17 Facts About Blossom That Will Make You Say 'Whoa!'

NBC
NBC

There was a lot to like about Blossom, the 1990s sitcom that averaged about 12 million viewers per week during its five-season run and briefly turned Mayim Bialik into a fashion icon. The show was more than The Show That Was On After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air On Monday Nights; it dealt with all of the occasionally serious problems one would expect from a single dad raising a precocious teenage daughter and a recovering drug addict older son. There was also plenty of lightness to counter the dark moments, courtesy of Joey Lawrence’s dumb jock son character, Six’s verbal torrents, and Blossom’s dream sequences with '90s celebrities (like ALF!).

With it being 20 years now since the show’s end, here are some Blossom truths discovered at the end of Ms. Russo’s video diary.

1. DION DIMUCCI WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR NICK RUSSO.

Series creator Don Reo was an invited guest to DiMucci’s 50th birthday party in Florida. Though he was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, DiMucci acted like a normal parent with his three daughters, giving the former M*A*S*H, Rhoda, and The Golden Girls writer the idea for a family sitcom about a cool dad.

2. THE STAR OF THE SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE A MALE.

Reo also wanted to make a show with a Holden Caulfield-type protagonist, so he combined that with the hip father idea and wrote a pilot for NBC. Blossom was just the younger sister in the script, until a female network executive suggested to Reo that she become the star.

3. IN THE PILOT JOEY’S NAME WAS DONNY, AND BLOSSOM’S PARENTS WERE STILL TOGETHER.

NBC aired the Blossom pilot as a one-off special on July 5, 1990—exactly one year to the day that they did the same for the Seinfeld pilot. There were notable differences between the pilot presentation and the eventual series: an accountant named Terry and a stay-at-home mom named Barbara were Blossom’s parents (the two have marital troubles), Joey’s name was Donny, and the theme song was Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” (changed to its eventual version in syndication and DVDs.) When NBC picked up the series, Don Reo convinced the network it was okay to have both a "hip" musician and a cool teen on the same show.

4. DR. JOHN SANG THE THEME SONG.

Written by Mike Post and Steve Geyer, it was titled “My Opinionation.”

5. MELISSA JOAN HART WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF SIX.

She decided to take the other role she was offered at the same time: the title role in Clarissa Explains It All.

6. JENNA VON Oÿ HAD A SPECIAL MORNING COCKTAIL TO GET INTO CHARACTER.

To help get into character as the energetic Six LeMeure, "Jenna would mash up all this candy—malted milk balls, M&Ms—in a coffee cup, then fill it with Coke or hot coffee," Ted Wass (who played Blossom's dad) recalled to People.

7. THERE WERE TWO CANON EXPLANATIONS FOR WHY VON Oÿ's NAME WAS SIX.

In the pilot, six was the number of beers her parents drank the night she was conceived. In another episode, it was because she was the sixth child in her family.

8. BLOSSOM’S DREAM SEQUENCE WITH PHYLICIA RASHāD WAS ALMOST CUT.

“Blossom Blossoms” was the first episode to air after the pilot, now with Ted Wass as the piano-playing single dad Nick. Rashad drawing fallopian tubes on a birthday cake made censors nervous, but the network didn’t see any upside to cutting Clair Huxtable out of a heavily promoted episode slated to air right after The Cosby Show.

9. NBC MANAGED TO GET DRUG JOKES CHANGED BEFORE BROADCAST.

Anthony Russo’s description of a boring date was changed from “I've known people on Thorazine who were more fun than this girl” to “I've known people who were unconscious who were more fun than this girl" at the request of the network. A mention of mushrooms was taken out entirely.

10. THE INCREDIBLE HULK DIRECTED 30 EPISODES.

In addition to being an actor—and star of The Incredible Hulk—Bill Bixby was a prolific television director. After being behind the camera for most of Blossom's third season and the first half of season four, Bixby sadly passed away at the age of 59 after a long battle with prostate cancer. Five weeks later, Ted Wass’ wife passed away from ovarian cancer.

11. IT WAS THE LAST SHOW TED WASS ACTED IN.

But it was the first show that he directed, which is where he focuses his creative efforts nowadays. Wass has worked on a number of multi-camera comedies including 2 Broke Girls, Last Man Standing, and Melissa & Joey (which reunited Wass with his former “son” Joey Lawrence).

12. A LOT OF THOUGHT WENT INTO BLOSSOM’S OUTFITS.

Before each wardrobe fitting, costume designer Sherry Thompson and costume supervisor Marion Kirk would spend three hours checking out clothes in Melrose Avenue boutiques and chain stores to find outfits for Blossom and Six. Then Bialik, Bialik’s mother, Thompson, Kirk, a seamstress, and a milliner would figure out what would work and what wouldn’t.

13. THERE WAS AN OFFICIAL BLOSSOM FASHION COLLECTION.

Burdines, Dillard’s and Jacobson’s were three stores that sold the line in the summer of 1993.

14. JOEY LAWRENCE RECEIVED A LOT OF FAN MAIL.

A 1991 MediaWeek survey rated Blossom as the most popular show for viewers aged 12 to 17, and some of that was thanks to Lawrence. One estimate had him receiving 4000 to 7000 letters a day, while another claimed he received 15,000 a week. In either case, that's a lot of fan mail.

15. THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED ANTHONY’S WIFE WASN’T THRILLED ABOUT THE ROLE.

Samaria Graham won the role of Shelly, and kept it despite her unenthusiastic response to the news. "I'm not really excited about it," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. "It's just another job. I mean, I'm happy, but I'm not thrilled or anything."

16. MICHAEL STOYANOV LEFT THE SHOW IN ITS FINAL SEASON TO WRITE FOR CONAN O'BRIEN.

Stoyanov forced production to write Anthony off the show toward the end of the fifth and final season when he accepted a job writing for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Though he went on to write for Mad TV and Mr. Show with Bob and David, Stoyanov eventually regretted leaving the series. "I didn't fully appreciate the position I was in," he told People in 2000. "I've learned not to take anything for granted."

17. INITIALLY, NO ONE FOUND LAWRENCE'S "WHOA!" VERY FUNNY.

Twenty-five years after Blossom first aired, Lawrence's "Whoa!" catchphrase remains one of the show's lasting legacies. But originally, no one found the line (which was intended to be delivered in more of a surfer dude fashion) very funny. "The executive producer came up to me and said, ‘Can you try something else? … People aren’t finding it humorous," Lawrence recalled earlier this year. "I don’t know where that came from! I just tried it once and did this weird thing and people laughed. They laughed tremendously long. We did a second take and they laughed again ... It’s so weird that word has transcended 20 years. I can only imagine what that word would have been had social media been what it is today. It took off in the course of one night once it hit the airwaves, but with social media, it probably would have been twice as fast.”

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.