Senior year in high school elevates the sensation that youre older and wiser. Ultimately youre an idiot about to get schooled at college. Happy Days: The Fourth Season is the last of the smart years for the series. Forget the whole fifth season “jumping the shark” episode as the downfall. Richie (Ron Howard), Ralph (Donny Most) and Potsie (Anson Williams) graduating from high school was end of show being cool. Thankfully theres 23 episodes that delay the fateful time they entered a fake university.
“Fonzie Loves Pinky” was an epic tale of romance and collisions that stretched over three episodes. Milwaukee is pumped up for a demolition derby sponsored by Mr. Cunninghams Leopard Lodge. As an added crowd pleaser Mr. C (Tom Bosley) booked Pinky Tuscadero for her motorcycle stunts. Turns out that the Fonz (Henry Winkler) and Pinky have a romantic history. Before they can rekindle the passion, Fonzies partner in the demolition derby goes down. Who will he pick in an effort to beat the infamous Mallachi brothers? Potsie? Ralph? Richie? Al (Al Molinaro)? Pinky wants the gig, but he cant let the love of his life get slammed. Fonzs fate swings between dying from the Mallachi Crunch or hitting the road as Pinkys husband. What would happen to the series if Ralph Malph became the last kid at Arnolds? This cliffhanger was almost as thrilling as when Fonzie jumped the garbage cans. Viewers in 1976 feared theyd cancel the series without the Fonz. He was bigger than the show.
The boxsets for seasons two and three were marked by edits to eliminate songs that were too damn expensive to license. This got messy as they kept pushing the cast band. How many of Potsies finest performances were laid to waste by non-cooperative music publishers? Why wasnt he as big of a singing star as Sha-Na-Na? The good news is that only episode that clocks in for less than 25:30 is “Fonzie the Father.” Even that snip brings it down to 25:05. A pregnant woman arrives at Arnolds on the lookout for Fonzie. The gang thinks their leader has knocked her up. Did the king of cool forget to use a condom? Turns out that shes the wife of Fonzies best friend. She was hoping to stay with the Fonz while her husband is on a cross-country ride. Naturally Fonz agrees, but then sticks Richie with pregnant mommy-sitting duty. Richie loses out on his chance to hook up with Miss Trout. Hes almost ready to punch the Fonz, but the glorious event derails his anger. Hard to tell whats the missing 30 seconds.
“Fonzies Hero” has Potsie as a lifesaver. This means Fonz has to pal around with Potsie as payback. Theres a great physical comedy when they visit the roller rink. How can a guy look cool on rollerskate wheels? Richie realizes he needs real privacy if hes ever going to score with a girl in “A Place of His Own.” Attempting to neck in a convertible with Ralph and Potsie also working their dates isnt cutting it. He wants elbow room. Richie makes a deal to borrow Fonzs apartment so he can work his magic with an art school girl. Things go really wrong when her military dad (Mork and Mindys Conrad Janis) arrives downstairs. The Muckrackers puts Richie in the role of investigative reporter for the school paper. He blows the lid off a bad meat scandal. However he goes one step too far when he writes a profile on the Fonz that tells too much. Its a hard lesson about what counts when it comes to the truth.
“Graduation” brings us to the end of the gangs high school career. Whats amazing at this point is that Richie has a girlfriend. Not merely any gal, but Laurette Spang. However this romance wouldnt last. Shed head to outerspace to be Starbucks lady on Battlestar Galactica. Back in Milwaukee, Mrs. Cunningham (Miriam Ross) blabs that Fonzie has been secretly going to night school.Hes not happy that his late night education has been exposed. He wanted this to be a surprise. He wants to walk with them to receive a diploma. But there is a crisis when all of them flunk the health exam. They have to study hard or Dick Van Patten wont let them graduate and go to college. If only they knew the lameness that awaited in the college seasons, they might have flunked. The bonus fun comes when Pat Morita makes a cameo as Arnold.
Happy Days: The Fourth Season contains the shows last essential season. The actors are getting older. Their hairstyles creep towards 70s cuts. Joanie (Erin Moran) is no longer the cute little chipmunk. She looks old enough to be cast in the lead for Mork and Mindy. She ought to be telling Jenny Piccolo what to do. Ralph never quite matures on screen. Happy Days: The Fourth Season is the last time I recall Happy Days with a sense of happiness.
“Fonzie Loves Pinky” (Three-parter), “A Mind of His Own,” ” Fonzie the Father,” ” Fonzie’s Hero,” “A Place of His Own,” “They Shoot Fonzies, Don’t They?,” “The Muckrakers,” ” A.K.A. the Fonz,” “Richie Branches Out,” ” Fonzie’s Old Lady,” ” Time Capsule,” “The Book of Records,” “A Shot in the Dark,” “Marion Rebels,” “Graduation” (Two-parter),” “The Physical,” “Joanie’s Weird Boyfriend,” “Fonz-How, Inc.,” “Spunky Come Home,” “The Last of the Big Time Malphs” and “Fonzie’s Baptism.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers look better than previous seasons. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Youll be able to enjoy the chipper tones of Anson Williams as he covers the great hits of the 50s. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
The Third Anniversary Show (24:34) is a clip show framed by a surprise anniversary party for Mr. & Mrs. C.
Happy Days: The Fourth Season is the final high school season. The show was best when Richie and the gang were just foolish high school kids getting into 50s style trouble. Discover what it means when the ESPN announcers proclaim “Mallachi Crunch!”
CBS DVD presents Happy Days: The Fourth Season. Starring Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Anson Williams, Donnie Most, Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, Erin Moran and Al Molinaro. Boxset Contents: 23 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: December 9, 2008. Available at Amazon.