How to Do a Crossover Right

I loved last night’s Archer Season Premiere. But before I get to it, I want to talk about a few ways television shows have done crossovers.

It’s not at all unusual to have an actor who was on some other show. So there’s a natural desire to make references.

Crossover One: The A*Team

There was an episode where the A*Team was at the Universal Studios theme park, because John “Hannibal” Smith was working as a stunt man or something. And a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica walked past, just so that Dirk Benedict (who played Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica and Templeton “Faceman” Peck on The A*Team) can make a face at the camera like “Hey… do I recognize that guy? Nahh.” This is the most winky kind of crossover, because it exists solely for the fourth-wall-breaking. It happened a lot on St. Elsewhere, where you’d get things like someone who believed he was Mary Tyler Moore talking to Betty White like she was her character from The Mary Tyler Moore Show even though she was playing someone else.

Crossover Two: The Wire

In the fifth season of The Wire, in the episode “Took,” Richard Belzer makes a guest appearance as Detective Munch. He’s arguing with a bartender, telling him that he used to co-own a bar. Clark Johnson is in the same scene, playing saintly editor Gus Haynes. The joke is that Johnson was on Homicide: Life on the Street as Meldrick Lewis, who was one of the other co-owners of that bar with Munch. This sort of thing mostly floats by the audience, unless they recognize the actors involved. It’s like when Jamie Foxx talks to Franco Nero in Django Unchained, because Franco Nero played “Django” in Django.

Crossover Three: Newhart

In the season finale of Newhart, the show ends. And then Bob Newhart wakes up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette, his wife from The Bob Newhart Show. Suddenly all of Newhart is retconned into being a dream sequence in an entirely different show! This is the rare wacky cross-show crossover that’s actually acknowledged within the show. There’s also the time that Abed from Community talked about the time he was an extra on Cougar Town and it actually happened.

Okay, that brings us to Archer. They did a kind of History of Violence thing, where Sterling Archer has gotten amnesia and has found a new identity as a family man who runs a diner. But when the KGB shows up and tries to kill him, he goes on the run and then wacky shenanigans ensue until the rest of ISIS can return him to his old identity. That’s a perfectly legitimate Archer plot. But the twist is that his “family man who runs a diner” identity was Bob Belcher, from Bob’s Burgers. Because H. Jon Benjamin does both voices!

They also had Bob’s wife. And all the animation was done as Archer, so it looked neat. Now I’m hoping that there’s a scene in Bob’s Burgers where Bob becomes a soccer coach.

This entry was posted in Television. Bookmark the permalink.