|Erin Moran and Scott Baio on Happy Days.|
As I wrote last week, Happy Days was in flux at the start of its ninth (and antepenultimate) season in 1981. With Richie (Ron Howard) and Ralph (Donny Most) long gone and cool guy Fonzie (Henry Winkler) becoming a grownup with responsibilities, the sitcom was in danger of losing touch with its roots. From the first season onward, Happy Days was mostly about high school-aged kids and their various triumphs and tragedies. It was a happy-go-lucky world of sock hops, malt shops, and double dates. How do you keep that going after nine seasons?
The obvious answer was to shift the show's focus to its younger characters, Joanie (Erin Moran) and Chachi (Scott Baio). Never mind that these two were already supposed to be college-bound high school seniors during Season 8. They were given a second senior year in Season 9. Anything to keep the high school setting. Naturally, Joanie and Chachi's budding, troubled romance became a major source of storylines. Younger viewers could tune in each week to see if J&C were breaking up or making up.
The problem is that Joanie and Chachi are a fundamentally bad couple. When Chachi joined the show in Season 5, he was a sleazy little schemer, always selling something or trying to con people out of a little money. He brought that dishonesty and insincerity to his relationship with Joanie. He's also a petulant and selfish little twerp, prone to temper tantrums. And Joanie, apparently lovestruck, forgives him for his many, many flaws. The relationship turns her into a weak character when she'd previously been the show's resident firebrand.
These issues are on full display in the episode we're reviewing this week, "Another Night at Antoine's." The plot has Chachi breaking up with Joanie so they can date other people for a while. Sort of a sexual Rumspringa. But then he decides he wants her back, and it all leads to a big, public kerfuffle at a fancy French restaurant. (No points for guessing that it ends with a reconciliation.)
So Joanie and Chachi are a bad couple, but does that make "Another Night at Antoine's" a bad episode? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.