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Here and St. Elsewhere
February 22, 2010 12:20 PM   Subscribe

A map of Tommy Westphall's mind. (previously)

In which, apparently, we all live: "P.S. I just designed the content as they had it, but I’m fairly positive we are all living in Tommy Westphall’s mind. Remember in Arrested Development (upper right of the map) when they went to Judge Reinhold’s court and he had the William Hung band playing? Well, wouldn’t that then include American Idol, which is “Reality Television” meaning that our reality is in Tommy’s head? I think I need to sit down."
posted by ocherdraco (48 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Uhhh, maybe a spoiler alert in the title would be helpful for those of us that haven't finished watching the series yet? Oh, and a Howie Mandell reference.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2010


Oh, neat! I'd love to see a version where each linking line contained the explanation of the link that the PDF has. I'd also like to know what number this universe has in DC continuity.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2010


Well, wouldn’t that [mean] that our reality is in Tommy’s head?

No, it simply means that fiction and reality are intertwined and both different and the same at once, like the two "sides" of a mobius strip or klein bottle.
posted by explosion at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uhhh, maybe a spoiler alert in the title would be helpful for those of us that haven't finished watching the series yet?

22 years later? It's kind of a known pop-culture spoiler, like what Rosebud is, how Darth Vader relates to Luke, or who killed Dumbledore.

A MacGuffin, "poorly", and J.K. Rowling, respectively.
posted by explosion at 12:32 PM on February 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


Someone kills Dumbledore?
posted by Keith Talent at 12:35 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, I'm excited! Nick! First time I see a friend featured on the Blue.
posted by functionequalsform at 12:41 PM on February 22, 2010


No, Keith, explosion is just having us on. Dumbledore turns out to be gur friragu Plyba.
posted by everichon at 12:42 PM on February 22, 2010


This confuses me. In what way do Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the X-files share the same universe? Where is the overlap?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2010


saw key. got it. feel dumb. Morley cigarettes, huh?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:57 PM on February 22, 2010


Metafilter sure loves its Treatises of Westphallia.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:05 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd also like to know what number this universe has in DC continuity.

I'd say Earth-Prime but ever since 52 and Final Crisis I'm all confused. Goddamn Grant Morrison.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:18 PM on February 22, 2010


This confuses me. In what way do Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the X-files share the same universe? Where is the overlap?

"The X-Files' Cigarette Smoking Man and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Spike both smoked Morley cigarettes."

(They're all in this PDF)

That said, a quick glance through that PDF indicates that, while these people have an encyclopedic knowledge of television references, they're a little lacking in theoretical rigor.

If Person A is a known liar and Person B is not. Person B vouching for Person A's trustworthiness casts Person B's own trustworthiness into doubt, whereas Person A vouching for Person B's trustworthiness gives us no useful information.
posted by 256 at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


dammit non-preview.
posted by 256 at 1:26 PM on February 22, 2010


Checked out the map, found myself confused by the link between Star Trek (the original series) and, of all things, Team Knight Rider. Googled it, to find out that TKR had a character who was clearly supposed to be the same scientist who created Nomad, the robot in the ST:TOS episode "The Changeling."

This, to my mind, is quite possibly the weakest dumbass link between two TV shows, ever.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:30 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like, in the PDF key, how they go to great effort to explain the links between the various Star Trek series and movies, instead of, y'know, pointing out that they are explicitly supposed to be in the same universe.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:39 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'll take the crossover between Star Trek:TNG and the John Larroquette as the weakest. They both mention a company named Yoyodyne.
posted by cmfletcher at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2010


I'm having trouble finding a cite right now, but I believe that amateur conspiracy buff Richard Belzer has quite intentionally sought to have his character Det. John Munch be in as many crossovers as possible to knowingly extend the Tommyverse. As well, I've heard more than a few writers will intentionally include crossovers or references as well, as a sort of writer's in-joke.

However, the Tommyverse is much smaller than described: simply having characters in a fictional world reference real life things, or things that are also mentioned in other fictional shows (such as Yoyodyne above- the writers of multiple shows being Pynchon fans) does not somehow knit those shows together as part of the same fabric, nor does pulling real life things into the fictional world. Many fictional shows not described in the Tommyverse reference even obliquely a "United States"; it does not follow that any reference in St. Elsewhere to "United States" proves that the entirety of reality is made of hamburger!
posted by hincandenza at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2010


Oh come now. This is an exercise in finding the extent of a theoretical fictional universe. It's pretty clear by the second page that the authors are seeking thoroughness, not any particular believability.

