Seriously Funny: Remembering Leslie Nielsen On His 95th Birthday

Today, the 11th of February, 2021 would’ve been Leslie Nielsen’s 95th birthday. This is an article I’ve actually been meaning to write for a few years now, but it just kept slipping down my ever growing list of an increasing backlog. Still, as a way to say happy birthday to and remember one of the all time great funny men, I thought I’d finally finish this up and get it published. 

Early Life

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on the 11th of February, 1926. Leslie Nielsen’s father was reportedly an abusive man. Often beating both Nielsen’s mother and his two brothers, along with Nielsen himself. Wanting to escape his slap-happy childhood, when he turned seventeen, Leslie Nielsen the Royal Canadian Air Force, despite being legally deaf. Nielsen had to wear hearing aids since he was a young child.

“You know it’s very difficult to be an actor, and to have people depending on you to say the right line, at the right time, and to not be able to hear your cues! I can’t tell you how many times I would’ve had to have said What? if I didn’t have my hearing aids. So my hearing aids are a life saver, and they allow me to practice my craft.”

– Leslie Nielsen

While in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Nielsen trained as an aerial gunner during World War II. After the war ended he enrolled at the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto to study acting. It was while studying in Canada when he received a scholarship at the Neighborhood Playhouse, New York. Here, Leslie Nielsen studied theatre and music before landing his first TV appearance on an episode of the anthology show Studio One in 1950.

Early Roles

Through the early fifties, Leslie Nielsen was cast in many small parts as handsome extra and bit part player. He also narrated a few documentaries and commercials just to bring in some much needed cash. However, he wanted more and dreamt of being a big name Hollywood leading man. In 1956, Nielsen landed a small part in his first feature film The Vagabond King. The film was a flop but the producer on the film, Nicholas Nayfack, took a shine the the young and good looking Leslie Nielsen and offered him an audition for a sci-fi film that Nayfack was working on next, Forbidden Planet. Of course Nielsen got the part and the film went on to be a hit too.

LESLIE NIELSEN FORBIDEN PLANET

In fact, Forbidden Planet (a sort of Shakespeare’s The Tempest… In space!) has been cited as the forerunner to ground-breaking TV show, Star Trek and the birth of real sci-fi entertainment. So great the film was and more importantly, so much liked and impressive Nielsen was that he was given a contract to work at MGM. After several years of bit parts and struggling as an actor, Leslie Nielsen was making a name for himself. Through the mid-fifties, Nielsen made more films for MGM Ransom!, The Opposite Sex, and Hot Summer Night. None of which were big hits and Nielsen started to become a bit jaded with the films he was being offered and even doubting himself as an actor. He landed the lead role in the romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor from 1957 from Uniserial Pictures (where he was borrowed from his MGM contract), which did get some positive reviews and still seen today as a pretty good flick. Leslie Nielsen began to realise that perhaps it was MGM who where the problem and not him. Still, MGM had an epic of a film coming up and one that Nielsen very much wanted to be in, Ben-Hur. He auditioned for the role of Messala in the 1959 flick and didn’t get it. By now, that contract with MGM has ended, which left Nielsen free to work elsewhere… So he did. 

Leslie Nielsen found himself working for Disney on the 1959 TV miniseries, The Swamp Fox. Being put off by movies the last few years and now finding TV work so much more fun, Nielsen gave up on trying to be a big Hollywood leading man and settled on a career in TV instead. He began to appear in numerous TV shows in the sixties like, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (based on the film), The Virginian, and The Wild Wild West. Over the years, Leslie Nielsen very much became a character actor on TV and kept popping up in supporting roles, never landing a lead. He was pretty much back where he started in the early fifties, small and secondary parts, no leads, only now on TV instead of film.

LESLIE NIELSEN THE SWAMP FOX

The thing was, Leslie Nielsen could really act, he was a fantastic serious/dramatic actor, good looking in his youth too. He just wasn’t being offered the parts he could really get his teeth into and prove just how good an actor he was. Then, he landed a role that could’ve proven to be a huge door opening for him. Leslie Nielsen secured a lead role in the 1969 TV show The Bold Ones: The Protectors. He played Deputy Police Chief Sam Danforth, a tough, no-nonsense, straight talking cop with a drive to rid his city of crime. This was gritty drama, a genre that Nielsen was really bloody great at. Sadly, the show only lasted for seven episodes and the big leading break he was striving for never came. 

In the seventies, Leslie Nielsen was back playing smaller parts. Appearing in one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Columbo in 1971. Plus, he began to appear in a few movies once more too… especially the popular disaster movies of the decade like 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure and City on Fire from 1979. In fact, it was the smaller roles in those disaster movies that would finally make Nielsen the household name he eventually became…

The Breakthrough

It was the late seventies, two writer brothers, David and Jerry Zucker, along with writer Jim Abrahams (collectively known as Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker… or just ZAZ), all had a zany sense of humour. The trio had a success with the hilarious The Kentucky Fried Movie in 1977, and they wanted to follow up on it with another off the wall comedy. But, they wanted to remake the little known but very serious 1957 disaster flick, Zero Hour! and turn it into a film with their unique brand of humour. That remake was 1980’s Airplane! and playing perhaps the most memorable character in the entire film was Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack.

