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Happy Days on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 (NEW!)

"Happy Days" The Third Season DVD Review

Buy Happy Days: The Third Season on DVD from Amazon.com Happy Days: Season Three (1975-76)
Show & DVD Details

Creator/Executive Producer: Garry Marshall / Producers: Mark Rothman, Lowell Ganz, Tony Marshall, Thomas L. Miller, Edward K. Milkis

Regular Director: Jerry Paris / 1-Episode Directors: Art Fisher, Norm Gray, Frank Buxton

Repeat Writers: Arthur Silver, Bob Brunner, Mark Rothman, Lowell Ganz, William Bickley, Michael Warren, Marty Nadler, Sid Arthur, Artie Laing, Dave Duclon, Joe Glauberg

Regular Cast: Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham), Henry Winkler (Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli), Marion Ross (Marion Cunningham), Anson Williams (Warren "Potsie" Weber), Donny Most (Ralph Malph), Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham), Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham)

Recurring Characters: Pat Morita (Arnold), Cindy Williams (Shirley Feeney), Penny Marshall (Laverne DeFazio), Danny Butch (Spike), John-Anthony Bailey ("Sticks" Downey, Jr.), Ed Peck (Police Captain Kirk), Ken Lerner (Frankie), Susan Lawrence (Girl/Vivian/Gigi)

Notable Guest Stars: Lillian Bronson (Mrs. Nussbaum), Jack Smith (Himself), Peter Hobbs (Doctor), Ned Wertimer (George McKinnie), Sherry Hursey (Winnie McKinnie), Jeff Conaway (Rocko), Jack Perkins (Drunk), Jeff Kramer (Lefty), Beatrice Colen (Marsha Simms), Mindy Naud (Paula Petrolunga), Anne Lockhart (Marcia), Robin Mattson (Linda), Sandy Kenyon (Uncle Tom), Vivian Bonnell (Rosemary Stevens), Amy Irving (Olivia Hunsaker), Rance Howard (Dance Contest Announcer), Richard Stahl (Bronko van Alden), Dick Van Patten (Phil Hunsberger), Christoff St. John (Booker Brown), June Lockhart (Judge MacBride), Janice Heiden (Cynthia Kiley), Jane Alice Brandon (Ann Louise Milligan), Clint Howard (Moose), Jack Dodson (Dr. Mickey Malph), Nobu McCarthy (Momo)

Running Time: 529 Minutes (24 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
Season 3 Airdates: September 9, 1975 - March 9, 1976
DVD Release Date: November 27, 2007; Clear Standard-Width Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $38.99; Four single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)

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Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie. Regardless of their origins, the three things are considered distinctly American and have long been a part of the two-century-old nation's culture. The sitcom "Happy Days" practically demands entrance into the same class, for it is as easily identified as a piece of Americana.

Much younger than its kin, "Happy Days" debuted on ABC in January of 1974. But its reach extended due to the fact that it was set in the late 1950s and proceeded, through a practically unheard of eleven seasons on the air, to depict the bygone days experienced 15-20 years earlier.
Founded on nostalgia, the comedy series holds up today as a source of 1950s, '60s, '70s, and early '80s memories while remaining eminently entertaining even to those who weren't yet alive when the show bowed out in 1984. By then, "Happy Days" had accrued a staggering 255 half-hours of episodes and had outlived all of its six spin-offs, which included the popular multi-season sitcoms "Mork & Mindy" and "Laverne & Shirley", the Saturday morning cartoon "The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang", and the fun-to-say "Joanie Loves Chachi."

As you must already know, "Happy Days" centers on the Cunninghams, a good, clean, middle-class family living in a suburb of Milwaukee. Comprising the clan are oft-miffed hard-working father Howard (Tom Bosley), his wise and motherly housewife Marion (Marion Ross), their curious young teenage daughter Joanie (Erin Moran), and the series' original protagonist, the friendly everyteen Richie (Ron Howard). Initially, there was also an athletic older brother named Chuck, but he was casually dropped after two actors and two seasons.

Pink and blue neon summon the title logo for "Happy Days." With support from Potsie (Anson Williams, left) and Ralph Malph (Donny Most, right), Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard, center) puts on an adult voice to inquire about vacation property.

As important and focal as the Cunninghams is "The Fonz", Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), a high school dropout written as a minor character who eventually became the show's top-billed part. The producers of "Happy Days" realized quickly that Fonzie was a hit with viewers and accordingly they transformed him into the series' most prominent character. Rounding out the leading cast are Richie's two goofy friends and Jefferson High classmates, the lead singer of the group's band "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams) and curly carrot-topped joker Ralph Malph (Donny Most).

