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11 Debuts That Got Booed

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1. Charlie Sheen's Torpedo of Truth Tour

Photo by flickr.com user Pranav Bhatt.

After Charlie Sheen's high-profile media meltdown that got him kicked off of Two and a Half Men, he capitalized on the attention and launched a 20-city live "comedy" tour. Nobody quite knew what to expect from the Torpedo of Truth tour, named after one of his many outrageous descriptions of himself. The event kicked off in Detroit and the crowd cheered when he entered flanked by his "goddesses," but soon it turned ugly. He joked about the city's history of crack cocaine, answered questions from the audience, and showed a short film he had written several years earlier. The crowd booed, chanted "refund," and had mostly filed out before the show ended. Sheen retooled the show for future dates to eventually focus on some of his outrageous Hollywood stories and pulled in comedian Jeff Ross to roast him in several more cities.

2. The Barber of Seville

It's believed that Gioachino Rossini wrote the music for his comic opera in less than three weeks, not out of the norm for a man known for cranking out two operas per year. Still, Rossini could not have been prepared for the opera's disastrous opening in Rome. During the show, one of the singers tripped over a loose board. Then a cat wandered onto the stage near the end of the first act, prompting laughter from the audience and overshadowing the performance. After the show closed to deafening boos on opening night, Rossini locked himself in his dressing room for the show's second performance the next day, and nearly missed the standing ovation from the more receptive crowd. Interestingly, the French play on which the opera was based, Le Barbier de Séville, was also booed on its opening night and was hastily rewritten.

3. Bob Dylan Going Electric

Bob Dylan had been known as a leader in the folk movement, but his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home marked a shift by backing him with an electric band. He brought his new sound to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival to mixed results. Dylan opened his performance with Maggie's Farm and some in the crowd instantly started booing, which continued throughout most of the set. It's unclear if the crowd was really booing Dylan's electric transition: some think the crowd was upset with festival organizers for only giving Dylan 45 minutes, and others said it had to do with poor sound quality. (Pete Seeger said in his memoir that he was standing backstage during the set and wanted to cut the microphone cord because of all the distortion.) Dylan wouldn't return to the Newport festival until 2002.

4. The Rite of Spring


Igor Stravinsky's ballet is now famous for its avant-garde structure, use of dissonance and unusual rhythms. But those features were far less appreciated during the ballet's debut in 1913. The audience famously began laughing just as the introduction started and continued as the dancers on stage performed unfamiliar, jerky moves. Some of the dancers even said it was difficult to hear the music on the stage, the audience was so loud. Theater managers even had to flash the house lights to suppress a possible riot. The controversial piece would eventually be recognized as a touchstone of 20th century music and even made its way into Disney's Fantasia.

5. 2009 Philadelphia Phillies

Coming off a World Series win in 2008—the city's first sports title in 25 years—the Phillies opened in front of a sellout crowd. Of course, being a sellout Philadelphia crowd, it naturally ended in booing (sound familiar, Santa Claus?). A lengthy ceremony honoring the championship win was marred when manager Charlie Manuel was stranded high on a platform in center field; the ladder had been removed. And the game only got worse from there: the Phillies failed to score a single run until the ninth inning, and starter Brett Myers gave up four runs on three homers to seal the loss and get the crowd jeering. The Phillies did eventually rebound, though, and made it to another World Series that season.

6. Lauryn Hill


As a 13-year-old, the future Grammy winner appeared on amateur night on It's Showtime at the Apollo. As she launched into Smokey Robinson's "Who's Loving You?," the normally raucous crowd almost immediately began to boo, and someone even shouted "Step up to the mike" to get her to project (check out the video here). Hill kept going and eventually won over the crowd. Just a few years later, Hill would go on to appear in Sister Act II and join the Fugees, launching a successful career. Hill is not alone in overcoming a tough Apollo crowd: Luther Vandross, James Brown, and Dave Chapelle were all once booed at the Harlem theater.

7. The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick's 2011 film stretched from the dawn of the universe to the end of the Earth (or the afterlife or something), all while being anchored in a story about a 1950s family led by Brad Pitt; it's tough to explain and even tougher to watch. And audiences reflected that at the film's debut at the Cannes Film Festival, where the screening was met with a mix of boos and cheers. The film got some critical appeal after its dicey reception, winning the Palme d'Or at that year's festival and scoring an Oscar nomination, but it continued to split audiences.

8. L'Avventura

There's actually a rich tradition of critics and the press booing films at Cannes. Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny, and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain were all jeered during initial screenings. Audiences were even so noisy at the end of Lars von Trier's 2009 film Antichrist that they booed straight through a credit paying tribute to late Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. But one of the more famous negative reactions was to the 1960 Italian film L'Avventura, where heckling grew so loud that director Michelangelo Antonioni and star Monica Vitti fled the theater. A second screening was better received, and the film won a jury prize and is now regarded as a touchstone in film for its slow pacing and visual style.

9. The Seagull


Anton Chekhov's seminal comedy is regarded as a touchstone of theater for its use of subtext and subtleties. Its premiere in St. Petersburg, however, was an unmitigated disaster. Lead actress Vera Komissarzhevskaya lost her voice and was mocked by the audience. The crowd booed the performance, and Chekhov himself even hid backstage for the final two acts. After the performance, Chekhov vowed to never write another play, although thankfully he broke that promise.

10. Eminem

Eminem may be one of the best-selling artists of all time, but his rap career almost ended before it started. In one of his first public performances at a Detroit club, he remembers being booed. In an interview, he said the experience was "f***ing traumatic, and I think I went home and I was like, man, I quit."

11. Bryce Harper

Even before he made his major league debut, Harper had appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (at age 17), won the Golden Spikes Award for the nation's best amateur baseball player, been the number one overall draft pick and had been hyped beyond belief. His reputation for brashness and showboating had also led many to form their opinion of him. And when the Washington Nationals called him up for his first game (against the Los Angeles Dodgers) on April 28 this year, the L.A. crowd let him know what it was: he was resoundingly booed before his first at bat (he would ground out) and even his first hit was marred by a fan mooning the camera. Harper ended up having a stellar rookie season and was even named to the All Star Game as a replacement player.

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The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

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The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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