LESLIE NIELSEN AIRPLANE

He was hired for this offbeat comedy because he was such a great serious actor, because of those roles in the disaster flicks of the seventies. ZAZ wanted, not known, but recognisable faces in their film to help sell the fact they wanted people to think that Airplane! had the look and tone of a serious disaster flick. The jokes would do the work while the actors just acted. It was this serious take on comedy that really worked and helped to make Airplane! such a huge hit. No matter how silly the situations in the film got, no matter how stupid some of the lines were, Leslie Nielsen was dead straight in his performance. Just as a quick aside, here’s a video comparing Zero Hour! to Airplane! so you can see how much the two films are similar:

It was also that deadpan approach to humour that led to Nielsen landing a lead role in a new cop show on TV, but unlike his previous starring role in a cop show with The Bold Ones: The Protectors, which was a heavy drama, this would be a comedy. Created by ZAZ again, Police Squad! saw Leslie Nielsen play Sergeant Frank Drebin (a role created just for Nielsen), detective lieutenant of the titular Police Squad! Just like Airplane! being a silly take on the serious disaster movie genre, so to was Police Squad!, but for police TV shows. However, unlike Airplane!, Police Squad! wasn’t a big hit. In fact, only six episodes were ever filmed and of those, only four originally made it to air before the show was cancelled by the ABC network in America. Though the last two episodes were eventually aired. Nielsen just couldn’t get a break and soon found himself struggling to find a lead role. As for why Police Squad! was cancelled? I’ll let Leslie Nielsen explain himself:

“We thought it was gonna be one of the biggest hits of the season, and we realised after it had been on for four [episodes]. It was pulled off [the air] in America because the ratings were not high, they got worse and worse. It’s the kind of humour that doesn’t belong on television, on the small screen because you had to watch it. [Tony] Thomopoulos, who was the head of programming at ABC said ‘it didnlt make it because you had to watch it’. What he meant was, you had to pay attention to it.”

– Leslie Nielsen

It was true too. The trouble was that back then, people didn’t really watch TV like they do now. The TV was just something that would be on in the background while you did something else. The humour in Police Squad! relied on your eyes being transfixed because there was so much going on. Visual jokes, jokes in the background, jokes on signs, jokes any and everywhere. You eyes worked overtime watching an episode of Police Squad! because each one was so tightly packed with so many jokes and jokes within jokes that you would miss most of them if you didn’t sit and actually watch. What worked on the big screen with Airplane! with a captive audience in a cinema, just didn’t translate to the small screen with Police Squad! as it played in the background while you did the ironing, despite being just as (if not) funnier overall.

So, Nielsen was back at square one again (again), with just getting smaller roles on TV and in movies. One such role I’m saving for last. Anyway, Paramount Pictures got the VHS distribution rights to Police Squad! and released all six episodes in 1985. The tapes became a smash hit and Paramount soon realised how popular the show really was, they approached ZAZ with an offer to bring the show back… somehow. Then in 1998, we got The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, a film version of the cancelled TV show. Of course, Leslie Nielsen was back as Frank Drebin and it was also his first lead role in a movie for over thirty years too. While The Naked Gun still had that ZAZ humour and Nielsen’s brilliant deadpan delivery of the jokes, it also showcased something that neither Airplane! or Police Squad! did before it. It allowed Leslie Nielsen to show off his slapstick comedy too. The Naked Gun became a massive hit, far bigger than Airplane! in fact. At sixty-two years old and after decades of struggling, Leslie Nielsen was finally a lead a worldwide hit movie. After that, studios were commissioning parody films specifically to have Nielsen starring in them and the parody movie craze of the nineties was born.

The sequels, The Naked Gun ​2 1⁄2: The Smell of Fear and Naked Gun ​33 1⁄3: The Final Insult help cement Nielsen as a genuine Hollywood funny man legend. He’d always pop up on chat shows around the globe armed with his favourite joke, a simple fart machine, which he would sound off in the middle of an interview just to make the audience and himself laugh. By the time the third Naked Gun film was released, Nielsen was sixty-eight years old. An age when people retire and take it easy, but Leslie Nielsen was enjoying himself too much to retire, appearing in more films, making millions of people around the world laugh. Some of his flicks were popular, but they never got to the level of the Naked Gun trilogy. The starring roles began to dry up, but Leslie Nielsen still appeared in the parody film genre that made him famous right up to his death in 2010, aged eighty-four.

Seriously Funny

He struggled to make a name for himself for decades. He tried serious drama, which he was amazing at, but there were just too many good looking men doing the same thing around the same time, so Leslie Nielsen never really stood out. Yet, it was that seriousness of his acting that eventually led him to be loved worldwide for his comedy. All thanks to the trio of ZAZ who saw that potential in the actor when so many others were overlooking his unique talents as an actor and comedian.

Oh, and as for that earlier smaller role of Nielsen’s that I said I was saving until last? It’ from the all time classic horror anthology flick, Creepshow. Leslie Nielsen played Richard Vickers, a rich, slick and charismatic guy who discovers his wife is having an affair.  He tracks down his wife’s illicit lover and well… Let’s just say that for me, this is the best Nielsen has ever been. He’s sick, pure evil and still a bad guy you can’t help but fall in love with. For someone so damn funny, he could be even more sadistic and I love it. My all time favourite Leslie Nielsen role.

There never will be another Leslie Nielsen.
Happy birthday.

LESLIE NIELSEN YOUNG

I’m afraid if I don’t keep moving, they’re going to catch me. I’m eighty-one years old and I want to see what’s around the corner, and I don’t see any reason in the world not to keep working. But I am starting to value my down time a great deal because I am realizing there might be other things to do that I am overlooking.

– Leslie Nielsen

Mad Max’s ‘Supposed’ 2021 Setting

Toward the end of last year, I noticed a few posts going around the social medias that were pointing out the movie Mad Max was set during 2021. What with all the shit that’s been going on the last twelve months… And still going on now, I wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at a joke or whether people actually think that Mad Max was set in 2021, and so applied that to the current situation. Seriously, there’s loads of them…

MAd MAX 2021 3MAd MAX 2021 2MAd MAX 2021 1MAd MAX 2021 5MAd MAX 2021 4

But was Mad Max actually set in 2021? The short answer, no. But that wouldn’t make a very interesting article would it? Still, before I do explain the time-frame setting of the Mad Max films, a quick synopsis for those unfamiliar with the franchise.

