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Holding On To Happy Days

Joined: 1/1/2013
Posts: 16
One of my favorite TV shows is about two decades older than I. The cast was on its second televised reunion by the time I was born. I posted these thoughts about Happy Days here because I know they will resonate far more with those who grew up with or had children that watched the series the first time around. This teenager saw her first episode while home sick in 8th grade; with the help of her DVR she was soon hooked.

Happy Days was an idealistic, altruistic show that aimed to be what would never air now –a clean, cute story of a family in the 1950s. There were no plotlines about what Marion and Howard were doing in bed or skeletons in the Cunningham closet. (However, on reflection, one does wonder whatever happened to oldest brother Chuck, who appeared sporadically in the first season and then disappeared entirely, never to be referenced again.) Vaporizing eldest sibling aside, however, Richie and Joanie grew up in a loving home surrounded by friends like Potsie, Jenny Piccolo and eventually Chachi and Lori Beth, with the Fonz always there to guide the pair through the rough patches with his infallible sense of cool.

Life, alas, is not like Happy Days. Problems are not solved neatly in half an hour segments, and you can’t hit a piece of malfunctioning technology in just the right spot to make it work again. People get hurt or sick and don’t get better, relationships get strained and never repaired, and the awful events that sometimes mar our lives don’t have a clear reason or message behind them. Whenever a character on Happy Days faces an obstacle, it’s a means to an end –Fonzie temporarily going blind brings a message of perseverance, Richie developing a drinking problem displays the public issue of alcoholism, and Fonzie jumping over a shark highlights the dangers of horrific television writing. But whether or not they are related to water skiing and a pair of shorts so small they probably should have been censored, such tragedies do happen in real life, and when they do it’s not nearly as easy to find a rationale behind them.

But maybe that’s why we have Happy Days in the first place, to forget about our real-life, messy, non-sitcom problems. Maybe that’s why American culture has loved and held a place for Howard, Marion, Richie, Joanie and the mysteriously evaporating Chuck since their incarnation –the literal Cunninghams and the others they take in create an ideal portrait of a family, traditional or otherwise.

It’s been a while since I watched Happy Days. I tend to watch more complex, dark comedy now, with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert slowly edging out the Cunninghams. But when I am need of a lift or simply feel I cannot handle another day of the world falling apart, I head faithfully to my DVR to rewatch a favorite adventure of Richie and Fonzie. I am well aware that these episodes are not realistic portrayals of everyday existence, and that real family life is going to be just as complicated as real teenage life. But every once and a while I allow myself to withhold my sense of reality and believe that someday I'll have some Happy Days of my own.
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Comment by Suzanne

Joined: 1/2/2012
Posts: 118

I too enjoyed watching Happy Days, but while it was actually being broadcast on TV. Even then, it was a wonderful escape from everyday life. I We wanted to be witty like Richie or cool like the Fonz. And of course we wanted to have parents like Marion and Howard. It was a great night to gather the family around the television. There are very few shows today that I would dare watch with my 22 year old, and never with a teenager. Escapism has taken on a whole new meaning in today's society, with Desperate Housewives and the Kardashian's leading the ratings. Unfortunately, those shows and others like them are shaping reality for some teenager's world. Can you imagine some teenager saying "I hope to be a housewife just like her someday?"

Great story. Thanks for sharing
Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013 1:56:36 PM
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Comment by Girlboxer1970

Joined: 1/15/2013
Posts: 79
My boyfriend and I were watching Happy Days last night. I am also hooked on The Brady Bunch and the creative spin-off found On Demand, "What was Carol Brady Thinking?"

Nice essay!
Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 4:38:06 PM
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Comment by Nate DeRose

Joined: 12/11/2012
Posts: 90
Congratulations! You’ve been selected the Grandparents life stage winner for the February writing contest: "Why Can't I Stop Watching My Favorite TV Show?"

Don’t forget to share your story and show your accomplishment on your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media!

Thanks for submitting and we look forward to your future submissions.
Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 5:15:37 PM
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