Seinfeld, South Park And Beyond: The Pop Cultural Prevalence Of Les Miserables

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Les Miserables In Pop Culture
Les Miserables is one of the most referenced musicals ever. Sure, it’s got some competition from Phantom of the Opera and Cats, but in general, no other musical has permeated pop culture the way Les Miz has. From Susan Boyle to South Park to, yeah, even Homeland, the references are all over the place, and we compiled a list of the 10 biggest ones we could think of. You might have forgotten about some of these, but we’re here to refresh your memory and get you as psyched as George Costanza to see this movie when it comes out Christmas day.

1. The guys at South Park love them some Les Miz. They named an episode from season four “Prisoner 24601,” but their biggest homage to the show was the anthemic “La Resistance” song from the Bigger, Longer, And Uncut film. An obvious nod to “One Day More,” it’s rousing, it’s patriotic…it brings a tear to the eye, really. Fans on YouTube have created dozens of comparisons between the Les Miz version and the South Park song (here’s just one) but here’s a crappy clip from the movie.

2. George Costanza might have been master of his domain on Seinfeld but he also had a thing for “Master of the House,” which he just could NOT get out of his head for an entire episode. But who hasn’t gotten this song stuck in their head? Yet another reason that Seinfeld is the best, most accurate show in history, they turned every real-life annoyance into a plot line.

3. The Simpsons wouldn’t be The Simpsons if they didn’t tip their hat to every single pop cultural phenomenon in history, so of course, like South Park they also had a Prisoner 24601 reference, but this time it was Principal Skinner’s POW number. It was also used as Sideshow Bob’s prisoner number.


[Photo: thisdanobrien.tumblr.com]

4. Remember when Megan Mullally had a talk show? Neither does anyone else! But the one legacy from that show would have to be this clip featuring the cast of How I Met Your Mother, which went viral back in 2006 (and is the sole reason we started watching the show) featuring Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel (before we even knew Segel was as the big musical nerd that he is) singing “The Confrontation.” It’s TV-slash-musical-theater-geek magic.

5. Lest you think those two guys are the only ones to get into a scuffle by way of Javert and Valjean, our other comedy boyfriends David Wain and Paul Rudd also had a “Confrontation” of their own. (And then, just to come full circle, Segel and Rudd also perform it together here.)

6. In 2009, no one had heard of Susan Boyle. In 2012, this clip of the woman has 113 MILLION views on YouTube. She could have sang any song for her audition on Britain’s Got Talent, but she chose “I Dreamed A Dream,” and her startlingly good voice and triumphant story just adds  to the chills-factor we get already when we hear that song’s opening few lines. (Anne Hathaway getting her head shaved is only gonna make that emotional impact hit that much harder.)

7. Why, just this week on the Homeland finale, we got a little bonus addition to this list when Saul Berenson (played by Mandy Patinkin, who’s no stranger to Les Miz) awaited his release from an interrogation room where he was kept in isolation thanks to CIA chief David Estes. When Estes arrives, he greets his nemesis with “Well, if it isn’t Javert.” (Coincidentally, Patinkin’s Homeland co-star Claire Danes starred in the 1998 film adaptation of Les Miserables herself as Cosette.)

8. GLEE. Of course Glee has covered Les Miz. Would you expect Rachel Berry to not be obsessed with this musical? From “On My Own” which was her audition song in the pilot episode to “I Dreamed A Dream,” Lea Michele has sung her share of Les Miz songs in her life (she also portrayed Eponine in the Hollywood Bowl production of the musical in 2008). Here’s her version of “I Dreamed A Dream.”

9. Oh, like you’re really surprised that there’s a French porn actor names Jean Val Jean.

[Photo: Getty Images]