What fun are corporate overlords, if you can’t ridicule them?
Here are six shows that love to bite the hand that feeds them — with good reason:
The Simpsons has always made sly barbs towards the Fox network, home to such illustrious programming as World's Craziest Police Chases and Who Want to Marry a Millionaire? But the show also has a long and illustrious history of mocking its sister network, Fox News. Much to the chagrin of a fired-up O'Reilly (who had a total cow, man), The Simpsons' writers have made three distinct jabs this season alone. Most have taken the form of slogans on news helicopters, like "Merry Christmas from Fox News… But No Other Holidays" and the one that started it all "Not Racist, but #1 with Racists." It's a rare albeit awesome instance of a twenty-plus year-old show regaining relevance — by taking aim at a target worthy of their wit and vitriol.
The Soup's Joel McHale's consistently lambastes the vast wasteland of reality TV. But his snarky approach is most refreshing when he takes aim at the shows on his own network — E! is home to the abomination that is Bridalplasty after all. But of all the channel's shows, the Kardashians make the best target of all. To E!, Kim is a ratings darling but to Joel, she's just a fame whore with "a big ass and a sex tape." And he makes fun of her for it, week after week.
Conan's short-lived stint on The Tonight Show bred some of the funniest and rightfully indignant moments of his career. (Who can forget the Bugatti Veyron mouse?) But, Conan’s new home turf came with new chances for meta-humor. A spiteful Ted Turner (riding a buffalo, no less), as played by Will Forte, has already made multiple appearances — to welcome Conan to the wild frontier that is basic cable television.
30 Rock bashes their last-place network nearly every week. Everything about NBC gets mocked, from its lack of diversity, to its pandering "green week" initiatives (ironic coming from a network owned by carbon-emissions gusher GE) to its egregious handling of their late-night line-up. In a pleasantly subtle parody, that episode features two feuding janitors, in conflict because one janitor demands the "late shift" he claims he was promised years ago. True to form, 30 Rock doesn't end up supporting Team Coco, so much as just mocking NBC.
With poor promotion, constantly shifting time slots, and characters more dysfunctional than a Franzen novel Arrested Development never really stood a chance. And being the self-aware show that it was, the cast and crew clearly knew this. When rumors of cancellation (and the possibility of moving to another cable channel) emerged during the show's third season, the only obvious thing to do was address it head on in an episode entitled "S. O. B." — an acronym which stood for Save Our Bluths, and worked as a dig against the Fox network that had done little to support the show. It’s funny enough to be worth quoting:
Michael: So, what's going on with the fundraiser?
George Sr.: Well, I don't think the Home Builders Organization is gonna be supporting us.
Michael: Yeah, the HBO's not gonna want us. What do we do now?
George Sr.: Well, I think it's "Show Time." I think we have to have a show during dinner.
Okay, so sometimes Family Guy's humor is lazy, reliant on stereotypes, and borderline offensive. But sometimes, when the constellations align and Fox bombards your screen with tacky banner ads for their programming, they get things just right. Like when baby Stewie Griffin starts screaming at Keifer Sutherland's bulbous head (“Maybe finish this candy bar before you open another one!”) during a mid-show onslaught of lower-screen ads.