Thursday, February 14, 2008

8,000 degrees of John Munch?

Does anyone know of a site that has a good master list of all the TV shows that are in the same fictional universe because of the many guest appearances of Det. Munch from "Homicide"? (i.e., Munch was on "X-Files," which then links "Homicide" with "The Simpsons" because Mulder and Scully once went to Springfield.) I know a lot of them off the top of my head, sadly, but I'm looking for a site that lays out the whole "it's all in Tommy Westphall's imagination" issue in clear, easy-to-follow language.

36 comments:

Matt said...

This is probably the definitive, but I'm not sure if it's complete.

Andrew said...

OK, that is just impressive.

Kathryn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SCS said...

Matt's link is amazing. Wikipedia's is also helpful.

Devin McCullen said...

Yeah, Matt's is most likely to be definitive, but for one that's a little easier to work worth:

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

It's not as complete, but it's easier to find explanations of specific crosovers.

David J. Loehr said...

I had developed one for a media website several years ago, right around the premiere of SVU, but they vanished quickly. If I can find what I did with the original graphics, I'll post them.

Both of those sites are quite impressive. I'm going to have to poke around them more when I've got some free time.

Diana said...

I'm pretty sure Munch even did a Mad About You. He's been everywhere.

Matthew L said...

I've come across the list that Matt posted, and while it is probably as close to definitive as you can come, I'm not a big fan of it - it's too big, and too many of the connections are tenuous - just because there is a company called Wayland-Yutani in Angel (set today) and in Firefly (set in 500 years time) doesn't mean it is the same company. In fact, the odds of one company surviving for 500 years seems pretty remote. It seems much more likely that these are just "coincidental" similarities between worlds, where two companies "happen" to have the same name in two different fictional worlds.

Personally, I much prefer the Crossover List posted by Devin, because the guy that runs the list tends to be a lot more vigilent about which crossovers actually definitively establish a shared reality, so to my mind is a lot better. (Plus, I do enjoy reading the detailed articles discussing the crossovers. Plus, that was the site where I first encountered the Tommy Westphall hypothesis.)

jim treacher said...

just because there is a company called Wayland-Yutani in Angel (set today) and in Firefly (set in 500 years time) doesn't mean it is the same company. In fact, the odds of one company surviving for 500 years seems pretty remote.

Any more remote than two pairs of people with those last names going into business together? As long as we're being so nitpicky, I mean. The fact that they're both Whedon shows might have something to do with it, but whatever.

jim treacher said...

Oh, and isn't Wayland-Yutani the big bad corporation in the Alien movies too? Whedon wrote the fourth one, or at least part of his draft made it to screen.

Matthew L said...

Indeed, as Jim Treacher said, Wayland-Yutani is "the company" in the Alien movies, and the use of the name in both Angel and Firefly is a reference to that.

In fact, there are other explanations - for instance, perhaps the Wayland-Yutani in Angel was established by a person who was a fan of the movie Alien, and decided to use the name for their own company (since it's a subtle reference that most won't pick up on, and the amoral behaviour of the movie company reflects how any Wolfram & Hart client would behave). Suddenly, just because Angel and Alien have the same company name doesn't mean they share a common universe.
And you could do something similar with Firefly. And Red Dwarf.

The fact is, these references are very much in-jokes, tributes to influential movies that the showmakers almost certainly never intended to mean that they were part of the same universe. Most of the time they were throwaway blink-and-you'll-miss-it references - Red Dwarf happens to fly past a Wayland-Yutani ship, Mal happens to mention his gun was made by Wayland-Yutani. Doesn't mean anything.

jim treacher said...

Of course it doesn't mean anything. Who said it does? It's just fun!

bill said...

I'd suggest asking the guy at Toobworld

Andrew said...

But doesn't setting Firefly in a world where there is a company called Weyland-Yutani mean that the creators of that show have placed it in that universe? They didn't have it take place in a universe where there was a series of movies that began with "Alien." They consciously placed a name of a company within the shows reality. Sure, they didn't have Richard Belzer flash a badge, but why is a character so much more relevant than a company name? Weylan-Yutani wasn't added by accident any more than Belzer was cast by coincidence. Those writers WANTED the show to belong to that universe.

