If you’ve read my blog or know me at all, you know that I’m a massive Titanic fanatic. Today is the 104th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and yet—shock of all shocks—I somehow almost forgot! True, it’s no longer quite the pop culture behemoth that it was a few years ago, but still. I guess I was so distracted by taxes and other things, that it only occurred to me on Tuesday that today’s the anniversary.
Point is, I can’t let a Titanic anniversary go by without doing something to commemorate it. So I quickly brainstormed a few ideas for listicles I could do, and this year, I’ve decided to make a list of some of pop culture’s greatest Titanic spoofs . . . in my humble and extremely subjective opinion.
With the obviously massive success of James Cameron’s film—frankly the reason I became a fanatic in the first place—of course there are lots and lots of homages and parodies in the world. So this list is just a sampling, containing some of the ones I remember. They are specific to TV and movies, so they don’t include the many spoofs found on YouTube (like Weird Al’s for example). They’re also some of the better ones, I think (so I’m choosing not to mention the expectedly abysmal Syfy channel movie Titanic II). While most happened because of Cameron’s film, a few of them came before it, because let’s not forget that Titanic captured the world’s fascination long before Cameron’s film. They vary in quality, of course, and some are more parody than others, but hopefully they’ll give you a chuckle.
The 10 Wackiest Titanic Spoofs in Pop Culture (IMHESO)
Voyagers: “Voyagers of the Titanic” (aired February 27, 1983)
This Titanic reference has nothing to do with the film because it’s from 1983 (two years before Robert Ballard even discovered the wreck). You may recall this short-lived show, starring the tragically doomed Jon-Erik Hexum (the hunky up-and-comer who accidentally shot himself to death with a blank) as a time traveler sent on various quests through history. I remember seeing this episode when it aired, and my husband was a fan of the show too, so we actually bought the DVDs. Not that we’ve ever watched them. I suspect the show is most remembered for this episode.
Of course it seems fitting that any time-travel show would have a moment aboard the Titanic—except Quantum Leap, because the hero of that show was restricted to his own lifetime (but I did find this fan-fiction story where Sam leaps into Leo DeCaprio’s Jack Dawson). So naturally, there’s a short moment in Terry Gilliam’s brilliant movie Time Bandits. The thieves console themselves on deck with “champagne, and plenty of ice,” before they realize where they are. It’s an entertaining call-out, and yet another Titanic with star David Warner (Lawrence Beesley in S.O.S Titanic and Lovejoy in Cameron’s version). (I’m having trouble finding the exact scene, but this will do for now.)
Of course the first Ghostbusters movie is the definitive one (and will probably remain so, as much as I’m looking forward to the female-led reboot), and many would say this sequel is terrible and not worth the time. But as a Titanic fanatic, I have to enjoy, at least a little, the homage to the disaster in this clip, as a ghost version of the ship docks in a New York harbor—with a much too large hole in its side.
Cameron’s film was so popular and had so much to call out that it definitely offered animated comedies like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park lots of reasons to reference it. Some even did full-episode parodies, which are the most fun. I don’t think The Simpsons has a full Titanic episode, but they definitely made reference to it a few times, including the sinking, a “Roger Corman” version, and in their classic ever-changing opening couch gag.
Family Guy: “Stewie, Chris, and Brian’s Excellent Adventure” (aired January 4, 2015)
I enjoy Family Guy a lot, even though I’m not a regular viewer, but I somehow didn’t realize how sexist it is. I don’t know how I missed, or likely forgot, that. Probably my admiration for Seth MacFarlane allows me to suppress that (and I know more about sexism now than I did then). So a few of the simple references to Titanic that Family Guy made are pretty appalling (especially this one). But the episode that mostly features Titanic, where Stewie, Brian, and Chris go back in time to help Chris pass his history test, is amusing, despite one or two sexist moments. (The Titanic part starts around 12:20.)
Futurama: “A Flight to Remember” (aired September 26, 1999)
Another Matt Groening creation, Futurama had a very entertaining Titanic episode. The gang goes on a maiden voyage of a new starship, one that of course resembles Titanic and experiences a similar fate. I’ve never been a steady Futurama fan; my knowledge of the show is limited and I’ve only seen a handful of episodes, but of course I watched this one, and enjoyed it immensely. It also deals with the ongoing will-they-won’t-they between Leela and Fry, which is very fun. You can almost always win me over with a little romance.
Doctor Who: “Voyage of the Damned” (aired December 25, 2007)
Not to be outdone by Futurama, Doctor Who also has a Christmas episode where David Tennant’s Doctor ends up on a luxury space liner modeled after the first Titanic. (Why people would want to do that is still a wonder to me, and yet I know there’s a real one planned for sail next year.) The Doctor’s companion for this one and only episode is Australian singer (and Green Fairy) Kylie Minogue. The episode feels a bit more Poseidon Adventure than Titanic, and it’s perhaps one of the cheesier Doctor Whos, which is saying something. But it’s still good fun. (I hope I don’t have to completely turn in my Geek Card because I called Doctor Who cheesy.)
South Park: “City on the Edge of Forever”; “Summer Sucks” (aired June 17 and 24, 1998, respectively)
I remember there being two different South Park episodes that spoofed Titanic, though they were more elaborate references than full-episode spoofs, and they aired a week apart. In the first, “City on the Edge of Forever,” the boys have a series of dreamlike flashbacks while the school bus gets stranded on a cliff, but ice cream somehow saves the day. In the second, which IMHO is the better one, the mayor makes a Fourth of July celebration to remember by ordering the biggest black snake firework ever made, since fireworks are illegal in Colorado. The plan naturally, goes awry. I remember laughing hysterically at the vision of Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and friends playing “Nearer My God to Thee” while the town of South Park burns in black ash.
NewsRadio: “Sinking Ship” (aired May 12, 1998)
Remember this show? It aired for 5 seasons, and starred Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Andy Dick, and the late Phil Hartman, who was murdered right before the show’s fifth season. In fact, their Titanic episode was the season 4 finale, and the last episode with Hartman. Wow, between this and Hexum, it’s starting to look like tragedy follows Titanic around at this point.
Supernatural: “My Heart Will Go On” (aired April 15, 2011)
While Alex and I have started watching Supernatural and would like to watch more of it, we’re not regular viewers of the show (it’s also a massive commitment now, with at least 10 seasons under its belt). But when I heard they were doing a Titanic episode, of course I had to watch. It’s really fun. The angel Balthazar hates the Cameron film so much that he decides to save the ship from sinking. But Fate intervenes, bizarrely murdering the people who were supposed to die in the disaster, sending in Sam and Dean to find out what happened and set things right. It’s a pretty entertaining episode, and I appreciate their airing this homage on the anniversary.
So how are you commemorating the anniversary of the sinking? Did I miss any of your favorite Titanic spoofs?