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By NBC Television Network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By NBC Television Network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

12 Fun Facts About The Gong Show

By NBC Television Network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By NBC Television Network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Gong Show, which premiered on June 14, 1976, was an irreverent response to years of strait-laced variety talent shows from the likes of Ed Sullivan and Lawrence Welk. The singular Chuck Barris hosted most of the episodes of both the daytime and primetime versions of the show, where contestants had 45 seconds to impress celebrity judges before being in danger of getting "gonged" off the stage. Long before American Idol made the talentless popular, The Gong Show was giving unequivocally terrible and at times tasteless amateur acts their 15 minutes of fame.

1. THE CONCEPT CAME FROM A CANADIAN SONGWRITER.

The idea for The Gong Show came after Tommy Hunter, "Canada's Country Gentleman," told producer Chris Bearde about a guy who had auditioned for his show. The idea clicked with Bearde, who then pitched the concept as a series to the CBC.

"Hunter was telling me about these guys that juggle and throw bowling pins up and they bang them on the head and they never catch them," Bearde recalled. "Then they take four bowling pins and they throw them up in the air and they miss every one of them, and then the guy turns to them and says 'Now I would like to do it blindfolded' ... Let's get Hunter and dress him in a nice tuxedo, and after we get him in the tuxedo he'll introduce all these people." When the CBC said no, Bearde joined up with Chuck Barris to create it in the United States.

2. THE GONG MAY HAVE COME FROM THE APOLLO THEATER.

Howard "Sandman" Sims—the Apollo Theater's "exterminator," who ran on stage shooting a cap gun and sounding a siren when a performer got booed—claimed in 1986 that his whole act is "where The Gong Show came from. The idea is, if the kid is not good enough, we have to create some comic scene to get him off the stage without the audience embarrassing him."

3. IT WASN'T A HIT WITH TEST AUDIENCES.

The Gong Show had "the poorest" results out of any daytime show NBC had ever tested at the time. Madeleine David, NBC's then-director of daytime programming, put it on the air anyway because enough people at the network "cared about it and believe in it."

4. THERE WAS A HOST BEFORE CHUCK BARRIS.

Chuck Barris, who also produced the show, originally hired John Barbour to act as host, but—according to Barris—Barbour "just didn't understand the concept." (Barbour would go on to create Real People and write and direct a 1992 documentary on the JFK assassination.) The ratings with Barbour weren't good, and NBC insisted that if Barris didn't host, the show would be canceled.

5. WEIRD AL YANKOVIC AUDITIONED.

"I was in college," Yankovic recalled, "and a friend and I drove down to L.A. for the day, and auditioned for The Gong Show. And we did a song called 'Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung.' And the audience seemed to enjoy it, but we never got called back. So we didn't make the cut for The Gong Show." Only about 10 percent of applicants ever made it to the show.

6. THE SHOW FEATURED SOME TRULY TALENTED PEOPLE.

Steve Martin was an act and later was a guest judge. Andrea McArdle appeared and subsequently won the lead in the Broadway musical Annie. Cheryl Lynn was signed to a recording contract and recorded "Got To Be Real." Mare Winningham won when she sang "Here, There, and Everywhere," under an alias. Danny Elfman and the rest of Oingo Boingo performed. Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman) estimated he was on the show roughly 15 times. He won money, too.

7. THE $516.32 GRAND PRIZE WASN'T AS RANDOM AS IT SOUNDED.

While Barris referred to it as "the highly unusual amount of $516.32,” it was actually the Screen Actors Guild union scale minimum for one day's work.

8. THE POPSICLE TWINS NEVER RAN ON THE WEST COAST.

Chuck Barris would occasionally send up acts he knew the censors wouldn't allow, distracting them from barring other risqué acts he wanted to put on. The Popsicle Twins (officially known as the "Have You Got a Nickel?" act) were one of those sacrificial lambs, but NBC censors let them through. Enough East Coast viewers complained after witnessing two barefoot 17-year-old girls in shorts and T-shirts sucking on orange popsicles to "I'm in the Mood for Love" that NBC pulled the show's feed from the air before the act could be shown to the rest of the country.

9. NBC BANNED PANELIST JAYE P. MORGAN.

Weeks after The Popsicle Twins incident in 1978, panelist Jaye P. Morgan flashed the studio audience. It never made the broadcast, but she was barred from the show by the network. It was one of the final straws for NBC and the daytime version of the series was canceled soon after. The flashing appeared in The Gong Show Movie (1980).

10. CHUCK BARRIS GOT GONGED IN THE SERIES FINALE.

Barris appeared as a contestant singing Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It." He gave the camera the finger.

11. ROBERT DOWNEY SR. WROTE AND DIRECTED THE GONG SHOW MOVIE.

Halfway through production, Barris decided to direct the movie himself (Downey Sr. was okay with this). It made just over $6.6 million.

12. THEY KEPT TRYING TO BRING THE SHOW BACK.

There was the syndicated weekday revival of The Gong Show, hosted by San Francisco DJ Don Bleu, which ran from 1988 to 1989. Each winner won $701 that time. Ten years later, the Game Show Network presented Extreme Gong, where viewers called in to declare whether an act was good or not. The Gong Show with Dave Attell ran for eight weeks in the summer of 2008 on Comedy Central. Winning acts won $600.

