Here come the fantasy creeps to interrupt your TV show. Here come the fantasy creeps re-released on video. Any time, any time at all. —”Fantasy Creeps,” Guided by Voices
Just about every comic geek in the world has at some point wondered (out loud, to themselves or on a message board) who would win in a fight: Batman or Daredevil? Superman or Thor? Betty or Veronica? What if they all teamed up together to fight Lex Luthor, Dr. Doom and Jughead? There’s little that geeks enjoy more than assembling a dream team, be it of superheroes, villains, musicians or athletes. This is because the endless reams of material that circulate under the “fantasy” banner are labelled as such not just because their creators have wild imaginations, but because the fantasies are open-ended—they belong to everyone.
I used to spend countless afternoons as a suburban doofus, screaming at my friend Kevin in his backyard as we pitted our knowledge of comics against one other in a never-ending competition that went something like, “Yeah, well, then I’m Green Arrow and I take out the Human Torch with a special asbestos arrow.” “Oh yeah, well, then I’m Black Bolt and I turn Green Arrow into goo with the power of my quasi-sonic voice.” It was around then that someone would get punched in the nose.
These days, I run with the music geeks, who especially love to create fantasy bands. (Here’s mine: first you’ve got to create a sturdy rhythm section, and to that end we’ll need two drummers—John Bonham getting the Led out and Steve Smith from Journey—forming a mind meld with Felix Pappalardi from Mountain on bass. Then we’ll need some dazzling guitar pyrotechnics of the sort that can only be delivered by the rock-steady onslaught of John Mayer, Robert Fripp, Steve Vai, Bob Mould and Leo Kottke. Can you picture the awesomeness of it yet? Can you hear the pure rock sound? Then we’ll need Rick Wakeman duelling it out with Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum in a twelve-keyboard showdown while Jeff Lynne, Dave Mustaine and the late, great Shannon Hoon provide the harmonies for Don Henley’s soaring lead vocals. And all of the songs will be written by Fred Durst.) I know people who play in fantasy baseball leagues. I’ve even seen some friendships put to the test by the competitiveness inherent in imaginary athletics. I once had to step in and diplomatically suggest to a friend that he was playing the world’s most boring game of Dungeons & Dragons. Again, I got punched in the nose.
But people play fantasy baseball because they love baseball, and, to me, that’s cool. Yet with all these different fantasy worlds, you don’t really see this type of creativity in the world of television geeks (Star Trek soft-core fan fiction notwithstanding). It’s a difficult concept to fill a bucket with, I grant you that, but we’re going to try. All we need are a few ground rules and then anything becomes possible and plausible.
The template can be any kind of TV show, from sitcoms to dramas. A reality show is acceptable, but only if it focuses on either a specific family or a specific trade (the way sitcoms or dramas can centre around a family or a bunch of lawyers, doctors or police officers). Shows like Survivor or Fear Factor, where the cast has been collected together in order to compete in a series of contests, fall into the “game show” category and are useless for our purposes (and many other purposes, but that’s another column altogether). These rules are mutable and may change for future games, but for now let’s keep it simple.
That’s rule number one: keep it simple. Rule number two is the one about reality shows I detailed above. Rule number three states that you are allowed to choose any characters, living or dead, but they have to maintain their original traits and fit into whatever TV template you’ve chosen. If you’ve decided to create a fantasy doctor drama, then you can’t cast Walker, Texas Ranger, as a brain surgeon, because Walker is a Texas Ranger and his profession limits him to law enforcement. If you wanted to create a family drama, though, Walker could be the father, the crazy uncle, the crazy neighbour, the insouciant teen or the token gumshoe. Walker could even be married to Uncle Jesse (John Stamos from Full House, for those who are pretending to be smarter than all of this). Perhaps in real life Chuck Norris and John Stamos wouldn’t be interested in settling down to raise their three children—Alf, Dawn and Chachi—but Messrs. Norris and Stamos are actors of the highest degree, so I’m sure they can pull it off.
Now that we have our parents and children squared away, we should work on filling out the rest of their universe. See, originally Walker had a tryst with Roseanne, who died tragically during the Korean War when her head was lopped off by a M*A*S*H helicopter as she was helping to bring a stretcher full of wounded soldiers in to the 4077th. Little did Walker know that Roseanne had been brought forward in time after a chance encounter with Uncle Martin from My Favorite Martian to spend three magical, non-sequential nights with Walker. The children were born during Roseanne’s time in Korea and they were then put in hibernation pods, buckled into a tiny spaceship and rocketed out to space where they revolved around the sun like a satellite until the late 1980s, when they landed back on earth and into the care of Walker and his husband, Uncle Jesse. (In my world, men can get married, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it, GW.)
Walker and Uncle Jesse were initially quite skeptical, but they soon learned to love and accept their petulant, cat-eating, hoodlum children. It was especially hard for Uncle Jesse, who was touring the country with his band, Uncle Jesse and the Pussy Police, comprised of assorted Muppets, various members of the Partridge Family and Nell Carter. But when he heard Chachi singing while roughing up one of the neighbourhood kids, Uncle Jesse knew he’d found his new front man.
Walker feels sad about being away from Uncle Jesse and little Chachi so often, but he has a strong rapport with Dawn because, well, Walker is good with kids. In Episode 114 of Walker, Texas Ranger, titled “Mr. Justice,” he took a bunch of juvenile delinquents to Camp Justice and taught them not only the meaning of the word “responsibility,” but also the meaning of the word “friendship”—and friendship is a mighty strong word, my friends. So, sure, Walker had some problems when Dawn started skipping school to sniff glue behind the Orange Julius dumpsters at the mall with the Gooch, but Walker made her run it off and they’ve been friends ever since. As for Alf, he spends a lot of time watching the NASA Channel with their neighbour Cliff Clavin. I know, kind of a low-rate crazy neighbour, but maybe my fantasy universe isn’t as exciting as yours.
That’s basically how a fantasy TV show works. One last thing, though I hate making rules that limit people from doing things simply because of my stodginess. If you would like to apply a reality show character to your template—and if this character adheres to all three rules above—have at it. I invite everyone to go nuts in the Comments section right below this column. Post all the TV fantasies you’ve got. That’s how easy it is to write for the Internet. Stop reading the column right now. I’ll be waiting right here. The bottom line is that I don’t want to harsh on anyone’s good time. So, moving forward, if there’s one thing I’d like to impart from TV Eye, it’s that everyone likes the same kind of stupid. It just rears its head in different ways.