This weeks sees Paramount releasing The Third Season DVD of "Happy Days", well over three years after Season 1 but just seven months following Season 2. Season 3 introduces the "namesake" of Arnold's Drive-In, the restaurant that rivals and probably exceeds the Cunningham house for the title of the show's most frequently-used set. As Arnold, the half-Japanese, half-Chinese owner of the popular but culinarily criticized local teen hangout, Pat Morita (the sage Mr. Miyagi in all four Karate Kid movies) adopts a dialect and manner that can perhaps best be described as stereotypically Asian. It's not the type of character you'd expect to see in primetime today. But the savvy, silly Arnold is a fun personality in a cast that's filled with them. Rather than getting lost, Morita provides entertainment in every one of his scenes, which number enough to make him easily the season's most featured guest star.

By the third season, though, "Happy Days" was mostly about The Fonz. The sideburned, ducktailed, leather jacketed motorcyclist is at the foreground of most of the two dozen episodes found here. Moving into the Cunningham's attic room in the season premiere conveniently solves the family's sudden financial strains while more significantly allowing the epitome of cool a reason to be around all the time. Enduring as the best definition of a breakout TV character, Fonzie is still appealingly larger than life in his dismissal of "nerds", his immodest opinion of himself, his imparting of movie-gleaned wisdom, his fear-inducing but always empty threats, and his relentless pursuit of endless awestruck women.

Long before he mentored Daniel-san, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) pitted siblings against one another in a self-defense class at Arnold's. The one and only Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) sings in between Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) and Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall). The female bottlecappers make three appearances in the third season of "Happy Days", setting up their own widely-viewed spin-off sitcom "Laverne & Shirley."

He defies gravity in the two-part "Fearless Fonzarelli" arc, in which he attempts a televised record-breaking motorcycle jump at Arnold's. He joins the police as a special officer to defuse gang violence. He sues Mr. Cunningham over a collapsed roof for which he (Fonzie) seems to be at fault. He tries his hand at singing and selling encyclopedias door-to-door. He dances with Mrs. Cunningham, though their secretive training sessions raise suspicions of something more extramarital. He gets to play father figure to his easily-influenced pre-teen cousin Spike (Danny Butch).
It is even Fonzie who exposes the town's prejudices when he finds a Negro boy (John-Anthony Bailey) to play drums for the guys' band. And the framing device for the special Second Anniversary clip show (designated a bonus feature here) is a birthday party for the Fonz.

Fonzie also provides the groundwork for the first and most successful "Happy Days" spin-off, creator Garry Marshall's "Laverne & Shirley." Quirky independent women Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) and Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall, Garry's younger sister) are introduced as Fonzie's fast friends in Season 3's "A Date with Fonzie." Two months later, the Milwaukee bottlecappers would have their own lightly nostalgic ABC sitcom. The ladies appeared in two additional "Happy Days" episodes in the week and hour leading up to the debut of their show, which in turn offered Fonzie appearances in its first two episodes. The process hardly looks organic in retrospect; it seems more like Marshall wisely decided that the highly-watched "Happy Days" would be the perfect domain to show off a concurrently-set, similarly-toned sister series. "Laverne & Shirley" would survive its first abbreviated season and seven subsequent full ones, soon surpassing "Happy Days" in ratings and becoming the most-watched program in America in its third and fourth years (with former #1 "Happy Days" not trailing far behind).

Whether it's forcing the Cunninghams to take a back seat to the Fonz and his catchphrases or staying true to its original intention of looking at family life of recent yesteryear, "Happy Days" is highly winning and so much fun. The show is not concerned with being realistic or edgy the way today's few sitcoms do. Even the long-running "That '70s Show", which was clearly enamored with the sensibilities and setting of "Happy Days", lost so much of the earlier series' charm in its depiction of two-decades-earlier adolescence. Of course, viewers weaned on modern sitcoms might find "Happy Days" a little too old-fashioned, corny, and kitschy. Even those who tuned in ardently in the mid-to-late '70s complain of a noticeable drop-off in quality, often citing the early Season 5 episode when Fonzie water-skied over a shark as the point of no return (lending the phrase "jump the shark" to the vernacular, to be applied to other TV shows' fall from grace). I find it hard to believe that anyone could be very critical of the third season of "Happy Days", however. Interested entirely with providing humor out of incredibly likable characters and entertaining situations, "Happy Days" succeeds wildly and provides a textbook definition of how good episodic sitcoms can be when done right.

