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10 Trivial Facts About Pop Up Video (Bloop)

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Premiering in 1985, it took a while for VH1 to step outside of bigger brother MTV’s shadow. Helping it carve out an identity was Pop Up Video, a series that debuted in 1996 and anticipated the appetite for trivial trivia. Check out some facts about how producers got their inside info, and why Billy Joel wasn’t a fan.

1. MTV EJECTED A POP UP VIDEO CO-CREATOR FROM THE BUILDING.

Before circulating a laundry list of proposals to VH1 for consideration—including the idea of “narrating” a music video with facts in pop-up window boxes they called “info nuggets”—freelance producer Tad Low had been working for MTV. Co-creator Woody Thompson wrote on the duo’s website that three years prior, Low had been fired from the network and “ejected” with “two beefy security goons” escorting him out. The VP who released him was now with VH1. "Needless to say,” Thompson recalled, “our early pitch meetings at VH1 were a bit tense.” No one was tossed out: the network loved the idea and ordered a pilot.

2. THE POPS COULD’VE BEEN HANDWRITTEN.

In their pitch letter to the network, Thompson and Low floated several different possibilities for communicating trivia to viewers. Telestrated handwriting similar to what sportscasters do was one idea; a “crawl” similar to a news ticker was also considered.

3. PRODUCERS GOT THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM CREW MEMBERS.

VH1

To gather information for the 75-odd info boxes that would appear onscreen for each segment, Low and Thompson started reaching out to crew members who had worked on the videos, from hairstylists to limo drivers. Doing “You Learn” as a trial video, they discovered Alanis Morissette was averse to shaving her armpits and “kinda stunk” when she arrived for the shoot.

4. NOT ALL VIDEOS WERE BLOOP-WORTHY.

When scanning the music video landscape for targets, Thompson and Low gravitated toward popular hits that were slow to unravel—a more measured edit would give them time to insert the facts and let them appear on-screen long enough to give audiences a chance to read them. Videos with faster beats were too kinetic to Pop-ify. "Ballads are better," said Low. "Something like Green Day—forget about it."

5. THEY WERE TOO MEAN TO JAKOB DYLAN.

Bob’s kid was big in the 1990s, thanks to the success of his group, The Wallflowers, and had a sound that went over well on VH1. When Pop Up Video targeted “One Headlight,” Thompson said the network asked for it to be re-edited five or six times to be kinder to Dylan.

6. LIONEL RICHIE’S “HELLO” IS CONSIDERED THEIR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT.

GiraldiMedia via YouTube

For a video to take full advantage of Pop Up’s format, it was helpful to be both catchy and completely ridiculous. Lionel Richie’s 1984 video for “Hello” proved to be a perfect storm of awful, from a Playboy playmate who was presumed to be blind (she wasn’t) to a clay sculpt of Richie’s head that was used despite looking grotesque. Thompson considers it the show’s crowning moment.

7. THEY AVOIDED RAP AND HIP-HOP ...

… until the 2011 revival, anyway. In its original 1996-2002 run, VH1 had producers avoid videos featuring rap or hip-hop artists, believing the genres were the domain of MTV.

8. BILLY JOEL HAD AN EPISODE BANNED.

Getty

While Pop Up Video was never known for its gentle touch, some artists took their snark a little more personally than others. When the show covered Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith” video from 1984, the network received a call from an angry Joel, who claimed his daughter was being teased about jokes relating to ex-wife Christie Brinkley. VH1 yanked the entire episode featuring Joel’s video from their schedule.

9. THEY ALMOST WENT TO THEATERS.

When Pop Up Video became VH1’s highest-rated program in 1997, the network began looking for ways to capitalize on the format in every venue possible. Reruns of The Oprah Winfrey Show got the treatment; a quiz show debuted (and fizzled). More impressively, talks began with Paramount about re-releasing the 1978 movie Grease in theaters with the info-text boxes inserted. The studio ultimately passed on the idea.

10. THERE WAS A BOARD GAME.

At the height of Pop-mania in 1999, VH1 partnered with Pressman Toy Corporation to release the Pop Up Video Trivia Game. A small LCD screen allowed for questions to materialize while players took turns answering or singing. Billy Joel seemed okay with it.

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15 Festive Facts About Jingle All the Way
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's film oeuvre, Jingle All the Way might just be the one that most exhibits the ugliness of humanity. Set on a fevered Christmas Eve brimming with desperate last-minute shoppers, Schwarzenegger's Howard Langston and Sinbad's postal worker character Myron Larabee find themselves battling one another to make themselves look good to their sons by getting their hands on the elusive Turbo Man action figure. The comedic genius Phil Hartman; Rita Wilson; future young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd; Laraine Newman; Harvey Korman; Martin Mull; Curtis Armstrong; and Chris Parnell were the other willing participants in this cult comedy, directed by Brian Levant. Here are some things you might not have known about the contemporary holiday classic.

1. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE LEAD BECAUSE OF A DELAY ON A PLANET OF THE APES REMAKE.

Arnold Schwarzenegger signed up to star in the Apes remake in March of 1994, but 20th Century Fox rejected multiple scripts for the movie, including one co-written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins, The Goonies). Columbus left the project in late 1995, and Schwarzenegger followed him soon after, freeing him to sign up for Jingle All the Way, produced by Columbus, in February 1996. Fox's Planet of the Apes reboot found its way into theaters in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton.

