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 Sitcoms, Dramas, and Vegetarians, 1951-1993

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950-1958) is about George and Gracie who are entertainers living in Beverly Hills, and their neighbors, Harry and Blanche Morton.

In the episode "Gracie's Vegetarian Plot" (August 2, 1951), Blanche and Gracie read a book by (fictional) Professor Heywood Bradford. The book advocates that people just eat raw fruit and vegetables, "like the animals," and do stretching exercises and drink lots of water. Blanche says that this will improve their figures, and make them feel younger and live longer.

Gracie has invited Professor Bradford to speak before the club which she and Blanche belong to. The British professor visits and gives Gracie a preview of his lecture. He tells her to eat raw carrots for the vitamins.

George and Gracie eat raw-vegetables for lunch off-camera, and George doesn't complain.

His neighbor, Harry Morton, though, fights with Blanche Morton when she serves him a plate of raw vegetables for lunch. Harry won't eat anything on his plate. Blanche tells him he better get used to eating vegetables.

    Blanche: From now on we're going to eat nothing but natural foods. Raw vegetables, roots, herbs, and berries.

    Harry: I'm a big man. There is a lot of me to feed. I can't live on this stuff.

    Blanche: What about an elephant?

    Harry: Now you're talking. I'll have mine medium-rare.

George talks to the audience.

    George: I just read a few pages of Professor Bradford's book. You know he sold 2 million copies? If all those people become Vegetarians, it should force the cost of steak down to forty-dollar-a-pound. He says on the first page not to eat too much, not to stuff yourself. If you eat turkey with all the trimmings this will shorten your life. My life it won't shorten. The turkey's life I'm not so sure of.

George then says there is nothing wrong with becoming a Vegetarian, except that it is difficult to stick to.

In the end, Gracie and Blanche decide to give up on the diet without explanation, and they each eat a steak.

It's realistic to portray people who become Vegetarians for health reasons giving it up. Such people may give it up because a little meat probably won't hurt your health. People who become Vegetarian for ethical reasons are more likely to stay Vegetarians.

I'm not a raw-foodist myself. My objection to raw-foodism is that there is no vitamin B12, an important vitamin. Vegans (Vegetarians who don't consume dairy and eggs or buy fur and leather) can get B12 from fortified bread and fortified soymilk, but raw-foodists can't.

The episode has a mixed-message about milk, because the sponsor of the show is the Carnation evaporated-milk company. In most scenes the author is described as advocating a diet entierly of raw fruit and vegetables, but there is a commercial for Carnation mixed into the show in which he advocates buying Carnation evaporated milk.

Professor Bradford, who just appears in this episode, is the first Vegetarian character to appear on a sitcom or drama. It's a positive portrayal. He's a well-spoken expert on nutrition.

 

George Burns and Gracie Allen


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Kimba the White Lion

Kimba the White Lion (1966) is a cartoon about a young lion who is a Vegetarian, though the word "Vegetarian" isn't used. Kimba is king of the animals in a jungle. He leads the animals in the jungle to plant crops and eat the crops, instead of eating each other. When the animals go outside of the jungle, though, they encounter lions and other animals who still eat animals.

The cartoon was produced in Japan by Mushi Productions, with assistance and feedback from America's NBC. It was intended from the start to run on both Japanese and American television.

When the episode "Insect Invasion!" (1966; original airdate varied by city) begins, the animals have already planted the crops for their farm, but the crops aren't ready to eat yet. Kimba and the others have nothing to eat but skunk-grass, which smells bad. Kimba tells his advisor, Dan'l Baboon, that he's not sure about his crops-instead-of-meat idea.

"Of course it's a good idea, Kimba," Dan'l Baboon replies. "If all the meat-eating animals can learn to eat vegetables instead then the weaker animals will be safe, and we can all live in peace."

As they wait for the crops to grow, a leopard and a cheetah attack an antelope, and Kimba saves the antelope.

