Tonight, the second part of the CROSSING JORDAN/LAS VEGAS cross-over airs. Jill Hennessey, star of JORDAN, is no stranger to cross-overs, as she told the folks at zap2it. When she was on LAW AND ORDER, she did a cross-over with HOMICIDE. But this cross-over was her idea…

Hennessy takes some pride in the fact that the whole thing was her idea. At a pre-upfront meeting for advertisers, NBC bigwig Jeff Zucker trotted Hennessy and the "Las Vegas" cast out as proof of the network’s recent success stories. Hennessy looked around at the glitzy "Vegas" set and suggested to that show’s creator, Gary Scott Thompson, that a meeting of the minds would be a great idea. Although she claims she threw out the idea in jest, there were ulterior motives. "From what I’ve heard, they have a very strong young male following and we’ve got a very strong young female following, which works very well for both of us," she notes. "Put them together and they can procreate. I’m all for that."

She’s thinking like a producer. She just went up a notch in my estimation.

The only reason to do a cross-over episode is to goose the ratings, get some extra publicity… and bring new viewers to your show. I’ve done it a couple of times

But it’s complicated, especially if the two shows are done by rival studios.

On DIAGNOSIS MURDER, we did a cross-over with the show that led into us, PROMISED LAND, to create a promotable event on Thursday night.  We were the higher-rated of the two shows and, arguably, the better show from a creative stand-point as well. So the motivation for us was purely the one-time ratings spike the event might get.

Unfortunately, because the show was shot in Utah, we weren’t able to do a "true" cross-over… the only cast the two shows shared were guest-stars, none of our principals guested on each other’s series, which I think was a mistake. The hardest part of doing a cross-over is crafting a story that would begins on one show and ends on another… but that stays true to the tone of each series. We worked closely with their writers who, as it happened, were old friends of ours, as managed to craft a story that meshed well. The ratings bump wasn’t as big as we hoped…but I attribute that to the fact the stars didn’t cross-ovver.

We toyed with cross-overs with JAG and NASH BRIDGES, but we couldn’t pull either of them off for various reasons. We did, however, bring back MANNIX and MATLOCK for stunt episodes that scored enormously well… though those weren’t crossovers, more like TV reunions.

On MARTIAL LAW, we did a crossover with the show that followed us, WALKER TEXAS RANGER. We came up with the idea and CBS went nuts for it. The cross-over made a lot of sense. It not only created a promotable Saturday night "event," and one that could get some WALKER viewers to sample our series, but the two shows were perfectly compatible from a creative stand-point… (unlike, say, the MARTIAL LAW/EARLY EDITION cross-over that the previous showrunner tried the season before).  As it happened, two of our writers had written for WALKER before and we were friends with the show-runner, so crafting the storyline and the two scripts was suprisingly smooth. The hardest part was having to watch a half-dozen WALKER episodes so I had a feel for the show. We made sure Sammo sounded right in their script, and they made sure Walker sounded right in ours. And most important  of all, our stars guested on each other’s show. Chuck Norris spent a few days on our show, and we sent Sammo down to Dallas for a few days as well. We even used the WALKER theme when Chuck first shows up on screen… and they did the same for Sammo when he first appeared in their show.  We got a lot of press and the ratings were terrific… the highest ranking episodes on both series that season.  We got a big bump from the stunt…but not big enough. We were canceled that season anyway.

There’s a long history of cross-overs on television… so many have been done, there’s even a site dedicated to them. Check out what they had to say about the Diagnosis Murder/Promised Land cross-over, the Martial Law/Walker crossover, and, of course, everybody’s favorite, the Manimal/Nightman crossover

3 thoughts on “Crossovers”

  1. One important thing about crossovers — when the shows are of unequal quality, both halves of the crossover will never be better than the lesser of the two shows… and odds are, they will be worse than both.

  2. The cross-over CBS should have done was CSI/DR. VEGAS… it might have given DR. VEGAS a sampling. Then again, maybe CBS wanted to and the folks at CSI told’em to forget it.
    That reminds me of a half-assed cross-over…I remember when Robert Urich made a guest appearance as Spenser on an episode of CHEERS. The following week, SPENSER got a huge sampling…unfortunately, it was the worst SPENSER episode of the season, the “bottle” show with everybody held hostage in a bank. It was a great opportunity wasted. The following week, SPENSER dropped to its usual number.
    I also vaguely recall a ST. ELSEWHERE/CHEERS cross-over. Or am I imagining things? I know there was once an ALICE/DUKES OF HAZZARD cross-over, so stranger things have happened!


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