2. SINBAD THOUGHT HE SCREWED UP THE AUDITION.

Sinbad in 'Jingle All the Way' (1996)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Filming was delayed so that Sinbad could follow through on his commitment to travel to Bosnia with Hillary Clinton. Even though Columbus agreed to wait for him, the comedian still thought he "messed up" his audition and told his manager-brother he was going to quit show business.

3. OFFICER HUMMELL WAS INITIALLY WRITTEN AS A WOMAN.

Though the role of Officer Hummell was written for a woman, the part went to Robert Conrad. Conrad's explanation was that the producers "wanted someone who could pull up next to Arnold and tell him to pull over and he pulls over."

4. IT WAS CHRIS PARNELL'S FIRST MOVIE.

The future SNL star played the toy store clerk. "Well, it was my first movie role, and I didn't know how they typically shot scenes," Parnell admitted in a Reddit AMA. "So I had to laugh a lot, and I sort of spent all of my laughing energy in the wider takes, so by the time we got to the close-up shots, it was a real struggle to keep that going."

5. MARTIN MULL STAYED ON SET FOR OVER TWO WEEKS LONGER THAN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO.

Mull (KQRS D.J. a.k.a. Mr. Ponytail Man) was told it would just be a one- to two-day shoot for him. Unfortunately, his part had to be shot on a rainy day, and it didn't rain in Minneapolis for two and a half weeks.

6. PHIL HARTMAN MADE UP A BACKSTORY FOR HIS CHARACTER.


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Hartman (Ted Maltin) was probably joking for the film's official production notes, but you never know. "Ted is a guy who sued his employer for headaches caused by toner fumes and now hangs around the neighborhood and helps all the housewives," Hartman said. He also offered a take on how he was kind of being pigeonholed in Hollywood when he added, "Ted's another weasel to add my list of weasels."

7. HARTMAN ENTERTAINED HIS BORED YOUNG CO-STARS.

To keep young E.J. De la Pena (Johnny Maltin) and Jake Lloyd (Jamie Langston) from getting bored shooting a car scene all day, Hartman improvised songs designed to bring kids to hysterics. One tune contained the lyrics “You make my butt shine, the more you kiss it, the more it shines! The clock is ticking, so keep on licking, oh how you make my buttocks shine!”

"When you’re an 8 year old hearing that kind of potty humor, it was hilarious!" De la Pena remembered. "And we had a lot of fun."

8. JAMES BELUSHI HAD EXPERIENCE PLAYING SANTA BEFORE.

Belushi sort of trained to portray the Mall of America Santa in the movie by playing Kris Kringle for four years in "about 20" different homes, according to his estimation.

9. SHOOTING BEGAN IN MID-APRIL.

The Minneapolis/St.Paul areas were chosen because the producers figured they had the longest winter. But they also filmed in Los Angeles' Universal Studios for the big parade over a three week span, where it was typical hot California weather on the verge of summer. Sinbad remembered it was 100 degrees on the days when he wore the Dementor costume, and the water in his helmet had started to boil.

10. THE REAL TURBO MAN DIDN'T SWEAT.

Daniel Riordan's Turbo Man suit ensured he wouldn't have trouble with the scorching heat. He was wearing a vest underneath used by race car drivers. "They're very thin membrane vests that are filled with small, plastic tubing that's tightly coiled, back and forth, and they run cold water through it," Riordan explained. "So when they run it, it's like this cold water right up against your body and it was amazing. The sensation was fantastic."

11. TURBO MAN FIGURES WERE SOLD AT WAL-MART.

200,000 were originally produced and sold at 2,300 Wal-Mart shops for $25. They would have made more but, as Fox’s president of licensing and merchandising explained to Entertainment Weekly, there were only six and a half months to produce and promote Turbo Man toys, and it usually takes "well over a year."

12. THEY ALMOST SOLD DEMENTOR DOLLS TOO.

Sinbad recalled that the studio didn't sell Dementor action figures even though they tested high during research. "I had a prototype of the doll but they said 'give it back, we'll get you the real one when it comes out,'" Sinbad said." ...And dude, it NEVER came out!" Sinbad told Redditers his theory: "I think that they didn't want the competition between Turbo Man and my doll."

13. SOME PARENTS HAD ALCOHOL-RELATED COMPLAINTS AFTER TEST SCREENINGS.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Schwarzenegger and Sinbad talking at a bar over some alcohol, and the fact that reindeer also imbibed in beer, were among some of the problems mothers and other early viewers took issue with.

14. THE FILMMAKERS WERE SUED FOR PLAGIARISM, AND LOST.

Randy Kornfield penned the official script, but high school teacher Brian Alan Webster alleged his Could This Be Christmas? script was very similar. The publishing firm that had the rights to Webster's script won a $19 million lawsuit from 20th Century Fox, but the ruling was overturned in 2004. Webster's screenplay was about “the quest of a Caucasian mother attempting to obtain a hard-to-get action figure toy as a Christmas gift for her son. In the course of this pursuit, she competes with an African-American woman, similarly seeking to give the action figure doll as a Christmas gift.”

15. THERE WAS A SEQUEL STARRING LARRY THE CABLE GUY.

None of the original cast members nor characters returned in the straight-to-DVD Jingle All the Way 2 (2014). It was produced by 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios and featured wrestler Santino Marella. Sinbad expressed incredulity when a Redditer inquired if he was asked to return for it. "What they are doing a new version without me! Ain't gonna work!"

Additional Sources:

Schaefer, Stephen: "Sinbad leaps at the chance to go postal in Jingle All the Way," December 6, 1996; Des Moines Register

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Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
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The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

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