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.    


  1. I remember this on Channel 4 when I was a kid, late 80s/early 90s time, and did like it... the catchy theme tune helped. Maybe I saw something of myself in Richie (though he looked unnervingly like my brother).

    I seem to recall the Fonz was a mechanic, in terms of his employment... the episode with Mork from Ork started an affection for Robin Williams that lasts to this day.

  2. Thanks for that DC. I discussed that point with someone else and he couldn't recall Fonzie's occupation either other than juke box repair man.

  3. Does remind me of one of my few moments of "cool" when, as a student, I was stood by a vending machine when a girl was struggling to get it to dispense a can of coke. I give it a quick bang with the fist and the drink dropped. For extra points, I walked away without a word.