When a celebrity plays himself in a TV show, there will always be differences between their true self and their televersion. Just by virtue of the fact that they're interacting with fictional people makes them different. But there have been some notable differences over the years.
Here's a Super Six list of some of them:
- Vera Gorman was related to Art Carney. ('Alice')
- Vincent Chase had a relationship with Mandy Moore. ('Entourage')
- Not to be outdone, Larry Sanders had sex with Roseanne Barr and Ellen DeGeneres. ('The Larry Sanders Show')
- Willy Mays is a warlock. ('Bewitched')
- Dennis Rodman is an extraterrestrial. ('Third Rock From The Sun')
- Dick Van Patten died years before he did in the real world. ('Cybil')
Speaking of that last one, we've been saluting the late Don Rickles all week, so as you can imagine, there was a major difference between the Rickles of the Trueniverse and his cathode counterpart.
It was reported after he died that the last tweet ever sent out by the Merchant of Venom was a sweet and loving tribute to Barbara, his wife of more than fifty years. She and their daughter Mindy survive him and he was predeceased by their son Larry.
However, in Earth Prime-Time, Barbara Sklar Rickles died before Don, at some point before 2002.
'THE BERNIE MAC SHOW'
"THE SWEET LIFE"
Don is listed in the IMDb credits for this episode as playing himself. He was addressed as Don and acted like a milder version of himself, throwing most of his zingers at Bernie Mac (also playing himself) under his breath.
But when they were at a graveside service for a friend of his who had died during their weekly poker game, Don became lost in his memories of his late wife. He even began to talk to her as if she was there, telling her that he would be reunited with her soon. (In Toobworld, they had been together for 60 years whereas in the real world, it had been for about 52.)
Barbara Rickles only made a handful of appearances on TV, mostly in reality/variety programs like the documentary on her husband, a tribute to him on 'This Is Your Life' and a celebration of George Burns' career in show business. So she didn't have much of an impact on Toobworld save for the devotion bestowed on her by her husband - whenever Rickles was on a talk show, he invariably sang her praises.
But there's another way to read this. Even though Rickles was living across the street from Bernie Mac, the two comics may not have had much interaction in the neighborhood before this episode. It could be that Bernie, caught up as he was in his own life (especially being a serlinguist talking to the Trueniverse audience), may not ever have noticed Barbara Rickles across the street.
It could be that she was still alive and Don was just goofing on him at the cemetery.
There's yet another way we can interpret this appearance: this wasn't Don Rickles.
Not once during the episode was his last name ever mentioned. So perhaps it was Don Rickles playing another character named Don.
It can't be Don Prince, the character he played in the 'Newhart' episode "The Nice Man Cometh", because that was part of Dr. Bob Hartley's dream. More than likely the inspiration for TV star Don Prince was Rickles himself, whom Bob would often see on the 'Tonight' show while in bed with his wife Emily.
But it could be he was actually Don Robinson, the New York advertising executive whose life was upended by the encroachment of computers into modern society. Robinson's wife was named Barbara as well (not that it was ever mentioned in the "Bernie Mac" episode) and she was played by Louise Sorel. Perhaps she passed away and so Don retired from the rat race of Madison Avenue and moved to Beverly... Hills, that is. Or wherever the hell it was in the general LA area where they lived.
I could go either way on this, but I prefer to think Don Rickles was appearing on 'The Berni Mac Show' as himself. Sorry about where that leaves you, Mrs. Rickles......