In a world of shared movie universes and franchises built on a familiar name, crossovers have become very popular. TV has been throwing various characters from different shows together in a single episode for decades. In recent years, TV crossovers have become more frequent and more surprising. Sadly, most of them don’t work out. In a few cases, though, a weird and unexpected crossover can create something fascinating and special. Here are eight surprising TV crossovers that actually worked.
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8. Archer and Bob’s Burgers – “Fugue and Riffs”
This episode blurs the line between amusing homage/inside joke and a full crossover. The season 4 premiere of Archer, an inappropriate and irreverent animated comedy about an inappropriate and irreverent superspy, saw the title character struck with amnesia. As a result, Sterling Archer found himself living a new life in a small burger restaurant with a new family, wife Linda and three adopted kids Gene, Tina and Louise. For those unfamiliar, this is a not-so-subtle nod to Archer’s voice actor’s other big animated gig as Bob Belcher on Bob’s Burgers. “Fugue and Riffs” even saw Archer called by the name Bob.
By the end of the season premiere Archer does go back to his life of being a spy. Tina, Gene, Louise and Linda are all abandoned. While it lasted, though, the crossover had several amusing nods to Bob’s Burgers while still keeping all of Archer‘s signature humor intact. The episode was only helped by the fact that all the voice actors from Bob’s Burgers “reprised” their roles in the episode. It may have started as nod to the actor’s other role but the episode became much more than an inside joke.
7. Supergirl and Flash – “Worlds’ Finest”
Supergirl and The Flash have always been produced by the same man, Greg Berlanti. In Supergirl‘s first season, when this crossover occured, the two were on separate networks. Before Supergirl aired, the people behind the scenes made it clear that it would exist in a separate universe from The CW’s superhero shows. That all changed with the crossover episode “Worlds’ Finest.” The announcement of the crossover itself was surprising considering how rarely shows on different networks blend together. Once it happened though, the episode itself was perfect. The Flash and Supergirl work extremely well together. The episode is probably a pretty big factor in why Supergirl eventually moved to The CW, with The Flash, in season 2.
6. Mad About You and Friends – “The One With Two Parts”
Friends is a ’90s sitcom that grew into one of the most beloved comedies of all time. Mad About You is another sitcom that aired in the ’90s. While Mad About You has been largely forgotten, the two sitcoms do share more than a common network and decade. They actually took place in the same universe.
Before Friends aired, Lisa Kudrow was on Mad About You playing surly waitress Ursula. When Friends began (and turned into a monster hit), Lisa Kudrow’s character, Phoebe, was given a twin sister named Ursula. The Ursula of Friends and the Ursula of Mad About You turned out to be the same person.
While Mad About You and Friends never had full episode crossover, there were plenty of jokes and appearances peppered throughout the series. The most famous one is when Helen Hunt’s character from Mad About You appears in Friends‘ Central Perk in season 1. Hunt’s Jaime interacts with Phoebe with at the coffee shop, mistakenly thinking that Phoebe is her sister, Ursula. Phoebe, for her part, has no idea what is going on and why Jaime is acting as if she knows her. It’s a strange enough interaction to be surprising but also obscure enough not to be too distracting. Most importantly, thanks to both actresses’ timing, it is also very funny.
5. New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Night Shift” and “Homecoming”
New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are another pair of sitcoms that you wouldn’t think exist in the same universe but according to their crossover episode, they do share world. The two-parter crossover spanning both New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine wasn’t a total critical success. The crossover works best when each show is focusing on its original characters, not when the characters of both shows are interacting. (Though the dynamic between main character Jess and Jake is particularly amusing.) Still, considering how strange the crossover could have been, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl did a good job making the crossover both make sense and be funny for both series.
4. The Simpsons and Family Guy – “The Simpsons Guy”
Before 2014, the idea of The Simpsons and Family Guy crossovering seemed like it would always be left in the minds of fans. The Simpsons and Family Guy are so similar (Family Guy really is just a shameless rip-off of The Simpsons) that it seemed unlikely that FOX would ever point such obvious similarities out to the audience. Yet in the season 13 premiere of Family Guy, the Simpsons met the Griffins in one extra-long episode.
The Simpsons section of the crossover fared far better, simply because that animated comedy is far more clever and creative than Family Guy. An injection of Homer did manage to elevate Family Guy above some of its usual and repetitive gags. This very weird animated crossover with two very different animation styles worked surprisingly well. It probably shouldn’t happen ever again but it was fun while it lasted.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel – “I Will Remember You”
Angel is a spin-off series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So the fact that they crossed over a lot (especially in the early seasons of Angel) is not that surprising. The thing that makes their first-ever crossover, Angel season 1’s “I Will Remember You,” unique is what happens during the course of the episode.
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Angel begins with the title character, a vampire with a soul, ending his relationship with Buffy Summers, a vampire slayer, and moving to L.A. Eight episodes into Angel season 1, Buffy shows up in L.A. and everything goes crazy. During the course of the episode, Angel turns back into a human and gets back together with Buffy. Because Angel went on for five seasons and did not end with episode 8, the change is eventually reversed in the most heartbreaking way possible. As an episode, “I Will Remember You” is weird, unexpected and surprisingly very emotional. It manages to both be an excellent episode of Angel and a reason for many fans to wish Angel, as a character, never left Buffy.
2. Arrested Development and Law and Order – “Exit Strategy” and “S.O.B.s”
Detective Munch from Law and Order has actually appeared in multiple TV series. There is actually quite a popular internet theory, thanks to Munch and his appearance on ’80s dramedy St. Elsewhere, that a large section of TV shows take place in one autistic boy’s mind. Even with Munch’s wide range of appearances, one of his oddest crossovers has to have been his multiple episodes on comedy Arrested Development.
The crossover sees Munch leading a criminal sting operation on the Bluth family from Arrested Development. It’s weird and ridiculous, much like Arrested Development itself. Also like Arrested Development, it’s downright hilarious. Munch’s Arrested Development appearance isn’t his only surprising role but it is certainly is the most shocking for how funny the straight-laced detective is in the end.
1. Bones and Sleepy Hollow – “The Resurrection in the Remains” and “Dead Men Tell No Tales”
By far the weirdest and most surprisingly successful TV crossover is the one that happened between Bones and Sleepy Hollow. There is absolutely no reason that Bones and Sleepy Hollow should crossover, let alone manage to work together. Yet this big weird “TV event” is a total delight.
Though Sleepy Hollow is a supernatural “crime” show and Bones is just a regular, albeit quirky, crime show, the two blend together extraordinary well. The thing that makes the crossover work so well has nothing to do with what actually happens in each episode, although both stories are fine. The strength is how both sets of oddball characters interact with one another. Bones and Sleepy Hollow seem like they couldn’t be any more different but the crossover uncovers that they actually share a lot surprising similarities.
But what do you think? What are some of your favorite weird crossover episodes? Do you agree that all of these episodes worked? Were some too distracting and too strange? Which crossover surprised you the most?
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(Images courtesy of FOX, CBS, NBC, FX and The WB)