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When events on a Show Within a Show mirror events in the "real world" of the show. This is often used by the writers to comment on the show indirectly.

Unlike Coincidental Broadcast, those watching the show will generally not see how this relates to their situation.

Examples of Crystal Ball Scheduling include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Genshiken, the characters are at their graduation ceremony discussing what direction the manga will take now that the club president is graduating. Just when you think they've broken the Fourth Wall, it turns out that in fact they're just talking about recent events in Kujibiki Unbalance.
  • Happens all the time on Martian Successor Nadesico. For instance, the first time a character in Gekiganger 3 is shown to die, Gai Daigouji is shot at the end of that same episode, and dies at the beginning of the next. Notably, Gekiganger 3 has finished airing by the events of Nadesico, and it is simply the order the characters themselves watch the episodes from recordings.
  • Similarly, the momentary fragments of Super Robot show Garban that Yamada watches, which are glimpsed in between the main action in Sister Princess.

Comic Books

  • Tales of the Black Freighter in Watchmen.
    • Also in Watchmen, the clips of Ozymandias doing gymnastics which plays during the sex scene (complete with suggestive commentary about "mounting the bar").
    • As well as the direct parallel between Jon's interview and Dan and Laurie fighting a group of muggers.


  • Justified in The Truman Show, where he's thinking about leaving, turns on the TV and there's a song about not leaving), because everything around Truman is controlled by a TV executive.
  • The film version of Being There may be the grand master of this trope. Why? Well, with the exceptions of the clips of the film's President of the United States and Chance's appearance on a talk show, every single show or commercial seen on a television in the film—and there are many because television watching is Chance's only pastime besides gardening—not only somehow comments on the proceedings or just Chance's character (or becomes part of his actions), but is a clip of a real show, commercial, or film. You'll often need to think for a moment to figure out the connection of a clip and the action.
  • Justified in Amelie, where the heroine is probably imagining that the black-and-white mad scientist is talking about her, and her relationships, by name. Probably.

Live Action TV

  • In Friends, Joey is acting in a stage play when his lover comes and tells him that she's leaving for Los Angeles. Joey's heartbroken, but returns to the play... which is about an alien visitor leaving his lover to return to their home world.
    • His rehearsals on the play, and developing relationship with his costar, had been recurring for several episodes at this point but his climbing onto the ladder of the spaceship (which lowers dramatically and with lots mist into the middle of the living room set) is the first and only indicator that the play is anything other than a serious piece about two people struggling with the decision to split up.
  • Justified in Life On Mars because Sam is just hallucinating the whole thing anyway.


  • Hamlet specifically choses a play that involves the poisoning of a man by his brother in order to gauge the reaction of his Evil Uncle whom he believes guilty of the very same crime.

Video Games

  • Many of the TV shows in Max Payne, especially Address Unknown.

Web Comics

  • In Octopus Pie, immediately after being forced to watch trailers for tacky Spring Break softcore, Eve sees a number of girls casually discussing their drunk partying and promiscuity, prompting Eve to comment:

 Eve: Jesus, did they follow us out of the TV? It's like The Ring except I don't get to die.


Western Animation

  • The Itchy and Scratchy Show on The Simpsons frequently does this. For example, just before being sent into space, Homer watches an I&S about space flight, and while Bart is home from school sick, he watches an episode where Itchy goes to the doctor.
  • The Brown Hornet cartoon on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids always mirrored the main show's lesson du jour.

Media in General

  • If Romeo and Juliet is the School Play, bet the house on a couple (usually, but not necessarily, the leads in the play) be one of which parents don't approve. Except that they'll probably get a happy ending. Remember, kids: Romeo and Juliet are the ideal of the couple in love!
    • Similiarly, if the play is The Taming of the Shrew, there's a good chance that the actors playing the two leads were a couple, are broken up now, and are reunited through "the magic of Shakespeare". The glaring misogyny of the original play will be downplayed.
      • Kiss Me Kate is probably the best-known example, although in a nice twist, Frederick, the actor playing Petruchio has to differentiate himself from the character (by not being a giant misogynist) to win back the girl. Offstage, the person who is most like Petruchio is actually Frederick's romantic rival.