This fall, ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Family Guy’ met for a one-hour special. But not all TV crossovers are hotly-anticipated, heavily-promoted spectaculars. Some shows like to do their crossovers on the down-low, gently reminding viewers that different TV series take place in the same universe without calling attention to it. Perhaps they’re worried it won’t work, or don’t want to deal with the fallout from millions of fans fainting in unison. Or, maybe they just want to give us bloggers something to write about other than spoilers. Anyway, here are five TV crossovers that might have slipped under your radar.
‘The Walking Dead’/’Breaking Bad’
In ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 2, when T-Dog needed drugs to help him recover from a serious injury, it turned out that Merle had a saddle full of them — including a bag of Walter White’s patented blue crystal meth. Looks like Walt Jr. will never get to spend his trust fund after all. Never mind ‘Better Call Saul!’ — what about ‘The Walking Dead: Albuquerque’ as the next ‘Breaking Bad’ spin-off? At least Skinny Pete and Badger — with their encyclopedic knowledge of science-fiction — will be ready for the zombie apocalypse. Does this mean all AMC shows are set in the same universe?
‘The Sopranos’/’Curb Your Enthusiasm’
HBO shows often have characters in one series watching another on TV. But ‘The Sopranos’ took it one step further. As he begins to lose his mind, ageing New Jersey mob boss Corrado Junior Soprano sees Larry David in his signature sitcom ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and immediately assumes the balding, bespectacled comedian is himself. Just as associate Merv convinces him otherwise, podgy Jeff Greene (Garlin) comes onscreen looking like the spitting image of Junior’s bodyguard, Bobby Baccalieri. A hilarious spin on the idea of network show crossovers, the scene also contains hidden depths about how we see ourselves on television.
‘The Simpsons’/’King of the Hill’
‘The Simpsons’ is not exactly bashful about its crossovers with other Fox shows, having occasionally transformed into episodes of ‘The X-Files’ and ’24.’ But it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visit from Arlen, Texas (deputy) purveyor of propane and propane accessories Hank Hill, his family and alley buddies to Springfield. Lasting exactly four seconds, we see Hank, Peggy, Bobby, Luanne (with Bill, Boomhauer and Dale in the background) lamenting Arlen’s pee-wee football loss to Springfield, with Hanks we drove 2000 miles for this? A sideswipe at the futility of TV crossovers, it feels like it’s done more out of respect than necessity.
‘The X-Files’/’Homicide: Life On The Street’
Detective Munch — played drolly by comedian Richard Belzer — holds the record as the character that has appeared in the most TV shows. Originally hailing from cop show ‘Homicide: Life On The Street,’ Munch has graced ‘Law & Order,’ ‘The Wire’ and, most recently, ‘Arrested Development.’ Belzer has made a career out of showing Kelsey Grammer who’s boss when it comes to transferring the same character. His cameo in ‘The X-Files’ is perhaps the most out-there. As the detective interrogating The Lone Gunmen, Munch is thrust into a world of aliens, paranoia and government conspiracies. Bet Baltimore didn’t seem so bad afterwards.
‘The Office’/’The Office’
Okay, it’s technically the same show. But, if you’ve seen them both, you know they’re wildly different takes on the same basic idea. And it’s not as if we didn’t know U.K. and U.S. paper-vendors Michael Scott and David Brent were going to meet in Steve Carell’s final season of the American ‘Office.’ But, rather than make an episode of it (or two, like the Will Ferrell fiasco), the two meeting was a chance encounter outside an elevator in the show’s cold open, which could have easily been missed if you were microwaving something at the top of the hour.