So Mad Max (The Road Warrior for all the Yanks) was a film set in a post-apocalyptic universe telling the story of Max Rockatansky, a man who’s wife and child are killed by a gang. Driven by a thirst for revenge, Max goes a little mad and hunts down the gang that murdered his family, killing each and every one of them. It was hardly Shakespeare, but it was still an awesome slice of seventies low-budget cinema. It also introduced the world to Mel Gibson. The film was a hit and spawned two sequels in the eighties… And a sequel/reboot/’reimagining/whatever-it-is in 2015, now with Tom Hardy playing Max. The Mad Max films are action packed, violent, car-smashing heavy flicks and all four are pretty good entertainment.

Anyway, back to the point. The claims of the film(s) being set in 2021 are erroneous. But it’s not just as simple as pointing out a year in the films in which take place, because the films never mention a specific year. If they did, this would be a very easy article to write. Instead, I have to delve into the universe that the films take place in and dig up what info I can. So I guess I’d better start with the first flick, Mad Max, released in 1979. As I said, the film itself doesn’t mention any specific year. However, it does state the events of the film take place ‘a few years from now’. If we use the film’s 1979 release date as the ‘now’, a ‘few years’ is fairly open to interpretation. The word ‘few’ is defined as not many, but more than one. Generally, it seems that ‘few’ means three or more, but still not many. So I think three to five years from 1979 would be fair. Plus, the trailer for the film states ‘in the not too distant future’, so I think we can all agree that Mad Max must take place not too long after it’s 1979 release date. 

So, if the film is set a ‘few’ years from the ‘now’ 79 release date, then we’re looking at an early to mid eighties setting, 1983-84-ish sounds reasonable, as that is also ‘in the not too distant future’. While the film never states a specific year, years are still referenced in the flick, at least twice. There’s a road sign shown in the film and that road sign has graffiti daubed over it. Some of that graffiti says ‘December 6, 1984’. So if someone left that graffiti, then I think it would be safe to assume it was done after the date written. Then there’s the Halls of Justice, the HQ of the Main Force Patrol (MFP) that Max works for.

MAD MAX HALLS OF JUSTICE

You won’t see it in the film itself, but that little plaque there also has a date on it, it says ‘est. 1983’. That info is taken from the movie prop as in-film, it’s impossible to see. Ergo, Mad Max must take place post 1983 and 1984. Still, 2021 is most definitely after 1984… but would you define 2021 as ‘a few years from’ 1984 or even the ‘not too distant future’ from 1984? No, I think most people would say that thirty-seven years is a bit more than ‘a few years’. There there’s this little tit-bit that claims the film ‘is set between 1983 and 1985, a few years after the 1973 oil crisis’. So going back to what I said before, ‘a few years from now’ of the 1979 release date could be an early to mid eighties setting. I think we can all now agree that Mad Max isn’t set in 2021, but more likely 1984 or 85.

On to the sequel, Mad Max 2. This one came out in 1981 and kicks off by most definitely using the previously mentioned 1973 oil crisis as it’s backstory and explanation to the desolate world the films are set in. Not only that, it also gives us a something else to work with. The film outright says that it takes place three years after the events of the first film, as do production notes. So three years after (let’s just say) 1985 would be 88… Not 2021 then?

MAD MAX 2 POSTER

The third film, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was released in 1985 and is a little harder to find a time-frame for. Unlike the previous film, we’re not told how many years it has been between films. In the script, the date that Captain Walker (the founder of the lost tribe) left to find civilization was the 8th of November, 2005. However, in the film itself, a date can partially be seen that states he left in search of civilization on the 10th of September, 199X. The last digit can’t be seen. How many years have past since Walker leaving the tribe and Max finding them in the film is also not stated, but the fact they are all young-ish kids and young adults, would suggest it’s only been a short time. Months, a handful of years at the most. So, if Mad Max 2 was set in 1988 and Captain Walker left the tribe in 199X before Max turned up. That still has to be before 2021 going by the ages of the kids in the tribe. Some claim that Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome takes place around fifteen years after Mad Max 2, which would put it in and around a 2003 setting… And that does sound about right too.

Still, regardless, none of the original Mad Max films take place in 2021 as the memes like to claim. You are looking at a 1984/5 to 2003-ish for the whole trilogy. As for 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road? I’m not even sure where to start with that one. Even writer and director George Miller has never explicitly said where that film fits in to the original trilogy, or even if it does. Is it a remake, a reboot, a sequel or something else? No one seems to know. Not that it matters as the meme claiming the 2021 setting was using the original film(s) as it’s reference point. And as proven, the Max Max films don’t take place in 2021.

 

Film Review: Wonder Woman 1984

This will possibly be the shortest article I’ll ever write as I look at the superhero flick, Wonder Woman 1984.

I got to around an hour of watching this absolute train wreck of a film before I just had to turn it off. I’m in my mid-forties, officially middle-aged and every day, I get closer to my grave. I’m not wasting my life putting up with utter dreck as badly written, directed and acted as this film is.

Review done and I’ve already put more time and work into this article than the writers did with the film.

Movie Sequels We Never Got: The Italian Job 2

This is my first in a look at several film sequels we almost, but never actually got. With more coming up through the year, first up. The Italian Job 2

Let’s get the ugly bit out of the way first. No, I’m not talking about the 2003 The Italian Job remake, I’m talking about the all time classic, 1969, Getta Bloomin’ Move On! (The Self Preservation Society), “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”, Michael Caine starring original flick.

ITALIAN JOB BLOW DOORS OFF

While there had been several aborted attempts at making a sequel to the remake (titled The Brazilian Job), it never came about. But perhaps what’s more of a surprise is that the original The Italian Job very nearly had a sequel too. Especially given it’s literal cliff-hanger ending.

Well, in order to get to the bottom of this one, I need to start at the end. As mentioned, the finale to The Italian Job is a literal cliff-hanger. The well planned heist had gone off without a hitch as Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) and his team make their getaway in a coach, after using (now iconic) three red, white and blue Minis to steal a load of gold. Winding their way through the alpine mountains on the Italian/French boarder and as the bouncy Getta Bloomin’ Move On! (The Self Preservation Society) tune plays, the over confident driver throws the coach around the tight corners of the mountainside road, loses control of the vehicle and it ends up teetering off the edge of a cliff. Gold bars at the back-end of the coach sticking out over the drop down the mountainside, Croker and his team in relative safety at the other end acting as a counter weight. One false move could shift the balance, then the coach, the gold and the heist team could all go over. 

