1 9 7 4 – 1 9 8 4 (USA)
256 x 30 minute episodes
Happy Days revolved around the Cunningham family in the latter days of the 1950s in small-town Milwaukee – the heart of middle-class America.
Howard Cunningham ran the local hardware store and attended club meetings at the Leopard Lodge, while Marion (like all good TV Mums) spent her time in the kitchen.
Their son, Richie, hung out at Arnold’s Drive-in with his pals Ralph Malph and Potsie, trying to be as cool as the coolest greaser in town, Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli – aka The Fonz or just plain old Fonzie.
Richie’s sister, Joanie, tagged along whenever she wasn’t at her friend Jenny Piccolo’s house. The Cunningham’s also originally had an older son, Chuck, but he mysteriously disappeared after the first season.
When the series started, Richie and his pals were using fake ID’s to sneak into bars and struggling to find dates. By the time the show ended, their teenage problems had given way to decidedly adult topics like marriage and children.
The Fonz soon became the sitcom’s central character and one of the most beloved TV personalities of all time.
The character of Arthur Fonzarelli was so popular, there was talk of changing the title to Fonzie’s Happy Days. ABC also wanted to give the Fonz his very own sitcom. They resisted both ideas as they did not want to ruin the carefully crafted chemistry of the hit show.
But the public and the network demanded more. So ABC answered the call with two Happy Days spin-offs.
First came Laverne and Shirley. Fonzie’s friends Laverne De Fazio and Shirley Feeney first appeared in a 1975 Happy Days episode. In 1976 they were given their own show.
Two years later, in February 1978, Happy Days was used as a launching pad for Robin Williams’ space alien character, Mork. That year, Williams was starring in the sitcom Mork and Mindy.
The young stars of Happy Days grew up during the show’s ten and a half year run and so did their characters. Richie and his pals graduated from high school, then attended the University of Wisconsin.
The adult Potsie never realised his teenage dream of becoming a singing star and ended up working at Mr. Cunningham’s hardware store.
When actors Ron Howard and Donny Most left the series in 1980, Richie and Ralph Malph joined the army and were shipped off to Greenland.
Even the Fonz gradually lost his rebellious image. In the show’s final years, he became co-owner of Arnold’s, manager of Bronco’s Auto Repairs, and an Auto-shop teacher at Jefferson High.
To add new life to the aging sitcom, the writers added new people to the Cunningham’s world. A new rebel moved to town, Fonzie’s cousin Chachi Arcola. Ted McGinley also joined the cast in 1980 as Roger Phillips, Mrs. Cunningham’s nephew and a teacher at Jefferson High. Joanie’s friend Jenny Piccolo, who had never been seen onscreen before, became a regular that same year.
In 1982, Joanie stopped resisting Chachi’s amorous advances and the two of them moved off to Chicago. Joanie Loves Chachi was the third Happy Days spin off and the only one that wasn’t a hit. Joanie and Chachi returned to Milwaukee and Happy Days one year later.
Happy Days survived until mid-1984 – an astonishing ten and a half years.
In 1980, the Smithsonian Museum of American History honoured the series’ role in America’s popular-culture history by putting one of the Fonz’s leather jackets on display.
By 1984, it was obvious the new characters had failed to hold on to the show’s once-loyal viewers. NBC’s The A Team was consistently beating Happy Days in the ratings. So the series was ended on 12 July 1984. Joanie and Chachi were married in the very last episode.
This show was a big part of my teenage years. I would rush home from high school on my bike, pour myself a glass of Coke or ten and settle down in front of the TV. My favourite episodes were the ones featuring Suzi Quatro as Leather Tuscadero.
Unfortunately the show gradually lost its 1950s look until everyone had permed hair and it seemed the cast had been magically transported to the 1970s.
Happy Days began life as a 1972 episode of Love, American Style called ‘Love and the Happy Day’.
The theme originally used for the show was Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley. This was eventually replaced by the purpose-built theme Happy Days.
Micky Dolenz of The Monkees auditioned for the role of Fonzie. The character was originally to be named Arthur Maschiarelli (the real surname of creator Garry Marshall) and nicknamed “Mash.” ABC made Marshall change the character’s name because it might remind people of M*A*S*H (1972) which aired on a rival network.
Fonzie rode at least two different bikes on the show. The initial model, ridden in the earlier episodes, is the subject of some dispute among bike buffs. It was most likely a Harley Sportster (Winkler himself merely refers to the early bike as a “hog,” but adds that it was so big all he could do was lean against it). The bike ridden in the later episodes was a Triumph.
Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli
Charles “Chachi” Arcola
Arnold (Matsuo Takahashi)