Monday, December 23, 2013

90s Sitcoms and the NBC Multiverse

When I was a kid back in the '90s, my father would tape a plethora of sitcoms off TV to bring to the cottage with us, on account of the fact that our TV aerial up north got us literally one channel and there's only so much Saved by the Bell and Lost In Space one family can stand. On those tapes NBC's Mad About You and Friends were staple programming.

So, when I discovered that Netflix had Mad About You I watched an episode out of nostalgia - and to my surprise, it was pretty alright! I'd always been a bigger fan of Spin City and Fraiser when I was a kid, but as a man in his late twenties who recently moved in with his girlfriend I found myself now empathizing a lot more with Paul and Jamie Buchman. So I kept watching. Mad About You doesn't have the farcical, quasi-Shakespearean heft of Fraiser or the groundbreaking neuroses of Seinfeld but it was grounded and honest in its examination of coupledom and also pretty darn funny.

Anyway, I kept watching. I get to episode seven of season one, wherein Paul reveals to Jamie that he's still subletting his old bachelor pad despite them having moved in together. After some awkward relationship comedy, Paul affirms his commitment to Jamie by getting rid of his nostalgic safety blanket and heads over to the apartment to offer to sign the place over to his subletter...

...and his subletter is COSMO GODDAMN KRAMER.

Not just Michael Richards being Michael Richards. It's actually Kramer. The hallway is the hallway set from Seinfeld. Paul calls him Kramer. Paul asks how Kramer's neighbour Jerry is doing.

Apparently this was a marketing stunt back in '92 because they were both NBC sitcoms in ajacent timeslots BUT WHAT'S IMPORTANT is that we can take from this that Mad About You and Seinfeld take place in the same universe.

Which is pretty cool. But not as cool as realizing that from this we can also deduce that Friends takes place in the same universe as Seinfeld. Whaaaaaaat?

Lisa Kudrow played a waitress named Ursula on Mad About You. After she picked up the oddly similar role of Phoebe on Friends the weirdos at NBC decided to make Ursula and Phoebe twin sisters, and even based a B-plot of an episode of Friends around Chandler and Joey going to Riff's restaurant from Mad About You and being unable to tell their waitress is Ursula, not Phoebe.

So, Friends and Seinfeld both crossed over with Mad About You - which means they all take place in the same fictional universe.


Late in Seinfeld's run there's a B-plot about George's girlfriend making him watch Mad About You and him hating it. Bu-whaaa?! But if Kramer was subletting from Paul, how is Paul also a sitcom character?

My theory is that the TV show Seinfeld is a separate universe in the NBC multiverse, where Mad About You exists as a sitcom, but that in the Mad About You/Friends universe there are also versions of Jerry, Kramer, George, and Elaine, who are presumably (due to the tone of their respective TV shows) kinder, decenter, and more relatable people - essentially making the universe of Seinfeld the "mirror universe" or "darkest timeline" of Friends and Mad About You. I presume in the Seinfeld-verse there's a version of Monica who has no arm and an eyepatch, and Ross was obviously murdered by that monkey.

Erin, on the other hand, presumes that there's only one universe and that Mad About You is reality TV in the NBC-verse.

I'm going to go do something productive now.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Reiser (on Mad About You) was a documentary film maker. Obviously at some point he made a documentary about being married that got turned into the sitcom "mad about you" in the NBCiverse and thats what George was watching