Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Richie Punches Fonzie Right in the Face!"

Henry Winkler and Ron Howard on Happy Days.

Generally, in the week before we cover an episode of Happy Days on our podcast, I screen that episode several times, take copious notes on it, and ponder what I want to say about it when we record on Saturday. In other words, the episode is on my mind frequently during those days. But I'm taking in a lot of other, non-Happy Days media as well during that same time. And sometimes, that other media affects how I think about Happy Days.

I'll give you an example. 

This week on These Days Are Ours, we're covering the classic Season 11 two-parter "Welcome Home." I bet you remember this one. Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) comes home from a three-year hitch in the Army, only to tell his family that he wants to move to California and become a screenwriter for the movies. His parents, Howard (Tom Bosley) and Marion (Marion Ross), are worried that Richie won't be able to provide for his pregnant wife Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend) and his young son Richie, Jr. (Bo Sharon) as an aspiring writer, so they pressure him to take a job as reporter for The Milwaukee Journal. As a result of obeying his parents' wishes, Richie plunges into depression and goes on a drinking binge, even punching his best friend Fonzie (Henry Winkler) in the face. The episode ends happily, however, as Richie decides to move his family to California so he can pursue his showbiz dreams. Lori Beth, Howard, Fonzie, and Marion all support Richie in this risky decision.

Very nice, right? Well, the week before we reviewed "Welcome Home," I finally saw the notorious Danish exploitation film The Sinful Dwarf (1973). This spectacularly unpleasant flick—a sleazy horror/porn hybrid—tells the story of Peter (Tony Eades), an idealistic young writer who is so broke that he and his beautiful young bride Mary (Anne Sparrow) have to move into the grungiest, most ominous boarding house in the world. They simply can't afford to live anywhere nicer. The place is run by a hardboiled ex-cabaret singer named Lila Lash (Clara Keller) and her sadistic dwarf son Olaf (Torben Bille). Needless to say, Peter and Mary soon regret ever setting foot inside this place.

I realize it's ridiculous to compare or somehow equate Happy Days and The Sinful Dwarf. They're miles apart in terms of tone and content. But I just couldn't help having ominous feelings about Richie moving himself and his family to a tough, unforgiving city like Los Angeles when he lacks money and a place to stay. Sure, Lori Beth supports his dream wholeheartedly, but that poor lady from The Sinful Dwarf supported her husband wholeheartedly, too, and look where that got her!

Anyway, I'm rambling. You can find out what I really thought of these episodes by listening to the podcast below.