Hollywood isn't required to use phone numbers that start with 555 -- it's not an FCC thing. Movies and TV shows have always used them as a courtesy, knowing that if they put a real phone number out there, people are going to call it.
They use 555 because, until a few years back, that was a restricted exchange. (Now, by orders of something called the North American Numbering Plan Administration, phone companies are allowed to give out 555 numbers, just not anything between 555-0100 and 555-1999.)
I decided to pay tribute to the concept of 555 numbers by putting together this list of 11 of the most memorable 555 phone numbers from movies and TV shows. Enjoy.
"The Simpsons" - Mr. Plow, 636-555-3226 - Choosing just one phone number to represent "The Simpsons" was like going to Baskin Robbins and deciding which of the 30 flavors (I won't dignify Pralines N' Death by classifying it as a flavor) to order.
I thought about Homer/Mr. Burns's numbers after the 939/636 switch... Moe Szyslak's That's Right, I'm A Surgeon number... the city of New York's 555-BOOT... or even when Chief Wiggum runs a phone trace and, hearing the number starts with 555, throws it away because "it's gotta be a fake"... but, ultimately, ended up with Mr. Plow -- an iconic phone number from an iconic episode.
"Vegas Vacation" - Club Areola, 555-0100 - Who else are you going to call to find Mr. Papagiorgio if you believe he's watching strippers without the need for corrective lenses?
"Ghostbusters" - The Ghostbusters, 555-2368 - They make such a big deal about the Ghostbusters being the ones "you gonna call" -- you might as well know what number to dial to make that happen. (You see the number when Dana's watching their commercial. Ray Parker Jr. never drops the number in the theme song a la Tommy Tutone, Sir Mix-a-lot or Soulja Boy.)
"Billy Madison" - Danny McGraf, 555-0840 - His number makes it on here because Billy's so very thankful he called THAT guy. (You know, after Danny comes in and shoots Eric in the buttocks. No matter how many awards Bradley Whitford wins for his acting, an entire generation will continue to primarily associate him with his role as Eric in "Billy Madison". Which is fantastic.)
"Saved By the Bell" - Screech's Spaghetti Sauce, 555-MMMM - The sauce-a you can have, but the secret, she's a-mine! (I gotta say, after reading and reviewing Dustin "Screech" Diamond's insane autobiography, it's really hard to watch "Saved By the Bell" the same way as I used to. He definitely tainted it for me. Pulled back the whole curtain. I'm beginning to suspect that, when Kelly started kinda liking him, Gorbechav wasn't really saying "Way to go, Screech" like the subtitles claim.)
"Swingers" - Mikey's number, 213-555-4679 - This comes from the most uncomfortable scene in "Swingers" -- and that's really saying something. When Mikey leaves a series of messages on a woman's answering machine, he repeatedly mentions this 555 number. I think this scene may have been what scared me off of leaving voicemails in my dating life.
Here's a shot of the 555 number from the DVD version of the movie.
"Bruce Almighty" - God's number, 555-0123 (eventually) - I did not like "Bruce Almighty" at all -- I felt they took a can't-miss comedy premise and missed badly -- but the story of the 555 number in the movie is an interesting one.
In the theatrical release, God contacts Bruce Almighty via his pager, using the number 776-2323. (Which wasn't tied in to Jim Carrey's movie "The Number 23" later on in a big missed opportunity.) The movie was set in Buffalo, so the producers checked to make sure that 716-776-2323 was clear. It was. But... no area code was given in the film -- which led to tons of people from calling 776-2323 in whatever area code they happened to be in.
So, for the DVD and TV versions of the movie, the number was changed to the ultra-generic 555-0123 -- to keep the 776-2323s of the world from periodic harassment.
Of course, now, because of that, the legend of 776-2323 lives and grows on the Internet -- but we don't have to show the same level of compassion for people's feelings, so it's all good.
"Seinfeld" - Kramer's telephone, 555-FILK - We learned this was Kramer's number in the episode where he keeps getting calls for Moviefone -- which is 555-FILM. (Kramer's eventual acceptance of being the new Moviefone guy leads to a great "Seinfeld" staple -- random movie titles. Many of the titles from this episode were covered in my old list 11 Fake Movies From Seinfeld That Really Need To Be Made. Especially "Chunnel".)
"Arrested Development" - Gene Parmesan: Private Eye, 555-0113 - So it's not quite as funny or plot-related as the rest of the 555 numbers on this list -- but I wasn't going to miss a chance to give Gene Parmesan a shout-out. When I finally make my list of the best "Arrested Development" side characters he's a very strong contender for one of the top spots.
This is Gene's ad in the Yellow Pages, right across the binding from the ad for Ice - Bounty Hunter. (And several pages away from the ad for Ice - Party Planner.)
"Die Hard With a Vengeance" - Simon's riddled number, 555-0001 - I always feel like "Die Hard With a Vengeance" was cobbled together from two scripts. At the beginning, Simon is tormenting the police (especially John Mclain) with all of these riddles and random, crazy tasks. Then, around the halfway point, he stops talking in riddles, just says "there's a bomb in a school" and goes on with his gold heist. Very schizophrenic.
Personally, I find him way more entertaining when he's talking in riddles. This 555 number comes from one of the movie's most famous scenes, when he tells John the "As I was going to St. Ives" riddle -- and says his number is 555, then the number of people headed to St. Ives.
"The A-Team" - Hannibal's mobile phone, 555-6162 - So... uh... I guess I *do* know how to find them. Take that, theme song narration.
This post was originally published on Friday, May 21, 2010 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Movies.