Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"

Vicki Frederick, F. William Parker, and April Clough on Happy Days.

Hubris. That's the only word for it. During the 1978-79 television season, ABC's Happy Days and its spinoffs dominated the prime time ratings. Laverne & Shirley was #1, while Happy Days itself was tied for third with Mork & Mindy. (Another ABC sitcom, Three's Company, was in second place.) Promisingly, the new show Angie, a romantic comedy from Happy Days producer Garry Marshall, was #5. All told, ABC had seven of the top 10 shows on television. Things were going great.

So what did ABC do for the 1979-80 season? Change it all up, naturally! The first order of business was breaking up the powerhouse one-two combo of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley that had been such a ratings smash for years. Happy would retain its usual berth, Tuesday nights at 8:00, but Laverne would be moved to Thursdays, displacing Mork & Mindy to Sundays! And Angie, which had been retaining much of its lead-in from Mork on Thursdays, would be moved to Tuesdays, following Happy Days.

Confused yet? So were viewers. As a result of these schedule changes, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Angie all plummeted from the Top 10, never to return. (Three's Company, which retained its usual Tuesdays at 9:00 slot, survived nicely.) ABC later came to its senses and reteamed Happy and Laverne, trying to undo some of the damage it had done. It kind of worked, and their ratings perked up a little without ever reaching their former highs. Angie couldn't be saved, however, and was canceled at the end of the season.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're covering "Shotgun Wedding," the first new episode of that tumultuous 1979-80 season. It's an epic crossover between Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, the last time these two sibling shows would ever overlap. In fact, when it originally aired, "Shotgun Wedding" was in two parts. The story started on Happy Days on Tuesday, September 11, 1979 and then concluded on Laverne & Shirley on Thursday, September 13. However, for syndication purposes, Happy Days filmed an alternate ending so that its half of the story could be viewed as a standalone episode.

I know how complicated this all sounds. Believe me, we're just as befuddled as you are. But just listen to our podcast, and maybe together we can figure it out.