CLOSE
YouTube
YouTube

15 Facts About The Critic That Don't Stink

YouTube
YouTube

The Critic began as ABC’s attempt at primetime animated programming, a subgenre that gained widespread popularity in the 1990s thanks to the huge success of The Simpsons. Unlike many of the other series that sprang up at the time, The Critic developed a passionate fan base. The show revolved around the misadventures of Jay Sherman, a pretentious New York City film critic who hosts his own movie review show, Coming Attractions. Film references and parodies ran rampant in each of the program’s 23 episodes. The second season aired on Fox, and some Webisodes acted as the show’s brief return in 2000 to 2001. Here are some facts about The Critic to read before the theater usher tells you the show’s over.

1. IT WAS INITIALLY PITCHED AS A LIVE ACTION SHOW ABOUT A MAKEUP ARTIST.

James L. Brooks (co-creator of The Simpsons) asked Al Jean and Mike Reiss (both writers on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and The Simpsons) to write a show going behind the scenes of a network morning show, through the eyes of the makeup lady. Jean and Reiss then began to think about the rest of the morning show staff, like the film critic. After seeing Jon Lovitz in A League of Their Own (1992), Reiss suggested Lovitz as the film critic, and the two realized that was the show. Because Lovitz couldn’t commit to a live-action series because of his busy schedule, The Critic became animated.

2. MARGO SHERMAN AND BART SIMPSON ARE VOICED BY THE SAME PERSON.

Nancy Cartwright’s actual voice is similar to Margo, Jay’s sister’s, voice. In addition to Bart, Cartwright also voices Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum, and Todd Flanders on The Simpsons. In other connections between the two animated series, Doris Grau was both the voice of Jay Sherman’s makeup lady Doris, as well as Lunchlady Doris on The Simpsons. She was also a script supervisor for the latter show from 1990 to 1993.

3. JAY’S PARENTS WERE BASED ON A PHOTOGRAPH.

It was James L. Brooks’ idea to make Jay's father, Franklin, a “crazy WASP.” Al Jean teased in a Critic DVD extra that both Franklin and Eleanor’s looks were based on a photograph of a professor and his wife.

4. ABC DIDN’T WANT TO AIR THE "MISERABLE" EPISODE AT ALL.

The network and the show’s producers compromised, resulting in the Misery (1989) parody airing as the fourth episode of the series, even though it was meant to run second.

5. JUDD APATOW AND STEVEN LEVITAN WROTE FOR THE SHOW.

Judd Apatow penned the episode “Marathon Mensch,” received a story credit for “Franklie and Ellie Get Lost,” and even voiced Jay Leno in “L.A. Jay.” Levitan (co-creator of Modern Family) wrote the very same “L.A. Jay” episode, as well as "Miserable." He initially tried to get out of his writing job at Wings to work for The Critic full-time but was told he could not.

6. SISKEL AND EBERT REVIEWED THE SHOW.

Roger Ebert wanted more movie parodies. “Focus this show on the media, and not turn it into another sitcom about a guy and his son and his ex-wife and his girlfriends and so forth,” Ebert advised. Of course, Siskel and Ebert would famously cameo on season two’s “Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice.”

7. MAURICE LAMARCHE ONCE VOICED 29 CHARACTERS IN ONE EPISODE.

Maurice LaMarche (voice of The Brain in Pinky and the Brain and Jeremy Hawke on The Critic) was told by Jean and Reiss that he had beaten the previous record held by Harry Shearer (Ned Flanders, Lenny, Principal Skinner, other voices on The Simpsons) for most characters in an animated episode by one voice. Most of those 29 were nameless characters such as “hot dog vendor” or “taxi cab driver.”

8. JON LOVITZ TECHNICALLY DIDN’T SAY ALL OF JAY SHERMAN’S LINES.

While Lovitz was busy shooting City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994), LaMarche voiced Jay for five episodes on the temp track. Engineers flew out to Utah and recorded Lovitz on a digital audiotape in his hotel room doing his lines for the final audio track. Once, the audio mixer made a mistake and left one of LaMarche’s temp track lines in the final cut, believing the voice to be Lovitz’s.

9. IT ELICITED A LOT OF HATE MAIL FROM ABC VIEWERS.

“When we went on ABC we knew they were not FOX so we felt we were soft-pedaling The Critic just a little bit," said Reiss. "Two days later my secretary walked in with a crate and said 'That's hate mail.' We were the most shocking thing anything anyone had ever seen on ABC." Things were different at Fox network for the second season. “When we made the jump to FOX we were doing the same show and the censors said we could be a lot ‘foxier,’" said Reiss. "They were complaining we weren't raunchier enough.”

10. MATT GROENING TOOK HIS NAME OFF OF THE CREDITS FOR THE SIMPSONS/CRITIC CROSSOVER EPISODE.

Brooks said that Groening (co-creator of The Simpsons) was acting like an "ingrate."

11. FOX WANTED TO MAKE JAY NICER.

"Fox has some changes. They wanted to give the character a girlfriend and make him, I guess, a little more likable, not always being made fun of constantly,” Lovitz explained when promoting the second season. Jean admitted he felt some viewers thought Jay was too much of a loser, so the writers made the other characters like him more for the Fox year.