Wearing his silly lodge hat in prison, Mr. Cunningham (Tom Bosley) isn't too cheerful or receptive to Fonzie's advice. Joanie (Erin Moran) is all too pleased that the musical stylings of Potsie Weber haven't been altered.

"Happy Days" is among the handful of sitcoms that used pre-recorded music and new renditions of classic songs to help establish its period feel. Season 2 was marked by music replacements. According to one reliable-looking review, 45 out of the season's 50 songs were replaced, even the theme song, Bill Haley & His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" was altered to "Happy Days", the show's closing theme song. Season 3 saw "Happy Days", penned by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, become the new opening theme tune and that is preserved here. Being familiar with the series but not enough to recall specific musical cues, research revealed that only the first two seasons went heavy on the period music.

Still, I noticed a fair amount of clearance issues here, namely in shortly-sampled songs and tunes covered by Potsie's band. A couple of generic late-'50s/early-'60s sounding compositions do get played quite a bit, suggesting that scene-establishing moments may have been altered.
The back of the case does disclose that "Music has been changed for this home entertainment version." It's really unfortunate that a show wielding the cultural magnitude, enduring popularity, and major studio ownership of "Happy Days" is unable to arrive on DVD without alterations, especially at its comparably high list price of nearly $40.

That said, nothing stands out as being especially glaring in terms of edits or music replacements. A few episodes clock in less than 30 seconds shorter than the standard 25 minute runtime, but three episodes ("A Date with Fonzie", "Fonzie's New Friend", and the "Second Anniversary Show") are considerably shorter, running 2-4 minutes light. The case doesn't mention cut scenes, but I can't think of any other reasonable explanation for the discrepancies. In the set's defense, any edits are seamlessly done, leaving no indication of excisions other than the episodes' overall length.

Succinct synopses of the four-disc set's episodes follow. As usual, a star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season.

Fonzie and Mr. C share a heart-to-heart in the former's new pad. Tied to a chair, Fonzie has to do that dreaded thing -- sit on it -- as "Happy Days" gets as close to "Reservoir Dogs" as it ever will. A hospitalized Fonzie doesn't look cheered up by his friends' humorous facewear.

Disc 1

1. Fonzie Moves In (25:31) (Originally aired September 9, 1975)
As the answer to the Cunninghams' financial woes and his need for distance from his grandmother, Fonzie moves into the family's attic, but only for a one-week trial period.

2. The Motorcycle (25:03) (Originally aired September 16, 1975)
Fonzie wakes up to find his bike's been anonymously wrecked overnight. The guilty party is terrified to confess.

3. Fearless Fonzarelli, Part I (25:31) (Originally aired September 23, 1975)
To get out of his personal slump, Fonzie prepares to ride his motorcycle over a record 14 garbage cans for an episode of Jack Smith's "You Wanted to See It". The daring attempt is held at Arnold's, where he is trying to promote his little-known fried chicken business.

4. Fearless Fonzarelli, Part II (25:33) (Originally aired September 30, 1975)
The aftermath of his historic jump finds Fonzie needing an operation and wanting to look cool during his slow recovery.

Richie checks in on "The Other Richie Cunningham" (a.k.a. Potsie) and his date Winnie McKinnie (Sherry Hursey). Frankie (Ken Lerner) forces Richie to make sound effects for Kenickie's (Jeff Conaway) pinball game. The Cunninghams' "This is Your Life" treatment isn't making Howard's 45th birthday any more joyous.

5. The Other Richie Cunningham (25:33) (Originally aired October 7, 1975)
Richie hires Potsie to pose as him, so that he can go on two dates at once and therefore fulfill commitments to his father and Ralph.

6. Richie Fights Back (25:33) (Originally aired October 14, 1975)
After getting embarrassed by bullies at Arnold's, Richie begs Fonzie to teach him how to be tough and stand up for himself. Arnold's real name is revealed when he teaches a karate class at his restaurant.

Disc 2

7. Jailhouse Rock (25:31) (Originally aired October 21, 1975)
When the police install a 10 o'clock nightly curfew, the kids plan a public arrest, on Elvis' train, to oppose it. Howard, who's focused on the imminent lodge club elections, finds himself in the middle of their protest.

8. Howard's 45th Fiasco (25:32) (Originally aired October 28, 1975)
Howard is shocked to learn that he's turning 45, then disappointed by how little he's accomplished in those years, a fact that's emphasized in the "This is Your Life" treatment the family gives him. His sudden unexpected disappearance worries the Cunninghams.

That's Officer Fonzarelli to you! It's a reunion of the American Graffiti sweethearts as Richie (Ron Howard) dates Shirley (Cindy Williams). They're not high school kids on Easter vacation, just three hatted adult businessmen from Tunisia who have rented out a porch.

9. Fonzie the Flatfoot (25:32) (Originally aired November 4, 1975)
Fonzie reluctantly accepts the offer to become a special police officer in order to prevent a rumble between his old gang the Falcons and their rivals, the Dragons.

10. A Date with Fonzie (23:33) (Originally aired November 11, 1975)
Fonzie gives Richie dating advice, beginning at the grocery store and progressing to a double-date with his friends Laverne and Shirley (Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams), two and a half months before their own spin-off sitcom would debut.
Happy Days 8-inch Richie Cunningham Action Figure
8-inch Richie Cunningham Action Figure
This episode runs a suspicious two minutes shorter than others, suggesting something has been cut.

11. Three on a Porch (25:32) (Originally aired November 18, 1975)
Fonzie encourages Richie, Potsie, and Ralph to spice up their Easter vacation with a trip to Lake Whitefish. They raise the money to rent a cabin and come up with ideas to attract the college girls they expect to see.

12. Fonzie's New Friend (21:42) (Originally aired November 25, 1975)
Fonzie finds a drummer for the guys' band, but the fact that he's a Negro makes people less willing to attend the Cunninghams' luau-themed party. This episode runs way too short not to be missing something.

Before Chachi was around, Joanie loved Potsie... or at least she thought she did. Hence, the dream wedding. Mrs. Cunningham (Marion Ross) and Fonzie share a secret relationship in "Dance Contest." Fonzie as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. Customer: What volume do you recommend starting with? Fonzie: Aaaaayyyy!

Disc 3

13. They Call it Potsie Love (25:33) (Originally aired December 2, 1975)
After Potsie sings to her, Joanie only has eyes for him. She dreams of their wedding day and pursues him with anonymous love letters.

14. Tell It to the Marines (25:32) (Originally aired December 16, 1975)
When practical jokes and debonair ways don't help Ralph with his girlfriend Olivia (guest Amy Irving), he decides to enlist in the Marines at Fonzie's suggestion.

15. Dance Contest (25:30) (Originally aired January 6, 1976)
Marion starts secretly training with Fonzie for the Harvest Moon Dance Contest, but everyone gets the wrong idea about what they're up to.

16. Fonzie the Salesman (25:31) (Originally aired January 13, 1976)
Fonzie considers various employment opportunities after Herb's Auto Repairs is purchased by a wealthy man (Richard Stahl) looking to bring about big change.

Fonzie introduces his cousin Spike (Danny Butch) as someone who's allowed to abuse troublesome children in "Football Frolics." Fonzie cracks a big, wide smile as Ralph and Potsie excite him with the idea of singing. In "Two Angry Men", Fonzie represents himself, questioning Richie in front of the understanding Judge MacBride (June Lockhart).

17. Football Frolics (25:23) (Originally aired January 20, 1976)
In order to each raise $20 for Arnold's tickets to the Bears' big football game, Richie, Ralph, and Potsie do some mass babysitting, a task they're not well-equipped for. This episode includes appearances by Laverne and Shirley (one week before their sitcom's debut) and Fonzie's "nephew" Spike (Danny Butch). Howard and Marion prepare for the lodge's Mardi Gras parade.

18. Fonzie the Superstar (25:02) (Originally aired January 27, 1976)
Potsie can't make the band's paid-in-advance concert at Arnold's, leaving Fonzie to have to fill in as singer. The move raises the ladies' interest, but also The Fonz's fears.

Disc 4

19. Two Angry Men (25:13) (Originally aired February 3, 1976)
A pigeon coop that Fonzie has built breaks through the roof of his apartment during a snowstorm. When Howard expects his boarder to pay for the $400 repair, the Fonz files a lawsuit against Mr. C.

Potsie questions a very tan and excited finalist (Janice Heiden) in the fixed "Beauty Contest." The Fonz gets his eyes examined by Dr. Mickey Malph (Jack Dodson), Ralph's optometrist father. No, this screencap isn't from some Asian sitcom, but a shot of Arnold's season finale wedding to Momo (Nobu McCarthy).

20. Beauty Contest (25:32) (Originally aired February 10, 1976)
Richie, Potsie, and Ralph hatch a plan to meet beautiful girls by running a fixed beauty contest, in which the winner will reject the extravagant prizes (including a trip to Hollywood) being offered. Not everything goes according to plan.

21. Bringing Up Spike (25:21) (Originally aired February 17, 1976)
A journalism class at Northwestern prevents Richie from watching Fonzie's cousin Spike, putting the Fonz in charge of his young follower for a week, during which his authority is called into question when Spike helps to rob Arnold's.

22. Sight for Sore Eyes (25:22) (Originally aired February 24, 1976)
Reading-induced headaches force Fonzie to pay a visit to Ralph's optometrist father (Jack Dodson), who prescribes him glasses. After a motorcycle accident and some help from Richie, the Fonz realizes that wearing glasses can be cool.

23. Arnold's Wedding (25:12) (Originally aired March 2, 1976)
Arnold meets the Japanese woman with whom he's set to enter into an arranged marriage, but the wedding's occurrence is called into question, leading best man Fonzie to suspect the Fonzarelli curse.

Fonzie teaches Richie about the coolest spot for picking up chicks: the grocery store. The presence of Negro drummer Sticks Downey (John-Anthony Bailey) may have lightened the turnout, but the Cunningham's Hawaiian luau party still looks like fun.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture quality varies widely throughout the set, from episode to episode and even scene to scene. For instance, the season premiere looks great. The episode after that is dirty, jumpy, and very grainy. On the whole, it seems like more of the show looks grainy and muddied than terrifically clean and consistent. That is unsatisfactory on a major studio sitcom that's only 30 years old. Unquestionably, getting the complete versions of episodes is better than perhaps more presentable syndicated versions (as has been done for other sitcoms). But, there's no reason that more effort couldn't have gone into cleaning up and remastering the episodes. I've seen it done on older shows, so it's nigh-inexcusable for a show that's as good and culturally significant as "Happy Days."

As is often the case, the two-channel Dolby Digital Mono soundtracks don't lend themselves to much discussion. However, one can tell that the audio elements also range in clarity and frequently sound quite dated and flat. While no one is asking for 5.1-channel remixes, there's definitely room for improvement in the sound department for future seasons.

Fonzie's birthday gives the gang reason to remember recent experiences in the unsightly bonus-designated "Second Anniversary Show." The colors change constantly and the episode titles change per disc, but this is essentially all we get in the way of menus.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The set designates the episode "The Second Anniversary Show" (22:15) as its only bonus feature. That's kind of a cheat because it's widely considered an ordinary episode and aired as such (on January 12, 1976). The episode gathers the lead cast at Arnold's, where a birthday party is thrown for Fonzie. Inevitably, the stories told around the table cue clips, mostly from Season 3, with some from earlier years.
Sadly, the bonus feature status seems justified only as far as video is concerned; while the standard episodes may be plenty lacking in presentation, this one looks atrocious; both in its original content and the thematically-linked highlights sampled look hazy, rough, and like production stage video.

No new supplements are provided. That's not the first or second time Paramount has treated the series to an empty slate, but it's still disappointing particularly on such a hit show with a cast that's almost entirely alive and presumably quite available, not to mention a pair of reunions ripe for leasing from ABC.

Each disc's main menu (i.e. its only menu) features animation of a record spinning against background that changes color while the theme song plays. Before Disc 1's menu loads, you're given the chance to view "Previews", in which a single 85-second ad promotes Paramount's comedies on DVD. Each episode is aptly divided into five chapter stops.

As seems to be the norm for Paramount sitcoms, the third season of "Happy Days" is packaged in a clear standard-sized keepcase in which the reverse side of the cover art provides episode titles, airdates, and one-sentence synopses.

Potsie, Ralph, the Fonz, and Richie pose together in the famous final shot of the opening credits. Fonzie says, 'Be cool -- wear glasses.'

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Watching the complete third season of "Happy Days", it's easy to declare the show one of the best sitcoms in television history. Unfortunately, its new DVD release doesn't seem to think so. Between the spotty picture, complete lack of bonus features, relatively high price, music replacements, and probable edits, Paramount's 4-disc Season 3 set severely fails to live up the series' excellence in its presentation. Many a lesser studio have allowed many a lesser TV show to fare better on DVD, making this injustice all the more irritating and unnecessary. While the high caliber of characters and stories, especially in Season 3, are still enough to make this "Happy Days" set one to pick up, it's not so easy to recommend it in alongside countless more fan-friendly TV DVDs.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed November 27, 2007.



Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1975-76 Paramount Pictures and 2007 CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.