8 things you never knew about 'Love, American Style'
The romantic anthology delivered bedroom humor, bikinis and the birth of 'Happy Days.'
The Sexual Revolution may have swept through American pop culture in the 1970s, but changes were slow to come to television. It was not until 1987 that a woman appeared in a lingerie commercial wearing nothing but a bra, in an ad for Playtex. Trojan ran the first condom ad on television in 1991.
That being said, American mores began loosening up at a rapid rate in the late 1960s. Few TV shows were at the forefront of the Sexual Revolution like Love, American Style. The romantic-comedy anthology series bridged the gap between Laugh-In and The Love Boat, shaking up a frothy cocktail of wink-wink humor, double entendres and happy endings.
Between the years 1969–74, Love, American Style brought in enough celebrity guest stars to fill several Love Boats. Audiences delighted in seeing famous faces from television's gee-shucks era taking on racier material. Jane Wyatt of Father Knows Best talked about birth control. Dwayne "Dobie Gillis" Hickman cracked marijuana jokes. Gary Lockwood of Star Trek shoved a doorknob in his mouth.
Love, American Style also proved to be a breeding ground for future talent, too. Let's take a closer look at this overlooked series.
1. The show spawned more spin-offs and indirect spin-offs than any show in American history.
This is largely thanks to Happy Days (1974), which was born from the Love, American Style segment "Love and the Television Set." That massive hit, of course, led to Laverne & Shirley (1976), Blansky's Beauties (1977), Mork & Mindy (1978), Out of the Blue (1979), The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980), Laverne & Shirley in the Army (1981), Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour (1982) and Joanie Loves Chachi (1982). Additionally, there was Barefoot in the Park (1970) and the fascinating Wait Till Your Father Gets Home (1972)…
2. The spin-off 'Wait Till Your Father Gets Home' was the most successful primetime cartoon between 'The Flintstones' and 'The Simpsons.'
Like Happy Days, Hanna-Barbera's Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was a spin-off of Love, American Style. The pilot originally aired in the episode "Love and the Old-Fashioned Father." That was not the cartoon's only link to the Fonz. Tom Bosley, Mr. Cunningham himself, voiced Harry Boyle, the titular father in the animated series, which was heavily inspired by All in the Family.
Image: The Everett Collection
3. Garry Marshall wrote segments under the pseudonym "Samuro Mitsubi."
The series also featured popular "blackout" segments, brief comedy bits that opened and filled the gaps between episodes. A regular cast of actors played out these cheeky, typically Benny Hill–like shorts. They were credited to the writers "Samuro Mitsubi & Tawisaki Kwi" — goofy pen-names for Garry Marshall and his long-time creative partner Jerry Belson. Marshal would go on to create Happy Days and all of its sprawling family of sitcoms.
4. The show's bombshell Phyllis Davis was nearly a Bond girl.
Often clad in a swimsuit, Phyllis Davis stole the spotlight in those "blackout" shorts. The actress who had once roomed with choreographer Toni Basil had previously turned down a role in Elia Kazan's The Arrangement (1969) as she did not want to appear topless on film. However, that quickly became common practice in exploitation films like Sweet Sugar and Terminal Island, after Love, American Style launched her into sex idol status. Davis had signed on to become a Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever, but was replaced just before filming due to contractual reasons.
5. Characters were often getting stuck on something.
Gary Lockwood's doorknob fiasco is the most well known episode, but many episodes centered around newlyweds in sticky situations. Other honeymoon high jinks included Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello stuck together inside a tuba in "Love and the Tuba" and Monte Markham stuck in a medieval chastity belt on his wedding night in "Love and those Poor Crusaders' Wives."
6. The original theme song was sung by the Cowsills, the inspiration behind the Partridge Family.
A bouncy, infectious theme song certainly helped the show's appeal. The harmonic family band inspired The Partridge Family. However, after the first season of Love, American Style, their version was replaced with a cover sung by the Ron Hicklin Singers, credited as the Charles Fox Singers. The Ron Hicklin Singers belted out immortal theme songs to Batman, Happy Days and Wonder Woman. Oh, and they were also the real voices on Partridge Family records. It's a small world.
7. Harrison Ford plays a free spirited fiancé in one episode.
Ford played a young lover on the show, in "Love and the Former Marriage." His character gets cold feet after he spends an evening with his fiancée's divorced parents.
8. There have been several attempts at a reboot.
In 1985, ABC brought back a short-lived New Love American Style for daytime. However, The Price Is Right drubbed it in the ratings and the network scrapped it after mere months. Melissa Joan Hart starred in a pilot that aired in 1999 — but that failed to go to series. More recently, in 2013, CBS announced a reboot, which seemingly went nowhere. Perhaps because that Love, American Style was to feature Canadian writers?
Image: ABC / YouTube