Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Kendall Effect

If there’s one thing I love more than self-referencing TV shows, it’s self-referencing TV shows that references other self-referencing TV shows.


Case in point: the Kendall effect. Before Sarah Michelle Gellar became the girl who spends her time running from or after various supernatural terrors, she had a two-year stint on All My Children as Kendall Hart, the scheming long-lost daughter of the Susan Lucci character. I never saw her in action, but Gellar apparently won a Daytime Emmy for her performance. Years later, Gellar was on Buffy, where she frequently butted heads with Cordelia Chase, the snobby cheerleader character played by Charisma Carpenter. Cordelia was often aided in her efforts to make Buffy feel bad by her cohort, Harmony, who was played by Mercedes McNab. Despite her vapidness, Harmony is actually the longest-lived character in the Buffy universe. She appears in both the original unaired half-hour pilot for the show and the series finale of Angel, the spin-off in which she appeared as a regular during the last season. Midway through her run, however, Buffy’s gang goes searching for Harmony, using their senior yearbook as an identifying photo. There, viewers saw for the first time that Harmony’s last name was, in fact, Kendall. Knowing Joss Whedon’s pop culture savvy, I have to believe the reference is intentional, especially given that Gellar’s soap opera work is what landed her the title role to begin with.

That brings us up to the present, with me watching too much Veronica Mars. In the most recent season, Veronica clashed with a new character, played by Charisma Carpenter. The scheming step-mother of two of Veronica’s classmates, the character’s name was Kendall Casablancas — which, by the way, would be a great soap opera name. Seeing as how series creator Rob Thomas — no, not that one — has a propensity for referencing the other great TV shows of our day — there’s an episode featuring George Michael and Maebe from Arrested Development, for example, and another one featuring the cursed numbers from Lost and another in which Joss Whedon himself actually appears — I have to again believe that the presence of this name is no accident. In fact, this name seems to have traced through three TV shows and each time attached to attractive, minorly villainous women.

And things like that make watching TV fun.

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