Then Kimba leads the animals in defending against an invasion-of-insects who would eat the crops before they're ready to be picked. Part of the defense is telling birds to eat the insects, and so the policy against eating animals doesn't extend to insects. (Another episode implies that the policy doesn't include worms, either).

The insects are defeated, and Dan'l Baboon declares that the farm is a success, as all the animals worked together and share "peace and friendship."

Kimba enjoys the rain


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Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969) is a drama about the voyages of the starship Enterprise in the 23rd century. Captain Kirk (William Shatner), his alien First Officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and the Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) explore stange new worlds and meet humanoid-aliens whose languages are instantly translated into English by the Universal Translator.

Mr. Spock , the First Officer, is the first Vegetarian regular-character on a tv show. Spock belongs to a race of Vulcans, green-blooded, pointy-eared aliens who prize logic and try to keep their emotions under control. This emotional self-control is especially challenging to Spock, as he is half-Vuclan and half-human.

In the Season 1 episode, "City on the Edge of Forever" (April 6, 1967), Kirk and Spock go back in time to New York City in 1930. They are trying to find Dr. McCoy, who also went back in time, and stop him from changing history. At a soup-kitchen, Kirk and Spock both eat bread and vegetable soup. Later, Kirk and Spock rent an apartment. Kirk brings groceries there, and says, "Mr. Spock, I brought you some assorted vegetables. Bologna and a hard roll for myself." Kirk and Spock eventually find McCoy. Kirk stops McCoy from changing history, and they all return to the 23rd century.

I like that Spock is shown eating regular food like vegetable soup and bread, because this says that being a Vegetarian doesn't have to mean eating new foods.

In the Season 3 episode "All Our Yesterdays" (March 14, 1969) Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy beam down to a planet which there is only one other person, an old man who calls himself "The Librarian. Everyone else on the planet has escaped the planet's impending doom by jumping into the past. When Kirk, Spock and McCoy ask him questions, The Librarian uses a card to open a portal to an Ice Age, which causes Spock and McCoy to accidentally go to an Ice Age, while a medieveal portal opened by the librarian causes Kirk to accidentally go to a medieval setting.

While Spock usually controls his emotions, the savage setting of the Ice Age, which pre-dates when Vulcans learned self-control, causes Spock to lose control of his emotions. He is infatuated with a beautiful woman who lives in a cave. When McCoy questions whether she is misleading Spock, Spock punches McCoy. Spock also eats meat with her. Spock realizes that he is not himself, as "I have eaten meat and enjoyed it," and then Spock starts to regain control of himself and he and McCoy start seeking a way back to the 23rd century. With the help of Kirk, who has his own adventure in a medieval setting and escapes, all 3 heroes make it back to the 23rd century.

Is the Season 3 episode kind to the Vegetarian viewpoint? On the one hand meat-eating is portrayed as something barbaric which a society can advance beyond. On the other hand, there is an implication that Vegetarians feel a temptation to eat meat which they need to call upon self-discipline to resist. Actually, to an experienced Vegetarian, a steak may be no more appetizing than roadkill. Spock is the most popular character on the original series, and so in a way it's a compliment that he's a Vegetarian, but making him the only Vegetarian is portraying Vegetarianism as alien.

From left to right: Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, William Shatner as Captain Kirk, and DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy


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The Monkees

The Monkees (1966-1968) is a sitcom about four-members of a rock-band who share a house. Each week they have adventures which may involve werewolves or pirates, or whatever. The Monkees' recordings were successful in real-life, with #1 hits including "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer." The members of the band are Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith.

In the episode, "I Was A 99-lb. Weakling" (October 16, 1967), Micky Dolenz, the drummer, becomes a Vegetarian for a few days, though the word "Vegetarian" isn't used.

Micky is talking to a girl at the beach, when a muscle-man kicks sand in his face and walks off with the girl. A man named Shah-Ku who is a bodybuilding coach and an Eastern mystic hands Micky his business card.

Shah-Ku tells Micky he needs to eat differently. When Peter and Davy are about to eat steak for dinner, Micky throws it in the garbage. Micky says "steak has fat; fat clogs your veins." Instead, Micky serves them green-cheese and mountain-moss for dinner.

Later it turns out that the muscle-man and Shah-Ku are working together and are only interested in getting Micky to sign up for a course for the money. Peter sees Shah-Ku eating a hot dog.

Micky goes to the bodybuilding/mysticism school to sign up for the course, which would require him to sell his drums to pay for it and mean the end of the band. But Davy and Peter rush in and stop him just in time.

Micky is never shown giving up being a Vegetarian, but it's implicit when he doesn't sign up for the course that he will be eating steak, again.

Mike Nesmith doesn't appear in this episode, perhaps because he didn't like the script. I don't care for it myself. The attempt to combine bodybuilding and Eastern mysticism wasn't believable. I also don't like it when a character in a tv show or movie eats Vegetarian food which isn't really eaten, like green-cheese and mountain-moss. Other examples of characters eating unrealistic Vegetarian food are Dr. Dolittle in the 1967 Rex Harrision movie "Dr. Dolittle" eating seaweed soup, and Sabrina in a recent episode of the "Sabrina the Animated Series" cartoon being served tree-braches by a Vegetarian nanny.

If they show a character becoming a Vegetarian and eating realsitic food, like spaghetti, traditional vegetable soup, and salad, then they are at least letting people know that they can become Vegetarians while eating foods they already eat. This Monkees episode with green-cheese and mountain-moss doesn't do that.

Micky Dolenz


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The Further Adventures of Doctor Dolittle

The Further Adventures of Doctor Dolittle (1970-1972) is a cartoon about a veterinarian who sails on a ship full of animals. Dr. John Dolittle has the amazing ability to talk to the animals. He is chased by pirates who want to learn how. The pirates hope that by talking to animals they will be able to control them and rule the world.

Dr. Dolittle helps an animal each week. According to yesterdayland.com, in one episode Dolittle competes in a race in which the prize is a 40 pound turkey, not because he wants to eat the turkey, but because he wants to set the turkey free. In another episode he helps a nearsighted bull to survive a bullfight.

The history of the character of Dr. Dolittle is that there were 13 books by Hugh Lofting beginning in 1920, a silent-cartoon in 1922, a radio show in 1932, a movie-musical with Rex Harrison in 1967, and Eddie Murphy movies "Dr. Dolittle" in 1998 and "Dr. Dolittle 2" in 2001. In the Eddie Murphy movies, the character doesn't seem to be a Vegetarian. However, in the Rex Harrison movie he's a Vegetarian and criticizes eating meat and wearing leather and fur in the song Like Animals.

The Further Adventures of Doctor Dolittle is the first tv show where the starring character is a Vegetarian.

A cartoon in which the main character helps an animal every week is a great idea.

Center in top hat: Doctor Dolittle


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All in the Family

All in the Family (1971-1983) is about Archie Bunker, an opinionated but uneducated dock-supervisor, his wife, Edith, his daughter, Gloria, and her husband Mike Stivik, who is a college student at the start of the series. They live in a house in Queens, New York, and the four of them frequently argue, and Archie calls the others names. Archie Bunker's frank but dubious opinions on ethnic issues and other political subjects made the show different from the bland sitcoms it competed with, and number one for its first five years-the only show to be number one in the ratings for five years in a row.

A Vegetarian couple appears in a first Season episode. The Vegetarians in question are obnoxious hippies who invite themselves over to stay the night on an hour's notice. In the episode "Now That You Know the Way, Let's Be Strangers" (Febrary 23, 1971, also known as "Mike's Hippie Friends Visit"), Mike and Gloria's friends Paul and Robin come over, planning to fly to Europe in the morning. Paul is a college-droput who used to be an engineering student and Robin is his barefoot girlfriend.

