Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer of MeTV Blogathon: An Open Love Letter To the Happy Days Post-Jumped Shark Cast

Dear Mr. and Mrs. C, Fonzie and the post-fourth season gang, 

I love you! I always have. Yes, when the show first started, it was wonderful. It gave the turbulent 70s a little taste of 50s nostalgia, which was something that was needed. And although you weren't always laugh out loud funny, you were consistently charming and sweet, and it gave us a comfortable place to rest our eyes on Tuesday nights. Richie and his friends were really great (oh Potsie, I have always loved you), and I also liked the quiet and impossibly cool Fonzie, who was just a little scary but also kind of funny.

Get your hands off my man, Joanie!
But those (happy) days, which started in January of 1974, were just a little before my time. I came of age (or maybe I was just more aware of the impact of television) in the later 70s and early 80s. Fonzie had become a little less quiet, and while he also became a bit more cartoonishly cool, I loved the idea that a guy who started his TV-life as a high school drop out could become the Dean of Boys at George S. Patton Vocational High School by the end of the series run. Keep the dream alive, right? 

Fonzie's version of a three piece suit: white tee-shirt, jeans and a pressed leather jacket. Aaaayyy!
It was during these years that I remember the Fonzie Phenomenon. The girls loved him, the boys wanted to be him. Around this point, Richie had enlisted in the military and lots of new faces began to show up at Al's. Jenny Piccolo had only been a figment of the audiences’ imagination before she first appeared in the 1980 episode No Tell Motel (which is such a perfectly titled episode for the oversexed teenager to make her debut). Of course, like all shows that build their foundation on such innocence, we knew Jenny was all talk, and while the talk was big and sometimes overbearing, I totally got Jenny because I too was crushing on every other boy in school. Thank you for making me look tame by comparison. 

I'm sure Jenny's man-dar went nuts during this scene!
I also loved when you became a scream fest. Like, whenever Chachi, Roger, or even Flip (wow, who else remembers Flip?) appeared on the screen, the girls would go crazy. Of course, I was Team Potsie, and I always appreciated the female screeches that came his way. 

So, like, when did Al join the band?!?
I will always love you for introducing me to Laverne and Shirley, but I also loved your aliens (Mork and Mindy) and angels (Out of the Blue). It was a hoot when characters crossed decades on Joanie Loves Chachi, and our favorite lovestruck couple was instantly transformed into part of an early 80s musical group. It was really nice that Happy Days let them back into the early 1960s when they returned full time to the series in 1983. You guys were cool that way. Aaayyyy!

Too cool to caption
But what I loved most was that no matter how broad the humor, or how far away you got from the original premise (and even when you introduced not-great characters like K.C. and that extra Belvin), you were funny. Maybe it wasn’t the kind of humor that critics look back on fondly, but they can sit on it! For 30 minutes each week, you made millions of people smile and laugh, and my childhood friends and I will always share the memories of fighting over who the cutest cast member was, mimicking Fonzie’s iconic “Aaaayyyy!” and to this day, we can still be known to call people Bucko when we are feeling aggressive. You gave us a whole new language and a lifetime of laughter. And for that I will always love you. 

Yours til Niagra Falls, 


P.S. Happy Days is airing every weeknight on MeTV

Only one turkey here, and it's on the table. I love the later years' cast o' crazies!

This retrospective is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click here to check out the blogathon's complete schedule! Guaranteed good times!


Rick29 said...

Amanda, what an inspired way to pay homage to the latter years of HAPPY DAYS! It's amazing how it evolved from its original premise (a segment on LOVE AMERICAN STYLE). It's also one of the first shows I can recall where a secondary character became the focus of the show. (Yes, characters like Maynard on DOBIE GILLIS became popular--but not like The Fonz). I agree that it probably jumped the shark sometime around Richie's departure, but--as you pointed out--it still remained a very popular and, yes, influential show.

Wings1295 said...

Here, here! I loved the later Happy Days years, too. I was a big Joanie and Chachi fan. Loved that they had their own show, for awhile anyway. I remember we had to do a biographical thing in elementary school and I put that show down as my favorite. Sorry it ended, but glad they went back to Happy Days once again. There was a comfortableness with everyone, even when newbies showed up. And yeah, sometimes the plots were odd, but overall, it was still good fun.

