Was South Park Not Allowed to Kill Off Sally Struthers?

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” wasn’t allowed to kill off Sally Struthers in an early episode of the series.

While there are certainly a lot of other differences between “The Simpsons” and “South Park,” a notable one is how each show treats celebrities. “The Simpsons” specifically courts celebrities to do cameos on the show, to the point where they build entire episodes around said guest stars. In fact, as I wrote in an old TV Legends Revealed, when one comedy icon wouldn’t appear on the show if they poked fun at him at all, “The Simpsons” staff just re-wrote his scenes to the point where he would agree to appear.

“South Park,” on the other hand, routinely turns down celebrities when they offer to do voices (or have them do silly voices, like having George Clooney play Stan’s gay dog, with all of his lines simply being “woof” or “bark”). Trey Parker and Matt Stone will often be a lot more vicious towards celebrities than “The Simpsons” writers would ever dare. They have even killed their share of celebrities on their show, with the most famous perhaps being Barbara Streisand, who had transformed herself into an evil giant mechanical dinosaur (luckily, Robert Smith from The Cure showed up to save the day and help kill Streisand after Leonard Maltin and Sidney Poitier were unable to stop her…yes, “South Park” can be really weird at times). However, while the Mecha-Streisand episode appeared in Season 1, it was after the show had already become a bit of a cultural phenomenon and Parker and Stone had gained a bit more leeway from Comedy Central (which airs the show). Early on, they had less freedom, which led to them not being able to kill a celebrity in an early episode. Read on to see how it all went down!
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Was Family Guy Originally Going to Just be a Segment on MadTV?

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: “Family Guy” was originally going to be part of “MadTV”

“Family Guy” recently began its fourteenth season on the air. The show is particularly famous for reaching that significant milestone despite being canceled twice.

Once temporarily after Season 2 before getting a third season and then after Season 3, where it actually stayed off the air for four years before triumphantly returning for a fourth season after high DVD sales and strong performances of reruns of the show on cable suggested that the show might still have a chance to make it. The show returned more popular than ever and has remained a hit ever since. Interestingly enough, the development process of “Family Guy” was even more complicated than its history since it went on the air. Initially, the show that became “Family Guy” wasn’t even going to start as its own series, but as part of another show on Fox, “MadTV”! Learn how it all went down…
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Was The Simpsons’ Famous Opening Credits Created to Save on Animation Time?

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 Simpsons famous opening sequence was created to save on animation time.

With The Simpsons renewed for their 27th and 28th seasons, it is becoming difficult to think back to a time where the show not only did not exist but there were doubts whether it would ever exist. Back in 1989, as Matt Groening and his crew tried to make the transition from animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show to their own half hour series, pretty much everything was up for grabs. I have written in a previous TV Legends Revealed about how Groening planned at one point early on for Krusty the Clown to be Homer Simpson in disguise! That is how up in the air things were in those early days. But the biggest area of contention in those days was not the plot details of the show, but the production of the show, specifically the animation. The studio that did the original The Tracey Ullman Show shorts could not do the full series, so they had to farm out much of the work to a Korean animation studio. When the first episode was screened for Groening and his fellow producer, James L. Brooks, they were outraged at how bad the show looked. The first episode animated, “Some Enchanted Evening,” ended up being almost completely reworked and went from being the premiere of the series to the season finale of Season 1 of the show. The Simpsons staff asked for a series of changes for the next episode set to be animated, “Bart the Genius,” and if improvements were not made, they were prepared to cease production on the series entirely.

Luckily, there were improvements, so the staff of the Simpsons made a deal with Fox to delay the debut of the series until December of 1989, with a Christmas special, before launching the rest of the series in 1990 (“Some Enchanted Evening,” back when it was going to be the premiere of the series, was originally set for September 1989). It was this state of unease with the animation that led to the amusing origins of the famous Simpsons opening sequence.
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Did Paul McCartney Have a Hidden Message in an Episode of The Simpsons?

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: Paul McCartney had a hidden message in an episode of The Simpsons.

As we have noted a few times over the years, when it comes to guest stars, sometimes the producers of The Simpsons have trouble with the celebrities that they have on the show. Whether it is a problem with their dialogue (like Justin Timberlake), problems with the script (like Johnny Carson) or just general weirdness (like Michael Jackson), working with celebrities was often a pain for The Simpsons production staff. Legendary musician Paul McCartney, however, made only one notable demand when he appeared on the Season 7 episode “Lisa the Vegetarian” in 1995. The episode dealt with Lisa Simpson, the Simpsons’ eldest daughter, deciding to become a vegetarian.

McCartney was (and still is) famous for being a vegetarian, hence the producers asking if he would guest star in the episode. His one condition was that they would not have Lisa’s vegetarianism be a one-off gag. They agreed, and Lisa has been a vegetarian ever since. Besides that small request, McCartney was game for pretty much anything that the show’s writers came up with, including a very amusing Simpsons-style twist on the all of the rumors of hidden messages in Beatles songs. Read on to learn what message McCartney and the show’s writers hid in the episode!
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Did Cartman on South Park Originally Have a Father AND a Sister?

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: Originally Cartman from South Park had both a father and a sister.

Throughout the long run of their hit animated TV series, South Park, about the misadventures of four boys in South Park, Colorado (Eric Cartman, Kyle Broflovski, Stan Marsh and Kenny McCormick) its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always liked to mess with conventions. This was perhaps never quite as evident as how they handled their Season 1 cliffhanger. The final episode of Season 1 was dubbed “Cartman’s Mom Is a Dirty Slut,” and it deals with the mysterious identity of who was Eric Cartman’s father? The second season debuted on April 1, 1998 and instead of resolving the cliffhanger, as an April Fool’s prank, Parker and Stone delivered Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My Anus, an episode completely focused on the minor characters of Terrance and Phillip and having nothing to do with the previous episode’s cliffhanger. The second episode of the season didn’t come out until three weeks later.

“Cartman’s Mom Is Still a Dirty Slut” revealed that Liane Cartman was actually a hermaphrodite and that she was Cartman’s father, with the mother now being a mystery (twelve years later, it was revealed that the hermaphrodite story was a lie and that Liane was Cartman’s mother and his real father was the father of Eric’s rival, Scott Tenorman). So more than one episode of South Park has revolved around who Cartman’s father was. This is particularly interesting since originally, Cartman’s father appeared in the very first episode of the series!
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Did No One Guess the Right Answer in The Simpsons’ “Who Shot Mr. Burns” Contest?

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: In The Simpsons contest “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” no one guessed the correct answer.

Fan contests have a long history in film and television. Most famously is when fans win “Walk-on” roles (quick minor appearances where they essentially just walk on and then walk off the set), like the two teens who won DC Comics “The Great Superman Movie Contest” and appeared briefly in 1978’s Superman. Just in the last year, the new Star Wars film, the Dumb and Dumber film sequel and TV shows Teen Wolf and The Exes have all either had contests where fans could win a walk-on role or had auctions where people could bid to win a walk-on role (one of the rewards in the Veronica Mars Kickstarter was a walk-on role in the film).

In 1995, The Simpsons offered their own unique fan contest when they offered up a chance for a fan to be drawn with The Simpsons. How would a fan win the chance? Simply correctly answer the question, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”

How many fans got it right? Read on to find out!
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What Famous Talk Show Host Wouldn’t Appear on the Simpsons if They Made Fun of Him?

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: Johnny Carson wouldn’t guest star on The Simpsons if they made fun of him.

The Simpsons have had a long history of celebrities making cameo appearances on the show, but what is sometiems forgotten due to the sheer longevity of the series is how different things were in the early years of the show. In a TV Legend a while back about Michael Jackson’s appearance in The Simpsons‘ third season premiere, I explained that in the early days of the show, while celebrities would occasionally lend their voices to the show, they would often use pseudonyms in the credits. In the beginning, there really weren’t celebrity cameos, though. Dustin Hoffman and Michael Jackson played other characters, not themselves. The episode that really changed everything was the third season episode, “Homer at the Bat,” where Mr. Burns decides to fill his company softball team with a group of ringers made up of famous Major League Baseball players. The episode was a major success and some of the players (like Darryl Strawberry and Wade Boggs) credit the episode with making them even more well known. A year later, when writer John Swartzwelder pitched the idea of Krusty the Clown getting canceled and then having a comeback special, showrunners Al Jean and Mike Reiss saw this as an opportunity to do another version of “Homer at the Bat,” only with other kinds of celebrities instead of baseball players. However, they soon learned that The Simpsons in their fourth season did not yet have the cachet that they hoped for when it came to get celebrities to sign on to do cameos on the show. A whole pile of celebrities backed out of appearing on the show, some of them doing so at the last minute. Before the Red Hot Chili Peppers signed on to perform in the episode, both the Rolling Stones and Wynonna Judd turned the show down (years later, when The Simpsons had become a standard place for celebrities to do cameos, the Stones appeared. I think Judd blew any chance she had of being on the show). Because they were so desperate to add celebrities, the show ended up making a notable concession with one of the possible celebrities, Johnny Carson – they agreed NOT to make fun of him!

Read on to see how they got Johnny Carson to appear on the show!
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Did Michael Jackson Actually Sing in His Guest Appearance on The Simpsons?

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: Michael Jackson didn’t actually do any singing in his guest appearance on The Simpsons.

Celebrities guest-starring on The Simpsons has become almost a right of passage for celebrities. You haven’t truly “made it” until you have appeared as a guest voice on The Simpsons (a while back, we featured a TV legend about Justin Timberlake’s ill-fated first appearance as a guest voice on The Simpsons). However, in the early days of celebrity guest voices on the show, the producers allowed their guest stars to use pseudonyms. Dustin Hoffman was the first guest actor to do so, using the credit “Sam Atic” (get it?) for his appearance in the late second season episode, “Lisa’s Substitute.” For the season three premiere, “Stark Raving Dad,” Michael Jackson appeared on the show as “John Jay Smith.” Jackson played Leon Kompowsky, a man that Homer Simpson meets in an asylum after Homer is accidentally committed. Kompowsky believes himself to be Michael Jackson. During the episode, Kompowsky sings the Jackson hit “Man in the Mirror” as well as an original song, “”Happy Birthday Lisa,” as a birthday present from Bart Simpson to his sister, Lisa. However, while Michael Jackson did appear on the episode, did he actually not sing on it? Find out!
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Did First Lady Barbara Bush Write an Apology Letter to Marge Simpson?

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: Did First Lady Barbara Bush write an apology letter to Marge Simpson?

With the Simpsons now in their 25th season, it is so hard to remember just how controversial the show was back when it debuted as a regular series back in December 1989 (after appearing as animated shorts on three seasons of The Tracey Ullman Show from 1987-1989). Just the idea of a character, young Bart Simpson, who flouted authority and got away with it, was seen as a dangerous addition to our popular culture. Early on, one of the primary “adversaries” for the show were the First Family of the United States, then-President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. I have written in the past about how the Simpsons “got revenge” on an annoying guest star in a 2001 episode, but when it came to criticisms of the show by the First Lady of the United States, the Simpsons decide to be a good deal more civilized and the response was remarkable!


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How Did Charles Schulz Owning a Ford Indirectly Lead to A Charlie Brown Christmas?

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: Charles Schulz owning a Ford indirectly led to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

In an earlier edition of TV Urban Legends Revealed, I have written about how the original airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was a commentary on how Christmas had become too commercialized, had a Coca-Cola ad interwoven into the special itself. However, even more interestingly, A Charlie Brown Christmas (and in fact, all Peanuts animated specials since) owe their origins to the world of commercials, as the very first appearance by Peanuts characters in the world of animation came in the form of television commercials. How the creator of Peanuts, Charles Schulz, came to agree to do these commercials is an interesting story in its own right and as it turns out, it likely came down to Schulz’s own personal connection to the Ford Motor Company.
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