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4 Memorable TV Crossovers

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The branches of the TV-land family tree can get very tangled. We've previously discussed backdoor pilots; another common offspring is the spin-off, where certain characters on an established series are deemed popular enough to support their own show. And then there is the crossover, where characters from one show appear on another show. Sometimes the crossover intersects with the spin-off (as will be seen tonight when Dr. Addison Montgomery returns to Seattle Grace Hospital in the conclusion of a multi-part Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice crossover.) Other times the crossover is something of an "in-joke" (see Murphy Brown below), while often it is just the whim of a network exec who uses a successful series to promote one that is struggling. Allow me to present a few examples:

1. Bewitched in Bedrock

For a sleepy prehistoric suburb, Bedrock had more than its share of celebrity visitors. Stoney Curtis, Ann-Margrock and Stoney Carmichael were just a few of the A-listers who appeared on the Stone Age sitcom (with their voices provided by their real-life counterparts). In Season Six, however, the Flintstones welcomed new next-door neighbors Samantha and Darrin Stephens, in an episode that featured Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York voicing the animated versions of their Bewitched characters. The gimmick wasn't so out of the blue; Hanna-Barbera had done the opening animated credits for Bewitched, which was just beginning its second season, while The Flintstones was an established hit.

2. Norm Peterson's Former Client

Since St. Elsewhere was set in Boston, producers thought it might make for some nice symmetry if Doctors Westphall, Auschlander and Craig stopped by the Cheers bar after a particularly stressful day. The only problem was that Cheers was on hiatus at the time that this episode was conceived, but Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger and George Wendt graciously agreed to give up some vacation time in order to participate. As it happened, Carla had mentioned two years earlier that she'd had one of her babies at St. Eligius and that it had been a horrific experience, so that gave the writers a reason to have Ms. Tortelli vent her spleen at Dr. Craig. It was also revealed in this episode that Norm Peterson had once been Dr. Auschlander's accountant and had gotten him into big-time trouble with the IRS.

3. Murphy Brown's Competent Secretary

A running gag on Murphy Brown was Murphy's inability to retain a competent assistant, and as a result a different secretary appeared in each episode. Then the fates turned in Murphy's favor, and she walked into the office to find none other than Carol Kester-Bondurant (Marcia Wallace) of The Bob Newhart Show behind the desk. Carol of course was an ace at the job, and would have stayed on the FYI staff had Dr. Bob Hartley not appeared on the scene in the final moments of the episode. After a frenetic bidding battle between employers, Carol finally went home to Newhart-land, where she truly belonged.

4. Paul Buchman's Tenant

When Mad About You debuted, it was given the sweet time slot following the very popular Seinfeld. It was eventually revealed in one episode that Paul Buchman was still paying rent on his "bachelor" apartment (in case his marriage didn't work out), which upset wife Jamie. The punch line to the episode was that Seinfeld's Kramer was Paul's tenant. Crossovers tend to work best when they're sprung on the audience as a surprise, so this particular episode fell a bit flat, since it was hyped in print ads and TV commercials ad nauseum before it aired, so by the time Michael Richards poked his head out of that apartment door the thrill was long gone.

Which crossovers do you remember/love/hate? How about when Daphne (of Frasier fame) didn't understand a Caroline in the City cartoon? There's also the episode of Wings that featured Frasier and Lilith Crane visiting Nantucket to promote a book and host a seminar (this earned Kelsey Grammer an Emmy nomination). In an episode of Seinfeld, struggling actor Kramer lands the part of Murphy Brown's secretary, Stephen Snell. And how many of you remember when George and Weezie Jefferson visited the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

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entertainment
The 10 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now
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Amazon

If you’re a subscriber to Amazon Prime, you’re entitled to free expedited shipping, free Kindle downloads, and lots of other perks. But some customers are perfectly content to relegate their use of the service to the company’s considerable streaming video options.

If you’ve already explored their extensive library of HBO classics like The Sopranos and The Wire, don’t worry—there’s plenty of binge-watching left. Check out our picks for 10 of the best TV shows on Amazon Prime right now.

1. HANNIBAL (2013-2015)

At first glance, Bryan Fuller’s (Pushing Daisies) take on the Thomas Harris novels featuring the gastronomic perversions of Hannibal Lecter seems like a can’t-win: How does anyone improve on The Silence of the Lambs and Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of the diabolical psychiatrist? By not trying. Mads Mikkelsen’s Lecter is a study in composure; FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is the one who seems to be coming unhinged. While Fuller has time to explore the finer details of Harris’s novels, he also has the temerity to diverge from them. Hannibal’s brief three-season run is a tragedy, but what’s here is appetizing.

