There's actually a good reason why Happy Days fans can't remember who came first: Al or Arnold

Getting your timeline straight on two of sitcom history's favorite diner owners is harder than you might think.

When Happy Days fans feel nostalgic for their favorite Fifties-based sitcom, it's likely that scenes from Arnold's Diner come to mind.

Richie and Fonzie and the gang made it their No. 1 hangout, and through the course of the series, you'll likely remember the diner had two owners. One was named Arnold, as in Arnold's Diner, and portrayed by Pat Morita. The other was named Al Delvecchio, portrayed by Al Molinaro.

It's established on the show that ownership of the diner changed hands during the fourth season premiere in 1976, a three-part episode called "Fonzie Loves Pinky."

From this episode on, we know Big Al as the owner of Arnold's, so many people wrong attribute "Fonzie Loves Pinky" as the first time we saw Molinaro on the show.

In actuality, Big Al appears in the diner before Arnold ever does.

The first episode to feature Al Delvecchio came in the second season. It's called "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas," and it's the first Christmas-themed Happy Days episode. In it, we meet Big Al as a cook at Arnold's, not the owner. That's where the confusion lies, even for people who helped create Happy Days.

During an interview with the Television Academy, even Happy Days screenwriter Lowell Ganz couldn't keep his diner owners straight:

"Al had been there originally," Ganz said confidently. "Al was there first. Al was there before Pat."

But then he loses some confidence, asking the interviewer to confirm whether he remembered that right:

"Wasn't he?" Ganz asked. "Al left, and then Pat came in, and then Al came back. That's what it was. I think!"

Later in the interview, Ganz panicked, wondering if he got it wrong and actually Pat came first, and it was Pat who came back. He was convinced he was right, and the complicated truth is, he was right both times.

Here's a breakdown of the timeline:

Molinaro appears on the show before Morita, in 1974.

Pat Morita is then memorably introduced in a two-part 1975 episode called "Fearless Fonzarelli." In his first scene, he shoots Fonzie a disapproving look, shaking his head in what would become his trademark move.

Big Al, on the other hand, was known more for simply sighing at the antics of the Happy Days gang.

In 1976, Morita told the Television Academy that he had actually signed on for two or even three more seasons of Happy Days, fully planning to stick around as the diner owner Arnold.

"People ask me, 'Well, why did you leave Happy Days?'" Morita said. "I really didn't leave Happy Days."

He said when the ink was still fresh on his Happy Days contract, he remembered TV producer James Komack (Welcome Back, Kotter) and ABC executive Michael Eisner approached him.

"Pat we think you've got a great future with ABC," they said. "Would you like to have a show of your own?"

"Sure, I'd like that," Morita said, explaining that's what he always wanted for the pinnacle of his career.

But he had one question: "What're you talking about?"

What they were talking about became Mr. T. & Tina, the first series with Morita in the lead.

"So they convince me it would be a right move to make," Morita said. "And of course, it was totally exciting."

Unfortunately, the show ended up totally failing, airing only four episodes. That freed Morita up to return to appear on Happy Days in its 1982–83 season.

During that time, Molinaro continued appearing on the show, with his final appearance in the show's final season.

You can probably see now why the Happy Days screenwriter got lost tracing the characters on the show, and in fact, the first episode to show Al Delvecchio bothered the show writers so much that they actually updated the episode twice to try to keep things straight for fans catching the show in reruns.

So when "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas" aired as a rerun in 1975, it came with a new intro segment where the Fonz is telling Arnold the story of the episode, as if it is a flashback.

Then in 1976, when Morita was gone and Big Al was back, the Fonzie intro segment was reshot with Al instead of Pat, so Fonzie's still telling it as a flashback, but this time to Al.

Most commonly when this episode is aired today, fans see the version with Al. According to Marion Ross (Mrs. C), it's probably one of the few times we saw Al a little more scripted.

"Al Molinaro is another very funny, wonderful guy," Ross told the Television Academy. "The script would just say Al does his thing. And they'd just let him loose."

