TV’s Top 9 Crossovers

by | November 9, 2009 at 8:19 AM | TV News

November is sweeps time, which means that a TV crossover can’t be too far off. And sure enough, CBS is planning a big three-part ‘CSI’ crossover next week, with Laurence Fishburne’s character Dr. Ray Langston doggedly pursuing a missing-persons case across all three CSI installments.

Catch up on full episodes of CSI

It’s got us in the mood to reminisce about crossovers from seasons past. Sure, we realize crossovers are a blatant ratings stunt… but it’s still a thrill to see our favorite fictional worlds collide. And even when crossovers don’t work, sometimes they’re so wildly surreal that they’re worth tuning in for anyway.

So we’re looking back at the nine most memorable crossovers in TV history. A couple rules here: First, spin-offs don’t count. (So don’t bug us about your favorite Buffy/Angel moments.) And it can’t be just a passing reference or a cameo; we’re looking for full-on, in-character crossover action here. With that said, let’s get crossing…

9. Charlie’s Angels/The Love Boat (1979)

This feels like a natural pairing of prime 1970s cheese: like carrying a Pet Rock in the pocket of your bell-bottoms. Here, the Angels board the Love Boat in pursuit of an art thief… but Cheryl Ladd’s Kris finds herself falling for the dashing thief. (To be fair, the thief was played by Bert Convy, with a vintage white-guy-afro. So she was powerless, really.)

Unfortunately for us, the Love Boat crew barely appears in this episode, so we don’t get any fun crossover moments like Isaac setting the Angels up with cocktails. So despite the big ‘70s names involved here, this crossover is a little less than satisfying.

8. Alice/The Dukes of Hazzard (1983)

File this under “Yes, This Really Happened”: Yes, the dastardly Boss Hogg really did stop into Mel’s Diner and try to buy it, with bumbling deputy Enos in tow. (Turns out the Boss was a distant relative of Mel’s waitress Jolene.)

As surreal as this visit was, we’re a little disappointed Bo and Luke couldn’t make the trip. (Who wants to see a Dukes of Hazzard crossover without any Dukes in it?) And sadly, Flo had already left to star in her own spin-off a few years earlier—so we never got to see her ask Boss Hogg to “kiss my grits.”

7. Friends/ER (1995)

Okay, this one shouldn’t *technically* count, because George Clooney and Noah Wyle weren’t playing their ER characters. But they were playing emergency-room doctors, and NBC sure sold it like it was a crossover at the time… so we’re gonna allow it.

The doctors ask Monica and Rachel out on a double date—but insurance-less Rachel lied on her hospital form and said she was Monica. Hence, your typical Friends misunderstanding ensues. It’s nice to see Clooney and Wyle lose the scrubs and try their hand at light comedy for once… kinda makes us wish they stuck around for a multi-episode arc.

6. Full House/Family Matters (1991)

ABC loved to cross-pollinate on its Friday night “TGIF” lineup—and you know what that meant: more Steve Urkel! Yep, the mega-nerd himself drops in on the Tanner household to help Stephanie cope with the horror of having to wear eyeglasses. (Any doubt this ends with a touching “just be yourself” pep talk? There shouldn’t be.)

But it’s not just Stephanie: Urkel has the whole Tanner family under his spell. Michelle asks him why he “talks like Mickey Mouse,” and Uncle Jesse even teaches him a cool-guy strut. Just goes to show you: Every show’s better with a little Urkel in it.

5. Silver Spoons/Diff’rent Strokes (1982)

Crossovers don’t get much more cute and cuddly than this one. Pint-size school reporter Arnold interviews Ricky about computers—and accidentally publishes secret government blueprints in the school paper! Whoopsies!

This crossover is most notable for Ricky’s Nostradamus-like vision of the future: “Someday people are gonna do all their banking on computers, all their shopping on computers.” And someday, Ricky, people are going to make fun of your visit with Arnold on computers.

4. Ally McBeal/The Practice (1998)

Remember when the TV schedule was filled with David E. Kelley legal dramedies? Return with us to those halcyon days, when dancing babies were culturally relevant, and Ally’s law firm joined forces with the Practice crew to defend a woman accused of taking an ax to her husband.

Despite both springing from Kelley’s fertile imagination, these two shows were quite different in tone. And the crossover deftly plays up that contrast, adding a bit of grit to the flighty Ally (she has to deal with an actual dead body!) and a touch of whimsy to the self-serious Practice. It reminds us how much we’d like to see Kelley’s unique voice back on the TV dial—one show at a time, though, please.

3. The Flintstones/Bewitched (1965)

The Flintstones aren’t the likeliest candidate for a crossover episode—you know, with the whole “taking place millions of years ago” thing. But when the other show stars a witch, pretty much anything goes.

Samantha and Darrin travel through time and space to arrive in Bedrock, where Samantha employs her nose-wiggling magic to help Wilma and Betty show up Fred and Barney on a camping trip. Fred had it coming, though, after insisting that “the woods is no place for women.” Yikes… guess they hadn’t heard of feminism back in the Stone Age.

2. Seinfeld/Murphy Brown (1992)

This one just squeaks past the “cameo” criterion—only because it was so dang funny. Kramer is stung by Jerry’s demand that he return Jerry’s spare key (how’s he supposed to burst in unannounced?), and runs off to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

The payoff comes when Jerry and Elaine are watching Murphy Brown—and Kramer pops up as the latest in Murphy’s long line of hapless secretaries. A rare cross-network crossover, but one that cracks us up to this day.

1. The Simpsons/The X-Files (1997)

This one is a classic, with both of these Fox shows at their mid-‘90s peak. An animated Mulder and Scully travel to Springfield to investigate Homer’s Duff-induced paranormal encounter. (The “alien”? Actually a drugged-up Mr. Burns wandering around at night.)

The Simpsons was hitting on all cylinders back then, so anything they touched turned to comedy gold. And even the usually stoic Mulder and Scully get to loosen up a bit here: Mulder flashes his FBI badge at one point, revealing a photo of him in a skintight Speedo. This is the all-too-rare crossover done right.

Can’t believe we missed your favorite crossover? Fire away in the Comments.