At some point in our lives, we have all come up with some crazy theory about the entertainment we enjoy. It could be a hidden conspiracy to explain all the mysterious events of a series, speculation about a particular character’s secret history, or simply the thought that two seemingly unrelated shows share a common universe. Shows like “Lost” “Heroes” and “The 4400” have even encouraged this type of speculation from fans. The miracle of the internet has allowed people to share these crackpot theories with each other. Some of them are rather creative theories that would otherwise never see the light of day. In that spirit, here are four of my crazy theories about some of my favorite television shows.
Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother and J.D. from Scrubs are long lost brothers.
From the very first episode of HIMYM that I had seen, Ted Mosby reminded me of someone. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something oddly familiar about his mannerisms and personality. It took a number of episodes and a well-timed Scrubs rerun before I realized that Ted and J.D. had to be long lost brothers.
As I watched through the entirety of HIMYM, the evidence just kept piling up. Ted and J.D both have a penchant for voice-over narration. They have similar taste in women, e.g. characters played by Sarah Chalke and Mandy Moore. They’re both clearly straight, but have certain metrosexual tendencies like spending hours to give their hair the “elegantly disheveled” look. They both drink appletinis (as seen in HIMYM Season 5’s “Twin Beds”). Not to mention the fact that the family resemblance is uncanny.
It’s also plausible within the details we know about the characters’ families. J.D.’s father was a traveling salesman who could have easily had a dalliance somewhere on the road. Ted has little if anything in common with the man he thinks is his father. Ted’s parents clearly had some issues prior to their divorce, and those problems may have driven Mrs. Mosby into the arms of another man. It’s the only logical explanation for all of the things the characters have in common. Now we just have to wait for the Zach Braff crossover to confirm everything.
In an episode of House M.D. entitled “Role Model” which aired in 2005, House treats a charismatic African-American Senator who is running for President. Sound like anyone you know? Unfortunately for our current President, House was not especially kind to Obama’s fictional alter ego. House is extremely skeptical of the Senator’s rhetoric. When House expresses this sentiment, the Obama pastiche says “You a Republican, or you just hate all politicians?” to which House replies, “I just find being forced to sit through drivel annoying.”
That was not the only less-than-complimentary comment that House had for the aspiring politician. As he is wont to do, the good doctor and his acerbic wit had a few other cutting remarks for the would-be Obama, such as “You’re not going to be President either way – they don’t call it the White House because of the paint job.” When the Senator talks about how believing in people is worthwhile, House replies with sarcasm, “Well, that’s very moving. It’s a shame I don’t vote.” Overall, while the show actually portrays the Obama-esque character in a fairly positive light by the end of the episode, House does treat him in a rather brusque manner. Obviously, the then Presidential candidate Obama saw the episode and became incensed at his portrayal, not to mention the rough treatment his doppelganger received. It was a slight he never forgot.
So, years later, after many days and nights spent plotting and planning, how does Barack Obama respond? By preempting House M.D. multiple times of course. He held press conferences and national addresses that bumped House on at least three separate occasions, the most recent being February 9, 2009. One preemption? If your show is on television long enough it’s bound to happen sooner or later. Two preemptions? Unusual, but the law of averages can be a harsh mistress. Three preemptions? Something is clearly afoot. There’s no other explanation; Obama must be plotting to keep his least favorite show off the air every time he takes to the airwaves.
If that was not enough, he stole one of the actors from House. Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar fame) became Obama’s “Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement” in April 2009 while he was a major character on House. This forced the writers to hastily write Penn off the show in a way that made little sense given the history of the character. The sudden departure threw a monkey wrench into a number of story arcs and weakened the show overall. Clearly, Obama is exacting revenge on the television show that dared to make fun of him.
In The Simpsons Universe, Futurama is a television show, and in the Futurama Universe, The Simpsons is a television show.
Matt Groening has the distinction of creating not one, but two fantastic television shows. In 1989, he, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon created The Simpsons, one of our funniest and most enduring cultural touchstones that still produces new episodes today. In 1999, Groening and David X. Cohen created Futurama, another animated sitcom about a delivery boy who winds up in the year 3000. In many ways, Futurama is the spiritual successor to The Simpsons, with much of the same rye absurdist view of the world placed into a vastly different setting. With a common creator, parallel comedic tones, and a similar art style, fans immediately speculated as to how the two shows might be related. The answer is a simple one: The Simpsons watch Futurama on television, and vice versa.
The scant few references to Futurama on The Simpsons most strongly corroborate this theory. In one episode, Bart is overloaded from hour after hour of satellite television, and begins to hallucinate various characters from television, including Bender. In another, Matt Groening appeared on the show, identified by Milhouse as “the creator of Futurama.” In yet another episode, the Squeaky-Voiced Teen is upset enough to jump off a cliff, letting out the sad lament, “Why did they cancel Futurama?” With other minor clues like background characters wearing Futurama t-shirts and a model of the Planet Express ship sitting in Comic Book Guy’s store, it’s pretty clear that the misadventures of the Futurama crew are a T.V. hit in Springfield.
