|Billy Warlock and Heather O'Rourke on Happy Days.
There's something off about Happy Days in its later seasons, and I think I've figured out what it is. The thing that most great situation comedies have in common is teamwork. When we tune in to classic shows like Cheers or All in the Family or The Mary Tyler Moore Show or M*A*S*H or Seinfeld, we want to see the members of the core ensemble interact with one another. Most of the comedy comes from those interactions. Just about every great sitcom I can name is an ensemble show. You get people with different personalities and different goals and stick them in one place where they have to deal with each other. Hijinks ensue.
But Happy Days does not feel like an ensemble show in its final seasons. There's no core group of characters that we want to see interacting with each other each week. The show's original "gang of four" is long gone -- Ralph (Don Most) and Richie (Ron Howard) departed from the series entirely, Potsie (Anson Williams) mostly sidelined, and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) busy with a new girlfriend, Ashley (Linda Purl), and her precocious daughter, Heather (Heather O'Rourke). Fonzie had once mentored his nephew, Chachi (Scott Baio), but Chachi's replacement, Flip (Billy Warlock), has no real connection to Fonzie. The two rarely have cause to interact.
In other words, Happy Days in its tenth season (which originally aired in 1982-83) feels like a lot of disconnected parts, with only Fonzie himself acting as a common thread. That leads to oddball episodes like the one we're covering this week on our podcast: "I Drink, Therefore I Am." The plot brings together Flip and Heather, two characters whose lives would probably not intersect too often. Unfortunately, they're brought together because Flip and his loser friends accidentally hit Heather with their car while drinking and driving. Whoops!
Does anything worthwhile come from this unlikely mashup? Find out this week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.