Saturday, March 5, 2005


The week isn't even over yet but we already know who'd be the Crossover of the Week. Fans of great TV characters would have known there was never any doubt....

The latest spin-off in the venerable 'Law & Order' franchise made its debut this week. 'Law & Order: Trial By Jury' premiered with two episodes in its first week and both of them contained elements that linked it immediately to two other shows.

Obviously the flagship of the line, 'Law & Order', is one of those series for a number of reasons.

1] Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch is a regular cast member for the new show as well as the original, thus making him the Alexander Waverly of the new millennium. (Waverly was the man in charge on both 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' and 'The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.'.)
2] In the first episode, ADA Jack McCoy sat in on a bullpen session among the ADAs to map out strategy for the high-profile case.
3] In the second episode, we saw the return of former ADA Jamie Ross. She had returned once before to the main show as a defense attorney; but since then she had become a judge. And in portraying her as such, 'Trial By Jury' did the same thing as the finale of 'NYPD Blue' earlier in the week: it showed that even though they are no longer on our TV screens, TV characters have lives that continue to develop.
4] In both episodes, the trials were presided over by Judge Amanda Anderlee. She had been seen before in the TV Universe, and of course it was on 'Law & Order' in an episode in which she needed police protection during a very volatile case. (She may have been a character inspired by the real life Chicago judge who so tragically dominated the news this week. More on that in a later entry.)
5] And finally, these two episodes marked the final chances to see a legendary TV character in action. Detective Lennie Briscoe had retired from the NYPD at the 2-7 and was now working as an investiator for the D.A.'s office. He was pale and gaunt and couldn't speak above a whisper at times, but he still had the same brio and pithy wisecracks as he used to display in 'Law & Order' until the end of last season.

Sadly, an episode in the near future will mark the character's passing as actor Jerry Orbach himself passed away near the end of December.

As for the other TV show that could claim a link to 'Law & Order: Trial By Jury'?

Of course, it would be another Dick Wolf production. 'Deadline' was short-lived (It might have done better if he had found some way to stick 'Law & Order' in the title!), but its base of operations was the fictional newspaper the New York Ledger. The Ledger made many appearances over the years on all three of the other 'Law & Order' series, including 'Special Victims Unit' and 'Criminal Intent'.

Lately, I began to fear that the newspaper had been phased out of our 'L&O' memories, as mock-ups of the Post and the Daily News were being used instead. I was afraid Wolf didn't want any reminders that 'Deadline' had failed to snare an audience.

But in the second episode, defense attorney Mike LaSalle proudly held up a copy of the New York Ledger with its front page story blaring a big story about his cop-killer client. So that prop gave props to another show in Dick Wolf's corner of the TV Universe.

It would be interesting if some future episode of 'Law & Order: Trial By Jury' had its ADAs go to the offices of the New York Ledger in preparation for a big case. The reason I say this is because ADA Tracy Kibre is an exact double for one of the editors at the Ledger, Nikki Marsucci.

And by an "amazing coincidence", both of them look like a psychologist in Boston named Lilith Sternin Crane......

While 'Law & Order: Trial By Jury' establishes itself, more than likely other characters from the franchise will be making appearances on the show, just as they have done on each other shows already. But unless it has some kind of sensational value, more than likely these appearances won't be enough to grab the Crossover of the Week honors again. It's that "been there, done that" quality that makes these cameo appearances expected.

But who knows? Sooner or later, I'll come up a cropper crossovers and might have need of such a standby.

We shall see what the Great Link brings us.....


Friday, March 4, 2005


In one of the fan forums in Live Journal which are dedicated to 'Lost', one of the other chatters brought up an interesting question:

What other shows are you so passionate aboutI hope this doesn't seem too off topic, but I am curious about the fans.

We're so into the minutia and the hidden meanings and the significance of this # or that #. Few shows inspire such rabid passion and attention to detail. I'm wondering if there are any other shows that you guys are into with such passion?

What shows keep you twisting week after week?

So I decided to respond:

For me there have been only two shows before this in which I was so slavishly attentive to detail.

The first is 'The Prisoner'. It's my all-time favorite tv series. At only 17 episodes, it had a beginning, middle and an end, but don't think everything wrapped up neatly and all the answers were provided by that final episode.