Tony Dayoub said...

A couple of crossovers that I think weren't mentioned in Matt's exhaustive key:

1) Morley brand cigarettes from X-Files also make an appearance in the 2nd season Mission Impossible episode, "Operation 'Heart'" and Millenium.

2) Brooklyn South crossed over with NYPD Blue a few times. One detective appeared on both shows: Stu Morrissey. On NYPD Blue he appeared in "Thick Stu" and on Brooklyn South it was in "McMurder One".

crossoverman said...

This is probably the definitive, but I'm not sure if it's complete.

It's not complete. It's an ever-expanding work-in-progress. I should know, I am one of the co-author's of that massive some-people-have-too-much-time-on-
their-hands project!

jim treacher said...

Morleys have been in a ton of stuff.

Matthew L said...

why is a character so much more relevant than a company name? Weylan-Yutani wasn't added by accident any more than Belzer was cast by coincidence. Those writers WANTED the show to belong to that universe.

Not necessarily. It is just a name, and we have no other information for the company. We have no ways of knowing whether this is the same Weyland-Yutani or a different Weyland-Yutani that happens to be the same.

If you have Richard Belzer playing John Munch on your show, then you are definitively establishing that character on your show, and that your show is in this universe.

But with a company name, especially with little or no other context about the company, we have no way of knowing whether it is the same company in the same universe, or a different company in a different universe that happens to have the same name.

Here is an example - when looking up the use of Weyland-Yutani in Angel, I also came across another company that is also represented by Wolfram & Hart - Yoyodyne.
Looking up Wikipedia (and making the assumption that Wikipedia is accurate in this case), I discover that Yoyodyne was first used as the name of a defence contractor in a novel by Pynchon.
Buckaroo Banzai then used the name, also for a defence contractor, and Angel mentions the company as a client of Wolfram & Hart (no idea whether the Angel Yoyodyne was a defence contractor).
In addition, the name was also used in The John Larroquette Show - which apparently used lots of Pynchon references. In this case, it is not a reference to Buckaroo Banzai, but a reference to the original inspiration. And it's probably a very different company to the Pynchon - Pynchon's Yoyodyne was a defence contractor and "a giant of the aerospace industry", while Larroquette's Yoyodyne made the local bus station - they just share names.
But, by indiscriminately taking a company name in and of itself as definitive proof of a shared universe, you create connections where none exist. In this case, The John Laroquette Show is already connected by an actual crossover character appearance on Frasier. The use of Yoyodyne is then used to create a connection with Angel.
But when they made that episode of Angel, I can guarantee you they were not thinking about The John Laroquette Show. They were probably thinking about Buckaroo Banzai, or the original Pynchon. But now this shows up as a connection and a shared universe where none exists.

And by getting rid of this false connection, it fixes the problem - since Angel is no longer connected, we don't have the Weyland-Yutani issue appear, and we thus lose the false connections to Buffy, Firefly, Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, Star Trek, etc.

Matthew L said...

By the way, Alan, will we discover what this question was in aid of? I'm rather curious.

Andrew said...

Matthew L -

But who is to say that the John Larroquette Show and Angel don't exist in the same universe as Pynchon's book? Or Buckaroo Banzai? The list/graph we are looking at is only about TV shows, but that doesn't mean that it can't continue outward into other mediums?

Weyland-Yutani was a heavily featured space exploration company in the hugely influential Alien series, so I would hard pressed to chalk up Angel, Firefly and Red Dwarf all came up with the name, including two instances where it was for a space exploration company, by random chance. This was clearly intentional. And, as Angel and Firefly were created by the same people, you could argue easier than not that the W-Y in Angel was the same, albeit in the present. The creators clearly meant for those shows to exist in accord with Alien.

As for Yoyodyne (awesome name for a company, isn't it?), John Laroquette wanted his show to exist in the same universe as Thomas Pynchon, and so did Buckaroo Banzai. Whether Angel exists with Pynchon or Banzai, it will exist with the other. Call it the Tommy Westphall Transitive Property.

I was kind of struck by your use of the phrase "getting rid of this false connection, it fixes the problem." If the creators did these things intentionally, how are they false? And either way, it isn't a problem. Just a topic for these delightful, online geek debates. Hooray!

