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Six Degrees of "St. Elsewhere"

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Six Degrees of "St. Elsewhere"

Old 03-24-02, 12:00 AM
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Six Degrees of "St. Elsewhere"

This is a column from my site written by Dwayne McDuffie, creator of the hit WB show, Static Shock, and writer of a few of the Justice League episodes. I usually don't post the columns in their entirety off of the site, but this particular column is really entertaining, especially for TV fans such as myself.

The column originally appeared at:
http://www.slushfactory.com/columns/...yZloMBeEdd.php

(spoiler warning: if you don't know how St. Elsewhere ended and don't want to know, you might not want to read this)


Six Degrees of St. Elsewhere
By Dwayne McDuffie ([email protected])


I know this is going to read like a plug but itís not, actually itís an excuse for writing about TV. Iíll try to explain. Last weekend I had the unique thrill of watching pop-culture icons Batman and the Joker make a guest-appearance on STATIC SHOCK, the Kids WB animated series I co-created. It looks like the episode went over well with the audience, too. Iíve read many good reviews. Iíve received well-wishes from dozens of fans. Iíve got some great e-mails from little kids who discovered the show only because Batman was on it. All in all, an unexpected triumph.

Except...

Except there are some comic book fans who are confused by what the crossover does to the continuity of the DC and Milestone universes (answer: nothing, actually) or to the continuity of DC Comicsí animated shows (answer: nothing that matters, really). Thereís just a few of those guys out there, mind you but theyíre strident. Anyone who has read my old columns knows my radical stance on comic book continuity (part 2 is here. Click the links if you care). The short version is this, I think comic book continuity should be treated as TV continuity traditionally has, that is to say, every show has its own, individual continuity - even when that show shares characters from other shows. The old sit-coms Seinfeld and Mad About You share characters but both shows conveniently ignore that fact whenever they feel like it. This allows them to have all the fun of crossovers, without the silly baggage of both shows having to keep it all straight (and, wonder of wonders, you can watch and enjoy either show without ever watching the other one).

This is the right answer for comics too, because complex interlocking storylines across dozens of series will inherently prove to be absurd. Let me demonstrate.

For the purposes of our demonstration, we postulate that any TV show that shares characters with another series is in the same universe as that series. With the help of the guys at the Milestone E-group and their discovery of a wondrous TV crossover website that lists an astonishingly large list of spinoffs and crossovers, I will first reveal to you a stunning tapestry of interconnected TV shows, then prove that none of those shows' episodes actually occurred. Iíll do the last with two magic words: St. Elsewhere.

For those of you donít know, St. Elsewhere was a slick, well written and acted drama series about the doctors, administrators and patients of the fictional Boston hospital, St. Eligius (nicknamed St. Elsewhere by the staff). After a long, award-winning run, in the very last moments of the showís final episode, it was revealed that all of the events of the show were merely the prolonged daydream of an autistic child. None of it "really" happened. Whether you like this final twist (for what itís worth, I didnít), itís a legitimate ending to a self-contained show. But if St. Elsewhere played by the rules of comics, either they wouldnít have been allowed to do it, or they would have precipitated a crisis in TV Land far bloodier than DC Comicsí Crisis On Infinite Earths. Why? Because crossover-wise, St. Elsewhere is the Kevin Bacon of TV shows.

Stay with me now, this is complicated but kind of fun.

Characters from St. Elsewhere have appeared on Homicide, which means that show is part of the autistic childís daydream and likewise doesnít exist. It gets worse. The omnipresent Detective John Munch from Homicide has appeared on X-Files, Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU. Law & Order characters have appeared on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. X-Files characters have appeared on The Lone Gunmen and Millennium. Characters from Chicago Hope have appeared on Homicide. Characters from Picket Fences have appeared on Chicago Hope. All those shows are gone (if you count cartoons, which makes this game much too easy, the X-Files characters have appeared on The Simpsons. The Critic has also appeared on The Simpsons. Dead).

Characters from Picket Fences have appeared on Ally McBeal. Ally McBeal has appeared on The Practice. Characters from The Practice have appeared on Boston Public. Autistic daydreams, every one.

But that's not all. St Elsewhere characters have appeared on Cheers, so Fraiser doesnít exist. Neither do Wings, Caroline In The City or The Tortellis but who cares? Well, maybe you do, because Caroline In The City once crossed over with Friends, which crossed over with Mad About You, which crossed over with Seinfeld and The Dick Van Dyke show. None of them happened in our new, shared continuity.

St. Elsewhere also shared characters with The White Shadow and Itís Gary Shandlingís Show. Garry Shandling crossed over with The Andy Griffith show (no, really!). So Gomer Pyle, Mayberry RFD, and Make Room for Daddy/The Danny Thomas Show are gone. Make Room For Daddy takes out I love Lucy.

And thereís more, St. Elsewhere also shares continuity with M*A*S*H, so Aftermash and Trapper John MD are out of there.

