Was Carol Hathaway Originally Going to Die in the ER Pilot?

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: Julianna Margulies’ character, Carol Hathaway, basically died in the first episode of ER.

TV shows have long had a tradition of writing characters off in early episodes and then quickly changing their minds when early audiences responded well to the character. Hill Street Blues famously re-shot two early episodes (including the pilot) when they decided to bring two characters back from the dead (Officer Renko in the pilot and Officer Coffey at the end of the first season). In the case of Julianna Marguelies’ Carol Hathaway on the plot of ER, though, the change amusingly happened after they left the first episode the same, meaning that they left the first episode as it was originally written, including the fact that Carol effectively died in the episode!

We meet Carol Hathaway, County General’s nurse manager, early in the two-hour pilot of ER, titled “24 Hours” (since the whole first episode takes place in, yes, you guessed it, 24 hours). She is clearly competent and well liked and she also is shown to have had a past with roguish doctor, Doug Ross (George Clooney).

She leaves work near the halfway point of the episode…

However, right before she leaves, we see her get something from the drug cabinet (to which she had the keys)….

We don’t think anything of it, of course, until about mid-way through the episode when Carol shows up as a PATIENT! She has overdosed!

Here’s the thing, though. Originally, Carol was going to die in the episode. As a result, the various tests that they ran on Carol were such that she effectively was dead. Here is a brilliant summation of the situation by Lindsay E. Murphy:

Carol’s prognosis in the Pilot is so dismal because of two things mentioned: her serum barbiturate level and her positive Babinski reflex. In the first case, a “serum barb” is part of a tox screening that measures the amount of barbiturates (a potent class of central nervous system depressants/sedatives) in the patient’s bloodstream. Depending on the specific drug she took, the serum concentration of barbiturate needed for a fatal dose can range from anywhere between 30 and 80 mcg/mL; Carol’s was 45 mcg/mL, which should have been more than enough to kill her.
Second, the positive Babinski. Barbiturates work by inhibiting activity in the nervous system; consequently the CNS slows down, which makes barbiturates a very handy class of drugs for controlling seizures and sedating hyperactive patients. Overdose, however, causes a “shutdown” situation in the CNS, leading to coma, respiratory arrest, and death as the brainstem (the segment of the CNS that controls autonomic functions such as respiration and heartbeat) shuts down. One test used in neurology to see how badly the CNS is damaged is the Babinski reflex; stroking an object (the end of a reflex hammer, a blade, your finger, whatever) along the outside sole of the foot should cause the foot to flex inward (plantar flexion); this is a negative Babinski, and suggests intact motor function. In a positive Babinski, the toes, most notably the big toe, dorsiflex (splay outward); this is a sign of severe motor deficit, and is usually (though not always) associated with diffuse cerebral damage.

This last point also refers to Morganstern’s comment. Decerebration, or the loss of cerebral functions, is the complete shutdown of the cerebrum, that portion of the brain that controls all higher functions – senses, thinking, memory, etc. If the cerebellum and hindbrain (or brainstem) are intact, the patient will retain autonomic function and remain in a coma; if these structures are damaged as well, there will be no respiration or heartbeat save for that artificially maintained by a ventilator and/or pacer, and the patient is said to be brain-dead.

Given her barb level and lack of CNS response, Carol should have died. A few patients have been known to survive high doses of barbiturates – the chances of this happening, however, do fall into miracle territory.

However, test audiences liked Carol so much that the show decided to have her survive, but without changing the rest of the episode! Kevin Reilly, NBC’s VP of Drama at the time, noted that they looped in a line about her maybe surviving, but that must have been in reruns, because it’s not in the original pilot.

Carol, though, survived and showed up alive in the next episode. It reminds me a lot of how 77 Sunset Strip’s pilot ended with Edd Byrnes’ Kookie headed to the electric chair but audiences liked him so much that they retconned the first episode at the start of the second episode and Kookie became a good guy.

The legend is…


Thanks to Lindsay for the excellent information!

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of TV.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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December 1st, 2021 | Posted in TV Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did Tom Selleck Force Blue Bloods to Reverse a Character Being Written Off the Show?

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: Tom Selleck forced Blue Bloods to reverse a plotline involving a fired cop.

One of the longest running, most watched dramas on television is CBS’ Blue Bloods. The show stars Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan, the New York City Police Commissioner, along with his two sons, Detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) and Sergeant Jamie Reagan (Will Estes), and his daughter, Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan (Bridget Moynahan), as well as his father, Henry Reagan (Len Cariou), who is the former New York City Police Commissioner. Jamie was a lawyer who had graduated from Harvard, but when the oldest Reagan son, Joe, was killed in the line of duty, Jamie quit his lawyer job to enter the police academy. He recently became a Sergeant and was married to his former partner, Edit “Eddie” Janko (Vanessa Ray).

