Wednesday, November 7, 2007


As usual, I'm just repeating this for any newbies out there: "Zonks", a term from 'Let's Make A Deal', are those references in TV shows about other TV shows when both are sharing the same TV Universe.

Zonks have been around almost as long as TV shows have been, but they only became really pervasive in the scripts once the kids who grew up watching TV started writing for TV themselves.

This past Sunday, while watching an old 'Burke's Law' on the American Life Network, Captain Burke Zonked up a reference to 'Ben Casey'. His assistant, Detective Tim Tilson, was helping Jane Richards with tending her Bonsai tree; he told her that it should be pruned to highlight the relationship between Man, the Earth and Heaven.

Listening to this, Amos Burke got exasperated; after all, Jane was a suspect in the death of Betsy Richards, her quadruplet sister, and he wanted to get on with the interrogation.

"Thank you, Dr. Zorba!" he grumbled.

So for us at home, this was a reference to the medical drama 'Ben Casey', in which Dr. David Zorba (played by Sam Jaffe) would intone "Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity" while the appropriate symbols were drawn on a chalkboard. And that's how each episode would begin.

But Captain Burke should not have known that. For him, Drs. Casey and Zorba were both living in the same universe as he was and they were not TV characters.

However, it could be that Dr. Zorba became famous for writing a book entitled "Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity" that launched him onto the best-seller lists and on talk shows across the country - making him about as famous a doctor for that time as Dr. Benjamin Spock. And that would be how Amos Burke knew about him and why his catch-phrase reminded him of what Tim had said.

My considered medical opinion? This is one Zonk that's benign.

Toby OB

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