12. THE PRESIDENT OF FOX DIDN’T LIKE THE SHOW.

The Critic was canceled after 10 episodes on Fox, despite retaining most of The Simpsons' audience. Jean had a theory as to why. “What really killed it was when it was on FOX and the guy who ran the network then, John Matoian, just didn't like the show," he said. "He preferred a show that no one remembers called House of Buggin' with John Leguizamo. He liked that show and didn't like ours. Even though our ratings were better, he cancelled us. It was very infuriating.” House of Buggin' was canceled after four weeks.

13. THE WEBISODES WERE FRUSTRATING TO THE CREATORS.

Jean and Reiss worked on the Webisodes for Atom Films by themselves, from 10 p.m. to midnight after working all day on The Simpsons. The two were intrigued with the promise of being able to parody a movie one week after its release. They wrote the episodes quickly, only for Atom Films to not run them for nine months. “They kept saying they were debugging it," Reiss remarked in 2004. "It was computer talk and that's why the dot coms were a bust."

14. THE CRITIC DVDS WERE RUSHED BECAUSE OF FAMILY GUY'S DVD SUCCESS.

“The history of Family Guy is almost exactly our history," explained Reiss. "We were on FOX and successful but then we got cancelled for no good reason. Then the show got successful later. They rushed The Critic DVDs into production. It was kind of breathtaking thing where we were talking about and suddenly they rushed it and wanted it out in two weeks.”

15. THE SHOW MIGHT BE RESURRECTED.

Last year, Jean—who is currently the showrunner for The Simpsons—said he would love for The Critic to return. “We actually have been, just preliminarily, trying to think of a way we could get someone else to do it full-time”, he added. “I would love it to come back.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Warner Home Video
arrow
entertainment
10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Walt Disney Productions
arrow
entertainment
12 Brazzle-Dazzle Facts About Pete's Dragon
Walt Disney Productions
Walt Disney Productions

Forty years ago, on November 3, 1977, Pete's Dragon was released in theaters across America. Though it was a box office disappointment at the time, it has since turned into a beloved classic for the generations of audiences who grew up with Pete and Elliott. In honor of its 40th anniversary, check out these brazzle-dazzle facts about the Disney classic.

1. ELLIOTT WAS VOICED BY VETERAN ACTOR CHARLIE CALLAS.

Charlie Callas was a comedian known for his rubbery face long before Jim Carrey was around.

2. IT WAS HELEN REDDY’S FIRST LEADING ROLE IN A FILM.

You’d assume that working with an invisible dragon would be pretty challenging for anyone, let alone someone new to the film industry, but Helen Reddy enjoyed the experience. “I only had one actual scene with the dragon," she explained, "and during rehearsals I worked with a latex model of his head so that I would be familiar with the dimensions during filming.”

3. REDDY’S BALLAD IN THE MOVIE WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.

Reddy's "Candle on the Water" was nominated for Best Original Song. It lost to “You Light Up My Life.”

4. DON BLUTH SUPERVISED ELLIOTT'S ANIMATION.

The project notoriously called for a lot of overtime hours, and a couple of years after Pete's Dragon was released, animator Don Bluth left Disney. He went on to animate and direct The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), among others.

5. CALIFORNIA DOUBLED FOR MAINE.

The movie may look like it takes place in Maine, but neither the cast nor crew went anywhere near the Pine Tree State. The landscape scenes were courtesy of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Canyon Country, California, while the Passamaquoddy town square and wharf area was constructed on the Disney Burbank Studio lot, partly from an old Western set. Even the harbor was constructed on-set.

6. ACTOR SEAN MARSHALL HAD NO FORMAL ACTING BACKGROUND.

Despite this, he beat hundreds of kids who auditioned to play Pete. “I think Disney always went for kind of the natural,” he said.

7. MARSHALL BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN POLE VAULTER IN COLLEGE. 


redmorgankidd via YouTube

He partially attributes his athletic success to his role in the film, saying that the training he went through for the part, especially ballet, made him more of an athlete.

8. THE LIGHTHOUSE BEACON COULD BE SEEN FOR MILES.

Nora and Lampie’s lighthouse was equipped with a real lighthouse lens and a wickstand that could create a beacon that was visible for 18 to 24 miles. Constructed on California's Morro Bay, Disney had to obtain permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to actually light the lamp. There were plans to eventually move the lighthouse to Disneyland, but it became too deteriorated.

9. MICKEY ROONEY AND RED BUTTONS DID SOME AD-LIBBING.

The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick. “The director said, ‘That was fantastic, but we can’t have a 20-minute scene where you two are just walking through the cave. We’ve got to re-shoot it,’” Marshall recalled.

10. IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BOX OFFICE.

The film only made $18 million in the U.S., which was a real disappointment to Disney. The studio was hoping to experience the same level of success it had had with another movie that mixed live action and animation—Mary Poppins.

11. THE SODIUM VAPOR PROCESS WAS USED TO MIX ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION SCENES.

Invented by Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, the process involved using a camera with a prism installed that separated the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. This projected a yellow light onto the screen behind the actor, which could later be subtracted out, and any background could be added in its place.

12. THERE’S A GOOFY YELL TUCKED AWAY IN THE FILM.

It’s when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) accidentally sends himself flying via harpoon. Listen for it at 1:13 below.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios