“Boston Legal” has had a lot of lines in which the characters refer to themselves or their circumstances in a way that makes it appear that the characters know that they are characters in a television series.
Once, William Shatner’s character on “Boston Legal” had a fiancee who wanted him to move to Hawaii. He responded by saying “What am I supposed to do, beam myself to Boston every morning?” (A rather obvious nod to Shatner’s role in “Star Trek.”)
On Roseanne, there is one episode where Mark leaves Becky and lives with a friend in an apartment for a few days. The friend has satellite TV, which Dan salivates over. Over the closing credits, Dan is watching an episode of Roseanne dubbed in Spanish.
Also from Roseanne, there’s a cameo by Luke and Laura from some soap opera, and the Conners make comments like “It seems something new happens to us about every week! And then it happens again in the summer!”
When cancellation seemed inevitable, Arrested Development had a couple of references about how they were doomed and looking to HBO (“House Builders Organization”) or Showtime to bail them out. And, of course there were references to www.saveourbluths.com
But they weren’t talking about the show as if it were a TV show exactly. It was more “nudge nudge wink wink” than that.
Arrested Development went crazy with the self-referential humor in its last year. One episode in particular mirrored the show’s ratings problems and the rumors that HBO or Showtime would pick up the show when Fox cancelled it. On the show, the characters wonder if the Home Builders Organization will help their company, and then decide “It’s showtime”- they need to put on a revue to get the backers interested. Michael Bluth, meanwhile, obsesses over whether or not the family is too selfish and unlikeable - maybe they aren’t “relatable.” They also parody celebrity guest appearances by having Andy Richter appear, playing himself - and his four identical quintuplets. There’s also a fake “live broadcast,” ending, and near the end of the episode, the narrator flat-out says “Please tell your friends about this show.”
There are tons more, but I hope that’s representative.
One more on Roseanne…they replaced the actress who played Becky, and at the end of the first episode that the new Becky was in, the family was sitting around watching Bewitched. All of the rest of the family was was talking about how terrible it was that Bewitched replaced Darren, but Becky points out that she likes the new Darrin better.
ST:TNG had an incident that comes close. It’s one of the Moriarty episodes, where he’s taken over the ship. Since he’s left the holodeck, he now wants to explore the universe in a shuttlecraft. The crew trick him into accepting a holographic shuttlecraft, and save his program into a box. Picard makes a remark about how the Enterprise and all her crew might just be holograms in a box on someone’s table…
In “Rememberance of the Daleks,” Dr. Who leaves the room just as the TV goes into the intro to the first episode of Doctor Who.
There was the double reference in Third Rock from the Sun where guest star William Shatner mentions seeing a strange creature on the wing of his airplane. John Lithgow says “You too?” Lithgow was in the remake of the old Twilight Zone episode with Shatner and with that plot.
More Green Acres: Oliver and Lisa go to Washington to meet their congressman. Lisa asks him, “What actor are you? All congressmen are actors these days.” And actor Lyle Talbot* says, “Lyle Talbot.”
On the 100th episode of Designing Women, someone in the cast said something like, “I feel like we’ve done this 100 times.”
The Simpsons did something similar for their 300th or 302nd episode. Lisa said something about how it feels like there’ve been wacky hijinks in the family 300 times and Marge says something about how it feels like 302. Referencing debate over whether two holiday specials counted as episodes for the series episode count.
The Simpsons do this sort of thing a lot. Like at Apu’s wedding, Bart wishes he had an elephant and Lisa reminds him about Stampy. And if there had been an episode involving jockey elves, then it probably would have included a reference to how Lisa had previouly owned a pony.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer used to air on Tuesday nights. In one episode, the character, Dawn, who has a habit of getting into trouble, is abducted. On learning this, Buffy sighs, “Dawn’s in trouble. Must be Tuesday.”