Adam said...

re "Weyland-Yutani," are all the John Landis movies in the same multiverse since they all advertise a movie called "See You Next Wednesday"?

Michael said...

Yeah, and in separate episodes of "Mad About You", Paul and Jamie watch an episode of "Seinfeld" on TV, and then a couple of seasons later Paul meets Kramer.

But with a company name, especially with little or no other context about the company, we have no way of knowing whether it is the same company in the same universe, or a different company in a different universe that happens to have the same name.

Well then what about Morley cigarettes? Doesn't that fit this same criteria?

Andrew said...

I think that it's a large stretch for the products and companies name-dropped by characters (or in background shots) to establish them in the same universe. What about a situation where I'm writing a TV show and name a secondary character's company Blue Sun because the character is a fan of Firefly. That still makes Firefly a fictional show and doesn't bring it into the same universe as my show.

It's a nice way of including lots of shows, but it's not the same as having Richard Belzer playing John Munch cross over from show to show.

Matthew L said...

Andrew (the earlier one, not the one that just posted) -

When Lost names a character John Locke, or C.S. Lewis, no-one thinks this is supposed to be the same John Locke or C.S. Lewis that actually existed. Everyone recognises that this is a different character and that the show makers are just making a reference. It may present a hint as to what the show is doing, or the nature of the character, or just acknowledging an influence, but it doesn't mean that it is the same person. The show character is just someone that, within the show's universe, "coincidentally" happens to have the same name as someone else.

I'm not saying it is an actual coincidence (which you seem to think I'm saying) - that would be an absurd thing for me to suggest. Of course the show makers knew about W-Y from Alien. And they included it as an homage or reference to an influential film, exactly as they did with Yoyodyne from Buckaroo Banzai. But I suspect all that happened was that for one scene they needed the names of three evil companies that need the evil lawyer firm to represent them. Rather than trying to invent names, they decided to grab some names that they already knew, as a joke, so that people that are fans of the same things the Angel writers are fans of could recognise as the names of "evil companies". It was an in-joke, but we have no reason to believe that this W-Y is the same company as in Alien. Because otherwise, we have the Buffyverse also existing in the Firefly-verse, the Alien-verse, the Buckaroo-Banzai-verse, and apparently the Tommy-Westphall-verse. And I certainly do not believe they intended that - they just decided to throw out a joking reference.

But here is the big thing. There is a false connection between The John Laroquette Show and Angel, because it was not intended to be a connection. You suggest that perhaps they all take place in the Pynchon universe, but I don't see that. From what I know of Pynchon (admittedly, mostly from reading his Wikipedia page), I very much doubt that Pynchon's Yoyodyne was actually a front for aliens, although the Buckaroo Banzai Yoyodyne was.
In any case, it seems like the John Laroquette Yoyodyne was completely different. The Pynchon Yoyodyne was a defence contractor and a giant in the aerospace industry. The John Laroquette Yoyodyne built the St Louis bus depot. Do these actually sound like the same company to you?
Now, I am certain that the Angel writers would have been making a Buckaroo Banzai reference, not a John Laroquette reference. So there has to be several degrees of seperation between the two - the Laroquette Yoyodyne is different to the Pynchon Yoyodyne, which is different to Buckaroo Banzai's alien-run Yoyodyne. So even if we accept that Angel may take place in the Buckaroo-Banzai-verse, it logically cannot be the same as the Laroquette-verse, because the companies, while sharing a name, are obviously different companies.

Matthew L said...

Actually, one other thing I want to add. I love the whole Tommy Westphall hypothesis, I think its a funny idea. But it is already a rather absurd concept, even with the more limited Poobala listing, for all those shows to be taking place inside Westphall's mind. But to apply the wider definition, no matter how minor or in-jokey or coincidental the connection, just to make the Westphall hypothesis as big as possible, just renders the whole concept absurd.

That First Andrew said...

Matthew, we need to hang out. Grab a beer and wax rhapsodic on the ins and outs of the JOhn Larroquette show. Until this post, I hadn't realized it had any...

