Friday, August 27, 2004


I am just one of the caretakers of the TV Universe; there are many of us. (And for the next cosmic summoning, I have to bring the crudites.)

But as one of those caretakers, I have my failings; chief among them that I can't possibly see everything on TV. Unlike other kinds of potatoes, this sofa spud only has two eyes. I can't even tape one show while watching another, because I've never been able to master the A/B switch. Dammit, Jim! I'm a TV philosopher, not a TV technician!

The fact that trivial matters of epic scale might be slipping past my notice was brought home yesterday by that article on TV in-jokes which David Bianculli wrote for the NY Daily News.

It was this segment in particular:

One sharp-eyed Extra detective busted the Sci-Fi Channel's 'Stargate SG-1' for a very statuesque in joke.
Marcia Brin (who didn't give her hometown) watched carefully as guest star William Devane, playing the newly elected US President, admired the statues while walking in the White House his first day.
One that especially caught his eye, and Brin's, was a bust of John F. Kennedy.
"One of the first things that William Devane did as an actor that brought him to national awareness," she writes, "was to play JFK in 'The Missiles of October.'"
That's right - and brother Bobby was played by Martin Sheen, who wound up playing a President himself on 'The West Wing.'

I like 'Stargate SG-1'; I just don't watch it on a regular basis. (I have yet to catch 'Stargate: Atlantis'.) Every so often I'll watch an episode and easily pick up anything new about its overall cosmology.

But I never caught this little item. And because of it, I have to remove 'Stargate SG-1' and 'Stargate: Atlantis' and the animated 'Stargate: Infinity' from the main TV Universe.

Earth Prime-Time has so many differences from our own Earth Prime. But aside from all of the talking cars, talking horses, talking food, and talking toasters, both the Real World and Toobworld have at least one thing in common: the President of the United States is the same for both universes.

It just has to be this way, otherwise the creators of too many TV shows lose out on either interesting plot points or cheap shot jokes at the expense of the current resident of the Oval Office.

It was George the First who moved into the Springfield neighborhood of 'The Simpsons'; it was the half-brother of Bill who lived next door to 'The Nanny'. And it was W who made an emergency pit stop in the hotel bathroom on 'Whoopi'.

You can tell the time period for any random episode of the long-running 'Law & Order' just by whose portrait hangs in the DAs office.

Jimmy dropped in on 'Angie', First Lady Bette Ford phoned Mayr on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'; and Nixon pre-empted his most ardent supporter on 'All In The Family'.

(Tricky Dick is still paying for that - 1000 years from now, his head will be residing in Robot Hell. Thanks, 'Futurama'!)

So if 'Stargate SG-1' was to be in the main TV Universe, their POTUS ought to be George W. Bush. But at least since earlier this year, it has been Henry Hayes.

So, off we have to "slide" the show into its own offshoot of the main TV Universe. It's the same thing we had to do for 'The West Wing', and '24', and for three sitcoms which all share the same TV Universe: 'Karen', 'Hail To The Chief', and 'Mr. President'.

But we wouldn't want those 3 'SG-1' shows to be lonely in their own universe, so we've relegated a few other series to keep them company. (We did the same thing for 'The West Wing'. Having 'Mr. Sterling' join that dimension was a gimmee; the show's exec producer said as much. But we've also consigned 'Smallville' and 'James Michener's Space' to the world of Jed Bartlet.)

For the SG-1 Earth, we're also tossing in 3 CBS series which dealt with a recent fictional president:

'Citizen Baines' (The President was played by Charles Haid.)

'The Agency' (We never saw that President, but we did meet his irresponsible half-brother, played by Tom Arnold. I have no problem with the concept of Haid and Arnold sharing DNA.)
'The District' (I was sorry to let this go, but the series did do a crossover with 'The Agency' and thus it was marked by "the Company" it kept.)

And since there is such a playful spirit on 'Stargate SG-1', I'm willing to add in a similar series but from the espionage genre - 'Spy Game'. Its President was a World War II vet, like George the First, but he was a "real", roughhewn, Texan cowboy (not some blue-blood wannabe from Connecticut).

And it's nice to know that John Steed ('The Avengers'), Willie Armitage ('Mission: Impossible'), and Bill Maxwell ('The Greatest American Hero') have counterparts in another dimension. (All these characters, although not actually named, appeared in the 'Spy Game' pilot.)

One final note about President Henry Hayes. He has no relation to President Jonathan Hayes who is to be found in 3 TV movies. ('First Daughter', 'First Shot', and 'First Target')

President Jonathan Hayes is the current POTUS in a long line of Chief Executives to be found in Earth Prime-Time-MOW. I'll be writing more about that line of succession when we get closer to the November election... at which time I hope the current role will be recast..

(Couch Potato, Not POTUS)

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