5 In-Jokes From You Never Noticed In Beloved Shows


At the risk of sounding arrogant, we think we're pretty good at watching TV. And one thing we've come to realize is that good television doesn't assume that you're an idiot who needs jokes and references spelled out to you. If you don't trust the viewer to get your gags, you end up with The Big Bang Theory. But a few jokes on famous shows have been so subtle that we're surprised anyone got them at all.

The Second Episode Of Rick And Morty Was Essentially The Co-Creator's Failed Show About A Dog Planet

In the episode "Lawnmower Dog," Rick makes the family dog, Snuffles, intelligent. This eventually results in Snuffles starting a society for sentient dogs in another dimension, to which Rick says that a planet of dogs "could be developed into a very satisfying project for people of all ages." You probably didn't realize that this was a reference to Rick And Morty voice actor and co-creator Justin Roiland's Dog World, a project that failed to get off the ground. The premise was that three human kids stumble through a portal into an alternate dimension where dogs are sentient and humans are their pets, and they need to find a way back home while living with a dog family.

Dog World concept art
Justin Roiland
Planet Of The Good Boys, basically.

When Rick accidentally calls Snuffles "Ruffles" in "Lawnmower Dog," that's a reference to the Doggerson's pet human. Other bits from Dog World made it into Rick And Morty too, most notably the theme song. Dog World's pilot is now floating around online, so dream big and never throw away your theme songs, kids.

Community Is Full of References To Chevy Chase's Life

In Community, it's explained that the vast wealth of Chevy Chase's character Pierce comes from being the heir to the Hawthorne Wipes fortune.

Sony Pictures Television

That seems like nothing but a goofy way of lampooning how a lot of rich TV characters are given totally generic business backgrounds, but Community went with something a little weirder. You see, Chevy Chase's step-grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane, was the heir to the Crane Company, a conglomerate that has, among other interests, a plumbing division. They even gave Pierce's dad the same old-money name of Cornelius, made him resemble a more ridiculous version of the real person, and, uh, wrote him as an abusive racist. Was that based on reality too, or did they kind of screw over a dude who took in Chevy's mother?

Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane and Pierce Hawthrone's father
Sony Pictures Television, The Crane Family
Both options are sad!

The episode "Celebrity Pharmacology 212," wherein the gang puts on a lame anti-drug PSA that Pierce ruins/improves with his antics, is also based on Chase's life. Some of the characters dress as bees for their role in the skit, which seems like a random cartoony visual but is actually a reference to the time that Chase got in a fight with Bill Murray backstage on Saturday Night Live and John Belushi broke it up while wearing a bee costume.

Community antidrug PSA
Sony Pictures Television
SNL Paul Simon bee costumes
SNL Studios
You know things are getting crazy when a Belushi is the reasonable one.

Supposedly, if you watch the relevant SNL episode, you can see Chase come on stage for his monologue in a way that looks like he's being shoved out there by a Belushi who just wants the show to go on. That's not the only SNL reference Community crammed in. When Piece's off-screen death is revealed in "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics," the show is clearly referencing the fact that Chase was banned from hosting SNL for being essentially impossible to work with.

A Bunch Of Futurama Gags Reference A Famed Moment In Math History

Futurama's creators stuck a bunch of math jokes into the show as part of an insidious campaign to brainwash young fans into thinking that math is somehow fun, but the repeated use of "1729" just seems random. You'd have to be a superfan with an eye for obscure references to even notice that it appears multiple times. But Futurama probably doesn't have many of those, right?

20th Television
20th Television
Futurama ship 1729
20th Television
If you can’t see the last one, it’s the ship’s serial number.

It's a reference to a famous-among-nerds conversation between mathematicians G.H. Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan that occurred in 1918, and please don't close this tab to go watch porn, we swear it's interesting. Hardy went to visit Ramanujan, and took a cab numbered 1729. When Hardy arrived, he told Ramanujan that the number struck him as a dull one, and that he hoped it wasn't a bad omen, because mathematical geniuses are often not great conversation starters. But Ramanujan replied, "No, it is a very interesting number. It is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways." Oh, and he dropped that little math bomb while he was in a nursing home because his health was wasting away, although we guess the 1910s didn't exactly have Matlock reruns with which to while away the hours.

If you're not good at math like, uh, some people we know, know that it's very rare for a number to have that particular set of properties, it was hella impressive for Ramanujan to recognize one offhand, and they're now known as taxicab numbers in honor of that chat. That's why, in the show, there's a cab with the number 87539319.

