CLOSE
NBC
NBC

17 Facts About Blossom That Will Make You Say 'Whoa!'

NBC
NBC

There was a lot to like about Blossom, the 1990s sitcom that averaged about 12 million viewers per week during its five-season run and briefly turned Mayim Bialik into a fashion icon. The show was more than The Show That Was On After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air On Monday Nights; it dealt with all of the occasionally serious problems one would expect from a single dad raising a precocious teenage daughter and a recovering drug addict older son. There was also plenty of lightness to counter the dark moments, courtesy of Joey Lawrence’s dumb jock son character, Six’s verbal torrents, and Blossom’s dream sequences with '90s celebrities (like ALF!).

With it being 20 years now since the show’s end, here are some Blossom truths discovered at the end of Ms. Russo’s video diary.

1. DION DIMUCCI WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR NICK RUSSO.

Series creator Don Reo was an invited guest to DiMucci’s 50th birthday party in Florida. Though he was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, DiMucci acted like a normal parent with his three daughters, giving the former M*A*S*H, Rhoda, and The Golden Girls writer the idea for a family sitcom about a cool dad.

2. THE STAR OF THE SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE A MALE.

Reo also wanted to make a show with a Holden Caulfield-type protagonist, so he combined that with the hip father idea and wrote a pilot for NBC. Blossom was just the younger sister in the script, until a female network executive suggested to Reo that she become the star.

3. IN THE PILOT JOEY’S NAME WAS DONNY, AND BLOSSOM’S PARENTS WERE STILL TOGETHER.

NBC aired the Blossom pilot as a one-off special on July 5, 1990—exactly one year to the day that they did the same for the Seinfeld pilot. There were notable differences between the pilot presentation and the eventual series: an accountant named Terry and a stay-at-home mom named Barbara were Blossom’s parents (the two have marital troubles), Joey’s name was Donny, and the theme song was Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” (changed to its eventual version in syndication and DVDs.) When NBC picked up the series, Don Reo convinced the network it was okay to have both a "hip" musician and a cool teen on the same show.

4. DR. JOHN SANG THE THEME SONG.

Written by Mike Post and Steve Geyer, it was titled “My Opinionation.”

5. MELISSA JOAN HART WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF SIX.

She decided to take the other role she was offered at the same time: the title role in Clarissa Explains It All.

6. JENNA VON Oÿ HAD A SPECIAL MORNING COCKTAIL TO GET INTO CHARACTER.

To help get into character as the energetic Six LeMeure, "Jenna would mash up all this candy—malted milk balls, M&Ms—in a coffee cup, then fill it with Coke or hot coffee," Ted Wass (who played Blossom's dad) recalled to People.

7. THERE WERE TWO CANON EXPLANATIONS FOR WHY VON Oÿ's NAME WAS SIX.

In the pilot, six was the number of beers her parents drank the night she was conceived. In another episode, it was because she was the sixth child in her family.

8. BLOSSOM’S DREAM SEQUENCE WITH PHYLICIA RASHāD WAS ALMOST CUT.

“Blossom Blossoms” was the first episode to air after the pilot, now with Ted Wass as the piano-playing single dad Nick. Rashad drawing fallopian tubes on a birthday cake made censors nervous, but the network didn’t see any upside to cutting Clair Huxtable out of a heavily promoted episode slated to air right after The Cosby Show.

9. NBC MANAGED TO GET DRUG JOKES CHANGED BEFORE BROADCAST.

Anthony Russo’s description of a boring date was changed from “I've known people on Thorazine who were more fun than this girl” to “I've known people who were unconscious who were more fun than this girl" at the request of the network. A mention of mushrooms was taken out entirely.

10. THE INCREDIBLE HULK DIRECTED 30 EPISODES.

In addition to being an actor—and star of The Incredible Hulk—Bill Bixby was a prolific television director. After being behind the camera for most of Blossom's third season and the first half of season four, Bixby sadly passed away at the age of 59 after a long battle with prostate cancer. Five weeks later, Ted Wass’ wife passed away from ovarian cancer.