ITALIAN JOB COACH

That’s when Charlie Croker tries to very slowly inch forward towards the gold. The coach creeks and dips as the weight balance is thrown off. Croker says: “Hang on a minute, lads. I’ve got a great idea.”, the camera pans out to show the massive drop off the mountain, the credits roll. We never learn what that ‘great idea’ was or if it would even work. The film ends with that afore mentioned literal cliff-hanger and goes down as one of the best endings to a movie ever. But… that wasn’t the original ending.

Oscar winner Michael Deeley, who was a producer on The Italian Job has revealed that they had not only previously planned a sequel, but said sequel was actually given the go ahead by the movie studio too. Now, the original ending was a little different. For the most part, the climax the film was largely the same, the coach still ended up teetering off the edge of a cliff, the gold at one end and the gang at the other. I’ll let Deeley himself cover what was supposed to happen when he spoke at the The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2019:

“We hear a grinding noise, which is a helicopter noise getting closer. Suddenly there’s a jerk underneath and the bus starts rising up far enough that the gold can slide out the front and the people can slide out the front. You cut outside and see two helicopters with a cable underneath the bus lifting everybody up. But of course, waiting outside is the mafia.”

Yup, both the gold and the gang originally escaped the coach, but had to hand over their loot to the mafia. According to Michael Deeley, the sequel had even started to be written and the opening of the film had been completed. Details on what the sequel would’ve been about are quite scarce as the story was never completed. But from what I’ve managed to dig up, supposedly after handing over the gold to the mafia, Charlie Croker and his gang come up with a scheme to steal the gold back from them. Even Michael Caine himself talked about the proposed sequel when he appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show in 2016:

“What happened was, we were in the south of France. We switched on the engine, ran it for several hours. The gold was at one end and we were at the other. The engine ran out of petrol so the balance went alright. We got out of the coach and then the weight of the gold once we were out pushed it over the edge. Waiting at the bottom of the cliff was the French mafia, and they ran off with it and the sequel was we chaise them through the Riviera.”

Though Caine’s recollection of the original ending and sequel is a little different to Deeley’s, they both do mention that the gang did originally escape the coach and that the mafia end up with the gold. So I think it safe to assume the plot of the sequel did involve the gang stealing the gold back. Also according to producer Michael Deeley:

“I was always very happy with the idea that we would make another film but it just didn’t happen.”

Exactly why a planned, partly written and green-lit sequel never happened, I’m not really sure. Everyone seemingly wanted to do it including the movie studio, producers and the stars. But I do have a possible idea why we never saw The Italian Job 2. You see, Deeley has also spoken of his disappointment of the U.S. poster for the film:

“It showed Michael Caine with a cup of tea because he’s English, which is boring. He had a sub-machinegun, which suggested action but really suggested killing, and the map of the city of Turin on the young lady’s back. It couldn’t be less the movie.”

Oh and yes, that poster really did exist too. And yes, it really was that bad and had nothing to do with the movie itself…

ITALIAN JOB US POSTER

Seriously, do you see the heist flick with one of the greatest car sequences in that poster? Deeley had a point, it was crap. Michael Deeley believes the poor advertising campaign of the film is the reason it did so badly in the U.S., which could be true. All of which got me digging around and as classic as the film is seen as today, it bombed here in the U.K. too when it was originally released and was slammed by critics. Not as bad as in the U.S. no. But still, The Italian Job was not a big hit ,I guess the poor reception the film received on both sides of the pond could go some way as to explain why we never saw that sequel?

The Simpsons (Not) Predictions

Well, 2020 has been a hell of a year eh? Aside from killer viruses, another thing that keeps infecting my news feed are stories of how The Simpsons have predicted numerous huge and small world events, mainly due to some believing the show creator, Matt Groening is a time traveller. There are almost countless articles from sites all over the globe pointing out several ‘predictions’ that have been on the show that have seemingly come true. I read them with interest, only to find that a lot of people don’t know what a prediction is, or think that a prediction and a coincidence are the same thing.

I’ve decided to try and gather as many of those supposed predictions as I can find in an attempt to try to explain why they’re not what they seem. So here it is, my The Simpsons (not) predictions article.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

May as well start with the biggest news story of the year. 2020 saw this whole pandemic shit really hit the fan. But apparently, The Simpsons already predicted it back in 1993. It was season four and the episode, Marge In Chains where this prediction is found and the story is often headed with this image:

SIMPSONS COROAVIRUS

I’ll have more to say about this picture later, but for now, what this episode was about and the prediction. So, the episode Marge in Chains tells the story of Marge who is imprisoned for thirty days after accidently shoplifting some bourbon. However, the episode starts out with Homer buying a ‘juice loosener’ (“It’s whisper quiet”) gadget from a home shopping network on TV. These gadgets are made in Osaka, Japan. On the production line, one of the workers with the flu coughs into the box bound for Homer. So this flu virus makes its way from Japan to America where it infects the residents of Springfield.

So first things first… that image up there ^^^. It’s not even from this 1993 episode, it’s actually taken from the The Fool Monty episode from season twenty-two, 2010. Already we’re hitting a bit of a bump in this prediction. Then, the image has also been edited and someone out there has just lazily plastered the word ‘coronavirus’ over the pic:

SIMPSONS COROAVIRUS 2

Still, idiots on the interwebs don’t bother looking into facts when they have social media telling them what to think. But even so, this coronavirus pandemic originated from China, not Japan. It’s also not a flu virus. Then, coronavirus isn’t exactly new, it was first discovered in animals back in the 1920s, though it wasn’t officially given the name of ‘coronavirus’ until 1968. I really don’t think The Simpsons can predict something that already exists… that’s not a prediction is it? Just as a quick aside, this whole ‘predicting’ something that already exists will be a theme of this article. So what we have here is an episode that showed a flu virus being spread and not coronavirus, and the flu spreading is something that’s been going on for a long while now. Plus the country of origin was wrong, and the infection rates and scale were nothing like coronavirus either. So The Simpsons got absolutely nothing right. That’s really is far from a prediction eh?

