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Think about the biggest way television has enriched your life. Got it? Even if you came up with something like "raised me" or "first glimpse of titties," the people in this article have you beat. Their answer to that prompt would be "saved it." Here are six silly shows that have somehow prevented someone from having an untimely tango with the Grim Reaper.

6
The X-Factor

If you've seen American Idol, the singing-based talent show that featured Simon Cowell on a panel of judges, then you've seen The X Factor. It's a singing-based talent show that features Simon Cowell on a panel of judges. In England.


Truly a jack of all trades.

In 2007, 46-year-old Jacqui Gray was one of many contestants in the fourth season of The X Factor. Like most talent show contestants, she had little in the way of actual talent. After smirking throughout her entire performance, Cowell asked Gray the patronizing question, "You have a very weird sounding voice, are you aware of that?" Both he and fellow judge Sharon Osborne suggested that she see a throat specialist, saying that it sounded like "somebody else is in there".


"Like a midget or something."

Displaying what has to be the world's least attuned sarcasm detector, Gray decided to take the advice of the judges and see a throat specialist. It was then that the doctor diagnosed her with bronchiectasis -- a potentially fatal lung disease that can cause irreversible damage to the bronchial tubes if you have it, or attempt to pronounce it. Had the condition not been caught in time, doctors noted that Gray's lungs would have been "more infected and full of bacteria than Ke$ha's lady parts."


Not a direct quote.

Gray now takes medication for her condition and thanks Simon Cowell for saving her life. You know, a near-death experience often gives someone a new lease on life, inspiring them to put effort into something meaningful and worthwhile. And after her brush with death, Jacqui Gray has decided t ... audition for more reality shows.

Forgive us if we don't quite feel like giving Simon Cowell a medal for this one.

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5
Curb Your Enthusiasm

In 2004, Juan Catalan was a man with a problem. His brother was in jail for a drive-by shooting, and the 16-year-old girl who had testified against him had been murdered. That was when Catalan found himself in jail as Suspect Number 1 in the homicide investigation.


Above: The face of a murderer? Or the face of the one guy at your local bus station who doesn't sell seedy pot?

Fortunately, he had an airtight alibi: He and his 6-year-old daughter had been at a Dodgers game at the time of the murder. He even had the ticket stubs to prove it, and surely videos of the televised game would exonerate him. Plus, he offered to take a lie detector test, just for good measure. Case closed, right?

Not quite. It turned out the ticket stubs weren't compelling-enough evidence, no footage of him and his daughter could be found, and the police refused to allow him to take that lie detector test. So how did Juan Catalan end up as the luckiest accused murderer this side of O.J.?


By burning his gloves, like a responsible fucking villain?

What Did a TV Show Have to Do With This?

On the day of the murder, HBO was also at the Dodgers game filming scenes for the show Curb Your Enthusiasm. The episode in question revolved around Larry David hiring a prostitute so he could drive in the carpool lane on the way to the game.

After hours of scouring the HBO footage, Catalan's lawyers found a shot of him and his daughter eating hot dogs and presumably not murdering anyone in the stands behind Larry David.

The video also had time codes showing exactly when they were in the stadium, proving there was no way Catalan could have committed the murder. After five and a half months in prison, Catalan was released back into the world, and the plots of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Law and Order: Los Angeles went back to existing only on TV.

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4
Hollyoaks

In October 2007, a British woman named Beth Cordingly was feeling like shit, if that shit was very, very sick. She had persistent headaches and drowsiness and couldn't stop throwing up. Her only solace was watching her favorite soap opera, Hollyoaks, in between throw-up sessions.


The title card actually shows much more than you need to know.

Hollyoaks, for those of you who are a little dusty in your British soap opera knowledge, is one of the U.K.'s most popular soaps. It's kind of like Saved by the Bell: The College Years, in that the stories revolve around the mischief-making of young students at a community college. If Community and Melrose Place had a drunken one-night stand, Hollyoaks would be their unwanted bastard baby.

What Did a TV Show Have to Do With This?

As Cordingly was lying on her sick bed, Hollyoaks aired an episode in which the following completely plausible scenario occurred:

  • Spoiled rich girl Jessica needed her boiler fixed.

  • An inexperienced repairman fixed it by stuffing newspaper into the boiler, because he's also inexperienced in tthe ways of paper and hot things.

  • Jessica threw a house party, presumably to celebrate her newly repaired boiler.

  • Everyone got sick from carbon monoxide poisoning.

As the episode wore on, Cordingly began to notice that the symptoms of the drunken revelers mirrored her own, minus the makeout sessions and slutty dancing.

She headed to the hospital to get a check-up, where nurses probably laughed off her concerns that she had "the thing from the telly." But when the doctor checked her out, he discovered that she most definitely had carbon monoxide poisoning. The kicker? Her doctor said that had she stayed in the house another 24 hours she'd be dead.

In the wake of the story, doctors informed the public that soap operas are still not a good source of medical advice and that they should continue to use WebMD.com when diagnosing themselves with something life-threatening.


"Oh God, it's AMNESIA!"

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3
SpongeBob SquarePants

Do you know what's fun about playing in the lake? Being a five-year-old kid and wandering out until the water is over your head. And by fun, we mean "crap-pantsingly horrifying." If the kid who does the wandering is your son, and you're not so good in the water yourself, it can be fun for the whole family. Which was exactly what happened to one New Jersey mom. One minute her son Andrew was sculpting the sandcastle Grayskull, the next minute he was out in the deep end struggling to stay afloat. She tried to go help him out, but panicked when she lost her own footing in the six-foot-deep water.

