2015 was supposed to be purely a British TV themed year for the Television Crossover Hall Of Fame. But twice already we had to have added inductees due to events here in the Trueniverse. One such situation was planned for - the 80th birthday of actor Robert Conrad, best known for 'The Wild Wild West', but also the star of shows like 'Hawaiian Eye', 'The D.A.', 'The Man Called Sloane', 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' (whose title was wisely changed to 'The Black Sheep Squadron'), and 'James Michener's "Centennial"'.
The other event was not foreseen and frankly unwelcome - the death of Leonard Nimoy, best known throughout the world and in the TV Universe as Mr. Spock of 'Star Trek' fame.
In both instances, these icons of Toobworld were honored with membership based on their own televersions rather than on any characters they played. (Besides which, Mr. Spock was inducted in December of 2004 and James T. West, along with his partner Artemus Gordon, were accepted as part of the "Proto-Hall" class before 1999 when the idea for the TVXOHOF was still taking shape.
And now,with the British Invasion theme well underway - reaching the halfway mark - we have to once again pause to honor someone else because of unforeseen and unfortunate events.....
"It's Van Dick Patten!"
'Life With Bonnie'
Dick Van Patten, a stage and screen actor most famous for starring as loving father Tom Bradford in the television series “Eight Is Enough,” died Tuesday morning. [June 23] He was 86.
The actor died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica of complications from diabetes, according to his publicist, Jeffrey Ballard.
- Christine Mai-Duc
Van Patten had a very full career in guest spots, but also as a regular in several series - 'WIOU', 'The Partners', 'The New Dick Van Dyke Show', and as Friar Tuck in the Doofus Toobworld version of the Robin Hood legend, 'When Things Were Rotten'.
But that's for another day, another year. Today I want to honor Dick Van Patten, just as I did with Robert Conrad and Leonard Nimoy: for being himself.
I'm not acknowledging appearances in talk shows and variety programs for the qualifications Van Patten needs in order to enter the Hall as a member of the League of Themselves. Technically it would be okay, especially if the talk show's fictional televersion was acknowledged in other TV shows. (For example - an episode of 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson' was used as a timeline marker for a murder investigation in an episode of 'Columbo'. Plus characters have appeared on 'The Tonight Show' not only with Johnny as host but Jay Leno as well.)
Dick Van Patten doesn't need any of that. He has appeared as himself in the fictional settings of several TV shows. Here's a list of them, with descriptions from the IMDb and TV.com.
- "Roller Disco: Part 2" (1979)
Ponch and Jon continue pursuing the roller skating smash and grab thieves. Jon helps a famous musician who is exhausted and disillusioned. Meanwhile, Ponch is running out of time to find celebrities for the CHP Skate with the Stars charity.
O'Bservation: There were at least thirty stars in that episode, all seen out on the rink and identified by the announcer for the event. One of them was Dick Van Patten. He had no lines and was barely seen actually skating. (Of all those cameo appearances, only NBC star Earl Holliman got to speak as he crowned the winner of the Beauty Pageant.)
'The George Carlin Show'
- "George Lifts the Holy Spirit" (1994)
Harry steals a truck which has a statue of Jesus in the cargo bed. George tries to help him return it to the church. George hopes for miracles to save his hide while helping Harry transport a stolen statue of Jesus.
O'Bservation: I can't find any information... information... information about Van Patten's involvement in this episode. But as there was a reporter from TV Guide playing himself in the show, I'm assuming the storylines somehow intersect with Van Patten being interviewed by the late Mark Schwed. (Schwed might one day join the Hall as well, with the minimum of qualifications.)
'Cybill' - "Nice Work If You Can Get It" (1995)
O'Bservation: This unusual plot device necessitated a credit noting that Van Patten was in fact alive and well:
"Dick Van Patten is alive and well and playing tennis in Encino."
However, as I am always saying that the credits play no role in Toobworld, then it must hold true in this case as well. Here we have one of three cases in which a TV show has killed off a celebrity playing themselves, at least I know of only three.*
'Life with Bonnie'
- "It's a Wonderful Job" (2003)
Bonnie dreams she was never the host of "Morning Chicago" and gets a chilling glimpse of what the show would be like without her.
It's apparently available at the Paley Center for viewing. Here's the museum's description of the episode:
One in this comedy series starring Bonnie Hunt as Bonnie Molloy, a Chicago woman juggling parenthood with her television career. In this episode, Bonnie and crew snack on "a spread" while discussing Secret Santa and other Christmas plans. Then, David arrives and informs everybody that, due to Bonnie's suggestion about pre-taping a Christmas show, Mr. Portinbody has taken things a step further and demanded a live show on Christmas day. Predictably, everyone is mad at Bonnie. That night, as Mark watches a holiday episode of "Eight is Enough," Bonnie puts Charlie and Frankie to bed. She then apologizes to Mark and rues her job for not allowing her to join him and the rest of the family for celebrations the next day. The following morning, Bonnie awakens to find she's in her old apartment with Dick Van Patten. Dick explains that she is now in an alternative reality where she was never a talk show host, and is still laboring at a low-paying researcher's job. Bonnie arrives at the "Morning Chicago" set to see that Holly, Marv, and Tony barely speak to each other, and don't even know her. Bonnie learns that nobody is happy with their current lives, especially David, who was demoted to producer's assistant and became an alcoholic. Then, Bonnie sees that Gloria became a down-and-out janitor at the station. Eventually, Bonnie discovers that she and Mark divorced a decade ago. Since she didn't have money from her talk show job to support him, he was unable to finish his medical training and became an EMT. Worse, Charlie was never conceived and Frankie went to a foster home. Finally, Bonnie meets the show's current host -- the vile Phyllis Frost. That's enough to cause Bonnie to snap out of the dream and wake up back in the present, in bed with Mark. The entire family then heads to the studio to celebrate Christmas, truly thankful for their blessings. On set, everyone joins in a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne."
For our purposes at Toobworld Central, Bonnie only thought it was a dream. However, she actually was visited by the ghost of Dick Van Patten, now working as an angel. Just like Other Tommy Smothers did decades earlier.
(And of course there's another good reason for ignoring appearances on talk shows. We wouldn't have to worry about Van Patten's appearances in other TV shows as other characters because each of them would have their own reality in Earth Prime-Time separate from Van Patten.)
And so there you have it, perhaps the most unique member in all of the League of Themselves. And the combination of all those appearances secure Dick Van Patten's place in the Television Crossover Hall Of Fame.
Good night and may God bless, Sir. Thank you for all your contributions to the Toobworld Dynamic.....
* The two other examples would be Jean Claude Van Damme in an episode of 'Las Vegas' and Tommy Smothers in the series 'My Brother The Angel'. However, it's my contention that Van Damme was either a clone, an android, a replicant or a synth. It actually died doing that stunt off that hotel roof, and the real Van Damme was never in any danger. Not that anybody connected with the movie and the hotel knew that. It would be days before the truth would be learned and by then it would be unseen by the Trueniverse Audience.
As for Tommy Smothers, it was just one of those odd Toobworld coincidences in which there were two sets of brothers named Dick and Tommy Smothers, one of which went on to a successful and controversial career as a comedy/musical duo while the lesser known ones had Tommy die and return as an angel.