"A brief if frenetic introduction to Mr. Archibald Beechcroft, a child of the twentieth century, a product of the population explosion, and one of the inheritors of the legacy of progress. Mr. Beechcroft again. This time act two of his daily battle for survival. And in just a moment, our hero will begin his personal one-man rebellion against the mechanics of his age, and to do so he will enlist certain aids available only in the Twilight Zone."
- Rod Serling
'The Twilight Zone'
When actors play more than one role on Television, sometimes it becomes necessary to find a reason why those two characters look alike - especially when several of those characters appeared on the same show.
For example, Bruce Kirby is known best for his role as Sgt. Kramer on 'Columbo', but he also played a custodial worker in a cosmetics research lab in the episode "Lovely But Lethal" and as a TV repairman in "Make Me A Perfect Murder". In the episode "Strange Bedfellows", he was called Sgt. Brindle, not Kramer. (Quick splainin for those - the custodian was Sgt. Kramer's brother, who got his TV repairman's license after losing his job at BeautyMark for spilling secrets to Lt. Columbo. It was through the brother that Columbo met and began working with Kramer. As for Sgt. Brindle, that was still Sgt. Kramer, but for some reason, his co-workers had taken to calling him by the nickname of Sgt. Brindle as some sort of a joke. It's something never explained to the viewers.)
Vito Scotti and Michael Lally each appeared in many different roles on 'Columbo', but their splainins would take too long for this piece. (And it's "been there, done that". Bored now......)
The typical, classical splainin is "identical cousins", a tradition that was formalized with 'The Patty Duke Show'. Although it wasn't applicable on that show, sometimes the term "identical cousins" actually refers to bastard half-brother (or sister). I covered this topic in the blog post "A Double In Justice", dealing with the several judges David Lipman has played on the various 'Law & Order' series.
Otherwise, some of the main reasons for these lookalikes running around Toobworld are strong family genetics, plastic surgery, robots, aliens, quantum leaping, and when there are too many "twins" because of the popularity in casting certain actors (a condition known as "urichosis"), we have to rely on cloning. (In the case of characters played by Robert Urich, from whom "urichosis" got its name, all of his many contemporary TV characters from the late 70s until his death in 2002 were all cloned from the genetic material of his character in 'The Lazarus Man', kept in storage for many decades.)
As usual, I'm going the long way around to get to the topic of this post - I've found a new way to splain away multiple TV characters in the TV Universe all looking exactly alike, but it can only be applied to those characters played by one actor.
True televisiologists have probably already figured out where I'm going with this one.
In May of 1961, Berman played Archibald Beechcroft in "The Mind And The Matter". Beechcroft was an insurance agent who read a book by that title and used the power of his mind to rid the world of people. When he became too lonely, he decided to repopulate the Earth - but only with carbon copies of himself in all walks of life, men and women alike.
The experiment lasted just over an hour, but Beechcroft finally put back the world to the way it was because as he put it, "A lot of me is just as bad as a lot of them."
So it could be that any of the TV characters portrayed by Shelley Berman after May of 1961 - and there is quite a list! - didn't originally look like Shelley Berman. It could be that they were victims of Archibald Beechcroft's experiment of mind over matter, but when it came time for the reversion, they somehow fell through the cracks.
There are two characters whom I would eliminate from this possibility, and that's only because they already looked like Archibald Beechcroft. They were his brothers.
One of these is Marcus Beechcroft, who appeared in an episode of 'Brothers', and the other is Mel Beach, who was a member of the cast of both 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman' and its sequel, 'Forever Fernwood'. For reasons unknown, probably to disassociate himself from at least one of his brothers (Gee, which one?), Mel Beach changed his last name from Beechcroft.
Here's a list of the other TV characters who now all resemble each other because of one fateful day in May of 1961:
"Walter & Emily" .... Albert
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" .... Nat David
"Boston Legal" .... Judge Robert Sanders
"L.A. Law" .... Ben Flicker
"ABC Afterschool Specials" .... Harold
- The Kid Who Wouldn't Quit: The Brad Silverman Story
"CBS Summer Playhouse" .... Harry
- Mabel and Max (1987)
"State of Mind" .... Harvey Fleischman
"Entourage" .... Uncle Shelley
"Grey's Anatomy" .... Jed Sorento
"Dead Like Me" .... Theo
"The King of Queens" .... Arthur's Half-Brother
"Walker, Texas Ranger" .... Ira Goldberg
"Arli$$" .... Ollie Fogle
"Chicago Sons" .... McGlashan
"Friends" .... Mr. Kaplan Jr.
"Living Single" .... Hyman
"MacGyver" .... Abe Sherman
What's Alan Watching? .... Mel Krasoen
"Night Court" .... Al
"Knight Rider" .... Josh Bevin
"Hotel" .... Barney
"Matt Houston" .... Dicky Bevac
"CHiPs" .... Strum
"Vega$" .... Mickey
"Police Woman" .... Eddie Bender
"Emergency!" .... Art Frommich
"Love, American Style"
(segment 'Love and the V.I.P. Restaurant') - George
"Adam-12" .... Phil Duke
"Mary Tyler Moore" .... Dr. Walter Udall
"That's Life" .... Mr. Quigley
"The Girl from U.N.C.L.E." .... Dr. Toulouse
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." .... Sheldon Veblen
"Bewitched" .... Mr. Brinkman
"Burke's Law" .... King Dmitri
"Breaking Point" .... Roy Chase
"General Electric Theater"
- The $200 Parlay .... Stanley
I haven't been able to track down the names of the characters Shelley Berman played on these shows:
"Love, American Style"
(segment "Love and the Ledge")
- Werewolf of Hollywood
But they were all probably subjected to the Beechcroft Transformation of 1961.
(I do know that his 'St. Elsewhere' character died at the St. Eligius Hospital in Boston and his head was mistakenly mailed to Dr. Mark Craig's mother-in-law. Finding it, she suffered a heart attack and died..... I don't know if that says anything about the Beechcroft visage.......)
Those characters who looked like comic actor Shelley Berman before May, 1961.....? Well, for better or worse, they were probably born that way........
"Peter Gunn" .... Danny Holland
"Rawhide" .... Mendel Sorkin
"Mister Roberts" - The Replacement (character name unknown)
Beechcroft's power could have extended across the vortex into other TV dimensions. In the Toobworld classified as Earth Prime-Time/Dolt, the Principal bore his likeness in an episode of 'That's My Bush!'. And in the Tooniverse, Mr. Alderman resembled Archibald Beechcroft (at least vocally) in 'The Blues Brothers Animated Series'.
His mental mastery even held sway over non-human beings who live on Earth, as evidenced by Santa's elf Nobby Frostybump, who never reverted back (perhaps due to magical interference. ('Lizzie McGuire')
Hopefully, all of the women who were transformed to look like Beechcroft were able to revert back to their original looks. But if any of them were pregnant at the time, it may have permanently altered the looks of their babies......
I'll be returning to this topic on my birthday. You can probably guess why.......
- Rod Serling
'The Twilight Zone'
[Editor's note: Despite the way the heading may read, Shelley Berman is still alive. I just wanted to go for that play on words from that weird song as this was Post #2525......]