‘Happy Days’: What Happened to the Eldest Cunningham Son, Chuck?

by Keeli Parkey
happy-days-what-happened-to-the-eldest-cunningham-son-chuck

The characters of “Happy Days” are very well known to generations of fans – both old and young. The beloved television show was the home of Fonzie, Richie, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham, Potsie, Ralph, and Chachi.

And, who can forget Chuck Cunningham? Wait, what? You know, the Cunningham’s oldest son. The older brother of Richie and Joanie.

If that has you confused, you’re not alone. What most fans of “Happy Days” don’t remember is that when the show started its successful run on television the Cunningham family had a third child. This child was named Chuck and he was the eldest.

According to an article on the “Happy Days” Wiki, Chuck was a basketball player at Jefferson High. Actor Gavin O’Herlihy was first cast as Chuck. He was then replaced with actor Randolph Roberts. However, Chuck didn’t last for long on the show.

Chuck appears in the first two seasons of “Happy Days.” But, he is pretty much not heard of after the second season. According to the article, many people believed Chuck no longer appeared on the show because he was off at college.

In any case, Chuck Cunningham’s unexplained exit from the show has led to the phrase “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.” This phrase is used in reference to television characters that have disappeared from their respective television shows.

‘Happy Days’ Producer Talks About Chuck Cunningham’s Disappearance on the Show

Before his death during 2016, “Happy Days” creator and producer Garry Marshall talked about the absence of Chuck Cunningham from the show.

“Everybody asks me, ‘What happened to Chuck on ‘Happy Days’?” Marshall said during the recorded interview. The famous television producer also said that one reason Chuck was removed as a character from the show was that Fonzie, who was played by Henry Winkler, was becoming so popular.

“… you’ve got to pay attention to what’s happening,” Marshall explained. “… because we heard the audience loved Fonzie, it soon became obvious that Fonzie was like the older brother (to the Cunningham children) and that was the relationship that was working. …”

In addition, Marshall went on to say that fans of “Happy Days” didn’t seem too upset when Chuck Cunningham was cut from the show.

“I just said, let’s just have Chuck disappear and let’s see how much mail we get,” Marshall said. “We didn’t get much.”

Also, the disappearance of Chuck Cunningham from “Happy Days” became a running joke to the show’s cast, according to Marshall.

“… We were on 11 years. Whenever (a cast member) would forget a line or get mixed up they’d say, ‘Was that Chuck? Who was that? Who’s on the phone? Was that Chuck? …”

In the end cutting Chuck Cunningham from the show was necessary.

“… Sometimes you’ve gotta write people out and you write them in …” Marshall added.

Also, you can watch Garry Marshall talk about the “Happy Days” character Chuck Cunningham in the clip below.

Outsider.com