Season 4 of FX’s ambiguously era’ed spy comedy Archer premiered on January 17, 2013 with a pre-title sequence crossover. Sterling Archer is suffering from amnesia and believes he is a humble fry cook running his own hamburger restaurant, Bob’s Burgers, from the Fox comedy Bob’s Burgers. The notable point behind this crossover is the connection between Sterling and Bob- they’re both voiced by H. John Benjamin.
The idea for the crossover came from Archer creator and showrunner Adam Reed. Benjamin acted as a liaison with Bob’s executive producer Loren Bouchard, who signed off on the idea without issue. After the lawyers got together at Fox, Reed concocted a cold open in which Sterling is flipping burgers when a Russian hit squad shows up. The amnesia bit is not an extension from season 3, and has nothing to do with the rest of season 4. Reed seems to have created it wholly for the crossover (and to reference Cronenberg’s A History of Violence as well). Looking back, this disconnected idea may be the first flag Reed waved to indicate his boredom with the espionage theme that has been jettisoned in the newly arrived season 5.
Crossovers have been happening since at least the 1960’s. Comic books are probably the most well-known medium to utilize the technique, with their use of the shared universe amongst properties held by the same company. If enough financial gain is projected, different companies may agree to a crossover, which gave us the much needed meeting between Archie and The Punisher.
On television, crossovers have happened in a number of ways depending on the type of shows involved. On one hand you've got Det. Munch as a cop on Homicide: Life on the Streets who appears in an episode of The X-Files when Mulder and Scully head to Baltimore for a case. A Homicide/Law & Order crossover occurred as well, which led the way for Munch to depart for New York when the former show went off the air.
On the other hand, you've got what happened on ABC in 1997 involving Sabrina the Teenage Witch crossing over with the other TGIF shows. Sabrina’s cat gets his paws on a “time ball,” displacing each of Sabrina, Boy Meets World, You Wish, and Teen Angel in the space-time continuum. Sabrina and the cat are seen in each of those other shows in the episode that aired that night.
These examples highlight two of the reasons crossovers might occur. The neighbor situation occurs when characters in close proximity come into contact. Another instance of this type occurred when Paul Reiser on Mad About You causes a New York City blackout, and the subsequent episode of Friends has the cast dealing with the repercussions. The Sabrina example shows off the dimensional rift option for crossovers. Think of the Jetsons and Flintstones hanging out.
Yet there are times when crossovers happen for completely illogical or absurd reasons. And it is these occasions I look at to ponder about the nature of fictional storytelling. When shows cross over just for fun, like this Bob’s/Archer incident, or the recently announced webisode of Landry from Friday Night Lights playing a gig at a venue from Parenthood, what the hell does it mean? Are these shows now part of the same universe, causing a rewrite of the map in which the fictional Dillon, Texas of FNL now becomes the actual Dillon because Parenthood takes place in actual Southern California?
Fiction shouldn't toy with my mind grapes this much. Shows should either occur in the real world, what looks remarkably like the real world but isn't, or a complete fantasy land. Simple is better, television. I don’t want to be wondering whether a Los Pollos Hermanos is going to be in the background shot of Once Upon a Time. I haven’t seen that show, but I assume the characters enjoy chicken. Either way, Moneybags McNetworkhead ought to keep its hands out of the creative process. Television is sacred, and I don’t like anyone unnecessarily messing with my precious shows. There isn't anything wrong with a self-contained series. Tell the story needing to be told and get out before the show gets too popular that the network forces a continuation. Yes, we all would like more episodes of Firefly, but isn't it O.K. that we never had to live through a bunch of shitty episodes? If Lost had not become a phenomenon and got cancelled after the first season, it would be revered ten times what it is now. Let’s keep the willy-nilly crossing over to a minimum, please. I just want shows to make sense in the context of their story-lines.
In the end, this is just insane blabbering. Fiction doesn't have to fit neatly into reality. Television, or any medium, is created by regular people that just write stuff they enjoy. If they’re like Adam Reed, and want to cross over because it would be fun, fans should temper their outrage and simply relax in the face of glorified fan fiction. Good drama or comedy comes from the characters and story-lines, not from a gimmick.
Some of them don’t make any f’ing sense, though.