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Happy Days - The Complete First Season


TITLE: HAPPY DAYS - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: August 17, 2004 (Paramount Home Video)
color/6 hours 23 minutes
MSRP: $49.99
Number of discs: 3
Number of episodes: 16
Languages and subtitles: English - Mono, Closed Captioned
Special features: None


Introduction:

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock.. Poodle skirts..jukeboxes..cars with soaring tail fins.. and rockin' and rollin' all week long. Those Happy Days are here again, on this three-disc, must-have DVD set. Join one of America's best-loved TV families - the Cunninghams - in the premiere season of this top-rated (a top 20 series for 8 of it's 11 seasons) television series. Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams), Ralph Malph (Donny Most), "The Fonz" (Henry Winkler), Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley), Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross), and Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) head a brilliant comedic cast in this nostalgic, smash-hit TV sitcom. Arnold's Drive-In is their local hangout and meeting place, and lots of hilarious, memorable and classic adventures are the result. Take a trip back to a simpler time and relive all the fun, music and laughs of those good ol' Happy Days - with this complete first season DVD collection.

Happy Days began as a pilot in 1971 called "New Family in Town," which was produced by Garry Marshall for ABC. The pilot contained some of the same characters (Richie, Howard, Marion, and Potsie) and some of the same actors (Ron Howard, Marion Ross, and Anson Williams). Mr. Cunningham was played by actor Harold Gould with Susan Neher playing Joanie Cunningham. ABC decided not to turn the pilot of "New Family in Town" into a series, but used it as a segment/playlet of "Love, American Style" in February 1972, entitled "Love and the Happy Days." Ron Howard and Anson Williams appeared in the skit.

After the success of the George Lucas' 1972 hit film, "American Graffiti" (starring Ron Howard), the ABC programmers were looking to cash in on the wave of 1950's nostalgia (although the film is actually set in September 1962). ABC, remembering Garry Marshall's earlier pilot, called him and asked him to make some changes to his original concept. Among the changes was to include the character of Arthur Fonzarelli. ABC wanted to toughen up the show by having a gang of thugs beat up Richie Cunningham. Marshall agreed, but the character became a benevolent companion to Richie and his pals.

Happy Days became one of ABC's longest running sitcom producing 255 episodes over 11 seasons from January 15, 1974 to July 12, 1984. The 1st season often saw Fonzie in a gray McGregor windbreaker with penny loafers and not his later trademark leather jacket and motorcycle boots. He was not even a main character, with only a few lines during some of the episodes, and he often gave his trademark thumbs up or thumbs down gesture. The Fonz never strayed far from his motorcycle, even bringing it in indoor for some scenes. At the beginning of the first season, an actor named Gavan O'Herlihy was hired to play Chuck Cunningham, the family's oldest son. After a few episodes, he went into Garry Marshall's office and told him he didn't really want to be an actor and was moving to Ireland to become a poet. They recast the part with an actor named Randolph Roberts for the next season for a short time. The writers, producers, and Marshall soon realized Richie didn't need an older brother because Fonzie was, in a way, his older brother. They never mentioned what happened to him, and many viewers wrote them letters. The producers just left him out of the story and hoped that everyone would just forget about him.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Memorable first season episodes included "All The Way," in which Richie dates a girl with a "reputation" (in the pilot look for the restaurant logo for Arthur's); "The Lemon," in which Richie and Potsie buy a less-than-dependable car; "The Deadly Dares," inn which Richie and Potsie must earn their memberships to The Demons, and "Fonzie Drops In," in which The Fonz decides to re-enroll in high school.

Notable guest stars included Ed Begley Jr. as Hank and Jack Riley as O'Reilly in "The Deadly Dares", Diana Canova as Richie's tall date Phyllis in "Because She's There", and Ronnie Schell as Ernie and Christina Hart as Carole in "Be the First on Your Block."


