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Let’s just be clear from the start: Television series do not actually predict future world events. As noted in an old TV Legends Revealed, Quantum Leap didn’t foretell Super Bowl XXX. Similarly, an old Uncle Sam comic book didn’t predict the attack on Pearl Harbor and comic book creator John Byrne doesn’t have precognitive abilities. That said, quite often there are some awfully eerie coincidences that at the very least are weird enough for us to take notice. Reader Mark G. wrote in about one such coincidence when he asked if it was true that an old Matthew Perry sitcom seriously predicted the year of Moammar Gadhafi’s death. Read on to see if it’s true!
After taking power in a military coup in 1969, Gadhafi was the leader of Libya for the next 40, using a few different titles (like Revolutionary Chairman and Brotherly Leader). In 2011, Gadhafi was deposed by a rebellion led by the National Transitional Council (NTC), and on Oct. 20 of that year killed by the rebels in his hometown of Sirte.
Gadhafi and Libya were in the news in the late 1980s for the terrorist attack on a German discotheque (1986) and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (1988). In 1987, public sentiment surrounding Gadhafi was nearing an all-time low, making him a ripe target for a comedy writer looking to score some easy points with an audience. Enter the new Fox sitcom Second Chance, starring Kiel Martin (fresh off of Hill Street Blues) and a young Matthew Perry.
Martin played a man named Charles Russell, who dies in 2011 only for Saint Peter to be unable to decide whether he’s good enough to go to heaven or bad enough to be sentenced to hell. Instead, Charles is sent back in time to 1987 to influence his younger self Chazz (played by Perry) to become a better person, thus assuring that Charles will make it into heaven. The show did poorly and was pulled from the schedule just two months after its September 1987 premiere. When it returned to the schedule in early 1988, it was completely re-tooled and was now simply called Boys Will Be Boys and centered around Perry and his friends (with Martin and the supernatural element completely dropped). The makeover didn’t help the show enough, though, and it was canceled after one season.
What we’re looking at here today, though, is the very first episode, in which we see Saint Peter considers whether Charles deserves to be sent to heaven or hell. The show first demonstrates someone being sent to heaven in the person of a beauty queen killed by a rival right as she won the pageant. Then we meet Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, who’s sentenced to hell. Saint Peter explains his particular punishment will be to become a human bomb, blowing up every two minutes. The crowd, naturally, enjoyed seeing Gadhafi punished like this.
So, yes, in a weird sort of way, Second Chance predicted the year of Gadhafi’s death (and was only a few months off on the month).
The legend is …
STATUS: True (so long as we account for the fact that TV shows cannot actually predict future events).
Thanks to reader Mark G. for the suggestion!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.