Personally, I do see the connection between JLs Bus Depot from Yoyodyne and Pynchon's Yoyodyne aerospace corporation: Mass transportation. I don't think we'll agree as to whether the writers of JLS meant for it to be the same company or just a reference to a book some pretentious TV writer once read in grad school, so I will just say that it could be percieved as the same, and move on.

My apologies for the over simplification on the "coincidence" concept. But here is my thoughts on the difference between a simple reference to Alien and being a part of its universe: That is the joke! If Joss Whedon wanted to make reference to Alien, he could have had a character, exasperated at working for evil companies. say "Why don't we just man a search and rescue expedition for Weyland-Yutani?" This would have been a refernce to Alien that made the existence of the MOVIE Alien part of that show's universe. On the other hand, by making it an actual company with a similar bent towards evil shenanigans, they make the Alien company a part of their reality.

And I am not saying that, when pitching his show, John Laroquette told the network "It'll be like Cheers, except at a bus station, not that funny, and, Oh yeah! Technically, it will all be in the head of that autistic kid from St. Elsewhere. Linking Angel, Red Dwarf and JLS back to St. Elsewhere and Homicide is an accident of obsessive compulsives spending months on that rediculous flow chart. When the Simpsons had Mulder and Scully appear, they weren't thinking "We can finally prove that we are in the same universe as "Oz"!

And I just have to point out that in your last post, you say that the whole thing is an absurd concept, but if you add in the WY stuff and Yoyodyne, it renders the concept absurd.

As to the Morley brand cigarettes, I think another possibility is that a TV studio reused a prop. It is like people who watch Lost keep seeing the same California license plate on different cars. This is not a conspiracy. this is an Art Department on a budget. And nobody is saying that John Locke from Lost is an 18th century British philosopher...

What do you say, Matthew? President's day barbecue at my place? Alan can come to, but only if he brings screeners.

Andrew said...

I have no problem with linking so many shows together. It's not like anybody is actually expecting the continuity to hold up. The mere presence of The Simpsons on the chart renders all continuity nonexistent. Hell, the writers of SVU couldn't even keep Munch's story straight, and they only needed to worry about one other series.

Andrew said...

Oh and by the way, I am Andrew #3, I really should've used a different name.

Matthew L said...

The First Andrew -

Thanks for the invite to the barbeque. Unfortunately, I live in New Zealand, so probably won't make it, but you have fun. And let me know what you think of any screeners Alan brings.

Wow - I barely remember the John Larroquette Show being on (I think they burned the episodes off on late night screenings over here) yet I've spent the last two days arguing points over a show I never saw. And Pynchon, who I have never read. Plus I have not yet seen the fifth season of Angel that contained the relevant episode, and I never saw an episode of St Elsewhere. At least I have seen Buckaroo Banzai. Once.

One other argument I came across - apparently there was an episode that revolved around Pynchon himself. (Apparently they were even going to have a cameo appearance by a person playing Pynchon, with his back turned to the camera, but Larroquette sent the script to Pynchon for approval, and he asked that the cameo be cut. But the rest of the episode still revolved around Pynchon.) Anyway, the point is, if Pynchon the author exists in this world, then logic states that the Yoyodyne that built the bus depot cannot be the Yoyodyne that Pynchon created in his novel. So even if we allow that the Angel Yoyodyne is the same as the Pynchon Yoyodyne, surely it is impossible that the Larroquette Yoyodyne can be the same.

That First Andrew said...

Ah, well, Matthew. Probably for the best, then, since my family is pretty orthodox when it comes to celebrating Presidents Day, and there wouldn't have been enough stove pipe hats and powdered wigs for everyone.

Why can't Pynchon and a company he invented for a work exist in the same universe? No one of these shows created the limits of their universe, so why can't john Larroquette's bus depot exist inside a Pynchon novel, in which Pynchon himself exists? Kurt Vonnegut appeared, as himself, in a film version of his book, Breakfast of Champions (he also wrote himself into the book as the author, essentially a substitute for God to bust out a Deus Ex Machina).

It is all fiction, this universe of Tommy's, so why does it have to follow metaphysical law?

