Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Sweethearts of the Rodeo"

Marion Ross and Tom Bosley in their Western duds.

"Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above. Don't fence me in." That was apparently the thinking behind "Westward Ho," the three-part Western adventure that kicked off Season 6 of Happy Days in September 1978. For this epic cowboy saga, featuring both a rodeo and a hoedown, Garry Marshall took pretty much the entire cast out to the Paramount Studios ranch in Agoura Hills, CA. (The only absentees were Scott Baio and Lynda Goodfriend, who were busy filming Who's Watching the Kids? for NBC.)

The plot has the Cunninghams traveling to Colorado in order to work on Marion's uncle's failing ranch, the Bar A. They take Ralph, Al, and Potsie along with them, and Fonzie even drops by, too. While there, they tangle with a nasty rival ranch owner, H.R. Buchanan (played by the wonderfully hammy Jason Evers of Brain That Wouldn't Die infamy). Meanwhile, Richie begins an awkward quasi-romance with comely cowgirl Thunder McCoy (Ruth Cox). Oh, and Joanie somehow winds up on a runaway hay cart.

Why take the Happy Days gang out of Milwaukee and have them wear cowboy hats and ride horses? Variety, that's why. By this point in the series, most of the action on the show took place on three main sets: the Cunninghams' living room, Fonzie's apartment, and Arnold's Drive-In. After a while, the writers must have gone a little stir crazy and longed to write scenes that took place anywhere else. Besides, after Season 4's "Fonzie Loves Pinky" and Season 5's "Hollywood," there was a precedent for Happy Days starting its seasons this way.

As it turned out, "Westward Ho" was the last of the movie-like Happy Days three-parters. It's nice, then, that it's the most ridiculous and over-the-top of them all. But is it any good? And is it still worth watching today? Find out by listening to the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast