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9 Live Television Spectacles

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The hills were alive with the sound of just everybody turning their televisions on to watch NBC’s televised live version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music last night, with the Carrie Underwood- and Stephen Moyer-starring event pulling in a solid 18.5 million viewers. Though the live televised musical format hasn’t been utilized in quite some time, it’s not nearly as foreign as some have made it sound. Though such a thing hadn’t been attempted in 50 years, there have been plenty of other large-scale live events piped into a TV near you over the past decades. 

1. 1955's Peter Pan (And again in 1956 and 1960)

Perhaps the most well-known live television spectacular, NBC’s version of the beloved J.M. Barrie play Peter Pan was also the first full-length Broadway production on color TV. The Mary Martin-starring live version first played on March 7, 1955, with a cast that featured nearly all of the stars of the 1954 Broadway production, and it proved to be wildly popular—it drew a then-record audience of 65 million viewers.

Peter Pan was so popular, in fact, that NBC restaged the whole thing the next year, with another live version hitting the airwaves on January 9, 1956. But even that wasn’t enough to sate hungry viewers, so yet another version was staged on December 8, 1960. This production was a bit different—there were some cast changes, it was expanded into a 100-minute version from the previous 90 minutes, and it was filmed in color for later telecasts. It’s still considered the definitive version of the Martin-starring “Pans” and it remains a perennial favorite.

2. 1957’s Cinderella

The magic of live versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics is not just confined to that new The Sound of Music: The Broadway duo’s Cinderella also got its own live telecast way back in 1957. The production starred no less than Julie Andrews herself, and the CBS telecast aired live on March 31, 1957, ultimately reaching a staggering 100 million viewers.

Despite being a bonafide Disney princess, the story of Cinderella was also lovingly rendered by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and two other film versions—the 1965 Lesley Ann Warren-starring version and the more recent 1997 Brandy Norwood-starring take—draw from the pair’s original work, not the animated classics.

3. 2000’s Fail Safe

It’s not just stage musicals that can go the terrifying live TV route, it’s also heady dramatic stage plays—even heady dramatic stage plays that star George Clooney. Back on April 9, 2000, CBS unleashed a live version of Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s Cold War novel Fail Safe on a history-hungry audience. (The book had previously been adapted into a film by Sidney Lumet back in 1964.)

It was an undeniably serious affair—the Stephen Frears-directed special was introduced by Walter Cronkite, it played in black and white, and it featured such glam settings as the Pentagon and a fallout shelter—but it also had a star-studded cast. Clooney was joined by Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel, Noah Wyle, Hank Azaria, Brian Dennehy, Don Cheadle, Sam Elliott, and James Cromwell in the special, which centered on the unexpected fallout when a U.S. bomber is mistakenly ordered to drop a nuke on Moscow.

4. 2005’s The Quartermass Experiment

Five years after Fail Safe, the BBC tried its hand at the super-serious live telecast with a remake of the 1953 series, The Quartermass Experiment. The science fiction serial from Nigel Kneale was adapted to a contemporary setting, starring Jason Flemyng in the eponymous role, an astronaut who is the only man to return from a three-person mission to space (and even he returns…well, different). The special also starred rising actor David Tennant.

The telecast wasn’t without a few bumps—it finished a full 20 minutes early, included limited line flubs and cast stumbles, saw the appearance of a cameraman and a sound guy popping up in a shot, and had two separate interruptions by on-screen graphics announcing the death of Pope John Paul II—but it was a big success for the BBC, as it became the fourth-highest-rated program in BBC Four history.

5. 1980’s The Oldest Living Graduate

Clooney isn’t the only big name star to take to live television for a beloved project—Sally Field did it, too, with The Oldest Living Graduate. Based on the 1974 Preston Jones play of the same name, Field and co-stars Henry Fonda, Timothy Hutton, Harry Dean Stanton, John Lithgow, and Cloris Leachman top-lined the talent-stacked production, which aired on NBC on April 7, 1980.

Filmed at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, the tale of a Texas family and their many machinations, motivations, and maddening issues was a small-scale hit, one that was eventually bolstered by a sad bit of trivia—it marked Fonda’s final stage appearance.

6. 1961’s Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte’s beloved classic has been adapted for the screens—big and small—many times over, but it was only done live on television just once. CBS cut down the rich romance for a slim hour of live television back on April 27, 1961. The Sally Ann Howes- and Zachary Scott-starring drama focused on the middle section of Bronte’s sprawling novel, picking up when young governess Jane first arrives at the foreboding Thornfield Hall and meets the dashing (and dangerous) Mr. Rochester.

Despite its limited runtime, the special is considered a solid take on the material, and one of the very best American versions of the beloved British novel.

7. 1981’s All the Way Home

Just a year after hitting the small screen with the televised version of The Oldest Living Graduate, Sally Field returned to the stage for yet another live telecast of a hard-hitting play. Based on Tad Mosel’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning 1961 play (which was in turn based on James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family), All the Way Home centered on a Tennessee family in the midst of great upheaval and tragedy after the death of their patriarch.

Like The Oldest Living Graduate, the film was broadcast live from a performance, this one staged at the University of Southern California. The live telecast played on NBC on December 21, 1981.

8. 2005’s The West Wing episode “The Debate”

A number of television shows have used the gimmick of a live episode to enthrall audiences, but only a few truly stand out. One such winner is “The Debate,” the seventh episode of The West Wing's seventh season. The beloved series’ final season needed a big bang to get it going, and two live broadcasts, featuring characters going “off script,” seemed like the way to go.

Two live versions of the episode were performed—one for each coast—both starring Alan Alda as Senator Arnold Vinick and Jimmy Smits as Congressman Matt Santos gunning for the presidency in an aggressive, energetic “live presidential debate.” The episode certainly had the appropriate live flavor, and the production’s choice to not include any original cast members only added to that veracity (even as it riled West Wing devotees).

9. 1997’s ER episode, “Ambush”

NBC was no stranger to the live show format: The network quite memorably utilized the technique almost a decade earlier, when medical drama E.R. opened its fourth season with two live episodes.

Unlike “The Debate,” however, “Ambush” used the show’s principal cast to fine effect, while also adhering to an outside gimmick to drive it. The September 25, 1997 double-show was framed as a documentary, with a camera crew invading the E.R. to chronicle the recovery of Anthony Edwards’ Dr. Mark Greene. Along the way, the episode included a near-riot, a heart attack, and the arrival of Dr. Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston). The two episodes were successful, despite a few minor mistakes in each (a character drops a pen in one episode, a patient loses his concealed weapon in another).

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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