Thursday, November 9, 2006


There are different ways to interpret the TV Universe. First off there's my Toobworld concept, in which everything is tossed into the mix and then sorted out when need be. There are also those who accept only those TV shows with legitimate connections, either by crossovers or mentions of and appearances by characters (or props or fictional locations). Then there's the Tommy Westphall group, who only accept established connections, but which have to ultimately lead back to 'St. Elsewhere', because the whole TV Universe takes place in an autistic boy's head. (He's a young man now, of course. But you get what I mean, right?)

Except for the bit about it only existing within Tommy's mind, Toobworld automatically has absorbed all of those versions within itself.

And then there are those who focus only one particular corner of the TV Universe, expanding it only so far as it may concern their interests.

Take for example a new member of the Tommy Westphall's Mind gang of commenters, "bttf4444". This person is a Marty McFly fan from "Back To The Future", a movie trilogy which has a somewhat tenuous connection to Toobworld. (We'd see Doc Brown's hand as he narrated some cartoons from underneath the DeLorean which he was repairing.)

"bttf4444" introduced herself (I'm guessing on the gender, but that's the take I get on the writing.) with this:

"My interest in the Tommy Westphall Universe has been brought on by my love for Michael J Fox - and the connection of his respective characters in 'Family Ties' and 'Spin City'. So here's something to ponder on. For of all, does MJF even exist Tommy Westphall's Universe? If so, did he marry Tracy Pollan? Also, how did MJF get his big break? Or did he just remain being a little known actor?

Here are my thoughts: yes, MJF does exist in the Tommy Wistful Universe. No, he didn't marry Tracy Pollan - because, in 'our' world, he met her on the set of 'Family Ties'. Because 'Family Ties' obviously doesn't exist as a series in the Tommy Westphall Universe, MJF ends up marrying someone else. However, Alex Keaton does end up marrying Ellen Reed. I initially said that MJF got his big break, when 'Class of 1984' became a sitcom. However, upon learning more about that movie, I decided that it doesn't really fit. Instead, I'll probably say that 'Leo and Me' had spawned a sitcom spin-off in the Tommy Westphall Universe - and the sitcom spin-off becomes very successful."

Okay, "bttf4444" kind of lost me by the end there with all the talk about "Class of 1984" and "Leo and Me", but I did enjoy the theory about Fox marrying Pollan - did it happen in the TV Universe?

Okay, here's the Toobworld take, and the generalities can be applied to just about anybody, even if they aren't celebrities.

Everybody in the Trueniverse has a doppelganger in Toobworld. Their lives are basically the same, altered only by the dynamics of "better living through Television".

Here's what I wrote about the subject in "The Tubeworld Dynamic", a prototype for this blog, the introductory page of which still exists on the web. (See the link to the left.)

"Fred Murphy visited the website and asked: "Who/what are the doppelgangers of non-watchers like me?"

Since Tubeworld is an alternate version of our own Earth, there would be TV versions of everybody here in the Real World, even if we never did show up on TV; even if ::shudder:: we don't even watch. We've coined the term "tele-version" to describe these characters. [With the widespread use of home videos in comedy shows, and crowd scenes at sports events, and background shots for news broadcasts, more of us ordinary folk are showing up on TV every day!]

Our counterparts on Tubeworld would probably be similar to us here, with only a few minor adjustments due to the influence of TV. There would be a lot more single-parent families with wisecracking kids; we would all have wacky neighbors and off-the-wall co-workers; and we'd suffer from amnesia a lot!

Let's say you're a cop here in the Real World. You'd probably be a cop in Tubeworld as well. But Tubeworld cops have one of the following differences:

1) a distinctive last name 2) a unique vehicle
3) a gimmick 4) a handicap

So take a look at your life and see what influence TV cliches might have on it if you were a TV character. Work in an office? Maybe you'd be stuck in a soul-numbing cubicle like Matt Peyser on 'Working'. Are you adopted and perhaps with unique features; somewhat different from those around you? Maybe your doppelganger's real father was an alien disguised as a human like on 'Starman'!

Or, thanks to 'America's Funniest Home Videos', maybe you just get hit in the crotch with a rake...."

The same would apply to Michael J. Fox. He exists in the TV Universe as do his characters of Mike Flaherty ('Spin City') and Alex Keaton ('Family Ties') and - up until two weeks ago, Daniel Post ('Boston Legal').

(However, in the TV Universe which is made up of many parallel dimensions, 'Spin City' is in an alternate dimension where Randall Winston was the mayor instead of Rudy Giuliani. That dimension does have its own Alex Keaton however, even though 'Family Ties' stays rooted in the main Toobworld. This is because Flaherty got to meet that dimension's Alex Keaton, now a congressman, in Fox's final episode as the star of 'Spin City'.)

When anybody - it never has to be a celebrity - appears on a TV show as themselves, they become automatic members of the League of Themselves. Here at Toobworld Central, we give favor to those appearances that take place in fictional settings like sitcoms and dramas. Two good examples from the worlds of sports and politics - Keith Hernandez on 'Seinfeld' and former President Gerald Ford on 'Dynasty'.

Because Toobworld is made up of EVERYTHING that is broadcast, appearances by people as themselves on talk shows, game shows, reality shows, infomercials, and news reports are also included. However, Toobworld Central tries (as best we can - the temptation is great!) to ignore these appearances in favor of the more interesting fictional ones. At best, we may use them in such things as our "Hat Squad" tributes if they provide some interesting flavor which informs the basic nature of the person's TV personality.

