Saturday, May 15, 2010


I've given up hope that '30 Rock' could ever be totally deloused - er, de-Zonked. Because of this sitcom based on the inner workings of NBC programming (and others like it - 'Extras', 'Entourage', 'The Larry Sanders Show'), I've decided to accept the "blanket amnesty" provided by the splainin that every TV show in our world exists in Toobworld as well. (And even then, that still gives some wriggle room for some special splainins - like the Toobworld versions of 'Doctor Who' and 'I Spy' were created by some government agency to debunk the idea that those "real life" characters existed or that they did the things that might be claimed by eyewitnesses.)

But still there are a few Zonks that crop up occasionally on '30 Rock' that are worth fighting the good fight - or whatever the bleep is it that I'm doing here! - and last night's episode provided a goodie.

"Emmanuelle Goes To Dinosaur Land"* gave us the background info on the early life of Tracy Jordan. ("I saw a hooker breast-feed a rat!") We saw Dot-Com and Kenneth escort Tracy back to the plae where he grew up, only to find that it was now a copy center on the corner of W.157th Street and Lt. Uhura Blvd. At least the writers of '30 Rock' respect their audience by not over-splainin their pop culture references. So there was no mention of 'Star Trek' or the communications officer on board the Enterprise when the site of Lt. Uhura Blvd. was cited. And that means we can claim that this particular Lt. Uhura was somebody else.

The Lt. Uhura of '30 Rock' fame probably wasn't even a female. We never heard a first name (Uhura of 'Star Trek' is named "Nyota".), so why couldn't it have been a Jeff Uhura? A Timmy Uhura? A Bob Uhura? Nyota Uhura won't even be born until 2239 in the United States of Africa, so it couldn't have been named after her anyway. (Any male first name would do, but "Harry Uhura" just sounds wrong.) As for Jeff Uhura (That's the one I like - it has a nice ring. And it's tied to another theory which I'll get to in a moment.) being a lieutenant, it could mean either he was in the NYPD, or he was a soldier in the Armed Forces. Either way, to have the boulevard named after him implies that as of that time when Tracy Jordan was growing up in the late 1960's through the 1970's, Lt. Uhura was more than likely deceased.

We could play this either way for the benefit of Toobworld. We can make the claim that Lt. Uhura was a policeman in the Big Apple who was killed in the line of duty, and then find some late 50's or early 60's crime drama like 'Naked City' or 'Brenner' to make a theoretical link. Or if we go the war hero route, he could have been a soldier in WWII, the Korean Conflict, or even from the early days of the Viet Nam war, which was mentioned in Toobworld at least as early as September, 1963, with 'The Twilight Zone' episode "In Praise Of Pip."

Max Phillips:
"Pip is dying.
My kid is dying. In a place called South Vietnam.
There isn't supposed to be a war going on there, but my son is dying.
It's to laugh. I swear it's to laugh

One reason I'm leaning toward Viet Nam as the war in which this new Lt. Uhura made the Ultimate Sacrifice is because it happened around the same time as the Civil Rights movement had finally made some progress. And there were American blacks who were changing their names to represent their African background (or in the case of Malcolm X, to illustrate the loss of their African identity).

I'm going to suggest that Lt. Uhura was one such African-American. Whether he served on the police force or in the army, he changed his name to Uhura as a sign of pride in his heritage. And this conjecture opens up even more possibilities for Toobworld connections!

Whether it was a black soldier in an episode of 'Tour of Duty' or 'China Beach' or a black cop in 'Naked City', 'NYPD', or maybe 'Brenner', the one mandate that must be observed would be that the character survived through the end of the episode. Then we could make the claim that it was after he was no longer visible onscreen when he applied to legally change his name to Uhura.

And I believe I have just the candidate. And I'm taking the police officer route......

Detective Jeff Ward worked with Detective Johnny Corso, both under the supervision of Lt. Mike Haines at the 'N.Y.P.D.' 27th Precinct. (This of course means that we can tie it "officially" into the main Toobworld mosaic via 'Law & Order', a major hub in the Great Link.) 'N.Y.P.D.' was a half hour show that dealt with gritty social issues of the day and which always proclaimed that it was "in color" during its opening credits. (The television industry was at the turning point from black & white productions back then.)

I'm suggesting that Detective Ward is "The Candidate" (I don't know what number Jacob might have supplied him.) to become Lt. Uhura. And that's why I referred to Lt. Jeff Uhura earlier in this post. (Although I do like the sound of "Timmy Uhura".)

There's one particular 'N.Y.P.D.' episode in which the seeds for changing his identity to reflect his heritage may have first taken root in Detective Jeff Ward. "Deadly Circle Of Vengeance" was about a bigoted psychopath who had fire-bombed a church somewhere else and was followed to New York by those of the black community back home who were seeking revenge. There's an Al Pacino fan site that has
a very detailed synopsis with some great pictures. That's right - Pacino played John James the murderer, with Jill Clayburgh as his reluctant girl-friend.

(The first part of the episode is on YouTube, but as you can imagine for a show that has no studio-backed DVD resource, the quality of these multi-generational dupes is not that good. For a show that prided itself on being in color, this is so washed out that you'd swear it was tinted from an original black & white print. I'll have that first part up at the end of this post.) The situation may have caused Detective Ward to question his place in a society where black men felt they had to take it upon themselves to find justice when the authorities, mostly white men, failed to bring John James to account for his crime. This may have been the catalyst that had him rethink his own identity as a black man in a white America.

Not that any of this was seen on the air while the show played out for another season, of course. Also in the background, left unmentioned for the benefit of the audience viewing at home in the Trueniverse, was any mention that Detective Ward was studying to take the exam to become a police lieutenant. But I think both Ward and his partner Corso would have had that ambition. (Although since Johnny Corso was straight out of the academy, Ward probably had a lead on him.)

Therefore, at some point once 'N.Y.P.D.' went off the air, I think Jeff Ward passed the exam to become a police lieutenant on the force. And for the benefit of Toobworld's cohesion, I'm also going to suggest that he changed his last name to Uhura. And that would go for the rest of his immediate family as well. (Denise Nicholas played his wife Ethel. I'm not sure if they had any children seen or mentioned on the series, but perhaps a future descendant moved to that new "promised land" of the United States of Africa and his family line eventually produced Nyota Uhura. As Mushrat would say to 'Deputy Dawg', "It's pozz'ble, just pozz'ble....") But to make the original conjecture work, Lt. Jeff Uhura would never make that trip to a new life in Africa. Somehow he was killed in the line of duty, which is why that section of avenue near W. 157th Street was renamed "Lt. Uhura Blvd." in his honor. It's not easy to claim that a TV character has died after the run of a series, especially when the actor who played him is still alive. But I'm in service to the concept of Toobworld and I have to think of the theories that keep that fictional universe growing with as many TV shows as possible linked together.

Here's the beginning of that 'N.Y.P.D.' episode:

It may seem strange to think that a gritty half hour police procedural could be theoretically linked to a wacked-out sitcom as well as to a futuristic space opera, but in the official connections accepted by the Westphallians, a comedy like 'The Bob Newhart Show' is ultimately connected to 'The X-Files'......


* "Emmanuelle Goes To Dinosaur Land" also supplied a new fictional movie for "Skinemax" with that episode title!

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