Though he was the star of the show, Ron Howard revealed that he almost quit the sitcom “Happy Days” after this particular moment. Howard didn’t want to play second fiddle to Henry Winkler’s Fonzie.
Producers considered changing the name of the sitcom from “Happy Days” to “Fonzie’s Happy Days” during production. They wanted to capitalize on the growing popularity of Winkler’s character. Howard realized that would cement his own diminishing status on the sitcom and made his feelings known.
Howard supported Winkler as an actor. Off-screen, the two were good friends. But Howard didn’t sign up to star in “Fonzie’s Happy Days.”
“They did come to me and said, ‘Well the network would kind of like to change the name of the show to Fonzie’s Happy Days.‘ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t think I wanna be in that show. I wanna be in ‘Happy Days. ‘And I think Henry should have, you know, every opportunity to do everything. That’s fantastic. But you know, I signed on for this other thing and I just really don’t wanna do that. I think I’d go back to film school,'” Howard explained to ET Online.
One of the show’s producer approached Howard and also reassured him that the show didn’t plan to phase him out.
“The one producer who wasn’t there was Garry Marshall,” Howard continued. “In fact, he was standing outside and he said, ‘How’d that go in there?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t wanna upset everybody and disappoint everybody. And I love Henry and I love the show, but I just, I just don’t feel good about that.’ And he said, ‘It’s not gonna happen then.’ And that was that.”
Ron Howard Leaves ‘Happy Days’
Of course, Howard eventually ended up leaving “Happy Days” after starring seven seasons. His character Ritchie Cunningham was written off as going off to join the military. Audiences ended up with a Fonzie-centric version of the show as a result. The sitcom continued until Season 11, cementing its place in the sitcom landscape.
Initially a minor character, the Fonz grew in popularity and became a focal part of the series starting in Season Two.
Howard went on to become a successful director and even ended up casting Winkler in one of his movies. There were no hard feelings between the actor and “Happy Days” as a result. Howard ended up returning as Ritchie for a guest appearance on the show during the show’s final season.