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Game of Thrones Theory Predicts Samwell Tarly is 'The Prince That Was Promised'
Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

Spoiler alert: If you’re not caught up on HBO's Game of Thrones, we’re about to unleash a handful of spoilers. So you’ll want to stop reading now and come back when you’re all caught up.

In the seven years since Game of Thrones first made its small-screen debut on HBO, viewers and observers alike have been treated to a seemingly never-ending stream of fan theories that attempt to figure out where the show’s narrative is heading. While some of these predictions have been a bit of a stretch, we’ve watched as some others have come true. One question that continues to be asked, and the answer guessed at, is: Who is The Prince That Was Promised, a.k.a. Azor Ahai, a.k.a. the prophesized savior of the Game of Thrones universe? While this Prince (or Princess—the translation leaves open the option for both) has been guessed as being everyone from Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen, Redditor MrSilenceT—whose clever theories we have covered before—has another contender for the role: sweet, lovable Samwell Tarly.

In a series of meticulously detailed Reddit posts, MrSilenceT laid out the reasoning behind his belief that Samwell could ultimately be the one to save the day in Westeros. And it rests on one assumption: that Sam is not the son of that awful Randyll Tarly, whom we met briefly in season seven. No, MrSilenceT posits that Sam is actually the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen and his first wife, Elia Martell. If true, this would make Sam the nephew of Daenerys, the half-brother of Jon Snow, and therefore a member of House Targaryen—and the possible third head of that oft-discussed three-headed dragon, which will ride into war and purportedly put a period on who is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

According to MrSilenceT’s theory:

"The third head is no one else than Aegon Targaryen, first son of Rhaegar & Elia Martell, that had truly been smuggled by Varys. After Robert's Rebellion, Varys could not afford to lose the little Prince. To protect him, Varys sent baby Aegon to be fostered by one of the strongest and most faithful supporters of the Targaryen reign, to the man that had inflicted Robert his only defeat at the Battle of Ashford, Lord Randyll Tarly."

He goes on to use A Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin’s own words to support this idea, even if it might be a bit of a stretch. During a Q&A for the Emmy Awards in 2013, the author was asked which character he would play on the show; he answered that he actually already does play all the characters when he writes them. “But if they actually had to film me, I guess the only one that I could play would be Samwell Tarly,” Martin said. (Though Hot Pie got an honorable mention.)

Though most people listening to Martin probably dismissed his words as little more than a lighthearted response to a lighthearted question, MrSilenceT believes this was a subtle allusion to a conversation Rhaegar and Elia had about their son, with Rhaegar stating that, “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” In other words, according to the Redditor:

"Therefore ladies and gentlemen, George is the true prince that was promised and his book is the song of Ice and Fire! Sam, a.k.a. George R.R. Martin, is destined to lead mankind in its war against darkness (ignorance) by wielding a sword known as Lightbringer (the book of A Song Of Ice And Fire) …

"Samwell had inherited his mother's Dornish looks and most of her character: kind and clever, with a gentle heart and a sweet wit, though with a delicate health; exactly like Ser Barristan Selmy had described Elia. From his father, Sam had inherited Rhaegar's love for books and songs instead of his ability for battle. Lord Randyll, being the Tarly that he is, tried his best to raise the young Prince as a fighter. But even after giving it his all, poor Sam could not do it. His training was proving a failure. And to cope with the stress and the pain, Sam hid behind food ..."

Could Samwell Tarly be the hero we’ve been waiting for all along? You can read the full theory here. And since you’ve got a good year to ponder that question until the series returns for its final season, maybe now’s the time to re-watch the entire thing and see if you can find any other hints that point to Sam’s possibly princely identity.

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9 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3
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[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next season of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. Since it was officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix in December 2017, new details have been trickling out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.

1. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TIME JUMP.

The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”

2. THE IDEA IS TO BE SMALLER IN SCALE.

If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”

3. THE MIND FLAYER WILL BE BACK.

The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).

4. PLENTY OF LEFTOVER SEASON TWO STORYLINES WILL BE IN SEASON THREE.

The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Speaking with Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.

5. THERE WILL BE MORE ERICA.

Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”

6. EXPECT KALI TO RETURN.

The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.

7. OTHER "NUMBERS" MIGHT SHOW UP.

We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.

8. THERE MIGHT NOT BE MANY SEASONS LEFT.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

9. CARY ELWES AND JAKE BUSEY HAVE JOINED THE CAST.

The cast of Stranger Things is growing for season three, and two of the most high-profile additions announced so far are Cary Elwes and Jake Busey. Elwes—of The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights fame—will be playing Mayor Kline, who is described as "Your classic ’80s politician—more concerned with his own image than with the people of the small town he governs." All we know about Busey’s character is that he’ll be named Bruce and is described as "a journalist for the The Hawkins Post, with questionable morals and a sick sense of humor."

In March, it was also announced that Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, landed a role in the upcoming season. According to Variety, she’ll play an "'alternative girl' bored with her mundane day job. She seeks excitement in her life and gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a dark secret in Hawkins, Ind."

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