Tom Cruise's appearance on 'Oprah' last year, jumping on the couch, is a good example. It's a pop culture moment that has been referenced in other shows by now, I'm fairly certain, so we have to accept it as a true Toobworld moment.

And the same would go for the "tele-version" of Michael J. Fox. Most recently, his TV life would, like his real life, be under scrutiny for the campaign spots he did for Democratic candidate Claire McCaskill in Missouri, now the Senator-Elect.

Looking over his credits in the, I don't see any shows where he has made fictional appearances as himself. The closest thing would be the Saturday morning PSAs for 'One To Grow On', in which a fictional scene - one to which kids could relate - would be acted out and then a celebrity would step out and instruct the viewers on the best way to handle that particular situation.

(This appearance marks Michael J. Fox as a serlinguist, able to communicate through the fourth wall to the audience viewing at home in the Trueniverse.)

David Spade's portrayal of Michael J. Fox in an episode of 'Saturday Night Live' doesn't count toward Fox's televersion in the main Toobworld. Instead, that's part of his ever-changing genetic makeup in the sketch comedy dimension, Skitlandia.

But since his talk show appearances do count for background information and flavor, we have to accept that TV's Michael J. Fox is married to TV's Tracy Pollan. However, as is the case with his ability of serlinguism, there are some differences in his circumstances.

As "bttf4444" pointed out, it's likely he never met her on the set of 'Family Ties', as that show really exists in Toobworld. Michael J. Fox and Alex Keaton share the same world and could conceivably even meet each other someday. If 'Family Ties' has been mentioned in other TV shows as a pop culture reference, it could either be that it's the same title but a different show, or - the reference is really specific - a show was created about the Keaton family over there because some network executive thought they'd make the basis for a good TV series based on their lives. (That line of thinking avoids the headache of Zonks.)

In that second supposition, it could be that the TV version of Michael J. Fox also starred on the fictional 'Family Ties', because of his amazing resemblance to Alex Keaton. And if so, then Fox could still have met his future wife on that show because Tracy Pollan was also cast due to her amazing resemblance to the character she was playing, Ellen Reed. (By the way, in Toobworld theory, Ellen Reed is related to the Reed 'Sisters'.)

But suppose Fox is never mentioned when it comes to the pop culture references to 'Family Ties'? Then we work on the assumption that he had no connection to the show whatsoever. And in that case, he didn't meet Tracy Pollan on the set of the show.

However, since his talk show appearances would include mention of his marriage (especially now with the topic invariably turning more to his physical ailments than to his career), we just have to assume that somehow Fox finally did meet Pollan under different circumstances than he did in the Real World.

Some things are kismet and just can't be avoided.

(By the way, according to the, references about 'Family Ties' were made in 'Family Guy' and in 'South Park'. But as both of those shows exist in the Tooniverse, and not the main Toobworld, they don't count.

'Psych' also made a reference to 'Family Ties' in one episode. As kids, both Shawn and Gus had major crushes on Meredith Baxter Birney, who played Elyse Keaton on the show. But Shawn claimed that his infatuation was due to her being the mother of his hero, Alex Keaton. Since Fox isn't named, maybe some other actor played Alex to Baxter-Birney's Elyse?)

I'm hoping Michael J. Fox does get the chance to appear as himself in a fictional setting someday in either a drama (the upcoming '3 lbs.' on CBS, perhaps?) or in a sitcom. (Ideally, this would probably be either 'Entourage' or 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' on HBO. Or maybe '30 Rock' for his old home network, NBC!)

Well, I'm sure that was a long and confusing and meandering essay. But Toobworld is nothing if not a time-waster. And if you feel like you've just lost ten minutes of your life in reading this....

Sorry. No refunds.

Thanks for the inspiration, "bttf4444"!


"Hey, hold on. What are you guys doing?
You guys, you're better than this, alright?
I mean, you made people happy once, and you can do it again!
Come on, what do you say
"Michael J. Fox"
'Saturday Night Live'


bttf4444 said...

Oh, you're very welcome! :) It was a great essay, and it has given me some things to ponder over. I'll check out your website a little bit more.

Yeah, I can imagine that some Family Ties fans may not want to accept Alex Keaton's destiny from Spin City as canon to the Family Ties Universe.

Also, speaking of Family Ties, you know how Andy is born in one season - and he's a prescooler in the next season. Short of seeing that Andy just magically aged four years over the summer - maybe the Family Ties we see in the next season takes place in an alternate reality. So, as a result, there are at least two Family Ties world. If you choose not to consider Spin City as being part of the Family Ties world, then you have a third version of Alex Keaton.

Gee, this stuff can be pretty mind-boggling.

Toby said...

I explained why 'Spin City' had to be relegated to another dimension, but I should have also said why I want to hold 'Family Ties' to the main Toobworld.

And it all comes down to a guest appearance by Captain Kangaroo, one of my childhood idols.

As for Andrew's growth spurt, it could be that he was sent away for a time to a school in Switzerland. That's what happened to all the kids in Genoa City who would come back suddenly ten years older at least. ('The Young & The Restless'.)

the mayor said...

Whenever Keith Hernandez is mentioned, I need to bring up this short HILLARIOUS film

I'm Keith Hernandez - The Movie