Aging TV Shows Should Consider Crossover Episodes to Keep Appeal Alive

Ah, the age-old dilemma faced by network executives: A popular show sees its days waning as audiences grow bored. These days there seems to be fewer and fewer good television shows but a lot more quick-and-dirty reality TV…it would be nice to see some actual scripted shows hang around for a few more seasons, no? Sadly, several of today’s most popular shows may be approaching the end of their respective runs:

House, the popular medical drama from Fox, has been renewed for an eighth season. However, given the seventh season finale where Dr. Gregory House drove his car into Dr. Lisa Cuddy’s dining room and is subsequently wanted by the police, it remains to be seen how much further the curmudgeonly title character can push the envelope.

NBC’s The Office, having recently brought in a slew of famous guest stars to help ease out Steve Carrell’s iconic character, Scranton branch manager Michael Scott, will have a tough eighth season – who can replace Michael Scott?

Two and Half Men, now a news event in and of itself due to the shenanigans of departed star Charlie Sheen, returns for a ninth season with Ashton Kutcher in Sheen’s place. How will a much younger Kutcher fare in place of the tried-and-true (though obviously unbalanced) Charlie Sheen? Much of the show’s humor focused on Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper, being an aging playboy and unfairly lucky older brother opposite Alan Harper, the younger brother played by Jon Cryer.

FX, a subsidiary of Fox, sees its flagship comedy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, approaching its seventh season this fall. The four younger protagonists began as slacker bar owners in their late twenties…now that they’re in their mid-thirties will the humor remain fresh?

Three shows (House, The Office, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) risk growing stale in their upcoming seasons, while a fourth (Two and Half Men) risks bombing awkwardly with a misplaced Ashton Kutcher.

Each show might run a much better chance of delivering fresh laughs if…it teams up with another show for one (or even a few) crossover episodes. New characters from another show would give a brief opportunity for new ideas to be explored, new styles of humor brought forth, and hilarious comparisons and contrasts exploited. House, the lone drama of the four, could certainly stand some good laughs to lighten the mood.

A few proposals:

House / It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia crossover: The gang from Philly is traveling in their U-Haul trailer (their preferred method of interstate transportation…which failed hilariously), only to have Charlie fall mysteriously ill during their poorly-planned vacation. Who takes the case? House’s team, of course! Charlie Kelly (played by Charlie Day) has a medical history that would make for an excellent case: Addictions to alcohol and huffing glue, prior steroid use, an encounter with LSD, rumored PTSD and mental instability, and a plethora of physical mishaps – including a bullet grazing his skull and his notoriously poor oral health. Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton) would obviously spend the episode pursuing Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) while Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) matches “wits” with Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) and Mac and Dee (Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson) cause problems throughout the hospital. This isn’t difficult to imagine because the gang from Sunny has had several hospital hijinks episodes…and, with the exception of Frank, all lack health insurance…

The biggest benefit? It would be easy to pull off because Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox, also owns FX…easy as pie!

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia / The Office crossover: Several characters from The Office have to go to some sort of convention in nearby Philly. Where should they go for an after-convention get-together with other Dunder Mifflin Paper Company employees? Paddy’s Pub, of course! Hilarity ensues. The episode could conceivably be a mystery, with the Dunder Mifflin employees having to fight through their morning hangovers to figure out what happened at Paddy’s Pub the night before…sound familiar? Of course, but it’s still hilarious. Could be filmed from either show’s vantage point, but would probably be funnier in the mockumentary style of The Office.

The biggest benefit? Paddy’s Pub would be a great spot for a Dunder Mifflin party.

The Office / Two and a Half Men crossover: Charlie Harper (Ashton Kutcher) lands an advertising job with…who else? Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. He flies to Scranton, PA to do the job. Who should join him but brother Alan and nephew Jake? In spite of Charlie’s objections, Alan and Jake accompany him to the Scranton office, where they cause many an awkward and hilarious moment. Dwight Schrute could argue with Alan Harper about the true role of chiropractors, while Jake could obsess over food in the break room and get into other assorted mishaps. Filmed as an Office mockumentary, it could be great…and help both shows transition into having new cast members.

The biggest benefit? If done early in the season, a zany crossover episode could help audiences laugh off any lingering awkwardness of having new characters in each show.

Two and a Half Men / It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia crossover: The gang from Sunny tries to repeat its previously-ill-fated road trip to the Grand Canyon…but overshoots the canyon and ends up in southern California, where Dennis Reynold’s (Glenn Howerton) old Range Rover finally goes kaput. Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), known for always “having a guy” for every different thing, conveniently has ladies’ man and business contact Charlie Harper (Ashton Kutcher) in his cell phone. The gang has to stay at Harper’s beachfront Malibu mansion while the Rover gets repaired. A good thirty-minute episode if done correctly.

The biggest benefit? Not much immediately comes to mind, but it’s probably better than anything that’s already been written down…

If you think of more, let me know!