‘Happy Days’ Welcomed ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Pilot Star as the Cunningham’s Grandpa in Episode

by Clayton Edwards
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Happy Days was one of the most popular shows on television in its time. In fact, by the time the second season hit the airwaves, thousands of people tuned in every week to see what would happen next. So, the show was able to pull in some pretty big guest stars. At the same time, it helped to launch the careers of some future stars. Henry Winkler, Robin Williams, and Pat Morita all got their big break on the series.

The list of guest stars is pretty long and contains a who’s who of television stars. People from hit series like The Brady Bunch, Lost in Space, Father Knows Best, and many more classics popped in for a guest spot. At the same time, the regular cast of the show had at least one connection to a classic series. That connection came by way of Ron Howard who played Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. However, Howard isn’t the show’s only connection to Mayberry. In fact, one other major player from that show made a guest appearance in the season five episode “Grandpa’s Visit.”

In that episode, Danny Thomas plays Detective Captain Sean Cunningham, Richie’s grandfather. His department is trying to force him to retire. So, he takes some time away to visit family and try to figure out what he will do next. In a way, Thomas’ appearance on the show is an even deeper connection to The Andy Griffith Show than Ron Howard’s involvement. He only made brief appearances on both shows. However, Thomas was instrumental in introducing Mayberry to the world.

How Danny Thomas Deepens the Connection Between Happy Days and The Andy Griffith Show

Danny Thomas was a star long before Happy Days was even a loose concept. He started acting in 1947. Thomas starred in a handful of movies in his first few years in Hollywood. He was in things like The Jazz Singer in 1952 and Call Me Mister the year before that, according to his IMDb. Then, he moved on to work in TV. He starred in several shows. However, the most relevant one to this particular connection is The Danny Thomas Show.

It is relevant because The Andy Griffith Show was a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show. In that series, Thoman plays Danny Williams, a nightclub owner. One day, he finds himself pulled over in the small town of Mayberry. This leads to the introduction of Sherrif Taylor and the rest of the town. Because of that show, Ronnie Howard became a household name before he starred in Happy Days.

So, it is fitting that Thomas showed up on Happy Days to play Richie’s grandpa, in a way. Without Thomas, we probably wouldn’t have had The Andy Griffith Show. Who knows? That could have led to Ron Howard losing interest in acting before he got the offer to be Richie Cunningham.

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