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15 Polarizing TV Plot Points

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Sometimes TV shows take their plotlines too far; sometimes, they don't go far enough. Either way, viewers typically aren't afraid to voice their frustrations. Here are 15 plot points (and sometimes, major cliffhangers) that have elicited a strong reaction from fans. Spoilers ahead!

1. Dallas – “A House Divided,” March 21, 1980 (Season 3)

In its season 3 finale, Dallas posed the question that TV watchers talked about all summer long: Who Shot J.R.? It was a viral campaign, the first of its kind, to make sure viewers would tune back in for the season 4 premiere in the fall. This time, it wasn't the content that angered Dallas fans—it was the wait. Those wanting to know who shot J.R. (the show's nasty lead, played by Larry Hagman) didn't get the answer until the fourth episode of the season, making many think the network pushed the reveal to coincide with November sweeps.  (In reality, the shooter wasn't revealed because the writers had to work around both Hagman's holdout for a salary increase and the Screen Actors Guild strike.) More than 90 million U.S. viewers tuned in, and the episode still holds the record internationally for highest rated episode with nearly 360 million viewers.

2. The Sopranos – “Made in America,” June 10, 2007 (Season 6)

In the series finale of The Sopranos, mobster Tony Soprano and his family gather at a diner for supper; an unknown man watches them from the counter. The man goes to the bathroom and glances over at Tony. When his daughter, Meadow, enters the restaurant, Tony looks up and—cut to black. The finale sent viewers into a tizzy: Did the cable go out? Did the DVR malfunction? Once they realized that was truly the end of the series, fans were outraged.

3. St. Elsewhere – “The Last One,” May 25, 1988 (Season 6)

After six seasons of an '80s version of Grey's Anatomy, it was revealed that the whole show was the figment of an autistic child's imagation. Tommy Westphall, the son of the show's fictional hospital's director of medicine, is shown looking into a snow globe in the show's final scene. Tommy's dad is revealed to actually be a construction worker, and what was in the snow globe? St. Eligius Hospital. Viewers were outraged that their beloved show was really, really fictional. Because there were many cross-overs between St. Elsewhere and many other shows, some believe that a good chunk of episodic television was a part of Tommy's imagination. This theory is called the "Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis."

4. Little House on the Prairie – “The Last Farewell,” Feb. 6, 1984 (Post-Series Movie)

After 184 episodes on the air, Little House on the Prairie wrapped up with three TV movies. In the final installment, the town learns that a railroad tycoon owns the deed to their township, but instead of moving away, the citizens decide to blow up the town. The plot point came about thanks to an agreement the production company had with Newhall Land and Development, which owned the site where the set was built. The Prairie crew had promised to return the parcel to its original, building-free state, and decided that the easiest way to level the structures was an explosion that could also be written into the movie—but viewers were angry that the town they had grown to love was destroyed. 

5. Seinfeld – “The Finale,” May 14, 1998 (Season 9)

After nine seasons of nothing, viewers almost expected Seinfeld to get real for the finale. Nope. The crew went to jail on some wacky Good Samaritan violation, and the show ended with the same conversation from the pilot, revolving around George's shirt buttons.

6. Roseanne – “Into That Good Night, Part 2,” May 20, 1997 (Season 9)

After nine seasons, Roseanne ended on a very different note than the show's usual tone. It got serious. Roseanne revealed that things in her life weren't as they seemed: Her children really married other people, her sister was a lesbian and, most dramatically, her husband died after his heart attack at Darlene's wedding in Season 8. Fans were already on edge during the whole final season because of its absurd lottery fantasy, but the seriousness of the final episode ruined the theme of the show.

7. Quantum Leap – “Mirror Image,” May 5, 1993 (Season 5)

In the promo above, the network billed the episode as "the final leap," which led viewers to think that Dr. Sam Beckett would finally be leaping back home to his present time. In the end, it's revealed that Sam never goes home and continues to travel through time, correcting mistakes of the past. Fans who wanted a concrete ending—a final chapter of Dr. Beckett's story—were disappointed.

