Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I kicked off Black History Month with the induction of Florence Johnston ('The Jeffersons') into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame. So now on the last day of February, I want to add a Toobworld perspective to Alex Haley's 'Roots', which celebrated its 30th anniversary one month ago.

"I want to hear ye say yuir name.
Yuir name is Toby
George Ames

In 1766, Kunte Kinte was the property of John Reynolds, a member of the landed gentry in Virginia. He was broken in by the plantation's overseer, George Ames, to accept - at least in public - that his name was Toby Reynolds and that he was the property of the Reynolds family.

Ames was scum, who also found employ as a brutal slave-catcher. After Kunte Kinte tried to escape yet again, Ames hunted him down and offered him a choice - the loss of his testicles or the loss of his toes. "Toby" opted for the toes.

It's pretty much at this point in the David Wolper production that Vic Morrow (who played Ames) leaves the storyline, to be replaced by other white actors getting the chance to play despicable characters in the saga of black history.

But that doesn't mean his personal story ended in Toobworld......

As despicable as he was, it's not unthinkable that George Ames found a woman to marry and raise his own family. (Nothing says that love had to be a factor in that marriage of course.) And it's possible that he fathered a daughter who would better her position in life one day by marrying above her station, to a man who had his own plantation.

What if that man was named Saunders? If so, just as was the case with the "property" of John Reynolds, all of the slaves would have borne his last name of Saunders as well. And as we saw with Tom Moore in 'Roots', he could easily have replenished his stock by impregnating his slave women himself.

So his bloodline and family name would have been handed down through the generations, carried by both white and black TV characters.

One of these, from the white side of the bloodline, could have been Charles "Chip" Saunders of Cleveland, Illinois. (Charles stated that he was from Illinois, but also that he was from Cleveland. There is a Cleveland, Illinois, so there's no Zonk in the claims.)

What really buttresses this claim is that DNA is exceptionally strong in Toobworld, and a character can look exactly like his ancestor, no matter how many generations separate them.

Except for the chasm of Time, Chip Saunders and George Ames could have been identical twins, with Ames of course being the evil twin.

Chip was born in 1920 and served as a platoon sergeant at the age of 25 during World War II. It is unknown whether or not Chip Saunders is still alive (even though the actor who portrayed him - again, Vic Morrow - died more than twenty years ago). I'm confident that Sgt. Saunders survived the end of the Big One - he was wounded badly nearly thirty times and yet still came back to badger his men into continuing.

If he's still alive, Saunders would be 87 years old and could be the father or grandfather to any other current TV characters named Saunders. But then again, those members of the Saunders family could be descended from three of his four siblings.

(He had a younger sister named Louise, but I'm sure she grew up as a "good girl" and was married before she had any children. Toobworld note: Someday I'll investigate any TV characters named Louise who would have been born in 1930 and see if I can make the case that she was the sister of Chip Saunders.....)

On the other side of the bloodline is a butler in the service of the Tate family of Dunn's River, Connecticut. We never learn his background, nor even his first name, but he arrived in the employ of the Tates at an opportune time back in 1980.

After the departure of their previous butler, Benson DuBois to work for the governor, a member of the extended family ("Dutch") tried to help out by cooking for the others. Unfortunately, due to his prison experiences, "Dutch" couldn't cook for less than 300 people, so Jessica hired Saunders.

The insanity of the family always had the cynical butler on the verge of quitting, even though he remained unflappable no matter how outrageous or egregious the situation. (He even took a bullet once when disgraced teacher Leslie Walker tried to shoot her teenaged lover Billy Tate.) But Jessica Tate always managed to convince him into staying on.

If Saunders was the same age as the actor who played him, Roscoe Lee Browne, he would have been about 55 years of age in 1980 and thus about five years younger than his distant cousin, Chip Saunders.

In the last days of this month, a major news story has been the discovery by Reverend Al Sharpton that his family roots could be traced back to a family related to the late Strom Thurmond. And now Reverend Al is hoping to find out whether or not he is actually related to the segregationist senator.

So the idea that these two TV characters of different races could be related shouldn't be that hard to accept as being plausible.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this latest bit o' tele-sciolism. (We - ahem! - "Ames" to please!) My thanks to Nancy Durgin, who collected the information... information... information about Sgt. Saunders.

(Look it up......)

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