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12 Elementary Facts About Sherlock

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Although Sherlock Holmes ranks as one of the most frequently adapted fictional characters of all time, the producers of BBC’s Emmy-nominated Sherlock have managed to make the detective seem as fresh as when his print adventures first began appearing in 1887. Just ahead of tonight's fourth season premiere, check out some facts about the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring production, an unlikely Watson, and why the original pilot episode never made it on the air.

1. A SHERLOCK LANDMARK HELPED MAKE THE SHOW HAPPEN.

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For years, writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss took a train to and from Cardiff while working on Doctor Who, and discussed various projects they were interested in doing; one that kept coming up repeatedly was a modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. This reportedly went on for some time, with neither man making any particular effort to get it off the ground, until Moffat’s wife, Sue, decided to invite both men for lunch. Her selection: the Criterion, a watering hole and eatery in London’s Piccadilly Circus. It’s the same place where the fictional John Watson, Holmes’s best friend, first hears of the famed detective. The two got the hint and began working on the series.

2. THE ORIGINAL PILOT NEVER AIRED.

When Moffat and Gatiss conceived of a modern-day take on Holmes for the BBC in 2008, the expectation was that their hour-long adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet would lead to a series. When they finished filming, however, those chances seemed slim: The pilot was more of a stodgy production than the cinematic, inventive style Gatiss and Moffat were hoping for. The BBC agreed to reshoot it with new director Paul McGuigan adding touches like having text messages appear onscreen. The less-polished prototype is available on the DVD release.

3. IT WAS INTENDED TO BE AN HOUR-LONG SERIES.

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Although the original pilot was 60 minutes, the reshot episode was 90 minutes, leading Gatiss and Moffat to believe the best format for the show would be as a small season of movie-length episodes. The pair initially intended all episodes to run an hour, with more of them—up to six—per season. “That [pilot] was going to be the format of the series,” Gatiss said in 2014. “I think if we’d done that everything would be very different. We would do one where it was mostly Doctor Watson, or [landlady] Mrs. Hudson investigates or something like that.”

4. MATT SMITH AUDITIONED FOR WATSON.

While Benedict Cumberbatch was the first and only choice for Holmes, Matt Smith was among a number of actors considered for his counterpart, John Watson.The role eventually went to Martin Freeman (The Office, Fargo) because Moffat believed his chemistry with Cumberbatch was the best. Smith wound up auditioning for Doctor Who just a week later, and became the Eleventh Doctor.

5. HARRISON FORD GEEKED OUT OVER IT.

The quality of the series has not been lost on audiences, critics, or Harrison Ford: When the actor appeared on The Graham Norton Show alongside Cumberbatch in 2013, he told the actor the show was “amazing.” Ford’s wife, Calista Flockhart, told the Radio Times that she and Ford “can’t stop watching” the show. The family’s BBC gateway drug was apparently Agatha Christie's Poirot, a long-running adaptation of the author's elegant detective.

6. IT’S LED TO A RISE IN BOOK SALES.

The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle must have been pleased to note that the 2010 debut of Sherlock on BBC One correlated with a sharp uptick in sales of the author’s printed works. According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks media sales, copies of Doyle’s titles moved roughly 57,000 copies in 2009. The year after, it was 88,000—with sales the week after the show premiered doubling from the week prior.

7. FANS HAVE CHANGED HOW THE SHOW IS PRODUCED.

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When word gets out that Sherlock is filming exterior shots in Cardiff, fans gather using a Twitter hashtag (#Setlock) to watch—sometimes up to 300 at a time, all positioned behind barricades. Martin Freeman has described the experience as something “I don’t love,” since the crowd is effectively an uninvited audience. (They once broke into applause when he opened a bag of crisps.) Because of the distraction, Gatiss has noted that the show now arranges for fewer scenes set outside. “Large dialogue scenes outside are quite tough,” he said in 2014, adding that the actors had trouble concentrating.

8. PBS CUT A BIG CHUNK OUT OF EPISODES.

If your only exposure to the second season of Sherlock was on PBS in America, you’ve missed nearly a half-hour of the show. In 2012, executive producer Sue Vertue told the Independent that eight minutes from each of the three episodes had been snipped in order to make room for sponsor spots in the United States.  

9. THERE’S A MANGA ADAPTATION.

Titan

An adaptation of an adaptation, in 2012 Japan's Young Ace magazine depicted the first episode of Sherlock in the country's distinctive sequential art style. U.S. publisher Titan Comics recently compiled the four issues into an English-language trade paperback edition after several unofficial fan translations demonstrated a considerable demand for the work to be reprinted. Titan also publishes books in which Holmes fights aliens and vampires.

10. YOU ARE UNLIKELY TO EVER SEE A CROSSOVER WITH DOCTOR WHO.

Two of the BBC’s biggest successes are both filmed in Cardiff and both have the same showrunner; television crossovers have happened with less. Despite that, Steven Moffat—who oversees both shows—says the odds of the time-hopping Doctor crossing paths with Holmes are slim to none. In addition to the Sherlock cast being disinterested, Moffat told a Royal Television Society audience in 2014 the fact that Holmes has been presented as a fictional character in Doctor Who presents a difficult hurdle to overcome. “[The Doctor] has even dressed up as [Holmes],” the writer said.

11. THERE MIGHT BE A SHERLOCK THEME PARK ATTRACTION COMING.

BBC

Not many fictional detectives get their own theme park; Holmes might be a rare exception. The BBC is reportedly considering an amusement park based on their properties, including Sherlock and Doctor Who, for Kent, England, in 2020. The addition is expected to join a planned London Paramount Entertainment Resort that will also feature a water park.

12. THE SHOW MIGHT RUN FOREVER.

Sherlock has produced just 10 episodes in nearly eight years, a far cry from the 180-odd episodes a network series would have amassed in that time. But the erratic shooting schedule that sometimes frustrates fans might eventually work to the audience’s benefit. Because the series doesn’t shoot continuously, Moffat sees no reason the production can’t keep resuming indefinitely. “It’s an occasional treat when you get three movies,” he said in mid-2016. “That’s why I think it’s unlikely that we’ve completely finished it. There would be nothing strange in stopping for a while. It could go on forever, coming back now and again.”

Though Cumberbatch has recently hinted that the show's fourth season could be his last, Moffat said that the star's quote was misunderstood. "It seems to be impossible these days not to be misquoted," Moffat said. "He was quite specific about being keen to carry on. He went on to say [it's] hard to get us all together. We want to keep the quality up. We haven’t even seen this [season air] yet. We don’t know. We haven’t sat down with the intent to anything yet. But we’re always aware that it could be over. But the fact is Benedict did not say that.”

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15 Fun Facts About Yo Gabba Gabba!
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Since its debut on August 20, 2007 on Nick Jr., Yo Gabba Gabba!—a kids’ show featuring a red cyclops, a magic robot, a pink flower girl, a green-striped guy, a blue cat-dragon, and a host wearing orange spandex and a fluffy hat—became one of the biggest draws for the preschool crowd. But thanks to the show's hipster-friendly musical performances and celebrity guest stars, Yo Gabba Gabba! managed to transcend its kiddie roots to become a hit with fans of all ages. On the 10th anniversary of its debut, let's go behind the scenes of the beloved series.

1. THE CREATOR OF NAPOLEON DYNAMITE HAD A HAND IN GETTING YO GABBA GABBA! ON THE AIR.

Longtime friends Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz got the idea for Yo Gabba Gabba! when, as two dads in their mid-30s, they were less-than-enthusiastic about the television shows their kids were watching. It wasn't that the other shows were bad; they were just boring and sanitized.

With their experience as musicians and videographers, Jacobs and Schultz thought they could do something different. So they scraped together about $150,000 and began writing, animating, and shooting demo episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba! in their garage. They posted these videos online and Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite, happened to see them. Impressed, Hess passed the link onto Brown Johnson, an executive at Nickelodeon, who said, “Lordy. Nothing else looks like this on television.” She quickly contacted the duo and, in a risky move that obviously paid off, gave them complete creative control of their own show on Nick Jr.

2. THE TITLE IS MEANT TO BE MIMIC BABY TALK.

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According to Jacobs, the name of the show is a nonsense phrase meant to be reminiscent of the first words spoken by a baby. However, that doesn't mean Jacobs and Schultz aren't happy the name also pays homage to The Ramones, who used the phrase “Gabba Gabba Hey!” in their song “Pinhead.” But that actually makes it an homage of an homage, as The Ramones were paying tribute to the original source of the phrase, the 1932 cult classic film Freaks. In the film, “Gabba Gabba Hey!” is part of a chant uttered by a group of circus freaks as they welcome a new member into the fold.

3. ITS THEME SONG IS REMINISCENT OF PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE.

The show's intro music seems suspiciously like the intro music from another kinetic kids' show, Pee-wee's Playhouse. Pay close attention to when the trees part on Pee-wee's intro and you'll hear a lot of similarities between the two.

4. THE SHOW BECAME A WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON.

Yo Gabba Gabba! became a worldwide phenomenon, and was broadcast all over the world, including in Italy, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada.

5. DJ LANCE ROCK REALLY IS A DJ.

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DJ Lance Rock is actually Lance Robertson—and he really is a DJ. Robertson grew up in St. Louis, where he started spinning records in the early '90s before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 29. While in L.A., he played with a band, The Ray Makers, who played a few gigs with a group called Majestic, which counted future Yo Gabba Gabba! co-creator Scott Schultz as a member. When the Yo Gabba Gabba! guys were looking for a host, Schultz thought of Robertson. After Robertson signed on, one of the first things he did was suggest they change DJ Lance's look to the now-iconic orange jumpsuit and fuzzy hat. The original costume included a waistcoat similar to the one worn by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

6. MUNO AND BROBEE EXISTED BEFORE YO GABBA GABBA!.

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While the other characters were created exclusively for Yo Gabba Gabba!, Muno and Brobee were already around as part of the live show for Christian Jacobs's kid-friendly ska/punk band, The Aquabats. Since shortly after their founding in 1994, The Aquabats have dressed in matching superhero costumes, fighting evil under aliases like The MC Bat Commander (Jacobs), Crash McLarson, Jimmy the Robot, Ricky Fitness, and Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk. The lineup has changed frequently over the years (Travis Barker of Blink-182 was briefly their drummer under the name “The Baron von Tito”), but the band still performs live and releases the occasional studio album. Naturally, they made a handful of appearances on Yo Gabba Gabba!, as well.

