Very occasionally on the podcast we get to talk about shows that are not technically speculative fiction, but really like to reference it. Some of these shows, like The Big Bang Theory, we can talk about a lot, because they reference geek culture almost constantly, but there are many shows out there worthy of watching that have some special references just for us nerds. Here is a roundup of my top six referential shows on TV right now (or on hiatus but coming back):
1. The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory is about the lives of a group of physicists (you’ve got your OCD nut, just plain geek, creepy nerd, and the Indian guy who can’t talk to women without alcohol) and constantly references nearly every aspect of geek culture.
Products that the characters use or wear have become overnight sensations on ThinkGeek (I’m talking about the personal soundtrack shirt). What other show on TV has it’s characters regularly visit a comic book store? It also features some pretty geeky guest stars, such as “evil” Wil Wheaton, Summer Glau, George Takei, and Katee Sackhoff. From Warcraft players, to Star Wars fanatics, to PhD students in physics, this show has in-jokes for literally everyone.
Castle tells the story of novelist Richard (Rick) Castle, and his relationship with his muse, Detective Kate Beckett, as Castle rides along on her cases. Some of the references in Castle are a bit special, because Castle is played by Nathan Fillion, who formerly played Malcolm Reynolds (Captain Tight Pants!) in Firefly. It seems like Nathan just can’t resist slipping references to his previous role into Castle, and some of them are extremely subtle. From blue gloves (major subtle), to the first Halloween episode where he reprises his Reynolds costume, to Castle knowing Chinese and stating “I learned it from a show I used to love”, this show will delight both casual and hardcore fans of Firefly.
But the fun doesn’t stop there, less frequently the show makes reference to other aspects of general geekery, with two of the most notable being their steampunk episode, and the episode devoted to a professional magician.
Community is about a lovable band of misfits attending community college for various reasons. Let me assure you, that even though Chevy Chase is involved, the show is incredibly funny.
On of the best characters is Abed. The show implies that he has Asbergers Syndrome and uses film in order to relate to the world. Thus, he is constantly making reference to all sorts of movies and television shows, not just geeky ones. Abed and Troy, his best friend, often do tandem movie references, such as their Alien Queen/Powerloader costumes in the Halloween episode where everyone is turned into zombies.
Sometimes, the whole cast gets in on the geekery, as evidenced by their Dungeons and Dragons Episode. Community has also gotten some pretty neat guest stars, including LeVar Burton and Jack Black.
Psych is a show about a psychic, who’s not a psychic, like Miss Cleo, but AWESOME. (If you didn’t understand that reference, see “Craig Ferguson” below.) With his shiny-capped sidekick, Burton”Gus” Guster, Shawn Spencer, “professional psychic,” is faking it ’till he makes it. Which will probably be never because the guy has serious commitment issues. Psych is witty and entertaining and manages to throw a surprising amount of geek culture references into the mix. Not the least of which was their Twin Peaks tribute episode. If that isn’t enough geek cred for you, they have also done an episode centered around San Diego Comic Con, guest starring George Takei.
Glee’s premise is.. remarkably similar to a literal interpretation of the phrase “high school musical”. Since it’s set in high school, Glee’s plot mainly centers around jocks and cheerleaders (surprise surprise), but there’s a goth girl! Anyway there are two main reasons I’m including Glee in this roundup. Number One: fans call themselves “Gleeks”. Number Two: Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Special. ’nuff said.
7. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
What talk show host has his own robot skeleton sidekick built by Grant Imahara of Mythbusters, and keeps a TARDIS on his desk? Craig Ferguson. Consider this tweetmail Craiggers: Kilborn has NOTHING on you (AssMöde!).
Craig’s style is self deprecating (in your pants!), and his sidekick is metal, and you just never know when a genre reference is going to pop up. Not that there aren’t occasional bumps in the genre road – when Matt Smith was interviewed the opening extravaganza was cancelled due to the network (CBS cares!) not procuring the rights to the Doctor Who theme song. No worries though, you can watch it here: