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File:ReferenceOverdose 5057.jpg

All the blue fictional people that could have been in Avatar.

"Is it just me or am I making a lot of references in this episode?"

Any work where the Homages and Shout-Outs are almost too numerous to count. Often these are fan works or comedies (goes triple if the series is a Long Runner), since it would be distracting to have so many of these in more serious works, save for comic relief moments.

But even in the appropriate works, how well this is done depends on most of the references being done well. Sometimes this works, sometimes not.

The references can even turn into multiple Genius Bonuses.

Compare Trope Overdosed, Refuge in Cool, Pastiche, Fountain of Memes, Continuity Cavalcade.

Examples of Reference Overdosed include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books


"Bloom County was awash with pop culture references and celebrity mockery...largely because those beguiling assets were virtually absent from the comedic media at the time. But just look at us now. No, it's not my &@%# fault.


Fan Works



  • Ready Player One has this as part of its plot, but narrows it to 1980s video games and pop culture in an effort to solve the puzzle left behind by a rich eccentric as part of his will.
  • Finnegans Wake features thousands of references to everything imaginable.
  • A Night in the Lonesome October abounds with references, being a wide-ranging gothic horror pastiche with references to other genres. It contains many Homages and Shout Outs beyond its crossover characters.
  • The works of Philip Jose Farmer are sometimes Reference Overdosed, particularly those set in the Wold Newton universe. A single work may be a Homage to one writer while encoding allusions to the work of many, many others. For example, no name is innocent until all anagrams, obscure linguistic derivations and so forth have been exhausted.
  • Discworld
  • The Dresden Files, since everyone is Genre Savvy and the narrator is a Pop-Cultured Badass.
  • The works of Robert Anton Wilson
  • Most stories by Kim Newman (including those written under his Jack Yeovil pseudonym), especially the Anno Dracula series.
  • The Ciaphas Cain books are absolutely loaded with references to both science fiction and turn-of-the-century juvenile adventures.
  • The author of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle novels collectively known as "The Vampire Wars" acknowledges his books contain at least a hundred references to classic vampire stories like Dracula. One of his fans sent him a list of references in his novels, but the author didn't have the heart to say he'd missed about another fifty.
  • The first page of Where's Waldo? The Wonder Book. It puts all the other examples to shame.
  • Bret Easton Ellis likes to do this with his characters to highlight how shallow they are. Many pages in Glamorama are just long lists of Victor and his friends name dropping celebrities, and in American Psycho, Patrick has to describe in excruciating detail what everyone is wearing.
  • T. S. Eliot's works, especially The Waste Land. The poem is full of classical literature and religious references, and quotes them in their native language.
  • The tavern scene in the "fantasy world" segment of Jack L Chalker's 1979 novel And the Devil Will Drag You Under is jam-packed with references and shout-outs to Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery literature from the previous half-century or more; the rest of the book is less densely populated than that particular scene but still has many, many tidbits for the careful reader to delight in.

Live-Action TV

  • The Middleman, usually with a different theme each episode (one episode is full of Dune references, another Back to The Future references, another Ghostbusters references, and so on...)
  • Spaced. There's even a bonus subtitle track on the DVD that notes all the references.
  • Community. Abed is stated to be incapable of communicating through any other medium than movies.
  • Psych CONSTANTLY references obscure 80s and 90s pop culture.
  • NCIS: Tony is a movie buff, and McGee is a gamer, among other justifications for this.
  • Gilmore Girls is famous for its abundance of references. Each DVD even has a little booklet explaining the more obscure ones.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: many encyclopedic references to historical and cultural figures, exotic animals and places. Most of these jokes could make sense to intellectuals, but then there are also many references to British culture, especially politicians, TV hosts and programs that were famous during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They are usually completely incomprehensible and obscure to international audiences and even to the English, especially while Time Marches On.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000
  • Supernatural, particularly when it comes to music.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger is this towards the Super Sentai series.
  • Doctor Who. Good Lord. Its almost fifty years old, so its accumulated a lot over that time. Some of the older episodes reference things like Beatles lyrics, while New-Who has referenced things like Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Harry Potter, Teletubbies, and way, way more.
  • Red Dwarf often makes reference to films such as Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, and Blade Runner. For instance, the episode Back To Earth is considered by most to only be enjoyable if you know the Blade Runner references, to most other fans it is a horrible episode.
  • Leverage is so reference overdosed that its shout outs had to be moved to their own page.


  • The Wu-Tang Clan: cursory examination of the first two tracks on Enter the Wu-Tang/36 Chambers turns up, in addition to the samples and references to old Kung-fu movies for which they're famous, overt references to Steven Seagal and his film Out for Justice, Voltron, and The Warriors.
    • Also, Ghostface Killah had a song from the 1996 album Iron Man (which was when he started using the alias Tony Stark) entitled "Daytona 500" (named mostly for its fast pace) which used clips from the original Speed Racer to make one of the first Anime Music Videos which is still considered a favorite by many.
      • The song itself contained samples from Bob James' "Nautilus" and "Crab Apple" by Idris Muhammad whle the chorus from "Turn The Beat Around" by Vicki Sue Robinson sped up and reworded for the hook. And even featured two samples from previous Wu singles, "Mystery of Chessboxin" and Raekwon's "Incarcerated Scarfaces" which also had an obvious Shout-Out in title as well as the lyrics.
    • The mileage varies, but this opened the AMV flood gates, being one of the first AMV's showed on TV and predating YouTube and self-made AMV's.
  • Half Man Half Biscuit. Their website has a section dedicated to explaining some of the references.
  • No More Kings. When describing them most places refer to them and funk/pop mixed with 80s references. Though there are more references, the 80s are just the most prominent.
  • Destroyer. Dan Bejar's main band has its own wiki and drinking game.
  • Frank Zappa: his music was deeply personal and references several aspects of the society of his time, including music, commercials, politics, TV and even inside jokes in his own band and anecdotes from his own life. Zappa once claimed that he doubted if his lyrics could make sense to anyone but himself.
  • The entirety of Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny is Shout-Out after Shout-Out from beginning to end.
  • Sage Francis, a rapper from Providence, RI, makes tons of references to "classic" hip hop songs. He'll often re-use classic lines, substituting a word here or there or reversing the word order as a kind of wordplay homage; he'll also re-use the cadence of certain iconic lines in a subtle nod.
  • R.E.M.'s music would frequently make references to ancient mythology in order to conceal the true meanings of the songs (namely Michael Stipe's bisexuality or political events). This had the side effect of making people think he spoke gibberish. To clarify, the first time he admitted to writing a song with straightforward lyrics was in 1992 when the band recorded "Everybody Hurts" - 12 years after they started.


  • Any Dennis Miller rant.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons the Dragoning, which mashes together the rules of several pen-and-paper systems, uses the setting of others, and gives shout-outs to everything else.


Video Games


Floyd: I'd like to make a Jimmy Hoffa joke, but I think most of the people playing this game are kids who are getting tired of running to Google every other line to figure out what we're talking about.


Web Comics

Web Original

  • Any Abridged Series. Especially the one that started them all.
  • Almost every show on That Guy With The Glasses.
  • Skippy's List
  • This phenomenon was a constant in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, and given that the players involved included ordained ministers, a professor of quantum physics, a member of the British House of Commons, several professional writers, a television producer, a movie special effects expert, a chef, three lawyers, active duty soldiers, artists, actors, attorneys, doctors, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, a librarian, a stock broker, computer programmers of various types, a Roman Catholic priest, a biochemist, the mayor of a small Florida, and a professional dominatrix, amongst others, all of whom were highly educated and all of whom were widely read, this was to be expected. Some stories were so thick with various references (from pop-culture to legal to scientific to political) that the story itself was lost in the mix.
  • Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do In An RPG
  • The Whateley Universe, especially the story "Tales of the MCO", where the kids watch a television show and give it the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment.
    • Everything about it, since it's a superhero universe which has Marvel and DC as superhero comic publishers within it. People constantly refer to this, talking about a girl who leaps in front of teammates to protect them as having 'superman syndrome' or arguing about what is needed for Marvel to make an Iron Man movie or even talking about why 'real' supers can't swipe copyrighted/trademarked superhero names.
  • Unskippable
  • YouTube Poop is chock full of random references to pop culture.
  • A Very Potter Musical. Of course there's references to the books, but between that you've got things like Zac Efron. Furthermore, entire parts of the dialog are just homages to Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • SF Debris
  • Survival of the Fittest: Due to being a collaborative work between the board's members, it qualifies. While there have been Shout Outs to previous versions and the original canon, a few others are to... less expected works, such as a character suddenly talking like Kefka, and a few characters being an Expy of characters from other works. Honestly, if one were to list every single reference in SOTF, it would take a while. It has been a minor issue on the board, however, in how many Shout Outs are okay.
  • Homestar Runner, mainly to '80s and '90s pop culture.

