‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Commented on Not Getting Roles After Show, Despite Being Loved

by Thad Mitchell

One of the most beloved television shows to ever appear on a tv screen, “Happy Days” built a cult following during its time.

“Happy Days” was extremely successful during its 10-year run, building up an enormous fan base over the period. The hilarious sitcom was on air for 11 seasons from 1974 to 1984 on the ABC network. Before the series finale, ‘Happy Days’ put out 255 half-hour episodes. The show was so well-received that it can still found in syndication today. That’s more than 30 years after its last episode. During a two-year span in 1976 and 1977, ‘Happy Days” was the top-rated show in the country. As a testament to its popularity in the 1970s, the show spawned several spin-offs, including the hit sitcom “Laverne and Shirley.”

A big reason for the success of “Happy Days” was the incredible cast that made the show’s characters pop off the screen. Ron Howard, of “The Andy Griffith Show” fame, was the show’s lead as typical teenager Richie Cunningham. Other notable actors appearing on the show include Tom Bosley, Donny Most, Marion Ross and, of course, Henry Winkler.

‘Happy Days’ Star Finds Hardships After Show Ends

Playing high school dropout and all-around cool guy Arthur Fonzarelli, Winkler was the breakaway star of “Happy Days.” His character, the “Fonz” or “Fonzie” quickly became one of the most marketable television characters to ever appear on screen. Fonzie was such a big hit on the show. You can still hear people uttering his catchphrase, an extended variation of the word “hey,” to this day. The television term “Jump the Shark” was also brought into existence by Winkler’s Fonz. The term was brought about when Fonzie literally attempted to jump over a shark. The idiom is slang for a television series making a desperate attempt to boost ratings.

Winker’s success on ‘Happy Days’ would turn out to be both a blessing and a curse. He was often “typecast” into Fonzie-like roles, leading to a lack of works once “Happy Days” ended. In a 2018 interview with Indie Wire, Winkler speaks out on the difficulties facing his Hollywood career after “Happy Days.”

“For years people would say ‘wow we love him, he is so good — but he played the Fonz,” he says. “And I would not get the part. That was up until the mid-’90s. Slowly it started to shift.”

Shift it did indeed, as Winkler experienced a career revival playing quirky character in comedy movies.

These roles include “Coach Klien” in the 1998 hit comedy “The Waterboy.” Plus Winkler plays himself in another Adam Sandler film, “Little Nicky.”

Finally able to crawl out of Fonz’s shadow, the “Happy Days” actor now has a recurring gig on HBO dark comedy “Barry.” He plays acting coach “Gene” alongside fellow comedy great Bill Hader on the show.