Friday, February 04, 2005

HAPPY DAYS -- The Reunion

I'm not proud to admit this, but I watched the Happy Days reunion special on ABC last night. Why? I'm not really sure, but one reason is that I found it hard to believe that thirty years have passed since the show first came on the air. It seems like only yesterday to me, which is pretty scary. In fact, I might not have believed it had been thirty years if I hadn't seen the stars of the show as they look now. It's been thirty years, all right. Geez, I'm almost afraid to look in a mirror today.

When the show was on, I didn't see it very often. In those days I taught a night class every semester, usually on the night that Happy Days aired. I must have caught some of it in reruns, though, because I'm familiar with all the characters and a lot of the shtick. I quit watching completely, however, long before Fonzie jumped the shark and before Joanie and Chachi got romantically involved. And I confess that I've never seen a single episode of Joanie Loves Chachi. Which brings up a question: Is it just me, or did those two seem to be avoiding each other last night? They never spoke or even looked at each other. I know that Erin Moran's had some problems since the show was canceled. Maybe that's it.

One of the things I didn't like about the Happy Days was that for me it never really captured what the '50s were like for a teenager, not like American Graffiti did. Although the pilot for Happy Days was made before that movie (and seems to have led to Ron Howard's getting a part in it), I always thought of Happy Days as a sort of watered-down version of the movie. And one thing that irritated me was that sometimes they didn't even bother to get the details right. There was a good example in one of the snippets last night when Ritchie tossed a copy of Irving Shulman's The Amboy Dukes into a drawer. The cover was clearly not anything from the 1950s. Probably a '60s or '70s reprint.

And of course the show jumped the shark long before that famous episode. It went off the track when it softened Fonzie and made him cuddly.

Still, I watched the whole two-hour reunion and found myself growing nostalgic for the show. Maybe I'll catch a rerun one of these days.


ShellyS said...

If you want to really have an odd picture in your mind, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees auditioned for Fonzie. Just try picturing him in the role instead of Henry Winkler.

And if my iffy memory serves, the "Happy Days" pilot was a segment on "Love, American Style." And no, I didn't watch the reunion; I was busy watching my newest find on cable: The Goodlife Channel. Wednesday night had "I Spy" and "The Man From UNCLE" airing.

BTW, I love your blog.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Shelly. And you're right about the debut of HAPPY DAYS. The pilot was rejected by ABC, but, so as not to waste it, it was shown as a segment of LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE. Then, after the success of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, it was dug out, refurbished, and sold as a series.

The Goodlife Channel is a favorite around our house, too.

Cap'n Bob said...

Two hours? I thought it ws three, and it felt like five. I only watched it as a sop to Linda, and because I've been sick all week and didn't have the energy to climb the stairs and watch my own TV. I agree with your comments on its failure to live up to American Graffiti's tone. It was okay during the period when "Rock Around the Clock" was its theme song and the music of the era was prominent, but it quickly evolved into something that would satisfy the brats of the '70s and lost all credibility after that. Not that it had a lot. People like The Fonz were not heroic when I was a kid in the fifties. They were as ugly, brutal, and stupid as they were at any other time in history.
Yeah, Erin Moran can't be over 40 and she looked like hell. I never cared for Scott Baio and can't believe he was banging some hot Hollywood babes. Had to be the fame.

Anonymous said...

If I may: Which came first: Happy Days or American Graffitti? Memories, thick as mud, say AG came first, but I could be wrong.

Thank you for your time.

James C. Hess

Unknown said...

According to the reunion show, HAPPY DAYS came first, or the pilot did. The series itself came after the movie. See my comment above for a little more info.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

The Love American Style episode had Bosley and Howard in their roles, but Potsie was played by some other actor.

And the thing that annoys me more than anything else about Happy Days (and troubled me immensely as a kid who watched it whenever it came on) was the way Richie's older brother, Chuck, just vanished after the first season. Remember the episode when Richie moved out of the Cunningham house and into his college-going brother's apartment for "freedom," but had to work constantly to pay his share of the rent? Those early-season episodes weren't perfect, but they made an effort.

The final seasons, where they actually cast an actress as Jenny Piccolo (HUGE mistake) and brought in Ted McGinley as a relative was awful. Might as well have been set in the 80s. They could've gone back to the show's roots and made the McGinley character Chuck returning home after making his fortune in Green Bay or someplace, but no. That would actually take knowledge of the series' continuity to make work.

Geeze, look at how much I've written on inconsequential elements of Happy Days. Is there any wonder I'm such a comics geek, obsessing over continuity?

Anonymous said...

I watched the whole thing too - and wasn't a big fan of the original. Maybe because I admire Ron Howard's work and was pleased his phenonmenal success didn't stop him from acknowleding his beginnings.
Best of all, I liked the music when the show resumed after each commerial - and Elvis' Memories at the end.
Re: Joanie and Chachi avoiding each other - I think they married in real life too & had a messy divorce - so maybe they are to be commended for both showing up.
Lorraine P.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

I watched it all and really enjoyed it. I have to say that my favorite episodes started with rock around the clock and not the happy days theme. Bill Haley was great and to this day that song has one of the best guitar solos.

I remeber seeing the Love American Style episode. I was pretty yooung, but it stuck in my mind because I couldn't picture not having a TV...