Learning the language of logos Ever wonder about those quirky images that appear at the end of your favorite TV shows? Each one tells its own story.

December 20, 1998|By Robert Philpot | Robert Philpot,Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Some are legendary: MTM's famous mewing kitty, whichv was a takeoff on MGM's roaring-lion logo. Some are self-explanatory: the howling wolf that adorns shows from Dick Wolf Productions. Some are even lame, from companies you'd expect would be flashier, such as Aaron Spelling productions.

We're talking about TV production-company logos, those few second blips that come after the conclusion of shows such as "The X-Files" and "Ally McBeal." They're like a tiny dessert after the episode's main course, and true fans know to stick around through the closing credits, just for those few curious moments.

Here are some of the more popular ones and what they mean:

Ten Thirteen. Airs after "The X-Files" and "Millennium," both created by Chris Carter.

The image: The words "Ten Thirteen" are projected in blurry black and white (with the sound of a projector running) as a child's voice says, "I made this!"

What it means: Ten Thirteen represents Carter's birthday: Oct. 13, 1956 (references to this are continually slipped into "The X-Files"). The voice belongs to Nathan Couturier, son of supervising sound editor Thierry Couturier. Nepotism is out there.

David E. Kelley Productions. Airs after "The Practice," "Ally McBeal" and "Chicago Hope."

The image: A granny in a rocking chair is watching TV. When she clicks the remote, the words "David E. Kelley Productions" whoosh out of her TV, knocking her backward. As she falls over, she exclaims, "You stinker!"

What it means: According to a Kelley spokeswoman, the woman is Kelley's 97-year-old grand-mother, Mildred, and that's her saying "You stinker!" - one of her favorite phrases. Kelley lived with Mildred while he attended law school, and he remains close to her.

Mutant Enemy. Airs after "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

The image: The hand-drawn Mutant Enemy wording appears as an animated cut-out zombie ambles across the screen, saying, "Grr! Aarrgh!"

What it means: "Mutant Enemy" comes from words that "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon stenciled on his first typewriter when he was 15 (no one seems to know why he did that). Whedon did the zombie animation, and that's his voice too.

Steven Bochco Productions. Airs after "NYPD Blue."

NTC The image: A man furiously plays a violin as the company logo appears, written in script.

What it means: The man is Rudolph Bochco, Steven's father and an accomplished violinist. He's playing a snippet from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons."

Steven Levitan Productions. Airs after "Just Shoot Me."

The image: Silent film of a small child being tossed in the air.

What it means: Levitan looks back on his childhood. That's him as a kid; the snippet was filmed sometime in the early to mid-'60s.

Ubu Productions. Airs after "Spin City."

The image: Right now, it's just the company logo and a still photo of a black Labrador retriever with a Frisbee in its mouth. But it's better-known in the incarnation that became famous after creator Gary David Goldberg's "Family Ties," which featured this exchange: "Sit, Ubu, sit." "Woof!" "Good dog."

What it means: Ubu, who belongs in the logo hall of fame next to the MTM kitty, was Goldberg's dog when he was in his late 20s and early 30s. The real Ubu is gone, but he lives on in the company's logo. The audio is still around, despite its disappearance from "Spin City" this year. " 'Spin City' just did that to cut down the time," says Heather Greene, Goldberg's assistant. "They also trimmed back the Lottery Hill (see below) and DreamWorks logos," she adds, referring to the show's other two production companies.

By the way, that's not Ubu doing the woofing. That's Goldberg's sound editor. But it is Goldberg giving the commands.

Lottery Hill. Airs after "Spin City."

The image: A childlike, pastoral drawing of a farm, with little barns, trees in the background and rolling hills that run over the logo. Over this, a voice says, "Moo."

What it means: Lottery Hill is "City" star Michael J. Fox's production company; it's named after his childhood farm in

Vermont. Fox selected the design from several submitted by John Segal, an acquaintance of Fox's. That's Fox saying, "Moo."

Mad Cow Productions. Airs after "The Daily Show."

The image: A drawing of a cow, with only the lips moving as it states: "The cow says ... mooooo" like an old See 'N' Say toy. At the end, the cow rolls its eyes slightly.

What it means: It's a tribute to Madeleine Smithberg, one of the "Daily's" executive producers. "I wanted something that had 'Mad' in it," says Smithberg, "because people call me 'Mad' for short. 'Mad Dog' was already taken, which was disappointing, because I thought it would have been really cool. But then I thought of the 'mad cow' thing running around."

Graphic designer Nan North designed the logo as a gift for Smithberg; the voice belongs to an unknown sound technician.

Pub date: 12/20/98

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