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!
Continue reading “Which Simpsons Episode Helped Save At Least Two Lives?”

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!
Continue reading “Is Marge Simpson’s Hair So Tall Because It Hides Her Rabbit Ears?”

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!
Continue reading “Which Simpsons Character Nearly Got a LIVE-ACTION Spin-Off Series?”

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”
Continue reading “Was Treehouse of Horror V Intentionally Extra Violent Over Complaints About the Series’ Use of Violence?”

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!
Continue reading “Was Waylon Smithers Originally Going to be Black and Married with a Wife and Kids?”

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.
Continue reading “Was The Simpsons’ Famous Opening Credits Created to Save on Animation Time?”

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!
Continue reading “Did Paul McCartney Have a Hidden Message in an Episode of The Simpsons?”

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!
Continue reading “Did No One Guess the Right Answer in The Simpsons’ “Who Shot Mr. Burns” Contest?”

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!
Continue reading “What Famous Talk Show Host Wouldn’t Appear on the Simpsons if They Made Fun of Him?”

Exit mobile version