As much fun as it is to watch a crossover between two (or more!) TV series, it can't be forgotten that these "Very Special Episodes" weren't concocted just for the audience's pleasure. The crossovers exist to either hype or prop up at least one of the shows involved, and of course to garner ratings. It all comes down to business as usual.
With six networks, hundreds of cable offering, and the premium channels, the stakes are hight to get eyeballs glued to the tube. There's not a new show on the Fall 2004 sked that couldn't benefit from some added exposure via a crossover with an established series.
So with that in mind, I'm going to look at the new offerings on each of the networks and see which of their telecompatriots could forge the best linkup.
(Actually, I'm a firm believer in Television Without Borders, that shows should cross over with others from outside their home network. But I'll keep this real; it's not likely that the suits would cross over with a rival's show somewhere else on the dial.
Well, not exactly, as we'll see.....)
Let's work our way through the nets alphabetically. Today we look at ABC:
'The Benefactor' - It might seem odd to give consideration to a (so-called) reality series, but I find these shows more fictional than the scripted series.
To interact with Mark Cuban, their showcase millionaire, ABC should bring in that daytime dynamo; the man who knows how to handle those who want to be a millionaire - Regis Philbin.
('Who Wants To Be A Millionaire', ''Live With Regis & Kelly')
'Wife Swap' - FOX may have pulled the rug out from under this show by stealing the idea and getting their version on the air first ('Trading Spouses'). So ABC should raise the stakes and make a bold move in their execution of the idea.
In an episode featuring Sam Saboura, the producers should steal a page from the movie "Face/Off". Use plastic surgery to exchange the identities of two wives and then send them to each other's family. See how long it takes before anybody figures out the that there was a switcheroo.
And if the ruse makes it to the bedroom, save that episode for Sweeps! Homina homina homina!
'Lost' - Even before it aired, this highly anticipated adventure already has crossover links to two TV-movies - 'Nowhere To Land' and 'Code 11-14'. Both of those flicks were set on board a plane in the fictional Oceanic Airways livery. But the Oceanic Airways brand name is probably best known for a theatrical release - 'Executive Decision', which starred Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, and Oliver Platt.
Since 'Lost' will be taking place on that not-so-deserted island, it's not likely there are many options for it to have any crossovers with the current crop of ABC shows. (Unless, of course, somebody from Wisteria Lane saw them off at the airport - see the entry on 'Desperate Housewives')
But as this is a show co-produced by JJ Abrams, the logical step would be to tie it into his spy show. And the fact that Terry O'Quinn is one of the co-stars as Locke..... Who knows? Maybe he's actually FBI research specialist Kendall.
Then again, Gary Grunberg had a quick cameo as the pilot in the pilot. He seems to appear in all of the shows of his childhood buddy Abrams. So since he wasn't appearing as his 'Alias' (or 'Felicity'!) character, we can probably assume O'Quinn isn't either.
But it doesn't have to be a human link, however, so you don't have to take Jennifer Garner away from her other duties for a quick cameo. Maybe it's a connection through something that will turn up in the cargo or in the mysterious jungle that links to SD-6 or to the Rambaldi mysteries.
'Desperate Housewives' - I don't think we're ever going to find out exactly which suburban town is the location of Wisteria Lane. But as the character of Mike Delfino, a plumber, recently relocated there from Los Angeles, I'm going to assume the show takes place in California.
That doesn't leave many options for crossovers with the other dramas. 'Alias' roams all over the world, but this 'Knots Landing'/'American Beauty' hybrid soap wouldn't mesh very well with a spy actioner. (Then again, that new guy Mike Delfino may be hiding something - apparently he's got something to do with the suicide that kicks off this show.)
And as for 'NYPD Blue' and 'Boston Legal', just by their titles alone we know they are planted firmly on the East Coast.
It looks as though 'Lost' may be the best bet for any kind of crossover with 'Desperate Housewives'. How could we work that? Just have one of the characters (and I'm thinking of Lynette, the former businesswoman who traded in "the boardroom for boredom") mention that the authorities still haven't found the wreckage from a flight on which she had either a relative or a former co-worker.
'life as we know it' - Then there's always this boy's version of 'My So-Called Life' as a possible match for those 'Desperate Housewives'. Gabrielle is giving her 17 year old gardener lessons in love, so if both shows do take place in the suburbs of Los Angeles, then maybe this high school would provide happy hunting for her underage trolling.
And her best bet will probably be Ben Connor, who's already obsessed with his English teacher, Monica Young. He'd be ripe pickin's for any LeTourneau wannabe from Wisteria Lane.....('Desperate Housewives')
'Rodney' - It's a shame that ABC treated Drew Carey so shabbily as his sitcom finally petered out of steam over the summer, after being such a ratings grabber for the network in earlier years. Because this series about a struggling wannabe stand-up comic could have used an appearance by a famous funnyman in the local nightclub to help set the tone for the show. And that comic could have given his blessing to Rodney in an attempt to convince us at home that he really is funny.
Otherwise, there doesn't seem to be much hope for a crossover with any of the other sitcoms on ABC. Maybe Faith could show up at a soap stars convention or a store opening ('Hope & Faith'); perhaps anchorman swoops in to cover a breaking story for his network ('Less Than Perfect').
But this is Tulsa, folks. I'll apologize to any Okies who may stumble across this essay, but what I'm going to say is hardly a 'City Confidential'. There's a reason why the city was the butt of jokes for half a season on 'Friends'.
Half a minute..... There's the route 'Rodney' should go! With a very well-publicized in-joke making a connection to the late mega-hit from the peacock rival. Somebody should make mention of a guy named Chandler who was in town for a short time working for one of the big nameless conglomerates. Maybe his wife was spotted on one of her conjugal visits to Tulsa, shopping for shark videos to use as a sexual aid.......
It's either that or give 'Rodney' mesothelioma from working all those years in a fiberglass factory and get Denny Crane to fly into town to represent him.......
'Complete Savages' - The show hasn't aired yet so I have no idea in which city this sitcom is supposed to be taking place.
All of the other ABC sitcoms are spread across the country:
'8 Simple Rules' - Detroit area
'According To Jim' - somewhere in the Midwest
'The George Lopez Show' - Los Angeles
'Hope & Faith' - Columbus area
'Less Than Perfect' - New York City
'My Wife And Kids' - Stamford
'Rodney' - Tulsa
So unless Keith Carradine's firefighter (and father of the Savage family) is battling blazes in one of those cities, there's not much chance of a crossover with any of them.
But this is the show that does make kind of a strange crossover with a show on a rival network. Savage son Kyle dreams of one day appearing on NBC's 'Fear Factor'.
This makes the gross-out dare program a part of the TV Universe in much the same way 'Jeopardy' has become for so many other shows. It's a TV show for the viewers in the TV Universe, just as it is for us watching at home in the real world. And because it's not a fictional series in which the characters should be existing in the same world as those in the show that mention it, then there's no fear of a dimension-destroying Zonk to worry about.('Fear Factor')
So that's my prognosis and suggestions for ABC crossovers. It's not likely they'll be acted upon, but so be it. At least I tossed my breadcrumbs upon the waters.
But I do have one big wild suggestion for the network that will prove a bit meatier, chum. (Sorry.)
It's a bold headline and ratings grabber that would be perfect for a week during Sweeps, and which could involve every single (fictional) series on the sked no matter the genre.
However, I'll save that for the eventual "Suggestion Box" essay coming soon.