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November 17 in Nerd History
Here are five things that happened on November 17th at the intersection of nerd and pop culture.
Birthdays of honor: Danny DeVito (1944), Martin Scorsese (1942), Rock Hudson (1925), Rachel McAdams (1978), Jeff Buckley (1966), Gordon Lightfoot (1938), Daisy Fuentes (1966), Lorne Michaels (1944).
In 1989, families had their pick of the litter at the box office when The Little Mermaid, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and Prancer were all released in theaters on the same day.
The Little Mermaid was, unsurprisingly, the biggest movie of the three, grossing $235 million globally and enduring for decades as a beloved family film — even if the plot is pretty effed when you think about it.
All Dogs Go to Heaven came from the twisted mind of Don Bluth, whose idea of a family film was one where a dog gets murdered by his former friend and wants to come back from Heaven to get revenge. This lovely tale terrified all the kids who chose to see it instead of Little Mermaid — luckily, there weren't that many. Note to self: Don't release an animated movie on the same day as one of Disney's all-time hits.
Finally, we have Prancer, the live-action Christmas movie that promised a real-life reindeer from Santa's brood but instead just delivered a drama that seemed to deal more with interpersonal relationships than flying reindeer. It performed the worst of all three, but expectations were much lower. And yet, I still have no desire to ever watch it again.
What a day.
Today is one of those days your uncle never stopped yapping about, commonly known as the Heidi Game.
Back in 1968, before challenges and replays and endless commercials, football games rarely lasted more than two and a half hours. So when NBC scheduled three hours for the Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets, it seemed more than adequate.
That amount of time, everyone at NBC apparently thought, would make for a perfect transition to the much-hyped TV movie for Heidi, the tale of a young girl living with her gramps in the Swiss Alps.
Today if an NFL game goes long, they just adjust the schedule. But in '68 that required a lot more effort, and even though executives decided they should delay Heidi as the game was not only running long but a high-scoring, entertaining affair, they couldn't exactly just send out a mass email.
They tried calling up the technicians at master control, but the phone lines were jammed — because, again, no internet. People couldn't just look up the schedule, so they were calling in to ask about what was going to be on TV that night. Seriously.
So when 7 p.m. rolled around on this night 55 years ago, they cut away from the game. And instead of watching the Oakland Raiders storm from behind and score two touchdowns in the final minute, viewers got to see the trials and tribulations of a grandfather who just wants to play the organ in church again and a girl who just kind of hangs around.
NBC would go on to institute the so-called Heidi phone — a line that existed outside of the normal systems in case direct communication was needed.
Today in 1980, John Lennon and Yoko Ono released their fifth album together, Double Fantasy — sadly, it would be the last to feature Lennon, who was shot and killed just weeks later.
Following Lennon's death, the album skyrocketed to number one in several countries, and what was a tepid reception became quite warm. In retrospect, many see some of the tracks as among John's best work.
50 years ago today, in 1973, Richard Nixon stood in front of about 400 editors from the Associated Press and uttered a line that would go down in history: "I am not a crook."
Cue your best Nixon impression.
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