Trying to reconcile the discrepancies and the possible explanations could leave me feeling like Mr. Gumby, pounding my head with bricks!

It's over thirty years later and I still am finding something new all the time about that show. McGoohan never wanted to provide all the answers - he felt audiences had become "rotten cabbages"; too lazy and expecting everything to be spoon-fed to them.

The best way I can describe this show - it's over thirty years after it aired and it's still twenty years ahead of its time.

The other show, of a similar nature, would be 'Nowhere Man'which starred Bruce Greenwood. Although it didn't wrap up conclusively, it came to an ending with its single season that again left many more questions than answers.

This was the last series I religiously taped each episode as a keeper. This is the series I hope one day will find its way to DVD (as does Entertainment Weekly) so I can pore over it some more without risking those tapes.

It also came along when I first began exploring the Internet. I found my tele-visiologist voice in the AOL bbs about the show, and have this great sense of deja vu when showing up in this Live Journal several times a day to see what new theories and wild ideas my fellow fans have come up with. 'Nowhere Man' engendered such speculation back then as well.

For me, 'The X-Files' collapsed under its own weight by the end, and by a conflict of vision between its creator and its star.

Here's hoping the producers of 'Lost' remain true to their overall vision for the show and keep the exit strategy in sight. I'm all for letting them proceed at their pace and I don't feel compelled to urge them to give us answers quickly. But at the same time, I hope they don't fall to the temptation to keep the show running longer than it really should, to either please the network or the more rabid fan-base.

Otherwise, they'll fall victim to the same problems 'X-Files' had by the end.


Wednesday, March 2, 2005


I wasn't one of the faithful who followed 'NYPD Blue' from its inception all the way through its 12 year run. I watched the first few episodes to get a feel for what it was doing, and then only checked in for certain milestones and guest stars.

The departure of Kelly, the deaths of Bobby and Sylvia, a storyline with Peter Boyle. I think I finally considered watching the finale seriously once I learned Danica McKellar would be making a guest appearance in the episode.

So having admitted that, I'm sure Bochco and Company (BochcoCo?) could care less what I thought of how it all ended. And I know they certainly didn't set out to make sure a Caretaker for Toobworld would be happy with the results.

Well... I am.

The ending for the series beautifully illustrated a central belief for Toobworld - that just because a show might no longer be on the air, that doesn't mean the lives of these characters don't continue.

Sure, I love those finales that seemed almost apocalyptic in their finality. Everybody but the most likely candidate gets fired. War's over, go home. The one-armed man really did kill her so the running stops. It was all a dream caused by Japanese food. Everybody's trapped inside a snow globe.

But then there are those shows that just quietly fade away on their own terms, leaving us with the comforting knowledge that if we did want to revisit them, they'll be there.

We know Sam Malone is still tending bar in Boston; his old buddy Dr. Crane is starting a new chapter of his life in the Windy City. And even though 'Seinfeld' ended with a sense of "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!", the jail term for the foursome was for only a year. So you know Jerry and his pals are back in Manhattan and back to their old ways, having learned no lessons whatsoever.

The finale for 'NYPD Blue' celebrated a TV show's circle of life. New detectives showed up for work. Old friends departed. (The visit by Medavoy was particularly bittersweet; Greg should have remembered the old adage - "You can't go home again.") And we were left with the image of Sgt. Andy Sipowicz settling down at the command desk, ready to face all the headaches the job would bring.

This was only an ending in the sense that we saw how far Andy had come in his personal growth since the first episode. And for someone like me who was only the occasional viewer, the changes were epochal.

When we first met Sipowicz, he was a racist, homophobic, foul-mouthed, bad-tempered alcoholic (not to mention the show's second banana). But now he had been tempered by adversity and still found the inner strength to face his ordeals and inner demons without resorting to crutches like booze. Not once during the hour - and I would guess this has been true for a long time on the show - did we feel as if Andy might need a stiff drink to get through the bullshit being dumped on him from his higher-ups.

If 'NYPD Blue' came back next week with a fresh episode, then this finale would have been no more than a good example of the quality writing, acting, and directing the show has displayed over 12 years.

And that's just the way it should be.


