DVD Review: Happy Days (The Fifth Season)

Jump the shark. Since the advent of the internet, the phrase “jump the shark” has been embraced to mean that moment when something loses its cool factor. Most people don’t get where it came from so let’s have a slight pop history lesson. On January 31, CBS aired Evel Knievel’s Death Defiers. The special hosted by Telly Savalas and Jill St. John featured numerous daredevils. The hyped climax was Evel jumping his motorcycle over a pool of man eating sharks on live TV. What happened? Turned out nothing happened since earlier in the day Evel had crashed on a practice run and was safely in a hospital bed by airtime. It was a major disappointment on so many levels. Evel’s reputation never recovered. During season 3, Fonzie had paid homage to Evel by jumping his bike over garbage cans. Happy Days: The Fifth Season dared to see if the Fonz could deliver on Evel’s folly. Many fans swear this stunt is when they lost interest in the show.

“Hollywood” starts the season with a three episode story arc that takes the gang out west. Why do they leave Milwaukee? Turns out a movie producer walks into Arnold’s and discovers the magic of the Fonz (Henry Winkler). Can he really be the next James Dean? The only way to tell is bring him to the studio for a big screen test. But he doesn’t come alone. Everyone takes the big trip except Al (Al Molinaro) and Chachi (Scott Baio). Things don’t go right for the Fonz. A star is born, but it’s Richie (Ron Howard) as the new clean cut boy character. This eventually leads Fonz into regaining his cool by doing a massive stunt of water skiing over a shark cage. Will he survive or suffer the same fate as Evel?

People may say Happy Days jumped the shark with this moment. This isn’t really the case since there are still six more seasons of the series. People were still watching. This wasn’t like when Felicity chopped off her hair and the ratings power dived. On top of it, there were still two major character introductions to be found in this season of Happy Days that kept it culturally cool. “Fonzie: Rock Entrepreneur was a two parter that made America discover Pinky Tuscadero’s younger sister. Leather Tuscadero (Suzi Quatro) arrives in town looking for a gig. The Fonz takes her under his wing. But there’s a problem since Leather has a rap sheet and the cops don’t want her being a bad influence on the kids. This isn’t an unfounded fear since she’s offered Joanie (Erin Moran) a chance to be her back up singer. The Cunninghams (Tom Bosley & Marion Ross) aren’t thrilled at their daughter entering showbiz. This show helped finally bust Suzy Quatro into the limelight in America. She wasn’t an actress playing a rock singer. Quatro was already a big star in Europe and Australia. She really did wear leather outfits on stage. After this show, she finally had a major hit with “Stumblin’ In.” Quatro is seen as the godmother of women who rock. She even inspired Joan Jett.

“My Favorite Orkan” is the backdoor pilot for Mork and Mindy. Richie swears he saw a UFO. Potsie (Anson Williams) and Ralph (Donnie Most) think he’s just seeing stuff. But he saw something since shortly after he gets home, Mork (Robin Williams) arrives. The alien is not sweet and wonderful at this point. In fact he’s going to take Richie back to Ork. The only chance Richie has is if the Fonz can beat Mork. This was the moment that turned Robin Williams into a major star. He’d be back shortly to star in Mork and Mindy and eventually become a major movie star.

While it’s so popular to write off Happy Days after the shark jump, it’s not true. The show was far from over. Suzy Quatro and Robin Williams became stars because of their guest time on the show. The only person whose career came to an end was the shark. He wasn’t big enough for any of the Jaws sequels. Sadly the shark took a job busing tables at the Glendale Red Lobster before returning home to Australia. Although when they redesigned Arnold’s into that woody frat boy joint it lost me as a viewer.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The detail in the transfer brings out the glory in Leather’s leather. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. While there’s music replacement, it doesn’t seem as harsh as previous season sets. The episodes are subtitled.

4th Anniversary Special (24:53) is a clip show disguised as Lori Beth finding out about the Cunninghams.

Happy Days: The Fifth Season jumps the shark, but also brings us two guest superstars. The show wasn’t close to being over and uncool.

CBS DVD presents Happy Days: The Fifth Season. Starring: Henry Winkler, Tom Bosley, Ron Howard, Anson Williams and Marion Ross. Boxset Contents: 26 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: May 6, 2013.