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Monday, February 20, 2006

Happy Days has still got it

February 9, 2005

Listen up, Bucko.

OK, so it’s not as convincing as when Richie Cunningham says it, but still. It seems an appropriate start to a column in honor of the recent Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion special.

I usually have a love/hate relationship with TV reunion shows: I love taking a walk down memory lane, but hate that the shows lose a little magic, after seeing some of the stars gray-haired, wrinkled, and several pounds heavier. Nevertheless, as far as reunions go, this was one of the best.

Every cast member participated. And show creator Garry Marshall was hilarious narrating the reunion, asking the cast questions and showing bloopers and home movies.

Here are some fun tidbits the cast shared:

  • “Fonzie” originally wore a gray windbreaker, instead of his trademark leather jacket, because network executives thought the leather made him look like a thug. As the character grew in popularity, so did the leather jacket. It now resides in The Smithsonian. The gray windbreaker didn’t fare as well; Marshall tossed it in a dumpster.
  • The reason “Fonzie” was always shown with his motorcycle during the early seasons was that network officials only would allow him to wear the leather jacket, if he had the bike in a scene.
  • Scott Baio, “Chachi,” used to pelt Henry Winkler with spitballs during taping.
  • The infamous television term “jump the shark” evolved from the episode where Fonzie jumped a shark on water-skis. The term is used in television lore today to signify the creative death of a series on its way to cancellation. Happy Days ran for 100 more episodes after its jump-the-shark episode.
  • The show had several spin-offs: Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley and Joanie Loves Chachi.
  • After the episode aired where Fonzie got a library card, library card registrations went up 500 percent in America.
  • The show was originally titled New Family in Town, then later Love American Style. The only cast members in the original pilot were Ron Howard, Marion Ross, and Anson Williams.
  • The cast formed a softball team and played games during the weekends. They traveled the country, playing charity games in Major League stadiums.

While Fonzie became the show’s most popular character, I was more interested in the coming-of-age story of Richie. Sure the Fonz had super powers; he could silence an entire forest of animals with a mere “cool it.” He could turn on the jukebox with a punch of his fist or dim the lights with a snap of his fingers. But when Richie would break into a chorus of Blueberry Hill or take the stage with his saxophone, the nerd in me rejoiced.

I became fascinated with the ‘50s from watching Happy Days. I dreamed of poodle skirts, sock hops, and letterman jackets. I’m grateful the Happy Days gang took time to pay tribute to the show and the fans. The reunion special was a ratings winner for the network that night. So apparently, I’m not the only one enamored with this piece of pop culture.

So for my fellow fans, I leave you with these word of wisdom from the Happy Days lexicon:
Sit on it.
Yowza, yowza, yowza.
Wha, wha, wha.
And yea, yea, yea.
And in the historic words of “Ralph Malph,” regardless that it’s 30 years later, “They’ve still got it.”

For those who can’t get enough of ‘70s television show reunions, CBS will air a One Day at a Time reunion special on Feb. 22. “Schneider” and his tool belt will join the rest of the cast for a look back at the show.

Originally published 2/9/05 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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