‘Happy Days’: Why Creator Gary Marshall Referred to His Shows as ‘Recess’

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for WGAw)

Writer, director, producer, and actor, Gary Marshall, is known for his “feel-good” shows and films. Marshall’s is the genius mind behind some of America’s most timeless television shows; as well as some of the most beloved movies. Marshall is well known for his ability to pull the audiences away from daily life and transport them into the lives of his characters.

Marshall delivered the ideal take on the 1950s in the hit television Happy Days. With his talent, Marshall transports his audiences into the lives of the characters on his hit shows. He brings us into the life of a lovable alien who is trapped on planet earth in Mork and Mindy. Marshall puts us in the apartment as roommates Laverne and Shirley navigate life “in the city.”

While they may not have always been realistic, Gary Marshall’s sitcoms are known to provide a welcome escape for viewers. 

“That’s the main thought behind this show,” Henry Winkler, star of one of Marshall’s most popular sitcom’s Happy Days, explains during a HARDtalk interview. 

“Pure escapism,” he added of Marshall’s work as a director, a writer, and a comedian. 

Marshall’s Talent Brings Joy Through the Screen

During his HARDtalk interview, Winkler discusses Marshall’s legacy; as well as the fact that Marshall had a talent for bringing some joy, even during some of the country’s darkest days. 

“He’s my ‘don’ and I kiss his ring!” Henry Winkler exclaimed with a laugh during the interview. Winkler added that director Gary Marshall’s goal was to provide that kind of escapism to the viewers. 

“He says ‘While other people that make television that is supposed to be smart, I make recess,’” Winkler noted with a laugh. 

In the interview Winkler and host Stephen Sackur discuss the America portrayed on the popular Happy Days, compared to the issues the country was facing at that time. 

“You’d been through Vietnam, you’d been through Watergate, you’d been through the civil rights struggles,” Sackur said during the interview. “It is odd, is it not, looking back on that show, that it didn’t reflect any of the reality of a tense America.” 

Winkler noted that while there was tension throughout the country, it was optimism that Happy Days fans were looking for. 

Gary Marshall’s Happy Days; a Timeless Classic

“It’s a timeless show,” Winkler says of Happy Days. “You wanted a family like that,” he continued. 

“They wanted the Cunningham’s, they wanted a friend like ‘the Fonz’ who they thought would take care of them.” 

Happy Days premiered in 1974 and quickly became a national hit. Following Richie Cunningham, his family, and his tight-knit group of friends, Happy Days offers an ideal depiction of the 1950s era. The series had a successful run for many years and can still be found on multiple streaming services.