This is the second in a series of examinations of legends about television and the people involved in TV and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous TV urban legends.
TV LEGEND: Aaron Spelling paid Luke Perry’s salary himself for the first two seasons of 90210.
Beverly Hills 90210 was a big hit as soon as it debuted in October 1990, and it was practically a cultural zeitgeist of its own, leading in a wave of shows aimed at “Generation X” viewers.
It was yet another hit for famed TV producer Aaron Spelling.
One cast member missing in the first episode, though, was Luke Perry, whose portrayal of “bad boy” Dylan McKay soon became perhaps the most famous character on the show.
Spelling was quite taken with the actor, who he thought had a lot of appeal, but the network was less enthused. They approved Perry appearing in an episode (and perhaps a story arc, but that’s it).
Once they saw the dailies for the first episode, they were unimpressed. Spelling told them that Perry was a hot commodity at the time and that if they did not lock him up to a deal right then, they would lose him. They told him, fine, we’ll lose him.
Undeterred, Spelling took his case to the head of Fox, Barry Diller. Diller told him he couldn’t force his people to pay an actor that they didn’t like, but if Spelling wanted to pay for him, then that’d be okay.
And amazingly enough, that’s exactly what Spelling did!
He was so sure that Perry would be good for the show that he shelled out his own money to pay Perry’s salary for his first TWO years on the show!
Now, don’t get me wrong – Aaron Spelling was not exactly a poor man. He could have paid the entire cast without too much of a pinch on his personal coffers, but still, it was a tremendous gesture by Spelling to put his own money on the line.
Perry certainly paid off on the bet, as he became a major star for Fox and they began paying him starting in season three.
TV LEGEND: A British candid hidden camera show accidentally aired a man masturbating to a porno tape in his house live.
STATUS: False, with a lot of Truth mixed in.
As the story goes, a candid hidden camera show for the BBC had a bit where they would place hidden cameras in various people’s homes (with permission of someone in the family, of course), and then, in a cued bit, the host would suddenly appear on their television and the audience would see their live reaction. In one instance, while the camera was on, a local man was home when his wife and kids went off to the store. To the horror of the BBC crew, the man proceeded to take out a porno tape, play it into his VCR and and masturbate to it on live television. The show supposedly quickly turned the feed off.
That’s how the story went, but the actual matter of it was that it happened on an episode of Noel Edmunds’ popular television show, Noel’s House Party.
Edmunds had many bits, including “NTV” (Noel TV) where the very thing that we mentioned before took place – someone in a family would set another family member up by a hidden camera in the house placed somewhere in their TV room then, while they were watching TV, Edmunds would suddenly appear on their TV, live, talking to them and we would see the person’s reaction. Not a bad bit.
Well, during this particular bit, it was a celebrity involved, TV and Radio host Chris Evans.
His wife set him up, but after doing so, she realized that he was watching the TV show Baywatch.
She knew that Evans typically began to masturbate when he watched Baywatch by himself, so she called the show and told them to cut the feed, and they did.
Evans appeared later on the show, and while he did not come right out and say, “Yeah, I was masturbating,” it was implied.
A little later on, Evans copped to the whole thing. He seemed to get a kick out of it all, really.
So yeah, the basic foundation of the story is essentially true, but it is exaggerated to the point of being a lot more sordid story than what it really was, which generally is how a lot of legends get started!
Thanks to Mike Williams for a couple of corrections!
TV LEGEND: Janitor was written in the first season and a half of Scrubs as though he was a figment of J.D.’s imagination.
Scrubs has been on the air for eight seasons (its final season finishes later this year), and has even survived a move from NBC (where it was for Seasons 1-7) to ABC (Season 8), but when it began, creator Bill Lawrence did not expect his quirky comedy to last past a season (and early on, it was not clear that it WOULD).
Due to this knowledge that the show might be canceled at any given time, Lawrence wrote the entire first season a certain way so that, if the show was canceled, he would be able to give it a nice twist ending.
One of the most popular supporting characters on the show is The Janitor (whose name has yet to be revealed), the bizarre nemesis of lead character John “JD” Dorian.
Nowadays, The Janitor is a regular cast member, and has been since Season 2. However, when he began, he was just a recurring character, and what Lawrence made sure to do was to have The Janitor only interact directly with JD during season one.
The Janitor DID have some mild interactions with other people, but they were mostly instances where you were not positive that the other person definitely WAS talking to the Janitor or you were not positive that said interaction was not part of JD’s daydreams (a big part of the show is JD’s vivid daydreams about wacky situations).
The reason for this is that Lawrence was going to reveal, at the end of the season (if the show was canceled) that the Janitor actually was just a figment of JD’s imagination!!
Even when the show was renewed for season two, Lawrence figured that the show was not in good shape to start, so he was planning to use the same reveal if it was canceled soon into the second season. However, decent ratings coupled with actor Neil Flynn (who plays the Janitor)’s request that he have scenes with actors other than Zach Braff (who plays JD) finally led to Lawrence giving up the plan and, in a Season Two episode, had the Janitor interact with another character, Donald Faison’s Turk.
Still, it was a long commitment by Lawrence to a bit, and it is to be commended!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org