So yes, while I have a logical problem with the idea that the Oceanic Airlines in one show is the same airline as another show, I can also accept that, given the larger context of imagining that all these shows are one kid's nightly dreams, we can stretch the boundaries of logic just a smidge.
posted by muddgirl at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2010


I'll take the crossover between Star Trek:TNG and the John Larroquette as the weakest. They both mention a company named Yoyodyne.

I was just about to say that very thing. Actors appearing explicitly as the same characters is solid crossover territory (a dozen or three Star Trek episodes). An actor appearing in an unidentified role is dubious (Richard Belzer is a guy sitting at a bar in an epsiode of The Wire... it`s funny to imagine that it is Munch, but far from concrete). But the same fictional company or brand existing as the crossover bridge; that way lies madness. In the realm of movies rather than TV, do you believe that The Blues Brothers and the Hellboy movies share a setting (by way of See You Next Wednesday)?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:34 PM on February 22, 2010


Maybe the map could have a feature where you turn on connections (and their nodes) based on type? Then you could have a basic map for actual crossovers, one for shared references, and so on, with each click adding complexity.

In any case, I like the way this brain map organizes a messy set of data into something that's easy to follow. It would interesting to look at other data sets organized this way, if only to see if there's any hidden connections lurking within them.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2010


Remember that story about snow globes being banned from airplanes? Everyone thought it was classic TSA stupidity, but I thought it was a great idea. Think of all the television shows you could smuggle onto a plane with one of those things...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Imagine a brain map of websites that Metafilter links to! Sort of like the way Google sees the world, but limited to links from Metafilter FPPs and comments, both dead and alive. The Catscan.com node would be huge...
posted by Kevin Street at 2:54 PM on February 22, 2010


I'll eat my plate of beans anyway I choose mudgirl!

I'll concede the whole Oceanic Airlines and Morley's cigarettes thing. However, tying in the chain of shows off Crossing Jordan because they mention a St. Eligius church is going to far in my world of TV crossovers.

Now the real question is why Tommy Westphall keeps imagining up that guy who looks like Ted McGinley.
posted by cmfletcher at 3:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a Jungian archetype thing, where the appearance of Ted McGinley always heralds the apocalypse. Or cancellation, which may be the same thing in the Westphalliverse.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm. While Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, and Degrassi: The Next Generation are all certainly linked, I seem to recall that The Kids of Degrassi Street, while ostensibly set in the same Toronto neighborhood, actually takes place in a wholly separate universe where the guy who played Derek "Wheels" Wheeler in the later series played a completely different kid.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:33 PM on February 22, 2010


Wikipedia:
Kids of Degrassi Street featured many of the same actors who would later appear on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, including Stacie Mistysyn, Neil Hope, Anais Granofsky, Sarah Charlesworth and others. However, their character names and families were different, so this series cannot technically be seen as an immediate precursor to the later shows.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:49 PM on February 22, 2010


I saw an episode of Numb3rs recently that had Judd Hirsch's character sitting down to watch TV as the theme song to Taxi started playing. I'm not sure how that fits into all of this but I thought it was funny.
posted by scalefree at 4:22 PM on February 22, 2010


Okay, this poster design craps all over the original Excel spreadsheet/jpeg version of my research. Great work, Nicholas W Sykes, whoever you are.

Yes, I'm the guy with too much time on his hands.
posted by crossoverman at 4:42 PM on February 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


You rock, crossoverman! Without your hard work, no additional maps (or discussions on sites like this) would be possible.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:25 PM on February 22, 2010


The Tommy Westphall Multiverse (also known as The Hypothesis, a name given to it by someone who wanted to tear down this silly internet meme) was born in the depths of usenet - at alt.tv.homicide, specifically. I think there was no better place for it to be born, since much of the initial discussion was based on its links to other series – particularly St Elsewhere, which birthed many of the writers who went on to create TV in the 1990s. In particular, Tom Fontana, an Exec Producer on Homicide Life on the Street, who actually liked putting these links in.

To his huge nerd credit, apart from crossing over characters from Elsewhere, Law & Order (before it had a franchise of its own) and Chicago Hope, he also threw in references to companies that tied his little worlds together. For example, the hospital management company that ran St Eligius in Elsewhere was called Ecumena. That was taken over by the Weigert Corporation, which later turned up in Oz to take over the prison hospital. That’s why we didn’t strictly abide by character crossovers alone; plus if we knew the producers meant the reference to be there, we kept stringing shows into the grid.