Fortunately for Andrew and mother, their 8-year-old neighbor Reese had the guts and swimming skills that a grown-ass woman did not, plus a repository of SpongeBob SquarePants episodes under his belt.


More evidence that television raises kids better than we can.

What Did a TV Show Have to Do With This?

In the episode titled "SpongeGuard on Duty," a lobster named Larry saves the life of the titular sponge when he begins to drown at the beach (Yes, the sponge who lives underwater starts to drown.)


Also, lifeguards are muscley sex-magnets and not high school students working to pay for their cough syrup habits.

In the episode, SpongeBob admires Larry the lifeguard lobster, so he applies to become a lifeguard himself. If your suspension of disbelief isn't already hovering near the ceiling, get ready. Not only does SpongeBob inexplicably get the job despite his inability to swim, he also tries to keep all the swimmers out of the water with promises of free ice cream. Naturally, SpongeBob finds himself drowning in the water, and Larry the Lobster has to go out to save him.

Apparently Reese paid attention to this episode because when he saw his buddy drowning, he went into Larry the Lifeguard mode and mimicked the lobster's strokes, expertly adjusting for his lack of giant claws. He made it out to Andrew and put his arm around him just as he had seen Larry the lobster lifeguard do with SpongeBob, and began the one-armed paddling trek back to shore.


No word on whether he wore his official SpongeBob thong bathing suit.

So kids, let this be a lesson to you: If your mom tells you to quit watching SpongeBob and get ready for school...she's trying to KILL you.

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2
The Simpsons

We may be going way out on a limb here, but we're guessing that if you're reading an article on Cracked.com, you're well aware of a show called The Simpsons. No recap necessary. The Simpsons: You know them.


They're like an obnoxious, senile relative. Not much fun to be around, but you don't quite want them dead. Yet.

Fortunately, so did an English kid named Aiden Bateman. Aiden was at school, minding his own business, when his 10-year-old buddy started choking on a ham sandwich. The lunch ladies tried to dislodge the sandwich with pats on the back, presumably because more dramatic life saving gestures are considered impolite in England. Just as the choking boy's face began to turn purple, Aiden strode over like some kind of lunchroom savior and performed the Heimlich maneuver on his oxygen-challenged friend. Out popped the sandwich and everyone went back to their crumpets and Beckham worshipping.

What Did a TV Show Have to Do With This?

It turns out that 100 percent of Aiden's Heimlich maneuver knowledge came from The Simpsons season 3 episode called "Homer at the Bat." In it, Homer starts choking on half a box of donuts before standing directly in front of the poster seen below:

Notice that the maneuver wasn't actually performed in the episode, and the poster was only featured for about two seconds, if that. Yet, the image miraculously burned itself into Aiden's consciousness and sprung to the top of his mind when it was time to perform that move on a choking friend.

Which makes us wonder: What other obscure Simpsons-related tidbits are sitting in our subconscious minds, just waiting to save (or take) a life?


"You know what? I'm not going to jump that gorge."

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1
Mythbusters

Here's an idea: If you are a person who suffers from a medical condition that causes blackouts, don't make your living as a car carrier. Unfortunately, this infallible piece of common-sense logic never occurred to one 40-year-old California man who failed at both parts of the previous sentence. Which was probably why he woke up to find himself and his truck submerged in the San Diego Bay in December 2007.


"Next career: commercial airline pilot!"

While most people in this situation would pee their pants and cry for their mothers, this driver coolly thought about how he could escape from this sinking tomb.

What Did a TV Show Have to Do With This?

It was then that he remembered an episode of MythBusters that dealt with the very same issue. Except for the part about being a guy who randomly blacks out but also drives heavy machinery for a living. They didn't deal with that issue.

As he had seen in the episode, the driver waited for the cab to fill up with water before he rolled down the window and swam out. Had he attempted to escape immediately, water would have flooded in very quickly, knocking him about and possibly rendering him unconscious. The driver was rescued from the bay and taken to a hospital, where they deemed his condition to be not just stable, but healthy. Other than that pesky blacking-out problem.


"I'm as strong as a horse!"

In another instance, a 54-year-old man fainted at a train station, falling off the platform and onto the tracks below. To make matters worse, moments later a freight train rounded the corner and began bearing down on him. Thankfully, a 14-year-old boy came to the man's rescue, bravely jumping down and pulling the man underneath the station platform. But all wasn't fine just yet. As the train went by, the vacuum created by the passing train began to pull the man up towards certain death.

But the 14-year-old was ready for this, having learned of this effect from an episode of MythBusters. He braced himself and held the man back until the train had completely passed and danger was averted. The 54-year-old thanked the boy, and was admitted to a hospital for treatment of his injuries. The 14-year-old wrote a song about it for his punk-rock band.


Do we smell a sitcom deal?

Simon Bower is an Australian writer and two-time winner of the Nobel Prize for Sex. You can read his blog, follow him on Twitter, or e-mail him.

For less heartwarming stories of TV and the real world mixing it up, check out 6 Beloved TV Shows (That Traumatized Cast Members For Life) and 6 Studies That Prove Reality TV Is Causing the Apocalypse.

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