She said Morita was just as talented with his improvisations, and in his interview, Morita expressed regret over choosing Mr. T. & Tina over more time with Mr. & Mrs. C.

Molinaro appeared in more than 100 episodes of Happy Days and during the 1992 cast reunion, he revealed how much he cherished his time on the show, which he considered a significant piece of TV history.

"In the industry, they used to consider us like a bubble-gum show," Molinaro said. "But I think they overlooked one thing. To the public in America, Happy Days was an important show, and I think it was and I think it still is."

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JMFabianoRPL 28 months ago
OK this makes me more confused...

Fonz talks to Arnold as if a flashback about an episode where Al's in the restaurant? Wouldn't it seem like he was telling Arnold about the future? (Well the Fonz WAS a time traveler at one per his Saturday Morning cartoon...)
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 28 months ago
You've left off an important part of the Al & Arnold story. When Al Molinaro left to be part of the spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi", Arnold/Pat came back. Not sure how many episodes Mr. Morita appeared in after that, but you might want to update this article to include that information.,
Agreed. If they have to axe a character, at least have some kind of explanation, like "Chuck was killed in a car accident". Same with Judy on "Family Matters" a few years later, they could have made out like she was either hit by a car or died from some childhood illness, it wouldn't have been necessary to show the actual characters for a plot like that.

Last weekend another oldies channel had a marathon of "The Royal Family", a series I personally had never heard of, starring Redd Foxx, who died after only a few episodes were made. Episode #7 dealt with his passing, his character's friends came to the door to tell his wife he'd passed away during their bowling tournament. Believeable without leaving weird holes in the story.
I like Funny or Die's explanation:

"We never see (X) again....he/she probably effin' killed themselves!" (usually in response to a one-shot Saved By The Bell character, to prove that Zack Morris is trash...)
JeffPaul76 39 months ago
I agree with most of the people on here in that I don't like Happy Days with Fonzie as the main character, after Richie left which was a big mistake. Ron Howard never should have left the show. And, I don't like when they got rid of Chuck Cunningham.
Mark091 JeffPaul76 38 months ago
I also liked the character of
GAVAN O Herlihy and
RANDOLPH Roberts both did
An excellent job of playing Chuck Cunningham
1980 and there was an announcement that Chuck Cunningham was returning to
Happy Days and that the character of Jenny Piccalo
Would finally be seen on
Happy Days. But it didn't happen
Instead of Chuck Cunningham returning a new character of
Roger Phillips Ted Mcginley
Came on HD as the new
Basketball coach The producers of Happy Days should have made Chuck Cunningham (
Randolph Roberts or Gavan
O Herlihy the assistant basketball coach to head
Basketball coach Roger Phillips Ted Mcginley.
Also I wish that BAG Zombroski Neil J Schwartz Eugene Belvin Denis Mandel Melvin Belvin
Scott Bernstein and MOOSE
Barry Greenberg had not
Dissapeared from Happy Days
With no explanation like Chuck Cunningham vanished.
Bag was a great practical Joker
Character and Wally Plumstead Skip Young was a great practical Joker on The Adventures of OZZIE and Harriet.
Daphne (Hillary Horan) who
One of the persons to play the
Drums in Richie's band was a
Cute girl . Hillary Horan also
Played DR Ludlow's assistant in
The Episode Welcome to my
Nightmare where Dr Ludlow
Wanted to have Fonzie's Cool
By creating a Fonzie lookalike
Named Dougie .
Spike Danny Butch was another
Great character who should have stayed on Happy Days
Instead of only appearing in
Only 4 Episodes.
CHACHI were the four
Chari who played the drums in Richie's band.
Deleted 39 months ago
This comment has been removed.
JeffPaul76 39 months ago
Your comment doesn't belong on here. Please don't do it again. Thank you.
Douglas 28 months ago
I flagged Andivis comment to METV for spamming.
Mark091 39 months ago
There was a funny epilogue on
The Happy Days episode called
Fonzie The Salesman. There is no
Dialogue in this epilogue except
Background music of either Bobby
Darin or someone else singing
Splish Splash. The epilogue is about
Richie Potsie and Ralph carrying
Encyclopedias to a woman's apartment and shortly FONZIE shows
Up .This was a very funny epilogue.

