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!

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Did the Federal Government Once Secretly Pay TV Networks For Having Anti-Drug Messages in Shows?

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 federal government once secretly paid TV networks for having anti-drug messages in episodes of their shows.

We are all familiar with TV shows working with the United States government to have special “Anti-drug” episodes. This was particularly the “in” thing to do when Nancy Reagan was the First Lady, as she made a big deal about appearing on popular sitcoms among kids to promote her anti-drug programs. Here she is with Gary Coleman from an anti-drug episode of Diff’rent Strokes…

And here’s an episode of Punky Brewster that tied in with the First Lady’s “Just Say No” campaign…

That’s all well and good, but what if the government got involved more surreptitiously? That was the case with an anti-drug program that came about towards the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency that unintentional led to a bizarre situation where the government was effectively secretly paying TV networks for having anti-drug messages in their shows. Read on to see how it all went down!
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How Did Jon Polito Getting Angry Get His Character Killed on Homicide: Life on the Street?

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: Jon Polito’s public complaints about the direction of Homicide: Life on the Street got his character killed off in an ignominious manner.

Homicide: Life on the Street debuted in 1993. Based on David Simon’s non-fiction book of roughly the same name (Simon’s book was called Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, as he followed the Baltimore Homicide Department around for a year), the series was a critical smash hit. It is still remarkable the high level of quality that the show (particularly writers Tom Fontana and James Yoshimura and producer Barry Levinson in those early days) were able to achieve with Homicide on network television in the mid-1990s. Homicide would not look out of place on HBO in 2016, that’s how ahead of its time was (okay, the 1990s fashion would probably need to be updated a bit).

One area where the show was very faithful initially was in the cops who worked in Homicide. In real life, the mix tended to be older male white detectives and younger male black detectives. That’s what they did on the show, with Ned Beatty and Jon Polito playing two of the older cops on the show, Stan “Big Man” Bolander (based on one of the major characters in the Simon book) and Steve Crosetti, respectively…

The problem, however, was that NBC was not exactly a fan of this approach…
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Was Arnold Vinick Going to Win the Presidency on The West Wing Before John Spencer’s Untimely Death?

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: Arnold Vinick was originally going to win the election until John Spencer died, and the producers decided they did not want Matt Santos to lose his running mate AND the election.

The West Wing was a critically acclaimed drama that ran for seven seasons from 1999 until 2006. For the vast majority of the series, the show was about the staff of President Josiah Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) and the President himself.

The sixth and seventh seasons of the show, though, held the spotlight a bit more to the two men running to become the NEXT President of the United States (Bartlett, of course, still had plenty of plots on the show), Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits)

and

Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda)

Santos ended up choosing as his running mate Bartlett’s long-time Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry (played by John Spencer)…

John Spencer tragically passed away before the election storyline finished.

My pal Chad, wrote in with a rumor…

Arnold Vinick was originally going to win the presidency, but John Spencer’s death meant that Matt Santos would have lost both his running mate AND the election, and producers thought that would a bit too much to lay on the character, so they changed it to a Santos victory.

True?
Continue reading “Was Arnold Vinick Going to Win the Presidency on The West Wing Before John Spencer’s Untimely Death?”