Well, from one disgusting and debilitating disease to another.

Donald Trump Elected President

Yes, I can do satire too. Anyway, The Simpsons supposedly predicted that Donald Trump would become President of the United States. This one comes from season eleven, episode seventeen called, Bart to the Future from 2000. In this episode, Bart has his future told to him by a Native American (or as they should be called, Americans). The future shows Bart as a forty year old lay-about, a slacker who’s music career never took off. Often mooching off his friends and family, mainly his now POTUS sister, Lisa. 

LISA PRESIDENT

So Lisa is sitting in the Oval Office and is talking to her staff. This is when she utters the following line:

“We’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump.”

So Lisa became President after Donald Trump, and this was said in 2000, while Trump didn’t become POTUS until 2016. Prediction? I really don’t think so. I mean, I could be really picky and point out that The Simpsons never state who this Trump president that preceded Lisa was. They don’t specify it was Donald… but that would be too easy. See, Trump may have announced his intention to run for President in 2015 for 2016… but that wasn’t the first time he mentioned it. In fact, he originally announced a presidential campaign back in 1999. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that 1999 is before the 2000 date the episode in question was aired. Is it not at all possible that the Bart to the Future episode quote was meant as a joke and not a prediction? In fact, Trump had been toying with the idea of running for president as far back as 1989, sometimes in a jokey way, sometimes more serious. Again, couldn’t The Simpsons ‘prediction’ have been nothing more than just a joke. The fact the joke came true is not a prediction, it’s a coincidence. In fact, the creator of the show, Matt Groening said:

“Back in 2000 Trump was, of course, the most absurd placeholder joke name that we could think of at the time and that’s still true.”

There you go, confirmation it was just a joke, Groening himself had stated as much. The name was used as an ‘absurd placeholder joke’ and nothing more and a joke that just became a coincidence. But still on this subject, there’s another famous image from The Simpsons that people also like to use to claim as being a prediction.

SIMPSONS TRUMP

This particular image, that I have not labelled with dates, that’s just how I found it from a Google search. I mean yeah, that’s pretty damn spooky and even cynical me would have to admit that’s impressively accurate… but it’s not strictly true. Yes The Simpsons featured a moment where Donald Trump is riding an escalator and according to (some of) the internet, this was from the year 2000 and the actual event with the real Trump occurred in 2015. But as I said, that’s not strictly true. See, Trumptastic Voyage, which is where the image comes from, wasn’t an actual The Simpsons episode at all and nor was it from 2000 either. It was actually just a short YouTube clip directed by David Silverman, who is a The Simpsons animator and director. The clip was made and released in 2015… the same year as the real event the clip was based on emerged. So not a prediction then? In fact, Trumptastic Voyage was made specifically to poke fun at the real footage when it was later revealed that Trump (or his people) had paid actors to pose for his phot-op. Hence why in The Simpsons clip/image, people are standing there holding placards saying ‘paid’.

So let’s summarise this ‘prediction’ then. Even the creator of the show has said that the Lisa Simpson line in the Bart to the Future from 2000 was nothing more than a joke. A joke that became a coincidence and a coincidence isn’t a prediction… it’s a coincidence. Then the Trump/escalator image has been tampered with to make people think it came from 2000 when it was in fact from a short YouTube clip made specifically to highlight the incredulous real footage. No predictions then.

Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

This was actually the reason why I wanted to write this article to begin with. I found the prediction claim on a site (Looper ,who get more things wrong than they do right) that Lady Gaga’s 2017 Super Bowl show was undeniably similar to an episode of The Simpsons from 2012. So I’ll just quickly summarise for those not in the know. Lady Gaga did a halftime Super Bowl show in 2017 that featured her wearing a typically Gaga-esque outfit. Look, here’s the show so you can see for yourself. And here’s a still from the mentioned The Simpsons episode.

LADY GAGA SIMPSONS

So in the episode, Lisa Goes Gaga, often cited as one of the worst episodes ever, Lady Gaga performs a gig where she flies about on a wire in an outrageous costume. Comparing with the Super Bowl show I linked to… yup, there’s a few strikingly accurate similarities. How about a little comparison pic?

LADY GAGA SIMPSONS 2

The hair is different, as is the outfit, but that’s still a very close prediction eh? Well no, not at all. First thing’s first, Lady Gaga is known for her costumes, so ‘predicting’ she would wear something like that is not much of a prediction is it? That’s like ‘predicting’ that the glass of water in front of you will feel wet if you poured it over yourself. Less a prediction and more stating the bloody obvious really. But let’s move on to the finer details. I don’t think we can really claim The Simpsons predicted that Gaga would do an elaborate live performance, I mean, that’s what she does. Just as with the outfit, it’s too obvious to call it a prediction. But the flying about on wires?

See, the main thing about this ‘prediction’ is that the episode in which Lady Gaga was in was from 2012, season twenty-three. The Super Bowl halftime show was from 2017. Using my rudimentary knowledge and understanding of time and maths, 2017 is after 2012, by around five years, if I were to hazard a guess. So if The Simpsons episode came first and the carefully designed and choreographed Super Bowl halftime show came later… where’s the prediction? Let me put it another way. I’m pretty sure that Lady Gaga would’ve known about and even saw the episode of The Simpsons in which she was in (call it a hunch). So if she would’ve known about the episode, is it not at all possible that she drew inspiration from said episode for her Super Bowl performance? It’s not a prediction is it, that’s just copying  or being influenced by something that already existed.

