Tuesday, March 20, 2007


In order for the concept of Toobworld to be believable as a fantasy universe, everything about it has to sustain the illusion that it's real for the audience. If any one trivial aspect can't be accepted as pozz'ble, then the whole structure could collapse in upon itself. Coleridge summed up this contract between works of art and the audience as "the willing suspension of disbelief". (He was talking about poetry, but dammit! Television IS an art form!)

Within individual shows, the creators of these efforts are for the most part successful in this, no matter how outlandish the concept. (Usually it just takes a command of techno-babble to dance around the implausibilities.) It gets tricky when we try to imagine two or more radically differing genres as co-existing in the same world, as Toobworld asks us to do.

While watching a cop show like 'NYPD Blue', we accept it for its own take on reality. And we can lose ourselves in the notion that puppets and humans can interact for half an hour while we're enjoying an episode of 'The Muppet Show'.

But try to imagine a world in which Andy Sipowicz might be bumpin' uglies with Miss Piggy.....

Yet that's what I'm trying to promote with the Toobworld concept. (Thankfully, not with so specific an example!)

That willing suspension of disbelief means that we have to accept every character we meet in any TV show as actually existing. That they didn't just materialize just as they first walked onto the screen. (Even though in the real world, that's basically what's happened.) These characters are real people in Toobworld, with lives that extend beyond the episode in which they appear. They have past lives, families, and even ancestors.

And if we were ever to see those ancestors, it stands to reason that someone from the real world would have to portray them, to create them for our viewing pleasure.

It was an episode of 'Naked City' that got me onto this philosophical bent recently. "No Naked Ladies In Front Of Giovanni's House" starred Harry Guardino as a man-boy landlord who had issues with the memory of his long-dead father. We never met his Dad, but a portrait of him figured largely in the story.

I asked my Classic TV compadre Ivan of "Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear" (Link to the left, folks; check it out!) to verify my suspicions, and he agrees - the portrait looks amazingly like Jackie Coogan wearing a huge mustache and with a head full of hair. Yet the actor never appears in the episode in a flashback or a dream sequence.

(Coincidentally, Ivan was watching an episode of 'Burke's Law' in which a picture of Burt Lancaster was used as a prop.)

I have to figure that the picture was made for some other TV show or movie featuring Jackie Coogan, and then was consigned to a prop warehouse until it found itself in the 'Naked City' episode. So it's an example that helps prop up (Sorry about that, Chief.) my claim that the lives of TV characters extend beyond what we actually see on the screen, just as my example about Khan meeting Chekov on 'Star Trek' does.

Okay, my head hurts now. I'll be taking a few days off to recuperate........


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