Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Happy Days is a popular United States television sitcom that originally aired between 1974 and 1984 on the ABC television network. It presented an idealized version of life in 1950s and early-mid 1960s America.
Happy Days centered around the life of a middle class family named the Cunninghams, who lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The family consisted of Howard, a hardware store owner and the family patriarch; Marion, a homemaker and the family matriarch; and the couple's teenage children, Richie (who had an optimistic if somewhat naive outlook on life) and Richie's younger sister Joanie. (The first season of the series also featured an older brother of Richie named Chuck, but his character was quickly and thoroughly written out of the series, with no explanation within the series of his disappearance or even being referred to again; such a tactic has come to be called Chuck Cunningham syndrome). Beginning in the show's second season, episodes also began to involve the character of Arthur "Fonzie" / "the Fonz" Fonzarelli, a local thug who Richie eventually befriends.
- Cunningham family
- Howard (Tom Bosley) - Husband and hardware store owner.
- Marion (Marion Ross) - Wife and homemaker.
- Richie (Ron Howard) - Son and high school student. The protagonist for the first six years of the series. The character was written out of the show, leaving to join the United States Army, after Ron Howard decided to leave the show to pursue his desired (and ultimately highly successful) career as a director, rather than an actor.
- Joanie (Erin Moran) - Daughter.
- Chuck (Gavan O'Herlihy , Randolph Roberts ) - Elder son written out of series with no explanation.
- Arthur "Fonzie" / "the Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) - First written in as a minor character, but became hugely popular, and made a series regular.
- Charles "Chachi" Arcola (Scott Baio) - Fonzie's younger cousin. Eventually married Joanie.
- Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams ) - Richie's friend.
- Ralph Malph (Don Most ) - Richie's friend. Left with Richie to join the army.
- Matsumoto "Arnold" Takahashi (Pat Morita) - First owner of diner (1975-1976). Returned after Al Molinaro departed (1982-1983).
- Al Delvecchio (Al Molinaro ) - Diner owner/cook (1976-1982). Brother, Francis, was a priest and married Joanie and Chachi in the series' last episode. Married Chachi's mother.
- Marsha Simms (Beatrice Colen ) - Carhop in first season.
- Leather Tuscadero (Suzi Quatro) - Musician. Sister of Pinky Tuscadero.
- Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly ) - Former girlfriend of Fonzie.
- Jenny Piccolo (Cathy Silvers ) - Joanie's best friend (1980-1983).
- Lori Beth Cunningham (Lynda Goodfriend } - Richie's wife (1977-1982).
- Luisa Arcola (Ellen Travolta ) - Mother of Chachi Arcola. Wife of Al Delvecchio.
Happy Days originated during a period of 1950s nostalgia in film, television, and music. It began as an unsold pilot called "Love and the Happy Days" that was originally presented on the television anthology series Love, American Style. In 1973, George Lucas released a film with a similar theme called American Graffiti (co-starring Ron Howard and Cindy Williams). The success of the film caused series creator Garry Marshall and ABC to reconsider the unsold pilot and turn Happy Days into a series.
The first season of Happy Days was markedly different from the rest of the series, as it was filmed, as opposed to being a three-camera live production.
The early Happy Days episodes centered around Richie and his teenage friends, Ralph Malph and Warren "Potsie" Weber, dealing with the troubles of being teenagers in 1950s and early 1960s Milwaukee. However, during the first season, the character of Arthur "Fonzie" / "the Fonz" Fonzarelli was added. "The Fonz," as Arthur was usually called by everyone (except for Marion, who called him "Arthur"), was originally meant to be a local thug only occasionally seen. However, the Fonz proved popular with viewers, and was soon given more and more screen time by the writers, eventually becoming a permanent member of the cast. The "Fonz" quickly became the show's most popular character.
Later seasons saw the addition of other characters, such as Fonzie's cousin, Chachi. The show also took more and more liberties with both the time era it took place in (fashions and especially hairstyles contemporary to the show's 1970s and 1980s production years started to show up on the show's characters) and with the tone of the episodes, as Happy Days' latter seasons started to feature more and more outlandish plots. The most famous of these plots, and of the show's entire run, is a storyline involving the Fonz performing a water ski jump over a pool containing a shark. In later years, this has often been cited by some critics as the point where the series purportedly began to decline in quality; the phrase jumping the shark was eventually coined to describe such a criticism about a television series' point of decline in quality.
Happy Days also spun off five different live-action series: Laverne and Shirley, Blansky's Beauties , Mork and Mindy, Out of the Blue , and Joanie Loves Chachi. The most successful of these spinoffs, Laverne and Shirley (co-starring Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall), also took place in 1950s and early 1960s, though the two starring characters eventually moved to Los Angeles, California in the show's latter years. Joanie Loves Chachi was a short-lived show about Richie's younger sister Joanie's and Fonzie's younger cousin Chachi's relationship. Robin Williams made his first appearance as "Mork" on Happy Days. Out of the Blue, a short-lived series about an angel who lives with a 1970s family, was an indirect spin-off, as the lead character of that series originated on Mork & Mindy.
Early seasons of the series used a specially recorded version of "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets as the opening theme song. This recording, as of summer 2004, has never been commercially released, although the original 1954 recording returned to the American Billboard charts in 1974 as a result of its use on the show. Eventually, the show's closing theme song, "Happy Days," became a major hit in its own right and replaced "Rock Around the Clock" at the beginning of the show.
- Creative differences between Happy Days' producers and ABC helped boost the Fonz's popularity. ABC executives did not want a sympathetic character such as the Fonz to appear in a leather jacket, which they thought would make him appear to be a thug. The compromise reached with the producers was to decree that Fonzie could only wear it if his motorcycle was in the scene, as a leather jacket is legitimate safety apparel for someone riding a motorcycle. The show's producers responded by placing the motorcycle in all of his scenes, even indoor ones. The leather jacket soon became trademark attire for Fonzie, leading to ABC ultimately allowing the producers to let the Fonz wear his jacket permanently, even without the Fonz's motorcycle being present.
- Happy Days became one of the first series to have earlier seasons syndicated while the series itself was still producing new episodes (a common practice with long-running shows today). For a time, the syndicated version carried the title Happy Days Again (a common practice up until the 1980s for syndicated episodes of a show still in production to carry a different name).
- In 1995, the band Weezer recorded a music video for their song Buddy Holly, which featured the band playing on the original Arnold's Drive-In set mixed with footage from the series. The video begins with the band being introduced by Al Molinaro as Al Delvecchio, who announces: "...from Kenosha, Wisconsin: Weezer!". The video featured footage from Happy Days episode #53 ("They Call It Potsie Love") as well as several other episodes.
- The first season of the series was released on DVD in August 2004.
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