Ted McGinley expected to be fired from Happy Days immediately
In the Eighties, Ted McGinley was basically a model who got by on his good looks alone, considered the male version of Farrah Fawcett.
You may not realize this, but in the history of Happy Days, there are two episodes called "Great Expectations."
The first episode called "Great Expectations" was in the first season and found Richie Cunningham befriending a beatnik girl who spends an evening showing the Cunninghams a different lifestyle choice.
The second episode called "Great Expectations" came in the show’s ninth season, centering on Roger Phillips attempting to assume a new persona, coached by Fonzie. Roger hopes that in following the Fonz’s advice, he’ll have a better shot with the ladies.
For Roger Phillips actor Ted McGinley, his episode of "Great Expectations" was perhaps one of his greatest acting challenges on the show, after the actor got cast out of nowhere to step into Ron Howard’s shoes and become Happy Days' new star in 1980.
You see, when McGinley joined Happy Days, he had no acting experience at all and his sense of comedic timing by his own reports were sincerely lacking. He told The Morning Call in 1982 that he can’t stand watching his early Happy Days episodes because he feels so awkward about what he views as lackluster performances.
"It’s a wonder they didn’t fire me," McGinley said. "I realized I had to work on my lines at home and concentrate on the set before my cues. It was all so new. I’m bumbling away, and I hear stories of Ronny Howard, who forgot his lines just twice in seven-and-a-half years."
Despite his inexperience as an actor, McGinley famously won the role of Roger after ABC held a nationwide talent search.
At the time, McGinley had done some acting in commercials, but primarily he worked as a model. Considered the male version of Farrah Fawcett, his flowing blonde hair graced glossy magazines with national distribution.
It happened that the head of ABC talent was flipping through one of these magazines and saw McGinley grinning back. She immediately asked him to come into ABC for a screen test.
"I did it, and the next thing I knew, I was on Happy Days," McGinley told TheAlbuquerque Journal in 1982. "It was a very strange sequence of events."
At the time, McGinley had an agent at one of the country’s top modeling and talent agencies in Los Angeles. She also ran a modeling school where she told The Palm Beach Post in 1982 that she had a young pupil who asked her once what the odds were that he could become the next Ted McGinley.
"It just so happens Ted is one of my clients, so I told him the truth," the talent agent said. "I looked the young man right in the eye and said: 'Ted McGinley is a very handsome man. You’re not. There is no one in the entire apprentice group here whom I would term beautiful.'"
She said what happened to Ted was so rare, she never expected it to happen that way for anyone else in her career. "Sure, there will always be exceptions like Ted or Farrah (Fawcett)," she said, explaining that it was their exceptional beauty that made the difference.
"The plain fact is, looks count," she said. "I can call any producer in town and get one of my girls an interview, because all my girls are beautiful, but getting the job is up to them. Looks will open the door, but you’ve got to make it on talent."
McGinley recognized that his looks would only take him so far, learning fast that if he was going to make it as an actor, he needed to hone his talents, too.
He studied his costars Henry Winkler, Marion Ross and Tom Bosley, and then he enrolled in an improv class where he felt more confident trying out different approaches.
"I learned everything there," McGinley told The Morning Call. "I was taught timing. I learned to listen and was able to make a fool of myself and not worry about it. All I had was looks, so I was very insecure."
McGinley, of course, did go very far as an actor with such good looks, taking on starring roles after Happy Days on The Love Boat and Married With Children. He can still be seen starring in TV shows today.
Despite his reputation as a TV show killer, his continued success is likely a combination of how seriously he took his growth as an actor as well as those glorious blonde locks that got him in all those glossy magazines that launched his acting career.
In 1998, one of McGinley’s costars in the movie Major League 3, actor Scott Bakula joked to TheFort Worth Star-Telegram that the most fun he had doing the movie was "getting to make fun of Ted McGinley’s hair."