This is the twelfth 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: An episode of How I Met Your Mother contained an genuine wedding proposal!
How I Met Your Mother is a TV sitcom that is about a man telling his two children the story of the events of his late 20s/early 30s that led to him meeting their mother.
One significant “obstacle,” of sorts, is that the first two seasons of the show told the story of how the man, Ted (played by Josh Radnor) fell in love with and ended up having a serious relationship with Robin (played by Colbie Smulders). In fact, the big twist of the first episode (really, for the record, just so you know – this is all going to involve plots from How I Met Your Mother – you might want to quit reading if you don’t want to be spoiled) is that right after Ted professes his love for Robin we learn that Robin is categorically NOT the mother from Future Ted.
In any event, at the end of Season Two of the series, Ted and Robin (who had been together since the end of Season One) break up. The incident that incites the break-up is that the two are out to dinner when Robin thinks that Ted is proposing to her via a ring in a glass of champagne.
Here she is freaking out over what she thinks is Ted proposing to her.
In the background are two actors eating dinner.
The male actor stands up and says that no, it was HIS ring.
He takes it from Robin…
And proceeds to go over…
and propose to his date…
However, these were not actors, they were Timothy Russo and Jana Rugan. Russo’s brother was a friend of Matt Kuhn, one of the staff writers on the show. They were both big fans of the show, and they asked if maybe they could get tickets to a taping. Instead, through Russo’s brother, Kuhn got them a gig as extras in a scene. What Rugan did not know was that Russo was ALSO planning on proposing for real, and the show was going to aid the pair.
In the rehearsals, another actor takes the ring and does the bit.
However, during THIS take, Russo takes the ring and proposes – FOR REAL.
Check out the expression on Rugan’s face, and at the same time, look at Colbie Smulders’ expression, as well!
This scene, where the “character” played by Rugan says yes, actually had to be dubbed over, because Rugan was far too emotional to say yes clearly enough.
And then they kiss…
Isn’t that incredibly sweet?
Obviously, at this point, the other actors broke character and the scene ended.
One last bit of information that I find interesting about this episode. At the time that this episode aired, fans (and heck, the producers of the show, even!) did not know if the show would be coming back for a third season, so it has a great wistful ending that I remember, at the time, being bummed out about, not knowing if the show was coming back. When you watch it on DVD, knowing there are at least three more seasons after this one, it loses a bit of the original poignancy. That’s neither here nor there, but I just figured I’d share!
TV LEGEND: James Michael Tyler’s ability to work a cappuccino machine got him a decade-long acting gig.
STATUS: Basically True
Speaking of extras, when the television show Friends began in 1994, the characters on the show (which was about, naturally, a group of friends in their mid-20s) often hung out on the couch at a hip coffee shop that was downstairs from their apartments (well, most of their apartments, at least). Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel even worked there the first two seasons or so.
As you might imagine, constantly filming in a coffee shop setting required a copious amount of extras.
Here’s just two random scenes from the shop, and check out how many extras are in each picture…
So when the show began, there were lots of extras running around playing customers and the workers at the shop (which was called Central Perk, by the way).
Well, one of the issues with having extras playing workers was that they had to actually look like they knew what they were doing, and not many extras did. However, one extra, at least, had experience working in a coffee shop just like Central Perk, so James Michael Tyler was given the job of playing a worker at the shop because he actually knew how to work the cappuccino machine!
Eventually, he got some lines.
And over time, his character, Gunther, was developed as a real, bonafide recurring character.
Tyler ended up appearing in a whopping 121 out of the show’s 238 episodes! The most out of any character outside the six stars!
Not bad, for an extra!
He was practically the seventh friend!!
TV LEGEND: Rebecca Schaeffer’s murder led to the cancellation of My Sister Sam.
Rebecca Schaeffer was a young actress who first came to prominence on the 1980s sitcom, My Sister Sam.
On the show, which debuted in 1986, the eighteen year old Schaeffer played the sixteen year old sister of Pam Dawber’s character, Sam, who was 29 years old and just starting to make it as a freelance photographer. The show was driven by a mixture of age gap situations and the unsteady relationship of the two sisters, as Sam struggles with basically raising her teen sister – how should she treat her? As a parent? As a friend? Etc.
Horrifically, in July 1989, Schaeffer was murdered by a crazed fanatic, Robert John Bardo outside of her apartment building.
Bardo was obsessed with “pure” female personalities, first with the young peace activist Samantha Smith and upon her death in a plane crash, Schaeffer. He had begun stalking her in 1986, but actually stopped, only to continue again in 1989 after seeing her do a scene in a film where she appeared in bed with a man. He felt that she was now tarnished, so he went to, in his mind, get her side of the story.
He actually used information from news articles about the stalker of another celebrity to get ideas on how to find out where Schaeffer lived.
He found her apartment and confronted her. She was pleasant enough to him but asked him not to see her again. He returned an hour later and, upon not receiving a pleasant enough reaction from Schaeffer, proceeded to shoot her point blank in the chest (Schaeffer shouted “Why?” as she collapsed to the ground).
Baldo drove back to his home in Tuscon, Arizona and tried to then walk into traffic to commit suicide, but was ultimately arrested (he is currently serving life in prison – he was prosecuted by Marcia Clark!). Schaeffer died 30 minutes after the shooting.
A popular misconception, though, was that the show My Sister Sam ended because of Schaeffer’s murder.
That is not the case.
The show debuted to strong ratings, but after a move to a different time slot in Season Two (Season One had it on Mondays, snuggled between the popular Kate & Allie and the equally popular Newhart – Season Two had it on Saturdays), the ratings fell dramatically and it was canceled midway through Season Two, in early 1988.
In fact, that is almost certainly why Baldo stopped stalking her for a time (well, that, and the rise in popularity of “pure” teen singers Debbie Gibson and Tiffany), because the show as no longer on the air.
After Schaeffer’s death, USA Network picked up the show and began airing it frequently, even airing the complete 44 episode run (including the episodes never aired on network TV), so perhaps USA’s airings of the show made people think the show had still been around? I don’t know, but it’s a very popular belief that Schaeffer was still doing the show when she was murdered.
Schaeffer’s boyfriend at the time of her death, Brad Silberling, later made a film about the experiences he and Schaeffer’s family went through after her death, it was called Moonlight Mile and it starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon.
Schaeffer’s murder did, at least, help create new laws that better protect celebrities from stalkers (including making stalking a possible felony in California), so at least some good came out of such a mind-numbing tragedy.
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 email@example.com