it makes the list later) and NBC's Community cultivate fan bases so loyal that they virtually go door to door demanding strangers watch: These shows are filled with in-jokes and callbacks that reward the most obsessive viewers. In a world where so much entertainment can feel like it was created to be therapy for people with traumatic head injuries, it's a great feeling to be rewarded for using your brain.
Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images
But your brain will be damned if it remembers anything for your history finals.
And Community has some of these that are so well-hidden, they apparently don't care if more than a dozen people actually catch them the first time around -- to the point that some of these bits span across seasons, and even shows on other networks.
So, for instance, in one episode the character Abed has an entire storyline that plays out in the deep background of several scenes. At the beginning you see (through a window, behind the character who is talking) Abed befriending a pregnant woman. Later, while the main characters are having a discussion outside, you see Abed behind them, on the sidewalk, fending off the girl's jealous boyfriend. Finally, near the end of the episode, you see him delivering the baby itself in the parking lot behind the "real" scene that's going on in the foreground:
OK, so any viewer would have caught that on a second viewing, even if they missed it the first time around. But if you noticed this next one the first time around, there's probably some kind of medication you should be on: It's a "blink and you'll miss it" moment that took three seasons to set up:
In one episode of each of the first three seasons, the word "Beetlejuice" was used off-handedly in a joke. If you've seen the movie Beetlejuice, the titular mischievous ghost (played by Michael "holy shit this guy used to be the biggest star in Hollywood?" Keaton) would appear in the world of the living if anyone said his name three times. So, sure enough, on the third mention by a Community character, this guy appears in the background for exactly two seconds:
It could also just be that Michael Keaton was lost.
It's a random person dressed as either Beetlejuice or Gary Busey. That they patiently waited three years to reach that punchline is staggering A) because it looked like the show was going to get canceled several times before that, and B) when you consider that some shows can last eight seasons and the only punchline is "Look! Nerds!"
So how do you top that? How about by requiring the viewer to go chasing after the joke on a completely different show, on a completely different network? In a Season 2 episode, Abed tells a seemingly throwaway anecdote about getting work as an extra on the show Cougar Town (yes, that's a real show, on ABC) where he pooped his pants due to the stress. If fans had decided to switch over and actually watch Cougar Town, they'd sure enough have seen Abed showing up as an extra in the background, only to dash off at the end of the scene. You know, as if he had an urgent gastrointestinal emergency.
We haven't seen the show, but we're assuming everyone at that restaurant was attacked by cougars at the end of the scene.
#5. How I Met Your Mother's Hidden Countdown
How I Met Your Mother has had more than enough time to throw in some Easter eggs, considering they've stretched what should have been the premise of one episode across nine years. Have those kids been sitting there listening to this story for, like, 100 straight hours?
Those kids are either super patient or they really, really want to find out when their parents first boned.
In what's probably the most emotional storyline, Marshall's dad, played by the guy who voices Patrick Star in SpongeBob SquarePants, dies in an episode during Season 6. The twist ending was an emotional sucker punch nobody saw coming ... yet, the show was littered with clues, including an actual countdown going on in the background, ticking down to the revelation.
So you can actually go back and watch the episode, focusing on the numbers rather than, you know, Patrick Star's lonely, depressing death. It starts with the number 50, on a brochure on the desk of a doctor's office:
... which switches to 49 in the next scene, to 48 on a bottle of hot sauce ...
... which continues throughout, on newspapers ...
... magazine covers ...
... all the way down to the fateful moment at the end, a taxi tagged with 0001.
CBS via How I Met Your Mother Wiki
"And that, kids, was the time the universe morbidly counted down to the death of my friend's father."
#4. Every Fringe Episode Has an Observer and a Preview Plot Clue
So as we've seen, Easter eggs come in layers -- there are those that reward viewers who pay close attention, and those that reward viewers who watch episodes a dozen times, scouring every frame for clues. In Fringe, we have an example of both.
Let's start with the former: If you watch Fringe, you'll know that The Observer is a mysterious, otherworldly bald man who shows up from time to time to be all otherworldly and bald. He's what you'd get if the G-man from Half-Life had a baby with The X-Files' Smoking Man.
And that baby had stage 3 leukemia.
Even though episodes rarely involve The Observer directly, he's always watching. And by that, we mean he's lurking somewhere in the background of every episode:
Watch closely and you'll see his bald dome hanging out in a crowd behind the main characters:
Or as a tiny figure wandering through an establishing shot:
And, for good measure, The Observer even shows up on other television shows, such as American Idol.
Right around the time that Simon Cowell "left" the show ...
But hey, if you're looking for him, you'll spot his suit/fedora/baldness combo, often on the first try. But if you say you spot this next one on your first time through (or your second), you're either a liar or else you work on the show. See, every episode of Fringe also contains a clue relating to the plot of the next episode. An incredibly obscure, nearly invisible clue.
For example, in the pilot there's an innocuous poster with a pen and a rose on it:
"Oh! Oh! It'll be about Axl Rose's ... pens ...?"
And the very next episode involves the hunt for a killer with the surname Penrose.
From that point on, every episode contains such a clue, and some are next to impossible to spot, even if you're circling back to try to find a clue about an episode you've just watched. For instance, in one third-season episode, the words "powder blue" appear on a partially torn-off label on a random dumpster in the background:
And the subsequent episode features killers who use a toxic blue powder to murder people.
Spoiler alert: The blue powder is actually a swarm of killer nano Smurfs.
And surely you'd notice this tiny lightning bolt bumper sticker on this truck:
... and realize it foreshadows the weaponized lightning featured in the following episode:
Pfft, Red Alert 2 did the same thing a decade ago.
Of course, we realize these clues aren't meant to be spotted on the fly -- the point is to get fans hunting for them and then talking about them on the Internet. But admit it -- doesn't all of this kind of make you feel bad for not watching it?