Happy Days Online: Show Information

Show Information


First Telecast: January 15, 1974
Last Telecast: July 12, 1984
Total number of episodes: 255
Created by: Garry Marshall
Production company: Paramount Pictures


Broadcast History:

  • Jan 1974-Sep 1983, ABC Tue 8:00-8:30
  • Sep 1983-Jan 1984, ABC Tue 8:30-9:00
  • Apr 1984-May 1984, ABC Tue 8:30-9:00
  • Jun 1984-Jul 1984, ABC Thu 8:00-8:30


    Nostalgia for the 1950s became big business in the mid-1970s, and leading the wave was this updated version of teenage life in the mid-1950s. It started modestly and built in popularity until in the 1976-77 season Happy Days was the number one program in all of American television.

    Happy Days changed dramatically from the series that premiered on January 15, 1974. Originally it was the story of two-high school kids, Richie Cunningham and his pal Warren "Potsie" Weber, at Jefferson High in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Howard Cunningham, Richie's father, ran a hardware store while Chuck was Richie's college-bound older brother and Joanie his 12-year-old kid sister. Richie and most of his friends hung out at Arnold's Drive-In, a malt shop near the school.

    Richie was supposed to be the innocent teenager and Potsie his more worldly pal. The producers decided to add a greasy-haired motorcycle kid, Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli to give the show a bit of an edge. That was the move that would soon make the show a hit with viewers. Instead of the fairly hackneyed Richie-Potsie relationship, the show came to center on the relationship between the "cool" dropout Fonz, and the "straight" kids represented by Richie Cunningham. Henry Winkler made the character of Fonzie three-dimensional, vulnerable as well as hip.

    As Fonzie's popularity spread (his thumbs-up gesture,"aaayyh!", and leather jacket would soon become trademarks), the show became a bigger and bigger hit. Winkler soon moved from his original fifth billing to third in the opening credits, then second behind Ron Howard and finally first when Howard left the show in 1980. But ABC claimed that there would be no spin-off series, because without the Richie-Fonzie contrast there would be no Happy Days. Not only did Fonzie's billing change as the series grew, but so did his residence. During the 1975-76 season he moved into a small apartment over the Cunningham garage. He was always available to give Richie advice about life and of course girls.

    Changes in the cast were fairly minor in the early years of the show. Dozens of high school kids came and went, and Richie's older brother (played by two different actors) disappeared from the family early on, never to be referred to again. Arnold (Pat Morita), the Japanese man who owned Arnold's, first showed his face in 1975 but was replaced by a new owner, Alfred (Al Molinaro), in 1976. Two lower-middle-class girls who turned up briefly in late 1975--on a double date with Richie and Fonzie--quickly went on to a series of their own, Laverne & Shirley. Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) arrived in 1977, as Fonzie's young cousin, the same season that Richie began going steady with Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend).

    As the 1976-77 season ended, Richie and the gang graduated from high school and it seemed that Fonzie, the dropout, might be left behind. But at the last minute it turned out that the Fonz, while working days at various garages, had been going to night school and would get his diploma too. Richie, Potsie, and Ralph enrolled at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, with Fonzie still around (though not enrolled) to advise them on love and life. Richie enrolled as a journalism major, Potsie as a psychology major, while Ralph followed in his father's footsteps to become an optometrist (an eye doctor)-- though he really always wanted to be a comedian.

    In 1980 major changes began to take place in both the cast and the story line of Happy Days. Richie and Ralph graduated from college, joined the army, and were shipped off to Greenland (Ron Howard and Donny Most had left the show). From there the unseen Richie corresponded with and eventually married Lori Beth--by telephone, with the Fonz as his stand-in. Lori Beth visited him from time to time and in 1981 gave birth to a son, Richie, Junior. Back in Milwaukee the Fonz had become so straight that he was now a co-owner of Arnold's a shop teacher at Jefferson High School, and operator of Bronco's Garage. "Mr. Cool" had a close brush with serious romance in 1982-83 when he fell for divorcee Ashley Pfister (played by Linda Purl) and her cute daughter Heather (played by Heather O'Rourke), but it didn't last. In 1983 he joined Marion's nephew Roger Phillips (Ted McGinley), an English teacher and basketball coach at Jefferson High, in a new career. Roger had just been appointed principal of the rowdy George S. Patton Vocational High School, and the Fonz joined him there as Dean of Boys.

    Potsie, the perennial college student, went to work for Mr. C. at Cunningham Hardware. But by this time it was the 1960s and the focus of the program turned increasingly to the next generation, particularly the rocky teenage love of Joanie and Chachi. They had their own spin-off show, called Joanie Loves Chachi, for a short time in 1982-83, but they never left Happy Days entirely. After a try at a singing career, Joanie enrolled in college and signed on as a trainee teacher at Roger's vocational school. Others of the '60s generation were Joanie's independent, boy-crazy friend Jenny Piccalo (Cathy Silvers), who was finally seen after years of only being referred to; Roger's rambunctious younger brother Flip (Billy Warlock); and Howard's teenaged niece K.C. (Crystal Bernard) from Texas, who lived with the Cunninghams for a year.

    The final season was a time of reunions and farewells. Richie and Lori Beth returned in the fall for a visit, with Richie, Jr., in tow, and another baby on the way. Then Richie headed for Hollywood to pursue his dream of becoming a screen-writer. In the series' final episode Richie and other former regulars returned one last time as Fonzie bought a home and adopted a young orphan named Danny, and Joanie and Chachi were finally married--by Al's lookalike brother, Father Delvecchio. With "both" their children now married (even they had forgotten Chuck), Howard and Marion thanked the audience for being part of their family, and made a tearful farewell.


    For more facts about the show and cast members, please see the Did You Know? section.


    Series summary from The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-Present

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