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11 Famous Actors and the Big TV Roles They Turned Down

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Dana Delany as Carrie Bradshaw? Cosmo Kramer as Monk? Here's a look at 11 actors who passed on some of TV's most popular shows.

1. Bridget Fonda as Ally McBeal

Calista Flockhart wasn't David E. Kelley's first choice for the lead on his series Ally McBeal; he originally offered the role to Bridget Fonda. Fonda decided to stick with films and turned him down. There were no hard feelings, though, as Kelley kept her in mind two years later when he was casting the comedy/horror flick Lake Placid.

2. Michael Richards as Adrian Monk

As Seinfeld was winding down its nine year run in 1998, the major networks were salivating to sign the series' stars to new projects. ABC pictured Michael Richards as a bumbling Inspector Clouseau-type detective and pitched a premise purchased from Disney Studios about a cop suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Richards, however, disliked the pilot script; he felt that the character of Adrian Monk didn't offer enough comedic possibilities for him to work with, so he passed on the project. With Richards' veto, ABC lost interest in the show and eventually sold the rights to cable's USA Network. Monk went on to become USA's highest-rated show and Tony Shalhoub won three Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the title character.

3. Dana Delany as Carrie Bradshaw

Sex and the City creator Darren Star first offered the role of Carrie Bradshaw to his friend, Dana Delany. Delany had previously won two Emmy Awards for her portrayal of the compassionate nurse Colleen McMurphy on China Beach, but she was still smarting from the negative reviews she'd gotten for playing a dominatrix in the 1994 film Exit to Eden. She told Star that the public would never forgive her if she talked about sex onscreen again, so the part went to Sarah Jessica Parker.

4. Paul Shaffer as George Costanza

According to Paul Shaffer's memoir, We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives, Jerry Seinfeld personally left a message stating that the role of George Costanza on his upcoming pilot was Shaffer's if he wanted it. But Shaffer was preoccupied with his other work and said he never got around to returning Seinfeld's call.

5. Stephen Tobolowsky as Tim Taylor's Sidekick

Tim Allen's Home Improvement sidekick was originally Glen, not Al. When the series was first being cast, Stephen Tobolowsky—you might remember him from such roles as Bob Bishop on Heroes and Sandy Ryerson on Glee—was hired to co-host the fictitious Tool Time with Tim, but a previous commitment prevented him from appearing in the pilot episode.

Richard Karn, a struggling actor who was making ends meet by managing an apartment building, happened to meet Home Improvement's casting director while attending traffic school and finagled an audition. Karn was invited to be Tobolowsky's "placeholder" in the pilot, and then was asked to film a second episode when the series was picked up and Stephen was still off working on a different project. The studio audience reacted favorably to Karn, so when Tobolowsky ultimately bowed out of the project, "Glen" was out and "Al Borland" was in.

6. Bonnie Hunt as Jamie Buchman

Talk show host Bonnie Hunt was offered the role of Jamie Buchman on Mad About You, but she decided against it. Nevertheless, she is still frequently asked to autograph photos of Helen Hunt (who is no relation to her), and Bonnie's mom is often complimented on the success of her "other" daughter.

7. Jayne Mansfield as Ginger Grant

Blonde bombshell (and mother of Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay) nixed the role of sexy Ginger Grant on Gilligan's Island, stating "I am a movie star."

8. & 9. Ken Howard & Blythe Danner as McMillan & Wife

When ABC decided to turn the 1949 film Adam's Rib into a TV series, they cast Ken Howard (Ann Landers' son-in-law) and Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow's mom) in the roles originally played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The show only lasted 13 episodes, but Howard and Danner had such good onscreen chemistry (many viewers thought they were married in real life!) that they were offered the leads in the NBC series McMillan and Wife. Neither was interested in being part of the "wheel" format of NBC's mystery movies, and the parts went to Rock Hudson and Susan St. James instead.

10. Paul Giamatti as Michael Scott

As Bill Carter reported in the New York Times back in 2006, NBC executives had a strong favorite for the role of Michael Scott on the American adaptation of The Office—Paul Giamatti. He wasn't interested, and the network eventually offered the role to Steve Carell.

11. Polly Bond as Miss Kitty

Of the many reasons actors give for turning down a role, "they offered too much money" is probably not in the top 10. Or even top 1,000. But that was the reasoning behind Polly Bond's decision to refuse the part of Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. The former Polly Ellis had recently married Tommy Bond, a former child actor most famous for playing "Butch" on The Little Rascals. Tommy was working on the production side of a local TV station at the time, and the Gunsmoke salary would've put Polly in a situation where she was out-earning her husband, which she felt would strain their fledgling marriage. Amanda Blake went on to play Miss Kitty for an amazing 20 seasons, and Polly and Tommy Bond remained happily wedded for an amazing 54 years.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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