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The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XIX: Our TV Episode

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Every Monday, mental_floss wanders into the archives of The New York Times "“ and wanders out with first mentions worth mentioning. In this episode, we take a look at the first time The Times discussed a variety of TV-related topics. If you have a suggestion for next time, leave us a comment.

Friends

April 6, 1994

Finding the Absolutely Perfect Actor:
The High Stress Business of Casting

Marta Kauffman and David Crane are sitting together on a long white couch, trying to find Joey.

friends-pilot3.jpgWhen they sent out the "breakdown" for the casting call, they described him as a "handsome, smug, macho guy in his 20's" who loves "women, sports, women, New York, women," and most of all, himself. Now they are listening to a man who would be Joey philosophize in a smug, macho way about women and ice cream.
* * * * *
Casting, notoriously nerve-racking for actors, is hardly less stressful for television writers and producers like Mr. Crane and Ms. Kauffman. The pair have spent almost six months developing a set of sitcom characters -- a circle of friends in their 20's living in Manhattan -- and writing dialogue for them. Against great odds, they have persuaded a network, NBC, to pay to shoot a pilot episode of the sitcom, titled Friends Like Us. The next critical step, from pilot to series, will depend largely on how well Friends Like Us is cast.

Sesame Street

May 7, 1969

Rich TV Program Seeks Youngest
bigbird.jpgThe most expensive and expansive television show ever beamed at the nation's 12 million preschool children -- who will watch TV more hours before they get to kingergarten than they will spend in six grades of elementary school -- was announced yesterday by National Educational Television.

Sesame Street is named to reflect the balance between fantasy and the real-life educational open-a-new-window need of pre-school youngsters "“ particularly members of minority groups in the inner cores of big cities "“ that the show hopes to achieve.
* * * * *
David Connell, executive producer of the series (he held the same position with the Captain Kangaroo series for eight years), said the new show would follow an informal magazine format, with either three or four permanent hosts yet to be selected. At least one of the hosts will be black.

Keep reading for color television, The Simpsons, Pat Sajak, President Bartlet, Flintstone vitamins and more.

Pat Sajak

May 8, 1986

As 'Wheel' Goes, So Go TV Profits and Careers
sajak.jpg Television executives offer various explanations for the wild success of Wheel of Fortune, which gave no particular hint of its extravagant future when it first appeared, seemingly just another word-game show, on NBC's daytime schedule 11 years ago. On the show, contestants win prizes for discerning a hidden phrase by guessing its letters.Some suggest the secret is in the droll humor of the show's host, Pat Sajak, a former television weatherman, or perhaps in the fetching manner in which the hostess, Vanna White, reveals the hidden clues. Roger King, chairman of King Productions, the distributor, maintains it is in the game - simplicity itself. "It can be played by a rocket scientist and by an 8-year-old," he said.

It is generally conceded that ''Wheel,'' entering its fourth year in syndication, can't go on as it has forever. But most industry observers maintain that while the show may be nearing its peak, its impact remains huge.

Steve Urkel

April 17, 1991

Snookums! Steve Urkel is a Hit
urkel.jpg He's so unhip that now he's cool, Steve Urkel, a regular in-your-face kind of guy. When he laughs, he snorts. When he talks, he whines in a nasal, grating voice. When he arrives, he intrudes, with his pants riding up his skinny waist and his mouth working overtime, popping out sassy, if not annoying, rejoinders.

Who, you may wonder, is Steve Urkel and why should anyone care? Played by the 14-year-old actor Jhaleel White, Steve Urkel is the geek-next-door who has grabbed the public fancy and catapulted Family Matters, the ABC Friday night sitcom about a black police officer and his extended family, into a hit that ranks frequently among the top five shows in prime time.
* * * * *
When he is not the centerpiece of Family Matters, Urkel pops up on other shows. On Full House, Urkel jetted into town to explain to Stephanie that wearing glasses is not such a bad thing. He showed up on Johnny Carson as a guest, in the form of Mr. White (sans glasses and irritating voice). On the American Comedy Awards, Mr. White taught Bea Arthur how to do the Urkel, a very nerdy dance.

Color Television

July 31, 1928

Home Movies in Color, Long an Eastman Dream, are Shown to Notables
crayons.JPG The machine age again triumphs in its imitation of nature and the movies produce another astonishing novelty from their apparently inexhaustible bag of magical effects.

Today George Eastman, 74 years old, inventor and manufacturer of cameras and moving picture film, realized his dream of a quarter century when he announced the perfection of a system of color photography whereby any amateur can take moving pictures which reproduce all the colors of the spectrum in all their beauty.
* * * * *
The perfection of color photography and the perfection of vocal films have been the most difficult technical problems confronting scientists and engineers working in the moving picture field. Now that success seems near at hand, the practical idealists assembled here look forward to a feat that would have appeared fantastic a generation ago "“ color television synchronized with radio.

President Josiah Bartlet

September 22, 1999

bartlet.jpgAll the President's Quips:
Levity at the White House

The best thing about The West Wing is that it has a political point of view. In the first episode it tackles the religious right with a vehemence rare in politics or entertainment. The show's worst element "“ and in tonight's opening it is overwhelmingly bad "“ is that its ideas and drama are watered down, as if to make them palatable to a quasi-intelligent audience. The West Wing is in the middle of something, all right; what it turns out to be is middlebrow"¦.One of the season's most hyped and anticipated series, The West Wing is by far its biggest disappointment. WITH: Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn), Allison Janney (C. J. Gregg) and Martin Sheen (President Josiah Bartlet).

The Simpsons

December 23, 1988

simpsons.jpgTelevision Ad for Cartoonist
It is rare that an underground cartoonist finds himself in demand for commercial work, but Matt Groening has made the leap. Mr. Groening is the creator of Life in Hell, an anarchic strip that appears in 103 publications, mostly alternative newsweeklies. Now, The Simpsons, a strange cartoon family he invented for television's Tracey Ullman Show, will be featured in a new ad by Lintas: New York for Butterfinger candy bars, a Planters Life Savers product that makes its debut Jan. 2.

Flintstone Vitamins

November 15, 1978

Parents Ired by TV Ads
FlintstonesVitamins.jpg Is it a deceptive trade practice to tell your 8-year-old child: "Yabba dabba doo, Flintstone Vitamins are good for you"?

How about Tony the Tiger extolling the virtues of his sugar-coated certal or that hapless leprechaun pushing his marshmallow-flavored breakfast treat?

A newly formed coalition of 46 national consumer, professional and labor organizations says these ads "“ and other like them "“ do. And they banded together today to urge parents to make their voices heard against such advertisements.

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entertainment
5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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