The Happy Days is one of the most popular and successful television series in the 70s. It has been aired for at least ten years, up to 1984, and has actually left a legacy so prominent, that U.S. cultural arts groups still use the storyline as their main theme in their tours. The objective of this paper is to discuss the characters, setting, and the different themes of the show, including a reflection of the morals and attitudes depicted in the show.
The main character, or the protagonist, as some storyline savvy people would call it, the protagonist, was Richie Cunningham. The entire story, from the first down to the last season basically revolved around Richie and his family (Marion Cunningham, Howard, Cunningham, Joanie Cunningham), plus the greaser, Arthur Fonzarelli who is more popularly known by his nickname, Fonzie. Fonzie later came out to be one of the most liked characters by the audience, as the story progressed.
In a nutshell, majority of the part of the story revolved around the Cunningham family, a middle class family living in an idealized life in the fifty’s, and their good and bad times with Fonzie, who lives in one of the Cunningham’s apartment rooms after his grandmother got evicted from her apartment. Other notable major characters were Warren Weber, also known as Potsie—an aspiring singer who appears to be Richie’s most trusted friend; Ralph Malph—one of the happy go lucky guys who Richie, in the first seven seasons usually appears with; Charles Arcola—Fonzie’s young cousin who only appeared and got major air times after Ron Howard left to serve in the United States Armed Forces; and Al Delvecchio—the new owner of the drive or dine in where Fonzie used to work for, after Arnold, the former owner got married. Basically, these are all the characters that made up the plot and the flow of the story successful.
The story was set in the 1950s which was almost two decades ago when the show was first aired. The television series was a sitcom. There were fixed sets in every show where characters interact and deliver the story. Of course, the characters do transfer from one set to another from time to time. But mostly, the viewers could see the characters staying inside the Cunningham’s residence, inside Fonzie’s apartment, in the drive-in, and other settings as required by the story for a particular episode. In the first few seasons for example, much of the airing time was focused on the Cunningham residence, probably to enable the audience to get to know the main characters more and understand the humor and the sense of the story.
It would be erroneous to say that the story only revolved on one theme because the show aired for at least ten years and so the themes that were presented were highly diverse. But one of the most prominent themes that were clearly exhibited in the show was the quality of the bond between Richie and Fonzie, despite their being biologically unrelated. This was actually one of the strongest points of the entire series. The Cunningham family was so close to Fonzie, who was basically their tenant, and then vice versa, they actually treat each other as family. Every episode was filled with jokes which give us the basis in believing that comedy and entertainment may also be one of the major themes. The series also talked about sociologically and politically relevant issues such as the issues about racism and the proliferation of Nuclear weapons, and also other current events during that time.
Happy Days was a TV series that took the audience in the 70s and 80s at least 20 years back into the 50s, which quite opens the way to answering the question about how culturally relevant the show could be. Basically, this TV series opens the current generation that time’s minds about the transition of ideas of the generation older than them such as how the people in the 50s differ in terms of ideas and interests with the people of the 70s and 80s. It also gives them a sneak peak of how society deals with and accommodates change, which unfortunately, be only seen on a flashback. Families in the seventies could basically have a sneak peak of what an ideal life in the state of Milwaukee was like during the 50s. Being a sitcom, most of the plot templates used in the series start from a simple mistake or miscommunication like how two characters, Potsie, and Ralph hide the truth that they were not able to close the Cunningham’s residence gate properly which led to Fonzie’s new dog escape. The movie was basically an entertainment sequel. The 50s was basically an after-war era and so people’s memories of the world war may still be there and that was actually one of the attitudes and ideologies unique in the movie that does not existed much in the 70s. People in the 70s could basically look into the people in the 50s’ minds by watching the series.
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