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5 Charlie's Angels Facts Revealed

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In the late 1970s, producer Aaron Spelling and network exec Fred Silverman created a new genre of programming: "Jiggle TV."Â  The focus was all body, never body copy, and the results were roundly panned by critics. Audiences, however, didn't mind.

1. The Launch of "Jiggle TV"

The series that actually inspired a critic to first utter the phrase "jiggle TV" was a short-lived sitcom called Sugar Time!, which starred Barbi Benton, the one-time main squeeze of Playboy honcho Hugh Hefner. But the show that defined the genre was Charlie's Angels, which was originally pitched to the network as Alley Cats. The Powers-That-Be decided that sexy bra-less female detectives that regularly man-handled perps while wearing designer clothes might be a hit, but only if they were projected in a more positive light. So, instead of calling them "Alley Cats," they called them Angels.

Whatever you think of the shows, the idea to focus more on the women and less on the plot translated into massive commercial success. Not only did Aaron Spelling and Fred Silverman sell plenty of expensive ad time around their mindless eye-candy programming, their shows minted money on posters, dolls and other premiums.

2. Smart Girls Get Stereotyped!

Picture 261.pngKate Jackson was the first Angel hired, and the only one with any substantial credits on her résumé (she'd co-starred on another Spelling production, The Rookies). Much to her dismay, she was cast as the "smart one," and was often portrayed as the ambiguous asexual member of the detective team--meaning she was the flat-chested Angel. Both Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Jaclyn Smith had worked in commercials, and they had that all-important luxurious hair (among other assets), so they were cast as the Angels most likely to appear in bikinis. All three actresses were born and raised in the American South and had to try to un-learn their accents.

3. Charlie Gets Drunk, Loses His Voice

Picture 301.pngAcademy Award-winning actor (and notorious alcoholic) Gig Young was originally hired as the unseen Charlie Townsend, but he showed up for his first day of work so pickled he couldn't recite his lines without slurring them. Frustrated, the producers had no choice but to fire him. Worse still, the team was left without a voice for Charlie late on Friday night, and the pilot was due Monday. Panicking, Aaron Spelling called his old pal John Forsythe at home late that night, and Forsythe obligingly drove to the studio (reportedly still wearing his pajamas), recorded his dialog, and returned home.

4. Farrah gets Posterized

Picture 281.pngThe Pro Arts Company of Ohio was run by two brothers who specialized in selling youth-oriented posters. They hit pay dirt in the early 1970s when their "Fonzie" poster sold a quarter of a million copies. In early 1976, one of Pro Arts' founders heard from a friend that many of his dorm-mates at college were buying women's magazines just for the Wella Balsam shampoo ads that featured a blonde beauty named Farrah Fawcett. Pro Arts tracked down Fawcett and arranged a photo shoot beside the pool at her Bel-Air, California, home. Photographer Bruce McBroom used an Indian blanket that doubled as a seat cover in his Chevy as a backdrop. Farrah chose a red one-piece bathing suit in lieu of a bikini in order to cover a scar on her stomach. In the ultimate example of serendipity, between the time Farrah posed for the poster and it was finally released in late 1976, she had been hired as one of Charlie's Angels and the first few episodes had aired. The free publicity provided by the show sent poster sales into the stratosphere, and made Pro Arts a multi-million dollar company.

5. The Angels use their Wings

Picture 291.pngFarrah was the first Angel to bail. She left after just one season, convinced that she had a future in films. Her first big screen efforts, Somebody Killed Her Husband and Sunburn tanked majorly, and it wasn't until 1984's The Burning Bed that she started gaining respect as a serious actress. Cheryl Ladd was brought on board as Kris Munroe, Jill's (Farrah's) younger sister.

Kate Jackson was offered the female lead opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer, but the Charlie's Angels producers refused to give her the necessary time off and the role went to Meryl Streep (who won an Oscar for the effort). Jackson was understandably bitter, and left the series at the end of the third season. "Charlie" perfume model Shelley Hack was brought in as a replacement, but only lasted one season.

Charlie's Angels limped along one last season, with Tanya Roberts replacing Shelley Hack, and was finally put out of its misery. And while Cheryl Ladd was a pretty good Farrah substitute, most fans agree that there was no replacing the chemistry of the original trio. In case you weren't an adolescent male glued to his TV on Wednesday nights in the late 1970s and don't understand the show's appeal, take a look at this mini-version of the classic episode entitled "Angels in Chains." It's a time capsule of every element that made critics scoff and viewers leer and drool.

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The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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