Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pre-Shark

Wow, never count out a series when it comes to DVD releases. After two years of waiting, Season 2 of Happy Days will be released in April 2007.

Those who remember my posts from way back in 2004, when the first season was released, will remember that I'm a big fan of the early Happy Days, when it was filmed with no studio audience and Richie was the lead character. The second season was the last one filmed that way. There's actually one episode where they experimented with the live-audience, three-camera format ("Fonzie's Getting Married"). It was one of the weakest episodes of that season, so naturally they switched full-time to that format starting with the third season, and Happy Days became more successful, more popular, and much, much less good.


6 comments:

J Lee said...

Garry Marshal's concurrent series on ABC, "The Odd Couple" was ending its run when the second season of "Happy Days" was on, and they pretty much just moved that show into their space on the Paramount lot.

Marshall may have thought that since the final four seasons of Oscar and Felix with the three-camera format were far more successful artistically than the one-camera first season was, that change would carry over to his new series. The difference was Randall, Klugman & Co. knew both how to play to a studio audience, and there was no one character on that show who became a fan phenominon that warranted screaming audience members (which was annoying, but survivable) or changing the entire focus of the show (which was deadly in terms of long-term entertainment value). The excessive focus on Fonzie combined with the overacting by the cast in front of the studio audience (check out the difference in Tom Bosley from Seasons 1-2 compared with Seasons 3-11) made short-term sense, but it killed "Happy Days" when it went to the syndication market after the Fonz media hype had died down.

Les said...

The Fonzie character suffered considerably under constant pressure from ABC, who insisted that he had to be a positive role model and always set a good example for his young fans. They would tolerate no negative traits in Fonzie and those that already existed, such as his being a high school dropout, had to be remedied. He eventually evolved into what had to be the most self-righteous, straight-laced "hoodlum" prime time ever saw.

Anonymous said...

Les, that happens with a lot of characters. Mickey Mouse suffered the same fate, becoming such a goody-goody that animators had trouble finding stories that would work for him. This led to Donald getting all the good parts...

That said, I was a kid when Happy Days was first on, and I think I was one of those who wanted the show to be all Fonzie, all the time. So I only have myself to blame.

Carl said...

It's interesting that Marshall's big three, "Happy Days," "Laverne and Shirley" and "Mork and Mindy" never did too well in syndication, despite all their success on the network. When "Laverne" was offered to local stations in the early '80s, it brought record-breaking prices for a half-hour sitcom. Everyone seemed to believe it was going to be syndication's new "I Love Lucy." Instead, it just died in reruns and a lot of stations got stuck with a five year commitment to an expensive dud.

VP19 said...

It's sort of ironic that what happened to "Happy Days" sort of similarly befell another nostalgic sitcom of two decades' past set in Wisconsin -- "That '70s Show." Initially, it was a pretty solid ensemble comedy with decent if not great writing, but over time so much of the focus fell on Kelso (and, to a lesser extent, Fez) the scripts became less interesting. Had more emphasis been placed on Eric and Donna (Topher Grace and Laura Prepon had wonderful comedic chemistry), along with the great work of Kurtwood Smith (who thankfully was more of a Frank Faylen dad than a Tom Bosley) and Debra Jo Rupp in the adult roles, it might not have seemed so long in the tooth over its final few seasons.

gcarras said...

Don't forget that the same thing happened to Fred Flinstone. Compare most of the 1964-66 stuff (ignoring the saving grace of Gazoo), with Pabbles with the first two seasons where he has to face the music after some trouble, and Wilma is the soprano singer Fred has to face. He even wrote a nasty letter, in one of the most famous episodes, in "The Mailman Cometh", when Fred's boss, (the recipient of said letter), whom Fred hated for supposedly cutting his raise out, then explains the mistake causing Fred and Barney Rubble to rush out to the mailbox it is being delivered to, when a cop on the beat (sitcom and radio actor Herb Vigran) constnatly gets in the way (but has to face a seargent voiced by John Stepehenson (Slate's voice) who thinks the cop's crazy) or when Fred and Barney gambled on the races. Remember that? ONE of the very first Flinstones ("Come ON..Sabertooth"..racing dino), and a Hal Smith-voiced southern colonel walks up like Foghorn Leghorn! Later Fred has Pebbles and because of this (consider a comment Audrey Meadows made, as someone on "Jump the shark", Flintstones entry, noticed, of the Kramdens on the Honeymooners (Jackie GLeason and AUdrey meadows) either having children or behaving the way they and the early Flinstones already did. Guess which route the Honeymooners took throughout vs the Flinstones.)

Crooner-superstar Bing Crosby of course suffered in the minds of many when Jack Kapp of Decca Records broadened his catalogue to come (before that, BEFORE the fabled Warner Bros."Bingo Crosbyana/Let it be me" cartoons, Bing was a 1920s kick-ass bouncy jazz singer.)

And of course Mickey and the examples others gave already.

Steve Carras
December 10,2006
gcarras@aol.com