Friday, April 1, 2005


It's April Fool's Day!

I'd pull a prank on you, but you're reading the blog so I figure you've suffered enough.

When it comes to the TV Crossover Hall of Fame, we celebrate April Fool's Day by inducting TV characters who've made us smile over the years; not just the because they're clownish, oafish, buffoonish and just plain foolish.

So among those we've inducted over the years during April are Detective John Munch and Commander Montgomery Scott and Lucille Ball, as well as the usual suspects Homer Simpson, Luther Van Dam, and Gilligan.

And the great thing about the TV Universe is that there's practically no end to the list of fools who qualify......

This year, as I celebrate my 50th birthday, there is one rule of thumb for the Hall of Fame: What I say, goes. The requirement of three different credits attributed to a character's list of crossovers usually still applies; but we go pretty far out on a limb to justify some of them.

And so it is with our inductee for April 2005, one year shy of the 20th anniversary memorial for the actor who portrayed him. And when it comes to TV fools, it could be successfully argued that this man set the gold standard.

Fool's gold, that is.


The popularity of Ted Baxter in the early seventies established a template for all the sitcoms to follow - that there should be one dim bulb in the array of lights that made up the ensemble. Those who followed had their own variations - some were innocents; others were absent-minded; a few were eccentrics. But they all owed their existence to Ted Baxter:
Howard Borden - 'The Bob Newhart Show'
Johnny Danko - 'The Associates'
Herb Tarlek - 'WKRP In Cincinnati'
Eldin Bernicky - 'Murphy Brown'

'Taxi' divided up the qualities amongst Latka Gravas, Tony Banta, and Reverend Jim Ignatowski. But it was 'Newhart' that actually created a trinity who will one day enter the Crossover Hall of Fame together: Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.

Officially, Ted Baxter stepped out of the WJM studio environs only once, so that he could attend Rhoda's wedding on her own spin-off.

But there are two other shows that can be accredited to him, so long as we liberally apply Toobworldian philosophy.

Zen toobism, if you will......

After 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' ended, Ms. Moore applied her talents to an hour-long variety show. It was a career misstep, as the death knells for the variety were being tolled. And her repertory of players, while all talented and some of them even considered geniuses, - none of them could carry off the song and dance as well as the comedy.

All that was missing were the Ed Asner Dancers.

But for the purposes of this induction ceremony, we're only interested in one sketch from the three shows that aired. In it, David Letterman played an announcer at the WJM studios in Minneapolis.

Now, the premise of the 'MTM' finale was that everybody behind the cameras at WJM Channel 12 who struggled to make Ted Baxter look good in front of the camera had been fired - and Ted was allowed to stay.

So that means that - even though we never saw him, - somewhere in the building Ted Baxter was klutzing about while Letterman's character worked as an announcer.

Yes, it is a stretch. That's the whole point this year, isn't it? But we always said that in Toobworld, Life goes on even if we can't see it. And that doesn't apply just to commercial breaks and series cancellations.

But if you don't like that one, maybe this theory will suit your fancies:

Ted Baxter appeared in the TV Universe about four years before 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' premiered!

Back in 1966, USMC Sgt. Vincent Carter of Camp Henderson in California, foiled a robbery. But because he had reasons to keep his involvement a secret, (I think it involved a woman... actually, two women!), he let Private Gomer Pyle take the credit instead.

As a result, 'Gomer Pyle, USMC' was hailed as a "Would-be Hero" and interviewed by a radio reporter who was played by none other than Ted Knight.

Ted Knight, of course, was the actor who played Ted Baxter on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'.

And the name of that reporter was.....

(wait for it......)


(At this point, I'd like to give credit to my brother Bill for pointing out a solution to the discrepancy. If you don't like it, then he's the one to blame as well.)

I don't know if it still holds true, but radio personalities often would take on stage names with each new market where they worked: Tony Pigg, The Greaseman, Wolfman Jack....

And Toobworld itself provides two examples: Dr. Johnny Fever (Johnny Caravella) and Venus Flytrap (Gordon Simms).

We know that while at WJM in Minneapolis, close to where he grew up, Ted Baxter went by his real name. We can verify this by the visit of his brother Hal Baxter.

So Don Mills must be the alias.

And this is what really makes us excited by the idea of Ted Baxter being Don Mills - Ted's career, as he often stated, began as a 5000 watt radio station in Fresno, California.

So that means we can situate Camp Henderson not just in California, but more specifically near Fresno.

And just by location alone, we have a link to the comedy mini-series 'Fresno'. (And that's not to mention all of the connections through 'The Andy Griffith Show'!)

Like I stated at the beginning: what I say, goes. And that's why, despite the flimsy evidence presented, we are inducting Ted Baxter into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame.

And I pity da fool who objects.


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