12 Fun Facts About You Can't Do That on Television

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YouTube

Two years after Nickelodeon’s official launch, it began airing the comedy series that would set the standard for the kid-friendly comedies that have dominated the channel’s programming lineup in the nearly 40 years since. Like a tween version of Laugh-In, You Can’t Do That On Television offered kids a somewhat subversive take on the sketch comedy genre. Its ensuing popularity essentially defined the network in the 1980s, and introduced its iconic green slime to the world. Here are 12 fun facts you might not have known about You Can't Do That on Television.

1. IT DIDN’T START OUT AS A NICKELODEON SHOW.

Two years before making its international debut, You Can’t Do That on Television was created in Ottawa, Canada with the intention of airing there and only there. It wasn’t until two years after its original premiere that Nickelodeon took a shine to it and expressed interest in bringing it to cable television. In early 1982, Nickelodeon took a chance on the series and began airing some edited versions of the show to gauge audience reaction. It quickly became the channel’s biggest hit.

2. THE OPENING CREDITS WERE INSPIRED BY TERRY GILLIAM.

If the opening credits to You Can’t Do That on Television look familiar, you might be thinking of Monty Python’s Flying Circus or any number of other Terry Gilliam-created animations. When asked about the similarities in animation style by Splitsider, You Can’t Do That on Television executive producer Geoffrey Darby admitted that, yes, “The opening was definitely influenced by [Gilliam]. In fact, it was very much a crib on some of the things he had done previously. Not the sausage factory, but the conveyor belt and hitting the head, and having it crack open. That was very much the style of a lot of animation in 1979 and 1980. It was very much the cutout Terry Gilliam style.”

3. CHRISTINE MCGLADE WAS CAST AS THE HOST ALMOST ACCIDENTALLY.

Christine “Moose” McGlade showed up at the first audition for You Can’t Do That on Television with no intention of auditioning. She was there merely as emotional support for a friend and fellow actress, who was trying out. But show creator Roger Price wasn’t having it: he reportedly insisted that McGlade either audition or leave. She opted for the former and ended up being cast as the show’s host.

4. IT HELPED LAUNCH THE CAREERS OF SOME FUTURE STARS.

While not all of You Can’t Do That on Television’s kid stars remained in show biz, the series did help to kickstart the careers of a few household names—most notably, singer Alanis Morissette, who appeared in a handful of episodes of the show in 1986; less than a decade later, she released her hit album Jagged Little Pill, which became one of the best-selling albums of all time. Bill Prady, who would go on to executive produce Gilmore Girls and The Big Bang Theory, was a writer on the show.

5. IT WAS INTENTIONALLY ANTI-EDUCATIONAL.

Whereas other kid television creators were aiming for education over entertainment, Roger Price was focused squarely on making kids laugh. “You Can’t Do That on Television was kind of anti-educational,” McGlade told The Huffington Post. “It’s funny because I’ve worked in educational media and one of my former cast mates grew up to be a teacher. But actually, Roger Price was a very rebellious anti-establishment man. His thought process was 'If the kids took over the studio, all these fun, silly, hilarious things could happen.'"

6. IT’S BEEN CREDITED AS THE BIRTHPLACE OF “GROSS” HUMOR.

As part of that “anti-establishment” mentality, You Can’t Do That on Television was full of bathroom humor—so much so that many people point to the series as the birthplace of gross-out humor. "[You Can't Do That on Television] was probably the first," Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi told The Ottawa Citizen of how the show opened the door for more potty humor-loving kids series. “If it hadn't been for them, we wouldn't have been able to do our thing. It was Les Lye and all those wacky guys who paved the way."

7. THE KIDS SHOT AFTER SCHOOL AND ON WEEKENDS.

Unlike other kid actors who have on-set tutors, You Can’t Do That on Television's producers wanted the kids who appeared on the show to remain “normal” kids in every sense. So that they could maintain their regular routines, production occurred around school schedules. “They all went to regular school and were in regular classes,” Darby explained. “They would come after school for the table readings and then would work on the weekends. They stayed regular, local kids, because we didn’t want them in a bubble. Because then they’re no longer kids, they’re ‘act-ores.’ Which is never what was wanted.”