While perhaps not necessarily what you would deem a “Conservative” TV series, it is fair to say that Blue Bloods is certainly MORE conservative than most other TV shows out there and its star, Tom Selleck, is one of the more prominent conservative actors around. He has been a member of the National Rifle Association for decades and was a board member of the NRA for over a decade. Similarly, Frank Reagan is one of the more conservative characters on the show, which sets up a conflict between Frank and his somewhat liberal son, Jamie, his much more liberal daughter, Erin, and his even more liberal granddaughter, Nicky Reagan-Boyle (Sami Gayle). In general, though, the show tends to side with Frank in the end of most episodes. This is especially shown in interactions between Frank and Garrett Moore, the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information (played by Gregory Jbara), who often tells Frank the most politically motivated thing to do in a situation and Frank, of course, usually takes a more principled stand. Robert Clohessy, meanwhile, plays another assistant to the Commissioner, Sid Gormley, who often takes more conservative positions and so Gormley and Moore will often be the dueling angles on Commissioner Reagan’s shoulders on issues. The show even pokes some fun at the idea of “Saint Frank” on the show, as he is almost never is shown as being wrong on the series.

One notable example, though, was actually driven by Selleck behind the scenes.
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November 22nd, 2021 | Posted in TV Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did Clark Kent Ever Turn Into Superman in a Phone Booth on Television?

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: Clark Kent never turned into Superman in a phone booth on television.

Something that we’ve discussed a number of times in Legends Revealed is the idea that the public’s collective memory is not always accurate, as they’ll conflate two different things into one, like remembering Mr. T’s famous “I pity the fool” line from Rocky III (and seemingly every other project he’s ever done) and presuming that he used the same line as B.A. Baracus on The A-Team (as it turned out, he did not
) or they will remember lines in a tidier fashion than they actually existed (like Gracie Allen’s famous “Say good night, Gracie!” “Good night, Gracie!”, which she never actually said).

As it turns out, one of these examples of the public’s collective memory failing is Superman and his use of phone booths to transform from Clark Kent into Superman. As we detailed in a Comic Book Legends Revealed a number of years ago, it turns out that it was simply a matter of him doing so in one of the most popular Superman projects of all-time, the early 1940s Fleischer cartoons

that locked that image into our collective memory, so that the idea of Clark Kent transforming into Superman is just taken for granted, despite him rarely actually doing so.

Recently, though, reader Gerald P. wrote in to ask about that old Comic Book Legends Revealed. He noted that I mentioned that Clark never changed into Superman in a phone booth in any of the 104 episodes of The Adventures of Superman, so he wanted to know if it was true that Clark never actually changed into Superman at all on any of his live action television series.

Let’s find out!
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July 14th, 2021 | Posted in TV Legends Revealed | No Comments

Just What IS the Lyric in ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” That Sounds Like “Bruce”?

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

MUSIC LEGEND: The lyric in Electric Light Orchestra’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” that sounds like “Bruce” is just a nonsense word.

In terms of misheard lyrics, one of the most famous ones is the 1979 hit single by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), “Don’t Bring Me Down,” the highest-charting single in the history of the Jeff Lynne-led group (it peaked at #4 on the United States Billboard charts).

ELO's song, "Don't Bring Me Down"

The song has the lyrics:

You wanna stay out with your fancy friends
I’m tellin’ you, it’s got to be the end
Don’t bring me down
No, no, no, no, no
I’ll tell you once more before I get off the floor
Don’t bring me down

and then the chorus:

Don’t bring me down, groos
Don’t bring me down, groos
Don’t bring me down, groos
Don’t bring me down

Obviously, over the years, fans have said, “Bruce” instead of “Groos,” to the point where Jeff Lynne finally gave up and now he sings “Bruce” when he performs the song live. So, what’s the deal with that line? What is “groos”?
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July 8th, 2021 | Posted in Music Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did Zootopia Originally NOT Star Judy Hopps?

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

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: “Zootopia” originally starred a different character other than Judy Hopps.

Sometimes, it seems as though these movie legends that we feature give off the wrong impression about about how movies normally work. We’re always talking about how some movie was drastically changed at the last minute, but for the most part, that’s not how things go. Most of the time, movies follow the same basic script that they had from the beginning of the film process. This is especially true with animated films, as they take so much longer to make, so typically everything is settled with an animated film well before the film is actually set to be released. Of course, that means when there are exceptions to this typical process, they stand out more, especially with animated films, where dramatically altering a film late in the process is quite costly.

In the past, we’ve discussed how the original story for Toy Story was scrapped so late in the process that they almost had to cancel the film’s release period. We’ve seen how Beauty and the Beast scrapped its early work to revamp Belle and how “Frozen” had to throw out a bunch of animation when they decided that Elsa was no longer the villain of the film. Similarly, then, the recent Disney hit film, Zooptopia, had to get rid of a lot of finished work when they decided just a year before the film was set to be released, that the film was starring the wrong character.

Zootopia is about a young rabbit police officer named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) who fights stereotypes in the anthropomoraphic world of Zooptia, as rabbits are not seen as the sort of animal that you would typically see working as a police officer. Her pluck and moxie carry her through, as well as her optimistic way of looking at life.

