The Onion has pointed out, full-episode parodies of movies can be a sure sign that a TV show is running out of steam and ideas. And, historically, they're right. (See: Almost any '90s comedy series that ever did a Halloween episode homage to cheesy horror movies.)
But there are a select few shows that have consistently brought the goods when it comes to film satire, using movie plots as a springboard to create something special with their own characters instead of just covering for a lack of originality with 23 minutes of "Hey, look at us making references to this thing you loved!"
Here are the nine shows that have paid tribute to movies with outstanding results.
9. 'Family Guy': 'Laugh It Up Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy' ('Star Wars')
The comedic Force isn't always with "Family Guy" (had to), which over the years has had moments that range from quite rib tickling to painfully unfunny. But with "Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy," a "Star Wars" parody that took place over three episodes and four years, Seth MacFarlane and company created a piece of pop satire capable of quelling the nerd thirst of even the most virginal of "Star Wars" geeks. "Fuzzball" was essentially just a straightforward retelling of the original, non-s***y trilogy peppered with "Family Guy"-style culture reference and sophomoric humor, but it still managed to be constantly entertaining.
8. 'Psych': '100 Clues' ('Clue')
Regularly in the running for the "Oh, Hey That Show's Still on the Air? Award" over its seven seasons, "Psych" has been consistently, well, pretty good. The detective buddy comedy, which has been hid away on the USA Network since 2006 (seriously though, what is "Burn Notice"?). does some of its best work paying loving homage to film/TV culture, including shout-outs to "Twin Peaks," Alfred Hitchcock and "The Blair Witch Project." Our favorite, though, has to be "100 Clues," which features mystery-solving protagonists Shawn and Gus caught up in a murder reminiscent of the cult classic, board game-inspired, three different ending-ed comedy "Clue." In keeping with the spirit of the 1985 movie, the episode even included three possible outcomes.
7. 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia': 'The Gang Gets Invincible' ('Invincible')
From the show's first season, the "It's Always Sunny" gang has crafted some stellar movie send-ups from "Million Dollar Baby" to "Serpico." But their best has to be "The Gang Gets Invincible," where, inspired by "that Marky Mark" movie, Mac and Dennis attend an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles. The episode notably marked the first appearance of Charlie's now-legendary Green Man costume and was directed by Fred Savage (yes, that Fred Savage), who's been behind the camera for some of the show's greatest episodes. If you're thinking that this episode isn't quite a tribute or homage as the events are inspired by the actual release of the movie instead of the movie itself, we'd say to you ... you're probably right. But take it easy, tough guy.
6. 'South Park': 'D-Yikes' ('300')
"South Park" almost always brings its film satire A-game, making both passing references to obscure movies (Timmy and Jimmy's "They Live"-inspired fight scene comes to mind) and irreverent full-episode movie parodies, including takes on "The Lord of the Rings," "The Terminator" and even "Better off Dead." But "D-Yikes," in which a group of South Park lesbians fight off Persian club owners looking to buy out their bar "300"-style, gets the nod here. And to this day, "Scissor Me Timbers" is still one of the funnier things that's been ever been on TV.
5. 'Community': 'Contemporary American Poultry' ('Goodfellas')
"Community" has eked out a living by becoming the undisputed king of cultural homages, parodies, meta-references and anything else that gets geeky types all hot and bothered (how many television shows boast full-episode threads borrowed from "My Dinner With Andre"?). But our top pick goes to "Contemporary American Poultry" a mostly "Goodfellas" parody that features Abed running Greendale's chicken finger game, complete with Henry Hill-style narration, a "Layla" piano coda and even a nod to the legendary shot of Henry and Karen entering the Copacabana. The episode also served as a great send-up of college life; truly, what does a college student live for if not the promise of Chicken Finger Day in the dining hall?
4. 'Futurama': 'Fry and the Slurm Factory' ('Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory')
"Futurama" is one of the smarter TV shows of all time, and many of its references — from pop culture to quantum physics — tend to slip under the radar of casual watchers. But there was nothing subtle about the Season 1 finale "Fry and the Slurm Factory," in which the Planet Express gang wins a coveted trip to a beloved soft drink plant — a clear nod to "Willy Wonka." But instead of inheriting rights to the plant after the competition is eliminated "Survivor"-style, the crew discovers something terrible and sinister about their favorite product: it's worm goo. To which we say, who cares? Bacon is fried pig gut, and it's still delicious. Fry ends up coming to the same conclusion.
3. 'Scrubs': 'My Way Home' ('The Wizard of Oz')
Every so often, "Scrubs" hit with an episode that wasn't just funny but tugged with authority at the heartstrings as well. "My Way Home," directed by Zach Braff, was one of those episodes. The story centered on Turk, Carla, JD, and Elliot, each needed so summon a heart, a brain, or courage to overcome a personal crisis. The episode, which also made slyer nods to the "Wizard of Oz" in the form of borrowed camera tricks and character names, even took home a Peabody Award in 2008 for its stellar writing.
2. 'Seinfeld': 'The Boyfriend' ('JFK')
Watching "The Boyfriend" makes you wonder how so much legendary comedy could possibly be packed into 23 minutes. George listing "Vandelay Industries" as a reference and Jerry asking "And you want to be my latex salesman?" George desperately wanting to sleep with a tall woman but having to settle on his unemployment officer's homely daughter? Elaine's relationship with Keith Hernandez being threatened by Keith and Jerry's bromance? All here. But the episode is probably best remembered for Kramer and Newman's accusation that Keith Hernandez had hit them both with a single "magical" loogie following some post-game taunting, to which Jerry responds there must have been a "second spitter" — an homage to "JFK."
1. 'The Simpsons': 'Rosebud' ('Citizen Kane')
To all the younger folks out there: "The Simpsons" wasn't always a mediocre animated comedy used to sling Butterfingers and video games. Back in the day, circa 1991-1998, it was the funniest, smartest, most inventive show ever to grace the small screen. And one of the show's trademarks during those golden years was full-episode homages to classic movies, including Simpsonized takes on "101 Dalmatians," "Cape Fear," "The Music Man" and "Rear Window." But "Rosebud," in which a tattered teddy bear representing Mr. Burns' lost innocence ends up in Maggie's possession, has to be our choice for the all-time best. The episode also includes The Ramones singing Happy Birthday to Mr. Burns Ramones-style, which isn't really related to the homage but is just awesome.