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Fictional TV Shows & Movies in the Teen Dramas
Sometimes there’s nothing more clever than a show within a show. They’re often an opportunity for meta references, inside jokes, and nods to seasons past.
The fictional TV shows and movies showcased on our core teen dramas are some really great examples. Here are a few of the most noteworthy…
Beverly Hills, 90210
Season 1 of “Beverly Hills, 90210” brought us an episode called “Fame Is Where You Find It.” Through pure happenstance, Brandon is cast in a popular television show called “Keep It Together.” The show centers around a young actress, who welcomes Brandon into her life of fame. As he works on the television show and gets a taste of showbiz on and off camera, we viewers get a glimpse of what filming a series may be like for the stars of “Beverly Hills, 90210.” (“Keep It Together” is also the name of a song David writes later in the series and it is my favorite song of his, though it is unrelated to this episode.)
From the very first episode of “Dawson’s Creek,” Dawson is introduced as a filmmaker, despite only being in high school. In fact, part of the pilot revolves around him filming a movie he wrote with “actors” Joey and Pacey. Throughout the show’s six seasons, we see Dawson work on several projects, but my favorites are the ones he bases off his own life. That first happens in season 2 with a movie called “Creek Daze,” in which Rachel Leigh Cooks plays Devon, who is cast in the film in the Joey role (got that?). Then in the penultimate episode of the series in season 6, Dawson is again making a film inspired by his years coming of age. The pinnacle, though, is in the series finale, set five years in the future, where we learn that, thanks to the movie, Dawson now has a TV show called “The Creek” based on… you guessed it… growing up with Joey.
“The O.C.” gave us what might be the cleverest example of a show within a show. “The Valley” is for Summer what “The O.C.” is for us real-life viewers. In a season 1 episode called “The L.A.,” we even meet one of the actors (played by Colin Hanks), which presents the opportunity for some hilarious meta jokes, especially as the character is a spoof of Adam Brody / Seth. And after “Laguna Beach” came out and was marketed as the “real” version of “The O.C.,” the show humorously created “Sherman Oaks: The Real Valley.”
One Tree Hill
On “One Tree Hill,” years after Lucas writes a book inspired by his life, An Unkindness of Ravens, he writes a script in season 6 to adapt the book into a movie. The storyline takes up a chunk of episodes, but my favorite is “Screenwriter’s Blues,” where we watch people audition to play the fictionalized versions of Lucas, Peyton, Haley, etc. The auditions allow for callbacks that are both funny and heartwarming, and did I mention the director for the film is played by James Van Der Beek and the real-life director of the episode is Bethany Joy Lenz? The movie ultimately doesn’t get made, but in the show’s final season, Julian starts working on a TV series based on both the book and Brooke’s high school diary. The show is called “Ravens,” which was the original name for “One Tree Hill.”
On “Gossip Girl,” Dan writes a book titled Inside, which is a thinly veiled account of his life growing up as an outsider among rich peers on the Upper East Side. There was even a brief storyline about it being adapted into a movie (and a movie musical, no less), and in the show’s series finale, casting is underway for a film adaptation of Dan’s follow-up book, Inside Out. To make it more meta, the actresses auditioning are Rachel Bilson of “The O.C.,” which Josh Schwartz created before “Gossip Girl,” and Kristen Bell, who voiced the titular Gossip Girl.
There are plenty more examples of fictional shows and movies across the teen dramas, such as Julian on “One Tree Hill” making a movie with Alex called Seven Dreams Til Tuesday and premiering it at a Sundance-like film festival. There’s even another film project in the “Gossip Girl” series finale that is based on one of the character’s autobiography and starring two other characters. And on “90210,” Liam has a turn as an actor and we see him work on a movie in a season 4 storyline.
Tell me: Are you a fan of shows and movies within shows? Do you have a favorite example from the teen dramas?