Derived loosely from the movie American Graffiti and mainly from the Love, American Style episode "Love and the Happy Days", the series is a look at the Cunningham family, a typical close-nit American family in Milwaukee. Howard is the husband and father, Marion the mother and wife, and they have three children, their sons Chuck (who was later written out of the show without explanation) and Richie, and their daughter Joanie.
The first two seasons, studio shot with a laugh track, mainly focused on Richie's forays meeting girls and chumming with his pals, Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph. Arthur Fonzarelli, "Fonzie" to his closest friends, was a motorcycling greaser who would usually appear to stir up trouble but usually offered sage advice to Richie. Fonzie worked at a garage and had his own apartment, but later moved in to the vacant room upstairs from the Cunninghams.
Social commentary was offered as well, with episodes involving the Quiz Show Scandals, the presidential election, building a bomb shelter, and even getting a shot of Howdy Doody Show's Clarabelle the clown sans makeup.
As the show began filming in front of live audiences, Fonzie was slowly groomed to be more of a hero, especially when it came to thugs trying to pick on Richie. Fonzie also helped children across the nation overcome their fears about wearing glasses as, after being diagnosed as being farsighted, he told an audience that "wearing glasses is cool." Fonzie was consummate coolness, losing it once in awhile (along with his emotions in an episode where Richie is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident) but always regains it by the end of the show.
The show also helped coin the recent phrase "Jump the Shark", used to denote a show that was good but went downhill citing a specific instance as to when it stopped being good. The start of the 1977 season had Fonzie and the crew going to Hollywood, where a hotshot surfer challenges Fonzie to a surfing contest over a bay of sharks. The same season, Fonzie's second nephew, Chachi Arcola (the first was Spike) was introduced, and his character had a crush on Joanie, who at first didn't return the affection.
Later in the series, Ron Howard left, so his character of Richie was written off as having joined the Army. Fonzie became a partner of ownership of Arnold's restaurant, along with Al Delvecchio. Romantic sparks began to spark between Chachi and Joanie, and the two launched a singing gig. Joanie also got work as a teacher at a high school. Richie returned at the end of the final season to see his sister get married to Chachi. Fonzie adopted a little boy as well.
Happy Days spawned four spinoffs: Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, Joanie Loves Chachi, and the Saturday morning cartoon Fonz and the Happy Days Gang. When the show first entered syndication in the fall of 1979, the syndicated episodes aired under the title Happy Days Again to distinguish them from the first-run episodes still in production on ABC at the time.
Miller-Milkis Productions (later Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions) produced the show in association with Paramount Television. CBS Studios now owns the show's copyright, with the TV distribution rights handled by CBS Television Distribution.
|Season One||January 15, 1974||May 7, 1974||16|
|Season Two||September 10, 1974||May 6, 1975||23|
|Season Three||September 9, 1975||March 2, 1976||24|
|Season Four||September 21, 1976||March 29, 1977||25|
|Season Five||September 13, 1977||May 30, 1978||27|
|Season Six||September 12, 1978||May 15, 1979||27|
|Season Seven||September 11, 1979||May 6, 1980||25|
|Season Eight||November 11, 1980||May 26, 1981||22|
|Season Nine||October 6, 1981||March 23, 1982||22|
|Season Ten||September 28, 1982||March 22, 1983||22|
|Season Eleven||September 27, 1983||September 24, 1984||22|
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series
|The Complete First Season||August 17, 2004||3||purchase|
|The Complete Second Season||April 17, 2007||4||purchase|
|The Third Season||November 27, 2007||4||purchase|
|The Fourth Season||December 9, 2008||4||purchase|