One of the shows I religiously watched growing up in the 1980s was SQUARE ONE TV, a math variation on SESAME STREET on PBS.
I probably learned more about math from that than I did in actual class.
My favorite segment was “Mathnet” a DRAGNET parody involving math. I actually saw this before I saw DRAGNET reruns — one of the many examples of how I encountered parody before the original material.
Mathnet would be serialized across each week, with the five episodes telling one story over five segments.
The first one involved a gorilla committing crimes, which turned out to be a criminal named “Janos Prokedzian.” Here’s the full story:
(yes, that’s Yeardley Smith from THE SIMPSONS as “Jane Rice Burroughs,” and yes, she’s using her Lisa Simpson voice)
That name always stuck with me as a great supervillain name. I used it several times over the years in stories I wrote.
Well, I just found out where that name came from.
Mathnet would often do parodies of different bits of popular culture. For example, one story involved a rock star clearly modeled on Bruce Springsteen who was kidnapped by a marching band leader named for John Philip Sousa. Another involved the production of a Broadway show called “Anything Went,” which actually taught me a lot about how Broadway shows are produced, and how expensive it is to make one and make back the money on it.
Tonight, I was watching some inane sitcom on TV when I saw this odd credit: “Janos Prohaska as the gorilla.”
A quick Google turned up that Prohaska was an actor who typically played animals in suits in different TV shows. In fact, he was a couple of the monsters on the original STAR TREK!
And here’s the man without the monkey:
A very crazy bit: In the 1980s, when comics creator Howard Chaykin rebooted the 1940s-era character Blackhawk, he revealed the character’s real name was…Janos Prohaska!
According to Wikipedia, this was in tribute, but I need to email Chaykin to confirm.
So Blackhawk was named for a guy in a monkey suit.
It’s pretty amazing what boredom and Google can turn up.
I need to get some real work done now.