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18 Famous TV Roles Originally Played by Someone Else

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PerfectStrangers.tv

Many popular TV shows would have been totally different had the executives stuck with the actors from the pilot episode.

1. Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers. Would you believe comedian Louie Anderson was in the pilot as Balki’s cousin? Yep. But after reviewing the (unaired) episode, executives decided that Louie just didn’t have the right chemistry with Bronson Pinchot, whom the series was basically built around. Louie got the axe and Mark Linn-Baker stepped in.

2. Danny Tanner from Full House. Although show producers always had Bob Saget in mind, the widower and single dad was first played by an actor named John Posey because Saget was contractually obligated to a morning show on CBS. Posey was ousted when Saget got fired from The Morning Project, freeing him up for the family-friendly sitcom.

3. Carol Seaver from Growing Pains.

The original Carol Seaver was an actress named Elizabeth Ward. After her character didn’t seem to resonate with test audiences, producers called back Tracey Gold, who was on vacation with her family. She didn’t want to go back, feeling they had seen her audition and didn’t like her and nothing had changed. She was eventually convinced to give it another try.
 
4. Meg Griffin from Family Guy. The eternally picked-on Meg was voiced by Party of Five and Mean Girls actress Lacey Chabert for the first season. Feeling her voice just wasn’t quite right, Seth MacFarlane and co. asked Mila Kunis to try out after seeing her on That 70s Show.

5. Officer Tom Hanson from 21 Jump Street. An actor named Jeff Yagher was originally cast as Officer Tom Hanson in the pilot. Who? This guy. Fox didn’t care for his performance in the pilot episode and sought to recast the role, maybe with Josh Brolin. Creator Patrick Hasburgh decided to first try Johnny Depp one more time - he had already turned down the part once - and was thrilled when Depp finally accepted.

6. Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver. Before he was renamed Eddie Haskell, the sycophant character was called Frankie and was played by Harry Shearer, whose parents pulled him from the show so he could have a normal childhood. Yep - this Harry Shearer:

7. Jim Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210. Can you picture Ferris Bueller’s dad as Brenda and Brandon’s dad? It almost happened. Lyman Ward was the original Jim Walsh, but he was deemed not quite right for the show after shooting scenes for the first episode. Enter James Eckhouse.

8. D.J. Conner from Roseanne. The youngest Conner was originally played by an actor named Sal Barone, who appeared in the pilot. Michael Fishman took his place and played D.J. for the duration of the show.

9. Half the cast of Gilligan’s Island. If the producers had gone with the cast from a pilot episode, the classic sitcom would have been an entirely different show indeed. The unaired pilot included a high school teacher, not a professor, and he was played by actor John Gabriel, who eventually went on to play Seneca Beaulac in Ryan’s Hope. Instead of Mary Ann the farm girl and Ginger the movie star, the girls were a pair of secretaries named Ginger and Bunny, neither of them played by Tina Louise or Dawn Wells. And the theme song was completely different.

10. Alice Kramden from The Honeymooners. Pert Kelton played Alice Kramden for the first seven episodes of The Honeymooners and was supposedly replaced when her husband was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. The role, of course, was taken over by Audrey Meadows.

11. Mister Ed from Mister Ed. The horse in the pilot was a chestnut gelding, replaced after the pilot by a crossbred gelding named Bamboo Harvester . I just blew your mind, didn’t I?

12. Chrissy Snow from Three’s Company. Two actresses played the Chrissy character before Suzanne Somers. First there was Susanne Zenor, who was in the original pilot (when Chrissy was named Samantha). The script was entirely rewritten after that pilot and, as a result, Zenor was replaced with Susan Lanier. But Lanier didn’t do the trick either - critics were pretty harsh on her performance in the second pilot, and Somers was hired instead.

13. Face from The A-Team. In the pilot, Face was portrayed by Tim Dunigan. After reviewing his tape, producers decided that Dunigan just looked too young to be a Vietnam Vet and replaced him with Dirk Benedict.

14. Gloria Stivic from All in the Family. Like Three’s Company, All in the Family went through a couple of actresses before finally sticking with Sally Struthers to play Gloria Stivic. First, Kelly Jean Peters played the daughter of Archie and Edith Justice in a pilot called Justice For All. Then actress Candice Azzara was cast when the show was titled Those Were the Days. For the third incarnation, the Justices became the Bunkers and Sally Struthers had secured the role.

15. Roz Doyle from Frasier. A pre-Friends Lisa Kudrow was originally cast as Roz, but she was replaced after just a couple of days of rehearsals. "I knew it wasn't working. I could feel it all slipping away, and I was panicking, which only made things worse,” she later said.

16. Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock. Tina Fey originally cast her good friend Rachel Dratch in Jane Krakowski's role, but it was ultimately decided that Dratch was better suited to “playing a range of different characters.”

17. Eddie Munster from The Munsters. When the show was pitched to the good folks at CBS, the role of Eddie was played by Nate "Happy" Derman. Studio execs didn't like that he portrayed Eddie as a spoiled brat, so Derman was canned and Butch Patrick was brought in.

18. Rudy Huxtable from The Cosby Show. Well, Rudy wasn't exactly recast, but I felt like we had to share this nugget of information: Jaleel White was considered for the role of Rudy when the part was written for a boy. Ultimately, the producers just didn’t love any of the male auditions and opened it up for females as well. They ended up falling for Keshia Knight Pulliam.
 

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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