It seems that ‘universe building’ is all the rage in genre movies these days. Marvel’s success means that other studios are trying to build their own ‘cinematic universe.’ However, universe building to cross-promote different properties isn’t new. In fact, CBS in the 80’s provides a cool example of it.
I’ve been watching the first two seasons of Magnum P.I. and caught several references to ‘Five-O’ and even ‘Steve McGarrett.’ Of course, both shows are set in Hawaii and Magnum utilized the production facilities that CBS had established for Hawaii Five-O. Still, this means that both shows are set in the same ‘universe.’ But it doesn’t stop there. Magnum did cross-over episodes with two other CBS shows: Simon and Simon and Murder She Wrote. That means all four shows take place in the same ‘universe.’
Perhaps most intriguing is the cross-over that never happened. After Magnum’s run, producer Donald Bellisario had planned to do an episode of Quantum Leap in which Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) “leaps into” Thomas Magnum! (Even though Quantum Leap aired on NBC, Bellisario had produced both shows.) The cast of Magnum was set to return, but plans for a 90’s reunion movie that never materialized, put an end to that idea. Too bad! Where the episode of Quantum Leap would have fit into the Magnum P.I. ‘continuity’ we’ll never know. Since Quantum Leap episodes were time travel stories in which Beckett would “put right what once went wrong”, it may have even altered the continuity in some way. It’s fun to speculate about which episode of Magnum it would have changed.
Anyways, it seems that ‘universe building’ is not quite the novel innovation the studios think it is. Thanks to magnum-mania.com for the Quantum Leap connection!