Now hereís a good one, St. Elsewhere shared a patient with The Bob Newhart Show, so the Bob Newhart Show is part of the grand daydream. The Bob Newhart Show crossed over with Murphy Brown, which in turn links to, among many others: Julia, The Nanny, Everybody Loves Raymond and I Dream of Jeannie! Meanwhile, the series Newhart was revealed to be a nightmare had by Bob Newhartís character on the Bob Newhart Show. Newhart crossed over with Coach, which connects it to Grace Under Fire, Ellen and Drew Carey. Drew Carey takes out Home Improvement and NYPD Blue.

All of these shows (and many more that I left out or missed) are daydreams of St. Elsewhereís autistic kid.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Links to the Happy Days, All In The Family and Diagnosis Murder universes would take out another 20 or 30 shows. If we can get to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, who knows how many would fall? My favorite possibility? A link to Knight Rider, of all things, would remove every single Star Trek series. I wouldnít mind some research help from my vast and loony readership on these and any other shows you guys can think of, E-mail me. No cartoons though, that way lies madness. The Scooby Doo movies alone encompass a good chunk of the space/time continuum.

All of these would help me prove my Grand Unification Theory, which posits: "The last five minutes of St. Elsewhere is the only television show, ever. Everything else is a daydream."

So what does this prove, other than the fact that Iíve got too much free time? Well, my point and I do have one (I can steal this catch phrase because, as Iíve already proven, Ellen never existed), is that while guest-shots and crossovers can be fun, obsessive, cross-series continuity is silly.

Itís silly in comics too. Relax and enjoy the show.


------------------------------
(c) 2002 Dwayne McDuffie, The Slush Factory

Last edited by BJacks; 03-24-02 at 12:14 AM.
Old 03-24-02, 12:13 AM
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Funny article. And great concept ... I see a website devoted to only this.

St. Elsewhere probably had the greatest ensemble of genuine talent of any show ever on television.

One suggestion: you may want to put a little SPOILER warning atop your post. Not like there's anyone on the planet who doesn't know how St. Elsewhere ended, but people who are watching it for the first time on Bravo may want to be surprised. Thanks.

das
Old 03-24-02, 12:15 AM
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Originally posted by das Monkey
One suggestion: you may want to put a little SPOILER warning atop your post. Not like there's anyone on the planet who doesn't know how St. Elsewhere ended, but people who are watching it for the first time on Bravo may want to be surprised. Thanks.

das
Done. Glad you enjoyed the article.

Best,
Brian
Old 03-24-02, 12:18 AM
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Originally posted by BJacks
Glad you enjoyed the article.
Glad you posted it.

das
Old 03-24-02, 12:46 AM
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Holy Crap!! The universe is going to explode!!

Kevin Bacon linked to St. Elsewhere:

Howie Mandel was in Fine Mess, A (1986) with John Short
John Short was in Apollo 13 (1995) with Kevin Bacon

Ahh, ka-boom!!
Old 05-02-02, 02:06 AM
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With the help of the guys at the Milestone E-group and their discovery of a wondrous TV crossover website that lists an astonishingly large list of spinoffs and crossovers
SO WHAT IS THE WEB SITE PLEASE !!!


nevermind i went to the actual article and the website is linafied.
Old 05-02-02, 02:40 AM
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Since someone just resurrected this thread, I thought I'd just mention that the writer of the above column, Dwayne McDuffie, is now the Story Editor on Cartoon Network's JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon.

-Brian
Old 05-02-02, 05:04 AM
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I AM the only one who loved St. Elswhere...but never saw or even knew what the FINALE was


I never knew it ended that way.
Old 11-23-04, 04:51 PM
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Characters from Picket Fences have appeared on Ally McBeal. Ally McBeal has appeared on The Practice. Characters from The Practice have appeared on Boston Public. Autistic daydreams, every one.
This does mean then that Boston Legal is a dream of an autistic boy.

Also, in a recent episode of Boston Public on WE, one of the characters talks about how she went to the church at St Elegius, so it's not just a cross over with the characters, but the hospital is mentioned by name in the show.

I was wondering if anybody could find a link to St Elsewhere and Desperate Housewives, because that then would negate the existence of Monday Night Football!
Old 11-23-04, 06:57 PM
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Re: Six Degrees of "St. Elsewhere"

Originally posted by BJacks
A link to Knight Rider, of all things, would remove every single Star Trek series.
This one I don't know. Help, anyone?
Old 11-24-04, 07:41 PM
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Re: Re: Six Degrees of "St. Elsewhere"

Originally posted by dstrauss
This one I don't know. Help, anyone?
Sure!

http://www.poobala.com/standteam.html

With all due respect to fans of Star Trek, Team Knight Rider and the writer of the episode I am about to discuss, this just shouldn't have happened. No really. I'm serious. It's just too freakin' weird second only to Star Trek: The Next Generation crossing over with the X-Men in funkiness (thank God that happened in a book and not on TV so I don't have to deal with it).

I'm not even sure how to write this. It involves a character that was featured on both the original Star Trek and on the show Team Knight Rider. In real world TV terms Star Trek comes first but going chronologically in the show's timelines Team Knight Rider comes first. This is all just so weird and distressing. I'm not kidding.

