On This Day: ‘Happy Days’ Debuts on ABC in 1974

by Joe Rutland

When Happy Days debuted on this day in 1974 on ABC, no one could have seen how successful this sitcom would become on TV.

Below, you will see how the show’s initial episode was described in TV Guide.

Twitter account Retro News Now did not forget this auspicious day, either.

Take a look at how Happy Days was explained to viewers in the magazine, along with a couple of inset photos.

Also, you will notice the show’s first opening credits segment.

If you don’t recognize the song, then we’ll help you out. That is “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets, which was a big hit in the 1950s.

‘Happy Days’ Starts Its Run But Did Not Have Major Star Among First-Season Ones

Happy Days featured Ron Howard, Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, Erin Moran, and Anson Williams.

Oh, you were expecting Henry Winkler in these opening credits, right?

In Season 1, Arthur Fonzarelli was simply “Fonzie” and a background character. He did ride his motorcycle but this was far from “The Fonz” that Winkler would immortalize a few seasons later.

This TV sitcom was filmed at first and used a laugh track. It would be a few seasons later, about the same time that Winkler hit his stride, that things moved to film live before a studio audience.

Garry Marshall Lets Show Take Shape After Segment on ABC Show

Happy Days was a vehicle that did star Howard, who already had established himself as a TV star thanks to The Andy Griffith Show.

An unsold pilot found itself as part of the ABC anthology show Love, American Style.

Director Steven Spielberg saw it and cast Howard for a role in the 1973 film American Graffiti. This led to ABC taking another look at the pilot and led to show creator Garry Marshall’s sitcom to get on ABC.

Happy Days had a whale of a run on ABC and is definitely a must-see show in reruns.

Howard would see his star taken over because of the fans’ love for Fonzie. Show writers began changing the emphasis on storylines to him. Happy Days hit another level of success. Winkler and Howard actually did get along with one another, but this happened to be the first taste of superstardom for the Yale-trained Fonzie actor.

Also in the credits above, you will notice actor Gavin O’Herlihy listed as Chuck Cunningham, Richie’s brother. Well, Chuck didn’t last beyond Season 1. Future seasons simply had Richie and his sister Joanie, played by Moran, appear as children of Howard and Marion Cunningham.

The show was based in the 1950s and there were elements of that era in all episodes.