Mark091 Mark091 39 months ago
Another funny epilogue on Happy Days was the episode
Tell It To The Marines
A girl comes out the restroom
Wearing glasses and a funny nose . Then Ralph Malph Donny Most shows up at Arnolds and
Puts the same thing on his face
And then Ralph and the girl start dancing . Olivia (Amy Irving)
Was in the epilogue and Olivia
Was happy that Ralph finally found a girl with Ralph's sense
Of humor
Mark091 39 months ago
I would like to see METV write an
Article on actor Ed Peck who played
Officer Kirk on Happy Days several times. In the Happy Days episode
AKA The Fonz Officer Kirk is surprised when Richie Potsie
Ralph and several towns people
And merchants came into Arnolds
Drive in wearing leather jackets
Just like FONZIE'S leather jacket
What was the name of the actor
Who played Officer EVANS in the
AKA the Fonz episode??!!
Mark091 39 months ago
The characters That mentioned
Below(Ralph Malph Roger Phillips
Jenny Piccalo ETC were all on
Happy Days.
Mark091 39 months ago
I hope that MeTv will decide to write
Articles on Practical Jokers
Ralph Malph Donny Most
Bag Zombroski Neil J Schwartz
And Bobby Melner Harris Kal
I would also like to see articles
Melvin Belvin Scott Bernstein
Moose Barry Greenberg
Roger Phillips Ted McGinley
Chuck Cunningham Gavan O Herlihy
Chuck Cunningham Randolph Roberts
And that wild Jenny Piccalo Cathy Silvers.

Mark091 Mark091 39 months ago
Also I heard that Cathy Silvers AKA Jenny Piccalo wants to
Have a Happy Days reboot series
Mark091 40 months ago
The girl that MOOSE Barry Greenberg
Was dancing with was played by Carey Williams.
Carey Williams looks a lot like
Carol Williams who played MARALEE
On the 3rd season episode
John Anthony Bailey.
Carey Williams and Carol Williams
Might be the same person or 2
Different persons.
It's too bad that Moose only
Appeared in 3 Episodes just like
CLARENCE the cook (Gary Friekon)
And it's too bad that Moose never
Got to talk on the show.
MOOSE Barry Greenberg might have
Been good friends on HAPPY DAYS
With Eugene Belvin Denis Mandel and
Melvin Belvin Scott Bernstein but
MOOSE EUGENE BELVIN and Melvin Belvin were not on Happy Days at the
Same time.
ncadams27 40 months ago
Many people expect TV characters to be fully developed characters just as if they were real. TV shows are notorious for character inconsistencies and errors in continuity. Just look at Chuck.
BuckeyeBeth 40 months ago
Marion Ross said Pat Morita was just as talented with his improvisations.

I can definitely see that because as I understand it Pat Morita started out in the business as a standup comedian. In fact just a few weeks ago YouTube suggested to me a 1965 stand-up that Pat did with a introduction by Tony Randall. If you want to watch it just be aware that there is a timing strip in the upper right hand corner of the video. Apparently this is a surviving editors/producers copy and unfortunately it does cover Pats face about half the time. It's still interesting to see Pat/Mr. Miyagi doing standup. 😆
KirwoodDerby 40 months ago
As I recall, Arnold (Morita) explains early on in the series that he was called Arnold simply because the sign out front said “Arnold’s”. Anyone else recall it that way?
KathyMcKinny KirwoodDerby 40 months ago
Yes, in fact he even says to Richie "Signs very expensive, I not change the know how many letters in Takahashi??? (his real name in the show was Matsuo Takahashi)
Wiseguy 40 months ago
Why are they showing the version with the new intros now? They should just show the original episode as it was seen in 1974. There's no need to explain why Fonzie is not living with the Cunninghams or why Richie's brother is still there.
ncadams27 Wiseguy 40 months ago
I agree - I want to watch shows as they originally aired.
Mark091 ncadams27 40 months ago
On the Happy Days episode
Give The Band A Hand RICHIE Cunningham Ron Howard
Potsie Webber Anson Williams
Ralph Malph Donny Most and
Bag Zombroski Neil J Schwartz
Are playing an instrumental
Version of the Elvis Presley
Song All Shook Up.
TV Land TBS Nick at Nite and
WGN left out the scene where
Potsie did a vocal version of
All Shook UP BUT METV showed
Potsie singing that song
LarryAJacobsen Mark091 28 months ago
I'll bet those other networks cut it out so they could show more commercials.
MrsPhilHarris 40 months ago
I have never sent Fonzie recollect that episode.
If you goto the METV story called
Christopher Knight did not want to do The Brady Bunch Variety Show and the date of the story is June23
2023 and at the bottom of the comments is the Happy Days clip from Guess Who's Coming To Visit where Moose played by Barry Greenberg I'd dancing with a girl Carey Williams) at Arnold's Drive In.
Mark091 40 months ago
I have a question about the first
Season of Happy Days.
There was a heavyset kid with the
Name MOOSE played by
There was also a heavset guy with
The name BAG played by
So my question is:
Who appeared on HAPPY DAYS
First -BAG or MOOSE?
Also there were 2 waitresses on
Happy Days-MARSHA and WENDY.
Did Wendy or Marsha appear on
Happy Days first??????????
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dougandandyfan harlow1313 12 months ago
Harlow 1313 :
If you read the June 23 2023 article called Chrisopher Knight Did Not Want To To Do The Brady Bunch
Variety Show you will see at the bottom of the comments the
Clip from Guess Who's Coming To
Visit where Moose (Barry Greenberg)is dancing with the girl played by actress Carey Williams.
dougandandyfan harlow1313 12 months ago
I'm starting several Fan Clubs on
Facebook oncluding a Fan Club for
MOOSE EUGENE BELVIN and Melvin Belvin called The Moose Eugene And Melvin Club .All Fan Clubs on
Facebook are Free and it's also free to join Facebook. My Fan Club
Honors Happy Days Characters
Moose played by Barry Greenberg Eugene Belvin played by Denis Mandel and Melvin Belvin played by Scott Bernstein.
harlow1313 11 months ago
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Corey 40 months ago
Al Molinaro played Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple directed by Garry Marshall.
LittleMissNoName Corey 40 months ago
Morita was also a guest star on The Odd Couple.
Kelley1 40 months ago
The Karate Kid was released 6/22/84. That date was about halfway through the Happy Days series run (give or take a season). Therefore Pat Morita/Mr. Miyagi was the first owner on Happy Days because he quit to play Mr. Miyagi. That's how I remember who came when. (Not to mention that one of the last episodes featured Pat Morita's character re-purchasing the drive in.)
Wiseguy Kelley1 40 months ago
The first known owner of the diner was "Arthur" who named the diner after himself (see "All the Way"). He then sold it to the "real" Arnold in early 1974 (our time), who changed the name to "Arnold's." Then the Pat Morita character bought it in 1975, who stated he didn't want to pay to change the sign so he kept the name and the patrons called him "Arnold" because of it. Then Al bought it in 1976; he also didn't change the name until a fire destroyed the diner and it had to be rebuilt.
JohnGibbons Kelley1 40 months ago
Actually the last episode was in September of 84. Halfway would be around 1979.
stephaniestavropoulos 40 months ago
They just aired Arnold's wedding last night.
I don't have troubling with remembering which came first: Al or Arnold. Al was/is in my fave episode: "Guess Who's Coming For Christmas." That mugging scene, never gets old! It's hysterical!
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Happy Days Fan Forever!!
I just joined Facebook and I'm starting the following Fan Clubs :
The Chuck Cunningham Club
The Chuck Cunningham Society
The BAG And Wally Fan Club
Moose Eugene Belvin and Melvin Belvin Fan Club
Eddie Cantor Joe Penner and Pee Wee Herman Fan Club
The Roy Stuart And Frank Deal Fan Club
Also The Roger Phillips And Chuck Cunningham Fan Club
The Nancy Drew Fan Club
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