Creator David Chase had a back-up plan in case HBO didn’t greenlight the show’s pilot episode. The plan involved shooting one more episode and releasing the pair of them as a movie about a depressed mobster who undergoes therapy and then ends up trying to murder his mother.
Producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran came up with the real-time conceit before they had any story ideas. Initially, 24 was going to be about the 24 hours leading up to a wedding. Fortunately, when they realised that staying up all night before your own wedding is legitimately stupid, they invented Jack Bauer.
Matthew Perry almost didn’t take the role of Chandler Bing because he already had a supporting role in the pilot for a sitcom called LAX 2194, about people who work in an airport in the future. He played a man who separated luggage in a futuristic way. It was never picked up.
Speedy’s Cafe on Gower Street (which stands in for Baker Street on the show) sells something called a Sherlock Sandwich. It contains chicken, bacon, cheese, onion, peppers, lettuce and cucumber. They also do a vegetarian Watson Sandwich, which – fittingly – is nicer but less popular.
5) 30 Rock
Before becoming famous, 30 Rock stars Tina Fey and Scott Adsit worked together doing voices for the 1997 pinball machine Medieval Madness. If you ever find one of these machines, and hear an old British woman scream “Skewer ’em!”, know that it’s Liz Lemon.
6) Sex and the City
Donald Trump has a brief cameo in the second series, where he politely ignores a come-on from Samantha. Other shows to feature a Trump cameo include The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Nanny, The Drew Carey Show, Suddenly Susan, Spin City, The Job and a McDonald’s advert where he brags to Grimace about the cost of his pen.
7) The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an endless well of trivia, but to pick one fact at random, both Marge Simpson and Sideshow Bob have been given the prisoner number 24601 – the same digits that once featured on a helmet worn by Principal Skinner. This is also Jean Valjean’s prisoner number in Les Misérables.
8) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Look closely at the opening titles of Netflix’s show and you’ll briefly see old video footage of a little girl dressed in blue playing with hula hoops. Now go and look closely at the opening titles of The Americans. Same girl, same hula hoops, exact same footage. This probably means that Kimmy is a Russian spy.
The original intention was for Brody to blow himself up at the end of the first series. However, Showtime intervened and asked the creators to keep him alive as long as possible. If you’ve ever seen the second and third series of Homeland, you’ll know what a disastrous decision this was.
10) Party of Five
Nineties teen drama Party of Five was one of the very first shows to embrace the potential of the internet. Actor Matthew Fox would sometimes chat with fans on the Party of Five Compuserve forum, which means that Matthew Fox basically invented Reddit, which is weird.
11) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The original Buffy the Vampire Slayer film was produced by a company called Sandollar Entertainment. When the film flopped, a Sandollar executive suggested turning it into a series. Sandollar is Dolly Parton’s production company. Dolly Parton is an uncredited producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
12) Our Friends in the North
It took 14 years for this series to get to air, owing to its enormous scope and budget. Its subject matter – based on a real-life housing scandal – was also so legally risky that one BBC lawyer threatened to resign if it was ever made and others suggested placing the series in a fairytale land named Albion to cover their backs.
13) The Wire
During the entire series, not a single police officer fires a gun competently. The only officer to discharge a firearm is Prez, and all he does is accidentally shoot a wall, drunkenly fire his gun in the air and shoot an undercover officer by mistake.
14) South Park
In its early years, South Park became irritatingly over-marketed, with each of its character getting its own raft of peripheral merchandise. Towelie – a talking, heroin-addicted towel – was Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s attempt to create a character with no marketing potential whatsoever. It was unsuccessful, as the Talking Towelie Plush Toy will attest.
15) Doctor Who
When the BBC resurrected Doctor Who in 2005, it was initially banned from featuring any Daleks due to a copyright claim from Terry Nation’s estate. They said this was partly because the BBC had licensed the Daleks to Warner Bros to appear in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but also because BBC3 apparently wanted to make a cartoon about gay Daleks.
16) Mad Men
Miss Blankenship – the curt, deaf secretary who died during the fourth series, inspiring the beautiful Bert Cooper eulogy “She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut” – was played by the same woman who played the Karate Kid’s mum.
17) The Walking Dead
Pay close attention to the opening titles and you’ll see that, over time, the Walking Dead logo has gradually decayed to reflect the darkness of the on-screen world. Also, Alanna Masterson, who plays Tara, is half-sister to Christopher Masterson, AKA Malcolm in the Middle’s Francis.
18) This Life
The producer of This Life was Jane Fallon, long-term partner of Ricky Gervais. As such, Gervais received a “music advisor” credit in the series.
19) Game of Thrones
When the Queen visited the Belfast studios where Game of Thrones is filmed in 2014, she declined an offer to sit on the Iron Throne. This was on the basis that it is expressly forbidden for an English monarch to sit on the throne of any foreign nation, even one that doesn’t exist and has dragons in it.
20) My So-Called Life
The early favourite to play Angela Chase was Alicia Silverstone, who was 16. Claire Danes must have impressed in her audition because, as she was only 13 at the time, her legal working hours were much shorter than Silverstone’s.
21) Breaking Bad
The scene in which Walter White angrily throws a pizza on to the roof of his house has inspired so many fans to track down the Breaking Bad house and throw pizzas at it that series creator Vince Gilligan begged them to stop. He said, “Let me tell you: there is nothing funny or original or cool about throwing pizzas on this lady’s roof.”
22) Dawson’s Creek
This was the last show ever to be dubbed into Portuguese when it aired in Portugal. All subsequent television imports would be subtitled. Incidentally, in case anyone ever does try to subtitle the series, the Portuguese for “ugly cry” is “feio choro”.
23) Line of Duty
The ending of the first series was so vague that it caused television presenter Gaby Roslin to fire out the following distressed tweet: “I think I am still confused by Line of Duty. Can someone explain or should I watch it again? I do wish it wasn’t finished though!”
24) Happy Valley
Happy Valley is also the name of a Shanghai theme park, which contains attractions such as Family Inverted Coaster and Ant Kingdom.
Robbie Coltrane’s early-90s ITV crime drama was remade for American audiences, where Fitz was also a radio host. James Gandolfini turned down the lead role.
26) Absolutely Fabulous
One of the main inspirations for AbFab’s boozy socialites Patsy and Edina was the 1980s girlband Bananarama. “I got a lot of gags from Bananarama because they were big vodka drinkers,” Jennifer Saunders said. “I once saw one of them coming out of a cab bottom first and hitting the road, and I thought, ‘That’s class.’”
27) Arrested Development
Lucille Bluth’s prisoner number is 07734. Type that on a calculator, turn it upside down and it reads “Hello”. Lucile Bluth’s adopted Korean son is called Annyong. Annyong is Korean for “Hello”. Coincidence?
28) Prime Suspect
The character of Jane Tennison was based on real-life detective Jackie Malton, whom creator Lynda La Plante had previously interviewed. Malton would later appear on the Channel 5 gameshow Britain’s Psychic Challenge, which Tennison did not.
29) Twin Peaks
At least two Twin Peaks actors claimed that they were only ever given their own lines of dialogue, and didn’t really know what any scene was going to be about until the other actors read their lines during a take, filling in the blanks.
The Lost island contained references to each of the seven wonders of the ancient world, from Jacob’s lighthouse to the skeletons of Adam and Eve.