Happy birthday, Happy Days - VIDEO
January 15th, 1974. It was on this cold winter day (cold, because it was pre-global warming) 35 years ago that the American public was introduced to Richie Cunningham, Fonzie, Potsie, and the rest of the gang of Happy Days. A simple family sitcom, the Gary Marshall-created program would change the face of ABC, as well as television, for the ten years it was on the air, as well as beyond.Happy Days came at a time when the family comedy was going through an upheaval. Gone were the days of simple shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Dick Van Dyke Show. In its place were shows like All in the Family which turned the typical family comedy on its heels. With Vietnam, a poor economy, and Watergate all weighing down on Americans at that time, the introduction of Happy Days gave viewers a chance to remember and laugh at some simpler times.
This led to the show's success, especially after Henry Winkler's character, Arthur Fonzarelli, began to receive more attention. Once the show switched from a one-camera comedy to a three-camera series with a live studio audience, there was no stopping the series. Even when Richie left and the show switched its focus more to his younger sister Joanie, her boyfriend Chachi (Fonzie's cousin), and The Fonz himself, the show still remained quite popular.
Unfortunately, the general message and scope of the series is not what many people remember about Happy Days in these times. If anything, people remember some of the cheesiness of the series, especially in its later seasons. It was during that time that Fonzie's near-Heroes superhuman powers really bloomed, which allowed him to solve any problem with a snap of his fingers or a jab of his elbow. The later years are also the time that Joanie and Chachi left the show to be in their own spin-off series (Joannie Love Chachi).
Yet, Happy Days really wasn't like that. For the longest time the show displayed a sense of hope and family that very few sitcoms have been able to duplicate. It was probably the homespun goodness of Ron Howard (previously a freckled-face son to Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show) and his interactions with those around him that made the show a real family sitcom. The introduction of Fonzie as his guardian angel just enhanced that feeling of growing up and not knowing what you would encounter on the other side.
Yes, Fonzie ended up jumping over a white shark (coining the phrase Jump the Shark). Sure, Richie was confronted by the alien Mork (who eventually went on to Mork & Mindy). True that sometimes it looked more like 1983 than 1963. Still, pushing all that aside, Happy Days remained a show about family values and the sacrifices one has to make in order to keep those values together. That's why it remains in the memory of so many today. Well, that and the fact that we're still trying to determine how Fonzie was able to get women with just a snap of his fingers.
To whet your whistle again on what Happy Days is all about, here is an example from the first season of the series. Perhaps watching this with some of your naysaying friends will convince them that the show wasn't just about Fonzie all the time.