Was The Don Mattingly Sideburns Plot on The Simpsons NOT a Real Life Reference?

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: Don Mattingly’s sideburns plot on The Simpsons was not actually a reference to a real life incident that happened with the Yankees benching Mattingly over the length of his hair.

In August of 1991, Yankee star first baseman Don Mattingly famously sat a game due to a controversy involving the length of his hair. The Yankees had rather draconian rules in place for how long players’s hair could be, and manager Stump Merrill came to four Yankees and told them they had to cut their hair or they would be benched for a game on August 15. Catcher Matt Nokes did so and so he played. Mattingly refused, and instead sat that game.

He then played the next game with his long hair still on (and received a standing ovation from the fans at Yankee Stadium). He then cut his hair the next day and actually auctioned off the clippings for charity. Mattingly’s main concern was the time frame that they gave him. He later recalled:

“My biggest issue that day was ‘If you don’t get your haircut today, you don’t play,’ and I was at the ballpark. Well, don’t tell me two days ago. If you tell me today, ‘If you don’t have it cut by tomorrow, you won’t play,’ I would have got it cut.”

The next year, Mattingly was one of a group of star baseball players who appeared in a third season episode of “The Simpsons” called “Homer at the Bat,” where Mister Burns brings in a group of professional ringers once the plant’s softball team makes the playoffs. One by one, the players come down with various maladies that leave them off the team (all except the one player who played Homer Simpson’s position, Darryl Strawberry). I just wrote a TV Legend today about how one of the players was not happy about the story that they wrote for him, so the writers changed it.

For Mattingly, he was kicked off of the team after Mister Burns insisted that he cut down his sideburns, even after Mattingly shaved the side of his head, Burns still saw them there.

It’s a funny bit and it appeared a clear cut reference to the incident back in 1991. However, that shockingly is somehow not the case!

Jon Vitti, the producer of the episode, explained to the Associated Press back in 1992, “That script was written and ready to record in July [of 1991]. It was pure coincidence. When those things happened, the first thing we thought was, `Hey, this is great,`Then we thought, `No, it isn`t great. No one is going to believe those things were written before they happened.`”

Mattingly also told Jim Caple, “The weird thing is, everyone thought they wrote it in later but they didn’t.”

I mean, the Yankees’ long hair policy WAS in existence before the famous incident, but it still seems so hard to believe. But since Mattingly really has no reason to lie about it, I’m willing to go with the legend as…

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television. And click here for more legends about the Simpsons.

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

Which Simpsons Episode Helped Save At Least Two Lives?

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: An episode of The Simpsons helped two young boys each save someone’s life.

It is easy, sometimes, to lose sight of just how much influence popular television shows and films have on the general public. Whether it is teens killing themselves trying to emulate a scene in the film “The Program” or the public causing a toilet paper shortage because of an errant comment by Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” people can sometimes be surprisingly influenced by popular culture. Heck, for years, “Ameche” was actually a slang term for the telephone, just because Don Ameche played Alexander Graham Bell in a popular movie!

Luckily, though, the pervasive influence of popular culture can sometimes be a good thing. In fact, sometimes it can even save lives, which was the case with one particular episode of the hit long-running animated TV series, “The Simpsons.”

Read on to see what happened!
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Is Marge Simpson’s Hair So Tall Because It Hides Her Rabbit Ears?

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: Marge Simpson’s hair hides two rabbit ears.

Something that we’ve dealt with repeatedly in this column is the fact that very often, major decisions about movies and television shows aren’t made until pretty much the final moment. In the world of animation, sometimes it seems like it is even longer than that, since you’re not dealing with real life actors, so changes can be made much further along in the process (as you don’t have to worry about casting). Over the years, we’ve learned how Homer Simpson and Krusty the Clown were originally going to be one and the same, that Eric Cartman was originally going to have a father and a sister and that Waylon Smithers was going to be married with kids. In the case of Cartman and Smithers, the changes were made as a result of scenes getting cut out of early episodes that would have established those facts and when it came time to rethink them, the show’s creators thought otherwise. In the case of Homer and Krusty the Clown, that was more a case of Simpsons creator Matt Groening throwing out a ton of ideas early on, not all of them were feasible.

It’s that latter type of idea that we’re talking about today, in response to reader Joe B.’s request that we address something that has been puzzling him for a long time – does Marge Simpsons’ long blue hair hide a pair of rabbit ears?

Let’s find out!
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Which Simpsons Character Nearly Got a LIVE-ACTION Spin-Off Series?

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 nearly a live-action spin-off of The Simpsons.

In 1997, during the eighth season of the long-running cartoon series, The Simpsons, there was an episode called “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase.” The episode made fun of the way that popular shows would often go out of their way to come up with spin-offs from their show, whether they made sense or not (like how Empty Nest spun out of The Golden Girls despite no one from Empty Nest ever actually appearing on The Golden Girls prior to the spin-off). Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner and Grandpa Simpson each get a shot at their own shows, as well as a Simpsons Variety Hour.

What’s interesting is that despite the show making fun of the concept, The Simpsons actually DID try to spin-off a character from the series. Furthermore, the spin-off would have been a LIVE ACTION series! Which character was it? Why did it fall through? Read on to find out!
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Was TaleSpin Sued Over the Voice of King Louie?

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: TaleSpin was sued over the voice of King Louie.

In 1967, Disney released an animated film adaptation (more “inspired by” than adapted) of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The movie was a hit. One of the characters involved was an orangutan named King Louie, who was voiced by the popular musician Louis Prima.