Hal said...

Great idea. You rarely see much written about these later seasons, and I got distracted away by WHITE SHADOW and (yes, for a time) LOBO somewhat even before Richie left. Yet every time I would revisit the Happy Days gang in the early 80's I would find the fact that the Fonz was still there reassuring.

There was an interesting (if compromised) episode about Fonz and Al going south to assist the Freedom Riders. Obviously it wasn't allowed to have much bite, airing at 8 PM ET on a network in the early 80's, but it was interesting to see the writers taking a chance. Around that same time, Phil Silvers guest starred with daughter Cathy for one episode as Jenny Piccolo's dad, and even though he wasn't in good health, it was still great to see him.

Eugene didn't even get his own spinoff. Shocker! :)

The opening credits for that final 83-84 season are fun, with the revamped theme song and old/new footage. And the two parter that brought Richie and Malph back to Milwaukee wasn't half bad. Should have been the series' coda, really. There were some really off the wall episodes during that final season when they were really straining for ideas.

Tom said...

When I was in high school everyone was talking about the "Fonz". I didn't watch Happy days much so I didn't know what they were talking about. But in between escapades of Tricky Dick I learned about the "Fonz". He was one cool dude. And helluva lot more entertaining than Tricky Dick. That was tv at its best.

Joanna said...

I have to confess, I kept watching the show into these later episodes as well. I too never wanted those Happy Days to end. Thanks for reminding me of that.

Amanda By Night said...

Hi everyone!

Thanks again for all of the great comments. I am learning even more about Happy Days from you and loving it.

Hal, I recently saw some of the Freedom Riders episode and hope to catch it in full on MeTV. I remember thinking it was sort of a departure for the show, but also a great way to introduce a very important part of history to kids of the 80s. Rock on Fonz!

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

Haha, MeTV... it's one of the few TV stations we get in the breakroom at work and always seems to be playing Leave it to Beaver whenever I'm in there.

Craig Edwards said...

The night the regular show premiered I was outside jumping into a pile of leaves. When I came in the family was talking about this new show and how funny and really like the 50's it was. I started watching it soon after - and I stayed with it to the bitter end many years later. The show that gave us the phrase "jumped the shark" seemed to do it at different times for different people. It was a show I watched with my parents for the first few years. My dad checked out when they were camping and Fonzie bellowed "COOL IT!" to all the animal sounds in the forest keeping him awake - and they all quieted down. My dad said that was stupid and stopped watching. My mom stayed in until the hair department completely dropped any pretense of the show being period - and all of the guys had long, feathered back 80's hair. I thought it was cool when Fonzie jumped his motorcycle or ski jumped over sharks - I was that age, you know - just into double digits? The show actually did jts for me when Richie left - but I stayed around watching anyway. It did get crazy in that last year - much like Roseanne did in its last season years later.

Kevyn Knox said...

Yes, the first few seasons of Happy Days were great classic entertainment (before Fonzie and Ralph became major characters) but there is, I don't want to say cool, so much,, well it's definitely something. That's for sure. And yes, I do remember Flip.

And if the show did indeed jump the shark (literally AND figuratively) it is not because of Fonzie becoming a cartoon of sorts (and actually jumping a shark) but it may very well be poor Ted McGinley. It seems that whenever that guy joins a cast, the show jumps the shark. From Happy Days to Married with Children, and of course, as Ace, your ship's photographer, on the Love Boat.

Nice write up, indeed. Just came across your site, and I think I'm going to be a regular reader.

See ya 'round the web. All Things Kevyn.

Amanda By Night said...

Shoot! I realized I didn't respond to the last couple of posts!

Craig: I wanted to write about the whackadoodle hair and fashion of the later HD years because it was all over the map. I remember Flip in half shirts and firmly planted in the early 80s, whereas Fonz was, well, the Fonz. It's so weird, but adds to the charm.

Hi Kevyn, Glad you enjoyed my post and blog. And Ted McGinley deserves his own blog post. It's also a bit full circle that Ted ended up as Ace on Love Boat and Mrs. C also went on to Mary Capt. Stubing! There was something going on there...