Have you ever been in this situation: you have seen something, but every time you try to point it out to somebody else, it is no longer there…but then when it’s just you again, it has come back. If you have never been in this situation, that would be rather vexing. Because, if we are judge by the extraordinary number of TV shows and characters to which this happened, one would surely suppose that it must be rather less than rare in the real world. This particularly robust and popular plot device combines elements of imaginary friends, the boy who cried wolf, the emperor’s new clothes and, as always, redemption in the end. Everything in every TV show is always about redemption. Trust me on this one. Meanwhile check out these memorable occasions when redemption finally came the way of TV characters who cried imaginary wolf.
Another extremely popular plot device for TV writers is the doppelganger who looks just like us. Something that managed to happen to a breathtaking three out of seven characters on “Gilligan’s Island.” In Willy Gilligan’s case–yes, his first name, though never revealed, was Willy, according to creator Sherwood Schwartz–it was a Soviet spy who had undergone plastic surgery to transform into Gilligan. Don’t ask why, just know that for most of the episode, Gilligan tried to convince the others that his double was on the island. Even when the other castaways interacted with the spy, they didn’t realize it wasn’t actually Gilligan. Ultimate, Gilligan found redemption as they spy’s plan were foiled and he made a hasty escape from the island, leaving behind the futuristic, multi-functional pocket knife that the castaways also believed was an imaginary part of the wolf.
In the TV series “The Fugitive” the imaginary wolf that Dr. Richard Kimble kept crying about took on the especially sinister appearance of a one-armed man. Lesson learned: if you know someone has killed your wife and allowed you to be framed for the murder, don’t trust the police to have the imagination required to believe that the killer was disfigured in some way. Just tell them exactly what he looked like, but conveniently leave out the missing limb. In many cases–even the one from “Gilligan’s Island”–the symbolic villagers hearing of the threatening wolf they believe to be imaginary takes on psychological symbolism. In Kimble’s case, the policeman determined to catch his fugitive was convinced that the one-armed man was not just imaginary, but was the product of Kimble’s repressed guilt over having killed his wife.
The Andy Griffith Show
Every time someone talks about how Sheriff Andy Taylor was one of television’s best dad, I am instantly reminded of the amazing number of episodes in which Andy jumped to the wrong conclusion about Opie, remaining so steadfast in his low opinion of his son that punishment would be threatened and even sometimes unfairly doled out. One of those occasions occurred when Sheriff Taylor refused to open up his mind to the many possibilities at hand which could account for the fact that Opie’s friend Mr. McBeevee actually did exist. As if once again jumping to the wrong conclusion about the bewilderingly honest Opie wasn’t insulting enough, he then added injury by actually allowing Barney to go off the deep end. It is probably because by the end of the episode Andy has finally, at long last, decided to trust Opie after all that he has earned that reputation as a great dad. Better late than never, I guess.
I’m still convinced that the “Chicken Boo” segment of “Animaniacs” represents perhaps the strangest idea to ever make it onto a network TV program. He’s a chicken! What is especially appealing, if you want to characterize it that way, about “Chicken Boo” is that it is one of the rare instances where the audience is invited to share the perspective of the imaginary wolf who is not so imaginary. The lyrics spell out exactly what takes here: he’s a chicken who disguises his innate poutry-tude to fit in among humans. “Chicken Boo” the, it turns out, is all about the desire to assimilate. And it works too: in every single episode the humans don’t see through the pitifully inadequate disguise of the six foot tall chicken, yet only one of them realizes he is a chicken. When this lone wolf crying in the wilderness tries to point out that the emperor is nude, he is the one determined to be oblivious to an obvious truth. In its own little way, the “Chicken Boo” segment is one of the most philosophically rewarding bits of entertainment in TV history. No wonder Chicken Boo appeared in barely more episodes than the intensely unpleasant duo of Rita and Runt.