Archie Bunker doesn't want an unmarried couple spending the night in a sleeping bag on his living room floor (who would?). Gloria proposes that Robin sleep upstairs while Paul sleeps downstairs, but they refuse. Archie offers them money to spend the night in a motel, but they refuse that, too. After inviting themselves over and showing up at 10 PM, the hippies won't compromise on sleeping arrangements and won't leave the house, either.

Edith calls them to dinner by saying, "Paul, Robin, your dinner's ready, just the way you like it. Raw brocolli, spinach and asparagus shorts. With soy sauce. And you're sure this is all going to mix up alright in your insides?"

Archie sees their dinner and says, "It looks like the bottom of a hamster's cage."

Eventually Mike drives them to the airport to the spend the night there for six hours before their flight.

The message seems to be that if you embrace ideals like peace, freedom, and Vegetarianism, than you must ironically be a rotten person in daily life. This is a negative portrayal, and I doubt that watching rude hippies eat raw vegetables with their hands made many viewers eager to try to be Vegetarians themselves.

Front: Caroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker. Back from left to right: Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker, Rob Reiner as Michael Stivik, and Sally Struthers as Gloria Stivik.


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Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes (1974) television show is a drama about two astronauts who leave Earth in 1980, pass through a time-warp, and return to Earth in 3085. They land in California, which will be ruled by talking-apes. Government-officials, soldiers, scientists, engineers, and landlords will all be talking-apes at that time. Most apes, though, will be tenant-farmers, as will most people. Some people will be servants to apes, and some will be laborers supervised by apes. There will be no automobiles or trains, because civilization will have have been set back by a war over a thousand-years earlier when people ruled by the planet. Some people will eat meat, but apes will be Vegetarians.

"Planet of the Apes" started as a novel written by Pierre Boulle, published in 1963. There were five movies between 1968 and 1973, and this tv show in 1974.

In the episode "The Good Seeds" (October 4, 1974) the astronauts are travelling with their ape-friend, Galen (Roddy McDowell) when Galen trips and breaks a leg. The astronauts carry him to a tenant-farm where an ape-family lives. The ape-family agrees to nurse Galen for a week, if the astronauts will work on the farm during that week. The astronauts build a windmill and a fence, and teach the apes to plant the good seeds from a harvest.

There is tension between the astronauts and the eldest son of the ape-family. The family has one bull and one cow, and the eldest son is afraid that the astronauts will eat their cow. The family uses the bull to pull the plow. The cow is for giving birth to calves. Female calves become the property of the landlord. When a male calf is born (which hasn't happened yet,) the eldest son will take that calf when he grows into a bull for plowing on a farm which he will manage.

The ape-family also has chickens, but doesn't eat them. At one point, the eldest-son parodies humans by picking up a chicken near the barn and saying, "look at me, I'm a human, I eat meat." He doesn't eat the chicken, though, he's just kidding.

From left to right: Roddy McDowell as Galen, Ron Harper as Virdon, and James Naughton as Burke


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Chico and the Man

Chico and The Man (1974-1978) is about a grouchy old man, Ed Brown (Jack Albertson), who is a car mechanic and his employee Chico Rodriguez (Freddie Prinze), a young mechanic who lives in a van in the garage. Ed Brown's wife was a Vegetarian, but she had already passed away when the series begins. In one episode, Ed Brown gets angry at a woman for making up excuses to flirt with him. He recalls how he met his wife in a butcher shop. Chico says, "you told me your wife was a Vegetarian," and Ed Brown realizes that his wife only went into the butcher shop that day to flirt with him. And that he has no reason to be angry with the woman who is currently making up excuses to flirt with him.

Freddie Prinze as Chico Rodriguez, Jack Albertson as Ed Brown

 


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Doctor Who

Doctor Who (1963-1996) is a British science-fiction drama about a man who travels through time-and-space in a machine. It's included here because it has been shown on America's Public Broadcasting Service network, and because Doctor Who becomes a Vegetarian in a 1985 episode.

