This originally appeared on VICE CA.
Television has always been therapeutic for me. It helps me forget my troubles and feel better about my moral compass. It's safe and more than ever, since each scroll of the timeline is potentially happiness-ending, I want television to suspend reality so much that my second life (TV world) and the people in it (TV characters) are real, complex, and contained from the waking nightmare that is 2017. I suggest that the best and most exciting way for the television gods to do this would be by making more crossovers.
I've been bingeing the latest season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and as I was watching it, Zooey Deschanel popped up out of nowhere babbling about Schmidt to establish that she was indeed making a cameo as her character from New Girl. The crossover was quick, kind of boring, and too vapid to mean anything but the taste left me with a new craving. Upon remembering that crossovers existed, I immediately became upset that in so many hours of television-watching in the past few years, I haven't gotten to see any of my favourite characters interact meaningfully—with each other!
Historically, there seems to be a disdain for crossovers like the Brooklyn Nine-Nine/New Girl one, which is a weird and obvious corporate tactic. Since the 1980s and 90s when they were particularly popular, they have been used as marketing schemes to convince one targeted demographic that they might be interested in a similar but different show on the same network. This was the case, for instance, when in 1985 the off-duty doctors from St. Elsewhere, a hospital drama which featured Denzel Washington, appear in the Cheers bar. The hasty sequence only seems justifiable by the fact that both shows were on NBC at the time and Denzel doesn't even show up. It feels disingenuous because everything about it feels like a thinly veiled advertising tactic. In this type of crossover, characters remain stagnant and most foregrounded is the novelty of seeing characters in different clothing.
Crossovers have also often been too hectic to enjoy because the characters can't find seamless ways to integrate into another show's world. It's deeply confusing, for instance, when Teen Angel and Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Boy Meets World meet because the impetus is that Salem swallows something called a "time ball" and the characters must cope with being in the 70s rather than their usual 90s setting. And also because Teen Angel is a bad show. Nowadays crossovers tend to be used for more specific genres like cop shows, sci-fi fantasy, and kids shows. This also doesn't quite work for my crossover demands because I personally don't care much for those genres! No offence, Star Trek, Law & Order, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode where (That's So) Raven and Hannah Montana appear.
The form seems overly conspicuous, dated, and confusing I know, but I'm thirsty for a kind of crossover that is none of those things. I want the boundaries of my favourite television shows to be broken so that new layers can be added to their narratives. I want ones in which genuine relationships can form between complicated television characters. I want it to be believable! Crossovers should add to a show's lifetime, thicken its depth and expand its capacity—not come as a last-ditch effort to slow its decline.
I'm interested in crossovers within shows that already seem to exist in the same world. In ShondaLand's How To Get Away With Murder there are multiple doctor and hospital-related scenes for both [redacted] and [redacted]'s deaths. But none of the medical emergency scenes had any Grey's Anatomy doctors and I couldn't believe it! The characters have such similar moral centres (they live in worlds where women of colour are powerful, whoa) that I expected Meredith and Owen to appear above [redacted]'s body as [they] looked up from [their] hospital bed. The shows which are executively produced by real-life angel Shonda Rhimes are so satisfyingly intense and dramatic that it would only make sense if they existed on the same plains. I know they're in different states but Grey's Anatomy already indiscriminately uses 'copters for no reason! Make it happen!
There are also plenty of opportunities for characters with similar energies or lived experiences yet in vastly different settings to meet. Abby and Ilana from Broad City would find Galina and Crazy Eyes from Orange Is The New Black exhilarating. The parents from Kim's Convenience and Fresh Off The Boat should meet to exchange tips and to judge each other. Of course, I would love to see Constance Wu on a show where she can speak and behave authentically without a kitschy tone. I would be keen to see her reactions to the characters on Girls but that would be impossible since Asians weren't allowed on Girls.
Crossovers should also examine shows which use similar theses. Fleabag and Transparent are both shows which study trauma and the feeling that we don't become the people we're supposed to. Both make me feel very sad yet also give me reprieve from the sadnesses of real life by helping me understand them better. I would really like to see the Pfeffermans welcome Fleabag into their lives. Parks and Recreation is not on anymore but I re-watch it so often that I feel like it is and I would love to see the Pawnee government employees go to New York and meet (Unbreakable) Kimmy Schmidt and tell her that she is too cheery and fake problematic.
After reading the fan theory that Riverdale could feature zombies, I want Glenn from The Walking Dead to reincarnate as a zombie and scoff at its campiness. Especially since the Asian actor who plays Reggie is being recast and who knows which of the many working white actors with dark hair will replace him. If the zombie thing doesn't pan out, I want Rebecca Bunch from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to do a duet with Archie and I want Rebecca to break out in the middle of it to talk (sing) shit about Archie and his dumb music career. Master of None's Dev Shah should meet new mom Hannah Horvath and hate her. Senator Selina Meyer's team from Veep should have a strategy meeting for House of Cards's Francis Underwood. Oh, and The Big Bang Theory should crossover with not being a show anymore because it stresses me out.
Shows have very organic ways of growing and reverting. Sometimes they are gifted with more life than they were originally conceived to have ( Weeds, The Mindy Project) and relationships and setting can grow tired. When this happens, we end up with long stints of Hannah Horvath at Oberlin or that violent bender where Olivia Pope is kidnapped. Other times, relationships become needlessly long distant like when Chandler Bing lives in Tulsa. When established power dynamics become repetitive, crossovers could allow characters to thrive in new worlds or environments away from home court without having to disrupt the entire landscape of the show. Crossovers are amazing!
Ideally, reality would be good enough to accept as it is so that we wouldn't need to lean so heavily on the crutch of television to help us forget about it. But this is the bad, scary world we live in. Let me avert my eyes by watching a big TV prom where all the monstrous television characters–Hannah Horvath–have become sentient in worlds with bent and broken borders. I want to delve into characters' skeletons and tear the fabrics that help us understand who they really are. These are the sensitivities that make TV shows so captivating to me, I don't know why non-believers (in crossovers) have to be so snooty about it. I already use television to pretend that I am inside a fake world with fake characters because I identify with them and so do you, you freak! Stop pretending that crossovers are below your sophisticated palettes and, for my own convenience, give the people what they want!
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