The 25 Greatest TV Themes of All Time Part 2: Spoken-Word
Read Part One of our look at the Greatest TV Themes here.
Read Part Three: The 40 Greatest Animated TV Series Theme Songs here.
How do you determine the greatest TV show themes of all time? It’s a daunting task. Consider that, in 2016, more than 1400 shows ran on prime-time television in the United States; more than 400 were original scripted programs. And that doesn’t include streaming. Most of those shows have some kind of introduction with music, stretching the line even further. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, suggested that bands should be considered for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the basis of “impact, influence, and awesomeness,” so we’ll use a similar criteria of catchiness, memorability, and appropriateness for the shows. We’ll also be breaking this list into three distinct categories: live-action, spoken-word/voice-over, and animated intro themes. A few months ago, we brought you the greatest live-action themes. Today, we bring you part 2: spoken-word/voice-over themes.
Honorable Mention: Forever Knight (1992-1996)
While not quite great enough to make the list, the opening of Forever Knight does show what a good spoken-word intro does. The best of them establish a premise, which is why they’re so pervasively used in science-fiction, fantasy, and horror programming; they clue the audience into what the show is all about so they can hit the ground running. Forever Knight does that, letting you know that Nick was “brought across” (that is, turned into a vampire) centuries ago while giving you some insight into the ongoing plot.
25. Highlander: The Series (1992-1998)
Based on the cult classic film starring Christopher Lambert, the series gave us Adrian Paul as the immortal Duncan MacLeod (the cousin of Lambert’s Connor from the films). The show proved popular enough the it generated both live-action and animated spin-offs, and Duncan eventually joined Connor on the big screen in 2000 before returning in a television film in 2007. The spoken-word intros changed frequently over the years, adding nuances of plot and situation.
24. Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)
The wildly popular Xena (Lucy Lawless) spun out of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, a surprise 1994-1999 hit. The two series ranked among the most highly rated syndicated shows in the world during their runs. An unapologetic female action hero on the air during a time when there were precious few, Xena appealed to multiple audiences. The show contained plenty of action, frequently delivered with a nod and a wink. The over-the-top narration set the stage perfectly.
23. Knight Rider (1982-1986)
“A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man . . .who does not exist.”
Sounds pretty cool, right? David Hasselhoff played Michael Knight (originally Michael Long, a policeman who was shot and presumed dead, but had his face fixed and a new identity given to him by the Knight Foundation). Knight’s partner was KITT, an artificially intelligent talking car voiced by William Daniels (of St. Elsewhere and Boy Meets World). The introductory narration is provided by Richard Baseheart, who played Knight’s patron, Wilton Knight; the character died in the first episode, but his voice remained.
22. Kung Fu (1972-1975)
The Kung Fu intro pulls the trick of using dialogue from the show, but it does it in a way that explains the training and journey of Kwai Chang Kane (David Carradine; interestingly young Kane in the intro is played by David’s younger brother and fellow actor, Keith). With this set-up, you understand a bit more about Kane before he went to walk the Earth.
21. Hart to Hart (1979-1984, plus eight made-for-TV movies)
Created by novelist Sidney Sheldon, Hart to Hart worked off of the same vibe as Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man: rich couple solves crimes. Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers played the Harts, while Lionel Stander played their assistant, Max (who also delivered the voice-over). The show proved popular enough that it returned for a series of TV-movies in 1993; Stander appeared in the first five before his death in late 1994.
20. Quantum Leap (1989-1993)
Quantum Leap didn’t have the voice-over intro right away, but it did acquire one in season three. Not only does it explain the premise (Dr. Sam Beckett is leaping from body to body across time, trying to set things right), but it also strikes a plaintive note of danger (telling us that Beckett just one day hopes to leap home). The final episode contained one of the great “down” endings in TV history, as a final title card tells us, “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.”
19. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981)
Buck Rogers is one of the longest-running science fiction heroes in popular culture, having first appeared in the 1928 novella Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan. Since then, Rogers has appeared in comics, novels, film serials, TV series, and theatrical movies. NBC’s TV series launched with a theatrical film that featured a theme song, “Suspension” by Kipp Lennon. That melody was used in the instrumental theme for the TV series. The film’s opening narration by William Conrad was edited down for the first season; in the second season, a new voice-over was delivered by Hank Simms.
18. Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)
“There are those that believe that life here . . . began out there.” Such are the words of John Colicos, who also played recurring antagonist Baltar. Certainly, BSG is the only show with a voice-over that references the Toltecs and the Mayans. The narration gives you air of mysticism before the soaring theme by the great Stu Phillips crashes in.
17. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present)
With 458 episodes and counting, SVU will break the record for the longest-running American prime-time live-action series this month. Certainly the most successful spin-off ever, it makes the list because of its own iconic opening passage. However, we just couldn’t place it above the original, which you’ll find later on the list. Dun-Dun.
16. The Flash (2014-present)
When Mark Waid took over as writer on The Flash comic book in the 1990s, he took the character’s long-time nickname (The Fastest Man Alive) and ingrained it into the narration that opened each issue: “My name is Wally West, and I’m the fastest man alive.” While the 2014 CW series opted to go with original Flash Barry Allen as its lead, it kept the spirit of Waid’s narrations. Series star Grant Gustin reads the openings in character, which adjust for each season and the arc of that year’s plot. We also use this entry to give a special nod to the Flash’s fellow CW crimefighters, Arrow, Supergirl, and The Legends of Tomorrow, all of whom use a variation of this device.
15. Tales from the Darkside (1983-1988)
Created by Night of the Living Dead director George Romero, Tales from the Darkside was a horror anthology series. Among the many legendary writers who contributed scripts or allowed their work to be adapted were Stephen King, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, and John Cheever. Romero wrote the opening and closing narrations himself; the lines were performed by Paul Sparer, best known for his work in soap operas like Another World. “Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.”
14. Farscape (1999-2004)
An Australian-American production that combined the forces of The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment, Farscape remains one of the most off-beat science fiction series ever made. Action-packed, frequently hilarious, and put together with a mixture of CGI and Henson creature creations, Farscape tells the tale of John Crichton (Ben Browder), an astronaut who ends up on the other side of the universe and on the run from a fascist army with his collection of alien companions. The intros quickly explain the plot and premise via Browder’s narration, and were updated each season to reflect ongoing changes to the plot. Most notable? Season four’s “Look upward, and share the wonders that I’ve seen,” a grand tease for Crichton’s return to Earth.
13. Babylon 5 (1993-1998)
Sci-fi classic Babylon 5 might be the ultimate expression of the changing introductory voice-over. In each of the first three seasons, a different actor from the show did the narration, with the dialogue changing to reflect the evolution of the story. The most telling change from the first two seasons to the third was the switch from “Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace” to “Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. It failed. In the year of The Shadow War, it became something greater: our last, best hope for victory.” Season four included the majority of cast delivering alternating lines of narration, while the final season altered the intro into a collage of dialogue from across the series, ending with a game-changing moment from the previous season finale.
12. The A-Team (1983-1987)
A perfect marriage of narration and theme song, the intro to The A-Team captures the story with precision (“In 1972, etc.”) before launching the music with a fusillade of bullets and a literal cannon blast (from the TV-movie pilot). Veteran composers Mike Post and Pete Carpenter composed the main theme, which puts nearly everyone immediately in mind of the flipping jeep.
11. The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982)
The second live-action Marvel Comics-inspired series of the ’70s (the first being the short-lived Amazing Spider-Man), The Incredible Hulk turned into a hit that ran for five seasons and a handful of TV movies. The theme by Joe Harnell sounds very of its time, but it’s definitely emotive. The narration gives you everything you need to know about Dr. “David” Banner (though other reasons have been posited for the name switch, it was because the producers thought that the alliteration of “Bruce Banner” was too comic-booky; just imagine a comic book character’s name sounding like it came from a comic book), including Bill Bixby’s rather famous line about being angry. The narration was provided by Ted Cassidy (yes, Lurch from The Addams Family). Actual Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno has spent the last decade-plus providing the voice of The Hulk in the various films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the recent Avengers: Endgame (“So many stairs!”).
10. The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978)
“Better . . . stronger . . . faster.” “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him; we have the technology.” You know that the voiceover is a stone-cold classic when it produces multiple quotable lines. Richard Anderson, who plays Oscar Goldman, the boss of the titular bionic man, Steve Austin (Lee Majors) handles the monologue. The Six Million Dollar Man was a huge hit, spawning merchandise, a spin-off (The Bionic Woman), TV movies, and an entire generation of kids that made “chug-chug-chug-chug” noises when they bounced on a trampoline.
9. Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981)
Jack Elliot and Allyn Ferguson’s jazzy ’70s main theme became a classic when paired with the smooth, knowing narration of John Forsythe (Charlie himself). The “Once upon a time” opening gently mocks the “very hazardous duties” that female police officers were subjected to, trying to strike an empowering note. However, the show was divisive on that point, with some critics dismissing it as “jiggle TV.” Social critic Camille Paglia recently wrote that the show was an “effervescent action-adventure showing smart, bold women working side by side in fruitful collaboration.” The show proved exceedingly popular for a time, even with cast replacements. After an abortive late ’80s reboot failed to materialize, the show has since seen life as two theatrical films, a revival TV series, spin-off comics, and a pending return to the big screen.
8. The Outer Limits (1963-1965; 1995-2002 revival)
The Outer Limits wastes no time getting to the creepy. As the picture begins to fail, a voice tells us, “There is nothing wrong with your television set; do not attempt to adjust the picture.” Most often compared to its fellow anthology, The Twilight Zone, this series hewed more closely to science-fiction, whereas Zone cast a wider net. While the original series only ran for two seasons, the words of the intro have stuck around in popular culture ever since, meriting a Top Ten spot on the list.
7. Dragnet (1949-1957 on radio; 1951-1959; 1967-1970 revival)
Jack Webb played Detective Joe Friday across three mediums off-and-on for 21 years. He was the lead in the radio drama, the first TV series (and its spin-off film), and the series revival. From the radio through the second TV show, two ongoing narration pieces were used. The first was an announcer, letting you know that the story you are about to see is true (although the names have been changed to protect the innocent). The second element is Friday himself, setting the L.A. scene and introducing himself. The no-nonsense set-up is the ancestor of our next entry.
6. Law & Order (1990-2010; on cable somewhere at this precise moment)
A franchise engine of the highest order (every pun intended), Dick Wolf’s Law & Order ran for 20 years while producing six direct spin-offs (with L&O in the name), indirect spin-offs like Conviction (the 2006 series), absorbing characters from other shows (Richard Belzer’s Detective Munch from Homicide: Life on the Streets), and sharing a fictional universe and ongoing character crossovers with programs like New York Undercover and the family of Chicago shows (Fire, P.D., Med, etc.). The iconic introduction, echoed on most of the shows that bear the Law & Order name (including SVU from earlier in the list), lets you know that the show will follow both the police (Law) and the prosecutors (Order). Dun Dun forever.
5. The Odd Couple (1970-1975)
Certainly one of the greatest television comedy series, The Odd Couple was based on the film that was based on Neil Simon’s stage play. Starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, the series had the distinction of doing so well in summer reruns that its second-run performance became the deciding factor each time it was awarded a new season. At the close of its run, the show was given a genuine finale episode, wherein Randall’s Felix re-marries Gloria and moves out. Multiple remakes of The Odd Couple exist on stage and screen, including a gender-flipped play, a remake with an African-American cast, and, this is true, an animated take with dog and cat roommates (The Oddball Couple, which ran on ABC in 1975).
4. The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)
Cue The William Tell Overture.
Narrator: The Lone Ranger!
Lone Ranger: Hi Yo Silver!
Narrator: A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty, ‘Hi Yo Silver!’ The Lone Ranger!
Lone Ranger: Hi Yo Silver, away!
Narrator: With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early west. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!
And scene. Do you really need anything else?
3. The Adventures of Superman (1940-1951 radio; 1952-1958 TV)
Though the opening narration may have been imported in large part from the radio, they remain some of the most famous words in the history of popular culture. It’s all there . . . “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s . . . Superman!” You get that he’s a “strange visitor from another planet.” You learn that he’s “faster than a speeding bullet . . . more powerful than a locomotive . . .” Basically every word of this is classic Americana. It’s like the super-hero Pledge of Allegiance. There is zero chance that you haven’t heard some part of this in the course of your everyday life.
2. Star Trek (The Original Series, 1966-1969)
A perfect marriage of text, image, and music, the opening narration of Star Trek gives you everything you need to understand the show and a dose of otherworldly tunes to go with it. Alexander Courage composed the theme, and the immortal words are delivered by Captain James T. Kirk himself, William Shatner. It’s been repeated in films, covered by Patrick Stewart for the first live-action spin-off (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and completely assimilated by popular culture. Or did it assimilate us? Only the Borg know for sure.
AND . . . the Greatest TV Spoken-Word Intro belongs to . . .
1. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964; revivals from 1985-1989, 2002-2003, and 2019-present)
Witness if you will, a TV series with a basic premise so powerful it’s spawned a legion of imitators and has been rebooted itself three additional times. Submitted for your approval, a show so gripping that people who saw individual episodes as children still remember the endings decades later. Amazingly, though the lines of the intro were tweaked across seasons, every iteration remains incredibly memorable. Part of that was the delivery of the show’s creator and host, Rod Serling, and part of it was Serling’s own talent for finding that cold space in your mind and squeezing. Not every episode was scary, and not every episode had a twist, but the intro let you know that you had to be ready for anything. It’s timeless, it’s iconic, and it’s our Number One.
Read Part One of our look at the Greatest TV Themes here.
Featured image: Pictorial Press Ltd / Almy Stock Photo.
News of the Week: Best Years, Branded Sketches, and Bars Made of Meat
The Best Years of Our Lives
When was America at its greatest?
That’s always one of the great dinner party questions. Are we better off now than we were 4, 8, 20, 40, 60 years ago? With Donald Trump’s slogan being “Make America Great Again,” it’s something people have been thinking about. What exactly made America “great” and what time is Trump talking about? The ’40s? The ’50s? The ’90s? Maybe the 1880s?
Morning Consult, a polling service, asked Trump supporters online what America’s greatest year was. Guess the most popular year that was mentioned. Guess! You’ll probably be wrong.
They picked the year 2000, when Bill Clinton was still president and social media hadn’t been invented yet.
Other popular years were 1955, 1960, 1970, and 1985. Now, those are wildly varied eras (and also very rounded years — what, no one liked 1957 or 1989?). There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Older people probably picked a long time ago and younger people probably picked 2000. It’s almost as if they don’t know what exactly “Make America Great Again” refers to, but they like the sound of it.
I think a lot of people don’t really know when the best years were, they just know it’s not right now (it’s never right now). We have a nostalgic feeling for years ago, and a lot of people don’t understand how we could have liked those times when we had so many problems. Well, name a year or decade when we didn’t have any problems. All eras have great things about them, even the ones where terrible things happened. I think people like times when things weren’t as fast-paced and muddled and changing.
On a personal note, I really loved 1985, when I was 20. I had a fun job with access to pizza and booze, I had less to worry about, and I had so much more hair.
Get Ready to Match the Stars!
From the “things you never thought you’d see again” department comes this news: Match Game is coming back to television. And you’ll never guess who the host is going to be. I’ll give you 1,000 guesses. Never mind, you’ll never guess.
It’s Alec Baldwin! The new ABC show will be part of ABC’s “Fun & Games” block on Sunday nights this summer, along with Celebrity Family Feud and The $100,000 Pyramid. It will be filmed in New York City.
Now comes the fun part: trying to figure out which celebrities will be on the new version. Since it’s ABC, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Jimmy Kimmel and Whoopi Goldberg. Personally, I’d love to see Brad Garrett, Craig Ferguson, Anderson Cooper, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. And Betty White! We can’t forget Betty White!
What’s your dream cast?
This Part of the Column Is Brought to You by Hot Pockets
Saturday Night Live announced something this week, and depending on how you look at it, it’s a good news/bad news type of thing. First, the NBC show is dropping the number of ads the show will have by 30 percent, which equals two commercial breaks. You may think that’s good news, but you know they have to do something else, right? They’re going to starting having “branded sketches.”
Deadlineembed reports — in an article with a headline that misses the real story — that the show will “bring in sponsored content from advertisers who will partner with the show for branded sketches.” They probably want to get more people to watch the shows live, cut out the commercials, but still get the advertising in. A lot of these spots will be the pre-taped segments that seem to get a lot of viral juice the next day. (By the way, I really, really hate the term viral.)
I’m pretty sure this happened on 30 Rock. Jack ordered Liz to include more of General Electric’s products in the show’s sketches, so they had to write sketches with people suddenly talking about and buying GE dishwashers and ovens. Let’s hope this integration isn’t as clunky as that was. Actually, it might be funny if it was as clunky as that was.
With the way that the Internet and social media and pop culture in general are these days, you’d think we’d know about every TV show/movie/album that’s coming up. But sometimes you get an album like Beyoncé’s Lemonade that seems to appear out of nowhere, and maybe even the trailer for a movie you didn’t know they were making.
Here’s the trailer for The Founder, the new film starring Michael Keaton as McDonalds founder Ray Kroc. Looks like fun. It opens August 5.
Introducing the Meat Bar
A “meat bar” sounds like some place men and women might mingle with each other, but it’s actually a new product from Hershey. Yes, the chocolate company is branching out into dried meat protein bars (mmm, doesn’t that sound delicious?).
