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

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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.

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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