You’d better sit down for this one.
You’re speeding along through Netflix’s newest original series Orange Is the New Black. You’re really investing in the ups and downs of anti-heroine Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a white collar criminal adjusting to life in a New York prison. By now, despite all her flaws, you’ve come to love Piper. You wonder if she’ll turn it all around and abandon her proclivity for bad choices. You wonder if she’ll earn the trust and friendship of her fellow inmates, many of whom have not taken kindly to her uppity sensibilities. But you also wonder, on the other hand, if the prison will take her down, bury her beneath the dark rubble that exists within her. Well, wonder no further; it doesn’t matter. Because she doesn’t exist.
If you’ve made it to the 11th episode of Orange Is the New Black, you might have taken note of a gift bequeathed upon a group of downtrodden inmates by one Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley): a bag of Let’s Potato Chips. An innocuous sight to many. But to Community fans, the Let’s brand will jog a few memories.
Memories of Leonard “The Human Raisin” Rodriguez (Richard Erdman) proclaiming his delight with the snack food on his YouTube channel. Of Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) paying an unannounced visit to students Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), munchies in tow. Of Troy and girlfriend Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) squabbling over the quality of the product… although that was a Season 4 episode, so we don’t have to talk about it. Yes, while Let’s may not be a real potato chip syndicate, it exists with quite a fervor in the Community universe. And, apparently, in the Orange Is the New Black universe. Which means, quite inarguably, that these two shows exist in the same universe.
And, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Not even close.
If you’re an Orange Is the New Black watcher, then we must assume you are a subscriber to Netflix. And if you are a living human, then we must assume that you’re a fan of Arrested Development. In said case, you might have caught a glimpse of GOB munching a few Let’s Potato Chips while chumming around with his newly acquired entourage. Does this mean there are three shows that fall into the mix? Hell no. It means there are about a thousand.
Back in the days of Arrested yore, fans were treated to a scrapbooking seminar taught by undercover detective John Munch — Richard Belzer’s character in the Law & Order franchise. Belzer, as Munch, had a series of other one-off cameos (The X-Files, The Wire, Sesame Street, 30 Rock) and appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street… a show linked by the Alfre Woodard character Roxanne Turner to none other than St. Elsewhere. St. Elsewhere famously concluded by revealing (spoilers!) that the entire six-season reality existed inside the mind of an autistic child named Tommy Westphall. And with this reveal, it would be only logical to conclude that Homicide (due to the Turner connection) was also concocted by young Tommy. As well as every show linked to that one by John Munch… and every show linked to every one of those shows. It gets pretty extensive.
This is old news, of course. Many have spent years calculating the mass of victims of Tommy Westphall’s insatiable imagination. And now, we can welcome Orange Is the New Black into this community. Also Community.
So next time you’re watching Litchfield’s psychotic world unravel around the hapless (or nefarious?) Piper Chapman, fearing you might no longer be able to bear the treacherous events crafted by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, take relief in the simple fact that it’s all just the daydreams of some kid staring into space in 1988.
But take heed: the Tommy Westphall universe is forever growing, striking down the veritability of people and places everywhere. You might be next.