Ron Howard admits he felt ''disrespect'' when Happy Days shifted focus to Fonzie

Richie was supposed to be the lead character. The Fonz changed all that.

The Everett Collection

On Friday, November 12, Ron Howard appeared on The Graham Norton Show. The former-child-star-turned-acclaimed-director made a surprising revelation to the British host. Happy Days were not entirely happy for the actor.

"It was a really interesting kind of paradoxical situation because the show began and the Richie Cunningham character was the undeniable lead of the show," Howard explained.

"When we would go out of the road to promote the show, it was just insane, focused on Fonzie, clearly that was very exciting," the former Opie explained. "Except the executives, studio heads, network heads, you know, they started treating me with a lot of disrespect from a business standpoint [and] in terms of interaction."

Howard added, "The press kept saying 'What's it like? Do you feel like you've become a secondhand citizen on your own show?'"

But he was quick to explain this in no way affected his relationship with his Fonzie co-star Henry Winkler.

"I certainly didn't feel it within our friendship, which endures to this day," Howard said. "He's the godfather of all four of my kids."

Howard remains rather sanguine about the experience in hindsight. He credited the studio's treatment of him as the inspiration to become a director.

"More than anything, it reminded me…to pursue my own dream," he said, "which was to be in charge of productions, the stories I wanted to tell and be the filmmaker."

Howard would leave Happy Days at the end of its seventh season, shifting the focus even further to Fonzie, who became a teacher and family man. Richie Cunningham would return in season 11 for a two-part event, "Welcome Home." But it was clearly Fonzie's show by then.

Watch the Graham Norton interview below.

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19611313 30 months ago
Cant watch this show anymore. Just don' t care for it. The opening these though is great.
Somehow Fonzi @ 5' 7" is supposed to be some real tuff guy?
bagandwallyfan52 30 months ago
I liked The Kissing Bandit of
Happy Days and The Fonz Is
Allergic To Girls episodes of Happy Days.
METV Please Add The following shows to Metv:
Pee Wee Herman Movies
Eddie Cantor Movies
Joe Penner Movies and
Pee Wees Playhouse
I wish that Eddie Cantor and
Pee Wee Herman and Joe Penner had been around at the
Same Time making comedy movies TOGETHER as a TRIO
And Eddie Cantor and Joe Penner and Pee Wee Herman
Could have called themselves
The Three Nitwits.
Also please keep The 3 Stooges on Metv until the end of time

Broomhilda 31 months ago
I always saw Ritchie Cunningham as the lead role. If Happy Days was a soup, Fonzie was a seasoning - like Potsie & Ralph. Ritchie’s & his family was the meat & potatoes.
StrayCat 31 months ago
This isn’t the first time a show’s star felt threatened by the emergence of another cast member who proved a little too popular with the viewers. When Jeri Ryan was added to the cast of Star Trek Voyager, the show’s star Kate Mulgrew was not only threatened but outraged, and expressed her outrage on a daily basis. Most actors have rather fragile egos.
DavidGegenhuber 31 months ago
The show worked because of the juxtaposed relationship between Richie and the Fonz...IMO, the show went downhill fast after Ron Howard left, and fully "jump the shark" tanked by the end.
Moose 31 months ago
Imagine if they served Tranya in Arnold’s Diner…
AnnieM Moose 31 months ago
ncadams27 31 months ago
Ron shouldn’t complain - look what happened to his brother Chuck.
MrsPhilHarris 31 months ago
I commented on this in the Beatle visiting the set story, but I’ll say it again here. This is just my opinion, but I liked the first few seasons before the live studio audience and it becoming The Fonzie Show. It went from a somewhat adult show with a cool Fonzie to a little kid or pre-tween show and a rather cartoony Fonzie. With all the aaaaaays, correctamundos, thumping on various things (jukeboxes, pop machines, etc.) to get them to work and what not I felt the character and show lost its charm.
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harlow1313 31 months ago
This comment has been removed.
harlow1313 Tbatman66 31 months ago
I'm not big on tribal labeling. There are both "liberal" and "conservative" notions that have merit and are worth consideration.

