DVD Review: Happy Days (The Sixth Season)

Happy Days started out as the coolest show on TV in the mid-70s. The show dipped into American life during the late ’50s. This was a pleasant nostagla for an America that was being battered by the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate adn the OPEC oil embargo. America begged to be taken back to a peaceful time when people basked in the glow of post-World War II. A moment when we liked Ike. An age when gas was cheap and plentiful for your massive car. Sock hops and a Pepsi with two straw was desired over a night coked up at the disco. Thus Happy Days became retro cool with its tales from old Milwaukee. Happy Days: The Sixth Season has the show in a slight transition as it seems less concerned with being a period piece and focused on its own timezone.

The season started off with the massive three part “Westward Ho!” to kick off the Fall ’78 season. Unlike the previous season’s huge trip to Hollywood that featured the Fonz (Henry Winkler) jumping a shark, the gang doesn’t go that far West. They merely head out to Colorado when an uncle of Mrs. Cunningham (Marion Ross) needs help to save his dude ranch. Turns out he owes a neighboring rancher a chunk of cash or he’ll lose the property. He turns Richie (Ron Howard), Ralph (Donnie Most), Potsie (Anson Williams), Mr. C (Tom Bosley) and Joanie (Erin Moran) into his new staff. While they know little about running a dude ranch and wrangling horses, they’re game for an adventure. They must help family. Even the Fonz pitches in since he’s got a thing for a female roper named Thunder. She seems to only have eyes for Richie. Does she not see how cool the Fonz is? The three episodes had the gang on location for the exteriors. There were even daring stunts to glue viewers between episodes. The big finale involves the Fonz riding a bull. If he hadn’t jumped the shark the previous season, “Riding the Bull” might have been a bigger catch phrase.

The odd part about this season is how episodes turned into After School Specials involving the Fonz. “Fonzie’s Blindness” is a mini-movie of the week. Al (Al Molinaro) hits the Fonz in the head. This causes the greatest human being to walk the Earth to become blind. Instead of beating Al to a bloody pulp (which would have been a great plot twist), the Fonz has to come to grips with not being able to see. He’s emotionally devastated. Will he ever see his bike again? “Kid Stuff” hooks the Fonz up with a lady with a young son. Her husband (Hill Street Blues‘ Bruce Weitz) deserted the family a few years back. Fonz becomes attached to the kid. He even buys him a mini-leather jacket. But then dad returns. He’s straightened his life out. Can the Fonz handle breaking up with the lady and losing touch with the kid? “The Fonz is Allergic to Girls” sums up his worst nightmare. A decade later and these episodes would have be promoted as “A very special episode of Happy Days.

The holidays get covered during this season. “The First Thanksgiving” allows the cast to be part of Pilgrims and Indians story. “Christmas Time” brightens up the season by having the Fonz’s distant father arrive for the special day. The Fonz isn’t happy. “Stolen Melodies” brings a Christmas wish of more Leather Tuscadaro (Suzi Quatro). She gets her song ripped off and the Fonz won’t put up with it.

“Ralph vs. Potsie” is the biggest battle since King Kong Vs. Godzilla. Who can win when these two friends turn on each other? Will Milwaukee survive? “The Claw Meets the Fonz” wants Al to franchise out his restaurant since it was a famous establishment. But his initial partner might be a mobster. There’s plans to turn the original Al’s drive-in into an illicit headquarters. Gangland activity returns in the shocking “Fonzie’s Funeral.” The Fonz stumbles upon a counterfeit money operation. It’s curtains for him when the garage explodes. The funeral is amazing. The cast of Laverne & Shirley and Arnold (Pat Morita) pay tribute to the legend. I should end the review here so you can ponder if the Fonz really died during this season.

Happy Days: The Sixth Season has the show still doing its best to at least feel like it’s in the ’50s. The show focuses a lot on the Fonz which makes sense since he was the coolest of the cast. The desire to give a few deep emotional episodes seemed a case of the producers wanting to keep Henry Winkler happy playing the character. He does a little bit of heavy emotional lifting when he deals with being blind and losing touch with the boy. But then there’s Ralph and Potsie to keep thing rather light. These were still the Happy Days.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the richness of the film. You’ll be able to tell when the stuntmen are filling in for Richie and th Fonz. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. There appears to be music replacement. There are a few Anson Williams sings the hits moments. The episodes are subtitled.

Fifth Anniversary Show (Mork Returns) brings back Mork (Robin Williams). This is a clip show and a crossover since Mork & Mindy was the hot new show on ABC. Mork is nice and mentions he’s living in 1979.

Happy Days: The Sixth Season puts the Fonz in dangerous places. He’s blown up, tossed around on a bull and blinded. Will he survive this dangerous season that was the middle of Happy Days‘ 11 seasons on the air?

CBS DVD presents Happy Days: The Sixth Season. Starring: Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Anson Williams and Marion Ross. Boxset Contents: 27 episodes on 4 DVDs. Rated: Unrated. Released: December 9, 2014.

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