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Vincent A. Cicirello
Vincent A. Cicirello

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How Programming and Classic Television are Alike

What does programming have to do with Mr T, Cheers, the Golden Girls, the Brady Bunch, Full House, Quantum Leap, Gilligan's Island, Oscar the Grouch, Family Matters, Home Improvement, and Night Court? Probably nothing. But none-the-less this post connects programming to classic American television shows, personalities, and characters.

Did I miss any?

Table of Contents:

Classic TV meets the classic foo and bar

Mr T (as a programming instructor): I pity the foo

(Mr T is certainly a classic TV icon even if this one is based on a movie quote.)

And a code example:

def foo(person) :
    return "Mr T pities {0}, a fool.".format(person)
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Mr. T, is an American actor. He is known for his roles as B. A. Baracus in the 1980s television series The A-Team and as boxer Clubber Lang in the 1982 film Rocky III. He is also known for his distinctive hairstyle inspired by Mandinka warriors in West Africa, his copious gold jewelry, his tough-guy persona and his catchphrase "I pity the fool!", first uttered as Clubber Lang in Rocky III, then turned into a trademark used in slogans or titles, like the reality show I Pity the Fool in 2006.

And of course you can't use the classic function name foo in an example without also having an example with variable bar:

bar = "Cheers"
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Cheers is an American sitcom television series that ran on NBC from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993, with a total of 275 half-hour episodes across 11 seasons. The show was produced by Charles/Burrows Productions in association with Paramount Network Television, and was created by the team of James Burrows and Glen and Les Charles. The show is set in a real-life bar and namesake Cheers in Boston, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax and socialize.

C, Lisp, Fortran, and Smalltalk

The Golden Girls is an American sitcom created by Susan Harris that aired on NBC from September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992, with a total of 180 half-hour episodes, spanning seven seasons. With an ensemble cast starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, the show is about four older women who share a home in Miami, Florida. It was produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, in association with Touchstone Television. Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, and Harris served as the original executive producers.

A fork join thread pool

The Brady Bunch is an American sitcom created by Sherwood Schwartz that aired from September 26, 1969, to March 8, 1974, on ABC. The series revolves around a large blended family with six children. The show aired for five seasons and, after its cancellation in 1974, went into syndication in September 1975. Though it was never a ratings hit or a critical success during its original run, the program has since become a popular syndicated staple, especially among children and teenage viewers.

Buffer overflow

Full House is an American television sitcom created by Jeff Franklin for ABC. The show is about widowed father Danny Tanner who enlists his brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis and childhood best friend Joey Gladstone to help raise his three daughters, eldest D.J., middle child Stephanie and youngest Michelle in his San Francisco home. It aired from September 22, 1987, to May 23, 1995, broadcasting eight seasons and 192 episodes.

2D array

Here's The Brady Bunch again, or more specifically their opening credits title image....

The Brady Bunch title image

Image from:

Rewriting git history

Quantum Leap is an American science fiction television series, created by Donald P. Bellisario, that premiered on NBC and originally aired for five seasons, from March 25, 1989 to May 5, 1993. The first five seasons starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who involuntarily leaps through spacetime during experiments in time travel, by temporarily taking the place of other people to correct what he consistently discovers were historical mistakes.

Memory leak

Gilligan's Island is an American sitcom created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz. The show's ensemble cast features Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells. It aired for three seasons on the CBS network from September 26, 1964, to April 17, 1967. The series follows the comic adventures of seven castaways as they try to survive on an island where they are shipwrecked. Most episodes revolve around the dissimilar castaways' conflicts and their unsuccessful attempts to escape their plight, with Gilligan usually being responsible for the failures.

Garbage Collector

Oscar the Grouch is a Muppet character created by Jim Henson and Jon Stone for the PBS/HBO children's television program Sesame Street. He has a green body, no visible nose, and lives in a trash can. Oscar's favorite thing is trash, as evidenced by the song "I Love Trash", with a running theme being his collection of seemingly useless items. Although the term "Grouch" aptly describes Oscar's misanthropic interaction with the other characters, it also refers to his species. The character was originally performed by Caroll Spinney from the show's first episode until his official retirement in 2018. Eric Jacobson began understudying for the character in 2015, and officially took on the full role after Spinney's retirement in 2018.


Steve Urkel: Did I do that?

Family Matters is an American television sitcom that debuted on ABC on September 22, 1989 and ended on May 9, 1997. However it moved to CBS, where it was shown from September 19, 1997 to July 17, 1998. A spin-off of Perfect Strangers, the series revolves around the Winslow family, a middle-class African-American family living in Chicago, Illinois. Midway through the first season, the show introduced the Winslows' nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel, who was originally scripted to appear as a one-time character. However, he quickly became the show's breakout character, joining the main cast.


Home Improvement is an American television sitcom starring Tim Allen that aired on ABC from September 17, 1991 to May 25, 1999 with a total of 204 half-hour episodes spanning eight seasons. The series was created by Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, and David McFadzean. In the 1990s, it was one of the most watched sitcoms in the United States, winning many awards. The series launched Tim Allen's acting career and was the start of the television career of Pamela Anderson, who was part of the recurring cast for the first two seasons.

Code reviews

Night Court is an American television sitcom that aired on NBC from January 4, 1984 to May 31, 1992. The setting was the night shift of a Manhattan municipal court presided over by a young, unorthodox judge, Harold "Harry" T. Stone. The series was created by comedy writer Reinhold Weege, who had previously worked on Barney Miller in the 1970s and early 1980s.

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Top comments (6)

lexiebkm profile image
Alexander B.K.

Fortran was used for scientific purpose in the era when hardware was still expensive : it is like what Steve Austin (portrayed by Lee Majors) did in "Six Million Dollar Man".
Maybe be for some people, it was like a hero, just like Steve Austin in that movie, like my friend had for his final project in Physics : he picked Fortran over C, due to the precision for computation.
C with its pointer can be like "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea" : challenging, but dangerous at times, although can be fun or satisfying.
Of course, the correlation may not be accurate, though; I am just trying to recall some of classic TV series.

cicirello profile image
Vincent A. Cicirello

Nice additional comparisons. I don't remember much of the "Six Million Dollar Man" and don't know the other show at all, but your connections certainly sound good. I might check if any streaming services have them.

cicirello profile image
Vincent A. Cicirello

Any other classic television shows with connections to programming?

lexiebkm profile image
Alexander B.K.

When I was a kid, I liked "Chips" : it's a TV series about two highway patrol officers who used motorcycles in their daily tasks. It featured Eric Estrada who gained popularity among kids in late 1970s to early 1980s.
Perhaps, the two officers can be related to pair-programmers with tasks dealing with security issues, code reviews, debugging, manually garbage-collecting, as well as communicating with clients. They used C++ as the main programming language.

cicirello profile image
Vincent A. Cicirello

I remember Chips. Yes, good for a pair programming analogy.

simpledev profile image
Simple Dev