Were There “Back-Up” Mothers on How I Met Your Mother?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: There was at least one back-up Mother in the show How I Met Your Mother.

The CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother concluded its impressive nine-year run earlier this year (its final was one of its highest-rated seasons yet – it ended up as CBS’ second-most popular show in the all-important 18-49 demographic, behind only the ratings juggernaut The Big Bang Theory. If CBS had its druthers, the show likely would have continued for even more seasons).

The show was about a man named Ted Mosby (played by Josh Radnor) who was telling his kids in the year 2030 the (rather long) story about how he met their mother (the narrator telling the story through voiceovers is oddly enough not Radnor, but veteran sitcom actor Bob Saget). At the end of season 8, viewers got to meet the mother, played by Cristin Milioti, and the final season showed flash-forwards of the relationship between Ted and the Mother (their first date, his wedding proposal, the birth of their kids) while we waited to finally see their first meeting in the series finale. Reader Lynn J. wrote in, though, to ask if it was true that the show had a number of other characters originally planned as the titular Mother. Read on to see the answer!
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Was Robert Downey Jr. Written Out of His Own Character’s Wedding Episode on Ally McBeal?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Robert Downey Jr. was written out of his character’s wedding episode on Ally McBeal.

One thing that TV producers can never fully prepare themselves for is the availability of the actors who are starring in their shows. As I have shown in a number of TV legends over the years, shows have lost lead characters through a variety of circumstances and their responses to the loss have been all over the map, from the the 1970s western TV show that did not even take a break in filming when one of their two leads killed himself to the 1960s science fiction sitcom where the lead actor quit the show twenty episodes into the first season, resulting in the wacky neighbor of the main character suddenly taking over as the guardian of a sexy android. That was the challenge poses to David E. Kelley in 2001 when he suddenly did not have access to actor Robert Downey Jr. for the final episode of Ally McBeal‘s fourth season – an episode where Downey Jr.’s character was to marry Ally McBeal! How did Kelley get out of it?
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Is There Really a Secret Decoder Ring in A Christmas Story?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: There was no secret decoder ring in A Christmas Story.

A Christmas Story was a 1983 film by director Bob Clark based on radio personality/writer Jean Shepard’s stories about his childhood growing up during the 1930s.

The film follows nine-year-old Ralphie Parker in the weeks leading up to Christmas in some unnamed year in the late 1930s/early 1940s (Shepard was born in 1921 and Clark was born in 1939, so Clark wanted the film to be set at some point in time between their respective childhoods) as Ralphie tries to convince his parents to get him his dream present, the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, despite everyone warning him that “you’ll shoot your eye out”. While Ralphie’s quest for the air rifle is the driving narrative of the film, the movie contains many short general stories about life during the Great Depression, including a famous sequence where young Ralphie finally becomes a member of the Radio Orphan Annie’s Secret Society, a fan club of the Little Orphan Annie radio program. At the end of the latest episode of the show, he decodes the secret message from Annie to her fans. He is disappointed when he learns that the important “secret message” is “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.” Ovaltine, the malted milk powder, was the sponsor of the program and Ralphie had to drink so much Ovaltine to collect enough labels to join Annie’s secret circle that he had grown sick of the product, so he was particularly disappointed to learn about the commercialization of his favorite show (sort of like the Movie Legend about how Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was produced as an elaborate way to sell candy) ” Here are a few descriptions of the scene on the web:

“In order to get the coveted Little Orphan Annie decoder ring — which is required to decode the show’s secret message — Ralphie must send in an ungodly number of Ovaltine labels.”

“Over the holidays I watched “A Christmas Story” for the gazillionth time. One of the scenes in the movie is Ralphie getting his secret decoder ring to unlock the mysteries of the universe.”

“There’s also Ralphie’s seemingly endless wait for the Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring he sent away for.”

“Ralphie felt understandably ripped off when, after weeks of waiting for his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, the first message he decoded was simply an advertisement for Ovaltine.”

The interesting thing is that Ralphie never actually receives a secret decoder ring, mostly because secret decoder rings did not exist!
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Did Lost in Space Coin the Term “Does Not Compute?”

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Lost in Space coined the term “Does Not Compute”

Along with “We Come in Peace” and “Take Me To Your Leader,” one of the most popular science fiction phrases is the robotic “Does Not Compute.” When it comes to the depictions of robots, “Does Not Compute” is a popular phrase because it plays on the notion that robots “compute” rather than “think,” and it is a very cool way of showing a robot reacting differently than a human. Specifically, it is often used to a show a robot struggling with comprehending the types of seemingly contradictory situations that humans have to worry about all of the time. The human mind can deal with cognitive dissonance while a robot’s purely logical-driven “brain” can not. This, therefore, shows that robots can never quite replace humans entirely. Anyhow, the phrase became popular when it was used by the Robot on the hit 1965 television series, Lost in Space.

The robot’s most popular catch phrase was “Danger!” or “Warning!” – this has solidified into the popular consciousness as the phrase “Danger, Will Robinson!” which the Robot actually only said once (Will Robinson is the youngest child of the family that is lost in space), although the robot did frequently warn young Will of danger, just not using that exact phrasing. The Robot has been credited with not only popularizing “Does Not Compute” but also coining the phrase. In the alternative, sometimes the 1966 television series Star Trek has been credited as coining the phrase (the show often used the plot point of computers or robots malfunctioning when given a contradictory problem). The answer, though, as to who coined the phrase is neither show! Instead, the true originator was a sitcom starring a pre-Catwoman Julie Newmar!
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Comic Book Legends Revealed #475-488

Here is a collection of Comic Book Legends Revealed from the last few months.

