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Today in History: Friday, January 6, 2023

Four series of note premiered: “Wild Kingdom” (also known as “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”) on NBC in 1963; “A.M. America” on ABC in 1975; game show “Wheel of Fortune,” originally hosted by Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford, on NBC also in 1975; and Fox reality/competition “Joe Millionaire” in 2003. Prior to “Good Morning America”, “A.M. America” was a morning news program produced by ABC in an attempt to compete with “Today” on NBC and the “CBS Morning News” and “Captain Kangaroo” on CBS. It lasted just under 10 months…Elvis Presley made his seventh (and final) appearance on CBS’ “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1957…Variety-themed “The Milton Berle Show”, which was a revival for the original “Mr. Television’, concluded on ABC in 1967 after just one season…“Schoolhouse Rock!“, a series of animated musical educational short films (and later videos) that aired during the Saturday morning children’s programming block on ABC debuted in 1973. First up was “Multiplication Rock”, a collection of animated shorts adapting the multiplication tables to songs…Several short-lived series began their runs: NBC family drama “Skag” starring Karl Malden in 1980; NBC prime time soap “Flamingo Road” starring Morgan Fairchild in 1981; ABC adventure drama “Blue Thunder” starring James FarentinoDick ButkusBubba Smith and a pre-“SNL” Dana Carvey in 1983; CBS futuristic drama “Space Rangers” starring Linda Hunt in 1993…The popular Y.M.C.A. Dance by the Village People to their hit song “Y.M.C.A.” made its debut in 1979 on ABC’s “American Bandstand“…Ted McGinley made his first appearance on “Married with Children” in 1991 as Jefferson D’Arcy, the second husband of  the Bundy’s next-door neighbor Marcy. Although McGinley was more known for joining several long-running series (e.g. “Happy Days”“The Love Boat”) and then concluding soon after, the Fox sitcom would remain on the air for six more years with McGinley…The fictional film “Rochelle, Rochelle” was first mentioned on NBC’s “Seinfeld” in 1993. Its logline: “a young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.” For the sitcom’s sixth season finale in May 1995, Bette Midler was the star of the fictional Broadway musical version of “Rochelle, Rochelle”…Aaron Spelling‘s first daytime soap opera “Sunset Beach” debuted on NBC in 1997. It ran for one week shy of three full years…On NBC’s “Friends” in 2000, Janine (Elle MacPherson) revealed to her boyfriend/roommate Joey (Matt LeBlanc) that she found both Monica and Chandler (Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry) “boring.”

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2016 broke North American box office record, passing the $760.5 million taken by “Avatar”.

The Supremes released single “I’m Livin’ in Shame” in 1969.

Ted Turner purchased the Atlanta Braves for a reported $12 million in 1976.
Ice skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked by Tonya Harding’s bodyguard in 1994.

Celebrity Birthdays:
Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz is 86; comedian Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) is 68; comedienne Sandra Bernhard (“King of Comedy”) is also 68; professional golfer Nancy López is 66; actor Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”) is 54; “Big Brother” host Julie Chen Moonves is 53; former child star Danny Pintauro (“Who’s the Boss?”) is 47; Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) is 41; reality TV personality Tiffany Pollard (“Flavor of Love”, “I Love New York”) is also 41; “Saturday Night Live’s” Kate McKinnon is 39; Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston is 29.

Did You Know?
“Wild Kingdom” was originally produced from 1963 until 1988, and was revived in 2002. The show’s second incarnation aired until 2011 on Animal Planet. A third incarnation streams webisodes on a dedicated YouTube channel…“Wheel of Fortune” aired on NBC in daytime for 14 years (though June 30, 1989). After some changes were made to its format, the daytime series moved to CBS from July 17, 1989 to January 11, 1991. It then returned to NBC from January 14, 1991, until it was cancelled on September 20, 1991. The current syndication version, hosted by Pat Sajak, launched on September 19, 1983…NBC executives planned a daytime version of “Flamingo Road” to debut in September 1982, but this never came to pass. One of the show’s stars was Barbara Rush, who turned 93 on January 4.