8. Bones – “The End in the Beginning,” May 14, 2009 (Season 4)

From the beginning, fans of the show "shipped" its leads, Booth and Bones. In this season four finale, the two are a couple and even own a nightclub. But not so fast! It's revealed that all of this is just a part of Booth's dream while he's in a coma, and viewers who wanted the pair to get together felt cheated.

9. Heroes – “How to Stop an Exploding Man,” May 21, 2007 (Season 1)

By the end of season one, Sylar and Peter were at each other's throats, and fans were expecting to see an epic showdown. What was delivered in the finale, though, was Sylar escaping while Peter's brother flew Peter's nuclear-charged body high into the sky to save the world from destruction. Fans were unsatisfied by the lackluster ending.

10. Alias – “Before the Flood,” May 25, 2005 (Season 4)

Sydney Bristow and her CIA handler/lover Michael Vaughn were finally going to get a happy ending in the season four finale. While en route to their dream destination in Santa Barbara, Vaughn revealed it was no coincidence he was Sydney's boss, and oh, his name wasn't Vaughn. Before he could explain, the two were struck by another vehicle. Viewers had to wait the whole summer to find out if the couple would survive not just the crash, but Vaughn's revelation (which made them mad, too). Fans were angry because this was basically a reset button after having waited four seasons for the couple to get a happy ending.

11. Newhart – “The Last Newhart,” May 21, 1990 (Season 8)

A few years before Bob Newhart played the mild-mannered Dick Loudon who moved to a rural Vermont town to open a hotel on Newhart, he was a Chicago psychologist in The Bob Newhart Show. The Newhart finale poked fun at Dallas by having Dick Loudon wake up as Dr. Robert Harley in bed in his Chicago apartment next to Suzanne Pleshette—the entire Newhart series had been a dream!

12. Firefly – “Objects in Space,” Dec. 13, 2002 (Season 2)

Fans were angry because Firefly, a critically-acclaimed series, didn't even get a proper finale. The show was canceled by Fox after airing 11 of the 14 episodes that had been filmed. Fans felt that Fox—which had aired the episodes out of order—didn't give the series a fair shake. (The show finally got a movie, Serenity, but many fans of the series would still like to see it return to TV.)

13. LOST – “The End,” May 23, 2010 (Season 6)

After all of the flashbacks, flashforwards, and flash-sideways, LOST fanatics were expecting a stellar ending that answered the many questions posed by the series. But the final episode didn't deliver all of the answers; even the ending isn't exactly clear, and there have been many interpretations as to what it meant. Fan reactions immediately after the finale were all over the map, and many are still annoyed.

14. Dynasty — "Royal Wedding," May 15, 1985 (Season 5)

As the entire Carrington clan attends Amanda's wedding to Prince Michael of Moldavia, the chapel is peppered with bullets from a group of terrorists involved in a political coup. The episode ends with most of the cast motionless on the floor, leaving viewers to wonder if anyone survived. In 2011, Entertainment Weekly ranked this season finale (often referred to as the "Moldavian Massacre" episode) as one of the most unforgettable cliffhangers in prime-time history.

15. South Park — "Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut," Feb. 28, 1998 (Season 1)

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Because of a multitude of hook-ups back in the day at an annual party called "The Drunken Barn Dance," Eric Cartman finds out that his mom isn't sure who his father is. The season ends with a DNA test (including every member of the Denver Broncos) and the promise of a resolution in the season 2 premiere. But when the premiere came and went with no news of Cartman's real father, fans were outraged.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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17 Electric Facts About MTV Unplugged
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Michael Stipe of R.E.M. goes Unplugged.
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Making its debut in 1989, MTV Unplugged—in which famous musicians perform stripped-down arrangements of their biggest hits—was a hit for both the cable network and the music industry, particularly in the early- to mid-'90s. Though it lost its regular time slot in 1999, in the near-20 years since, a handful of artists have popped in for brief revivals. But now it looks as if Unplugged is ready for a reboot; MTV has announced that the series will be back beginning on September 8, 2017, with Shawn Mendes as its first guest. In the meantime, here's a look behind the scenes of the music series that became a phenomenon.

