Happy Days is an American television sitcom that originally aired from January 14, 1974 to May 8, 1984 on ABC. Created by Garry Marshall, the series presents an idealized vision of life in mid-1950s to mid-1960s America.
Set in the midwestern city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the series revolves around teenager Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his family: his father, Howard (Tom Bosley), who owns a hardware store; mother Marion (Marion Ross); younger sister Joanie (Erin Moran); and dropout and suave ladies man Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), who would eventually become the Cunninghams' upstairs tenant. The earlier episodes revolve around Richie and his friends, Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams), Ralph Malph (Donny Most) with Fonzarelli as a secondary character. As the series progressed, Fonzarelli proved to be a favorite with viewers and soon more story lines were written to reflect his growing popularity. Fonzie befriends Richie and the Cunningham family, and when 'Richie' (Ron Howard) left the series following his character's wedding to his long-time high school sweetheart, Winkler's Fonzie became the central figure of the show. In later seasons, other characters were introduced including Fonzie's young cousin, Charles "Chachi" Arcola (Scott Baio), who became a love interest for Joanie Cunningham.
Originally spun off from a one-episode teleplay on the anthology series Love, American Style, the series spawned several other television shows, including Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Joanie Loves Chachi. It has been syndicated under the title Happy Days Again and is the basis for the Happy Days musical touring the United States. The leather jacket used by Winkler during the series currently hangs in the Smithsonian Institution.
Richard "Richie" Cunningham (Ron Howard): Son and high school student. The protagonist for the first seven years of the series (1974–1980). When Howard left the cast due to his burgeoning directoral career, Richie was written out by leaving to join the United States Army. Howard returned for guest appearances as Richie during the show's final season.
Howard "Mr. C". Cunningham (Tom Bosley): Husband, father, business owner, lodge member, family man. Frequently seen reading the daily newspaper in his easy chair.
Marion "Mrs. C". Cunningham (Marion Ross): Wife, mother and homemaker. She was the only character whom Fonzie allowed to call him by his real first name, Arthur, which she always did affectionately.
Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran): Richie's younger sister. In early seasons, she is a pre-teen sometimes snooping on Richie's activities.
Arthur "Fonzie" / "the Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler): Initially a minor character, he was a hugely popular breakout character and was made a series regular. Known for his catchy line "(H)eyyyy!"
Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams): Richie's closest friend, and a talented singer. He is somewhat more carefree and "worldly" than Richie in early seasons. In later seasons his character evolves to increasingly emphasise his dimwitted side.
Ralph Malph (Donny Most): Richie's friend, and a self-styled comedian. Ralph left with Richie (1980) to join the Army. Returned as a guest star in the final season.
Charles "Chachi" Arcola (Scott Baio): Fonzie's younger cousin and later, Al Delvecchio's stepson. Dated and eventually married Joanie Cunningham.
Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita): In season one, Arnold was a middle-age Caucasian with about ten seconds of air time. Morita depicted the owner of Arnold's Drive-In for season 3 (1975–1976), stating he obtained the moniker when he purchased the restaurant and people mistook him for "Arnold." The character explained that it was too costly to buy enough letter signs needed to rename it "Takahashi." He moonlighted as a martial arts instructor, teaching self-defense classes at the drive-in after hours. Morita also played "Arnold" as a guest star in 1977 and 1979 before returning as a recurring character after Al Molinaro departed in 1982.
Al Delvecchio (Al Molinaro): A guest star in a 1974 episode, Al returned for seasons 4–10 (1976–1982) as the new owner/cook of the drive-in. Al married Chachi's mother, thereby becoming Fonzie's uncle. Molinaro left Happy Days in 1982 to star in Joanie Loves Chachi, and guest starred as Al in three later episodes of Happy Days.
Jenny Piccalo (Cathy Silvers): Joanie's boy-crazy best friend (1980–1983). Mentioned often in early episodes, but never appeared in person until the 1980 season. Returned as a guest star in the series finale. Jenny's father appeared in one episode, played by Silvers's real-life father Phil Silvers.
Lori Beth Allen Cunningham (Lynda Goodfriend): Richie's girlfriend and later his wife (1977–1982). Returned as a guest star in the final season.
Charles "Chuck" Cunningham (Gavan O'Herlihy, Randolph Roberts): Eldest son, college student and basketball player. Chuck's character was written out of series in season two. Fonzie's character took on the role of big brother to Richie and his friends.
Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly): Former girlfriend of Fonzie.
Leather Tuscadero (Suzi Quatro): Musician. Sister of Pinky Tuscadero, and a former juvenile delinquent.
Roger Phillips (Ted McGinley): Marion's nephew and coach and teacher at Jefferson High. Introduced after Richie left the show. (1980–1984)
Flip Phillips (Billy Warlock): Roger's brother. (10th season only)
Krystal "KC" Cunningham (Crystal Bernard): Howard's niece. (10th season only)
Marsha Simms (Beatrice Colen): A carhop in first two seasons.
Spike (Danny Butch) Fonzie's even younger cousin. Made fleeting appearances before the introduction of Chachi.
Wendy (Misty Rowe): Another carhop from Arnold's in the first two seasons.
