Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "A Simple Desultory Phil Silvers (or How I Was Sgt. Bilko'd into Submission)"

Phil Silvers and Cathy Silvers on Happy Days.

After Ron Howard and Don Most left Happy Days in 1980, taking the characters of Richie Cunningham and Ralph Malph respectively with them, the producers brought in some replacements to round out the cast, namely Ted McGinley as Roger Phillips and Cathy Silvers as Jenny Piccalo. Roger, a straight-laced, preppie basketball coach, was an obvious substitute for the very square Richie Cunningham. But does that mean gossipy, boy-crazy Jenny Piccalo was somehow the new Ralph Malph?

At first, these characters would not seem to have much in common. Were they to meet, the conversation would probably be a little awkward. But, upon closer inspection, I can see how Jenny Piccalo became the show's new Ralph Malph during its final seasons. After all, Ralph is the wacky, wisecracking sidekick to the more responsible, pragmatic Richie, just as Jenny is the wacky, wisecracking sidekick to the more responsible, pragmatic Joanie (Erin Moran). 

It's important to remember here that Joanie's personality changed subtly over the course of nine seasons. She started out as the somewhat bratty, insult-slinging kid sister whose main job was to keep Richie's ego (and those of his idiot friends) in check. She was even the first character to utter the show's immortal catchphrase, "Sit on it!" But as the sitcom wore on, Joanie matured, toned down her personality, and even settled into a long-term relationship with Chachi (Scott Baio). She was in danger of losing her edge, but the wilder Jenny Piccalo was able to tempt her into various hijinks and shenanigans, just as Ralph once did with Richie.

Jenny's relationship with her father Roscoe (played by Cathy's real-life father, Phil) is even similar to Ralph's relationship with his father Mickey (Jack Dodson). In the Season 4 episode "Last of the Big Time Malphs," Ralph runs up a gambling debt but can't talk seriously about the problem with Mickey because the latter is such a zany jokester. Jenny runs into a similar problem during "Just a Piccalo," the Season 9 episode we're reviewing this week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. She's facing vandalism charges after trying to steal a statue from the park, but she doesn't feel she can go to Roscoe for help. How interesting that both Mickey and Roscoe are played by classic sitcom stars: Jack Dodson from The Andy Griffith Show and Phil Silvers from Sgt. Bilko.

I hope you'll join us for our review of "Just a Piccalo." As usual, this episode let us talk about a whole bunch of topics, including the brilliant career of Phil Silvers. This one was a real treat to record.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Let's Talk About Talking About Sex"

(left to right) Erin Moran, Scott Mitchell Bernstein, Scott Baio, and Kevin Rodney Sullivan on Happy Days.

Sex education. Even the phrase makes me cringe a little. I remember, back in fifth grade, we had to get a special permission slip signed by our parents before we could take our school's one-day sex ed course. I was too mortified to give my parents such a permission slip, so I just skipped school that day. I can't remember where I hid out (probably home), but I got mercilessly clowned on by my classmates when I returned to school the next day. And they were right: I was a total wuss. So, a year later, I actually got my parents to sign the permission when it was time for our sixth grade refresher course. I remember almost nothing of what we were actually taught that day.

Since it's a sitcom about hormone-crazed teenagers in high school, Happy Days was eventually going to do a sex ed episode of some kind. It was inevitable. Nevertheless, the writers held out until Season 9's "Fonzie the Substitute" aka "Give Me Puberty or Give Me Death." The plot? Fonzie (Henry Winkler) fills in for Roger (Ted McGinley) during the latter's high school health class. The sneaky students trick Fonz into giving an impromptu lesson about puberty, which gets Roger in hot water with the board of education.

This counts as one of Happy Days' many "very special episodes" since it's about the importance of teaching kids the facts of life, and the topic is handled respectfully. Maybe too respectfully. The actual topic of sex is never discussed in any detail onscreen. The only biological fact we get from "Fonzie the Substitute" is that you can't get pregnant by making out while wearing a bathing suit. 

Other than that, how is the episode? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Nympho Odyssey by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg shows us how to have fun on the beach.

As time wears on, mysterious or once-thought-lost film works involving Ed Wood continue to turn up. The 1971 erotic biker film Misty aka Nympho Cycler is a good example. Before it appeared on disc roughly a decade ago, this obscure movie was completely unknown under the latter title and barely known under the former. In Rudolph Grey's 1992 book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., it's listed in the "Chronology" section as an "uncompleted" film. The only quote about the film in the main body of the book comes from filmmaker Joe Robertson: "In Misty, [Ed Wood] was in a jacuzzi and all dragged out."

The film's profile stared rising with a DVD release in 2014, which Joe Blevins reviewed here. Back then, he noted that the film had turned up previously on tape in the UK in the early '80s from Dapon, the same company that released The Young Marrieds on tape at the time.

While there's been speculation that the film was directed by Joe Robertson, Casey Larrain told me last year that she recollects Ed Wood himself directing it. For what it's worth, the IMDb page for the film now agrees. Casey also recalled a scene shot at Venice Beach, with Ed directing. He had gathered a group of homeless men for the shoot. "He brought a bottle of jug wine, and we sat in a circle passing it around. Joints were being passed around. Actual marijuana!" She was certainly recollecting the the nighttime beach orgy scene from Nympho Cycler

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "In Which Fonzie Cucks Roger"

Ted McGinley and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

As tough as it is to believe, our humble Happy Days podcast just turned four years old this month. Yes, the first episode of These Days Are Ours dropped on October 2, 2018. What a different world it was back then. We hadn't even heard the word "Covid," and England still had a queen. Gosh, we were all so innocent. I genuinely hope TDAO has improved over the course of those four years, both technically and content-wise. Our show is extremely low-tech and low-budget, but I want it to be listenable and enjoyable nevertheless.

Even after 190 episodes, I still screw up majorly sometimes. Take this week's podcast, a review of the Season 9 Happy Days episode "The Other Guy." During the recording, I must have been hitting the microphone cord or something, because there were a lot of clicks and clacks on my end. I did my best to edit around them. Several minutes of audio simply had to be thrown out. A few lines had to be rerecorded completely. In short, this episode was an editing nightmare. It might have been easier to junk the episode entirely and start over from scratch, but I managed to piece together a show from what I had.

How did it turn out? Well, just listen and find out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Fonzie Has Richie's Baby"

Henry Winkler, an unnamed baby, and Lynda Goodfriend on Happy Days.

Some people just have to be the center of attention all the time, no matter the circumstances. You know the type—the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wedding. On Happy Days, Milwaukee mechanic Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) is such a person. A shameless showboat, he thrives on attention and withers without it. He has to make everything about himself.

The Season 9 episode "Little Baby Cunningham" is a perfect example. The plot has Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend), wife of Fonzie's best friend Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), giving birth to her first child. Since Richie is stationed in Greenland with the Army, however, Fonzie takes Richie's place, both in natural childbirth classes and in the delivery room. When Richie, Jr. is born, Fonzie is even the first to hold him! Through all these events, Fonzie carries on melodramatically, stealing focus from Lori Beth, who should be at the center of this story.

If all this sounds a little familiar, it's because Happy Days basically did the same thing in "R.C. and L.B. Forever," in which Fonzie stands in for Richie at the latter's wedding. Ron Howard left the show in 1980 after seven seasons, allowing costar Henry Winkler to take over the show completely. Well, except for Chachi (Scott Baio). Anyway, "Little Baby Cunningham" is very much a sequel to "R.C. and L.B. Forever." Once again, Fonzie replaces Richie during a major life milestone and hams it up shamelessly the entire time.

Does this make for a good episode or a bad one? Find out when we review "Little Baby Cunningham" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast