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This Day in Pop Culture for September 20

Fonzie Jumps the Shark

1977: Fonzie Jumps the Shark

The phrase, “jumping the shark” was inspired by the fifth season premiere episode of the TV series Happy Days which aired on this day in 1977. The episode featured the leather clad Fonzie to perform a water-skiing stunt risking his life by jumping over a confined shark. It is said that the phrase was coined in 1985 by Sean Connolly who was describing when favorite TV shows go downhill in terms of storytelling using the above storyline as the best example. In 2010, Fred Fox Jr. who wrote the Happy Days episode has been quoted in a Los Angeles Times article saying “Was the [shark jump] episode of Happy Days deserving of its fate? No, it wasn’t. All successful shows eventually start to decline, but this was not Happy Days’ time.” The series continued to air for seven more years after the stunt. Incidentally, a similar phrase, “Nuke the Fridge” was coined after the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where Jones survives an atomic bomb detonation by slipping inside a lead-lined refrigerator.

1984: The ‘Cosby Show’ Premieres

Back in the early ‘80s, TV pretty much declared that the family sitcom was dead. Bill Cosby fought against that sentiment and created The Cosby Show that aired for the first time on this day in 1984. Focusing on the affluent Huxtable family, Cosby showed America a different type of African American family while still seeming very relatable. The show did very well and stayed on the top of television ratings for eight years. TV Guide called it TV’s biggest hit in the 1980s and Bill Cosby could do now wrong. Unfortunately, years later, stories of Cosby’s mistreatment of women came to light, Cosby was arrested and networks carrying reruns of the sitcom began dropping the show. Because of his actions, one of America’s favorite TV shows maybe forever tarnished.

The Cosby Show

The Hobbit Books
(Wikimedia)

1937: ‘The Hobbit’ Gets Published

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or There and Back Again, was published on this day in 1937. It was a huge hit, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal was awarded an award for best juvenile fiction from the New York Herald Tribune. The much-loved story about Bilbo Baggin’s adventure has been turned into various television and film adaptations over the years with Peter Jackson’s most recent trilogy of films being the most grandest. Perhaps the strangest adaptation has been the video game by LEGO which was more closely related to Jackson’s movies than to the original novel.

Birthdays

  • 1920: Jay Ward (animator)
  • 1929: Anne Meara (actress)
  • 1941: Dale Chihuly (artist)
  • 1956: Gary Cole (actor)
  • 1990: Phillip Phillips (singer)

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Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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