Louisa Arcola / Louisa Delvecchio (Ellen Travolta) Mother of Chachi Arcola and Fonzie's aunt. Married Al Delvecchio.
Melvin Belvin (Scott Bernstein): Nerdy classmate of Joanie and Chachi.
Eugene Belvin (Denis Mandel): Twin brother of Melvin Belvin. Also a nerd.
Bobby (Harris Kal): Friend of Chachi and Joanie seen in episodes after Richie and Ralph left the show.
Bill "Sticks" Downey (Jack Baker): Friend of Richie, Potsie and Ralph and drummer for their band, hence his nickname "Sticks." (He, however, claimed he got the nickname because he's skinny.)
Gloria (Linda Purl): Richie's occasional girlfriend in the second season.
Ashley Pfister (Linda Purl) Divorced mother who becomes Fonzie's steady girlfriend, but later broke up with him (offscreen) (1982–1983).
Jim the Student (Kurt Krakowian): Played a student at the graduation (1977).
Danny Fonzarelli (Danny Ponce): Fonzie's adopted son in the series finale.
Police Officer Kirk / Army Reserve Major Kirk (Ed Peck): Fonzie's nemesis and antagonist who's eager to demonstrate his inflated sense of authority, and on the watch for delinquents and "pinkos" (communists).
Happy Days originated during a time of 1950s nostalgic interest evident in film, television, and music. The show began as an unsold pilot filmed in late 1971 called New Family in Town, with Harold Gould in the role of Howard Cunningham, Marion Ross as Marion, Ron Howard as Richie, Anson Williams as Potsie, Ric Carrott as Charles "Chuck" Cunningham, and Susan Neher as Joanie. While Paramount passed on making it into a weekly series, the pilot was recycled with the title Love and the Happy Days, for presentation on the television anthology series Love, American Style. In 1972, George Lucas asked to view the pilot to determine if Ron Howard would be suitable to play a teenager in American Graffiti, then in preproduction. Lucas immediately cast Howard in the film, which became one of the top-grossing films of 1973. Show creator Garry Marshall and ABC recast the unsold pilot to turn Happy Days into a series. According to Marshall on an interview, executive producer Thomas L. Miller, known professionally as "Tom Miller," was quoted as saying this while developing the sitcom: "If we do a TV series that takes place in another era, and when it goes into reruns, then it won't look old." This made sense to Marshall while on the set of the show.
Gould had originally been tabbed to reprise the role of Howard Cunningham for the TV series, but during a delay before production he went abroad to perform in a play. Midway through the play's run he was notified that the show was ready to begin shooting, but decided to honor his commitment to the stage production and passed on the part, which led to Tom Bosley being cast as the family patriarch. Gould would later state that a requirement to shave his beard was also a factor in his declining the role.
Happy Days premiered in January, 1974 in the Tuesday night time slot that had been occupied by Temperatures Rising, which had been put on hiatus for a second retooling.
The first two seasons of Happy Days were filmed using a single-camera setup and laugh track.
One episode of Season 2 ("Fonzie Gets Married") was filmed in front of a studio audience with three cameras as a test run.
From the third season on, the show was a three-camera production in front of a live audience (with the announcement by Tom Bosley that "Happy Days is filmed before a live audience" at the start of most episodes), giving these later seasons a markedly different style. A laugh track was still used, but only to sweeten the live reactions.
The show had two main sets: the Cunningham home and Arnold's Drive-In.
In season 1 & 2, the Cunningham house was arranged with the front door on the left and the kitchen on the right, in a sort of triangle. Beginning with season 3, the house was radically rearranged to accommodate multiple cameras and a studio audience. However, the second season episode (mentioned above) in which Fonzie gets engaged was shot on the old set, but with multiple cameras.
The Cunninghams' official address is 565 North Clinton Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Within the actual Milwaukee street grid, this would put the address somewhere in the center of Milwaukee County near the current day Interstate 94, just south of Michigan Street. It would also be an oddity, as north-south streets in the city west of downtown are numbered rather than named.
The house that served as the exterior of the Cunningham residence is actually located at 565 North Cahuenga Blvd (south of Melrose Avenue) in Los Angeles, just a few blocks from the Paramount lot on Melrose Avenue.
The Milky Way Drive-In, located on Port Washington Road in the North Shore suburb of Glendale, now Kopps Custard Stand, was the inspiration for the original Arnold's Drive-In; it has since been demolished. The exterior of Arnold's was a "dressed" area on the Paramount Studios lot, that has since been demolished, very close to Stage 19, where the rest of the show's sets were located.
The set of the diner in the first season was a room with the same vague details of the later set, such as the paneling, and the college pennants. When the show was changed to a studio based filming, the set was redesigned and became the Arnold's that is most remembered. The set was largely opened to show the audience the scenes that took place within it. The Diner entrance was hidden, but allowed an upstage, central entrance for cast members. The barely-seen kitchen was also upstage and seen only through a pass-through window. The diner had orange booths, downstage center for closeup conversation, as well as camera left. There were two bathroom doors camera right, labeled "Guys" and "Dolls." A Seeburg jukebox was positioned camera right, and an anachronistic "Nip-It" pinball machine (actually produced in 1972) was positioned far camera right.