None of it was ever meant to be taken too seriously, but it was amazing the number of crossovers that have invaded television. Even discounting the tenuous links (okay, Yoyodyne is a stretch, but I’m sure there was a compelling reason for inclusion at the time), there are masses of character crossovers in the Multiverse – easily the bulk of the links in our original spreadsheet and now Nick Skyles’ new design.

My research partner and I worked on the Multiverse for the better part of five years and the bigger it got, the harder it was to keep on top of. We designed in some restrictions (no animation, for example) just to keep from losing our own minds. (It’s not too many leaps from The Simpsons to the Hanna Barbera and Filmation cartoonverses of the 1970s. Try figuring that stuff out – it’s even more bizarre than what sits before you.)

The more people that read about Tommy, the more contributions and suggestions were made. The connections got more tenuous and our interest faded. There are plenty of genuine links that could be included if we were to ever update the original chart and key, but I think the whole endeavour is impressive enough now – it still blows people’s minds and leaving things out means the grid continues to grow in the minds of readers anyway.

Tom Fontana knows about the Tommy Westphall Multiverse – a link to our site was included on his blog many years ago. It’s bigger than he ever imagined – and he himself was trying to expand it. In the meantime, I’ve heard from other television writers who have added in references to TV shows because they read about the Multiverse. It feeds and perpetuates itself.
posted by crossoverman at 6:23 PM on February 22, 2010 [44 favorites]


Thanks for the insight, crossoverman!

Sounds like a superhero name if you say it right. "Thanks, Crossover Man! Finally the streets are safe!"
posted by muddgirl at 6:58 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


How is Bones connected to CSI?
posted by Bonzai at 7:17 PM on February 22, 2010


How is Bones connected to CSI?

The key is your friend, but the fictional Tangiers hotel is the answer. (Which actually brings in Heroes, too - I believe!)
posted by crossoverman at 7:36 PM on February 22, 2010


"John Munch is a fictional character played by actor Richard Belzer ... the only fictional character played by a single actor to appear on eight different television shows."
posted by neuron at 7:48 PM on February 22, 2010


(Richard Belzer is a guy sitting at a bar in an epsiode of The Wire... it`s funny to imagine that it is Munch, but far from concrete)

Did you know that David Simon was deeply involved with both Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire? As in, he wrote the book and produced and wrote teleplays for the one, and created and wrote for and produced the other?

I mean, it could have just been... what, a coincidence? That they needed a Baltimore-lookin' cop extra, and Belzer happened to be on hand? And it was only later that the writers and producers were like, "Wow, I didn't even realize that both Homicide and The Wire are set in Baltimore! And that Munch would theoretically be in a similar bar!"
posted by muddgirl at 7:56 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean, just to illustrate that these sorts of connections seem tenuous, until you start drawing out the family trees, so to speak.
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 PM on February 22, 2010


but you can't connect things based on props. there is that beer that's name escapes me but has been on weeds, united states of tara, my name is earl, accidentally on purpose, and a whole bunch of other things and it's just a generic beer packaging (bottles and labels) that a props company in la makes and sells to all the shows. That doesn't put all these shows in the same universe.

Shit, shiner bock was on two and a half men so that must be reality. (either that or my life is a show)
posted by djduckie at 2:07 PM on February 23, 2010


I found myself in the map, just above Married, With Children.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:24 PM on February 23, 2010


djduckie - think of it this way:

(1) There exists an overarching fictional universe contained in the dream of a fictional character. This universe may contain products that are real. It also may contain fictional products. One sign that a show is in this UberUniverse is that it shares a fictional product.

(2) Other shows are in their own fictional universe, separate from each other. They may contant real products. They may contain fictional products. But since none of these fictional products match up with our evidence of this UberUniverse, we can't say whether or not they are contained in this UberUniverse.

It's like Crying of Lot 49 - Everything is part of the conspiracy (or non-conspiracy), but we only confirm it when we see the sign.
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on February 23, 2010


I think the fun of this is, it's all in the eye of the beholder.