Tuesday, March 1, 2005


"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed, or numbered. My life is my own."
- Number Six, 'The Prisoner'

Perhaps. But it is also ours to celebrate.

It's March in the year marking the fiftieth anniversary of my arrival on your world. And as such, every candidate for membership in the TV Crossover Hall of Fame is granted waivers from the usual strict (shyeah right!) regulations for induction.

At 4:31 am on the morning of March 19th, 1928, actor Patrick McGoohan made his debut in the Real World.

By an "amazing" coincidence, this was also the date and time of birth for a secret agent who would grow up to have an incredible resemblance to Mr. McGoohan. Once he resigned from the service, this secret agent was drugged and kidnapped, only to awaken in a place known simply as "The Village". Here he was stripped of his identity and referred to as Number Six.

"They've given you a number, and taken away your name." Sounds familiar, right? It's from the hit pop song that accompanied the TV spy show 'Secret Agent', which was sort of a sequel to 'Danger Man'. In this series, an agent for NATO (later for British Intelligence) named John Drake also bore an incredible similarity to the actor Patrick McGoohan.

And it's this writer's opinion that Mr. Drake and Number Six were one and the same man.

Mr. McGoohan has long denied this. But then he would have to, from a purely business standpoint. To acknowledge that it is John Drake we see in the opening sequence of nearly every episode of 'The Prisoner' as he resigns would then leave him open to having to pay royalties to the creators of 'Danger Man' and 'Secret Agent'.

But aside from the physical resemblance, Drake and Six both share a deep moral ethos; something of an outlook based on a Catholic upbringing, perhaps. We never saw either the 'Secret Agent' or 'The Prisoner' involved in a sexual relationship of a transitory nature as one would expect from a spy during the swinging sixties.

(In his past life, Number Six did have a fiance, however. When they were reunited, it appeared as though they must have had only a very chaste relationship, although that could be attributed to the fact that he returned to her with his mind trapped in the body of another man.)

And both men shared other things in common from their pasts, including a former associate by the name of Potter.

In the years I've been a caretaker for the TV Universe, I've posited that many characters from different series were in fact one and the same. But I've never had so compelling an argument as I have with John Drake of 'Secret Agent', 'Danger Man', and the theatrical release of "Koroshi" (actually two episodes of the series edited together) and Number Six, 'The Prisoner'.

Number Six appears in more than one TV dimension; in fact, he's also crossed over through the multiverse vortex to other worlds. In the Tooniverse, he met Homer Simpson when the resident of Springfield was whisked away to an island version of "The Village" because he knew too much.

And there have been several novels as well as a limited comic book series based on his time served as 'The Prisoner'.

Connections can be made as well to other TV series where, although he does not actually appear, references are made to the fact that he must have existed in their reality.

A good example of this would be in the future as depicted by 'Babylon 5'. The black ops organization known as Psi-Corps uses the salute of "Be Seeing You", which could almost be considered traditional in "The Village".

(One day soon I'll get around to posting the theory I have that links 'The Prisoner' not only to 'Babylon 5', but also to 'Deep Space Nine', 'Enterprise', and 'Alias'.)

I use a guest character in another series to make a link to 'The Prisoner' - Nelson Brenner, the double agent/murderer in the 'Columbo' episode "Identity Crisis". Not only did Brenner repeatedly use the phrase "Be seeing you" and was surrounded by visual imagery suggesting the other series ("Number One" signs, his style of clothing), but he also bore a remarkable resemblance to the actor Patrick McGoohan.

For me, this is easy to splain away. Nelson Brenner had been in "The Village". No, he wasn't Number Six and thus John Drake. He was in fact Number Twelve, the agent brought in to help break Number Six's sense of his own identity in the episode "The Schizoid Man".

Those who know this episode might protest that Number Twelve dies at the end of this episode, smothered by "Rover" during an Orange Alert. However, at the end of the penultimate episode of "Once Upon A Time", Number Two also perished during Degree Absolute, only to be revived in the finale "Fall Out".

"The Village" had the technology to revive him, why not for Number Twelve as well? Wouldn't it make sense to bring him back from the dead so that he could return to his previous life and avoid raising questions?