Okay, on the episode "The Changeling" of the original Star Trek, the Enterprise encounters a space probe named Nomad. Nomad was a space probe from Earth that merged with a probe named Tan-Ru sent into space by another race. The original Nomad probe was created by a scientist named Jackson Roykirk. Jackson Roykirk's goal had been to create the perfect artificially intelligent computer.

When The Enterprise encounters the now fully sentient Nomad it is on a mission to destroy anything it views as non perfect life in the galaxy. As you can guess that means it's pretty much killing anything and everything. Specifically biological life. The Enterprise is saved from attack when Nomad mistakes the name Captain James Kirk for Jackson Roykirk. Thinking daddy's on board it calms down on the whole "kill kill kill" attitude... for awhile. Once it realizes "daddy" is biological Nomad gets back on the carnage bandwagon until Kirk defeats it with... logic (Spock should sue - he owns the Star Trek logic franchise).

Kirk points out Nomad is killing all imperfect life. But Nomad mistook Kirk's name for his creator's. Thus, Nomad is imperfect. Faced with its own imperfection, Nomad blows itself up. I have to say, with someone so unable to deal with such a simple defeat suicide was inevitable. Not the guy you want to play cards with: he wins and its bad for you, he loses and he's got his head in the oven. Calm down little Nomad! I mean before you decide to take the big dirt nap over mishearing something you might want to consider getting your ears checked. Or here's a thought: maybe it wasn't a mistake based on your imperfection. Maybe the guy talking to you mumbled. Their imperfection not yours. Hello? And now you've gone and blowed yourself up because somebody else needs to enunciate more clearly.

But I kid the deadly killing machine.

Okay, cut to some 20 odd years later in our time and many MANY years earlier in Trek/Knight Rider's time. Team Knight Rider, a resurrection of the old Knight Rider series presented viewers not just with one talking car and its driver but a whole team of five talking vehicles and their drivers fighting the good fight against evil.

In one episode the team found themselves facing off a Televangelist with an uncanny ability to predict when God would unleash his wrath in the form of earthquakes. Hmmm. How could he know? Oh wait. Because he causes them. D'oh!

It seems that God is getting some help from Reverend Ransom and his good old earthquake machine.

I know, "How the hell does this tie in to Star Trek?" Patience, patience.

One of the team, Kevin "Trek" Sanders (see, "Trek"... it's coming), kinda goes missing only to show up on Reverend Ransom's TV show. Seems he decided to infiltrate the reverend's church on his own. Why would he do that? Well because "Trek" himself invented the stupid earthquake machine when he was a student at M.I.T. ten years earlier. Even though "Trek" did all the work, the project was headed by another scientist named... if you don't see it coming by now your blind... Dr. Jackson Roykirk. You know, Nomad's pappy. Seems old Roykirk's helping out crazy Reverend guy (sort of ironic and appropriate since Roykirk is played by M*A*S*H's resident priest, "Father Mulcahy", William Christopher). Yep, seems good old stable Roykirk has bought into the whole "earthquake machine" = "divine hand of God" idea. Pretty stupid genius ya ask me. Needless to say, the talking lube-job brigade kicks some crazy evangelistic arse and saves the day. Now since Nomad isn't launched till 2020 I'm guessing between this episode and Nomad's creation Roykirk got the therapy his boy Nomad so badly needed.

Still, this Roykirk guy has a pretty crappy track record in the whole inventing game. First he heads a team to make an earthquake machine. Yeah, because that can be put to so many positive uses like... uh.... uh... creating petty havoc? Then the guy tries to do good. He comes up with a project with no possible negative repercussions: make a semi-sentient robot space probe that is supposed to go into space and look for alien life. No brainer. Its a feel good positive mission all around with no downside. Thing is leaving Earth so it can't hurt anyone and the odds of it even finding life out in space are so slim the odds of any problem is infinitesimal. But oh no. The guy ends up creating a hard of healing perfectionist that manages to kill off all the humanoid life in an entire space sector before it gets a B on an aural test and decides to take a pass on the whole life thing. Way to create an emissary of peace Roykirk! Please stop inventing helpful items before you kill us all.

All that said, here is my big problem with the idea of these shows being connected. Okay okay I get the fun. You have a character named "Trek" and you make his mentor an obscure Star Trek character. Very nice. And given how distinct the name Jackson Roykirk is and that the time periods line up I'm fully willing to say this counts as a crossover. But here's the thing. The Knight Rider shows feature computer technology so advanced that not only can it create talking vehicles, it can create talking vehicles with artificial intelligence so elaborate that the vehicles have wisecracking and distinct personalities. Yet 20 years later Roykirk's best effort at artificial intelligence - Nomad - is nowhere near as sophisticated and, as it turns out, badly flawed. And forget that. In the time period the original Trek takes place the artificially intelligent computers Starfleet uses are emotion free bland stiffs. What the hell? In 1980 we can build smart ass chatty Trans Ams but by the 23rd century they've forgotten how to do that. Dahhh! I expected better of Starfleet. My guess is those freaking emotionless Vulcan's must have gotten Starfleet's AI contracts and thus deprived us of smart talking space ships. Damn you Spock!

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