For a decade, millions of Americans tuned into ABC on Tuesday nights to watch a Milwaukee family’s life from the 1950s to 1960s unfold, rather comedically. “Happy Days” premiered January 15, 1974, and lasted 255 episodes until September 24, 1984.
The show featured the Cunninghams, consisting of father Howard (Tom Bosley), mother Marion (Marion Ross), naive teen Richie (Ron Howard), and daughter Joanie (Erin Moran). Richie’s friends—Potsie Weber (Anson Williams), Ralph Malph (Donnie Most) and Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) were very much a part of the family—ultimately saving the show from cancellation. That’s right, ratings for “Happy Days” weren’t so great after the first season and execs considered canning the show, until Fonzie’s character gained popularity with viewers, thus carrying it for several years after.
The half-hour show featured many tales of morality, and sparked trademark slogan’s like Fonzie’s “Ayyyy” and Ralph Malph’s “I still got it!”. But there were a good many goofs in production and interesting backstories to this American series. How many of these are a surprise to you?
1. There were originally three Cunningham children.
The oldest child, Chuck, was phased out of the show (rumor is he went to college to play basketball) because producers realized that Fonzie was more the “big brother” the show needed. Chuck (who was played by two actors) was all but forgotten over the years. In the show’s final episode, Howard Cunningham said that he was a product of his “two kids.”
2. “Happy Days” was a spinoff of “Love, American Style,” a television comedy that ran from 1969 to 1974.
In turn, there were four spinoffs of “Happy Days.” They include: “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” “Joanie Loves Chachi,” and the animated series: “The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang.”
3. The episode called “The Other Guy” (season 9) takes place in 1962. At one point Marion Cunningham mentions “The Munsters” television show, which didn’t debut until 1964.
4. The “Happy Days” pilot originally aired as “Love and the Television Set.”
The pilot for “Happy Days” was originally intended as a one-episode teleplay for the anthology romance-comedy series, “Love, American Style.” The episode’s name was later changed to “Love and the Happy Days” and led to the syndicated television show as we know it.
5. The pinball machine in Arnold’s Drive-In was from a later time period than the TV show was set in.
The pinball machine in Arnold’s was a Nip-It, which wasn’t manufactured by Bally until 1973.
6. The Cunningham’s discuss the resemblance between Richie and the little boy in the movie “The Music Man.”
In the episode where the Cunninghams are coming out of a theater having watched “The Music Man,” Mrs. C says that the little boy in the movie looks just like Richie. Mr. C says his wife is being silly. However, Ron Howard did play young Winthrop Paroo in the film when he was eight years old.
7. Fonzie never once combed his hair during the television show.
When network execs insisted Henry Winkler comb his hair on camera, Winkler refused, saying the act would make Fonzie look like an “ordinary hoodlum”. Winkler improvised by holding the comb close to his head while looking in the mirror and shrugs because he was too cool to comb his hair. In a later episode, Fonzie shows Richie his comb and says, “Do you know I have had this comb for nine years, and it has never once touched my hair.”
8. Exterior shots of the Cunningham house were shot at a residence in Los Angeles.
The house used for exterior shots of the Cunningham home is located in Los Angeles, CA 90004. The 3,900 square-foot house was built in 1923 and was remodeled in 1933. Today it’s a private residence.
We love the 50s here at RetroPlanet.com and “Happy Days” was a terrific way to relive them. What were your favorite moments from this great TV show?