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Television Trivia

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Elvis Presley made only one television commercial – an ad for "Southern Maid Doughnuts" that ran in 1954.

ESPN, a total sports network, made its debut on cable in 1979. It became the largest and most successful basic cable channel, carried by nearly all cable systems, and now reaches more than 57 million households.

Few people likely recall ABC's short-lived adventure drama H.E.L.P., which starred John Mahoney (father Martin Crane on NBC's Frasier) and Wesley Snipes. It aired for just over a month: March 3 to April 14, 1990.

First choice for the lead in the CBS mystery drama Murder, She Wrote was actress Jean Stapleton. The role of mystery writer/sleuth Jessica Fletcher was created with her in mind, but before production began, Stapleton's husband died and she chose to bow out. Angela Lansbury was selected to replace her in the part.

For his X-Files audition, David Duchovny showed up in a tie with pink pigs all over it.

For many years, the globe on the NBC Nightly News spun in the wrong direction. On January 2, 1984, NBC finally set the world spinning back in the proper direction.

For the role of Mike Brady, father to TV's The Brady Bunch in the 1970s, Robert Reed was ultimately selected. However, a strong contender for the patriarchal part was actor Gene Hackman.

Former Good Morning, America co-host Joan Lunden's birth name was Joan Blunden.

Fred Rogers, the creator and star of the long-running, award-winning children's program Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is also a composer and songwriter.

Game show host Allen Ludden earned a master's degree in English, and taught high school in Austin, Texas, before his entertainment career began. He hosted G.E. College Bowl until he was asked to join Password. While the show was filled with celebrity guests, fans thought it beneath Ludden's intelligence, but he managed to win them over before his death in 1982.

Meredith Baxter-Birney played the mother, Elyse Keaton on the hit TV sitcom Family Ties. Her actress mother, Whitney Blake, also played a mom: Dorothy Baxter, on TV's Hazel.

Milton Berle's comedic genius changed the course of early television when his variety-comedy show, Texaco Star Theater, launched in the fall of 1948. His first show's guests were Pearl Bailey, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Smith and Dale, and Señor Wences.

Mitzi was the name of the dolphin that played Flipper in the movie. For the TV series Flipper, she was replaced by Suzy and Cathy.

More than 43 million people tuned in to at least some part of the highly acclaimed Baseball documentary miniseries on PBS in September, 1994, giving Ken Burns' brainchild the largest cumulative audience in the network's 25-year history.

Morty the moose, who appeared at the beginning of TV's Northern Exposure, died in 1994 at age 6 of an illness linked with cobalt and mineral deficiencies.

Most countries follow the established formats of TV game shows they import from the United States. Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! are the top games shows in most of the other countries where they air, but the French didn't take to Jeopardy!; the answer-question format "just didn't seem right to them," said president of King World International, Fred Cohen. The company wouldn't change the format, so the show went off the air.

Nanette Fabray won three Emmys total for Best Comedienne and Outstanding Actress in a Continuing Series for the variety show Caesar's Hourin the mid 1950s.

Nineteen countries around the world are producing their own versions of Sesame Street. Chinese children also tune in to the American children's classic TV show Sesame Street. But there it's called Zhima Jie. Da Niao, Big Bird's Chinese cousin, is played by a gentle young man who still works as a truck mechanic. The other characters are all Chinese: a lively three-year-old red monster called Little Plum; a furry blue pig; a kindly grandfather; a very sweet mother; and a little boy, An An.

Oddly enough, despite his tremendous influence on early television and his popularity with the American public, Jackie Gleason never won an Emmy award. His longtime sidekick, Art Carney, won five Supporting Actor Emmys for both The Jackie Gleason Show and The Honeymooners; co-star Audrey Meadows won one. "The Great One," however, was overlooked through his TV career. According to one source, this bothered good friend Carney, who hid his Emmy trophies so that Gleason wouldn't be reminded of the snub when he came to visit Carney at his home.

On Late Night with David Letterman, irreverent host Letterman once almost reduced guest Nastassja Kinski to tears when he made fun of her hair.

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