Packaging:

The DVD Cover art features a nice photo of Richie, Potsie, Fonzie, and Ralph Malph in a jukebox (see above). The back of the box features several photos of the cast with some details of the set in a brown jukebox. There are 3 individual slim cases for each disc that slide out from the DVD box. All 3 slim cases have photos on the front with the episode titles, summaries and original airdates on the back. The first case has the same photo as the DVD cover art, the second case features Richie, Marion, Howard, and Joanie (Joanie appears to have been digitally added to this photo, as she wasn't originally in this photo), and the third case has a photo of Fonzie in his gray windbreaker and Richie in his light blue Jefferson High sweater. When you open the case, the episodes are also listed in the inside cover with some assorted photos. The actual discs are designed to look like records with the Happy Days logo on them. When you take the discs out of the case, you can see a record player. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-6, Disc 2 has episodes 7-11, and Disc 3 offers episodes 12-16. The episodes are organized in their original airdate order.


Menu Design and Navigation:

Each DVD has a very simple menu that is easy to navigate. There are no sub-menus, only a main menu that lists all the episode titles in cursive 'American Graffiti' style writing. You just highlight the episode you want, and it plays. There is also a 'Play All' button for those who want to watch all the episodes on each disc without interruption. The Disc 1 menu has the same photo as the cover art for the menu, Disc 2 has Richie, Marion, Howard, and Fonzie, and Disc 3 has Richie and Joanie pictured in the jukebox.


Video and Audio Quality:

Paramount has done a great job with the video and audio quality of the episodes. There is occasionally some grainy pictures, but for the most part the video presented in full screen (1.33:1) is excellent. These prints are certainly better than you would see on TV Land or on a local channel, and the show has held up well over the last 30 years. Happy Days was filmed without a studio audience and with a single camera the first 2 seasons, and there are many on location and outdoor scenes which look beautiful. The early episodes are almost like mini-movies of life in the 1950's. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, and I noticed no major problems with the music soundtrack and score sounding better than ever. Bill Haley's 1955 hit "Rock Around the Clock" was used as the theme song for the first two seasons and became a best-seller again due to it's exposure on the show.

Speaking of the music, I know there were some people that were concerned that the episodes would either have missing music or replaced generic music, as has been shown in syndication in more recent years due to licensing issues. I am happy to report that it appears all the original music by the original artists is intact. If anybody finds otherwise, please contact me so I can adjust the review accordingly. All episodes appear to be uncut as I timed each episode at around 25 minutes, 30 seconds. When you think about the current syndicated episodes, which are around 22 minutes in length, you are seeing approximately 3-3.5 minutes of "new" footage in each episode! For the closing logo enthusiasts, I believe that the original Paramount Pictures logo (circa 1974) is included at the end of all the episodes. It has Paramount Television in white letters against a dark blue background with the logo next to it all surrounded by a large red border. This logo is followed by a more modern Paramount logo. This logo is not included on the Laverne & Shirley episodes, so I am assuming it is vintage, although I am by no means an expert on closing logos.


Special Features:

Sadly, there are no bonus features, and that's the only major downfall I can think of for this set. It would have been great had they included the pilot episode, which aired on Love, American Style. Although there is an episode in season 1 of Happy Days that flashes back to it, it still would have been nice for them to include the episode if they were able to secure the rights for it. Some other ideas for potential bonus features on future releases could be blooper reels, cast interviews, original network promos, a listing of the music and guest stars for all episodes, production notes, and the 1992 ABC Happy Days Reunion Special.


Final Comments:

Overall, this is an excellent start for the Happy Days franchise on DVD. Look for the Happy Days spin-off series Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy, as their first seasons are being released on DVD as well. While this set lacks any bonus features, the fact that the episodes are unedited, with the original music makes it worth the price. You can't beat the convenience and quality of DVD. Hopefully as future seasons are released with some regularity, they will start to include some nice bonus features, and the sets to quote Fonzie would be even more "coolamundo"!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video quality: 4.3/5
Audio quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: NA
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Overall: 4.6/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 08/02/04

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000291Q3Y/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

For much more information on the show, visit the sitcom site that started it all for us in 1997:
Happy Days Online


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