Western Animation

  • Archer is full of references[1], from the pop cultural to the obscure literary.
  • Family Guy, although it has gotten out of hand for a lot of fans, and nowadays the show frequently includes references that are nothing but Padding, without a joke to justify their inclusion.
  • American Dad tends to throw them in through dialog or character actions.
  • The Cleveland Show. Sensing a pattern yet?
  • The Simpsons
  • Futurama
  • Many Looney Tunes and Tex Avery cartoons, but as Time Marches On fewer and fewer people get the references. This is especially caused by references to film actors, radio shows, songs, and commercials that were very popular in the United States during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, but are nowadays completely obscure for modern audiences. Examples are:
    • "Turn off that light!" (reference to air raid wardens during World War II)
    • "It's a possibility!" (reference to Artie Auerbach's catchphrase as Mr. Kitzle during Al Pearce's radio shows)
    • "I love that man!"
    • "Don't you believe it!"
    • "Aha! Something new has been added!" (reference to Lucky Strike cigarettes)
    • "B.OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" (reference to a commercial for spray against B.O. (body odor))
    • "I'm a baaaaad boy!" (Abbott and Costello)
    • "Ah, yes! (Insert statement here), isn't it?" and "Greetings, Gate! Lets osculate!" (Jerry Colonna)
    • "I dood it!" (reference to Red Skelton's character "Mean Widdle Kid")
    • "Of course you realize this means war!" (Groucho Marx)
    • "Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?" (reference to John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men)
    • "That ain't the way I heard it!" and "'T ain't funny, McGee!" (reference to Fibber McGee and Molly)
  • Tiny Toon Adventures
  • Animaniacs
  • Megas XLR has an extremely large amount of references to other shows, and not just of the Humongous Mecha genre (Wave Motion Gun, anyone?).
  • Transformers Animated. Without interfering with the plot or making it so that you can't follow it if you don't know what's being referenced, it manages to fit in a zillion little Easter Eggs into every episode. Its "Allspark Almanac" guidebook is this taken to its logical extreme. Every single thing references something, no matter how deeply the reference is buried [2] or how obscure the things being referenced are [3] Oh, and a second volume is on the way.
  • The short-lived Spaceballs series was nothing but Whole-Plot References. No original storylines or jokes to be found anywhere. Probably explains why it was short-lived. Yes, the whole concept is a Whole-Plot Reference to Star Wars, but you'd think the writers could come up with at least a few new plots and gags in the 15+ years it took to get the cartoon made.
  • South Park series have tons of these in almost every episode.
    • The Imaginationland episodes of South Park, which feature virtually HUNDREDS of fictional characters.
  • Robot Chicken is based on referencing works.
  • Phineas and Ferb. Though aren't they a little young to know about all those older references?


  1. List of Cultural
  2. Some of the symbols on some pages are actually from the Cybertronian language as seen waaay back in Beast Wars, and are references to movies, songs, etc. Ironically, the references written in Cybertronix primarily reference everything but TF itself.
  3. For example, a minor character from a Japanese radio program, the letters page of a comic book from 20 years ago, or a not-official TF comic serial printed in a magazine might be name-dropped, and items whose composition isn't mentioned in-show will be given as materials that one side or the other tried to obtain in a G1 episode or comic. Basically, if it's a number or a proper name, it references something. No exceptions. Period.