2. GOLIATH (2016-)

David E. Kelley (The Practice) wrote this eight-episode limited series about a downtrodden lawyer (Billy Bob Thornton) who brushes up against his former law firm when he tackles an accidental death case that turns into a sprawling conspiracy. Thornton won a Golden Globe for his performance; William Hurt should've won something for his portrayal as the diabolical firm co-founder who keeps pulling Thornton's strings from afar. A second season is set to premiere in 2018.

3. THE AMERICANS (2013-)

If Stranger Things stimulated your appetite for ‘80s paranoia, FX’s The Americans—about two Soviet spies (Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell) embedding themselves in suburban America—is bound to satisfy. As Russell and Rhys navigate a complex marriage that may be as phony as their birth certificates, their allegiance to Russia is constantly tested. Prime has the first four seasons, with the recently-aired fifth season due soon; the show's sixth and final season will air in 2018.

4. SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005)

A celebration of life under the watch of death: Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under chronicles the Fishers, proprietors of a Los Angeles funeral home who struggle to carry on following the abrupt death of their patriarch. Darkly humorous and emotionally charged, it’s also got one of the most talked-about (and gut-wrenching) finales in television history.

5. JUSTIFIED (2010-2015)

Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) makes his intentions clear in the opening moments of episode one: If he draws his weapon, he’s shooting to kill. That’s more or less what transpires in six seasons of this FX series, which ambles along like a modern-day Western but is transformed by the lyrical dialogue inspired by novelist Elmore Leonard. And like any good white hat, Givens needs his foil. He gets it in the form of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), who stole the show on another FX series, The Shield, and does the same here. When the two finally face off after years of circling, it’s nothing you’ll have seen coming.

6. CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2000-)

“Social assassin” Larry David is returning from a six-year sabbatical for a ninth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in October. In the meantime, you can relive every awkward moment from the first decade of his loosely-improvised show. Ambling through Los Angeles, the selfish, abrasive David rarely encounters a situation he can’t make worse.

7. OZ (1997-2003)

Oz, HBO’s first hour-long drama, set the stage for a Golden Age of television, pulling no punches in its depiction of the fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility and its cast of scheming, volatile prisoners trying to survive in an experimental ward. Twenty years later, it might still be the most boundary-pushing series ever to air. 

8. MAD DOGS (2015-2016)

An Amazon original limited series that flew under the radar, Mad Dogs plays like a travelogue for a trip you never want to take. Friends gather in Belize at the behest of a friend (Billy Zane), whose connections with the country’s criminal element wind up being problematic for everyone involved.  

9. MR. SHOW WITH BOB AND DAVID  (1995-1998)

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’s HBO series mixes surrealism with intricate plotting to produce some of the most inventive sketch comedy on television. If you don't believe us, check out "Pre-Taped Call-in Show" from the 10th episode of season three.

10. THE JOY OF PAINTING (1986-1994)

Happy trees and clouds await viewers of legendary painting instructor Bob Ross, whose canvases beam into your living rooms like digital Prozac.

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History
Disneyland Opened Today in 1955
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YouTube // Surf's Up Studios

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened to the public, complete with a 90-minute live TV special aired on ABC. With hordes of press on location, the affair was a media circus. For people attending the park in person, the launch was a real mess, as thousands of people crashed the party using counterfeit tickets.

Despite the launch troubles in person, the TV coverage was great fun, and it was cohosted by Ronald Reagan alongside Art Linkletter and Bob Cumming. It was a major television event, and you can tell from watching it that such a big show had a lot of moving parts—at one point Linkletter introduces Davy Crockett as "Cinderella." The special aired 61 years ago today, and in a minor coincidence, Reagan accepted the Republican nomination for US President on the same date in 1980. Anyway, strap on your Mickey Mouse wristwatch and go back to 1955 for a wild ride:

(If you'd like to save a copy for later viewing, the Internet Archive lets you download the whole special.)

In 1990, Disney held a 35-year anniversary bash. Here's some TV coverage (again featuring Reagan) from that event, including a sort of blooper/highlight reel of the 1955 event starting just past the 2:00 mark.

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