13 tiny details you never noticed in early episodes of Happy Days
Look for these little details in the second season!
Over its 11-year run, Happy Days underwent many changes, from its visual style to its cast. The hit Seventies sitcom about the Fifties featured fascinating little details in its early years. The first two seasons stand out for several reasons.
Let's take a deep dive into the details.
1. Linda Purl played Richie's girlfriend years before she was Fonzie's girlfriend.
Younger generations might recognize Linda Purl as Pam Beesly's mom (and Michael Scott's brief love interest) on The Office. Decades earlier, she was Gloria, Richie's steady in a handful of early Happy Days episodes. Look for her in the first episodes of season two, notably "Richie Moves Out" and "Richie's Car." But! Purl returned to Happy Days in the Eighties to play Ashley Pfister, the single mother who becomes the love of Fonzie's life. Remember her daughter, Heather, portrayed by Heather "They're he-e-e-re" O'Rourke of Poltergeist fame?
2. There was briefly a replacement Chuck.
Chuck, Richie's older brother, is the forgotten Cunningham family member. The character is overlooked in general, but it is especially easy to forget that two actors played the elder sibling. Randolph Roberts, seen here, appeared in just two episodes ("Richie Moves Out" and "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas") in season two before the character vanished without a trace nor a mention. Heck, in the series finale, Howard Cunningham declares how proud he is of his "two kids"! Ouch!
3. Ron Howard reunited with "Mr. McBeevee."
"Mr. McBeevee" remains one of the most beloved episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. You know, the one in which Opie meets a jingling man in a silver hat (telephone company employee) who Barney and Andy find to be beyond belief? Karl Swenson played the role — and reunited with "Opie" in "Richie's Car" when he appeared as a police sergeant!
4. This might be Laverne's forgotten relative.
"Who's Sorry Now" reunited Richie with one of his old girlfriends (more on that in the next item). Pay close attention to her friend at the diner, a girl who once endured an uncomfortable "Juicy Fruit" kiss with Potsie. The character's name? "Rita DeFazio." Of course, DeFazio is the surname of Laverne in the Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley. Is this Laverne's lost cousin? Sister? How many DeFazios could there be in suburban Milwaukee in the 1950s?
5. Footage from the 1972 pilot was recycled.
As we mentioned, "Who's Sorry Now?" sees the return of Arlene Nestrock, Richie's girlfriend from "three years earlier." There is even a flashback in which we see a younger Richie meeting Arlene. Considering this is just the third episode of the second season, how did they record such footage? Well, this scene is taken from "Love and the Television Set," the pilot that aired as an episode of Love, American Style in 1972, similar to how Star Trek recycled elements of its pilot "The Cage" for "The Menagerie." The characters also make reference to the plot, remembering how the Cunninghams were the "first family in town to own a TV."
6. The Cunninghams inhereted decorations from the Brady Bunch — or should that be the other way around?
The Cunninghams may have been ahead of the curve with their fancy new television set, but some decor in their home was secondhand. Take a close look at the green tile art hanging by the kitchen door in "Fonzie's Getting Married." The same prop was formerly seen nailed to wood paneling in the living room of The Brady Bunch, seen here behind Cindy. (Both sitcoms had ties to Paramount Studios, which explains that.) Of course, Happy Days took place in the 1950s, while the Brady dwelled in the early 1970s, so perhaps we should say the Bradys inherited it from the Cunninghams?
7. This pinball machine did not exist in the 1950s.
The Bally Nip-It pinball machine first hit arcades in 1973. It introduced a new "Balligator" feature to game play. So how exactly was Richie Cunningham leaning against the machine in the 1950s? Look for the pinball machine in "You Go to My Head."
8. But the magazines are period appropriate.
The pinball machine may have been anachronistic, but we must give Happy Days credit for details in the reading material. In "Not with My Sister, You Don't," Howard peruses an issue of LIFE in bed. That particular issue hit newsstands in April of 1957. That's legendary television comedian Ernie Kovacs on the cover, undoubtedly an influence on Garry Marshall.
9. Tony Randall went uncredited in a fake werewolf movie.
In "Not with My Sister, You Don't," Joanie goes on a date with Fonzie's nephew and clone, Spike. The young pair take in a werewolf movie. Notice who's playing the lead in this fictional film? It's phony footage featuring Tony Randall of The Odd Couple, making an uncredited cameo as the werewolf!
10. Garry Marshall's kids played trick-or-treaters.
Happy Days was obviously a family affair for Garry Marshall — his sister Penny popped up as Laverne DeFazio! Those are not the only members of the Marshall clan onscreen! In "Haunted," the Halloween episode, his three children Kathleen (princess), Scott (cowboy) and Lori (witch) play young trick-or-treaters!
11. Garry Marshall himself drummed.
Marshall made cameos himself — behind a drumset. Look for his first appearance behind the kit in "Fonzie's Getting Married," keeping the beat in nightclub with the exotic dancer (a.k.a. Fonzie's girl).
12. "Fonzie's Getting Married" was an experiment with a studio audience.
Garry's rhythmic cameo is hardly the only notable thing about "Fonzie's Getting Married." The episode — midway through the second season — was also the show's experiment with a live studio audience. Up to that point, the series had filmed with a single camera and laugh track, like The Andy Griffith Show, giving Happy Days a cinematic look. However, Happy Days experiment with a three-camera sitcom format, the same pioneered by I Love Lucy. The network must have liked what it saw because Happy Days permanently switched to this production format in season three.
13. Happy Days producer Bob Brunner played Clarabell the Clown.
The season-two episode "The Howdy Doody Show" brings together two beloved television classics. Joanie appears on the popular children's program, while Richie is tempted to grab a photograph of Clarabell the Clown without his makeup. Buffalo Bob Smith, host of the original Howdy Doody, guest-stars as himself. However, that is not the "real" Clarabell. Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), J. Cornelius Cobb and Lew Anderson were the original actors under the makeup. In this episode, however, it is Happy Days producer and writer Bob Brunner!
Eventually the actors stopped caring about clothing and hairstyles and didn't even try to look like the period they were supposed to be in.
A good example is the absolutely awful character of Chachi.
The writing in the last years of the show was embarrassingly bad.
'S1 E3' when Richie gets drunk was pretty funny.
Richie: "All we had was some beer in teeny-weeny glasses"
Howard: "How many teeny-weeny glasses did you have?"
Or 'S1 E4', when Richie sneaks out to watch Fonzie drag race in Ralphs hot rod;
'S1 E7' when Richie convinces Fonzie to go back to school, then refuses to help him cheat;
'S1 E10' when Richie and the guys get taken in a rigged poker game and Howard wins their money back for them;
'S1 E13' when Richie brings home the beatnik girl;
'S1 E15' when Potsie's bike is stolen by a gang member, and Fonzie has to rescue the guys in a pool hall on the gang members' turf.
Lots of good episodes in Season 1!
I watched Happy Days in first run religiously for many seasons, but grew out of it - or it grew away from me. I tried a few years ago to watch early episodes (definitely the better episodes) on MeTV, but just couldn't get into it. Maybe in my late 50s, teenaged hijinks have lost their appeal.