Zootopia star, Judy Hopps

Judy, though, was NOT originally the star of the film!
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July 7th, 2021 | Posted in Movie Legends Revealed | No Comments

Was He-Man Originally Intended as a Toy Tie-In for Film, Conan the Barbarian?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about toys and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of all toy urban legends featured so far! It is also really a Movie Legends Revealed, too, so it’ll be listed under both categories.

TOY/MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: He-Man began life as a toy tie-in for the Conan the Barbarian film.

One of the great movie toy tie-in legends involves He-Man and Conan the Barbarian. Namely, did He-Man originate as a tie-in to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Conan the Barbarian, and then Mattel decided, “Eh, let’s just keep this one for ourselves” and then took their Conan prototypes and turn them into the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toy line.

The supporting evidence for this being the case is the fact that Mattel did, in fact, have a licensing agreement with Conan Properties International (CPI) to make Conan toys and then Mattel backed out. When He-Man came out, CPI sued Mattel for general copyright infringement claims (that He-Man was too similar to Conan as a toy) and, more specifically, that Mattel breached their contract with CPI to make the He-Man toys.

So is it true?
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July 3rd, 2021 | Posted in Movie Legends Revealed, Toy Legends Revealed | No Comments

Did The Bob and Ray Comedy Duo Get Their Start Due to Red Sox Game Rainouts?

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: Bob and Ray got started as a comedy duo due to Red Sox rainouts.

Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, credited as Bob and Ray, were one of the top radio comedy duos of the 20th Century. Elliott’s comedy legacy continues to this day with his son, Chris Elliott, and his granddaughter, Abby Elliott, both being involved in comedy (Chris and Abby are the first and, so far, only father and daughter to both be cast members on Saturday Night Live).

Their official website (both men have since passed away) quotes the New Yorker on them, “Bob & Ray invented, dreamed up the lines for, and then played, mainly on radio and television, a surrealistic Dickensian repertory company, which chastens the fools of the world with hyperbole, slapstick, parody, verbal nonsense, non sequitur, and sheer wit, all of it clean, subtle and gentle… Bob & Ray’s humor turns on their faultless timing and on their infinite sense of the ridiculous. It is also framed by that special sly, dry, wasteless vision of life perfected during the last couple of centuries by middle-class New Englanders…”

But how did they get their start?
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July 2nd, 2021 | Posted in Radio Legends Revealed | No Comments

Was The Flash’s Harrison Wells Based On an Obscure DC Comics Character?

TV URBAN LEGEND: Doctor Harrison Wells was based on an obscure DC Comics character.

When the CW series of superhero shows started out, it was not always easy to get permission to use certain characters on TV series, not with all of the various licenses out there. Ray Palmer, for instance, was introduced in Arrow only after Warner Bros. nixed the first DC Comics character that they wanted to introduce to play Felicity’s new boss.

One interesting way that the producers on the various CW superhero TV series have gotten around any possible issues is to just take obscure DC characters and essentially just make them brand-new characters. The most famous example of this asw Arrow star Felicity Smoak, who was named after an obscure Firestorm character from the 1980s.

However, things are complicated by the fact that the shows also occasionally invent completely new characters that have no comic book counterparts, with the most famous example being John Diggle, one of the main characters on Arrow. Diggle has since been adapted into comics, but he was invented for the TV series.

Doctor Harrison Wells on Flash seemed to be another example of an original character, but reader Victor C. wrote in to ask if it was true that Wells was actually named after an obscure character from a 1991 Flash one-shot.

Let’s find out!
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June 30th, 2021 | Posted in TV Legends Revealed | No Comments

How Did Monica Potter Save the Counting Crows’ Song, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”?

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

MUSIC LEGEND: Monica Potter saved the Counting Crows’ song, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” from never being released.

Adam Duritz, of the Counting Crows, is well known for writing songs about actual people and a great example of this is the song “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” on the band’s third album, This Desert Life.

The song is based on the actor Monica Potter, who Duritz had seen in a few then-recent films like Con Air and Patch Adams and so he had a dream about her that inspired the song. Amazingly enough, the REAL Mrs. Potter ended up saving the song from oblivion!
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June 28th, 2021 | Posted in Music Legends Revealed | No Comments

Was George Clooney Cropped Out of the Photo That Became the Famous Barack Obama ‘Hope’ Poster?

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

PHOTOGRAPHY URBAN LEGEND: George Clooney was originally in the photo that was used as he basis for the famous Barack Obama “Hope” poster.

During the 2008 campaign, a poster featuring Barack Obama created by Shepard Fairey began to appear. While it had a few different words under it, the most famous one included the word “Hope.”

It became one of the most iconic political posters of all-time and certainly the most iconic one in the 21st Century.

However, the origins of the poster have been the source of some wild intrigue and criminal charges, if you can believe it.

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June 25th, 2021 | Posted in Photography Legends Revealed | No Comments