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.