Click on any one to go to that column!
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Did First Lady Barbara Bush Write an Apology Letter to Marge Simpson?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Did First Lady Barbara Bush write an apology letter to Marge Simpson?

With the Simpsons now in their 25th season, it is so hard to remember just how controversial the show was back when it debuted as a regular series back in December 1989 (after appearing as animated shorts on three seasons of The Tracey Ullman Show from 1987-1989). Just the idea of a character, young Bart Simpson, who flouted authority and got away with it, was seen as a dangerous addition to our popular culture. Early on, one of the primary “adversaries” for the show were the First Family of the United States, then-President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. I have written in the past about how the Simpsons “got revenge” on an annoying guest star in a 2001 episode, but when it came to criticisms of the show by the First Lady of the United States, the Simpsons decide to be a good deal more civilized and the response was remarkable!

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Did the Golden Girls Begin as a Joke?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: The Golden Girls spun out of a joke at an NBC function introducing the 1984-85 NBC lineup.

Few shows were quite as surprising of a hit as The Golden Girls, which ran from 1985-1992 and starred three veteran sitcom actresses (Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan) and a longtime community theater actress who had only recently received her breakout role in her late 50s in the hit 1982 play, The Torch Song Trilogy, Estelle Getty (Getty shockingly was over a year younger than Arthur, who played her daughter – wigs and makeup can do wonders!). The show centered around three older single women moving in together (along with the mother of one of the women) to share a condominium in Miami. The show was a major success, anchoring NBC’s Saturday night lineup for years. It was a top ten show in the Nielson ratings its first six seasons.

The show was remarkably progressive for the era (following in the footsteps of Arthur and McClanahan’s previous series, Maude), dealing with all sorts of notable social issues of the era, from gay rights to the plight of the homeless to discrimination against people living with HIV. It was also a critical smash, winning Emmys for literally every member of the main cast (Getty won Best Supporting Actress for the show’s third season and the other three each won for Best Lead Actress in the show’s first three seasons, with White going first, then McClanahan and then finally Arthur). The show also spun off the hit show Empty Nest (in an indirect manner, as I detailed in an old TV Legend). It’s surprising, in an industry that tends to devalue older performers, that a show starring women in their 50s and 60s would be greenlit, let alone become a hit show. Naturally, then, the origins for The Golden Girls are strange. The show, you see, began as a joke.
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Did Dick Gregory Receive Almost 50,000 Votes in the 1968 Presidential Election?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Dick Gregory received almost 50,000 votes in the 1968 Presidential Election.

Yesterday’s legend about Gracie Allen’s run for President reminded me of a similar story about the comedian Dick Gregory.

Dick Gregory became a stand-up comedian in the late 1950s, when black comedians were only then starting to get some attention from the national television market.

Gregory began appearing on various talk shows in the early 1960s doing his act and became a popular national comedian.

Gregory used this fame to become more of a political figure. This really took off when he released his 1964 book, Nigger: An Autobiography, to great commercial and critical acclaim (it sold roughly ten million copies!!!).

Gregory became a major figure in the civil rights movement, as well as various other movements that he supported, such as the legalization of certain drugs.

In 1967, he unsuccessfully ran for the office of the Mayor of Chicago.

In 1968, Gregory ran as a write-in candidate for the President of the United States.

And amazingly enough, unlike Gracie Allen, people actually DID vote for Gregory.
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Did Gracie Allen Really Receive Tens of Thousands of Write-In Votes for U.S. President in 1940?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to radio and the people “behind the microphone,” so to speak, and whether they are true or false.

RADIO URBAN LEGEND: Gracie Allen received tens of thousands of votes in a joke campgaign for President in 1940.

In the past, I’ve discussed the fact that Gracie Allen never actually said “Goodnight, Gracie.” on the popular television series starring George Burns and Gracie Allen (which was an extension from their equally popular radio show).

Now I’m going to debunk ANOTHER part of the Gracie Allen legend.

As you likely know by now, married entertainers George Burns and Gracie Allen were one of the most popular comedy duos of the 20th Century.

Allen’s act involved refining the “dumb blonde” character to absolute perfection.

Another way that Allen stood out was in the popularity of her publicity stunts. One popular gag involved her looking for her “lost brother George.”

She would show up on all different radio shows looking for him. It was great fun and great publicity for their radio show.

Another stunt involved Gracie running for the President of the United States in 1940.

Check out Radio Revisited if you’re interested in purchasing recordings from these landmark comedy programs.

Allen definitely DID “run” for President – as a member of the “Surprise Party.” However, for years the punchline to the gag was that she actually ended up getting actual votes!

Most accounts say 50,000 votes (I’ve seen others ranging from 40,000-50,000).

That would be pretty remarkable! But is it TRUE?
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Did Richard Rodgers Keep The Melody for “Edelweiss” From Being Used for a Hymn?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Richard Rodgers would not let the melody of “Edelweiss” be used for religious hymns.

As I mentioned in a past Musical Legends Revealed, many people mistakingly believe that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song “Edelweiss” is actually an old Austrian folk song and not an original tune written in the late 1950s. This confusion has led to some controversy when some Christian churches began performing the song (with new lyrics, of course) during the 1970s as a benediction – “May the Lord, Mighty God.”
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