Though the slang phrase it belatedly spawned may be overused to the point of meaninglessness, it is important that we as a society remember that for one fleeting, illustrious moment, during the third episode of the fifth season of Happy Days, Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli truly did strap on a pair of water skis (nattily complementing his trademark leather jacket) and, on the wings of a speedboat piloted by his trusty companion Richie Cunningham, ascend a stunt ramp to majestically vault over a Carcharodon carcharias on a challenge from the notorious California Kid. Here is proof:
Also on September 20:
1984: One of the defining programs of the 1980s, The Cosby Show, premieres. A top-5 rated show in the first seven of its eight seasons, and TV’s top-rated show for four of those, the sitcom starring Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad as the heads of the Huxtable family was instrumental in carrying NBC from the ratings cellar at the beginning of the decade to its penthouse by the end.
1999: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the most successful spinoff in the venerable procedural franchise, debuts on NBC. Featuring more sordid crimes and placing a greater emphasis on the personal lives of its detectives than the Mothership typically evinced, SVU distinguished its own identity and has lasted 13 seasons and counting.
2002: Firefly debuts on Fox with its second episode. Concerns over the length and complexity of the original pilot from Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon led the network to shuffle the episode order of this sci-fi Western, although the scheduling changes didn’t help it find a wider audience. It was canceled after just one season, but went on to inspire the spinoff movie Serenity—and to become one of the most beloved cult series ever aired.
Today’s Birthdays: Moon Bloodgood, sky-falling survivor (37); Gary Cole, jack of all guest-star trades (56); Anthony Denison, cop (63); Kristen Johnston, space alien (45); George R.R. Martin, Gamemaster (64); Anne Meara, comic ringer (83); Don Starr, oilman (d. 2005); Jay Ward, moose & squirrel maestro (d. 1989).