Doctor Who looks human, but he's a space-alien. He is usually accompanied by a young companion, who really is human. Various actors have played Doctor Who, and they represent different aspects of him, and so in some episodes the actors appear together, each as Doctor Who.

The episode "The Two Doctors" (February 16 to March 2, 1985, in three-parts in UK; American airdates unknown) has 2 actors playing Doctor Who, one with grey-black straight-hair (Patrick Troughton) and one with light, curly-hair (Colin Baker).

The curly-haired Doctor Who goes on a fishing trip with his companion, a woman named Peri. He fishes while she watches.

Later the two Doctor Whos and their companions wind up in Seville, Spain, fighting space-aliens who include an Androgam who is obsessed with eating meat (According to tvtome.com, the word "Androgum" is an an anagram of "gourmand."). The Androgum regards people as meat, and he's eager to cook a person. He tries to make the companions into dinner. Since the Androgum is a space-alien, this wouldn't be cannabalism, but it is disgusting.

The Doctor Who with straight-hair (Patrick Troughton) is temporarily turned into an Androgum, and this causes both Doctor Whos to have an insatiable appetite for meat. The curly-haired Doctor Who (Colin Baker) even gets hungry looking at a cat, but he still has enough morality to control himself and the cat is unharmed.

Eventually, the evil space-aliens are defeated and the two Doctor Whos are no longer Androgums.

Peri, the woman who is the companion of the curly-haired Doctor Who, asks him, "We're not going fishing again, are we?"

Doctor Who (Colin Baker) replies, "No, from now on it's a healthy Vegetarian diet. For both of us." This implies Peri was already a Vegetarian, and that Doctor Who has become one at the end of this episode.


 

Top-left: Patrick Troughton as Doctor Who. Top-right: Colin Baker as Doctor Who. Bottom: Nicola Bryant as Peri


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Facts of Life

The Facts of Life (1979-1988) is a sitcom about 4 girls who go to a boarding school together. Near the end of the run, the original older, matronly woman on the show, Mrs. Edna Garrett Gaines (1979-1986), was replaced by Beverly Ann Stickle (1986-1988) played by Cloris Leachman. I'm not real familiar with this show, but I'm told that the newer matronly character, played by Cloris Leachman, was a Vegetarian.

While some may consider "The Fact of Life" corny, it is actually cutting-edge in one way. It is the first show to have a regular character who is both a Vegetarian and an ordinary person. Not a professor making a guest-appearance like on "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show," not a space-alien like Mr. Spock on the original "Star Trek," not someone with the incredible ability to talk to animals like Dr. Dolittle, not an obnoxious hippie like the guest-stars in an episode of "All in the Family," and not an off-screen character like the late Mrs. Brown on "Chico and the Man."

Center: Cloris Leachman as Beverly Ann Stickle


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Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) is about a newer, larger starship Enterprise, and its "ongoing mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before." Captain Jean Luc-Picard is eager to reason with space-aliens and find a peacable solution. His first-officer is Commander William Riker, who believes in strict military procedure, in spite of the more peacable mission of this starship.

Commander Riker says in the episode "Lonely Among Us" (November 2, 1987), "We no longer enlave animals for food," with regard to meat. However, Captain Picard eats real caviar. Does the crew believe it's wrong to kill land-animals for food but alright to kill fish for food? For more about this on this website, click: Star Trek 24th Century.

Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker


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Count Duckula

Count Duckula (1988-1993) is a cartoon about a Vegetarian Vampire duck. Here is a summary from http://www.yesterdayland.com/popopedia/shows/saturday/sa1452.php

"Count Duckula was a centuries-old vampire who also happened to be a duck. While trying to revive him, the Countís assistant Igor accidentally injected him with ketchup instead of blood. This mishap resulted in the canardís refusal to eat meat and his becoming a strict vegetarian. Another side effect was that the ancient bird had a driving desire to become an entertainer instead of a longing to bite the necks of unsuspecting swans.