For instance, Morleys cigarettes - I believe - first appeared in The X-Files. The product then turned up on other shows written by the same writers, put there as reference to the Cigarette Smoking Man's favourite brand. Whether or not that was meant to put them in the same fictional universe is debatable. Then it appeared on other shows as an homage - and now it has become a regular fictional brand that is used because it doesn't infringe anyone's real world copyright.

But is a character crossover more legitimate than a fictional hospital/casino/brand of cigarettes? It's a fools game - but one I like to play. For instance, if we go back to the character of John Munch. He appears in Law & Order and The X-Files - are those shows really supposed to be in the same fictional universe? Yes, no, maybe, tommy.

And muddgirl, thanks for mentioning Crying of Lot 49, since Yoyodyne is itself part of the Tommy conspiracy.
posted by crossoverman at 4:10 PM on February 23, 2010


Unbelievably late to the post, and about to be super-nerdy:

Buffy and The X-Files cannot be in the same universe; Buffy and Giles talk about the television show The X-Files.

Nyah.
posted by tzikeh at 11:46 AM on February 24, 2010


muddgirl:Did you know that David Simon was deeply involved with both Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire? As in, he wrote the book and produced and wrote teleplays for the one, and created and wrote for and produced the other?

I mean, it could have just been... what, a coincidence? That they needed a Baltimore-lookin' cop extra, and Belzer happened to be on hand? And it was only later that the writers and producers were like, "Wow, I didn't even realize that both Homicide and The Wire are set in Baltimore! And that Munch would theoretically be in a similar bar!"


Of course I know the connection behind the scenes but my point is that Belzer is never identified as Munch (unlike his numerous other crossover appearances): he is a guy in a bar with one or two lines. As I say: tenuous.

Of such stuff is fanfiction made -- there exists a massive and inexplicable subculture of Star Trek fans who comb the internet and upon learning that some bit actor played a human Starfleet officer in The Next Generation and also later played a Klingon in Deep Space 9, proceed to write a 45,000-word story about a daring lieutenant who, after his service aboard the Enterprise, goes deep undercover as a Klingon commander. Hurray for them, I say.

tzikeh : Unbelievably late to the post, and about to be super-nerdy:

Buffy and The X-Files cannot be in the same universe; Buffy and Giles talk about the television show The X-Files.


Necessarily these things get vague and muddy. In an episode of Seinfeld, George and Susan watch Mad About You; in an episode of Mad About You, it is revealed that Kramer has been subletting his apartment from the lead character, Paul Buchman.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2010


If the scene was taking place in Vegas or Los Angeles or Chicago or New York, I'd agree with you. I just think it's an unreasonably high standard of proof to say that, since he wasn't directly mentioned by name, we must ignore every reference by situation that points to the character's identity.

It makes all literary criticism impossible, for example, if we can't state that the suave character with the horns and the goat legs playing pipes is Pan.
posted by muddgirl at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2010


Buffy and The X-Files cannot be in the same universe; Buffy and Giles talk about the television show The X-Files.

Ally McBeal's roommate watched The Practice - and yet characters from both shows appeared on the other.
posted by crossoverman at 3:35 PM on February 24, 2010


With all of these connections between continuities, surely somewhere in all of this must be tommy Westphall himself.

Would that make him a figment of his own imagination?
posted by Widepath at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2010


The thing about this, for me, is how much I still love and miss St. Elsewhere, and how much I wept at the end. Even though it was a critical hit, it was never a dominating drama the way er would be, so most people at best knew of it, not about it. It was -- almost -- a private pleasure. Every one of those characters seems as sharply drawn in my mind as yesterday. To have that private pleasure become, years later, the basis of a massive mindfuck is very, very sweet.
posted by dhartung at 9:19 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


For instance, Morleys cigarettes - I believe - first appeared in The X-Files. The product then turned up on other shows written by the same writers, put there as reference to the Cigarette Smoking Man's favourite brand. Whether or not that was meant to put them in the same fictional universe is debatable. Then it appeared on other shows as an homage - and now it has become a regular fictional brand that is used because it doesn't infringe anyone's real world copyright.

Are you positive it's all an homage? The huge list of non-related things they've appeared in would make me assume it's just a stock cigarette box made by a certain prop supplier.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2010


What this thing really needs is HOW they connect. Just connecty-bits do not help. The how-they-fit-together would be helpful. Like how Veronica Mars connects to X-Files and Lost.

Also, "Citizen Kane" is a broken movie as the basic concept of it falls apart.
posted by mephron at 4:11 PM on March 1, 2010


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