(Hello, Topo Gigio. Goodbye, Sundance Film Festival)

By Tim Carvell
Updated February 13, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

The recent Ashton Kutcher film The Butterfly Effect begins with the assertion that a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a tidal wave in New York. Assuming that this is true — always a dicey proposition when it comes to scientific theories promulgated by Ashton Kutcher films — we can reasonably infer two things: The first is that we really should do something about those Chinese butterflies; the second is that small changes can have huge consequences. And so we began to wonder: What would the world have been like had the Beatles never made it? We here offer a few small conjectures. — Tim Carvell

1964 With his Ed Sullivan appearances no longer overshadowed by the pop stars, Italian mouse puppet Topo Gigio becomes an internationally beloved icon whose popularity rivals that of Mickey Mouse. Gigio lets success go to his head, however, and his theme-park and licensing empire come crashing down in the wake of a 1986 scandal, about which the less said, the better. (But, to drop a few hints: A motel room. A Lost Weekend-style blackout. A dead Fraggle.)

1966 TV producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson create a TV show called The Monkees, but the title band is based on the Dave Clark Five instead of the Beatles. Thus there is a fifth Monkee, who is played by up-and-coming actor Robert Redford. Redford takes the role on a lark but winds up typecast for life. As a consequence, Bob Woodward, the Sundance Kid, and that Horse Whisperer guy are all played by Jon Voight. Without Redford’s power or prestige, the Sundance Institute is never created, and Quentin Tarantino remains a video-store clerk whose earnest recommendations of the films of Ringo Lam prompt endless eye-rolling from bored customers.

1968 Without the Beatles pushing them to ever-greater heights, the Rolling Stones degenerate into parodies of their bad-boy selves, touring endlessly, putting out increasingly self-indulgent albums, and licensing their music to large corporations for advertisements. But, you know, sooner.

1971 Yoko Ono breaks up Led Zeppelin.

1979 Joan Didion’s essay collection The White Album is instead titled Pet Sounds. In addition to having a different name, the book is marked by a noticeable decrease in Didion’s trademark malaise and uneasiness, with chapter titles like ”All I Really Needed to Know I Learned While Surfing.”

1987 The Patrick Dempsey comedy Can’t Buy Me Love is instead called I Paid You to Pretend to Be My Girlfriend and Now We’re in Love.

2003 Queer Eye’s Fab Five are instead known as the Queer Quintet.

2004 ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY devotes six pages to a story titled ”Do Blue Oyster Cult Still Matter?”