Monday, September 10, 2007


Every so often, the TV Universe burps. It repeats some trivial aspect from a previous show. This could manifest itself as a plotline - like the one about the magician locked in an air-tight coffin at the bottom of the pool. When he's brought back up to the surface, it's discovered that he was shot dead while in the coffin!

That scenario has happened three times in Toobworld: on 'Burke's Law', 'Blacke's Magic', and in the remake of 'Burke's Law'. (The fact that Amos Burke didn't recognize the similar details in the second case was an early indication that he was developing Alzheimer's. Otherwise, even at his advanced age, we might have still seen him puttering about the Priority Homicide Division and interfering with Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson's cases on 'The Closer'. Or maybe not.....)

Sometimes these cosmic burps occur in the form of characters who are similar to previously established figures. (For us in the Real World, these people are usually parodies of popular characters of the time.)

Example #1:
A wheelchair-bound, hefty man named Leadside on an eponymous episode of 'Get Smart', who shared similarities with San Francisco police detective Robert T. 'Ironside' - save for being on the wrong side of the Law.

Example #2:
New York police detectives Kathleen Chadwick and Bess Stacey, who were working the same homicide case as Jessica Fletcher in an episode of 'Murder, She Wrote'. There were quite a few broad portrayals on this show over the years, but these broads in "Wearing Of The Green" were the broadest. It's obvious that they were evoking the image of detectives 'Cagney and Lacey'.

Example #3:
We've even seen these cosmic repeats within the very show being spoofed, as was the case with "Bizarro Jerry" and his two friends when Elaine Benes found herself caught between them and Jerry 'Seinfeld' and his two pals George and Kramer.

Example #4:
This happened only a few weeks ago on 'My Boys': PJ's college friend returned from New York with three of her friends in tow and it was obvious that the quartet were spoofs of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte of 'Sex And The City'. The episode title combined that reference with the other major plotline to yield "Douchebag In The City". (But based on their portrayal, the full title could probably be applied to Lyssa and her friends....)

Cosmic burps are becoming more prevalent outside the borders of the United States as American shows are being remade to suit the tastes of audiences in other countries. This is especially true in Latin America with the more melodramatic series for the most part, like 'Desperate Housewives'. Even our own programming is not immune to this phenom: from Columbia we imported and transformed 'Betty de Fea' (which became our 'Ugly Betty') and 'The Office' of the UK which has mirror versions in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, and India.

According to the New York Times this week, the Russians have a new contender as well:

Turn on the sitcom that is the hottest television show in
Russia, and it all seems so familiar. Moored to his living room couch is a shoe salesman who is more interested in watching sports than conjugal relations. His wife has shocking hair and an even more shocking mouth. A couple of ne’er-do-well teenagers round out this bawdy, bickering bunch.

In fact, the show is an authorized copy of the American sitcom “Married With Children,” with a Russian cast and dialogue but scripts that hew closely to those of the original. This knockoff is such a sensation, especially among younger viewers, that its actors have become household names, and advertisements for its new season are plastered around Moscow.

"Married With Children,” which ran from 1987 to 1997 in the United States, has been renamed “Schastlivy Vmeste,” or “Happy Together.” Its setting has been moved from the Chicago area to Russia’s heartland metropolis of Yekaterinburg. The sniping couple, Al and Peg Bundy, have become Gena and Dasha Bukin.

The thrust is the same: sending up family life as outrageously — or as vulgarly, depending upon your point of view — as possible.

A typical bit: In the living room, Gena suddenly tells Dasha to take off her clothes. Dasha is elated that Gena finally wants to have sex, and then Gena says, “No, Dasha, I’m simply dying of hunger, and hope that that will take away my appetite.”

Adaptations of two other shows, “Who’s the Boss?” and “The Nanny,” are also popular here.

You can read the full story here.

Turkey even has its own version of 'Star Trek'. You can find the bootleg of this out there, and for 'Trek' fans, it's worth checking out for a few laughs.

So the next time you see something on TV that you know you've seen in some other version elsewhere, don't condemn the show for a lack of originality; it's just the TV Universe expending a little gas.........

Toby OB

Got a suggestion for a Cosmic Burp? Send it along!

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