875339319 can number futurama
20th Television

87,539,319 is the smallest number that can be written as the sum of two cubes in three different ways (1673+4363 = 2283+4233 = 2553+4143, if you want to get technical). Congratulations, now you're armed with the knowledge necessary to impress countless future dates for untold minutes.

The Simpsons Recreates Classic Film Scenes In Ways You Never Noticed

The Simpsons is full of references to famous movies, whether it's the McBain films riffing on Schwarzenegger schlock or the episode that highlighted the cane from Citizen Kane. But some more obscure parodies went well over the heads of all but the most pretentious children watching. When Homer is almost hit by a truck in "Homer Vs. Lisa And The 8th Commandment,'" did you notice that the sequence is an exact recreation of Cary Grant's vehicular encounter in North By Northwest?

Homer in front of a truck
20th Television
Carey Grant in front of a truck
Homer in holding his arms up
20th Television
Carey Grant holding his arms up
Homer hit by a truck
20th Television
Carey Grant hit by a truck
This scene was also the origin of Cary Grant's trademark catchphrase, "D'oh!"

Maude Flanders spying on Marge is an obvious allusion to Psycho ...

Maude Flanders spying
20th Television
Psycho spying
Universal Pictures

... but you probably didn't pick up on the reference in "Three Men And A Comic Book" to a more obscure Hitchcock movie, Saboteur.

Bart holding onto Milhouse
20th Television
Saboteur scene
Universal Pictures
Milhouse hanging
20th Television
Saboteur scene
Universal Pictures

The episode in which Mr. Burns tries to reclaim his beloved childhood teddy bear isn't subtle about some of its Citizen Kane references, but it also delves into the movie's more obscure shots. Now you finally know what was up with that weird Burns bird that haunted your dreams.

Mr. Burns as a bird
20th Television
Citizen Kane bird
Warner Bros. Pictures

And it's not only famous movies and directors that were riffed on. "Radio Bart," wherein Bart fakes a boy being trapped in a well before falling in himself, is inspired by Ace In The Hole, a 1951 Billy Wilder movie starring Kirk Douglas that readers over the age of 10,000 may vaguely remember.

Bart, Homer, and Marge
20th Television
Ace in the Hole
Paramount Pictures
"I know your arms are broken. Just keep staring at the hot chick and lift with the thing that still works."

Douglas played a reporter who exploits a man trapped in a cave to benefit his struggling career. Both rescue sites turn into literal carnivals, satirizing how the media has the power to manipulate a gullible population.

The Simpsons
20th Television
Ace in the Hole carnival scene
Paramount Pictures
Now we have Facebook to do that.

So if you want to pass along your love of The Simpsons to your children, make sure you sit them down and make them watch dozens of decades-old black-and-white movies first. It's the only way they'll truly be able to appreciate it.

Arrested Development Named Characters After A 1970s Sex Scandal

This is an obscure reference in a cult show on a later season that maybe five people watched, so learning this officially makes you a TV Nerd Sage. Use this power wisely. In Arrested Development's fourth season, when George Michael is in college, he starts to resent his own name, in part because people keep teasing him for having the same name as singer George Michael, who was arrested for "engaging in a lewd act" in a public bathroom. So he changes his name on the spur of the moment to George Maharis and becomes more confident (which isn't the first time a Micheal Cera character changed his name to give himself a backbone).

George Michael as George Maharis
20th Television
"My second choice was 'Jesse Eisenberg.'"

The only problem is that George Maharis is also the name of an actor and singer who, in 1974, was arrested for having sex in a men's room gas station. And that sex was with a man named Perfecto Telles, which is also the name of Maeby's classmate ...

Maeby Funke Perfecto Telles Arrested Development
20th Television

... who Maeby sleeps with, only to end up getting arrested because she's 23 and he was secretly 17. Yes, not only did the writers not make up the ridiculous name of Perfecto Telles, it was foreshadowing Maeby's fate by referencing an obscure 40-year-old sex scandal. We hope the one viewer who got the joke without having to research it gave themselves a well-deserved pat on the back.

Mark is on Twitter, and has a book that only you are smart enough to truly appreciate.

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For more check out 7 Casting Choices That Were Secretly Hilarious In-Jokes and 7 Secret Jokes You Never Noticed In The Background Of Movies.

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