Who didn’t love Happy Days? What a great show, filled with vibrant and interesting characters who all played well alongside each other and off each other with spot-on timing and some laugh out loud moments. But in between the light-hearted parts were plenty of very poignant moments, drama and moments to leave a lump in your throat.
The show went on for a number of years and drew up a massive fanbase. How many of these Happy Days facts were you already aware of?
12. Fonzie helped get teens reading again
When the show was a hit, series creator and producer Garry Marshall was approached to see if the show could be used to help convince kids to read books. It was then written into an episode that Fonzie went to a library and checked out a book.
The Fonz declared, “Everybody is allowed to read,” challenging the old stereotype that reading and libraries were uncool. The following week, registration for library cards in North America went up by 500 percent!
11. The show coined the infamous phrase ‘jumping the shark’
Season five of Happy Days opens with the three-part episode Hollywood, the highlight of which is Fonzie jumping over a shark whilst water skiing. In the view of many fans, this was the point when Happy Days ran out of ideas and became a shadow of its former self. This resulted in the idiom ‘jumping the shark’ entering the pop culture vernacular.
Early internet satirist Jon Hein coined the phrase, and in 1997 launched the (long since defunct) website JumpTheShark.com, listing TV shows that lost their way and pinpointing the moment from which it all went downhill.
10. Henry Winkler wasn’t really fond of motorcycles
Although The Fonz was meant to be the king of cool, the character was in many respects the polar opposite of actor Henry Winkler, who does not consider himself a cool guy at all. One key thing on which Winkler and Fonzarelli part ways is motorcycles.
Whilst Fonzie is a major bike enthusiast, Winkler himself does not care for the vehicles and never enjoyed scenes when he had to ride them. Watch closely and you may notice that whenever we see Fonzie ride, the bike is in fact attached to a moving platform, so Winkler himself didn’t have to take control.
9. The show coined another phrase that isn’t as well known
Everyone remembers the Cunningham family – Ron Howard’s Richie, Erin Moran’s Joanie, Tom Bosley’s Howard and Marion Ross’ Marion – but who remembers Chuck? Yes, originally there was a third, older Cunningham child, played by actor Gavan O’Herlihy (later seen in 1988’s Willow, which Ron Howard directed).
Unfortunately for O’Herlihy, Chuck was written out after the first few episodes of Happy Days; no explanation was given, and he was never mentioned again. When this happens now it is known as “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome”.
8. The fourth wall was broken in the final episode
By the time Happy Days came to an end in 1984, it had been on the air for 11 years and gone through a number of major cast upheavals, with many of the original stars having long since departed. Even so, it was an emotional moment when the beloved series bid a final farewell.
With this in mind, the final moments saw Tom Bosley step out of character, address the cameras directly and thank the audience for being a part of the Cunningham Family. A nice and fitting tribute to the fans.
7. Arnold wasn’t actually called Arnold
The character of Arnold, played by Pat Morita, reveals in one episode that his real name is actually called Mitsumo Takahashi. The reason for being called Arnold? When he bought the restaurant, Arnold’s, he didn’t have enough money to change the sign, and it was simpler to change his own name!
After Happy Days ended, Morita went on to receive an Oscar nomination for his performance as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, the role for which he is most fondly remembered today.
6. It was almost cancelled after one season
After the first season of Happy Days, the ratings were not good and the show was in danger of being cancelled. As word spread about the character, Fonzie, however, its reputation grew and more and more viewers tuned in and the show went on for a number of seasons and years.
Curiously, this has been the case for a number of the best-loved sitcoms of all time. 80s/90s classic Cheers also came close to getting axed after a single season.
5. Ron Howard originally turned down his role
Richie Cunningham is perfectly played by Ron Howard, but Howard initially turned down the role as he didn’t want to be typecast. He had already portrayed a 1950s teenager in George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti.
Garry Marshall promised Ron Howard that the characters would grow up and graduate from high school, which helped to convince Howard to take the role.
4. The show was nearly re-named, which didn’t go down well
The character of Fonzie proved so popular with viewers that the network seriously considered re-naming the series Fonzie’s Happy Days, or just simply Fonzie.
Ron Howard and Garry Marshall both threatened to resign and walk out if that happened, so the idea was scrapped.
3. Mork started off on Happy Days
Everyone’s favourite comedy alien of the era, Mork from Ork, started life on Happy Days. The outlandish character, portrayed by Robin Williams appeared in a couple of episodes and his lines were largely ad-libbed and unscripted.
This appearance went over so well that Williams’ alien got his own equally popular sitcom, Mork & Mindy (which confusingly was set in the present day rather than the 50s).
2. Tom Hanks also guest-starred
One episode also sees Tom Hanks appear as an old rival of Fonzie who has been training in martial arts and comes back wanting a fight to get revenge on The Fonz.
We’re not sure Winkler and Hanks got along, though. Years later Winkler was poised to direct Hanks in the movie Turner and Hooch, but the actor had him fired.
1. Only two characters call Fonzie by his real name
During the show’s run, The Fonz only let two characters get away with calling him by his real name. The two characters were Mrs Cunningham and Fonzie’s girlfriend, Ashley.
In case you don’t remember, Fonzie’s full birth name is Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli – but of course, ‘The Fonz’ sounds a lot cooler.