|Erin Moran and Scott Baio on Happy Days.
Over the course of reviewing 11 seasons of Happy Days, I've really come to respect Erin Moran (1960-2017) as an actress. Some viewers may not know that she was the third Joanie Cunningham, after Susan Neher (a redhead from the first pilot) and Audrey Pfeiffer (a blonde from the second). The kid sister of protagonist Richie (Ron Howard), Joanie could easily have been a nothing character, doomed to live in the shadow of her more celebrated sibling and only occasionally allowed to crack wise at the dinner table. Joanie didn't even make it into the opening credits until Season 3! I'm convinced it was Erin's spirited portrayal that made Joanie an important part of Happy Days. She carved out a place for herself on this overcrowded series, episode by episode.
I don't feel that the show always treated Joanie well, however. Like I said, they didn't even bother to add her to the opening credits for the first two seasons! During the early years of Happy Days, most of the good stories went to either Richie or Fonzie (Henry Winkler), though Joanie got occasional spotlight episodes like "Smoking Ain't Cool" and "Joanie's Weird Boyfriend." Starting in Season 5, Joanie became romantically involved with Fonzie's slightly sleazy cousin Chachi (Scott Baio), and this drastically altered the course of her character. She was no longer just Richie's sister; she was now Chachi's girlfriend.
But what if she weren't? This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're talking about the Season 11 episode "The Ballad of Joanie and Chachi," in which our two lovebirds realize that they're just not compatible for each other because they want different things out of life. It's a more dramatic, downbeat episode than Happy Days usually does. Is this change of pace good for the show or not? Let's find out together.