Following his new wanderlust, Count Duckula took Igor along to all his old haunts (a new location each week), traveling inside his castle itself. Following close behind the duo was Dr. Von Goosewing, who was determined to deliver a stake to the breast of the fine-feathered fiend. Through it all, Count Duckulaís nanny was the cheerful voice of reason, regardless of the circumstances.

Count Duckula was produced in England and appeared on Nickelodeon along with another English series, Danger Mouse, both produced by Cosgrove-Hall. The Countís quirky humor was a hit with American audiences, the Monty Python-esque alternative to contemporary fare like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

According to the theme-song, "He won't bite beast or man, 'cause he's a Vegetarian." The theme-song is at http://www.dokuja.com/duckula/theme.html

From left to right: Igor, Count Duckula, and Nanny


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Married with Children

Married with Children (1987-1997) is about shoe-salesman Al Bundy (Ed O'Neil), his wife Peg (Katey Sagal), who sits on the couch watching tv and eating bon-bons, and their kids, Bud (David Faustino) and Kelly (Christina Applegate). The show broke new ground for crudeness on television, and was controversial. However, today other sitcoms are cruder, and people unfamiliar with the history of crudeness on television may not realize how ground-breaking this show was.

In the episode "Dead Men Don't Do Aerobics" (September 10, 1989), the Bundy family eats Vegetarian food for a few days, though the word "Vegetarian" isn't used. Peggy wins a contest in which she gets a personal-trainer for two-weeks. The trainer is the host of an exercise program on local-television, and calls himself, "Jim Jupiter, the healthiest man in Chicago." (On his exercise show, Jim Jupiter drinks sprirulina-shakes. Spirulina is a sea-vegetable which in 1989 was thought to be a good source of vitamin B12, but it has since been found that spirulina only contains a similar-substance which BLOCKS the absorbtion of real vitamin B12. If you want B12, eat fortified-bread or fortified soymilk).

When Jim Jupiter comes over, he gets Peg to do a lot of exercise, and ignores her pleas for bon-bons (chocolate-covered ice cream snacks.) But as she exercises, she keeps saying that she wants to return to sitting on the couch eating bon-bons. Jim Jupiter says, "This will be a test of wills."

Peg wins. Six days later, Peg and Jim Jupiter are both sitting on the couch, watching tv and eating bon-bons. Jim Jupiter gains weight around his middle.

When Jim Jupiter returns to hosting his exercise-show, he's gained more weight, and taken up smoking. As he starts to exercise on his show, Jim Jupiter drops dead. The newspaper says he had a "blood sugar level high enough to kill three horses. Cholesterol level high enough to dam the mighty Mississippi."

Peg feels that what happened to Jim Jupiter means that the family needs to eat healthier. The kids bring home hamburgers, and Peg throws the hamburgers out. She also throws out her bon-bons. The family eats rice-cakes and sunflower-paste.

After a while, Peg can't stand eating healthy food. Al says that is fine. The episode concludes with Al saying they should eat like cockroaches.

    Al: Let's all follow the example of our friend the cockroach. They were here before Man, they'll be here after Man. You know why? They eat crap. And I say, anything that's good enough for the cockroach, is good enough for my family!

    Peg: Oh Al, you really do care.

    Al: Yeah, darn right I do. Now, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm hungry enough to block a colon! Grease burgers for everyone, on Dad! What do you say?

    They all excitedly get up and head out the door, chanting things like "Grease" and "Lard".

    Text on screen: This show is dedicated to our brother the mighty cockroach. Let him show us the way.

The interesting thing about this episode is that in spite of the efforts of the beef-industry to tell people about the nutrients in beef, when Peg wants to eat healthier, she doesn't decide to eat more beef. She decides to eat no beef. Instead she eats rice-cakes and sunflower-paste. But like most people who eat Vegetarian for health reasons, the change doesn't last. People who become Vegetarians for the animals are more likely to stay Vegetarians.

By the way, while the Bundys were only Vegetarian for one episode, in real-life, Christina Applegate has been a Vegetarian since age 15.

Christina Applegate as Kelly Bundy


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