Roy Horn Mauling 

So before I get into this one, I guess you may want to know who Roy Horn was? Siegfried & Roy were magicians who were massively popular and known for their performances with white lions and tigers. The Simpsons featured their own in-universe parody of Siegfried & Roy called, Gunter & Ernst. In 1993, the episode called $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) from season five depicted Gunter & Ernst performing at Monty Burns’ casino. During said performance both of the magicians get mauled by Anastasia, their white tiger after it becomes upset for being captured and forced to perform.

GUNTHER AND ERNST

Ten years later in 2003, that mauling became a reality when Roy Horn of the real duo was attacked by their own white tiger, Montecore. Siegfried & Roy were performing at the Mirage casino in Las Vegas when Horn went off script to make the tiger do a trick for the audience. Montecore bit the sleeve of Horn’s costume and would not let go. After which, Roy Horn fell backward and Montecore the tiger stood over him, bit into his neck and dragged him off stage. Horn survived the attack, but was left with lasting injuries before dying in 2020 during the whole coronavirus pandemic (that The Simpsons definitely didn’t predict). 

Yeah, it’s eerie that the show had a small gag where a captured wild white tiger attacked it’s ‘masters’ during a performance in a casino… but is it really a prediction? If you do performances with wild tigers, there is a chance that one of them will snap and attack. The more performances you do, the greater that chance of attack becomes. Plus there was the fact that it has been said that Montecore didn’t actually attack Roy Horn, more so that the tiger was actually trying to protect and even save his life by dragging the magician off stage. Much like how big cats carry their young to protect them.

LION CUB

A sentiment Horn himself said was true as apparently, Roy Horn suffered a stoke during the performance and that was why he fell backward, then Montecore grabbed him (as it would with it’s young) and dragged him to safety. It’s just that there is a difference between a human’s neck and a young tiger’s one that Montecore wouldn’t have been aware of. So no, I don’t see this as a prediction as performing with wild animals is dangerous and an attack could happen any time, it’s called ‘playing the odds’. Plus the fact that it is believed that Montecore was trying to save Roy Horn and not harm him. While in The Simpsons version, it is explicitly spelt out that the tiger attacked out of anger, plus both performers were attacked too… the ‘prediction’ is not at all accurate, and so it’s not a prediction. The only thing that comes close is the fact both incidents occurred during a casino performance… but seeing as Siegfried & Roy were famed for casino performances, it’s not that impressive really.

George Floyd’s Arrest/Death And Kobe Bryant’s Death

So I’ve got a double dose of disrespect coming up now. First, if the whole coronavirus thing has been 2020’s biggest news story, then surely the abhorrent killing of George Floyd is a close second. I really don’t think I need to re-tread this story, everyone is already well versed in what happened by now. Yet did you know that The Simpsons very accurately predicted Floyd’s death before it even happened and in 1996 too?

GEORGE FLOYD

No, of course it didn’t, but that didn’t stop people for making out it did. The above images were circulating on social media for a while after George Floyd died. If it’s shared on social media then it has to be true… at least that’s the mentality of way, way too many idiots. I mean, we even have an episode title and date to back up the claim. Episode 146: The Day Violence Died, which aired March 17, 1996. First, let’s look at that episode. Yup it’s real and yes it did air on March 17, 1996. Season seven for those wondering. However, those images above are not from said episode. In the episode, it’s the 75th anniversary on in-universe cartoon, Itchy & Scratchy. Bart and Lisa discover a homeless man, Chester who claims to be the creator of Itchy from the famed cartoon. The siblings team up to help Chester to claim the royalties he is owed… nothing to do with George Floyd. Even so… 1996? Twenty-four years before anyone knew who George Floyd was? Think about it for a second, that’s not a prediction, that’s outright witchcraft.

The images above were actually drawn by a fan called Yuri Pomo and originally showed up on his Instagram. Yes the images are real too… just not from the episode in question or even official The Simpsons work. Yuri Pomo claims he drew the images as a way to raise awareness of the incident and he never once claimed it was from The Simpsons himself… and he didn’t. It was others who found the images and just attached the claim that they came from the episode, The Day Violence Died. Even more so, whoever started the claim must’ve done some serious homework as they not only got a title of an episode correct, but also the original air date spot on too. So, someone purposely went out of their way to a make this false claim seem genuine… what a prick! Which erroneous information leads me to the second part of this ‘prediction’.

Kobe Bryant was a much loved basketball player in the U.S. Adored and respected by a great many fans. He also died in a tragic helicopter crash in January of 2020. People claimed that The Simpsons also managed to predict this tragedy too back in 2017… no they didn’t. To be honest, I’m not really 100% sure how this one even started. I did manage to find a Twitter user making the claim.

Yes Kobe Bryant did appear on The Simpsons back in 2011 in the episode, The Falcon and the D’ohman. But a helicopter death was never mentioned at all. Again, this one is just some sick prick making up lies to spread over the interwebs. Sadly, just like the George Floyd one, people believed and shared it. Both complete bullshit and have since been proven false many times over… and yet some people are still sharing them as fact. I did think about not including either of these as they are both clearly fake claims and not actual ‘predictions’ made by The Simpsons, but it’s the fact they are still being shared today as being accurate and attributed to The Simpsons is why I chose to include them after all.

Autocorrect And Handheld Devices

So, there are a few technology predictions that people claim The Simpsons made, which have since come true. The first of which I aim to cover is how the show predicted autocorrect and iPads, etc. This is from the episode Lisa on Ice, 1994. The kids are attending a school assembly when prissy boy, Martin Prince makes a comment on how Principle Skinner’s new report card system is a good idea. School bully, Kearney then tells Jimbo to make a note on his Apple Newton to ‘beat up Martin’, which autocorrects to ‘eat up Martha’. 

