If there’s one subject that Hollywood likes to make movies about more than the making of movies, it would be the making of TV shows. And so the silver screen has long been littered with fake TV shows so compelling, ridiculous, or fun that they sometimes are more memorable than the movies around them. Here are ten of those shows, and we’ll tell you how watchable they would actually be in real life, starting with the least watchable.
10. The Running Man, The Running Man
When you think reality TV has no depths left to plumb, look to The Running Man and say, “At least we don’t kill people on TV!” This show features convicts chased down on live TV by steroid-ed wrestlers in ridiculous costumes who are going to kill them. So basically, it’s American Gladiators with murder. Let’s be honest: a lot of people would watch this. They just wouldn’t want to admit it.
9. The Truman Show, The Truman Show
Truman (Jim Carrey) is a regular guy in a regular town, filmed 24 hours a day. Except he doesn’t know that everyone — from his family to his friends — is an actor. Though human-rights lawyers would never allow this to happen in real life, be honest: you’d decry the show in public but watch the highlights in private.
8. Fox Force Five, Pulp Fiction
The one show on the list we’ve never gotten a glimpse of, though the failed pilot by Mia (Uma Thurman) sounds kind of good. The premise: five foxy ladies — including a knife-throwing acrobat joke-teller played by Mia herself — fight international evil. Given that these sorts of syndicated shows are making a comeback, there’s definitely an audience here. Without the right casting, we’d give it four episodes. With revealing outfits, more like twenty.
7. Pleasantville, Pleasantville
The sitcom Pleasantville is your typical sweet-natured fifties sitcom, focused on a nice nuclear family named the Parkers. But as we learn in Pleasantville (the movie), there’s a simmering sense of discontent and repression just below the surface. With that subtext introduced by Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon, this show is a hit. Without it? Boring!
6. Wayne’s World, Wayne’s World
A public-access show featuring two friends — Wayne and Garth — who rock to cool tunes and invite guests down to their mom’s basement wouldn’t sound like a fun time, except when those two guys are hilarious. Though in real life this show would be hard to find since it’s, you know, local, Wayne’s World would be one of those shows that your friends tell you they used to watch all the time in high school and that would gain a second life via YouTube.
5. The Howard Beale Show, Network
After anchor Howard Beale snaps, he’s given his own showcase, The Howard Beale Show, basically an hour of him insanely preaching to the masses about everything that’s wrong with network TV, as he, ironically, hosts it. Given the success of Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, and their ilk, you have to believe a lot of people would watch this. You might say Network was about 30 years ahead of its time and not so much satirical as prophetic.
4. Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Um, of course you’d watch a show starring beautiful Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) as an investigator on a CSI-esque show called Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime. And the fact that William Baldwin plays her partner as a gruff-voiced bad-pun-spewing cop is just icing on the cake. For bonus points, her ex-boyfriend (Jason Segel) does the moody awful music.
3. Uncle Nutsy’s Clubhouse, UHF
The insane cable-access show at the center of UHF features the antics of Michael Richards, who blasts kids in the face with fire hoses, explosions, and more dangers than you can count on whatever fingers you have left. It’s a huge hit in the movie, and in real life this is exactly the sort of show that hipsters would flock to in droves.
2. Edtv, Edtv
Surprisingly prescient, Edtv posits a strange world where a network would follow a regular guy — in this case, a man named Ed played by a fellow named Matthew McConaughey — around 24 hours a day and broadcast his life live. So would we watch a show like that? Yes. There’s already something like that, called YouTube.
1. Knights, Shrek 2
In Shrek 2, viewers are treated to the sight of fairy-tale knights, filmed with reality-show cameras, busting a cat for illegal possession of catnip. Basically, this is exactly like Cops (which Knights is a parody of), only a million times better. Come on: knights busting a cat for catnip? That’s badass and adorable!