Saturday, September 17, 2005


'Threshold' debuted on CBS Friday night with a two-hour premiere that I thought sailed by pretty quickly. Granted, I was watching it Saturday morning on tape, but even so.

From the Toobworld perspective, it seems like the type of show that might prove harmful to the integrity of the TV Universe. The cast is a team of scientists gathered together to analyze and most likely combat an alien presence in a first contact situation. And they're the type of eccentric individuals who'll greet every new experience with pithy one-liners that would make the late Lenny Briscoe envious.

Unfortunately, those one-liners more often than not threaten to be pop cultural in nature, and Zonk!s at that. Long-time Toobworld visitors know that Zonk!s are references within a TV show to other TV shows AS TV shows, when in actuality they should be all sharing the same universe. (The term comes from 'Let's Make A Deal', by the way.)

Surprisingly, I found only four such references in the two-hour pilot; three of which can be splained away. The fourth? Considering the category it falls into, it won't lack for company.....

1] After bringing Dr. Molly Caffrey up to speed on who made up her hastily-assembled team of experts, Agent Cavanaugh quipped that they were "not exactly 'Charlie's Angels'."

An easy way out of this one would be to claim that the Angels of the two recent movies exist only in the Cineverse. But I think this is one of those examples where movies are absorbed into the TV Universe, like the 1966 'Batman', the films of the 'Star Trek' franchise', and 'The X-Files: Fight The Future'.

As such, it does make it easier to splain away the reference. As private detectives working for elusive investigator Charlie Townsend, the Angels were never ones to escape attention. And to command such high fees for their services, there must have been some notoriety and publicity after many of their cases - especially those of the movies, but from the TV series as well.

So when somebody mentions 'Charlie's Angels' in a TV show without mentioning it AS a TV show (or movie), then it's all jake.

2] One member of the team looked upon the preparatons of the backup team (similar to a SWAT team, but probably more along the lines of "Black Ops") and remarked that it was like something out of "War Of The Worlds".

Considering that 'Threshold' is happening in the "Now" (as "ElfQuest" would put it), and that the Spielberg movie came out this past summer, I'm leaning towards this comment to be a reference to that. And by extension to the original H.G. Wells novel as well.

There was a TV series from 1988 to 1990 by that title, which was supposedly a TV extension of the events from the original movie made back in 1953. Considering the events that took place in that movie by George Pal, there's no way the people of Earth would not have known about it. But they wouldn't necessarily have known that the threat was never eradicated and that the battle picked up over thirty years later. By that time, the government would have contained the situation to keep the general populace in the dark about the Truth being out there.

(Yeah... while watching 'Threshold', I could just imagine that one day Fox Mulder would show up to get involved. How could he resist the allure?)

As such, the public wouldn't refer to the TV series, but to the seminal events of the attempted 1953 invasion as "The War Of The Worlds", mainly because, again, it was an easy reference to the Wells' novel.

3] Ramsey, the caustic linguist played by Peter Dinklage, sniped that the guard at the processing plant was "Ricky Retardo". It was insulting enough on its own merits, but the humor of the description depended on the others' knowledge of Ricky Ricardo, the character played by Desi Arnaz in 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour'.

No Zonk! inherent with this, luckily, so I don't got much splainin to do.

Within the framework of the Desilu production, Ricky Ricardo was a famous celebrity who not only owned and performed at his own nightclub in New York City, but who also starred in at least one movie in the TV Universe. Ramsey was just relying on the fact that most of them knew such a pop culture figure from the late 50s, early 60s.

4] Here's the one that makes me throw my hands up in defeat. Ramsey - probably the character who'll be most responsible for a number of Zonk!s I'll have to splain away in the coming season - chided Lucas for reading a Bible passage as they approached the contact site. He couldn't remember there being a passage which said that "on the 8th day, the Lord created Klingons."

(He looked to Dr. Fenway for validation of his humor, which was an in-joke in itself, since Spiner - who plays Fenway - was Commander Data on 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'.)

The basic template for the 'Star Trek' franchise is 400 years into the future of present day Toobworld. (Thanks to 'Enterprise', the appearance of Klingons on Earth occurs 200 years earlier.) If they are to exist in the same universe, the characters of 'Threshold' should know nothing about the characters of 'Star Trek'.

Yet as we've seen over and over again in countless TV shows, characters not only know what the future may hold, they even go to the conventions celebrating the TV show ('Frasier', 'Nurses', 'Platypus Man' etc.).

I've got one possible way to splain away this dilemma, but I'll bide my time, my pretties, until I see where a current series eventually takes us with its roller coaster of a mystery plotline.

In the meantime, I can't do more than just sigh and surrender to the damage caused by 'Star Trek' Zonk!s.

As for the show itself? I plan to make it an appointment to tape this show while I'm getting ready for work. I just hope it can overcome the curse of Friday nights, which has long been a graveyard for S-F shows (at least those not seen on the Sci-Fi network, that is.)

You certainly can't beat the heavy hitters in the cast - Carla Gugino, Charles S. Dutton, Brent Spiner, and Peter Dinklage; with Robert Benedict, Brian Van Holt, and in a recurring role, Diana Venora.

But if Carla Gugino could every so often wear the same costume she wore when we first saw her character in "Sin City", then the show would be guaranteed a devoted fan base.

Know what I mean? Knudge knudge wink wink.

I know Ramsey would certainly agree!

Let me know what you think.


*That subject heading goes out to Inner Toob readers and fellow Iddiots David and Colette.


BZTV said...

Do you have a post anywhere that explains what your "rules" for Toobworld are? I think I get in general, but I wonder about the specifics... Love the site!


Toby said...

Thanks, Bryce!

You'll see that first link over to the left of my blog for The Tubeworld Dynamic. The TwD was my first attempt at a website, and that page which survives is the back-story about the basic rules of the TV Universe.

AOL disabled use of AOLPress, or else I would have brought it up to date by now. But even so, it still should answer most questions.

If there are still some details need splainin, let me know.

(For the most part, Toobworld dyanmics can be as fluid as Television itself - plenty of back-story re-writes as Time goes on!)

Toby said...

By the way, Bryce, I hope you saw the article "Close Call" back on August 23rd, which was a re-worked essay from the TwD days about the obvious connection between 'Now & Again' and your show 'Dark Skies'.

Slog through the archives for August 2005 in case you missed it......