EAT UP MARTHA

Yes this did happen in an episode… but it wasn’t a prediction of anything. The handheld device featured, the Apple Newton, really did exist at the time, released in 1993. It was an early PDA (personal digital assistant) from Apple and a precursor to the iPad. So they didn’t predict handheld devices, they just made fun of one that already existed. As for the autocorrect claim, that was an actual thing on the Newton. Again, The Simpsons didn’t predict it, it already existed. In fact, the whole joke of the autocorrect not working was also factual as the Newton’s handwriting recognition was terrible. Here’s a newspaper clipping from 1993 (before the episode) pointing out how bad the autocorrect was on the Newton. It’s not a prediction, it was a joke about a bad piece of hard and software that just didn’t work as it was meant to.

Smartwatches And FaceTime

Another tech prediction is smartwatches, this is from the 1995, Lisa’s Wedding episode. Like the previously mentioned Bart to the Future one, this episode is also a vision of the future and tells the story of a grown up Lisa meeting a man called Hugh Parkfield. The two fall in love and arrange to be married. In fact, Hugh’s proposal to Lisa is where the smartwatch prediction comes from. Hugh has an elaborate fireworks display set-up to ask Lisa to marry him, it goes wrong, so he has to call in plan b… which is just a cow with a ‘marry me’ message stuck to it, being pushed into Lisa’s view. But to call plan b into action, Hugh uses his watch and talks into it.

SIMPSONS SMARTWATCH

So a pretty accurate prediction? I mean, smartwatches didn’t exist until 2014, so The Simpsons were well ahead of the curve there. Of course not. Movies and T.V. shows have been using a similar communication devices for years, decades before The Simpsons did it or even existed. Just off the top of my head, this guy used to talk to his car via his watch…

KNIGHT RIDER

The Jetsons, Dick Tracy, Inspector Gadget, Star Trek… I could go on. All of them used watches as communication devices and more, and all of them years before the Lisa’s Wedding episode of The Simpsons too. Even The Flintstones featured a smartwatch… and they were from the stone-age! Cant get much older than that can you?

FLINTSTONES

Also from the same episode, we have a FaceTime prediction. This shows up when Lisa calls Marge to tell her about her getting engaged to Hugh. Mother and daughter talk on a phone with a screen so they can see each other… which is what we now call FaceTime. I grabbed the following image form an IGN article outright claiming The Simpsons invented FaceTime.

SIMPSONS FACETIME

See, the claim is right there in the pic, along with the IGN watermark. IGN state The Simpsons invented FaceTime. No they didn’t. Just as with the whole smartwatches thing, movies and T.V. shows have used screens as communication for decades, particularly with the sci-fi genre. Does no one remember the 2015 scenes from Back to the Future II when Marty is fired for pulling of a scam with Needles? He has two conversations via a screen in a few minutes… and that was back in 1989. But you can go even further back than that. If anyone ever claims The Simpsons predicted or invented some kind of tech we use today, always do a quick check with Star Trek first, cos they pretty much nailed all of it back in the 60s… including FaceTime. Even so, video calls, or ‘videotelephony’ as it was called, dates back even before Star Trek. Again, that’s not a prediction, that’s referencing something that already existed. Oh, and I think the word videotelephony needs to come back into popular usage instead of FaceTime.

Disney Buy Fox

In the 1998 episode, When You Dish Upon a Star, Homer becomes an assistant to Hollywood couple Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. While working for the stars, they are visited by famed director, Ron Howard. Homer takes the opportunity to pitch his movie idea to the director. As Homer himself describes it, it’s a film about a “killer robot driving instructor that travels back in time for some reason”, oh and it also features a talking pie. To be honest, that sounds better than most films Hollywood churn out these days. Anyway, things don’t work out between Homer and his new showbiz pals and the episode ends with Ron Howard pitching new movie ideas to Brian Grazer of 20th Century Fox. Outside of the studio, we see the following image.

DISNEY BUY FOX

A poster claiming that 20th Century Fox is a division of Disney, and this was back in 1998. Then in 2019… Disney actually did buy 20th Century Fox. So The Simpsons predicated that Disney would buy out Fox over two decades before it really happened. But here’s the thing, Disney had already gotten their wallet out before this episode existed. Back in 1995, they acquired Capital Cities/ABC media for $19 billion. There had been murmurs of Disney wanting to snap up other studios at the time too, including Fox. That is exactly what the joke was in reference too, the fact Disney were trying to buy out other companies. Of course, Disney would go on to buy other big names like Marvel and Lucasarts before they purchased Fox in 2019.  Even The Simpsons writer and producer, Al Jean said this about the Fox acquisition:

“I predict people will make far too much of this mere coincidence.”

There’s that keyword in that quote… coincidence. That’s all it is, it was a quick throwaway joke about how Disney were snapping up companies at the time. I mean, you could probably make a random guess at Disney buying up some other big name right now, give it a decade or so and it’ll probably come true. Not because you ‘predicated’ it, but because the changes are very high. Let’s see… Disney buy MGM. 

HOMER MICKY MOUSE

Censorship of Michelangelo’s David

Back in 2016, those crazy Ruskies attempted to censor one of the world’s most famous pieces of art, Michelangelo’s David. Here’s an archived story from the BBC on that very topic. The short version is that a replica of the famed statue was to be put on show in St Petersburg, however, quite a few people became a tad upset over the fact the statue displays his wing-dang-doodle. The main outrage came from the fact that where the statue was being placed was near a church and a school. So residents were concerned that children could see the stone nudity.

THINK OF CHILDREN

So in order to protect sweet and innocent eyes, a campaign was launched to ‘dress David’… seriously. But here’s the thing, The Simpsons already covered (no pun) this issue back in 1990. It was the Itchy and Scratchy and Marge episode. In it, Marge launches a censorship campaign against the popular in-universe cartoon due to it’s violence. Later, Marge realises how wrong censorship is when Michelangelo’s David is brought to Springfield museum and residents (spurred on by Marge’s censorship campaign) protest about the statue’s nudity. The episode even used the following image to show the ridiculousness of the issue.

