No viewer can deny the element of surprise from an unforgettable cameo. Whether it’s a fun and memorable bit to emphasize a show’s pop culture status or a desperate attempt at higher ratings, it doesn’t matter.
Sometimes it’s a ridiculous yet juicy subplot featuring a celebrity that leaves a lasting impression on us. Other occasions, it’s the randomness of the cameo or the celebrity that makes for hearty chuckles and a shaking of the head. Nonetheless, quite a few incredible guest appearances on our favorite shows have ultimately proved to be iconic television moments. Here are some of our favorite and most memorable cameos on TV:
Brad Pitt – Friends
When a celebrity guest spot on a TV series has pop culture implications outside the show itself, that’s when you know you have a truly memorable cameo on your hands. Such was the case when Brad Pitt appeared on Friends in 2001 — when he was married to star Jennifer Aniston, known to millions of viewers as Rachel Green.
Although many critics called out Pitt, playing the role of old high school classmate Will Colbert, for going a tad out of his element by acting on a sitcom, the thought of Pitt’s character helping to start an “I hate Rachel” club as a teenager is hilarious enough in itself. Pitt was nominated for an Emmy for the cameo, and though there was some controversy around the “rumor” Will started about Rachel, the episode remains a classic of the Friends series.
Bob Saget – Entourage
Sometimes what makes a cameo great is how the appearance skewers the audience’s perception of a celebrity. This definitely applies for Bob Saget’s guest spot on Entourage. Many people are familiar with Saget as the kind, caring father Danny Tanner on Full House, but fans of the Tanner family were probably surprised to see how different the beloved character is from comedian himself.
Saget plays himself on Entourage, and welcomes lead character Vince as a member of the neighborhood by throwing a massive party with scantily clad girls and tons of, um, recreational substances. With a full-on potty mouth and party-hard attitude, Saget certainly shrugged off Danny Tanner after this cameo.
Oprah Winfrey – 30 Rock
Oprah needs no introduction, so if you are somehow able to land her as a cameo for a show, you’d better make it worthwhile. Leave it to Tina Fey to get Oprah to make an appearance as a hallucinogenic vision that provides guidance for resolving a ridiculous dispute between Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski.
In this episode of 30 Rock, Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, finds herself sitting next to Oprah on a flight, and Liz reveals way too much personal information to the talk show host, such as her stressful job and how she hates her feet. Unfortunately for Liz, it turns out Oprah was just a hallucination — a result of Liz taking a sedative before the flight. Nonetheless, Oprah’s cameo was as real as it gets, and this certainly was a guest appearance for the ages.
Michael Jackson – The Simpsons
You could easily make an entirely new list of all the incredible cameos on The Simpsons alone. From Stephen Hawking to Mick Jagger — and just about every celebrity in between — so many incredible Simpsons moments have featured our favorite personalities.
However, when it comes to grandiose cameos, it’s tough to think of a more remarkable guest appearance than the King of Pop’s. In the 1991 episode “Stark Raving Dad,” Michael Jackson lent his voice to the character of Leon Kompowsky, a mental patient who believes he is Jackson. Jackson actually called the producers of The Simpsons to guest star on the show, saying he was a huge fan. The episode is one of the classics of the series and gives us the irresistibly catchy song “Happy Birthday Lisa.”