|John Waldron and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.|
One of the time-honored ways to show a character's softer side is to have him interact with kids. This works especially well for "tough guy" actors. Think of John Wayne in 3 Godfathers (1948) or Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop (1990). In the 1980s and '90s, it seems like there was always a new TV show or movie about dudes taking care of kids. Mr. Mom (1983), Mr. Nanny (1993), Charles in Charge (1984-90), Who's the Boss? (1984-1992), Three Men and a Baby (1987), Uncle Buck (1989) -- it never ended!
On Happy Days, Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) was placed in a parental or quasi-parental role many times. He served as a mentor to two of his cousins: Spike (Danny Butch) and Chachi (Scott Baio). In "Fonsillectomy" from the show's fifth season, Fonzie becomes a guardian of sorts to a group of children in the hospital. And then there's Season 6's "Kid Stuff" in which Fonz forms an emotional bond with Bobby Clark (John Waldron), the son of Peggy Clark (Karen Austin), the woman he's currently dating. Having been abandoned by his own father as a child, Fonzie wants desperately to serve as a father figure to Bobby, but his dreams come crashing down when the child's biological father, Robert (Bruce Weitz of Hill Street Blues fame), reenters the picture.
If all this sounds a little heavy for a show called Happy Days, it is. But does it work? Find out when you listen to the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.