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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > TV > Happy Days - Season One (CBS DVD)

Happy Days – The Complete First Season


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: B+



For a few decades, CBS was the number one TV network, but by the mid-1970s, ABC ruled.  One of the shows that changed their fortunes was The Six Million Dollar Man, and the other was Happy Days.  For Happy Days, it was one of the first pieces of Pop Culture to revive the 1950s.  Along with George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973, which Ron Howard co-starred in), a film Universal Pictures had no clue about, Paramount Television had ideas of its own.  Though the series eventually spawned several spin-offs (Laverne & Shirley, Out of The Blue, Mork & Mindy, Joanie Loves Chachi), it actually was a spin-off of sorts from another show.


The anthology series Love, American Style, also an ABC hit, has one episode that featured Ron Howard, was set in the 1950s and landed up serving inadvertently as the pilot for this show.  Though it is not included here, this Complete First Season features all 16 shows from the 1974 mid-season replacement that the show was.  Of course, it was not a huge hit of the bat, but did develop an audience and critics liked it for its smart teleplays and good casting.  The shows are:


1)     All The Way (co-written by Rob Reiner)

2)     The Lemon

3)     Richie’s Cup Runneth Over

4)     Guess Who’s Coming To Visit? (features the dragster Mego Toys would produce with their 8” inch action figure series based on this show)

5)     Hardware Jungle

6)     The Deadly Dares (Ed Begley, Jr. guest stars)

7)     Fonzie Drops In

8)     The Skin Game

9)     Breaking up Is Hard To Do

10)  Give The Band A Hand

11)  Because She’s There (Diana Canova (Soap) and Grace Lee co-star.)

12)  In The Name Of Love

13)  Great Expectations (In one of the more serious shows with one of the more disturbing themes, Richie gets involved with Beatniks!  Valerie Curtin is hilarious in a cameo as a Beatnik Poetess.)

14)  The Best Man (A surprising episode dealing with racism, but a good one.  Howard’s old Army buddy Fred (Robert Do Oui) is in town and the Cunninghams offer their house as the place for Fred’s wedding.  Bill Henderson plays his father.)

15)  Knock Around The Block

16)  Be The First On Your Block (Ronnie Schell co-stars)



Ron Howard was already established from his years on The Andy Griffith Show came into his own on this show.  Marion Ross and Tom Bosley are perfect as parents Marion and Howard Cunningham, Henry Winkler shows how good he was in the Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli role and Erin Moran is more active than I remembered as Joanie.  Ross was so good that she played a mother years later on the underrated series Brooklyn Bridge.  Garry Marshall, hot off of the huge, original, terrific TV hit version of The Odd Couple, and used his clout and talent to launch this show.  It would be one of the smartest things he ever did.  This first season is the reason why so many people liked this show initially before it went long beyond the run it should have had.  They should have folded when Howard left seasons later.


The full screen image is a nice surprise here, with clean, color-rich transfers throughout.  This show was originally shot in a style that was not typical of most television shows of any kind.  Unlike later shows, which went for higher lighting (as seen in clips from Spike Jonze Music Video for Weezer’s Buddy Holly recently), these older show did what they could to look like the era and were set up memorably by Richard A. Kelley, A.S.C. beyond what TV could show at the time.  The DVDs here show off how well these shows were really shot, even if the lighting slowly gets brighter on the last shows.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is adequate considering the age of the shows and how poor TV audio usually was at the time.  Those asking for some stereo remix should note that many of the 1950s hits featured in the show were recorded monophonically (and on acetate records for that matter), so that would be ridiculous.  Fans will be happy to know that unlike the fiasco with WKRP In Cincinnati on DVD, where almost all (if not all) the hit records are being cut out of all the shows, all the original classics have pretty much been retained.  The theme from the show is used often, if not too often at this point, but only a die-hard fan could say as to whether some songs were replaced and/or if a few of the songs were covers back in the original broadcast copies.


Besides no Love, American Style pilot for the show being included, there are absolutely no other extras here.  That makes absolutely no sense.  Besides no promotional materials or TV spots, it is remarkable that none of the cast or crew was asked and/or was not available for either on-camera interviews or audio commentary.  That is especially unfortunate as this is the only season with Gavin O’Herlihy as Richie’s older brother Chuck.  In one of the most notorious disappearances in TV history, Chuck never surfaced in any of the future seasons and was never even mentioned again.  He was a good character that deserved more development and added realism and leverage to the show.  With him gone, the rise of Fonzie’s character was more cartoonish as a result.  Donnie Most’s Ralph character was more enjoyably abrasive and up to no good, something that gets watered-down in later seasons to the show’s disadvantage.


The late, great Beatrice Cohen played the waitress everyone picked on named Marsha.  She quickly switched over to the early ABC seasons of Wonder Woman (now on DVD as well) as Etta Candy, firmly establishing herself as one of the eras most likable and recognized character actors.  Layer in 1974, she was even Jane Plumm in the first episode of another ABC show, Kolchak: The Night Stalker.  It should also be noticed, in another unexplained switch, that the restaurant the teenagers go to is called Arthur’s in the first show, but quickly became Arnold’s for the rest of the series.  Happy Days – The Complete First Season is worth revisiting more than anyone expected, so check it out.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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