Get ready for more hilarious adventures with Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard, Cocoon) and his lovingly amusing family as they sail through the 1950s in Happy Days: The Complete Sixth Season! The entire Wisconsin clan is still rockin’ round the clock including Mr. Cunningham (or “Mr. C” as he’s often known, played by Tom Bosley, Mixed Company), his doting wife Marian (Marian Ross, The Evening Star), and everyone’s favorite greaser, The Fonz (Henry Winkler, Here Comes the Boom). From Richie running for his school’s political office (and getting caught up in a scandal) to Joanie (Erin Moran, Galaxy of Terror) taking up smoking to look cool for a group of kids at her high school, Happy Days are here again!
Garry Marshall’s Happy Days is a show the conjures up a smile to my face every time I think of it. Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the 1950s, the show came into being during the 1970s when a wave of nostalgia for the ’50s was just starting to hit America. The show went through many changes and shake ups on its way to syndicated television. Harold Gould (Woody Allen’s Love & Death) was originally cast in the role of patriarch Howard Cunningham, but had to back out at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts with an overseas stage show (Gould would be replaced by Tom Bosley). The show originally focused on Richie Cunningham’s family, but after the arrival of Arthur Fonzarelli (AKA “The Fonz”), Henry Winkler’s greaser character quickly became a major – and the most popular – player on the show. Happy Days ended up with a healthy run of eleven seasons (from 1974-1984) and has since become known as a beloved sitcom classic.
Happy Days was a series that I watched as a kid, but not in episodic order, so my memories are clouded by various stories and character throughout the run of the show. How characters came and went throughout the seasons, or how the series eventually wrapped up, I have no idea. In other words, I know the show Happy Days but I don’t really know the show Happy Days. Watching Happy Days: The Complete Sixth Season was the first time I’d actually sat through a season’s episodes, in order. My reaction: while Happy Days is an entertaining sitcom, by this sixth season it was starting to get a bit long in the tooth. Everyone that were once teens were starting to look like they’ve reached middle age, and characters like Henry Winkler’s “The Fonz” and Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham are struggling for reasons to stay around the town when in real life they’d have moved on to careers and families. It’s clear the writers were struggling for storylines for the show (a Halloween episode featuring a mock “exorcism” at Al’s Diner is the low point of this season) and it may have done everyone good to have wrapped things up during this season.
Still, even with some of my complaints, Happy Days still had its charms during this sixth season. By this point in the series, everyone had their characters down to a science. Henry Winker’s Fonzie was cool as ice. Ron Howard was the most stable of the cast members, offering a bit of an anchor to the wackiness around him. Tom Bosley and Marion Ross are the epitome of caring, nurturing parents while Anson Williams and Don Most are still amusing ridiculous as Richie’s best friends Potsie and Ralph Malph. Rounding out the cast is the always funny Al Molinaro as restaurant owner Al Delvecchio, Erin Moran as cute-as-a-button Joanie Cunningham (who was like the Lisa Simpson of the show, in that they never seemed too sure what to do with her), and in a supporting role Scott Baio as Joanie’s love interest, Chachi (Baio joined the show late and would show up on and off until it ended its run in 1984).
The episodes in Happy Days: The Complete Sixth Season range from a three-episode arc where the Cunningham family attempts to raise money to save their Uncle Ben’s dude ranch to Fonzie fearing that he may be allergic to women (har-har) to Robin Williams’ returning as Mork from Ork to learn about the value of human friendship. As you can tell, by the sixth season Happy Days wasn’t really attempting to keep things rooted firmly in realism. This was nostalgia for the 1950s in a way that only Hollywood could do it. The humor is pretty soft compared to today’s shows with little to nothing that will offend families with children.
Even with all the silliness, it was still sort of fun to revisit the Cunningham clan even if their welcome did start to wear thin by the second DVD on this set. While I’m pretty sure Happy Days wasn’t very successful in capturing exactly what the 1950s felt like, it still feels warm and fuzzy, which is enough to bring a smile to my face.
Each episode of Happy Days: The Complete Sixth Season is presented in 1.33:1 full frame. I would say that these episodes from Paramount/CBS are all in very good shape; while not as crystal clear as one might hope (it would take a lot of work for Paramount to make these high definition), the colors are generally bright and the black levels mostly solid. Each episode features a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono audio mix in English. There isn’t a lot to report about these tracks – they are totally front heavy without any surround sounds or directional effects. Even so, they get the work done that’s needed. Also included on this set are English subtitles.
The only extra features is a short “Mork Returns” fifth anniversary show that is especially moving considering Williams’ passing in 2014.