11. IT WAS THE LAST SHOW TED WASS ACTED IN.

But it was the first show that he directed, which is where he focuses his creative efforts nowadays. Wass has worked on a number of multi-camera comedies including 2 Broke Girls, Last Man Standing, and Melissa & Joey (which reunited Wass with his former “son” Joey Lawrence).

12. A LOT OF THOUGHT WENT INTO BLOSSOM’S OUTFITS.

Before each wardrobe fitting, costume designer Sherry Thompson and costume supervisor Marion Kirk would spend three hours checking out clothes in Melrose Avenue boutiques and chain stores to find outfits for Blossom and Six. Then Bialik, Bialik’s mother, Thompson, Kirk, a seamstress, and a milliner would figure out what would work and what wouldn’t.

13. THERE WAS AN OFFICIAL BLOSSOM FASHION COLLECTION.

Burdines, Dillard’s and Jacobson’s were three stores that sold the line in the summer of 1993.

14. JOEY LAWRENCE RECEIVED A LOT OF FAN MAIL.

A 1991 MediaWeek survey rated Blossom as the most popular show for viewers aged 12 to 17, and some of that was thanks to Lawrence. One estimate had him receiving 4000 to 7000 letters a day, while another claimed he received 15,000 a week. In either case, that's a lot of fan mail.

15. THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED ANTHONY’S WIFE WASN’T THRILLED ABOUT THE ROLE.

Samaria Graham won the role of Shelly, and kept it despite her unenthusiastic response to the news. "I'm not really excited about it," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. "It's just another job. I mean, I'm happy, but I'm not thrilled or anything."

16. MICHAEL STOYANOV LEFT THE SHOW IN ITS FINAL SEASON TO WRITE FOR CONAN O'BRIEN.

Stoyanov forced production to write Anthony off the show toward the end of the fifth and final season when he accepted a job writing for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Though he went on to write for Mad TV and Mr. Show with Bob and David, Stoyanov eventually regretted leaving the series. "I didn't fully appreciate the position I was in," he told People in 2000. "I've learned not to take anything for granted."

17. INITIALLY, NO ONE FOUND LAWRENCE'S "WHOA!" VERY FUNNY.

Twenty-five years after Blossom first aired, Lawrence's "Whoa!" catchphrase remains one of the show's lasting legacies. But originally, no one found the line (which was intended to be delivered in more of a surfer dude fashion) very funny. "The executive producer came up to me and said, ‘Can you try something else? … People aren’t finding it humorous," Lawrence recalled earlier this year. "I don’t know where that came from! I just tried it once and did this weird thing and people laughed. They laughed tremendously long. We did a second take and they laughed again ... It’s so weird that word has transcended 20 years. I can only imagine what that word would have been had social media been what it is today. It took off in the course of one night once it hit the airwaves, but with social media, it probably would have been twice as fast.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
Getty Images
Getty Images

Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
ABC
arrow
entertainment
11 Bulletproof Facts About Sledge Hammer!
ABC
ABC

Although its run was short-lived, ABC’s mid-1980s cop spoof Sledge Hammer! made a significant imprint in the minds of primetime viewers. David Rasche starred as the title character, a trigger-happy police detective who “shot first and asked questions never.” In honor of the 30th anniversary of the show’s series finale on February 12, 1988, we’ve got a few facts about the series that should hit the mark. 

1. IT WAS THOUGHT UP BY A TEENAGER.

In 1971, 10-year-old Alan Spencer snuck into a screening of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry by buying a ticket to Fiddler on the Roof and switching theaters once he was inside. Impressed by the movie and its sequels, Spencer decided to write a script lampooning the renegade cop trope. At 16, he began circulating Sledge Hammer! around the business to readers who didn’t understand the kind of satire Spencer was aiming for. One agent called it “the work of someone with serious mental problems.”

Spencer persevered: Nearly a decade later, another Dirty Harry sequel arrived in theaters and reinvigorated interest in a send-up of the genre. Reworked as a half-hour sitcom, Sledge Hammer! suddenly became a hot commodity.

