|Tom Bosley, Henry Winkler, and Marion Ross on Happy Days.
In March 1982, Happy Days launched the fifth and last of its spinoffs, the short-lived and much-mocked Joanie Loves Chachi. By then, Happy Days itself was in its ninth season and drifting slowly but surely into total irrelevance. The Grim Reaper was looming. Two successful Happy Days spinoffs, Mork & Mindy and Laverne & Shirley, were both nearing their ends as well, expiring in May 1982 and May 1983 respectively.
Producer Garry Marshall must have figured that the only way to keep his TV empire alive was to make a Hail Mary play for the youth audience with a new series focusing on teenage lovebirds Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) and Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) and their suspiciously 1980s-sounding music. Don't forget that the MTV cable network had just launched in August 1981. This was definitely the golden age of music videos, and Garry wanted a piece of the action.
In retrospect, Marshall and company spent much of Season 9 of Happy Days setting up Joanie Loves Chachi. So many of the plots that year were about the young couple that even Fonzie (top-billed Henry Winkler) seemed to take a backseat to them. This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're reviewing "To Beanie or Not to Beanie," an episode in which Joanie makes some crucial decisions about her future, including taking a gap year between high school and college. Her parents, Howard (Tom Bosley) and Marion (Marion Ross), are horrified, but Fonzie tries to argue on Joanie's behalf.
"To Beanie or Not to Beanie" originally aired in January 1982, just two months before the start of Joanie Loves Chachi. The spinoff must have already been in the planning and production stages by then, so I'm guessing "To Beanie" was intended to ease viewers into the new show. Appropriately, then, the episode includes one of Joanie and Chachi's many, many musical numbers: an uptempo rock number called "Call." Joanie Loves Chachi would likewise feature many songs by the duo and their newly-formed band.
But does any of this make "To Beanie or Not to Beanie" a good episode? You can find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.