Somewhere out there, right at this very moment, a ravenous fan is concocting some wild theory that relates one TV universe to another. Sometimes it’s a character that travels from one TV series into another, while other times there are subtle plot points that lead viewers to believe two or more shows are connected. Often times, these little connections are created by the showrunners or the writers, maybe they worked on a show in the past and want to bring pieces of it into their new TV world. There are times when it’s simply a nod to one of the star’s previous shows or an homage to a show that was influential.
There are so many different connections that exist out there that we’ve had to cut out many, sticking only to some of the best ones. We’ve tried gathering a mixture. We have connections that TV-heads know well; we have some that people have forgotten about and others that few really knew about in the first place. That being said, the connections that made this list have occupied TV forums for years and aggravated the nay-sayers for just as long. Whether they make sense or not is for you to decide, but they’re certainly interesting. We’ll give them that.
The rules as to what justifies a connection have not been made. We’ve gone through and selected the ones that make the most sense to us, the connections that seem pretty conclusive. Some of them exist within the fictional worlds of the show, while others are simply associations behind-the-scenes. One thing we should mention is that most of these are not the super obvious connections. We know that the spin-offs and the remakes are related to the originals and so do you. We’re only interested in the subtler connective tissues. So here they are, 15 pairs of TV shows that you had no idea were connected to each other in some way.
15. Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead
This connection has been tickling AMC TV diehard fans for years. What if The Walking Dead is the sequel to Breaking Bad? If you’ve not heard anything about this, it’ll probably sound stupid, but hear us out. Back in Season 2 of The Walking Dead, in the episode “Bloodletting,” we caught a glimpse of Daryl’s brother’s bag of drugs (remember Merle was a drug dealer). In that bag was Blue Sky, Walter White’s famous meth from Breaking Bad. There were a few other connections throughout, but the most convincing was when Daryl described Merle’s drug dealer, “this janky little white guy” that said, “I’m gonna kill you, b*tch.” Does that line sound familiar? Why it sounds exactly like Breaking Bad‘s Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).
14. Breaking Bad and The X-Files
There are quite a few references to The X-Files embedded in Breaking Bad. It makes sense considering that several of the showrunners of The X-Files were involved with Breaking Bad, particularly Vince Gilligan, who wrote and produced episodes on The X-Files and later created Breaking Bad. Perhaps the coolest connection is the Morley cigarettes, the famous brand of ciggys that the Cigarette Smoking Man loved so much on The X-Files. In Breaking Bad’s pilot episode, Emilio can be seen smoking these same smokes in the RV. Then there’s the cast. Here’s a list of cast members who were in both shows: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Raymond Cruz, Danny Trejo, Michael Shamus Wiles, Dale Dickey, Michael Bowen, John Koyama, Dan Desmond, Adam Godley, Ian McShane, Jim Beaver, Ralph Alderman, Javier Grajeda and Michael Bryan French. That’s quite a lot of crossover.
13. Twin Peaks and Fringe
We’ll throw this one here because obviously Fringe is connected to The X-Files, it doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to identify those links, but the brilliant, albeit small, connection between Fringe and the hit show, Twin Peaks, is also worth mentioning. First, we should state that Fringe had an episode titled “Northwest Passage” in the second season, which many people interpret as an homage to Twin Peaks because that was the original title of the show. The far cooler connection came in season three, when Walter (John Noble) is seen wearing glasses with 3D-colored lenses in them. He says that they were sent to him by “an old friend… Dr. Jacoby from Washington State.” This is a reference to Dr. Jacoby, who wore those same glasses in Twin Peaks, and of course, Twin Peaks is a fictional town in Washington.
12. Psych and Twin Peaks
It’s actually too difficult to go through and list every one of the connections, but let us just say that if you’re a fan of Twin Peaks, it’s almost worth it to watch Psych up until season five just to get the to Twin Peaks episode, lovingly titled “Dual Spires.” Get it? The episode, other than including Twin Peaks cast members Sherilyn Fenn, Catherine E. Coulson, Sheryl Lee, Robyn Lively, Lenny Von Dohlen, Dana Ashbrook and Ray Wise, is just chock full of allusions and homages to the 90s smash hit. From name anagrams, to similar lines, to characters doing exactly the same thing in both shows, if you hadn’t seen Twin Peaks before this episode came on, you would probably be insanely confused. As far as show homages go, Psych‘s “Dual Spires” episode might be the best ever made.
11. Battlestar Galactica and Firefly
When the Battlestar Galactica pilot episode touched down, there was a nice little nod to a show that collected a massive science fiction fanbase, Firefly. Astute viewers noticed that in one of the shots, out the window, could be seen Serenity, the ship from Firefly and Serenity. While the first instinct is to see it as a straight “how do you do” homage, it’s actually a little more in-depth than that. The VFX team at Zoic Studios worked on both shows and they were the ones who brought in this little tidbit for fans, maybe in an effort to draw some of Firefly’s disgruntled fans over to the Battlestar Galactica side. Throughout Battlestar’s run, there were a few similarities between the shows, but it was always comforting to know that both shows existed within the same universe.
10. Mad About You and Seinfeld
When you have multiple shows on the same network, you often get crossovers. It’s a nice way to convince fans of one show to watch another show and it’s basically free advertising. But when Mad About You had a Seinfeld crossover, it was a little different. It was more special for some reason. Both shows were popular at the same time, both took place in New York and both had similar audiences. It made a lot of sense to do it, but we still never expected it. The crossover happened in a Mad About You episode. We learned that Paul (Paul Reiser) had been holding on to an unknown apartment, subletting it to some unknown character. It turns out that this character was none other than Cosmo Kramer. When Paul went to give all the ownership paperwork to Kramer, he even asked about the comedian, Jerry, who lived across the hall. They had a chuckle about Jerry trying to create a show for NBC. Beauty!
9. Friends and Mad About You
The other great Mad About You crossover was also a big one. There was a character on Mad About You named Ursula. She was a waitress at a restaurant that Paul and Jamie (Helen Hunt) would frequent. Ursula was played by Lisa Kudrow, who also happened to play Phoebe Buffay on Friends. Since both shows took place in New York, like Seinfeld, the show heads got the idea to tie them together. On Friends, Phoebe revealed that she had a twin sister named Ursula who was a waitress. It all came together when Jamie (Hunt) showed up at The Central Perk and confused Phoebe for her twin sister Ursula. Being the clueless person she is, Phoebe didn’t even realize that Jamie had her confused for someone else, which also convinced Jamie that Phoebe really was Ursula because both women are complete airheads.
8. Last Man Standing and Home Improvement
Maybe you don’t watch Tim Allen‘s newest show, Last Man Standing, but if you do, you would have seen an interesting throwback to his heyday on Home Improvement. In an episode called “Helen Potts”, Mike (Tim Allen) confronts a neighbor for being far too loud. This neighbor is played by Patricia Richardson, Tim’s wife in Home Improvement. The two share some funny moments when they think they recognize each other and Richardson tells Allen that he reminds her of her husband, even asking if he likes tools. The reunion is capped off with Johnathan Taylor Thomas showing up in the end, also reminding everyone that he is still alive in the process.
7. Cougar Town and Scrubs
Like so many crossovers and other TV connections, the showrunners are often involved and that’s how it was with Cougar Town and Scrubs—Bill Lawrence had a big hand in creating both shows. Because there were so many actors crossing over from Scrubs into Cougar Town, fans knew that at some point there would be a big reunion, and there was. It started with Ted Buckland (Sam Lloyd), the same character from Scrubs who is also in Cougar Town. Then there was Ted’s a capella group, The Worthless Peons who showed up next. Ted ran into Ellie (Christa Miller), who strangely reminded him of Jordan from Scrubs. Next he saw Elliot (Sarah Chalke) from Scrubs, who plays Bobby’s girlfriend on Cougar Town. After that it was Ken Jenkins/Bob Kelso, as well as the pizza guy who was played by Zach Braff, and, after he passed out, The Todd (Robert Maschio) was the first one who came over to give him a hand.
