Thursday, 25 February 2016
345 Happy Days
First viewed : 1978
I first about this show from a rather colourful character at school called Gerald Van Kleef who was absolutely obsessed by fifties iconography. We were talking about his obsession with Elvis and he mentioned there was a guy on the telly who was even cooler than Elvis called The Fonz. I'd never heard of him and a look in the TV Times didn't reveal any programme of that name so there was a bit of a time lag before I realised what Gerald was on about .
I won't talk at length about Happy Days because I wasn't impressed with what I saw and I doubt I watched more than half a dozen episodes over the years. I never saw Suzi Quatro , Robin Williams or the infamous shark jumping episode. It presented a very rose-tinted view of small town America from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties with each series roughly representing a year, cutting off just before Vietnam soured the picture somewhat although in truth the series had come off the rails by then. I don't know if ITV kept faith with the series right till the end.
The series span out of an anthology show , Love, American Style but the real spur to its development was the phenomenal success of George Lucas's nostalgia-fest American Graffiti . The Fonz ( Henry Winkler ) was only meant to be a supporting character but soon grew to outshine the rest of the cast put together including the show's nominal star Ritchie Cunningham played by the annoyingly clean-cut Ron Howard. The Fonz lodged with the Cunningham family including toothy, unattractive sister Joanie ( Erin Moran ) though how he paid his rent was always up for debate as he seemed to have no fixed occupation, just plenty of time to swagger into the diner in his black leather jacket- white T-shirt, DA quiff combo , play the juke box by bumping it and show off some unusual dance moves. Great credit is due to Winkler, who always comes across as pretty geeky in other roles, for creating a character that mesmerised millions on both sides of the Atlantic and is still a byword for supposed cool. Ritchie had two other buddies Potsie and Ralph Malph as foils but I can remember very little about them.
The show eventually came to an end in 1984 with an egotistical story line about Howard going off to become a film director which he was already doing of course and very successfully to this day. Winkler attempted to follow in his footsteps but signally failed to eclipse him for a second time . He returned to acting in the nineties and has kept himself busy but always in the shadow of a character who is a true TV legend.