The ageless Abe Vigoda has been a fixture of television and movies
as long as most people can remember. He played Sal Tessio in the
Godfather, Phil Fish on Barney Miller and he voiced Sal the Wheezer
in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Lately, he's become more of a
novelty act than an actor. Got a slumping sitcom? Need a quirky
guest appearance? Just call Abe, and he's there. He's appeared on
everything from MacGyver to Mad About You. Even Conan O'Brien
and Norm McDonald have pulled Abe's wrinkled old ass out in an
attempt to get a cheap laugh.
But what if Abe Vigoda had never been born? Who would have
taken his place in his hundreds of film and TV spots? This month, the
ApeSheet begins a three-part series, sort of our own It's A
Wonderful Life, to see how things would have turned out if Abe
Vigoda had never lived. In the '70s, before Barney Miller, Vigoda
appeared in about every show worth mentioning. Credits include the
Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, the Bionic Woman, B.J. and the
Bear (my personal favorite), Eight is Enough and Fantasy Island. Sure
these were mostly supporting parts, but someone has got to play
them. And, if not Vigoda, who?
Picture this. Burgess Meredith, Ray Walston and Fyvush Finkel fight
over each part resulting in a bitter rivalry that separates the three
for life. Meredith gets most of the work based on his past success as
the Penguin. Walston and Finkel vow never to speak to each other let
alone work together. As a result, Picket Fences is never made. David
E. Kelly never becomes a big name. Ally McBeal never happens.
Calista Flockhart disappears after a forgettable performance in the
Birdcage. Robert Downey Jr. gets out of jail, but no one will hire him.
He dies shortly after of a massive drug overdose while partying with
MC Hammer and, oddly enough, Ally McBeal's Lisa Nicole Carson.
Following his many TV spots, Meredith goes on to take the part of
Phil Fish on Barney Miller. Audiences don't respond. The spin-off
Fish is never made. So Todd Bridges, one of the adorable foster
children on Fish, never begins acting. Instead, he pursues his political
ambitions, eventually becoming the first black president of the
United States. Because Bridges never began acting, Diff'rent Strokes
never got off the ground. Dana Plato and Bridges did meet, but
instead of becoming drug buddies, they became lovers. The two
married, and Plato became the first lady. Gary Coleman, having not
been pumped full of chemicals to halt his growth so that Diff'rent
Strokes could stay on the air, continued to grow. By the age of 16, he
reached a remarkable 7 foot 4 inches. He now is an all-star center for
the Los Angeles Clippers. With the absence of Diff'rent Strokes, the
spin-off Facts of Life was never conceived. As a result, George
Clooney never got his big break into acting. Without Clooney, ER
never brought in the ratings. Anthony Edwards was just too bald.
The show quietly vanished after one season, leaving a huge hole in
NBC's Thursday night lineup.
Because of Meredith's busy schedule on Barney Miller, he isn't available to
lend his star power to Rocky. Without Meredith, Sylvester Stallone is
unable to sell anyone on the whole Rocky idea. Stallone instead
continues his career as a porn star making an entire series of Kitty
and Stud's movies. They become a pop fixture. Green paisley, which
is featured prominently in the Kitty and Stud's series, is all the rage.
Instead of Hawaiian shirts, everyone is wearing green paisley. Rocky
sequels are never made. Carl Weathers, Mr. T, Dolph Lundgren and
Tommy Morrison instead appear in the progressively homoerotic
adventures of Kitty and Stud. All five eventually die of AIDS-related
illnesses. Back to the Hawaiian shirts. Without their popularity,
Magnum P.I. fails miserably. Women still find Tom Selleck attractive,
but he always wears those "dorky Hawaiian shirts." His career
bombs. Selleck goes on to replace Stallone as the new Stud.
This is only the beginning people. We haven't even begun to talk
about his film career. So come back next month to find out who
replaces Vigoda in classic films including the Godfather and Good
Burger. And, I bet you're wondering if Walston still ended up playing
Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Until next month, keep