DAVID

There’s no arguing the similarities of this prediction, but the big problem is that censoring of David is not a new thing, not in 2016 when the statue upset the Russians and certainly not when The Simpsons ‘predicted’ as much in the episode either. The truth is that David (and other art) had been the subject of censorship for years, decades, centuries even. I mean, just off the top of my head, here in the U.K. in the sixties, seventies and eighties, we had the ultimate snowflake/Karen. Yes, decades before the world was ruined by the rise of the snowflakes, we had Mary Whitehouse the Queen of snowflakes. Whitehouse went on a decades long campaign to censor T.V. and movies… often very successful too. One joke from Monty Python’s Flying Circus showed one of their famed animations trying to remove a censoring fig leaf from the statue.

MONY PYTHON STATUE

Then, when the fig leaf is wrestled away, it reveals Mary Whitehouse complaining about the smut on the screen, you can see the animation right here. The fact that The Simpsons creator and staff are self-confessed fans of Python leads me to believe that their take was simply a Python reference more so than a ‘prediction’. But if that’s still not good enough for you, I mentioned earlier how art (and Michelangelo’s David) had been subjected to censorship for centuries and they were, as this archived article proves. Not long after it was first sculpted, David was censored in 1504… which was a couple of years (give or take) before both Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Simpsons even existed. The Victoria and Albert Museum even have/had a specially made fig leaf that was used to cover David’s naughty bits to protect the eyes of Queen Victoria in 1857. The truth is that Michelangelo’s David has been the subject of censorship for a long, long, long time and many, many times too. So it’s not so much that The Simpsons predicted it, more like a case of life imitating art, imitating life.

Phil Hartman’s Murder

This one is quite a big and rather macabre prediction to cover, it’s also one that is extremely personal to The Simpsons creators and staff. Phil Hartman was one of the most beloved and respected voice actors on the show. Everyone who worked on The Simpsons loved him and always spoke very highly of Phil Hartman as a performer and a friend. He was responsible for voicing some of the most popular characters on the show too. Hartman lent his vocals for several one-time characters like Lyle Lanley, the con man who sold Springfield a monorail, one of the better and classic episodes. He also voiced Moses, God… and Charlton Heston. But perhaps his most famous characters were Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure.

TROY AND LIONEL

Luckless lawyer Lionel Hutz was clueless and desperate for cases, most of which he lost. Still, he had a long ‘professional’ relationship with the Simpsons family and always (badly) represented them… when he wasn’t busy repairing shoes. Then there was Troy McClure, you may remember him from such medical films as, Alice Doesn’t Live Anymore and Mommy, What’s Wrong With That Man’s Face? He was a down on his luck actor, a Hollywood has-been desperate to make it big again, now reduced to small side projects just to put food on the table.

As long as The Simpsons has been going, both Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure are two fan favourite characters, despite not being in the show since 1998. This was due to Phil Hartman’s characters being retired after he was murdered. It was on the 28th of May, 1998 when Phil Hartman’s wife, Brynn Omdahl shot and killed Hartman while he slept in his bed. After confessing to the murder to a friend, she locked herself away in a bathroom of their home, then turned the gun on herself and committed suicide. Not wanting to dwell on married couple’s strained relationship, the news was a huge shock, not least for those working on The Simpsons at the time. Yet some people believe that they show predicted Phil Hartman’s murder in the end credits of an episode.

It was season nine and the All Singing, All Dancing from 1998 episode where said prediction lies. The baisc premise for this episode is basically a clip show, but one featuring many of the various songs from previous episodes, all wrapped up in a story about the family watching Paint Your Wagon. At one point in the episode, Snake holds the Simpson family hostage at gunpoint because he hates musicals and threatens to kill them.

SNAKE SIMPSONS

Of course, it all works out in the end and Snake leaves the family alone and the credits roll. But as the credits do roll, Snake fires his gun to shut off the music that is playing. The sound of the gunshots from Snake sound off at the exact point when Phil Hartman’s name appears in the credits. And so, this is why some people believe that the show predicated Hartman’s murder, which tragic event occurred just a few months after this episode originally aired in 1998. Just to show how stupid this theory is, I really need to go back to that whole Matt Groening being a time traveller thing. So let me see if I have this right… Matt Groening, who was a close and personal friend of Phil Hartman, knew his friend was going to be murdered and did nothing about it, except for sneaking in a sound effect during the credits of an episode? Time travel theory aside, does that sound like the kind of thing a friend would do?

This is one of those coincidence things I’ve mentioned several times already. Yeah it’s spooky and yeah it makes for an interesting tit-bit… but it’s no prediction. Of all of the ‘predictions’ the show has supposedly made over the years, this is perhaps the only one that (if true), they could’ve directly stopped from happening, but didn’t?


There are more ‘predictions’ I may call out as being utter bullshit some other time. Seriously, there’s dozens of them. But for me, I just don’t buy any of these ‘predictions’ at all. Most of them were not even predictions to begin with, some had to be edited by fans to make them seem more accurate, others were just mild coincidences and nothing more, most of them were jokes regarding events and things already well known about at the time. None of them specify a time and date, which is really what makes a prediction accurate and noteworthy. See, a prediction is a very specific thing. Let’s say I pick the lottery numbers and win the jackpot, that’s not a prediction, that’s an extremely lucky coincidence. But let’s say not only did I pick the winning lottery numbers, I tell people what order they would come out of the machine correctly too, that would be a prediction. Point being that a coincidence and a prediction are not the same thing, and that is what most of these The Simpsons things really are, a coincidence. 

The Simpsons has been going for thirty-one years, it has (as of writing) just shy of seven-hundred episodes. When you have that much content, that many jokes and references… some of them are bound to come true just based on the laws of averages alone. Have you ever noticed how no one ever writes articles on the ‘predictions’ The Simpsons haven’t got right and only concentrate on the very small % of ‘predictions’ that have? Because they’re not predictions.

If you want to see two Northern men get drunk and discus this very same issue, then please give this YouTube video a view.

Anyway, that’s it for me this year. See you in 2021.