But what about New New York? In Futurama, the clues are not nearly as strong. In an early Futurama episode, the Planet Express crew land on a giant ball of garbage launched into space from Earth in the year 2051. On this refuse-based asteroid, Bender discovers a pile of old Bart Simpson dolls, who repeat the phrase, “Eat my shorts.” Bender proceeds to eat the shorts off the doll, adding a play on Homer’s trademark “Mmm…shorts.” In another episode, Homer and Bart dolls appear as prizes at a local carnival. In one more episode, some sewer dwellers have constructed a hot air balloon out of old parade floats, including part of a Bart balloon.
All-in-all, the evidence from Futurama isn’t nearly as conclusive. However, the fact that the world of Futurama has such extensive Simpsons merchandise and the fact that Bender knows one of Homer’s catchphrases, are signs that The Simpsons is a T.V. show in the Futurama universe. What’s more, apparently The Simpsons and Futurama comic books, though considered non-canon, have acknowledged this connection between the two shows. All of this adds up to the theory that The Simpsons is a T.V. show in the Futurama universe, and Futurama is a T.V. show in The Simpsons’ universe.
Disclaimer: This theory predates my becoming a viewer of The Office, but like Leibniz and Newton, I maintain that I reached this conclusion independently.
While the American and British versions of The Office share much in common: an obnoxious boss, a romantically entangled secretary and salesman, and an offbeat assistant to the regional manager, there are a number of significant differences. While both are portrayed as documentaries, the characters of the British version seem much more aware of the presence of the cameras and much more concerned about their lives being broadcast to a national audience. In a personal moment on the British version, Tim removes his microphone to prevent the film crew from hearing what could be an embarrassing speech to a coworker. In the Christmas special, the characters go as far as acknowledging that the show is a BBC documentary. David Brent even tries to capitalize on his low-level fame. All of this begs the question – where and when is the American version airing, and why don’t Jim, Pam, or the other characters seem especially aware or concerned about this?
Certainly there are a few instances where the documentary nature of the show pops up in the American version. Jan seems concerned about the presence of the cameras in early episodes. Jim and Pam admit that they are dating after being shown incriminating footage by the film crew. Michael and Holly unsuccessfully attempted to turn down their microphones while making out. These details aside, the Dunder-Mifflin staff seem almost oblivious to the cameras much of the time, and it irks a number of fans of the show.
This issue has even been enough to keep some people from watching the show. One friend of mine has a laundry list of complaints: If they’ve been on the air for six years, how is it that they have never had a fan show up to the office? Why would they allow themselves to be filmed doing such embarrassing things? Why would Dunder-Mifflin continue to allow a television show where their employees are made to look like incompetent boobs? Why haven’t fame-hungry characters like Michael, Ryan, or Kelly tried to leverage their role on the show into other areas? He feels that it just doesn’t make any sense for a ‘reality show’ to go on for six years without so much as a hint of the show’s success within its own universe.
All of these issues can be answered with one simple posit – The Office is a long-running, very successful show…in Japan. It makes perfect sense. Six years ago, a Japanese television network came to Dunder-Mifflin with an idea for a documentary about the lives of the average American office-worker. Dunder-Mifflin, facing economic times difficult enough for them to have to close a branch, decided that they could use the extra money the company would receive for granting them permission to film, and agreed. The show became a huge hit with Japanese salarymen, amused and intrigued by the antics of their American cousins. The rest is history.
It explains everything. No fan has ever shown up to the Dunder-Mifflin office in Scranton because it’s a heck of a trip from Tokyo. The employees from Scranton don’t mind sharing personal or embarrassing moments with the cameras because no one they know will see the show. Dunder-Mifflin doesn’t mind broadcasting their employees’ tomfoolery because it’s unlikely they’ll ever need to expand into the Japanese market. A character like Michael has not tried to capitalize on his fame because in the United States, no one knows who he is. The SNL sketch featuring Ricky Gervais, Steve Carrell, and a Japanese version of the show was a subtle clue to this end. With this one piece of the puzzle, everything else falls into place.
Those are my crazy theories about television. Feel free to share your own in the comment section. For further reading on crazy theories about television shows, please see the following:
- Wild Mass Guessing – A collection of other crazy fan theories from the amazing and addictive TVTropes.org.
- The Tommy Westphall Universe Theory – an incredibly imaginative theory about how hundreds of popular television shows all take place in the mind of an autistic child from St. Elsewhere. And there’s proof!