The bars will be called Krave — which Hershey already uses for their beef jerky products — and will be a mixture of meat and other things like dried fruit and quinoa. The company has also launched a new brand called SoFit, which offers healthy snacks with more familiar ingredients, like almonds and seeds and fruit.
This could work, though they’re really going to have to find a way to market the new bars. Beef jerky is one thing; a bar made of meat is another.
Why are they doing this? Supposedly, sales of chocolate are down. Not in my house!
The Best Commercial Characters of All Time
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that TV commercials annoy me more than they used to. I didn’t think this would be the case. I thought I’d be more patient and calm when it came to things like this, but there are so many commercials that just irritate the heck out of me — from commercials that are run way too often (all car commercials) to commercials that are illogical and don’t make any sense and actually make me not want to buy the product.
But in general, I actually like TV commercials and advertising (I know, I’m in the minority). And there are some TV commercial characters I like seeing all the time. All the various Geico spokespeople/spokesanimals are fun (amazing how many different regular characters they have — it seems to go against advertising common wisdom). I like that older couple who do the Consumer Cellular ads. I’d watch them do a sitcom. I also like Flo from Progressive. She’s cute, and the commercials are effective.
But who are the best TV commercial characters of all time? Paper lists their eight favorites, and they include Flo and the gecko from Geico. It’s not a bad list because they actually remember some of the classic characters from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, like Rosie (Bounty paper towels), Mr. Whipple (Charmin toilet tissue), and Josephine the Plumber (Comet cleanser). It’s really great to see a list done by someone who actually remembers that there was pop culture before Saved by the Bell (though I could have done without the Dell dude). I’d add more animated characters to the list, like The Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean, and some characters from cereal ads.
Since we’re talking about commercials, can someone explain to me why there are suddenly so many commercials for various brands of copper or ceramic pans? I’ve seen at least four different commercials this past week, all different ads for different brands (though they all use the same language and they all seem to do the same exact things). Is there a hostile takeover of the pots and pans industry going on, so that everything we cook with will now be made of copper or ceramic?
I’m just glad there’s finally a pan that can withstand a car running over it. That happens to me all the time.
Today Is Arbor Day
I remember a joke from my childhood: Arbor Day is the day when we celebrate all the ships that come into the ’arbor. I didn’t say it was a good joke.
Here’s the official Arbor Day site, where you can learn more about, well, trees. You can also check out our Tree Planting 101 to help guide you through the process of planting trees. By the way, do kids still play in tree houses? Is that still a thing?
And tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day. Support your local brick-and-mortar bookstore (even if it is Barnes & Noble). And if you want to combine these two days, it’s easy. Books are made from trees.
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane shot down (May 1, 1960)
The incident and later exchange of American and Russian prisoners forms the basis of the 2015 Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks film Bridge of Spies.
Lou Gehrig ends streak (May 2, 1939)
The baseball icon’s 2,130 consecutive game streak record was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles.
Joseph McCarthy dies (May 2, 1957)
McCarthy died only a few years after leading the investigation into communists in the U.S. government and tangling with CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, a story told in the movie Good Night, and Good Luck.
Kent State University shootings (May 4, 1970)
Four student war protesters were shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen.
Cinco de Mayo (May 5)
The day is actually not an official holiday in Mexico, though all schools are closed.
Gary Cooper born (May 7, 1901)
Yup, he played Lou Gehrig.
News of the Week: Computers, Cereal, and Comic Strips
Computer Expert Said the Internet Would Never Take Off
We all make mistakes. Some are big, some are incredibly trivial, but most of the mistakes we make are private, and not many other people find out about them.
Clifford Stoll made a few mistakes in 1995, and he’s still hearing about them. Stoll is a well-known astronomer and computer expert (he helped catch hackers in the 1980s, which he wrote about in the book The Cuckoo’s Egg) who made some predictions about the Internet 20 years ago in Newsweek that haven’t come true. Actually, to say they didn’t come true doesn’t really illustrate how wrong he was. Unfortunately the Web remembers a lot, and Newsweek has the article in its archives, and it’s getting renewed attention because the 20th anniversary of the piece just passed.
Now, predictions about technology and media and science are often wrong, but considering that Stoll’s expertise was specifically computers and he had been using a version of the Internet since the ’70s, these predictions show a particular lack of vision. Stoll said that computers will never replace print newspapers, we’ll never shop online (there won’t even be a secure way to send money over the Internet), and we’ll never read books on computers. To his credit, Stoll now realizes how wrong he was and probably laughs about it.
