|Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, and Jim Knaub on Happy Days.
Sitcoms exist to amuse us, give us a few chuckles, and distract us from the problems of our everyday lives. They're light entertainment, nothing more. Or are they? You see, sitcoms are made by concerned, caring, deeply moral people who have thoughts and feelings about a wide variety of social issues. And they reach an audience of millions of people across America each week! Can't sitcoms educate the public a little? In fact, isn't it their responsibility to mix in some learning with the guffaws?
And so, we get the "very special episode," i.e. a sitcom story that tackles some decidedly unfunny subject in the interest of creating a brighter world for all of us. The VSE really became a subgenre of its own during the 1970s (perhaps thanks to Norman Lear), and Happy Days was not immune. In Season 7, for instance, they did "The Mechanic," an episode in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) hires a handicapped man named Don (real life wheelchair athlete Jim Knaub) to work in his garage. Don is embittered about the accident that put him in a wheelchair, and Fonzie definitely has a phobia about working with the disabled. So it seems they both have a lot to learn. What do you wanna bet that they both grow and change by the closing credits?
This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we review "The Mechanic" and tell you whether it works as education, as entertainment, as both, or as neither. Join us!