Between Marvel, DC, Star Wars and countless TV crossovers, shared universes are all the rage right now. While the general public may be aware of these famous connections, there is a shared reality that everyone forgets. In the early 90s, NBC coined the term “Must See TV” and launched a lineup of hit shows that audiences wouldn’t want to miss. Some of these shows included Friends, crazy about you and the legendary Seinfeld.
What a lot of people don’t know is that these TV staples existed in the same universe. NBC had a slew of popular shows — character overlap was the next logical step. TV crossovers were nothing new at the time, with the Flintstones meeting George Jetson and his family a decade earlier. However, NBC set out to do much more than a few cameos; they were creating a world where all of their shows resided.
This hilarious connected reality started with Crazy of you in season 1, episode 8 “The Apartment” when Paul Buchman debated giving up his former “bachelor pad” which he had sublet since his marriage to Jamie. When Paul arrived at his old playground, he found no one but Seinfeld goofy neighbor Cosmo Kramer. The two discussed the apartment while Kramer acted erratically as always, and after some sage advice Paul offered the apartment to the TV icon. The two ended the interaction when Paul asked “What happened to that Jerry guy?” and Kramer got a meta saying Jerry was writing a sitcom for NBC.
Crazy of you continued to build that universe by introducing scatterbrained waitress Ursula Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow. Kudrow would go on to star as fan-favorite Phoebe Buffay in Friends. NBC decided it was the perfect opportunity for another crossover, and the two characters were revealed to be twins. Joey Tribbiani dated Phoebe’s sister and Crazy of youJamie and Fran mistook Phoebe for Ursula while visiting Central Perk.
These crossovers grew from small connections to a full-fledged universe when NBC aired one of its most iconic marketing stunts, “Blackout Thursday,” in 1994. In order to promote all of its hit shows, the network decided to organize a single major event. affect each of the new episodes of the series. A blackout began when Jaime Buchman of Crazy of you caused a citywide blackout by messing with the cables on his roof. It caused all sorts of havoc that fueled the storylines of other sitcoms.
One of the notable impacts of the blackout was Friends when Chandler Bing was trapped in an ATM vestibule with model Jill Goodacre. The event even had an impact on a lesser-known NBC sitcom, fool of the peoplewhen the main character of this show was arrested for looting during the power surge. Seinfeld did not participate in the event, but his previous link with Crazy of you still connected to the NBC universe.
This shared universe was far ahead of its time. Small cameos grew into a giant reality that all of NBC’s notable sitcoms lived in. Caroline Duffy from Carolina in the city appears in Friends Season 2, Episode 6 “The One with the Baby on the Bus.” fraserDr. Niles Crane’s breakout character, played by David Hyde Pierce, made a guest appearance in season 1 of Carolina in the city. And of course, fraser was itself a spinoff of Cheersadding these three shows to the same universe.
This complicated and hilarious universe grew steadily as NBC continued to strike gold with its sitcoms. Most people think of Marvel as the greatest connected universe in entertainment, but NBC was doing the same thing before it was popular. This iconic set of crossovers took place long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any of TV’s current blockbuster franchises – but it’s mostly fallen into obscurity.