I think some of his predictions were based not on thinking things through but on his own personal fears about where technology might be taking us. Stoll has always had the opinion that people should come before technology, and I think we can all agree with that vision. And he was probably way ahead of his time. He got the details wrong but you see similar thoughts about the dangers of technology in general even today, by people like Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle, and Andrew Keen.
Ya Jerks, Ya Jerks, Ya Jerks!
I don’t condone 8-year-olds using salty language … but this is funny! A young boy called The Bloomington Herald-Times in Indiana to complain because they dropped his favorite comic strips (and probably some of his mom and dad’s favorites too). The boy ended up leaving a voicemail for the editor where he not only rattled off a list of all of the comic strips he and his parents wanted back in the paper, he also called the newspaper employees “jerks,” plus another word I’m not going to print here. But you can hear the voicemail he and his parents left at the paper’s site.
Okay, maybe it’s not great the kid said some of the things he said, but let’s commend him for supporting print newspapers!
The death of actor Leonard Nimoy actually happened over a week ago but I couldn’t let it go by without mentioning it here. There have been a lot of TV characters over the decades, of course. Some memorable, some not memorable at all. Star Trek’s Mr. Spock (and that’s Mr. Spock, not “Dr. Benjamin Spock” as People magazine called him) was iconic and influential, a character beloved no matter how old you are, and that love extended to the actor as well. This isn’t just another celebrity dying; this is a major part of pop culture going away. I have a theory that all pop culture is personal, and when something in pop culture you truly love dies a little part of you dies too.
Live long and prosper.
— Terry W. Virts (@AstroTerry) February 28, 2015
I once owned a gerbil. His name was Dweezil, after Frank Zappa’s son. One day I went to greet him in his cage and he was all rolled up in a ball in the corner. I tried to wake him but he didn’t move at all, and he also seemed to be hard as a rock. Dweezil was dead, and I felt kind of bad about it. I took him out of his cage and buried him in the yard. But there’s a plot twist! Many years later I read that he probably wasn’t dead after all. Gerbils sometimes curl up in a ball like that and don’t move but will eventually. So basically I buried a live gerbil in the ground. I can imagine how he must have felt when he woke up, not in his comfy cage but instead in the cold ground. I guess I’m lucky he didn’t rise from his grave and seek revenge on me somehow.
This is just my long-winded way to tell you that gerbils, not rats, were probably responsible for the plague that killed millions in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Ice Traps Scientist on Maine Island
While we’re complaining that we have to shovel yet again, we should keep in mind that it could be a lot worse. For example, you could be trapped on an island. This is what is happening to Dr. Diane Corwan, a scientist at the Lobster Conservancy in Maine. The conservancy is on an island in the harbor, and while the harbor ice has mostly thawed the area around the island hasn’t. She’s been trapped there, running low on supplies, for over a month (there are no stores on the island and only a few vacation homes). She’s been working there for 16 winters and she says this winter is the worst she has experienced (before this the longest she had spent there was two weeks). Friends dropped supplies to Corwan from an airplane, including meat and fruit and dog treats for her companion, Sula. (I’m guessing that having her dog with her this whole time has helped immensely.)
What she needs is a big bag of ice melt. A really, really big bag of ice melt.
Tomorrow Is National Cereal Day
You probably had cereal for breakfast at some point this week. Or, if you’re Jerry Seinfeld, you had it for dinner. And yes, there’s a day to celebrate all things cereal and it’s tomorrow.
One of the best cereal sites is Mr. Breakfast. He has a really detailed history of cereal, including an alphabetical list, pictures of cereal boxes, and even video. He also has a list of 90 recipes for cereals you can make yourself. Cereal, I have to admit, is one food I’ve never ever thought of making myself. Unless you consider mixing two cereals in one bowl “cooking.”
For years I missed one of my favorite cereals, Quisp, until I found out you can still get it in some stores and online! Now if Pink Panther Flakes would come back I’d be all set.
Daylight Saving Time This Sunday
Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour (spring ahead, fall back!) around 2 a.m. on Sunday. Here’s a story about DST by humorist Philip Gulley from our January/February 2014 issue.
Barbie launched (March 9, 1959)
Mattel will not only release 78 new Barbie dolls this year, now Barbie will be able to talk to you.
Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published (March 11, 1818)
You can read the classic novel for free at Project Gutenberg.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gives first “fireside chat” (March 12, 1933)
Here’s a list of every fireside chat that Roosevelt gave.
Albert Einstein born (March 14, 1879)
The scientist explained his Theory of Relativity to The Saturday Evening Post in 1959.