6 Easter Eggs Buried in Famous TV Shows
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 ...
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.
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'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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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?
Hidden Messages in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Different shows have different reasons for hiding shit -- where some are foreshadowing events or rewarding repeat viewers, others appear to just have creators that like to amuse themselves, to no real purpose whatsoever.
Take It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is kind of like what Friends would have been if all the characters were even more dangerous sociopaths.
Each episode features a title card at the end, followed by the sound of garbled voices.
The card itself isn't confusing -- "RCG" just stands for the three main cast members/producers, Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Glenn Howerton (who play Mac, Charlie, and Dennis). So what's the deal with the garbled voices?
Well, someone from Reddit noticed these were hidden messages played backward. They recorded them and played them forwards and, in the first one, were instantly rewarded with the message "You're stupid for playing this forward."
To further drive this point home, subsequent messages are bizarre, seemingly nonsense phrases, each containing the word "brown," such as "Next stop: brown town." No one really knows why, although Guyism pointed out that it could be something to do with the phrase "browning out," which is not quite as severe as blacking out. Or, just as likely, we're affording too high a level of analysis to the show that gave us "kitten mittens."
Psych Runs a "Spot the Pineapple" Competition
USA's Psych sets itself apart from the crowded genre of detective shows by having a main character who's a gifted yet distant detective using psychological skills to solve murders by pretending to be psychic. It's a unique, original twist on the genre that's quite frankly a breath of fresh air. Hollywood rewarded this originality by immediately creating a much more successful duplicate on a much larger network (CBS's The Mentalist).
Anyway, if you're a fan of the show you may have noticed an odd recurring character. One who shows up in every episode without fail. An annoying, prickly thing no one really likes but that always manages to somehow stay popular.
Yup, every episode of Psych has a hidden pineapple. Sometimes it's an actual pineapple, other times its an image on a shirt, or juice box, or mural.
It doesn't mean anything, it's not foreshadowing, it usually doesn't impact the plot at all. They just thought it was funny. The show actually has a website where you can compete and win prizes for spotting them all. So, you can completely ignore the plot and try to spot the top of a pineapple barely peeking out of a background character's shopping bag ...
... or barely visible behind a wall in another room ...
... or on a tiny keychain, in a door, in a grainy bit of black and white security camera footage:
Come on, are you going to see fruit hidden this subtly in The Mentalist? No chance.
Where a show like Community throws in the occasional inside joke to amuse loyal fans, the low-rated Arrested Development became legend because it was almost entirely inside jokes. For example, we pointed out that they spent more than a year foreshadowing a single joke/plot twist, most of which you (again) would probably miss even on repeat viewings. But in Season 2, Arrested Development executed what has to be the single most absurd sequence of foreshadowing and plot twist in the history of television.
In the 11th episode that season, Buster Bluth has his hand bitten off by a loose seal, while trying to escape his mother Lucille. Buster's replacement hook-hand would be an ongoing running joke from that point on. But if you then went back and rewatched the entire season, you'd see a series of clues that only a diseased mind would have put together:
First, we repeatedly see Michael Bluth starring in a stage play called "The Trial of Captain Hook" (in flashback):
Then Buster refers to a party as "off the hook":
In Episode 3, Buster sees his old hand-shaped chair in his maid's house and says, "Wow, I never thought I'd miss a hand so much!"
In Episode 11, George Sr. finds out about Buster's joining the army and says, "What If I never get a chance to reach out and touch that hand of his again?"
Wait, there's more. Later, we see Gob release the same seal into the ocean that eventually bites off Buster's hand, at which point he tells the seal it's "not going to be hand fed anymore":
Then Buster is seen sitting on a bench with an ad for the Army on it -- notice how he's obscured all the words except for "ARM OFF."
And then Buster's later seen playing on a claw machine from which he wins a stuffed seal:
You don't have to be insane to write a show like that, but ... actually, never mind. We're pretty sure you do.
Related Reading: We've got more easter eggs where those came from: did you know the characters on the Departed were all marked for death? And did you know Pixar hides a clue for their next movie in any new release? Check it out. More a fan of video games? We've got those Easter eggs too.