College pennants adorned the walls, including Purdue and University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, along with a blue and white sign reading "Jefferson High School." Milwaukee's Washington High School closely models the highschool for the script.
Storylines dictated that the set would be destroyed by fire, so in later seasons, a different Arnold's Drive-in emerged and lasted through the later years of the show. The new set featured wood paneling and stained glass.
In 2004, two decades after the first set was destroyed, the Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion requested that the reunion take place in Arnold's. The familiar set was rebuilt by Production Designer James Yarnell. Built from the original ground plan, this was the first time that the Happy Days cast had been in this set since the 1970s.
The most major character changes occurred after Season 5 with the addition of Scott Baio as Fonzie's cousin, Charles "Chachi" Arcola. Originally the character Spike, mentioned as Fonzie's nephew (actually his cousin, as was made clear in one episode), was supposed to be the character who became Chachi.
With Season 3, Al Molinaro was added as Al Delvecchio, the new owner of Arnold's, after Pat Morita's character of Arnold moved on after his character got married. (Morita had left the program to star in a short-lived sitcom of his own, Mr. T and Tina, which was actually a spin-off of Welcome Back, Kotter. Morita also starred in a subsequent short lived Happy Days spin-off series entitled Blansky's Beauties.) Al Molinaro also played Al's twin brother Father Anthony Delvecchio, a Catholic priest. Al eventually married Chachi's mother (played by Ellen Travolta) and Father Delvecchio served in the wedding of Joanie to Chachi in the series finale.
Seasons 8 onward
Lynda Goodfriend joined the cast as semi-regular character Lori-Beth Allen, Richie's steady girlfriend, in season 5, and became a permanent member of the cast between Seasons 8 and 10, after Lori-Beth married Richie.
After Ron Howard (Richie) left the series, Ted McGinley joined the cast as Roger Phillips, the new physical education teacher at Jefferson High and nephew to Howard and Marion. He took over from the departed Richie Cunningham character, acting as counterpoint to Fonzie. Also joining the cast was Cathy Silvers as Jenny Piccolo, Joanie's best friend who was previously referenced in various episodes from earlier seasons who remained as a main cast member until the final season. Both actors were originally credited as guest stars but were promoted to the main cast during the 10th season after several series regulars left the show. The real focus of the series was now on the Joanie and Chachi characters, and often finding ways to incorporate Fonzie into them as a shoulder to cry on, advice-giver, and savior as needed. The Potsie character who had already been spun off from the devious best friend of Richie to Ralph's best friend and confidante, held little grist for the writers in this new age, and was now most often used as the occasional "dumb" foil for punchlines (most often from Mr. C. or Fonzie).
Billy Warlock joined the cast in season 10 as Roger's brother Flip, along with Crystal Bernard as Howard's and Marion's niece K.C. They were intended as replacements for Erin Moran and Scott Baio (who departed for their own show, Joanie Loves Chachi) and were credited as part of the semi-regular cast. Both characters left with the return of Moran and Baio, following the cancellation of Joanie Loves Chachi. Also leaving Happy Days in Season 10 for Joanie Loves Chachi was Al Delvecchio; Pat Morita returned to the cast as Arnold in his absence.
Happy Days, itself considered a spin-off from Love, American Style, spun off five different series, not including two animated spin-offs: Laverne & Shirley, Blansky's Beauties, Mork & Mindy, Out of the Blue, and Joanie Loves Chachi.
The most successful of these spin-offs, Laverne & Shirley (starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, respectively), also took place in early/mid 1960s Milwaukee. As Shotz Brewery workers, modeled after the Miller, Schlitz, and Pabst Breweries once located in Milwaukee, Laverne and Shirley find themselves in adventures with The Fonz, Lenny and Squiggy and even the Cunninghams also living in the midwestern city. The two starring characters eventually moved to Los Angeles in the show's latter years. Penny Marshall is the sister of producer Garry Marshall.
Robin Williams made his first appearance as "Mork" on Happy Days. In his own sitcom, Mork & Mindy, his character of Mork, the alien from the planet Ork, landed in 1970s Boulder, Colorado, to study humans and took up residence with Pam Dawber's character of Mindy McConnell.
Joanie Loves Chachi was a short-lived show about Richie's younger sister Joanie and Fonzie's younger cousin Chachi's relationship during their years as musicians in Chicago. Two myths arose around the series in recent years. The first involves the series' popularity in Korea, as "Chachi" is slang for "penis". The second rumor suggests that the show was canceled due to low ratings. Actually, the program finished in the Top 20 its first season, but ABC determined that the show was losing too much of its lead-in, suggesting low appeal if the show were moved. This type of cancellation seemed strange in the early 1980s, but soon became a commonplace part of TV audience research.
Out of the Blue is a spin-off of Happy Days, though a scheduling error had the series airing prior to the main character's introduction on Happy Days.
Blansky's Beauties (1977) starred Nancy Walker as former Las Vegas showgirl Nancy Blansky. One week before the show's premiere, the Blansky character appeared on Happy Days as a cousin of Howard Cunningham.