8. IT ORIGINATED NICKELODEON’S FAMOUS GREEN SLIME.

To this day, “getting slimed” is a staple of the Nickelodeon network—and it started with You Can’t Do That on Television. Anytime a kid said the phrase “I don’t know,” he or she would be doused with a bucket of bright green slime—which Darby said happened kind of by accident:

“We were in the dungeon set and what happened was we had this joke, which was, ‘Whatever you do, kids, don’t pull on that chain.’

We went to the cafeteria and got them to give us a bucket of slop.

We said, ‘We want you to take all the stuff that’s left on plates over the whole day and put it in this bucket.’ And then we were going to dump it on the kid so that it looked like if he pulled the chain, sewage would come out.

We didn’t get around to shooting the scene because you can’t go into overtime with children. It’s against the law. If you don’t get the scene, you don’t get the scene. We didn’t get it shot.

So we put the set up again the following week to shoot that one scene … The prop man came to me—literally, this is a completely true story—and said, ‘There’s a problem.’ The problem was that he didn’t get a new bucket of slop. He just kept the old one back stage. There was about eight to 1- inches of green crud. Growing. It had grown on the top of this bucket of … stuff. There was mold.

So, we had to get the scene, right? We couldn’t get more slop, because we couldn’t! I said, ‘Dump … it … on … the … kid … anyway.' And that’s how green slime was invented.”

9. BEING SLIMED MEANT A BIGGER PAYCHECK.

Green slime wasn’t the only liquid kids on the show got doused with; any mention of “water” or “wet” would lead to a bucket of water being dumped on their heads. But there was a tradeoff: Kids were paid an extra $75 per episode that required them to be soaked, and $150 per episode that required them to be slimed. “We just thought it was a way to reward them for the horror of having that done,” Darby told Splitsider.

10. ONE EPISODE PROVED SO CONTROVERSIAL THAT IT WAS BANNED IN AMERICA.

In the show’s eighth season, one episode—“Adoption”—proved to be quite controversial. It did air in the U.S., but was quickly banned. Looking back on the episode in 2012, Darby admitted that the episode was a misstep, saying that, “We ourselves didn’t understand what buttons were being pushed about an episode dealing with adoption. And that was our mistake. None of the kids were adopted, we didn’t know anybody who had been adopted. That was really us just not being cognizant of the world of adoption. And so that was a bad show. That was just not being respectful.”

11. MR. ROGERS WASN’T A FAN.

Though kids loved the show, it had its fair share of detractors—many of them parents who didn’t like the way that adults were portrayed on the show. It also had one very famous critic: “Fred Rogers hates the show,'' Price said in 1989. ''He doesn't realize we're saying the same thing—I'm saying it to eight-year-olds and he's saying it to four-year-olds ... I care about my viewers: I don't care what their parents may want them to be, I care about them for what they are.”

12. IT INSPIRED A DOCUMENTARY FEATURE.

More than a decade after You Can’t Do That on Television’s series finale, interest in the show was still strong enough that Shout! Factory released You Can’t Do That on Film, a feature-length documentary about the series, directed by David Dillehunt.

The Very Real Events That Inspired Game of Thrones's Red Wedding

Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham, Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ask any Game of Thrones fan to cite a few of the show's most shocking moments, and the so-called "Red Wedding" from season 3's "The Rains of Castamere" episode will likely be at the top of their list. The events that unfolded during the episode shocked fans because of their brutality, but what might be even more surprising to know is that the episode was based on very real events.

Author George R.R. Martin has said that the inspiration for the matrimonial bloodbath is based on two dark events in Scottish history: the Black Dinner of 1440 and 1692's Massacre of Glencoe. “No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. And he’s absolutely right. See for yourself.

The Massacre of Glencoe

The West Highland Way in 2005, view from the summit of the Devil's Staircase looking south over the east end of Glen Coe, towards Buachaille Etive Mòr with Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh beyond
Colin Souza, Edited by Dave Souza, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

In 1691, all Scottish clans were called upon to renounce the deposed King of Scotland, James VII, and swear allegiance to King William of Orange (of William and Mary fame). The chief of each clan had until January 1, 1692, to provide a signed document swearing an oath to William. The Highland Clan MacDonald had two things working against them here. First of all, the Secretary of State, John Dalrymple, was a Lowlander who loathed Clan MacDonald. Secondly, Clan MacDonald had already sworn an oath to James VII and had to wait on him to send word that they were free to break that oath.

Unfortunately, it was December 28 before a messenger arrived with this all-important letter from the former king. That gave Maclain, the chief of the MacDonald clan, just three days to get the newly-signed oath to the Secretary of State.

Maclain was detained for days when he went through Inveraray, the town of the rival Clan Campbell, but still managed to deliver the oath, albeit several days late. The Secretary of State’s legal team wasn't interested in late documents. They rejected the MacDonalds's sworn allegiance to William, and set plans in place to cut the clan down, “root and branch.”

In late January or early February, 120 men under the command of Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the MacDonalds's in Glencoe, claiming to need shelter because a nearby fort was full. The MacDonalds offered their hospitality, as was custom, and the soldiers stayed there for nearly two weeks before Captain Drummond arrived with instructions to “put all to the sword under seventy.”

After playing cards with their victims and wishing them goodnight, the soldiers waited until the MacDonalds were asleep ... then murdered as many men as they could manage. In all, 38 people—some still in their beds—were killed. At least 40 women and children escaped, but fleeing into a blizzard blowing outside as their houses burned down meant that they all died of exposure.

The massacre was considered especially awful because it was “Slaughter Under Trust.” To this day, the door at Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe has a sign on the door that says "No hawkers or Campbells."

The Black Dinner

In November of 1440, the newly-appointed 6th Earl of Douglas, who was just 16, and his little brother David, were invited to join the 10-year-old King of Scotland, James II, for dinner at Edinburgh Castle. But it wasn’t the young King who had invited the Douglas brothers. The invitation had been issued by Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, who feared that the Black Douglas (there was another clan called the Red Douglas) were growing too powerful.

As legend has it, the children were all getting along marvelously, enjoying food, entertainment and talking until the end of the dinner, when the head of a black bull was dropped on the table, symbolizing the death of the Black Douglas. The two young Douglases were dragged outside, given a mock trial, found guilty of high treason, and beheaded. It’s said that the Earl pleaded for his brother to be killed first so that the younger boy wouldn’t have to witness his older brother’s beheading.

Sir Walter Scott wrote this of the horrific event:

"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."

This article has been updated for 2019.

15 Game of Thrones Products Every Fan Needs

Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Though Game of Thrones might be coming to its official end, that doesn’t mean that your fandom can’t—or won’t—carry on. Whether you’re a years-long defender of House Stark or have been rooting for House Targaryen since the beginning, there’s a candle, collectible pin, coffee mug, card game, and pretty much anything else you can imagine with your name (and preferred sigil) on it.

1. A Song of Ice and Fire Book Series; $46

Bantam's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' book series

Bantam, Amazon

If you’ve never read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the series is based, plenty more Westerosi drama awaits. And just because you’ve seen every episode of the series 10 times doesn’t mean you know which way the books will turn. (The TV show diverged from their narrative a long time ago—and dozens of the characters who have been killed off on your television screen are still alive and well in the books.) Plus, as Martin has yet to complete the series, you may just catch up in time for the newest book.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Map Marker Wine Stopper Set; $50

Nobody solves a problem like Tyrion Lannister … and his thought process usually includes copious amounts of wine (Dornish if you’ve got it). Something tells us you’re going need some vino yourself to get through the giant, hour-long hole left in your Sunday nights once Game of Thrones officially ends. Make sure you don’t let a drop of it go to waste by keeping one of these six wine stoppers—each one carved to represent the sigil of the most noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms—handy.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

3. Winterfell Coffee Mug; $25

If coffee is more your speed—we get it: the night is dark and full of terrors—this simple-yet-elegant Winterfell mug is an easy way to communicate to your co-workers why you’re typically a little bleary-eyed on Monday mornings.

Buy it: HBO Shop

4. Hodor Door Stop; $12

A 3D-printed Hodor door stop, inspired by 'Game of Thrones'

3D Cauldron, Amazon

An important part of being a Game of Thrones fan is accepting that showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have no problem killing off your favorite characters, often in brutal ways. One of the series’ most memorable deaths was that of Hodor, Bran Stark’s personal mode of transport, who we loved despite the fact that the only word he ever uttered for six seasons was “Hodor”—and who we loved even more when, in the final moments of his life, we learned why that was the case. Pay tribute to the gentle giant, and his backstory, with this 3D-printed door stop.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Tarot Card Deck; $25

A 'Game of Thrones' tarot card deck, from Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books, Amazon

Channel your inner Maggy the Frog and see what the future holds for you and your loved ones (your enemies, too, if the mood strikes you) with Chronicle Books’s gorgeously packaged tarot card deck. The tarot tradition and Game of Thrones mythology blend seamlessly together in this box of goodies, which includes an instruction book and illustrated cards featuring your favorite characters and most beloved scenes from the show.

