Happy Days Looks Nostalgically Back at the Fifties
By the mid-1970s, it was clear that America was tiring of socially relevant shows such as All in the Family, and was starting to look back nostalgically to happier, simpler times when life was less complex. It was against this backdrop that the situation comedy Happy Days debuted in 1974. Set in 1950s Milwaukee, the series presented an idealized view of life during that era, focusing on the solidly middle-class Cunningham family, father Howard (Tom Bosley), mother Marion (Marion Ross), and children Richie (Ron Howard), Joanie (Erin Moran). The show’s breakout character, however, was Arthur Fonzarelli aka The Fonz. Originally introduced as a minor character, “Fonzie” as he was fondly called, eventually became so popular that at one point, the producers of the show reportedly considered renaming it “Fonzie’s Happy Days” until the actors protested the move, forcing them to back down.
Like any popular long-running show, the cast of Happy Days underwent several changes as the series ran on. Scott Baio, for instance, was added to the cast in the fourth season as Fonzie’s cousin Chachi, while Ron Howard would leave the show in the eighth season. The show also featured notable guest appearances by a young Tom Hanks and Robin Williams as an alien named Mork. That particular episode became so popular that Williams went on to headline his own show, Mork and Mindy.
After its cancellation in 1984, many members of the cast of Happy Days went on to find success in other fields, most notably Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham), who would quit acting to become a top Hollywood director, and Henry Winkler (the Fonz), who produced the hit series MacGyver, as well as writing a series of children’s books, and continues to act today. Other cast members, such as Marion Ross (who played the Cunningham matriarch Marion) and Tom Bosley (father Howard Cunningham), continued to enjoy flourishing acting careers on the small screen. The series itself still attracts new fans through syndicated reruns worldwide.