I guess in the end, it is just a question if you want the chart to be as inclusive or exclusive as possible. To me, though, setting strict limitations on what can or can't be included brings up more questions than it answers. Everybody's favorite last name, Munch, was Baltimore PD before switching to NYC (Law and Order), yet somehow wound up working on a federal case, in conjunction with local police, in Orange County, California (That old scrapbooking sting... Would anyone fall for such a cliche? Certainly not the worlds first AnalRapist, Tobias Funke...)

So how much of our reason and reality can we force on a flow chart that essentially represents an autistic child's imagination?

Matthew L said...

The First Andrew -

You wear stovepipe hats and powdered wigs? I've always wanted to try that. I'm looking into flights right now.

So how much of our reason and reality can we force on a flow chart that essentially represents an autistic child's imagination?

And with that comment, well, it's actually a pretty persuasive argument, dammit. I'm not conceding that you are right, and I still feel that I have a good case, but with that comment, you've convinced me that you have a good case also. Shall we just leave it at that.

And I'll see you on (when is President's Day... looks up Google) tommorrow. Wow. I'd better start organising my flights.

Matthew L said...

The First Andrew -

I just had another thought.

Given the fact that we recognise that the Yoyodyne reference in Angel comes from Buckaroo Banzai, isn't it possible that Tommy Westphall saw Buckaroo Banzai and decide to include to use that name in his imaginary world, much in the same way that the Angel writers decided to use the Yoyodyne name in their world. That seems entirely possible. And in that case, the use of Yoyodyne is definitely not an indicator of a shared reality, but the Angel Yoyodyne (as well as Weyland-Yutani) can logically exist outside of Tommy Westphall's mind.

Anyway, have a good President's Day.

Pamela Jaye said...

>Yeah, and in separate episodes of "Mad About You", Paul and Jamie watch an episode of "Seinfeld" on TV, and then a couple of seasons later Paul meets Kramer.

Did anyone mention the episodes of The Practice where the characters discussed getting home in time to watch Boston Public - which came after the episodes where the characters from the Practice *represented* the characters from Boston Public?

(had to fix paragraph cause I wrote "Legal" rather than "Public")

also many actors in the David E Kelley universe are reused as other characters on shows sharing the same universe. and my all time favorite:

two characters on Chicago Hope (where Peter MacNicol's character was killed) are watching Ally McBeal and one says to the other, upon seeing John Cage:
"wait! isn't he dead??"

on the very same side of that coin, seeing Larroquette not playing Joey Herrick is just wrong...

That First Andrew said...

Matthew,

I do so love to be argumentative! I'd like to say there is no reason that Tommy Westphall couldn't have seen Buckaroo Banzai, and thus the Yoyodyne of Angel does not exist but is merely Tommy Boy making a reference in his imagination. But wait! St. Elsewhere debuted in 1982 and Buckaroo Banzai came out in 84! It is only fair to assume that Tommy is fantasizing in the present tense, so his universe was created before the existence of Buckaroo Banzai and his team of daredevil solider/surgeon/physicist rockstars came into being. Could it have beem imagined later? Sure. But if you had that many shows running in your head, why would you go see a turd of a movie like Buckaroo Banzai?

Besides, that opens the door to way to much. Maybe Tommy met the real John Munch and imagined him into seven thousand different shows.

After watching an episode of "Welcome to the Captain" recently, I have come to the conclusion that, in fact, all television shows spring from the mind of autistic 10 year olds.

Jordan said...

If there is anyone out there still listening, can someone tell me in what episode of the John Larroquette Show Yoyodyne is specifically referenced or displayed or talked about? I have seen so much talk of the connection between the company and the show, but I cannot for the life of me find which episode it is brought up in. Any help would be greatly greatly greatly appreciated.

Chad said...

Matthew L said:

"And by getting rid of this false connection, it fixes the problem - since Angel is no longer connected, we don't have the Weyland-Yutani issue appear, and we thus lose the false connections to Buffy, Firefly, Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, Star Trek, etc. "

Wrong. Even without the connection to The John Laroquette Show (which is 3 degrees removed from St. Elsewhere), Angel is still 4 degrees away from St. Elsewhere, and the 3rd-degree show is one of those "false connections"--Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which also has connections to The X-Files.