1. OPINIONS VARY ON WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA.

Singer/songwriter Jules Shear has said that he came up with the concept for MTV Unplugged to promote his acoustic album, The Third Party. In 1992, The New York Times wrote that Shear was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's two-song acoustic set at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

That's all well and good, but producers Jim Burns and Bob Small claim they got the idea for MTV Unplugged after Bruce Springsteen treated the two—and the thousands of other fans at one of his concerts—to a final encore featuring just himself and his acoustic guitar. (Springsteen would find his way onto Unplugged in 1992.)

Executive producer Joel Gallen has referred to Unplugged as his "baby" as well and, like Shear, was inspired by Bon Jovi and Sambora's VMA set, which he called a "jumping off point." In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Small said: “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the f***ing show until almost 20 years later.”

2. BOTH HBO AND PBS SAID NO.

HBO passed on Unplugged when Shear proposed the concept to the pay channel. Burns and Small pitched the series to PBS after MTV initially said no. PBS simply echoed MTV and HBO. It was only when Burns and Small ally Judy McGrath got a promotion at MTV that a pilot got a greenlight.

3. IT WAS A CHEAP PILOT TO SHOOT.

Bob Small said he had just four hours to set up for the Unplugged pilot, with another four hours to film it—and all on a budget of $18,000. "I couldn't get money to hire a director," Small said. "They said, 'You direct it.'"

4. THERE WAS A HOST FOR THE FIRST 13 EPISODES.

None other than Jules Shear was the undisputed master of ceremonies for the first season. He also joined in on some songs.

5. THE FIRST GUESTS DIDN'T QUITE GRASP THE CONCEPT OF UNPLUGGED.

Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze were the stars of the first episode, which aired on November 26, 1989. But they were unprepared. "Chris and Glenn showed up for rehearsal with electric guitars," Alex Coletti, who would end up producing the show through 2001, recalled. "I said: 'Very funny, guys. Where are the acoustics? It’s Unplugged.' They looked at each other and went, 'Riiight… Make a phone call, quick!'"

6. PRODUCERS SCRAMBLED TO GIVE JOE WALSH ACTUAL FRIENDS.

"The fifth episode was billed as Joe Walsh and Friends, and Joe showed up with only one friend—Ricky, his bass player," Coletti remembered. "We thought it meant his famous friends, but apparently that got lost in translation." Walsh had been a member of The Eagles, who had an infamous falling-out, but Walsh's claim of buddies gave MTV employees false hope. Producer Bruce Leddy found Dr. John recording at a neighboring studio and convinced him to come on and be Walsh's "friend."

7. DON HENLEY WAS NOT HAPPY THAT WALSH PLAYED "DESPERADO."

Walsh's former Eagles bandmate wrote "Desperado," as well as a three-page fax explaining to MTV that he didn't want Walsh to play it and he was refusing permission to air the performance. It was after the fax that the network invited Henley to come on the show himself to perform it. Henley was the first artist to get an entire half-hour on his own as the only artist, which quickly became the status quo for Unplugged. In 1994, when The Eagles reunited, they appeared on an MTV Unplugged special.

8. LL COOL J HAD NEVER WORKED WITH A LIVE BAND BEFORE.

The first Unplugged featuring rap artists took place in 1991. Pop's Cool Love backed LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. “[It’s like] you drink milk for 10 years and then [you have to] drink fruit punch,” Quest's Q-Tip said about performing with the band. “It’s not that the fruit is bad, but you have to get used to it.”

But LL seemed able to adapt. "We rehearsed the night before and LL Cool J had never worked with a live band," Coletti said. "Before long, he was calling the shots like he'd been doing it his whole life."

9. LL COOL J KNOWS YOU SAW HIS DEODORANT.

"People have teased me about the deodorant for years, but I love it," he said. "It was raw! It was nasty! At least you know I wasn’t stinking.”

10. PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS THE FIRST ARTIST TO OFFICIALLY RELEASE HIS UNPLUGGED SET.

Before Paul McCartney, no other Unplugged artist body had thought to release their acoustic set as an album. But after he performed in 1991, the former Beatle was worried about it getting out to the masses illegally. “I figured that as Unplugged would be screened around the world there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg, so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves," he admitted. "We heard the tapes in the car driving back. By the time we got home, we’d decided we’d got an album—albeit one of the fastest I’ve ever made.” He even titled the live performance collection Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).

