By Rick Ceballos
Dark magic has taken many forms. Spells and energies conjured by hidden forces that seek to control the world from the shadows. The goal to ensnare the minds of simple men and women and transform them into a singular mind…a Culture. A Culture can be manipulated “en masse” to do whatever one can desire as long as they are entertained. One can sell them things they don’t need, believe things they shouldn’t, willingly give themselves to fiction that glosses over their miserable “real” lives.
For thousands of years, magicians and artists have worked to better manipulate this magic for larger groups. From shadows on cave walls to language, the mind is limited to better promote human’s descent into happy and complacent blobs of flesh. The art of this magic seemed to have reached their pinnacle 80 years ago with the largest discipline of magic thought possible, Television.
Over the last century cabals have had gateways into our homes, people glued to them, forming a Culture that could be controlled in ways never before conceived. Within these pages are some of the records of the most nefarious or interesting spells yet conjured. As the Culture becomes split once more with the smartphone triskelion runes now further mutating our bodies to become one with The Light, let us look back and what worked and what went horribly wrong. We call this compendium of spells and manipulations The Telenomicon.
There have been other mutations similar to the one known as Steve Urkel. A form of alchemy that ends up infecting multiple aspects of the Culture and corrupting whole other sitcoms. It sends its rot across the realms and feeds off the cheap laughter and hoots from the chorus of the damned. The cost on the actor giving his life for the show is even greater because the curse of the typecasting can never be cleaned off. Few hit with the magnitude of what happened to Family Matters and to its realm with the TGIF sitcomverse.
Here was a lighthearted show created by the Miller-Boyett Conjunction that was due doomed to a die the quiet death of sitcoms that failed to embed itself into the Culture. A tired recasting of old characters that was trying to feed off the energies generated by Jo Marie Payton, a spinoff of the “Balki Assimilation” also known as Perfect Strangers. But the disciples of Miller-Boyett, Bickley-Warren saw potential in their flailing show through a stroke of pure luck. It had been years since something like the bloodshed and horror that spawned similar entities like Arthur Fonzarelli. It would be much harder for the dark partnership to spontaneously conjure such a form. The Culture wises up sooner or later but they could still be prone to such forms if done at the right moment.
But instead it presented itself in the rarest occurrence of all, a bit character meant for one episode. A lowly entity only given a name to create form in the void that made up the outside of the Winslow household. It wasn’t even the only character that had been created to expand its canon. Other such characters like Rodney were simply discarded, their actors ground into a meat served to mothers to create union friendly twin children for the adorable sacrifice. Only Maxine and Waldo Geraldo Faldo survived the carnage of this cull.
However, the Bickley-Warren Collective wasn’t prepared for the insidiousness of this guest star, introduced in the twelfth episode, “Laura’s First Date.” A minor nerdy character unlocked a part of the Culture that couldn’t be predicted caught on like a firestorm with the Culture. It was a growing abscess created by a decade of precocious children being fed to the machine without reason or conscious. This creation penetrated the nation with his nasal voice and adorable hijinks. His first act upon gaining power was retroactively changing time in his realm so that he didn’t just show, he was always there.
Look upon the episode four “Rachel’s First Date” that when regurgitated as a rerun, had him added to the intro. He wasn’t a new character to bolster an existing show, he had simply always been there, a fully formed idea that flies in the face of the title of the initial show. A show named Family Matters suddenly became a show united in defending itself from a genius level psychopath.
The other network Telemancers stood aghast. They had nothing to compete against this evil, he ran roughshod with all the quadrants of the Culture until we were all infected. But this wasn’t enough for It, not even close to the end of his twisted vanity. He was able to corrupt the youth everywhere into something that all of these illusion spells used to placate our bestial selves. He conquered his goals through wearing down the target with outrageous labyrinthine designs involving genetic manipulation and other scientific blasphemy. He created a sentient robot of himself and learned how to project martial arts into his brain purely on a whim. He threatened to turn the whole world upside down to feed his appetite for Laura, with the world having his support. We as the Culture became complicit to the new form of assault, hooting with our vicious laughter at him perverting science for what he only claimed was an innocent attempt at intimacy.
Jaleel White lost years of his life being held to this form for years, tainting his life stream permanently and cursing him with the mark of the typecast. His fusion was complete when Steve Urkel became Stephan Urquel. His character was so big that it divided into another personality entirely that further eroded Jaleel’s soul. Further transmogrifications were conducted…Myrtle Urkel, Bruce Lee. The entire universe was at his disposal. His powers cracked the show wide open in being a cultural juggernaut that broke that most difficult of walls, the fourth one. Urkel had a doll, a cereal, a dance and other ways of creating a physical presence in our world that was usually only reserved for puppets and cartoon characters. He was in our universe now, actively making him a part of us in a way that other sitcoms could only dream about.
The TGIF verse became lost….no kind of pivot or marketing spell could turn the tide. All the network could do is hope that when the reality became unsustainable it would collapse in on itself and be forgotten as another appeasement to the Culture. Until his presence began to appear elsewhere in different forms and combinations like in Sister Sister. The WB was a fledgling coven and couldn’t possibly hold back from making their own shows being crude imitations of other more successful shows which made them ripe for the infection to spread. Their abominations that composed the 1995 television season could be a chapter in of itself.
The madness consumed the better part of the 90s until it became time for the Mouse to step in. The Disney Hegemony feared what would happen if things became out of control with this nightmare spreading across television. It would have to take complete control of the ABC cabal to collapse the universe once and for all. The spell conjured is a dangerous one, it has backfired and vaporized whole cabals before, its known in hushed tones as the Pivot. Executive Telemancers decide to go into a new “creative direction” using all of their learned power to wipe out entire worlds and erase them from the Culture. The spell was unsuccessful, at least for a time, because of a weakness seen just a few channels away.
At the time the CBS aggregate was desperate to stay afloat in the ever-fickle tides of the uninterested Culture in the pre-CSI charnel house days. With realities collapsing “en masse”, Urkel found a way to move him and the tortured souls bound with him to another channel for another year of pain. Jo Marie Payton was able to slough off her connection but only just barely, her body remains an emaciated husk to this day. However the transition did not take and it finally managed to be consigned to the realm of the rerun. The damage would continue in the Culture but at least there could be no more fresh victims and R&B singers that would be fed to its gaping maws.
The Culture in its present form has developed a vested interest in necromancy. Shows and properties are being scoured for signs of glimmers of life. Relics of the television age are being resurrected and repackaged to feed the ouroborosian desire to feed off ourselves. So, we find ourselves with the return of Full House, property brought back via the cold hard data phantoms that govern the Netflix realm. They see what the world sees in its ugly glory and spends vast amounts of capital to create tailor made material to enrapture minds into the Culture. Their oracles saw the potential in bringing back Full House and returning it to its position as safe pablum for the undiscerning viewer. It is hobbled because it could not regenerate Michelle except as a reference, hobbling its power severely beyond the nostalgia set.
It has created an opportunity for Urkel to return to our world. The season 3 finale of Fuller House confirms that D.J. recalls his character, thereby introducing back him into the canon. This act leaves us open for Urkel to strike and find his way back to our realm, a scenario the Culture has prepared for with its trend for shared universes in film and TV. A Netflix produced shared TGIFverse is ripe for creation, it only needs to invest the resources in making it so. The consequences could be devastating, with manifestations like Cody from Step By Step, The Teen Angel, and Meego descending on our world, sending us into a new age of chaos. We can only wait and see what kind of nightmare our A.I. controlled Telemancers have in store for the Culture and our collective sanity.
And…if that chaos comes with red suspenders and high-water pants.