So the link to 'Columbo' isn't to Number Six or to John Drake but rather to the man who was hired to impersonate him and thus it's an implicit admission that Number Six is in the same TV Universe as 'Columbo'.

"He has revolted. Resisted. Fought. Held fast. Maintained. Destroyed resistance. Overcome coercion. The right to be Someone, a Person, an Individual. We applaud his private war and conced that despite materialistic efforts he has survived intact and secure. All that remains is recognition of a man."
- President of the Assembly, 'The Prisoner'

And we'd like to recognize this Individual as well, with his induction into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame.



I'm not the only one out there in cyberspace celebrating TV crossovers. Over the years I've seen at least two other sites and countless articles delving into the concept of a TV Universe in which characters from various TV shows can meet each other.

The best site is Thom Holbrook's Crossovers & Spin-offs. (You'll find the link over on the left.) Long ago, I acknowledged Thom as the greatest when it came to TV crossovers.

But Thom, like others, takes too strict a view as to what is eligible for inclusion in the integrated TV Universe. He won't consider celebrities playing themselves, even though their scripted plots make them just as fictional as the characters with whom they interact.

In the Real World, Sammy Davis, Jr., left his briefcase in a cab driven by Archie Bunker; and he was never magically summoned by a genie in Cocoa Beach, Florida. But it happened in Toobworld, and so as far as I'm concerned, that links 'All In The Family' to 'I Dream Of Jeannie'.

Many of the other sites snub game shows, even when fictional characters appear on them.

Felix and Oscar appeared on 'Password' and 'Let's Make A Deal' in episodes of 'The Odd Couple'.

Sammi Law was on 'The Price Is Right' as soon as he arrived in America on 'Martial Law'.

Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell Sheffield conceived twins backstage at 'Hollywood Squares' on 'The Nanny'.

And there has to be at least a dozen shows and commercials in which Alex Trebek had fictional characters competing for fabulous cash prizes on 'Jeopardy'.

The use of game shows and celebrities as crossover connections is acceptable by Toobworld standards though. If it makes for a sloppy, undisciplined dimension, so be it. There is no perfection in our universe, so why should everything be neat and tidy in the TV Universe?

That's a long way to go to defend my choice for the Crossover of Last Week. It was the double-header on NBC last Monday of 'Fear Factor' and 'Las Vegas'.

This past week's 'Fear Factor' was a special-themed edition set in Sin City, but no characters from the fictional series of 'Las Vegas' appeared on the game show. (And it IS a game show, not a series in that stupid category of so-called "reality television"!)

However, the final scene was set at a real casino's blackjack table where the winning couple tried to beat the house.
When the show ended, the scene continued, flowing through the credits right into the opening of 'Las Vegas'.

We now had a P. O. V. behind the scenes of 'Fear Factor' as host Joe Rogan (still dressed as he was seen in the previous hour) was surrounded by production staff and led away from the set constructed in the real casino.

And what did Rogan want to do next? It was off to the fictional casino of the Montecito! And so the credits ran for 'Las Vegas'.

Now I can understand those objections when the fictional characters are appearing in a fictional version of the game show. (Like when Arnie Becker gave his desire for Vanna White a spin on 'Wheel Of Fortune' in an episode of 'L.A. Law'.) I'd still include those, but I understand why others don't.

But here, here you have an actual episode of a game show feeding into the fictional series. How could you ignore the connection?

There were three subplots for the hour, with Sly Stallone in one of them. (But as he was playing a fictional character and not appearing as himself, there can be no crossover potential with his upcoming "reality" show 'The Contender'.)

As for Joe Rogan, he let the three main women of the Montecito to compete amongst themselves for a chance to appear on 'Fear Factor'. They paraded their "talents and attributes" in front of him.

Best of all was Samantha Jane taking Joe into a very cold meat locker and showing him what she looked like in a T-shirt in such an extreme temperature drop.

"You raise some very interesting points," he said with admiration.

In the end, Joe Rogan finally copped to the truth - he had no say in who got picked to be on 'Fear Factor'; he was just the host.

Had he been his exact lookalike Joe Garelli of WNYX 'NewsRadio', at least one of those women would have then slapped his face. Obviously the scene was crying out for Catherine Duke to take a swing at him.