Donny Most, Anson Williams, Gavan O' Herlihy (Back l-r)Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, Erin Moran, Ronny Howard & Henry Winkler (Front l-r)
Back in the day, or more precisely the year 1970, the world was a different place: A turmoil of chaos had engulfed the U.S.A. and the reminiscent were stinging loud and clear as the death of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other tragedies consumed America’s conscious. “American the Beautiful…God sent his grace on thee.” [sing along] The United States could be an unpredictable place to be in the 1970s with movements such as gay rights, growing women's rights, and environmental movements, as well as 1970s fashion and music and massive protesting on college campuses across the U.S. Nostalgia for simpler times seemed inevitable. Many areas of the population appeared to find safety in the past. Thus, the marketability for nostalgia was coming into full bloom. It was during this time that T.V. Producer, Garry Marshall was approached to write and
|Producer, Garry Marshall|
Representing ABC-TV, Michael Eisner told Marshall he was interested in developing Happy Days but with some changes. Apparently, they thought the pilot was a little too “soft and warm” and not as funny as it could be. Inspired by the Pharaohs in American Graffiti the network wanted a gang as one of the elements in the show that revolved around the middle-class family. Even though gangs were a part of the Fifties Marshall was reluctant. A compromise was made. Instead of having a whole gang as one of the elements, Marshall created a character from the other side of the tracks that was a high school drop-out, a few years older and slightly more worldly than the other teens.
|An early press photo|
|The addition of cars meant more scenes would have to be filmed outdoors.|
Although Happy Days takes place in the Fifties, Gary Marshall has said that he believed this to be a superficial element. Underneath this element was the real theme of the series: to explore and reflect on the pain of adolescence. There were two basic male adolescent pains that Marshall wanted to focus on. The first had to do with girls. This theme was expressed through Ritchie, Potsie and Ralph’s endless search for dates and Fonzie’s female expertise and infinite wisdom on dating skills. The second pain has to do with “being a man,” standing up for the values you believe in and not backing down or being a coward.
|Erin Moran as Joanie|
|Beatrice Colen as "Marsha" the car hop|
|Original T.V. Synopsis for first Happy Days episode (click on document to enlarge)|
One of the biggest obstacles, second only to sets and costumes, was geography. Marshall was born and raised in New York and he could have constructed the setting to take place in New York. However, he chose Milwaukee, Tom Miller’s home town. I was a compromise between East and West. Marshall had hired his writers from both east and west coasts and Miller was the middle ground. The compromise was the source of arguments because the surface elements of the Fifties varied according to where one grew up. Another compromise was stuck when an effort was made to use a little from here and a little from there. The results became a mix of nostalgia that at no time existed all at once or in the same place. Happy Days premiered January 15, 1974 as a mid-season replacement. There was a lot of skepticism that the show would fail because it was pitted against two other popular TV series, “Maude,”(TV series 1972-79) and “Adam 12” (1968-75). Despite the likelihood it would fail, Tom Bosley, “Mr. C.” was optimistic. He said, “I feel viewers are ready for a well-done, strictly entertaining show that they can just sit back and enjoy.”He turned out to be right. Happy Days became an instant success during its first few weeks on the air Happy Days was never meant to possess a hilarious joke-heavy style but rather a show that pandered to the show’s single-camera strengths. During the early Seventies, single camera comedies-filmed-on location without an audience-were viewed as more contemplative and less dependent upon broad jokes.
|Another single camera sit-com long running series, “My Three Sons,” CBS sitcom, (1960-72).|
|Tom Bosley "Howard Cunningham," & Ron Howard "Ritchie Cunningham," in a publicity pic representative of the close bond between father and son in a typical "Family" episode.|
|I polished my bike for a kiss???|
In the beginning, Fonzie represented someone from the other side of the tracks who everyone wished they could be like. Perhaps, not exactly, but wanting some of his characteristics-mainly his coolness and power to resist being pushed around.
|Gavan O' Herlihy as Chuck|
would find a TV program that could out distance Happy Days in the ratings. It was called, “Good Times.” In order to compete with the laugh out loud and silly humor of Good Times, Happy Days would have to make several compromises to its upcoming third season. The networks told Marshall to bring the show indoors to beef up the humor. “Outside you can get nice pictures but, indoors you can be funnier,” but you can’t have both, he was told. It’s just too expensive to put it together. This in turn would cause Garry Marshall to change the format of Happy Days into a 3-camera series filmed in front of a live studio audience. The outrageous humor that Marshall had previously tried to avoid became the main writing outline for the show. Happy Days had been more character-driven but changed to a show about crazy situations that characters get involved in. The characters would fall into comas, meet aliens and even jump sharks.
|Fonzie in the ABC network series p1 (click on document to enlarge)|
|Fonzie before he learned magic powers to turn off and on the jukebox by banging his fist on the top.|
|In "Love & the Happy Days" Sheila Jo Guthrie dates Ron Howard with the expectations of watching his family's new TV. This was a precursor to the Happy Days series|
|Original credits and production data for the first episode of what would be a ten year running series.|
- Davidson, Ben. The Official Fonzie Scrapbook. 1976. Today Press. Grosset & Dunlap. New York.
- Getty Images. Website: https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/fonzie-happy-days?sort=mostpopular&mediatype=photography&phrase=fonzie%20happy%20days
- IMDB.com Results for "happy Days" https://www.imdb.com/find?ref_=nv_sr_fn&q=happy+days&s=all
- VanDerWerff, Todd (8/27/12). Happy Days became one of the biggest hits on TV by Selling its Soul. AV/TV Club website https://tv.avclub.com/happy-days-became-one-of-the-biggest-hits-on-tv-by-sell-1798233067. Retrieved 12/05/2018.