Spike and Chachi on HAPPY Days at the SAME Time?
That would have meant
Double Problems and
Double Trouble for Fonzie.
327053 31 months ago
I love everything Happy Days! I just don’t understand why seasons 7-11 haven’t been released on DVD yet! I mean come on!! Aaayyyyyyy!!!
327053 31 months ago
This comment has been removed.
327053 Tbatman66 31 months ago
Good point. Maybe after Ron Howard left they ran out of ideas. Same thing happened when Cindy Williams left Laverne and Shirley. The final season was stinky.🤮
bagandwallyfan52 327053 30 months ago
Its too bad that seasons
7-11 of Happy Days has not
Been released on DVD.
I liked the Happy Days
Characters Roger Phillips
Jenny Piccalo Eugene Belvin Melvin Belvin
Bobby Melner and Tommy.
During seasons 1-6 I liked
Richie Cunningham
Chuck Cunningham
Howard and Marion
Mickey Malph
bagandwallyfan52 327053 30 months ago
I also thought that Moose
(Barry Greenberg) from
Season one of Happy Days.
bagandwallyfan52 327053 30 months ago
Moose was a great character on season one of Happy Days.
There's another theory about The Disappearance of Chuck Cunningham on
Happy Days:
Chuck Cunningham was never on HAPPY Days because Richie Cunningham had a vivid
Dream that he had a brother named CHUCK CUNNINGHAM.
Funny thing is Chuck had
Red Hair in some of the
Dreams of Richie Cunningham and in the
Later dreams of Richie's
Chuck had brown hair and
Chuck had a different face.
Gatecash5 bagandwallyfan52 12 months ago
Why didn't they just bring Chuck back when they brought in Roger Phillips... They could have come up with some reason he was gone for so long. Roger was a basketball coach... Chuck walked around with a basketball all the time. Missed opportunity.
Andybandit 31 months ago
I didn't like Happy Days once Richie was in the Military. Jenny Piccolo character was a waste. She should have stayed hidden. Sorry.
327053 Andybandit 31 months ago
Good point. Jenny should have stayed hidden, but just mentioned as in the earlier seasons.🙄
Coldnorth 327053 26 months ago
I didn’t like her character acting like a nymph. It’s interesting that the Cunninghams would let Joanie hang out with her. She played the part well, I didn’t care for her character.
LoveMETV22 31 months ago
Happy Days was a great show. Ron Howard was a major reason for it's success. How fortunate he followed his inspiration. Not only is he an amazing actor but a stellar producer. I like a lot of the movies he has directed but in particular:
1985- Cocoon
1995- Apollo 13
1996- Ransom
2006- The Da Vinci Code
An impressive career from beginning to present day.
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 31 months ago
Indeed! Love Apollo 13. Seen it dozens of times but it’s still exciting.
Michael LoveMETV22 31 months ago
And every film, a role for his brother Clint.
LoveMETV22 Michael 31 months ago
Not every film, but 17 of them . Not to bad though.
DerekJ LoveMETV22 31 months ago
Also, Willow!
LoveMETV22 DerekJ 31 months ago
Technically his image appears, but don't believe it is a credited role though. I think big brother Ron chose that.
rstuv 31 months ago
I really liked the first two seasons. I didn't care at all for the way it changed in the third season. But I can remember one funny moment after the change when Richie and Fonz we're stuck in a girls' dorm disguised as girl students, and Ralph and Postie broke in to do a panty raid. So at least one good gag.
rstuv rstuv 31 months ago
I mean Potsie.
Peter_Falk_Fan 31 months ago
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. - Alexander Graham Bell

I'm glad that Ron Howard saw the door that opened to him.
madvincent Peter_Falk_Fan 31 months ago
When he called for Watson he came through a door from the next room ... lol
harlow1313 31 months ago
Bottom line? Bottom line (and it showed).

Though I am not a big fan of the show, I do enjoy the first two seasons, particularly more grounded episodes. To me, the Fonz was more interesting as a bit of a mystery outsider.

As I have overstated here in comments, Moose is my favorite character on the show. A real outsider.
Barry22 harlow1313 31 months ago
The first two seasons it was a good show. After that, just another silly sitcom. "Ayyyyyyyyy"
Runeshaper 31 months ago
WOW! I never knew that Richie felt that way. Definitely some interesting insight. I'm glad that he stayed close with the Fonz (-:
denny Runeshaper 31 months ago
At one time they were going to change the name of the show to Fonzi and the Gang, or something similar. Howard said he would quit and Winkler said no as well.
Runeshaper denny 31 months ago
That's super interesting! Thanks for sharing (-:
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