December 17 in history:
The Wright Brothers earned their wings on December 17th, 1903, by successfully flying an airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. That was the day Orville Wright made the first powered flight of a plane, going 120 feet in 12 seconds. Later in the day, brother Wilbur kept the plane in the air for about a minute.
Other flying objects were the focus of Project Blue Book. But the U.S. Air Force officially closed the book on UFO investigations on December 17th, 1969. In nearly two decades, the government collected nearly 13,000 reports of unidentified flying objects. Most of the reports were explained easily, but of the objects that remained “unidentified,” the Air Force said it found no proof that any of them was an alien spacecraft.
On the same day that Project Blue Book was declared to be over, there was an unusual nighttime sighting all across America, on TV screens. More than 20 million Americans watched long-haired, falsetto-voiced singer Tiny Tim become a married man on “The Tonight Show.” Host Johnny Carson had invited Tim (real name, Herbert Khaury) to wed his teenage fiancee Victoria Budinger, alias “Miss Vicki,” on the December 17th broadcast in ’69.
“If TV has taught me anything, it’s that miracles always happen to poor kids at Christmas.” That wasn’t said by Tiny Tim from “A Christmas Carol,” but by another fictional child: Bart Simpson. It’s a quote from the very first half-hour episode of “The Simpsons,” aired on December 17th, 1989: a holiday story called “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie originated as characters in short films by cartoonist Matt Groening featured on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” “The Simpsons” is now the longest-running American sitcom and the longest-running American animated program.
September 17 in history:
Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge became the first person to die in a plane crash on September 17th, 1908. Orville Wright was flying the plane, and Selfridge was his passenger, in a demonstration at Fort Myer, Virginia. The plane went into a nose-dive after a propeller broke.
On this date in 1916, German Baron von Richthofen, the “Red Baron,” shot down his first enemy plane during World War One. The English plane was the first of 80 that Richthofen downed before he was shot down himself a year-and-a-half later.
Soldiers shoot at an airplane carrying IMF agents at the end of the pilot of “Mission: Impossible,” which debuted on CBS on this date in 1966. One year earlier, two series with heroes performing nearly impossible or secret missions premiered on CBS on September 17th, 1965: “The Wild Wild West” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”
“Mission: Impossible” star Peter Graves played an ill-fated pilot in the movie comedy “Airplane!” An ill-fated airplane flight to Las Vegas which has to be diverted to Casper, Wyoming, is a highlight of the 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids,” directed by Paul Feig, born on September 17th, 1962. Feig, also known for directing the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot and creating the TV series “Freaks and Geeks,” was born the same day and year as Australian movie director Baz Luhrmann, whose films include “Moulin Rouge!” and the 2013 remake of “The Great Gatsby.”
Below: Triviazoids’ Brad Williams quizzed on September 17 TV trivia on “Live with Regis and Kelly”, as seen in the documentary, “Unforgettable”.