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The Surprising Origins of TV Character Names

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What's in a name? More than you'd think, especially when it comes to TV's most beloved characters. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, and here are some examples of how deep show creators had to dig.

1. Springfield's Citizens Are From Portland

When Matt Groening was designing characters for The Simpsons, he drew inspiration from his own childhood. Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, and Kearney are all named after streets in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.

2. The Simpsons Have Real Familial Roots

Matt Groening didn't stop at street names when it came to using his upbringing as inspiration. The Simpson family themselves are named after Groening’s own family: His father Homer, his mom Marge, and his sisters Maggie and Lisa. Bart, meant to represent Groening, is an anagram of “Brat.”

3. Homer's Middle Name

The "J" in Homer J. Simpson comes from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Rocky and Bullwinkle share the middle initial “J" in honor of Jay Ward, the show's producer.

4. Phillip Fry Wasn't Originally Phillip

Phillip J. Fry of Futurama is named for actor Phil Hartman, who was cast for the role Zapp Brannigan before his death in 1998. Fry was originally going to be named "Curtis," but the switch was made to honor Hartman.

5. Bender's Brat Pack Past

20th Century Fox / Universal Pictures

The name for Futurama's Bender was chosen by Matt Groening as an homage to The Breakfast Club’s resident “criminal” John Bender. (In fact, The Breakfast Club's John Bender told the high school principal, "Eat my shorts," an eventual catchphrase for Groening creation Bart Simpson.)

5. A Futurama Name From the Past

Also from Futurama, Doctor Zoidberg is named after an Apple II game that series co-developer David X. Cohen created in high school called "Zoid."

6. Big Bang Tips Its Hat to a Sitcom Legend

Sheldon and Leonard from The Big Bang Theory are named after The Dick Van Dyke Show producer Sheldon Leonard.

7. 30 Rock's Citrus Star


The name Liz Lemon was chosen to encapsulate the personality of Tina Fey’s character: bright and sour. Lemon's middle name, Miervaldis, is from a friend of Fey's who is of Latvian descent.

8. Kramer Was Always a Neighbor

Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer is named after Larry David’s former neighbor Kenny Kramer. When Kenny found out they were using his name, he contacted Castle Rock Entertainment with a list of demands including the chance to play Kramer on the show (a scenario that was recreated on Seinfeld itself). He also conducted the "Seinfeld Reality Tour," a sightseeing bus tour that made its way to the sitcom as well.

9. The Truth is Out There

The X-Files’ Fox Mulder is not named after the Fox Network, but rather after a childhood friend of series creator Chris Carter whose name was Fox. When choosing a name for Mulder’s partner, Carter chose Scully in honor of his favorite sportscaster, Vin Scully of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

10. Inspiration From the Diamond

M*A*S*H writer Ken Levine also drew on the Dodgers for inspiration when naming patients for the army hospital. According to Levine, “The seventh season we just used the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers roster. When you watch those shows you’ll find private Garvey, Cey, Russell, Sutton, Rau, Rhoden, etc. By the end of the season we were down to coaches, announcers (Scully), and even the owner, O’Malley.”

BONUS: A Common High School

What do Freaks and Geeks, The Wonder Years, and Glee all have in common? William McKinley High School. According to an interview with The Huffington Post, Freaks and Geeks producer Judd Apatow said the name was chosen, “because it was the only president's name which was legally clearable… We didn't realize it was used on The Wonder Years. I assume they used it for the same reason."

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise stated.

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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.


The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.


Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):


A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."


When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”


Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink


Big Daddy


Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison




Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns


Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)


Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)


October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)


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