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Happy Days is an American television sitcom that aired first-run from January 15, 1974, to September 24, 1984, on ABC. Created by Garry Marshall, the series presents an idealized vision of life in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s United States.
1974 cast photo including the "older brother Chuck"
who mysteriously 'disappered' after the first season.
Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the series revolves around teenager Richie Cunningham and his family: his father, Howard, who owns a hardware store; traditional homemaker and mother, Marion; younger sister Joanie; and high school dropout, biker and suave ladies' man Arthur "Fonzie"/"The Fonz" Fonzarelli, who would eventually become the Cunninghams' upstairs tenant.
The earlier episodes revolve around Richie and his friends, Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph, with Fonzie as a secondary character. However, as the series progressed, Fonzie proved to be a favorite with viewers and soon more story lines were written to reflect his growing popularity, and Winkler was eventually credited with top billing in the opening credits alongside Howard as a result.
The cast, 1983
Fonzie befriended Richie and the Cunningham family, and when Richie left the series for military service, Fonzie became the central figure of the show, with Winkler receiving sole top billing in the opening credits. In later seasons, other characters were introduced including Fonzie's young cousin, Charles "Chachi" Arcola, who became a love interest for Joanie Cunningham.
The series' pilot was originally shown as Love and the Television Set, (later retitled Love and the Happy Days for syndication), a one-episode teleplay on the anthology series Love, American Style. Happy Days, itself a spin-off from Love, American Style, resulted in seven different spin-off series, including two that were animated: Laverne & Shirley, Blansky's Beauties, Mork & Mindy, Out of the Blue, Joanie Loves Chachi, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (animated) and Laverne & Shirley with Special Guest Star the Fonz (animated).
The show is the basis for the Happy Days musical touring the United States since 2008.
The leather jacket worn by Winkler during the series hangs in the Smithsonian Institution.
"Jumping the shark"
The term "jumping the shark" originated from Happy Days. It is used to describe a point in a series where it resorts to outlandish or preposterous plot devices to maintain or regain good ratings, but the effort fails and is instead considered the beginning of the end of the show.
Specifically, the term "Jumping the shark" arose from the season five episode "Hollywood (Part 3)" that first aired on September 20, 1977, in which a water skiing Fonzie (clad in swim trunks and signature leather jacket) jumps over a confined shark. Despite the decline in ratings, Happy Days continued for several years until its cancellation in 1984. The program never received an Emmy nomination for writing during its entire run; comedy writing Emmy nominations during Happy Days broadcast history were routinely achieved by the writers of such shows as M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family.
Taking place during the late ’50s/early ’60s in Milwaukee, Happy Days had two main sets: the Cunningham home and Arnold’s Drive-In. The Milky Way Diner in Glendale, Wisconsin, was the inspiration behind this swingin’ eatery, where Richie, Ralph and fan-favorite Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli spent the majority of their time. Clad with college pennants and a jukebox filled with doo-wop songs, the drive-in was where the Happy Days 30th-anniversary reunion was set.
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 changed to a studio production in 1975, the set was widened and the 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 restroom doors camera right, labeled "Guys" and "Dolls". A 1953 Seeburg Model G jukebox (with replaced metal pilasters from Wico Corp.) 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 provided the inspiration for the exteriors of the fictional Jefferson.
In a two-part episode from a later season, the original Arnold's Drive-In was written out of the series as being destroyed by an accidental fire.
Arnold's, after the fire
In the last seasons that covered the 60s timeline, a new Arnold's Drive-In set (to portray the new Arnold's that replaced the original Arnold's destroyed by the fire) emerged in a 60s decor with wood paneling and stained glass.
Richie and Fonzie in the New Arnold's
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 set was rebuilt by Production Designer James Yarnell based on the original floor plan. The reunion special was taped at CBS Television City's Bob Barker Studio in September 2004.
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