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: A short-lived Matthew Perry sitcom from the 1980s correctly predicted the year that Muammar Gaddafi would be killed.
Let’s just be clear from the start. TV series do not actually predict future world events. As noted in an old TV Legend Revealed, Quantum Leap did not seriously predict Super Bowl XXX. Similarly, an old Uncle Sam comic book did not really predict the attack on Pearl Harbor and comic book creator John Byrne does not have weird prediction powers. That said, quite often, there are some awfully eerie concidences out there that at the very least are weird enough for us to take notice. Reader Mark G. wrote in about one such coincidence when he asked if it was true that an old Matthew Perry sitcom seriously predicted the year of Muammar Gaddafi’s death. Read on to see if it is true!
After taking power in a military coup in 1969, Muammar Gaddafi was the de facto leader of Libya for the next forty-years, using a few different titles (like Revolutionary Chairman and Brotherly Leader). In 2011, Gaddafi was deposed by a rebellion led by the National Transitional Council (NTC). On October 20, 2011 (just over two years ago), Gaddafi was killed by NTC rebels in his hometown of Sirte.
Back in the late 1980s, Gaddafi and Libya were in the news for the terrorist attack on a German discotheque in 1986 and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. So in 1987, public sentiment surrounding Gaddafi was nearing an all-time low. Therefore, it made him a ripe target for a comedy writer looking to score some easy points with an audience. Enter the brand-new Fox sitcom Second Chance. Second Chance was a show starring Kiel Martin (fresh off of Hill Street Blues) and a young Matthew Perry.
The concept of the show was that Martin was a man named Charles Russell who dies in 2011. However, Saint Peter cannot decide whether Russell is good enough to make it into heaven or bad enough to be sent to hell. Instead, he is sent back in time to 1987 to influence his younger self, Chazz (played by Perry) to become a better person, thus assuring that Charles will make it into heaven. The show did poorly and was pulled from the schedule just two months after debuting in September 1987. When it returned to the schedule in early 1988, it was completely re-tooled and was now simply a show called Boys Will be Boys centered around Perry and his friends (with Martin and the supernatural element completely dropped). The makeover didn’t help the show enough, though, and it was canceled after the end of its first season.
What we’re looking at here today, though, is the very first episode, where we see Saint Peter decide whether Charles deserves to be sent to heaven or hell. The show first demonstrates someone being sent to heaven in the person of a Beauty Queen killed by a rival right as she won the pageant.
Then we meet Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. He is judged as being sent to hell.
Saint Peter explains that his particular punishment will be becoming a human bomb, blowing up every two minutes. The crowd, naturally, enjoyed seeing Gaddafi punished like this.
So yes, in a weird sort of way, Second Chance predicted the year of Gaddafi’s death (and was only a few months off on the month).
The legend is…
STATUS: True (so long as we account for the fact that TV shows cannot actually predict future events)
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.