2. IT ALMOST ENDED UP AT HBO.

Leonard Stern, who produced the 1960s spy spoof Get Smart, knew of Spencer’s script and connected him with HBO. The network wasn’t sure what to make of the excessive violence and dark humor and wanted Spencer to revise it to fit the persona of Rodney Dangerfield, who they wanted to have starring in the project. Spencer declined and took the idea to ABC, which was receptive to it—provided all of the profanity was deleted. The writer and network cast Second City’s David Rasche and Anne-Marie Martin as Sledge and partner Dori Doreau, respectively. (Martin went on to marry Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton.)

3. ABC WAS CONCERNED THE SHOW WOULD CAUSE HEART ATTACKS.

Composer Danny Elfman created the track for the Sledge Hammer! opening credits sequence, which was shot in romantic close-up of Sledge’s beloved .44 Magnum firearm. In a James Bond homage, Rasche was supposed to then pick up the weapon and fire it directly at the viewer, “shattering” the television screen. ABC nixed the idea, fearing the abrupt visual might prompt heart attacks in susceptible viewers. (He fired it offscreen instead.)

4. IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PETER GABRIEL SONG. (BUT USED IT ANYWAY.)

Oddly, Sledge Hammer! the series and "Sledgehammer" the song had absolutely no connection with one another, but both were released within a few months of each other in 1986. With the song a hit, ABC convinced (and obviously paid) Peter Gabriel to allow them to use it in promotional spots for the series.

5. ABC REFUSED TO HAVE SLEDGE ADMIT HE WAS CRAZY.

A man who talks to and sleeps with his gun probably is in need of some kind of mental evaluation. But Spencer’s original catchphrase idea for Sledge—“I’m crazy, but I know what I’m doing”—was axed by ABC, which refused to allow any admission the character might be mentally ill. The phrase became “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” 

6. IT HAD A RIVALRY WITH MR. BELVEDERE.


ABC

Spencer was not a fan of Mr. Belvedere, the genteel 1980s sitcom about an English butler who charms his American employers. Sledge took several shots at the show—which aired on the same network—prompting Belvedere star Bob Uecker to criticize Sledge while a guest on The Tonight Show. The war of words was never resolved.

7. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE CANCELED SOONER.

As an acquired taste, Sledge Hammer! didn’t resonate with viewers, who preferred it a distant third to time slot competitors Dallas and Miami Vice. Believing the first season would also be the last, the show’s producers aired a finale that featured Hammer accidentally activating a nuclear warhead that reduced his city to rubble. When ratings improved for the apocalyptic finale, ABC decided to renew it—forcing the show to frame subsequent episodes as having taken place years prior to the explosion.

8. IT WAS A MARVEL COMIC. (FOR TWO ISSUES.)

Lasting just two issues, Marvel’s Sledge Hammer! took the detective into the sequential art world, including a guest appearance by Spider-Man. The cover of the first promised a faithful adaptation of the “show that refuses to die.” (Marvel’s onetime Hulk, Bill Bixby, directed several of the show’s episodes.)

9. A CONTRACT OMISSION MADE FOR A HOME VIDEO WINDFALL.

At the time Sledge Hammer! aired, studios and networks were mostly concerned with rights issues relating to videocassette releases. The network therefore didn’t bat an eye when Spencer, who loved laserdiscs, had it written into his contract that he be a profit participant in any “disc format” releases of the show. Sledge was released on DVD in 2004, a "disc format" the network could never have anticipated, and earned Spencer a significant cut of the profits.

10. NEW LINE WANTED TO MAKE A FEATURE.

In 1992, Spencer received word that New Line Cinema was interested in adapting Sledge Hammer! as a feature film. The creator passed when it became clear the studio wanted to move forward with a new cast and new characters.

11. IT EARNED ITS CREATOR AN HONORARY NRA MEMBERSHIP.


ABC

Not everyone took the satire of a gun-loving fascist as a joke. Spencer told Splitsider in 2012 that when Sledge Hammer! premiered, the National Rifle Association (NRA) bestowed him with an honorary membership for contributing to pro-gun awareness. “A lot of people took [the show] very seriously,” he said.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios