Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "When Fonz Considers How His Light Is Spent"

Fonzie (Henry Winkler) suffers a bout of blindness on Happy Days.

"Show, don't tell" is one of the most oft-repeated rules of screenwriting for a good reason, but it's a rule that TV sitcoms frequently and blatantly ignore. The half-hour prime time comedy is one of the talkiest forms in all of modern entertainment. Maybe it's because sitcoms originated on the radio, where "showing" is not even an option. Maybe it's because talk is simply cheaper and easier to film than action. Whatever the cause, sitcoms seem to follow the dictum, "Tell, don't show."

"Fonzie's Blindness," an episode from Happy Days' sixth season in 1978, is an example of a script that might have worked better during the golden age of radio when visuals weren't even part of the equation. The melodramatic story has Fonzie (Henry Winkler) accidentally colliding with Al (Al Molinaro) at Arnold's, causing Fonzie to become blind temporarily. The problem with this episode is that director Jerry Paris, normally very competent, allows us to see the fateful accident that robs Fonzie of his sight. Most viewers will likely conclude that this minor incident seems highly unlikely to cause blindness or even slight injury to the Fonz, so it's rather difficult to take the rest of the story seriously. It would have been better if Fonzie had been blinded offscreen, and we in the audience were just told about it through dialogue.

But does this slip-up ruin the entire episode? Find out when we review "Fonzie's Blindness" on the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.