Buy it: Amazon or Chronicle Books

6. Fire and Blood Candle; $12

Mad Queen or not, show that you still stand behind the Mother of Dragons by filling your home with this House Targaryen-inspired votive candle. Best of all: Just wait to see the look on the faces of your guests when they ask “Mmmm … what’s that smell?” If you’d prefer not to answer with “fire and blood—doesn’t it smell delicious?,” there are other scents available: one called "Moon of My Life My Sun and Stars," another called "Be a Dragon," and one inspired by the Iron Throne itself (which must smell like victory).

Buy it: HBO Shop

7. Clue: Game of Thrones; $50

Margaery Tyrell with the battle axe in Cersei’s bedchambers. Rewrite the rules—and brutal deaths—of Game of Thrones with this special edition of the classic board game, which tasks you with figuring out who murdered whom, using what weapon, and where the incident took place. A double-sided playing board lets you choose whether you want to set the game in The Red Keep or Meereen.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

8. Game of Thrones Monopoly; $24

'Game of Thrones Monopoly' game board

Hasbro, Amazon

Who wants to be the Lord or Lady of Winterfell when you can become the preeminent real estate mogul of all the Seven Kingdoms? This special-edition Monopoly board puts a distinctly Westerosian twist on the classic game, with silver tokens to represent the sigils of each of the main houses and a card holder that plays the series’ haunting score whenever you press it.

Buy it: Amazon or Best Buy

9. House Stark Hoodie; $60

If you really wanted to dress like a Stark, you’d have a master blacksmith on hand to help customize your armor—or at least turn your IKEA rug into a luxurious cape. If you’re far less crafty, there’s always this full-zip hoodie featuring an embroidered direwolf on the front and an outlined illustration of the same on the back. The minimalist design is a way to show your fandom in a way that, to the untrained eye, might just look like you’re a fan of wolves. But the rest of us will know better. And approve.

Buy it: ThinkGeek

10. Deluxe Iron Throne Funko Pop! Set; $130

Funko's Iron Throne Pop! set of five

Funko, HBO Shop

Though it seems unlikely that a few of these characters will ever sit on the Iron Throne (either because they’re dead or have gone mad), a fan can always hope. And buying them as part of this five-piece set is an easy way to collect them all. If you don’t see your favorite character here, Amazon has got plenty more squat-headed figures to choose from, including Arya, Brienne of Tarth, Rhaegal (poor Rhaegal), and Ghost (poor Ghost). If you ever happen upon a headless Ned Stark Pop!, grab it; this hard-to-find figure can sell for more than $2000 on eBay.

Buy it: HBO Shop

11. Iron Throne Bookend; $60

After devoting more than eight years of your life to seeing Game of Thrones all the way through, maybe it’s you who deserves the Iron Throne. You can’t sit on this 7.5-inch replica, the base of which features sigils from all the noble houses, but you can show off your fancy George R.R. Martin book collection … or all that dragon fan fiction you’ve been working on.

Buy it: Best Buy or the HBO Shop

12. Game of Thrones Music Box; $13

'Game of Thrones' music box

Shenzhen Youtang Trade Co., Amazon

Channel your inner Arya by psyching yourself up with the iconic Game of Thrones theme song whenever you feel the need to hear it with this hand-cranked music box.

Buy it: Amazon

13. Iron Throne Tankard; $70

Show your guests who's boss at your next dinner party—or raucous feast—as you take your place at the head of the table and guzzle your mead (or giant's milk—we don't judge) from this Iron Throne-themed tankard, completed with sword handle.

Buy it: HBO Shop

14. Game of Thrones Socks; $8

It gets cold in the North. Keep your tootsies warm with this six-pack of stylish ankle-cut socks.

Buy it: Target

15. Living Language Dothraki; $16

A copy of the Living Language Dothraki language course

Living Language, Amazon

By now, you've surely learned at least a handful of common Dothraki words and phrases. But if you wan to become fluent in the (fictional) language, this language course is one way to do it. Now: Finne zhavvorsa anni?

Buy it: Amazon

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