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The Late Movies: Kids Incorporated

The children's TV show Kids Incorporated ran from 1984 through 1993 and featured a group of kids who performed in their own rock group, Kids Incorporated, at a former musical club called The Palace. While you may not have heard of the show before, you should be familiar with some of its regular cast members, dancers, and guest stars. The clips below feature some of the bigger names who guest starred on Kids Incorporated or who spent some of their younger days in its cast.

1. Stacy Ferguson

Stacy, or "Fergie" as she's now known, was the youngest cast member, at about 8 years old, when the show began, and she remained with the show for more seasons than anyone else, not leaving until 1990. Within 2 years, she had joined the group Wild Orchid (then New Rhythm Generation or NRG), which she left in 2001. She joined The Black-Eyed Peas for their 2003 album, and the rest is history.

Stacy covers Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" from the season 2 episode "A Pain in the Neck."

2. Jennifer Love Hewitt

One of Jennifer Love Hewitt's earliest roles was as Robin in season 7 of Kids Incorporated. She went on to star in movies such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, Can't Hardly Wait, and Heartbreakers and television shows, including Party of Five, The Ghost Whisperer, and The Client List. She's also released 4 studio albums, including one the year after her Kids Incorporated run, which made her a star in Japan.

Jennifer sings lead on this Kids Incorporated original, "Where There's a Will," which opened the season 7 episode "Mummy Dearest."

3. Mario Lopez

Kids Incorporated was Mario Lopez's first recorded role; he was one of the many dancers, but he was also a singer in the first season and served as the drummer from 1984 through 1986. In one notable episode, his character taught "The Kid" (played by Rahsaan Patterson) to wrestle. Post-Kids Inc., Mario starred in the many iterations of Saved by the Bell. He's hosted many shows and events, including Extra and America's Best Dance Crew, appeared on Broadway in A Chorus Line, competed in the season 3 of Dancing with the Stars, and published 3 books.

Mario is on drums in this cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" from the season 1 episode "Robot Bop."

4. Eric Balfour

One of his very first roles, Eric Balfour played Eric on Kids Incorporated for season 7, in 1991. In 1997, he was one of the first victims in the pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He starred in the short-lived Dick Wolf TV drama Conviction, the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the TV show Life on Mars. He's most well-known for his roles as Milo Pressman on 24 and as Duke Crocker on the current Syfy show Haven.

Eric, with Kenny Ford, covers the Nelson song "Love and Affection" in the season 7 episode "Flip Out."

5. David Hasselhoff

In the first season of Kids Incorporated, David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff guest-starred in an episode called "School's for Fools." At that point, he was starring in Knight Rider and had already spent eight years on the cast of The Young and the Restless. Since his appearance on Kids Inc., he's starred in Baywatch, served as a judge on America's Got Talent, and competed in Dancing with the Stars. He released his first album in 1985 and has put out 17 more albums since then.

David and the Kids cover The Contours' "Do You Love Me?" in the 15th episode of season 1.

6. Florence Henderson

By the time Florence Henderson appeared as the "Granny" of Jared (played by Jared Delgin) in season 8 of Kids Incorporated in 1992, she was already well-known for her role as Mrs. Brady in The Brady Bunch and its many offshoots. She has continued to guest-star in a variety of shows since her appearance on Kids Incorporated.

Florence's "Granny" and her grandson Jared sing a cover of Kathy Treccoli's "Everything Changes" with the rest of the Kids. (Watch closely -- Florence also appears to play saxophone.)

7. Brittany Murphy

When Brittany Murphy had a guest role in season 8 of Kids Inc., she had already starred in the TV show Drexell's Class and appeared in an episode of Murphy's Law. Three years later, she was nominated for a Young Artists Award for her role in Clueless. Post-Clueless, she starred in Drop Dead Gorgeous, Girl, Interrupted, 8 Mile, and Uptown Girls, among others, voiced Luanne Platter and more characters for the TV show King of the Hill, and appeared in a variety of other TV shows.

Brittany and Nicole cover the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" in the season 8 episode "Lay Off."

8. Scott Wolf

Scott Wolf appeared in one episode of Kids Incorporated, in which he played identical twins named Billy and Bobby. (Billy was the new friend of Eric, played by Eric Balfour, listed above.) He had already appeared in 4 episodes of Saved by the Bell at that point, and he went on to star in Party of Five (with Kids Inc alum Jennifer Love Hewitt), Everwood, The Nine, and V.

Watch for the guy in the varsity jacket. (The quality isn't great, but this is the only song from Scott's episode, "Double Trouble" in season 7, on YouTube.)

9. Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen is best known as Chunk from The Goonies ("Truffle shuffle!"), but in 1984, the year before The Goonies came out, he was the guest star of the fifth episode, "The Joker," of Kids Incorporated's first season. Jeff played a practical joker who wanted to be friends with the Kids. Since The Goonies, he had small roles on a few other TV shows and made-for-TV movies, but his main focus has been on his education and his career. Today, he's an entertainment lawyer and was named one of "Hollywood's Top 35 Executives 35 and Under" by The Hollywood Reporter.

This is the full season 1 episode guest-starring Jeff as "the joker."

10. Billy Blanks

The inventor of Tae Bo, Billy Blanks has practiced martial arts since the age of 11. In the '80s, he broke into acting with several (not very successful) action-adventure films. In the final episode of season 6 of Kids Inc., Billy teaches karate to Robin (Jennifer Love Hewitt's character), who's being bullied. Since 1989, Billy has grown his Tae Bo empire and continued to appear in action movies.


In "Karate Kids," episode 15 of season 6, Billy teaches Robin karate. (The episode isn't available on YouTube as one continuous video.)

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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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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

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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