Prima has one of the most popular songs from the film, “I Want to be Like You.”

In 1990, Disney released an animated television series starring characters from the Jungle Book now in an adventure series involving Baloo the bear being a pilot and Louie owning a night club.

However, the use of King Louie caused some legal woes for Disney. Read on to find out why!
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Was Treehouse of Horror V Intentionally Extra Violent Over Complaints About the Series’ Use of Violence?

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 fifth Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” was intentionally extra violent because of complaints over the series’ use of violence.

This past Sunday saw the airing of the remarkably twenty-seventh edition of The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween special (it was actually not officially called “Treehouse of Horror” until the fifth installment. Originally it was officially called “The Simpsons Halloween Special”).

These Halloween specials have become as much of an institution as the Simpsons themselves. Since they are “out of continuity,” anything can happen to the Simpsons in the episodes, including rather violent deaths. When they first began doing these specials, because they were a lot more violent than a typical episode of the series, the specials contained warnings at the beginning of the episode that the show might not be appropriate for younger viewers. This was dropped after the first few specials. It is a bit amusing in retrospect, since the earliest specials are particularly tame not only compared to more recent Simpsons Halloween specials, but compared to television in general twenty-five years later. However, one of the earliest (and most acclaimed) Treehouse of Horrors was intentionally even more violent due to an odd source – the United States Congress! Read on to see how Congress led to the creation of “Treehouse of Horror V”
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Is Darkwing Duck Coming Back to Television in 2018?

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: Darkwing Duck is returning to television in 2018.

I don’t usually feature stuff this current, but when you see Darkwing Duck actually trending on Twitter, it suggests that there is a lot of people who believe something, so it is worthwhile confirming it or debunking it.

There are seemingly tons of old television shows that are returning to the air in the coming year or so, from the X-Files to Full House to Twin Peaks. So when the news came out that Darkwing Duck was returning to Disney XD with new episodes in 2018, it seems believable enough.

But is it true?
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Was South Park Originally Going to be a Big Parody of The X-Files?

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: “South Park” was originally going to be an “X-Files”-style show.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone came to the attention of Comedy Central due to their famous “Spirit of Christmas” video shorts from 1992 and 1995, starring the characters who would later become famous in “South Park” (Stan, Kenny and Cartman). However, after they got a deal to create an ongoing television series, Parker and Stone were faced with a difficult task – how do you turn a short video into a full television series? They essentially had to create a TV series from scratch. As a result, their earliest “South Park” episodes had a lot of uncertainty in them, as their approach to the series often changed as they developed the idea. It was very much like the problems that Matt Groening and the producers of “The Simpsons” had in adapting their short “Simpsons” video segments on “The Tracey Ullman Show” into a full series. In the case of “The Simpsons,” this caused Groening and crew to come up with all sorts of weird ideas for the series that never came to fruition, most famously (as featured in this old TV Legends Revealed), having Homer Simpson turn out to secretly be Krusty the Clown. In the case of Parker and Stone and “South Park,” the most notable change was that originally the series was going to be a lot like “The X-Files!”

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Was the Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer TV Special Written Without Access to the Original Rudolph Picture Book?

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 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special would have been a lot different if the screenwriter had had access to the original Rudolph picture book.

Last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the popular animated special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is the longest running Christmas special in television history (just a year ahead of 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas).

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer made his debut as a Montgomery Ward picture book giveaway written by Robert May. As I’ve featured in a past legend, Montgomery Ward remarkably just gave May the copyright to the book. That proved to be particularly significant when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted the story into a song that became one of the most popular Christmas songs of all-time upon its release in 1949. In 1964, Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass (at the time their company was called Videocraft International – they soon became known as their more familiar name, Rankin/Bass Productions) turned the story into an animated TV special that remains a hit program to this day. They enlisted screenwriter Romeo Muller to write the story for the special (and Johnny Marks contributed a bunch of new songs). The special introduced a pile of brand new characters, including Sam the Snowman, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey the Elf (who wants to be a dentis), the Abominable Snowmonster, Clarice (Rudolph’s reindeer love interest) and, of course, the Island of Misfit Toys (who proved so popular that the special had to be re-written a year later to change the ending because viewers were outraged that the Misfit Toys didn’t find new homes at the end of the original special). All of these new characters have led to a popular legend out there about how Muller wrote the show. From Mental Floss (among many other places, who all seem to be repeating the same story, so it is anyone’s guess who shared the story first):

Muller, the screenwriter for the TV special, stated in an interview that the reason his script deviated so much from the original story is that he was unable to find a copy of May’s book at the time. Several of the characters, including Hermey the wannabe dentist, were named after Muller’s real-life friends.

Is that true? Is that why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is so different from the original book?
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Was Waylon Smithers Originally Going to be Black and Married with a Wife and Kids?

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: Waylon Smithers was originally going to be black with a wife and kids.

After a lot of back and forth, Harry Sheare ultimately decided to return to “The Simpsons” for two more seasons. I figured it would be nice to spotlight a legend about one of the many, many Simpsons characters that Shearer does the voice for on the show, namely Waylon Smithers, Montgomery Burns’ sycophantic second-in-command at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Smithers has been a constant presence on the series since early in the show’s first season.

However, did the show nearly go in two very different directions with the characters? Smithers first appeared as an African-American in an early episode of the series. Was that originally the plan for Smithers? And did he almost have a wife and kids? Read on to find out!
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