7. THE SHOW HAS A CONNECTION TO DEVO.

While most kids only know him as the kookie art teacher on the show, Mark Mothersbaugh was one of the founding members and lead singer of the New Wave band Devo. Even when he’s not wearing a red terraced “Energy Dome” hat, Mothersbaugh’s career has been prolific as a composer for dozens of TV shows, films, video games, and commercials, including Apple’s famous “I’m a Mac” ads starring Justin Long and John Hodgman.

8. BIZ MARKIE WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO DANCE ON THE SHOW.

Yo Gabba Gabba! fans learned how to beatbox thanks to rapper Biz Markie (born Marcel Theo Hall) and his “Beat of the Day” segment. Biz was initially asked to do a Dancey Dance routine for the show, but he has a bad back, so he offered to teach the kids how to do a beat instead. The producers loved it and it became a staple on the show. Parents knew Biz best from his 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” which featured his unique brand of rapping and “singing.” 

9. SUPER MARTIAN ROBOT GIRL IS THE PRODUCT OF TWO GROUNDBREAKING COMIC BOOK ARTISTS.

The comic book the Gabba gang often reads, Super Martian Robot Girl, is the creation of married underground comic book celebrities Sarah Dyer and Evan Dorkin. Dorkin is the genius behind the small press comic Milk and Cheese about “dairy products gone bad”—a milk carton and a wedge of cheese who love to drink gin and beat people up. Dyer was an influential creator in the '90s zine scene, where she was one of the few people giving female zinesters a voice with her Action Girl Newsletter, which later paved the way for the similarly-themed Action Girl Comics.

10. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR SEVEN EMMYS, BUT NEVER WON.

Yo Gabba Gabba!  received numerous Daytime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction and Costume Design, as well as for Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series, but a win eluded the show. In addition, the series was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Children’s Programming by the Television Critics Association Awards five times (and won twice). Internationally, the show was awarded a BAFTA in 2008. And DJ Lance received two NAACP Image Award nominations.      

11. THE SHOW GOT ITS OWN LINE OF SNEAKERS.

Ever wanted to see Foofa pop a wheelie? How about Toodee ride a surfboard? In 2011, the Gabba gang shot a series of videos to promote their line of Vans shoe, a brand popular among the extreme sports crowd. The characters shared the screen with some of the biggest names in the X Games, including surfers Alex Knost and Jared Mell, skateboarders Bucky Lasek and Christian Hosoi, BMXers Alistair Whitton and Coco Zurita, and motocross stars Dean Wilson and Ryan Villopoto. You can check out the videos at Yo Gabba Gabba's official YouTube channel.

12. THEY PLAYED COACHELLA.

The gang invaded the Coachella Music Festival in 2010, where they performed, hung out with celebrity fans backstage, and even showed up to dance with the audience at other musical performances.

13. THE SHOW HAD A LOT OF CELEBRITY FANS.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

For Halloween 2009, Brad Pitt donned DJ Lance's orange jumpsuit and fuzzy hat when he took his kids trick-or-treating. Lance was later quoted as saying that Pitt looked “Awesome.”

14. IT FEATURED A LOT OF GUEST STARS.

While most celebrities only come on the show to do a Dancey Dance or Cool Tricks segment, there have been a handful of guests that played a bigger role in an episode. The first was Jack Black, who had an entire episode dedicated to his adventures in Gabbaland after his flying motorbike ran out of gas. He got the gig after his wife emailed the show and practically begged them to let Jack come on because he was such a big fan. Other celebrities who popped in: Angela Kinsey from The Office played a teacher, the Tooth Fairy was played by Amy Sedaris, Mos Def saved the day as Super Mr. Superhero, Anthony Bourdain cameoed as a doctor, Jason Bateman played an evil spy, Lost’s Josh Holloway played a helpful farmer, and Weird Al Yankovic guested as a circus ringmaster.

15. A YO GABBA GABBA! DOLL WILL COST YOU A PRETTY PENNY.

The Gabba action figures that DJ Lance brought to life at the beginning of each episode were produced by Kidrobot, one of the leading names in the vinyl toy movement. The figures are no longer produced, so when one pops up on eBay, it often commands a high price. But if you’re not willing to spend that kind of money on an action figure, there are plenty of other Gabba-themed toys, books, DVDs, comics, smartphone apps, and clothes to keep your kids happy.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

Michael Ochs Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually broke away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying, “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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