6. Arrested Development and Happy Days
Since Henry Winkler (The Fonz) was a recurring cast member on Arrested Development and Ron Howard was a producer and the narrator for the show, there were many references to Happy Days sprinkled in throughout. The best had to be when Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) came to replace the family lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn (Winkler). Loblaw ensured the family that he had experience replacing Zuckerkorn as he had done it before. He mentioned that he could also relate better to a younger demographic, meaning the jury. This is a hilarious shout-out to Happy Days when Chachi (Baio) replaced Fonzie (Winkler) to appeal to younger audiences.
5. Daredevil and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Not many people realize that when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created, they were a parody of a few different popular comics of the time, and in that group was Daredevil. Now, we recognize that the TV shows of both TMNT and Daredevil differ from their comic roots, but we’re going to connect them nevertheless. The links between these two stories go all the way back to the beginning. The accident in which Matt Murdock (Daredevil) was blinded by radioactive waste, saving a man in the process, also created the turtles. The same waste that blinded Murdock and enhanced his abilities, also transformed the turtles. The name Splinter was a riff on “The Stick,” the mentor of Daredevil, and even the “Foot Clan” were a play on the ninja group in Daredevil, “The Hand.”
4. Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles
We mention this crossover because no one watched it. Those that did have long since forgot about it. So we’re making sure it lives forever. The TMNT show wasn’t your classic cartoon either. The year was 1998; the show was called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. It was live-action. There was a female turtle. It was garbage. The crossover with The Power Rangers was no different, but it happened. In the episode, the turtles are hypnotized and forced to fight the Power Rangers. They battle. They makeup. They team up. They win. Neither believes that the others exist, which is crazy when you think about it. Both teams have been fighting off monsters for a while. They’ve been responsible for so much destruction in the city. It would be impossible to ignore, but oh well. You can now go back to forgetting it again.
3. The Power Rangers and Doctor Who and Stars Wars
The Power Rangers sent out a lot of references to other science fiction shows and films. They connected to Doctor Who by saying that an asteroid was located at “ten zero eleven zero zero, by zero two from galactic zero,” in the constellation of Kasterborous. This, for all the Whovians out there, is a clear reference to the location of the planet of Gallifrey, home of the Time Lords. Later, in Power Rangers in Space, the rangers look for Zordon on a planet in the Dagobah system, which is obviously a system in Star Wars. The Star Wars franchise and Doctor Who have not repaid the favor by referencing the Power Rangers and they almost certainly won’t because, why would they?
2. Lone Ranger and Green Hornet
The connections between The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet are actually pretty straightforward when you’re familiar with the shows (or the stories that the shows and the films come from). The reason they make this list is because modern viewers aren’t all that familiar with the shows. The Green Hornet was envisioned as a modern version of The Lone Ranger. Both heroes were masked vigilante types, they both had foreign sidekicks and, best of all, they were blood related. Britt Reid (The Green Hornet) is actually the great grandson of John Reid (The Lone Ranger). Black Beauty, the Green Hornet’s car, was also a nod to the Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver.
1. Tommy Westphall Universe
If, by chance, you haven’t heard of the Tommy Westphall Universe, prepare to have your mind blown. If you have, you’ll understand why this comes in at number one on the list of TV show connections, even if it is pretty famous. Tommy Westphall is a character from the TV show St. Elsewhere. The universe was born on May 25, 1988, the final episode of St. Elsewhere, the day when everything changed. Instead of ending normally, by panning out from the hospital, the scene changed to show Tommy Westphall, a minor character with autism. Tommy is looking at a snow globe which has the hospital in it. This ending led people to assume that all the events in St. Elsewhere took place only in Tommy’s mind (though this has been disputed). From there, the St. Elsewhere characters Dr. Roxanne Turner (Alfre Woodard) and Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street, which means that show too could have existed in Tommy’s mind. In addition to Homicide: Life on the Street, Det. John Munch (Richard Belzer) appeared on several shows including The X-Files and the entire Law & Order franchise. From there it continues on to a silly extent. We’ll let Tom Fontana, a writer for St. Elsewhere sum it up: “Someone did the math once… and something like 90 percent of all [American] television took place in Tommy Westphall’s mind. God love him.”