‘Happy Days’ Star Donny Most Opened Up About Show as Escapism and Nostalgia

by Liz Holland
(Photo by Clayton Chase/Getty Images for Music Lodge)

In a roundtable discussion back in 1974, members of the “Happy Days” cast answered questions from a studio audience and shared their thoughts surrounding the series. Less than a year into the show’s life, it opened up conversations about the media’s affect on young audiences. The show focused on the nostalgia of the 1950s, quickly making it the most popular show of its time. 

The discussion included Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, Donny Most, and Anson Williams. One audience member shared with the cast that he had yet to watch their show. However, he was curious if any part of the program would “help generate more interest in education for children.” Donny Most took the initial response to the inquiry while others pointed out how interesting the question was. Most responded, “I think the show, from my point of view, is pure entertainment. It’s an escape, it’s going back to nostalgia. Now, I think that there’s nothing wrong with that, I think it’s fantastic in today’s times when things are really hectic. People like to just look back.”

‘Happy Days’ May Have Inspired Young People to Learn In a Non Traditional Sense

The actor continued to address the center of the question. “As far as ‘Will it instigate them to go further into education’, I think there’s an interesting point,” Most continued. “Because, the three of us are in school, [but] Henry [Winkler, Fonzie on the show] is a drop out.. A lot of people at first got a little uptight about that, that he’s a drop out and everything. But the thing is, they make it a point that Henry really has a lot of sense to him,” he explains. “I mean, he really comes to our help, he’s got a heart, and actually he’s a very intelligent guy. We always asked him for advice. So, I don’t think it’s bad that he’s a dropout, and I think it’s overall a good show.”

Fellow Happy Days star Ron Howard chimed in with his own thoughts on the matter, saying that in its own way, the show may inspire education among children– just maybe not in the traditional sense. Howard shared one of his own experiences from his youth to offer some perspective. “I’d like to throw in my two bits on this. Because the show takes place in the 50s, I think that people in school will be a little more interested in learning about the 50s,” Howard shared.

Ron Howard Shares an Interesting Childhood Anecdote

He continues, “I saw a film a long time ago called, ‘How the West Was Won,’ which was a tremendous film. And suddenly, I started going out and reading about the west, and the civil war– and this is when I was like 8 years old,” he recalls. “Up until that time, I couldn’t care less about the west. But because I saw a film about it, suddenly I was interested. You don’t get much about the 50s in school, but maybe there’ll be a little more interest in it.”

Henry Winkler added that “Happy Days” gave families the opportunity to find common ground, as they all enjoyed the same TV show under one roof. Winkler pointed out that it gave parents the opportunity to share their own experiences of their time as young people in the 50s with their children, showing them that they aren’t so different from each other after all. 

You can watch the full interview shared by Billy Barone below.