This Day in Entertainment History: Happy Days TV Series Debuts (January 15, 1974)

By: Sean Sporman
By: Sean Sporman

Happy Days would be a situation comedy that would last a decade and be one of the most successful on American television in the 1970s.

Happy Days actually originated from an installment of the anthology series, Love American Style. With some changes in casting, the situation comedy would debut on ABC on January 15, 1974.

The series originally focused almost entirely on the Cunningham family in the 1950s. Ron Howard played teenager Richie Cunningham, while his parents were played by Tom Bosley and Marion Ross. Other members of the cast included his sister Joanie, and his friends Potsie and Ralph. The character of Fonzie, a leather-jacket wearing rebel, would be a breakout hit.

After two years as a single-camera show, the series would change into being filmed in front of a live studio audience and became a massive hit. The role of Fonzie in the series was expanded as he became more popular. A cousin of Fonzie played by Scott Baio would eventually be added to show.

In 1977, an episode aired that involved Fonzie engaging in a stunt involving a shark. This originated the phrase “jump the shark,” a term that came to mean when a television show did something that indicated it was going downhill or had lost its original charm.

Ron Howard left the cast in 1980, but the series would continue on with Henry Winkler's Fonzie as the main character. The series would eventually come to an end in 1984 after eleven seasons, but remains popular in repeats to this day.

The series is also notable for having a large number of spin-off shows. Some of these were extremely successful, such as Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. Others were less successful, such as Joanie Loves Chachi.

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