Happy Days almost got a new name in season three
Ron Howard had to step in and put his foot down.
By season three of Happy Days, the show had found its footing and was becoming the smash hit that we remember it as today. Viewers tuned in each week to see Richie, Potsie, Joanie, and Fonzie — especially Fonzie.
Yes, Fonzie-mania had hit the airwaves. Henry Winkler in his cool leather jacket with his easily-quotable catchphrases was TV gold. People couldn't get enough. The problem came when the network tried to lean a little too hard into the phenomena.
"We had done two seasons," Ron Howard said recently on Rob Lowe's podcast, Literally. "Henry [Winkler] had exploded in the character and it really was, that thing had set in. It would take another year or two to really peak but it was happening."
However, all was not well in the Cunningham household. "In the second season, Good Times with Jimmie "J.J." Walker and [his catch phrase] 'Dy-no-mite' had started beating our show."
Ron Howard started to feel like a secondary character in his own show. But where he finally drew the line was when a new executive wanted to change the title of Happy Days to something a little more Fonzie-focused.
The executive thought that Fonzie with his cool "whoa" could beat J.J. with "dy-no-mite". "But he wanted to go all the way to call the show Fonzie’s Happy Days," Howard said. "I declined to cooperate with that."
So Howard put his foot down and the show stayed Happy Days, though Fonzie continued to be a large focus of the show.
Still, Howard doesn't have any bad blood with Winkler. "From day one he was inventing and owning that character and they just said, 'Hey, we know how to write for this guy,' and they went for it," Howard said. He wasn't upset with Winkler, just the decisions by the executives. "I was annoyed by the way higher-ups then dealt with me and responded to me."
In fact, Winkler and Howard remain friends to this day, and Winkler is the godfather to all four of Howard's kids. Howard may have kept Fonzie out of the title, but he certainly didn't keep him out of his life.