15 Hilarious Hidden Background Jokes for the Eagle-Eyed
Sitcoms might seem on the surface to be schlocky, formulaic clones that come flying off the conveyor belt for a few years before anyone notices they’re boring. And some of them are! But the good ones are secretly painting intricate tapestries just below the surface, and once you catch one Easter egg, you might finally start to notice the bigger picture.
Thieves Use the Magna Doodle in ‘Friends’
When Joey and Chandler’s apartment got robbed, the thieves took a moment to leave a note on the show’s Easter egg generator, the Magna Doodle by the door: “THANKS FOR ALL YOUR STUFF!”
‘Community’s Three-Season Background Joke
Fans noticed a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it background walk-on from Beetlejuice in Season Three’s Halloween episode, at the mention of the ghoul’s name. They eventually realized it wasn’t the first time, but in fact the third time a character had said “Beetlejuice” over the course of the show.
Matt Groening’s Initials Were Right in Front of Our Faces
The right side of Homer’s face clearly sports an “MG” — his meager hair forming the “M,” right on top of his “G”-shaped ear.
‘Community’ Gave Us Two Episodes in One
“The Psychology of Letting Go” is about… That’s not important, because Abed has an entire second story arc, full of drama and emotion, going on quietly in the background. He meets and befriends a pregnant woman, later gets shoved around by her boyfriend and ultimately delivers their baby for them.
Nibbler Was There from the Beginning
In episode one of Futurama, we learn that Fry traveled to the future because he fell into a cryogenic freezing device. It’s not until Season Five that we learn it was the hyper-intelligent Nibbler who tipped Fry’s chair over into the device. Sure enough, you can see Nibbler’s shadow way back in the first episode.
Phoebe Goes to Heaven in ‘The Good Place’
Michael makes his case to the Judge, challenging the idea that every cast member of Friends should go to Hell: “I mean, maybe Ross and Rachel, and Monica and Joey, and definitely Chandler… But Phoebe?” Near the end of the series, we do indeed see Lisa Kudrow in The Good Place (although she’s playing Hypatia of Alexandria).
Taskmaster’s Audience Participation
A Series Five episode featured a “spot the difference”-type game, where host Alex Horne was replaced by a doppelganger. Later in the episode, a quick studio shot featured that very doppelganger instead of the real Alex, as a quick little mini-game for the at-home audience.
Tina Fey’s Donald Glover Shout-out
Before he starred in Community, Glover was a writer on 30 Rock. In a later season, when discussing NBC’s diversity, Jack says, “I was too busy trying to remember the name of the Black kid from Community.” Liz responds with a slight mispronunciation of Glover’s name: “Donnal Glover.”
Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino Shout-out
Glover’s Childish Gambino album Awaken, My Love appeared in the background of an episode of his show Atlanta, over a month before the album dropped.
Saul Goodman’s Prophecy
In Breaking Bad, a despondent Saul says, “If I’m lucky, a month from now, best case scenario, I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.” In Better Call Saul, he’s firmly established as an Omaha Cinnabon manager.
‘The Good Place’ Names The Best Boss
Stephen Merchant, star of The Office (U.K.), plays an accountant in the afterlife. In a nod to The Office (U.S.), he drinks from a mug that reads “Existence’s Best Boss.”
‘Taskmaster’ Sock Rockers
Hosts Alex Horne and Greg Davies wear matching socks every episode.
Utica Learned Their Lesson ‘The Office’
In a Season Four episode of The Office, Michael and Dwight try to steal the Utica branch’s copier. In a Season Five episode, that copier is seen with a padlock.
‘Anchorman’s Easter Egg en Español
There’s an establishing shot of a Mexican restaurant called “Escupimos en su Alimento,” which translates to “We Spit in Your Food.”
The ‘E.T.’ and ‘Star Wars’ Crossover
In his own movie, E.T. encounters a kid in a Yoda mask and has an unusual reaction. It could be that he’s seen Yoda before — in The Phantom Menace, there’s a quick shot of a crew of E.T.-looking aliens, meaning they canonically exist in the same universe.