The Best Crossover TV Episodes of All Time
Crossover episodes are a unique opportunity for writers of a television show to expand their universe and introduce their audience to characters from another show. Plus, crossover episodes give both shows a boost in ratings.
As more and more TV spinoffs are produced, it’s likely we’ll see more of this phenomenon. Today we’re going to explore some of the most effective crossover episodes of all time.
Family Guy/The Simpsons
Considering it’s been on the air since 1989, The Simpsons is undoubtedly one of the most successful TV shows of all time. However, since the 1999 debut of Family Guy, the two shows have constantly been compared to one another. So, it felt long overdue when a crossover between the two happened in 2014.
This crossover episode — called “The Simpsons Guy” — aired as the season premiere for Family Guy’s 13th season. In the episode, the Simpsons and the Griffins meet when the Griffins’ car is stolen on the outskirts of Springfield. Somehow, Peter ends up in court when it’s discovered that the Pawtucket Patriot brewing company has secretly copied Duff Beer.
The episode is 44 minutes long and was received with mixed reviews by critics. All of the main cast of The Simpsons appeared in this episode except for those voiced by Harry Shearer, who was unavailable.
Magnum, P.I./Murder, She Wrote
Two of the greatest TV crime dramas have to be Murder, She Wrote, and Magnum, P.I. These shows appealed to a wide variety of crime and mystery fans in two completely different ways. Jessica Fletcher was an elderly widow who just happened to be a brilliant detective because of her years of writing mystery novels. On the other hand, Thomas Magnum was a charming rogue who drove a Ferrari to crime scenes and was constantly surrounded by beautiful women.
In 1986, a two-episode crossover was aired. The story began with Jessica Fletcher on a much-deserved Hawaiian vacation when she’s forced to intervene to save Thomas Magnum from being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. The first part of the crossover aired as an episode of Magnum, P.I., with the conclusion airing the following week on Murder, She Wrote.
A crossover between Scooby-Doo and Supernatural is rather strange. In fact, there isn’t much crossover between the audience for each show. However, the shows are similar. Both involve a close-knit group hunting supernatural phenomena and solving mysteries. Since the writers of Supernatural always wanted an animated character in the show and both shows are owned by Warner Bros., the crossover became a reality.
The shows crossed over in the Supernatural episode “Scoobynatural”, which aired in early 2018. In the episode, Sam, Dean, and Castiel are sucked into the cartoon world of Scooby-Doo through their TV. Considering Scooby-Doo is Dean’s favorite show, he forces the Supernatural cast to help Mystery Inc. in solving mysteries. The animated episode was a huge hit with fans, many of whom had fond memories of Scooby-Doo from their childhood.
CSI: Miami/CSI: NY/CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Although there have been plenty of crossover episodes in the complex CSI universe, the most ambitious is the CSI: Trilogy. This series of three episodes aired across three different shows: CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. One episode aired on each show between November 9 and 12, 2009.
CSI: Trilogy followed Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) as the central character. Throughout the nearly three hours of TV that followed, Langston would intersect with nearly every main character across the three shows.
The action starts in Miami, with the discovery of a severed leg covered in radioactive sand. Somehow, this leg is connected to Dr. Langston’s ongoing murder investigation in New York. The case spirals into a huge investigation of a crime syndicate called the Zetas. This complex three-parter delivered high ratings and steadily gained viewers as the trilogy went on.
Station 19/Grey’s Anatomy
Shonda Rhimes is the undisputed queen of primetime drama. As a way to plug her latest show, Station 19, Rhimes used Grey’s Anatomy — her most successful drama — to introduce one of Station 19’s characters.
“You Really Got a Hold on Me” stars Jaina Lee Ortiz, who plays Andy Herrera on Station 19. It’s a brilliant move to introduce Herrera on such a popular show like Grey’s Anatomy as it builds an audience for the premiere before it even airs. In fact, the showrunners of Station 19 have teased the potential of continuing crossovers between the two shows, since they take place within the same universe.
The Jeffersons/The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Crossover episodes were really popular in the 1990s, especially within the world of sitcoms. Long-running sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air crossed over with several other shows over the course of its six-season run, including Blossom, Out All Night, and In the House.
The most famous crossover was with The Jeffersons, a legendary sitcom that ended in 1985. In the season five episode “Will is from Mars…”, Will and his fiancée Lisa meet George and Louise Jefferson in a relationship counselor’s office. George and Will go on to trade “yo mama” jokes in the waiting room.
However, that was not the last viewers would see of George and Louise Jefferson on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In fact, they would be revealed as the buyers for Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian’s house during the series finale.