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14 Irresistible Facts About New Girl

New Girl was initially—and, ratings-wise, successfully—promoted as a starring vehicle for the "adorkable" Zooey Deschanel as Jess Day, before evolving into a funny ensemble comedy about four roommates in Los Angeles, including the young but consistently grumpy Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), the vulnerable creep with a heart of gold Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris), a pro basketball player-turned-police officer who is terrible at pranks.

The extended ensemble includes Cece Parekh (Hannah Simone), Jess' longtime friend and Schmidt's on-again/off-again girlfriend, and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), a personal trainer who is friends with the group but disappears for seasons at a time (thanks to Wayans' busy schedule.) Here are some facts about the series, which airs its fifth season finale tonight.

1. ITS CREATOR HAD NEVER WORKED ON A TV SHOW BEFORE.

New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether was completely new to the world of television when she began developing the series in 2011. The then-29-year-old came to the attention of 20th Century Fox when the mother-in-law of Jonathan Davis, the studio's president of creative affairs, sent him the playbill from one of Meriwether's theatrical productions. Davis read her work, liked what he saw, and gave Meriwether a call. She pitched a sitcom based on her experience of spending four years moving from one Craigslist sublet to another in Los Angeles. It was originally titled Chicks & Dicks.

2. JESS WAS PARTIALLY INSPIRED BY DIANE KEATON.

"She’s so massively, heart-wrenchingly funny, and she is never just playing one thing," Meriwether told The New York Times. "Whenever we get criticized that the Jess character is too this or too that, I think about Diane Keaton." Meriwether was also inspired by Tasmin Greig's character in the British series Green Wing (2004-2006).

3. ELIZABETH MERIWETHER IS BOTH A NICK AND A JESS.

Meriwether's colleagues have said that Nick Miller has a lot of the New Girl creator in his personality; one example is that they both pull their hoodies over their heads. However, Meriwether has said in interviews that Jess—in addition to Keaton and The Green Wing—was based on herself. New York magazine wrote that, like Jess, Meriwether sings to herself when she's uncomfortable. By the end of the first season, she believed Jess Day was a hybrid of herself, Zooey Deschanel, the writers, and the editor.

4. JAKE JOHNSON HAD TO LOSE 15 POUNDS TO PLAY NICK.

After learning that he had booked the New Girl pilot, Johnson and his wife went out for Mexican food to celebrate. "In the car, I was already thinking about what I was going to order," Johnson told The Advocate. "I was going to get chips and guacamole, a blended margarita, a quesadilla for the table, and a chicken burrito for me. I knew she was going to get tacos, so I figured we’d do a little mix and match on that. Then I got a call from my manager, who told me I needed to lose 15 pounds before we started shooting. So when I got to the restaurant I had chicken salad with no dressing."

5. COACH LEFT THE FIRST TIME BECAUSE HAPPY ENDINGS WAS RENEWED.

It was a bit of a "surprise" to the cast and crew of Happy Endings when the ABC series was renewed for another season. It was a particular surprise to Damon Wayans Jr. who, thinking the show was going to be cancelled, took on the role of Coach in the New Girl pilot. When New Girl was ordered to series and Happy Endings was set to continue, Wayans was contractually obligated to return to the latter. Because replacing Wayans with another actor would mean an 80 percent reshoot of the pilot, they kept Wayans in and opted to introduce a new character—Winston—in the second episode. But when Happy Endings was finally cancelled in 2013, Wayans came back to New Girl in its third season.

6. WAYANS AND ZOOEY DESCHANEL GO WAY BACK.

The two went to high school together, at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California.

7. MAX GREENFIELD DIDN'T WANT SCHMIDT TO BE SUCH A JERK.

”I went to [executive producer] Jake Kasdan and said, ‘Let’s just try to make this character as not-douchey as possible,”’ Greenfield told Entertainment Weekly. "And he goes, ‘Well, just don’t play him douchey.'"

8. MERIWETHER ASKED JAKE KASDAN TO DIRECT BECAUSE OF HIS WORK ON FREAKS AND GEEKS.

Meriwether "more or less cold-e-mailed" Jake Kasdan and asked if he could direct the pilot. "He blended comedy and emotion beautifully on Freaks and Geeks, and that was one of the main reasons I wanted him to direct the pilot so badly," she explained. He would later direct six other installments of New Girl, and is an executive producer on the show.

9. THEY OFTEN HAVE TO NEGOTIATE WITH STANDARDS AND PRACTICES.

For the first season episode "Naked," in which Jess had issues saying "penis," Fox's standards and practices allowed the show to say the word five times. They also were allowed to say "b-hole," but not "a-hole." The writers got excited when they found out the usage of the word "dick" was permitted, provided it wasn't being used in reference to a body part.

10. THEY PURPOSELY NEVER EXPLAIN THE RULES TO "TRUE AMERICAN."

According to Meriwether, explaining the rules of how to play the drinking game won't make it "easier to comprehend. Our goal is the opposite, actually, to make it harder and harder and harder to understand." The idea for True American came from one of the writers, who played a similar game when she was in college, but she couldn't remember the rules.

11. JOHNSON PITCHED THE IDEA OF TRAN.

One of many story ideas Johnson has pitched to Meriwether via late-night texts was, "What if I have a Vietnamese friend in a park? And he doesn’t speak English, and his family gets really mad at me for hanging out with him?"

12. THE NICK/JESS KISS WAS CAREFULLY CHOREOGRAPHED.

"Embarrassingly, I actually did try to tell them how to kiss," Meriwether admitted. "I walked up to Jake Johnson between takes and said: 'I want you to kind of take her, and then do this—' (I demonstrated by making my fingers kiss each other) 'Then wait and do that again, but kind of like this—' (more finger kissing). He just stared at me for a beat, and then, to his credit, nodded and said, 'I think I got it.'"

13. DENNIS FARINA WAS IN UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY.

Dennis Farina played Nick's father, Walt, in two episodes. And according to New Girl executive producer Brett Baer, the actor seemed to be having a good time. Farina told Meriwether he had never been on a set before where he didn't have a gun and couldn't say 'f*ck.' Farina passed away in July 2013, a few months after Walt was killed off.

14. PRINCE WAS A FAN AND WAS ORIGINALLY ASKED TO BE IN THE "VIRGINS" EPISODE.

Meriwether believed he turned down a cameo appearance in "Virgins" because it was "too racy." Instead he appeared in "Prince," the season three episode that aired after the 2014 Super Bowl. When Prince heard the idea that he would be the one to get Jess to tell Nick she loves him, he referenced Silver Streak (1976) and Hitch (2005). "I was incredibly shy around him, convinced that I would say the wrong thing and make him leave," Meriwether told Vulture. "But once I got over the initial terror of speaking to him, I realized we were just two people who were both obsessed with making the episode good. He wanted to choose the name of the non-speaking chef character, the chef’s wardrobe, the paintings on the walls, the linens in the bedroom set, his wardrobe, Zooey’s wardrobe, the music, the pancakes, the hairstyles ... he had a piece of art, a poem written out in the shape of an egg, flown from Minnesota to hang on the wall of the set. His vision of the episode was all-encompassing, but I never felt overpowered. He always asked what I thought. It was like he was asking me to rise up to meet him."

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
Troma Entertainment
Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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