When Happy Days first debuted in January of 1974, it was a quick patch for an abruptly canceled series. The very first episode was actually an unsold pilot titled Love and the Television Set, which later changed to Love and the Happy Days before finally settling on the shortened name.
Of course, the actors were nervous when their show was just thrown onto the screen without much of a plan. As most people know, pilots often fail. And because Happy Days premiered in a prime slot, the would-be classic had to compete with some of the highest-rated series in the country. So the show was going against tough odds.
However, by the end of 1974, Happy Days was already a monumental success. Less than a year into the story, the actors were celebrating their show being ranked as the 7th most popular show in the nation.
But during an interview with The Mike Douglas Show, the stars revealed exactly why they were worried about their premiere time slot.
“We were nervous about going up against Maude,” Ron Howard shared. “I mean, any time you’re a mid-season replacement, you’re going into somebody else’s time slot, right? Maude, the week before we went on, Maude was like third in the nation. And Adam-12, which was on the other network, was 11th. And everybody was very concerned.”
However, despite the fact that Happy Days was released on somewhat of a whim, ABC still put on “a terrific ad campaign.”
“People watched our show the first week. And we developed an audience. I think we lost one week in the ratings. Otherwise, we were first every week,” Howard continued.
And of course, that was only the start of the series’ success. In 1976, Happy Days became the highest-rated show in the world.
‘Happy Days’ Star Ron Howard on Being a Child Star
Before Ron Howard became an Oscar-winning director, he played Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, which meant he grew up on film.
When Howard was 20 and just starting out as Richie, he sat down with The Mike Douglas Show to talk about his newest project. And during the interview, he explained what it was like to be a child star.
“It’s kind of an interesting way to grow up,” Howard admitted. “It’s all we ever knew. I started doing scenes with my dad when I was like 2 ½… I used to sit around and watch [my dad’s] rehearsals. And I started picking up dialogue… I learned lines, and then we learned other scenes, and we did it for fun.”
“And so when I started doing it, when I was like 4, it was just a matter of doing it with other people,” Howard continued. “And I got a big kick out of it. I liked it.”