‘Happy Days’: How the Classic Show Played a Role in Future Media, Entertainment and Culture

by Clayton Edwards
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“Happy Days,” didn’t just entertain generations of viewers. It was such a huge show that it changed the world. From the series itself to the cast that played its iconic characters, the world would not be the same without this legendary series. With that being said, let’s dig into some of the great things it gave us.

Actors Who Got Big Because of “Happy Days”

Several actors either got their start on “Happy Days,” or made it big because of the show. Let’s start with the most obvious. Henry Winkler‘s time as The Fonz gave his career a huge boost. He had been in a few things before dawning the iconic leather jacket. But, fans fell in love with him as Fonzie. This gave his career a healthy bump. He’s still working in film and television today. Also, he and Ron Howard became close on the show. They are still close. In fact, Winkler is the godfather of Howard’s children.

Ron Howard already had a solid career before joining the “Happy Days” cast. However, the show definitely didn’t hurt his career. He went on to direct some great Hollywood films like the Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind.”

The biggest star to come out of “Happy Days,” though, was none other than Robin Williams. He was working as a comedian when he got his first role on the show. He Played the affable alien Mork from Ork. Fans loved him so much that he revised the character a handful of times on the series. Then, he starred in the spinoff series, “Mork and Mindy,” which rocketed Williams to superstardom. Think about all the films that Williams did. “Aladin,” “Jumanji,” “Dead Poets Society,” the list goes on and on. We have “Happy Days” to thank for all of those films. At least, the series is partially responsible for Robin Williams starring in them.

Spinoffs Galore

“Happy Days” spawned seven spinoff shows including two cartoons. Admittedly, most of these were short-lived and lasted no more than a single season. The live-action spinoff series were “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” “Joanie Loves Chachi,” “Blansky’s Beauties,” and “Out of the Blue,” some of which are all but lost to obscurity. The two animated shows were “The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang” and “Laverne & Shirley with The Fonz.”

The most successful of these was “Laverne & Shirley,” which ran for eight seasons. Maybe the most important was “Mork & Mindy,” which ran for four seasons and, again, launched Robin Williams’ career. However, Penny Marshall, who played Laverne, went on to have an incredibly successful career. Playing Laverne put her on the map. She went on to direct several hit films like “A League of Their Own,” “Big.” and “Cinderella Man.”

“Happy Days” and Music

“Happy Days” used “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets as its theme for the first two seasons. It was the first rock and roll song to top the Billboard Pop Chart back in 1955. Almost twenty years later, it was back in the top-40 because of its use on the series.

After the show changed theme songs in the third season, that song, titled “Happy Days,” entered the top 40 as well. So many people were watching the show that its theme music charted. That’s saying something.

Jumping the Shark

Have you ever heard the phrase “jump the shark,” said about a TV show? For instance, “I really liked that show, but it jumped the shark at the end of the second season, and I was done,” or something to that effect. The phrase describes a show that has resorted to outlandish, and sometimes stupid, plotlines to draw in audiences. It usually happens when ratings are down.

“Happy Days” gave us that phrase. It comes from the episode where The Fonz literally jumps a shark.

For many fans, that was the moment when “Happy Days,” figuratively jumped the shark as well.

This list could probably keep going. The truth is, you could write a book about the cultural impact of “Happy Days,” and somebody probably has. These were just the high points.

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