5 TV Characters Who Kept Appearing Long After Their Shows Ended
Sadly, the charming people who live inside our magical light-boxes aren’t real, and despite our attachment to iconic television characters like Peggy Olsen, Omar Little, and that monkey who pooped all over Ross Geller’s apartment, when a series ends, those characters all fall into a metaphorical black hole. (Or maybe a literal one, space is complicated.)
But sometimes, TV characters actually outlive their own shows, and resurface in amazingly odd places, such as how ...
Tony Soprano Begged LeBron James to Come Play for the Knicks
The Sopranos went off the air in 2007 with what was either one of the boldest artistic decisions in the history of television, or the moment when your family members ruined the evening by screaming obscenities about Comcast. Either way, it turns out that the controversial finale wasn’t the last appearance of Tony Soprano. Sure, there’s the upcoming prequel The Many Saints of Newark, which we can only imagine is about a young Tony’s podracing career.
But even before that, the character was resurrected for a short film virtually no one has ever seen. In the recent podcast Shattered: Hope, Heartbreak and the New York Knicks, it was revealed that in 2010, James Gandolfini reprised the role of Tony Soprano for a private video created for the sole purpose of enticing LeBron James to come play for the Knicks. And it wasn’t just him, Edie Falco was roped into playing Carmela, despite the fact that she didn’t even know who LeBron James was. Having rejected similar offers, Falco was “shocked” that Gandolfini agreed to do his Sopranos schtick again, not realizing just how big of a basketball fan he was.
The video, shot in Gandolfini’s apartment, has sadly been lost to time. Apparently it featured Tony trying to find his pal LeBron a new place to live which “was ultimately Madison Square Garden.” Since Gandolfini had a giant beard at this point in time, the short conceded that Tony and Carmela were now part of the witness protection program, in what we can only conclude is the canonical epilogue to the otherwise ambiguous ending. Sadly, these efforts were all in vain; the Knicks’ pitch meeting was reportedly a “disaster” and LeBron went to Miami instead, then eventually a planet comprised of streaming video characters.
The Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Was Revived for a Brazilian Car Commercial
For those ‘80s kids who were just too lazy to sit around a card table drinking Mountain Dew with their friends, there was a Dungeons & Dragons animated series. Weirdly, the premise of the cartoon involved a D&D amusement park ride (which wasn’t a thing) somehow sucking a group of friends into an actual fantasy-realm where they immediately meet an adorable unicorn and a magical Dungeon Master, who basically looks like if the role of Dumbledore had gone to Danny DeVito.
The brand’s attempt to reform its image as anything but Satan’s favorite recruitment tool was mostly a success and ran for three seasons before it was unceremoniously cancelled, leaving those poor kids stranded in D&D-land for all eternity -- that is, until a Brazilian car company came along three decades later. Apparently, the Dungeons & Dragons show was a huge hit in the Brazilian market, so much so that the car manufacturer Renault decided to produce an elaborate commercial featuring live action versions of the old cartoon characters, as they escape the evil Venger by hopping into the Dungeon Master’s fancy new SUV.
Then the kids drive that sucker straight through a magical portal, ending up back in the same cursed amusement park where this madness all began. So, somehow, this random car commercial ended up serving as the emotionally-satisfying conclusion to a cartoon series that went off the air during the Reagan administration, to the joy of fans and the abject confusion of everyone else.
Hank Hill kept appearing on Fox After King of the Hill Went Off the Air
Running for a whopping thirteen seasons, Mike Judge’s beloved animated series King of the Hill has had a lasting impact, not just in the economic boom in the propane and propane accessory industry, but after the series ended, Hank Hill kept popping up on other Fox cartoons.
Despite the fact that Hank had previously cameoed on The Simpsons in the ‘90s and was seemingly a real person visiting Springfield, there have been repeated references to King of the Hill being a cartoon that exists in the world of the show, presumably due to the actions of an unseen wizard. Weirdly, The Simpsons also exists as a cartoon inside the world of King of the Hill which is just -- wait, we forgot about the wizard.
It wasn’t only The Simpsons, Hank also appeared in a few episodes of Family Guy --
Also, sadly, the series that seemingly led to the cancellation of King of the Hill, The Cleveland Show, featured a scene in which Hank is in rehab for huffing propane.
Which still isn’t the most baffling King of the Hill crossover, lest we forget the time Hank palled around with the Silver Surfer.
Captain Kirk Showed Up on a Weird Kids Game Show
After Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, but before it was brought back as a film series (and a series of awkward gatherings at airport hotel conference rooms), things weren’t going great for William Shatner. In the early ‘70s, a newly-divorced Shatner was totally broke and living out of the back of a pickup truck. By 1972, he had to take a gig hyping frozen food alongside a dude in a penguin costume for a Canadian grocery store chain.
Shatner also appeared on TV as Kirk once again -- not for a Star Trek revival, but for a wacky children’s game show called Storybook Squares. It was basically just the show Hollywood Squares, but instead of assembling a group of random ‘70s celebrities to get drunk and make double entendres, they gathered a group of random ‘70s celebrities to dress up like famous literary and historical figures while, let’s face it, also probably getting very drunk. There were famed characters like Captain Hook, Goldilocks and Sherlock Holmes -- plus TV icons like Morticia Addams and Big Bird. And of course, William Shatner who appeared in character as Kirk, complete with a phaser, communicator and seemingly a far lower toupee budget.
Perhaps Star Trek purists can square this canonical circle with an elaborate fan theory about how these shows all take place in the reality-warping Nexus energy ribbon where Captain Kirk is trapped alongside Vincent Price for some reason.
Scooby-Doo Brought Back Steve Urkel For Some Ungodly Reason
Back in the ‘90s, you couldn't swing a dead Beanie Baby without hitting a piece of Steve Urkel merchandise, he was that huge. There were lunchboxes, talking dolls, and even a breakfast cereal which, judging from the lyrics of the commercial jingle about how “one little bite and I know she’ll be mine,” were filled with some kind of Strawberry-flavored roofie.
But thankfully, Urkelmania eventually died down and was seemingly killed forever when Family Matters went off the air in 1998. But then came the Scooby-Doo franchise. The most recent series, Scooby-Doo and Guess Who features the famous cartoon mystery solvers running into an astoundingly eclectic roster of celebrity guest stars each week, ranging from the late Alex Trebek, to Whoopi Goldberg to (checks notes) Christian Slater? Most randomly, one episode features actor Steve Buscemi, as himself — you know, for the kids.
More than twenty years after Family Matters went off the air, Scooby-Doo and Guess Who brought Urkel back from the television afterlife as a cartoon character. Remember that robot doppelgänger he built/enslaved? Well it surprisingly goes haywire and Urkel needs the gang’s help to stop it. Also, apparently Steve Urkel is trapped inside of a child’s body for all eternity.
The plot also involves what appears to be some kind of cyber-ghost and a World War II treasure seized from a German U-Boat — yes, this is a story in which Steve Urkel and Scooby-Doo search for literal Nazi gold. In retrospect, the movie in which Shaggy trips balls with KISS doesn’t seem quite so crazy.
Top Image: HBO