11. ERIC CLAPTON WAS HESITANT TO RELEASE HIS SHOW AS AN ALBUM.

"Slowhand" performed to acclaim in 1992, but he initially didn't think it was good enough to be released officially as a CD. So naturally, his live album Unplugged won the Grammy for Album of the Year. His "Tears in Heaven" performance in particular won Song and Record of the Year. Two years later, Tony Bennett followed suit, winning the 1994 Album of the Year prize for his time on the show.

12. NEIL YOUNG WALKED OUT ON HIMSELF.

Neil Young's Unplugged was supposed to have been taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on December 12, 1992. Instead, on that night—at that venue—the audience saw something they would probably never forget: Neil Young walking out the door after numerous mistakes. The "stunned" crew members managed to get him to come back to try again that night. Young opted to junk the performance entirely, and tried again two months later—this time with a band, and with much more success.

13. TORI AMOS WALKED OUT, TOO.

Amos was thrown off and "couldn't harness the energy." But unlike Young, she was able to walk back onstage, perform, and not have to try again with another set on a different night. As the singer/songwriter remembered it, she and her manager paced "beneath the MTV thing" backstage thinking about the problem. "Then my [lighting director] came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it,'" Amos told Worstgig.com. "For 700 shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."

14. ALEX COLETTI FOUGHT TO CUT "THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD" FROM NIRVANA'S EPISODE.

"Maybe I shouldn't give this secret away, but I built a fake box out in front of the amp to make it look like a monitor wedge," Coletti admitted to Guitar World in 1995. "It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp," he added, talking about the now iconic David Bowie cover. "I actually fought pretty hard to leave that song out [of the final edit of the show], because I felt it wasn't as genuine as the rest of the songs. But I'm a huge Bowie fan, so I couldn't fight too hard against the song."

15. DAVE GROHL WAS ALMOST UNINVITED TO NIRVANA'S SHOW.

The Nirvana drummer remembered that it was a minor miracle that the band's Unplugged performance went so well. “That show was supposed to be a disaster,” Grohl said. “We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

As Coletti told it, Kurt Cobain was thinking of just replacing Grohl behind the kit, or maybe not using a drummer at all. “What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” the producer revealed in 2014. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."

But Grohl turned up the day of filming, and Coletti gifted him some brushes and sizzle sticks to give his drumming a softer sound. "I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, 'Oh great, the a**hole from MTV is trying to be my friend,'" the producer remembered thinking. "But instead he opened the package and said, 'Cool, I've never had brushes before. I've never even tried using them.'" The album Unplugged in New York won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the band's lone Grammy win.

16. YES, THEY TRIED TO GET ROBERT PLANT AND JIMMY PAGE TO PLAY "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN."

The Led Zeppelin bandmates reunited in 1994 for the Unplugged special: No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded, which at the time was the highest-rated episode of the series ever. MTV suggested they film it in Queens, New York. Plant suggested Morocco and Wales because it was where he wrote "Kashmir" and "Down by the Seaside," respectively. Network executives explicitly requested "Stairway" but were shot down. "I think we're in a disposable world and 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the things that hasn't quite been thrown away yet," Plant said in 1994. "I think radio stations should be asked not to play it for 10 years, just to leave it alone for a bit so we can tell whether it's any good or not."

17. LIAM GALLAGHER HECKLED HIS BROTHER.

Oasis lead vocalist Liam Gallagher backed out of the Royal Festival Hall gig in London at the last minute due to a "sore throat," so songwriter/guitarist/brother Noel took over the vocal duties. Noel would later disclose that Liam in fact appeared an hour before showtime "sh*tfaced," and when he tried to sing it sounded "f**king dreadful." Liam watched the performance from the balcony and at times jeered the band. Noel told him to shut up. Coletti thought it was all for the best. "There's something when the songwriter himself sings it. Maybe he's a little more connected to the song."

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