Happy Days: The Third Season – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Creator:
Garry Marshall

Cast:
Ron Howard….Richie Cunningham
Henry Winkler….Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli
Anson Williams….”Potsie” Weber
Don Most….Ralph Malph
Marion Ross….Marion Cunningham
Tom Bosley….Howard Cunningham
Erin Moran….Joanie Cunningham

Paramount Home Video presents Happy Days: The Third Season. Twenty three episodes on 4 DVDs. Season 2 aired from Sept. 9, 1975 to March 2, 1975. DVD released Nov 27, 2007.

The Show

The Fonz started off as a mysterious character in a leather jacket that Richie Cunningham idolized. He was a high school dropout who had a knack for motorcycles, fast cars, loose women and delinquent connections. He knew the score and saved Richie’s ass when he screwed up in ways that Mr. Cunningham wouldn’t understand. He was the big brother Chuck couldn’t be. The Fonz had that one element that the Cunninghams and Richie’s friends lacked: He was filled with cool. The audience couldn’t get enough of the Fonz. Instead of spinning him off onto his own series, the producers retooled the show so that The Fonz emerged as the star of the third season. The Cunninghams became guest stars in their own house.

The Happy Days shift in direction can be seen in the opening titles. After the jukebox, the first character seen is the Fonz on his motorcycle. They also dropped the single camera aspect of the show. The series was now trapped inside a soundstage filming with three cameras in front of a studio audience. They paused their lines to allow for the cheers when Fonzie strolled onto the set. With the new arrangement, a majority of the shows were limited to Arnold’s, the Cunningham’s first floor and Fonzie’s apartment. There had to be a major reason to build a new set or go on location. Who needs a school gym when Arnold’s will do?

“Fonzie Moves In” comes up with an extremely lame reason that relocates him into an apartment above the Cunninghams’ garage. Are we really to believe Fonz has a grandmother that rides motorcycles? It made little sense, but it was a good enough excuse so that Fonz could spend quality time in the Cunninghams’ living room. He was no longer a fringe character to the family. He became the big brother since Chuck disappeared from the family.

The two-parter “Fearless Fonzarelli” captivated America. Fonz fears that he’s losing his cool. His magic elbow no longer gets free songs on the jukebox. The girls don’t come running when he snaps his fingers. Has he become a nerd in a leather jacket? In an effort to rejuvenate his inner cool levels, he goes on You Wanted to See It (a slightly altered version of You Asked For It) to jump 14 garbage cans. Everyone thinks the Fonz is doomed to die. The first episode ends with Fonz in mid-flight. Would he survive? In 1975, America spent week nervous with the fear that the next episode would be “Funeral at Arnold’s.” The jumping stunt would be attempted two seasons later and inspire the phrase “Jump the Shark.”

Like the Season Two box set, several of the original ‘50s tunes have been replaced. There’s an Elvis tune on the soundtrack so deals were made with cooperative folks. The swapped music doesn’t stick out as badly because the “live” nature of the show takes away the cinematic moments where a song fills the wordless exposition. A studio audience needs to be constantly fed jokes. They don’t want to sit silently and watch kids make out to Johnny Mathis. There are only two episodes that run less than 25 minutes and both involve Richie, Ralph and Potsie’s band.

“A Date With Fonzie” (23:35) opens up with their band playing at Arnold’s. It seems they slashed one of their numbers. Anson Williams had a good voice for a sock hop band. Richie’s drumming is pathetic. His work on the skins rates up there with Danny Bonaduce’s bass playing. It’s a shame they had to clip this episode since it marked the arrival of Laverne and Shirley (Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams) into the Happy Days universe. Fonz sets up a double date with the girls. He gets Richie to keep Shirley occupied while he lures Laverne above the garage. Even with an eager date, Richie keeps screwing up. The episode was a reunion since Cindy Williams played Howard’s girlfriend in American Graffiti. Two months later the girls would have their own sitcom that immediately went into the Top Ten.

“Fonzie’s New Friend” (21:43) has the band hiring a drummer for a luau party celebrating Hawaii’s statehood. The new drummer, Bill “Sticks’ Downey, is black. Even though Milwaukee is in the North, the crowd at Arnold’s is as white as the Central Perk on Friends. The neighborhood parents don’t want their kids at a mixed party. Can Fonz convince the kids that it’s OK to mingle with minorities and pineapples? Sticks is played by Jack Baker who went on to star in dozens of adult features including New Wave Hookers with Traci Lords. Maybe these parents feared their teenage daughters partying with a future stag film star?

When Sticks returns in “Fonzie Superstar,” none of the teens at Arnold’s has a problem with him being in the band. Maybe they were prejudiced against Hawaiian shirts? The episode features a joke about the Cunninghams going to see Psycho. Ralph spoils the ending. Trouble is Happy Days takes place in the mid-50s. Psycho was released in the summer of 1960. Why let a historical muff get in the way of Laverne and Shirley performing as Fonz’s back up singers? Fonz’s version of “Heartbreak Hotel” was performed while Elvis was still alive. Wonder how the King felt about the cover.

Happy Days: The Third Season is a mixed blessing. Fans of the season one and two DVD sets are in for a shock as the Fonz roars his motorcycle into the Cunninghams’ driveway. Season One was a series of short films that fed off American Graffiti. Season three of Happy Days was a sitcom adapted from the first season. The gambit of a Fonz-centric season paid off. The first two years brought in mediocre ratings. If they stayed the course, Happy Days would have vanished to the same vortex that claimed Chuck Cunningham. Season three launched the series into the Top 10. Fonz proved he was Superman in a leather jacket as he rescued Happy Days from cancelation. If you can’t deal with the Fonz’s domination, he’d tell you to go “sit on it, nerd!”

The Episodes
“Fonzie Moves In,” “Motorcycle,” “Fearless Fonzarelli” (a two parter), “The Other Richie Cunningham,” “Richie Fights Back,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Howard’s 45th Fiasco,” “Fonzie the Flatfoot,” “A Date with Fonzie,” “Fonzie the Salesman,” “Three on a Porch,” “Fonzie’s New Friend,” “They Call It Potsie Love,” “Tell It to the Marines,” “Dance Contest,” “Football Frolics,” “Fonzie the Superstar,” “Two Angry Men,” “Beauty Contest,” “Bringing Up Spike,” “A Sight for Sore Eyes” and “Arnold’s Wedding.”

The DVD

VIDEO:
The picture is 1.33:1. These transfers look much better than the previous sets.

AUDIO:
The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono.

EXTRAS:
The Second Anniversary Show (22:16) appears to have been cranked out on video instead of breaking out the 35mm cameras. It has a bootleg quality. The kids and the Cunninghams gather at Arnold’s to celebrate Fonzie’s birthday and remember highlights from the show. The first two seasons are barely shown. Mostly we’re treated to highlights from the first part of season three. It ends with a “sit on it” montage.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Happy Days: The Third Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

8
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

4
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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