The Cartoon Crossover That Might Have Been

In response to the announcement of a Family Guy/Bones crossover, William Rabkin recalls a story he and Lee Goldberg almost did for Diagnosis Murder until they ran into rights troubles: Dick Van Dyke solves a mystery with the help of Scooby-Doo. Lee Goldberg also supplies his own account of the planned Scooby crossover; the idea had to be dropped because Hanna-Barbera had been bought out by Warner Brothers, which dragged its feet on letting them use the character.

If they had done the episode, most of the animated footage would have come from the first time Dick Van Dyke met Scooby, but This unproduced story was a substitute for another gimmick show they had to abandon, a live Diagnosis Murder. They had to drop it when ER announced plans to do a live episode of their own.

The Rabkin/Goldberg years of Diagnosis: Murder were actually quite a blast, and one of my favourite examples of how any show can be made worthwhile if the writers think outside the box. A typical Dean Hargrove older-skewing procedural was tricked out with so many gimmicks, stunts, in-jokes, cameos and harangues about the state of ’90s television and popular culture that it was always worth tuning in just to find out what they would try next. (In one episode, taking place at a radio station, Dick Van Dyke’s character walks by a booth and sees himself, on The Dick Van Dyke Show, from the episode where he was a radio DJ. That may or may not have been the same episode that had cameos from Stephanie Miller and Donny and Marie.) They seemed to realize that being a low-budget formula show didn’t preclude them doing some things that could surprise us, something you rarely see on today’s CBS procedurals.

(Link via Mark Evanier.)

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.