Strange Mysteries Of TV And Movie Characters

The bizarre, the eerie, the Chuck Cunningham

Photo by Sindy Süßengut on Unsplash

Many odd things can be seen on TV if you’ve been around long enough.

Some of it is quite fun, some quite disturbing and surreal. I’ve written before about this and that on TV and in movies; let’s look now at some oddball stuff.

This is the most talked about of all — it even coined a term for the phenomenon called Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.

If you were a faithful watcher of the first season or so of Happy Days, you may have been surprised that Richie and Joan Cunningham had an older brother named Chuck. Chuck always seemed to have a basketball in his hand; this appeared to be his schtick and identifying characteristic.

You can be forgiven if at this point you’re saying “Chuck WHO?” to your monitor. The character picked up his basketball at the end of an episode, went upstairs in the house — and was never seen again. No one ever spoke of him. No one ever asked about him, not even his parents. Not even at the end of the series years later.

Everyone acted like Chuck never existed at all…and he’s not the only one over the years on TV.

Photo by Mathias Konrath on Unsplash

I can’t say if this still happens in US soaps, but Rapidly Aging Children was something that gave my wife and me a bit of amusement.

The scenario was this: a couple of main characters have a child. In a short period, that child becomes a toddler. Another short period of a few months, and the child is suddenly of school age.

In my wife’s favorite soap, the child is then shipped off to a Swiss boarding school (because of reasons) over the Summer months, and then that character returns for the Fall season of episodes.

We don’t know what the Swiss at that school do to the kids over the Summer, but they invariably return aged about 12 years (or even more) older than when they left home.

I always maintained that we now knew where some missing Nazi scientists ended up — hiding out in a Swiss boarding school. Experimenting with the students there.

Photo by Zetong Li on Unsplash

On TV (and in some movies), people take off indefinitely from work at a moment’s notice, with no repercussions. Try it, and get back to me with how that worked out for you.

Btw, most of these characters seem to have unlimited expense accounts, so they can stay at hotels and eat at places most people only dream about.

The TV or radio, when turned on, instantly is tuned to the start of a relevant newscast or story crucial to the plot. Every time. No futzing with commercials or weather or traffic reports.

I am a jewelry industry veteran. Highly trained back in the day.
Identifying gems and crystalline substance origins using only the naked eye with no specialized equipment drives me up the wall…and it’s done a LOT in cinema.

The best example is a Bond film, where Bond and an ally were visually examining some gems and the statement was made “Look at the chemical composition! Definitely conflict diamonds!” This determination was made using only a 10X hand magnifier, in a back room in Cuba.

These guys are good; even the Gemological Institute of America can’t do that without a lab full of specialized gear! Come to think of it, they can’t even do it then; I should know — they trained me.

What’s a plot hole in a movie/TV show that everyone seems to overlook but you can’t get over?

One of mine is that it takes real time to go from point A to point B. A time that eats into taking care of the urgent problem that was set up, making resolution problematic at best.

For example, our hero is across town at point A when he learns of the atomic bomb at point B. A bomb that will go off in an incredibly short time — a time he cannot possibly use to cover that distance. This is especially glaring if taking place in a city you are familiar with.

Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

It gets worse when several intrepid heroes have to converge on the same location within the time limit specified — and they are coming from all over the countryside. ALL will arrive at the same time, even though it should be physically impossible to do so.

They will also take the time to confer with each other while the timer on the device keeps ticking off to zero. All the time in the world, right?

In the awful stinker of a movie “Horror of Party Beach,” the intrepid hero hops in his MG to go pick up sodium in NYC to kill the stupid monsters. We’re treated to a montage of NYC landmarks that pad out the film runtime and indicate he’s basically sightseeing: he’s uptown, in Washington Square, the Guggenheim, hell, he’s all over town! Eventually, he finds the warehouse where he gets that damned box of sodium and heads back. Will he get back in time to prevent a bloodbath?

Only if he doesn’t stop on Broadway for a show.

Now for a bit of trivia for the nerds in the back…

Guy Williams sees the future before him | Source: IMDB

Jonathan Harris was the character of Dr. Zachary Smith in the original 1960s Lost In Space.

Smith originally was not supposed to last long; his character was put in there to appease the studio/network because they insisted that there be a bad guy. If you watch the original episodes that were broadcast at the start, Smith was unrelentingly evil. Look at his facial expressions and his actions — he was playing the part as written at the time.

This didn’t sit well with Jonathan Harris, as he had been an actor for years and could see the writing on the wall — the Smith character would soon come to a bad end, and he would lose a regular paycheck.

So, he began to change his dialogue in the show. After a while, he got Irwin Allen to sign off on any changes he made, as it was selling to the audience.

It changed the whole focus of the show, which eventually became centered on the Robot, Smith, and the boy Will for nearly every episode. This did not sit well with the other adult actors, as when they were hired on they assumed they would be the stars.

By the way; someone once asked me why Harris received ‘Special Guest Star’ billing all through the production run, The series was already in production when Harris joined the cast as a late addition, and starring/co-starring billing had already been contractually assigned. Harris successfully negotiated to receive “Special Guest Star” billing on every episode.

While the other adult actors weren’t written out of the show, they might as have been. The whole situation irked Guy Williams so badly that he retired from acting completely after Lost In Space ended and moved to Argentina, where he had a ranch.

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John Lewis

John Lewis

John Lewis was born in Europe, and came by both wanderlust and curiosity from that beginning. He considers this his Third Act in Life.